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Nov 11, 2020

Indianapolis Testing Advances Capabilities of Chemical, Biological Threat Detection Sensors

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, information science, transportation

DARPA’s SIGMA+ program conducted a week-long deployment of advanced chemical and biological sensing systems in the Indianapolis metro region in August, collecting more than 250 hours of daily life background atmospheric data across five neighborhoods that helped train algorithms to more accurately detect chemical and biological threats. The testing marked the first time in the program the advanced laboratory grade instruments for chemical and biological sensing were successfully deployed as mobile sensors, increasing their versatility on the SIGMA+ network.

“Spending a week gathering real-world background data from a major Midwestern metropolitan region was extremely valuable as we further develop our SIGMA+ sensors and networks to provide city and regional-scale coverage for chem and bio threat detection,” said Mark Wrobel, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “Collecting chemical and biological environment data provided an enhanced understanding of the urban environment and is helping us make refinements of the threat-detection algorithms to minimize false positives and false negatives.”

SIGMA+ expands on the original SIGMA program’s advanced capability to detect illicit radioactive and nuclear materials by developing new sensors and networks that would alert authorities with high sensitivity to chemical, biological, and explosives threats as well. SIGMA, which began in 2014, has demonstrated city-scale capability for detecting radiological threats and is now operationally deployed with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, helping protect the greater New York City region.

Nov 11, 2020

What Two Billion People Pay Attention to Is Still in the Hands of a Few Companies

Posted by in categories: biological, internet

What we pay attention to shapes our opinions and views and our opinions and views shape our actions—well beyond clicks and taps on a screen.

But this is only the beginning. The internet and its enabling tools were the last great generation of technology. New generations are already making their presence known. In coming decades, technology will more compellingly seduce our attention, will escape its silicon-and-glass cage, will animate the inanimate, and even shape our biology.

The answer isn’t to do away with technology. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle—nor should we want to. Besides negative outcomes, technology remains a powerful tool for good too. But as individuals, as a society, we need to become far more aware of how we interact with technology, to keep a closer eye on business incentives, and to consciously employ our tools in ways that firmly align with our goals.

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Nov 10, 2020

Half-billion-year-old microfossils may yield new knowledge of animal origins

Posted by in categories: biological, evolution

When and how did the first animals appear? Science has long sought an answer to this question. Uppsala University researchers and colleagues in Denmark have now jointly found, in Greenland, embryo-like microfossils up to 570 million years old, revealing that organisms of this type were dispersed throughout the world. The study is published in Communications Biology.

“We believe this discovery of ours improves our scope for understanding the period in Earth’s history when first appeared—and is likely to prompt many interesting discussions,” says Sebastian Willman, the study’s first author and a palaeontologist at Uppsala University.

The existence of animals on Earth around 540 million years ago (mya) is well substantiated. This was when the event in evolution known as the “Cambrian Explosion” took place. Fossils from a huge number of creatures from the Cambrian period, many of them shelled, exist. The first animals must have evolved earlier still; but there are divergent views in the on whether the extant fossils dating back to the Precambrian Era are genuinely classifiable as animals.

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Nov 9, 2020

The future of space colonization – terraforming or space habitats?

Posted by in categories: biological, Elon Musk, engineering, environmental, habitats, space travel

The idea of terraforming Mars is a fascinating idea. … But just how long would such an endeavor take, what would it cost us, and is it really an effective use of our time and energy?


Ultimately, Yakovlev thinks that space biospheres could also be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe – i.e. between 2030 and 2050 – which is simply not possible with terraforming. Citing the growing presence and power of the commercial space sector, Yakovlev also believed a lot of the infrastructure that is necessary is already in place (or under development).

