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Aug 2, 2016

SEED 2016: What can we do outside of a cell?

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, computing


When we think of synthetic biology, we often think of engineering a cell to give it some useful function. But SEED 2016 had quite a few speakers working outside of a biological cell. Some broke open cells to utilize just the cellular machinery to create “cell-free” systems. Others showed what could be done inside of the computer (in silico) to improve our understanding and prediction of synthetic gene networks. Here, we’re highlighting SEED speakers who showed how both of these approaches can advance synthetic biology.

Cell-free synthetic biology

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Aug 2, 2016

Scientist says we may be living in a computer simulation controlled by an evil genius

Posted by in categories: computing, neuroscience

Laura D’Olimpio from the University of Notre Dame Australia explained the thinking behind the ‘brain in a vat’ idea and that, even if we are living in a simulation, we can be certain we exist.

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Aug 2, 2016

Tesla is building an electric minibus based on the Model X

Posted by in categories: climatology, economics, Elon Musk, energy, robotics/AI, sustainability

Elon Musk has been a busy man lately as he works to transition the world to renewable energy and sustainable transportation with the goal of decarbonizing the global economy to meet the challenge of climate change. To meet that goal, Tesla will need to address “high passenger-density urban transport” – and Musk just confirmed plans to create a fully autonomous electric Minibus using the Model X chassis.

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Aug 2, 2016

Aubrey Explains OncoSENS at D.N.A. Netherlands Conference

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension

Listen to famed biogerontolgist Aubrey de Grey explain the OncoSENS approach to curing ALT-Cancer ( and how this is a vital part of overcoming the ill-effects of aging. This presentation is part of the Designing New Advances conference held by the Institute of Exponential Sciences in the Netherlands.

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Aug 2, 2016

Io’s Atmosphere Just Collapsed

Posted by in category: space

Reason number 9,000 not to colonize Jupiter’s moon Io: not only is it a frigid hellscape covered in eruptive ice volcanoes and lashed by the gas giant’s powerful radiation belts, but the atmosphere just collapsed.

In fact, it collapses all the time, according to observations by astronomers at the Southwest Research Institute that are published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research. It turns out that every time Io is eclipsed by mighty Jupiter (which happens for about 2 hours a day), the surface temperature plummets and the moon’s sulfur dioxide (SO2)-rich atmosphere begins to deflate.

By the time Io is in full shadow, the atmosphere is like a punctured balloon, blanketing the moon’s surface in a thin coating of SO2 frost. As Io migrates back into the sun, this frost layer re-sublimates, and a new atmosphere develops.

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Aug 2, 2016

OpenBCI and the Future of EEG Technology

Posted by in category: neuroscience

Last year, OpenBCI burst onto the scene with a Kickstarter campaign to fund development of an open source brain-computer interface for makers. The company more than doubled its goal of raising $100,000 for its EEG platform and, as I write this, OpenBCI is preparing to ship its first run of finished products. Conor does a demo of the technology in the link below:

OpenBCI Demo by Conor Russomano

Recently, I had a chance to talk with OpenBCI co-founder Conor Russomanno to get his thoughts on how open source has changed the brain-computer interface (BCI) landscape and opened new opportunities in the present, and how it might affect future development opportunities as well.

“The one thing that we’re hoping to achieve with OpenBCI is to really lower the barrier of entry – both in terms of educational materials but also cost,” Russomanno said. “I think one really awesome implication is that, in a