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Nov 9, 2020

Squishy electronics

Posted by in categories: biological, neuroscience

Circa 2011


There is a physical and electrical disconnect between the world of electronics and the world of biology. Electronics tend to be rigid, operate using electrons, and are inherently two-dimensional. The brain, as a basis for comparison, is soft, operates using ions, and is three-dimensional. Researchers have therefore been looking to find different routes to create biocompatible devices that work well in wet environments like biological systems. In an exiting new development, researchers from North Carolina State University have fabricated a memory device that is soft, entirely based on liquid-based matter, and functions well in wet environments — opening the door to a new generation of biocompatible electronic devices.

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Nov 1, 2020

How Coronavirus Can Be Stopped: 3D Atomic Map of COVID-19’s Viral Replication Mechanism

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, chemistry, particle physics

To better understand how the novel coronavirus behaves and how it can be stopped, scientists have completed a three-dimensional map that reveals the location of every atom in an enzyme molecule critical to SARS-CoV-2 reproduction.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutron scattering to identify key information to improve the effectiveness of drug inhibitors designed to block the virus’s replication mechanism. The research is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, expresses long chains of proteins composed of approximately 1,900 amino acid residues. For the virus to reproduce, those chains have to be broken down and cut into smaller strands by an enzyme called the main protease. The active protease enzyme is formed from two identical protein molecules held together by hydrogen bonds. Developing a drug that inhibits or blocks the protease activity will prevent the virus from replicating and spreading to other cells in the body.

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Oct 30, 2020

Nitrogen-Fixing Microbes Found in Antarctic Sea

Posted by in category: biological

The discovery puts a nail in the coffin of a long-held assumption about the limits of where the essential process can occur.

Oct 30, 2020

How France overcame the odds to build a research mega-campus

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, particle physics

The result is a science park and university campus that offers degrees at all levels. It hosts more than 300 labs and advanced research equipment, such as the SOLEIL synchrotron. About 100 companies and 6 of France’s public research organizations, including the national research agency CNRS, have a presence there. That combination — of the university with national facilities — is powerful, says Price. The park accounts for an estimated 15% of France’s public and private research. About 30,000 people work or study at Saclay, and this is projected to rise to 80,000 by 2030.


The lab has no overall scientific project, and has added an extra layer of management, says Fayard, although he concedes that the coronavirus pandemic has complicated the lab’s first months. “I fear the lab will have to work hard not to fall between two stools — it is too big to be efficient, but not big enough to invest alone in major local infrastructures.”

But Oliver Brüning, a particle physicist at CERN, Europe’s particle physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, who spent time working at LAL, says he thinks the new lab has greater weight and influence than did LAL alone.

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Oct 30, 2020

Slower Biological Aging In People On A Calorie Restricted Diet

Posted by in categories: biological, food, life extension

Here’s my latest video!


Calorie restriction (CR) is well known to extend average and maximal lifespan in a variety of animal models, but what about in people? In this video, I present evidence showing that CR slows biological aging, which suggests that CR will positively affect lifespan in people.

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Oct 30, 2020

Guppy Evolution Fast Forwards

Posted by in categories: biological, evolution, genetics, singularity

The great powerful guppy can essentially evolve 10 million times faster than usual. Which could lead to humans evolving faster too leading to a biological singularity.


Although natural selection is often viewed as a slow pruning process, a dramatic new field study suggests it can sometimes shape a population as fast as a chain saw can rip through a sapling. Scientists have found that guppies moved to a predator-free environment adapted to it in a mere 4 years—a rate of change some 10,000 to 10 million times faster than the average rates gleaned from the fossil record. Some experts argue that the 11-year study, described in today’s issue of Science,* may even shed light on evolutionary patterns that occur over eons.

A team led by evolutionary biologist David Reznick of the University of California, Riverside, scooped guppies from a waterfall pool brimming with predators in Trinidad’s Aripo River, then released them in a tributary where only one enemy species lurked. In as little as 4 years, male guppies in the predator-free tributary were already detectably larger and older at maturity when compared with the control population; 7 years later females were too. Guppies in the safer waters also lived longer and had fewer and bigger offspring.

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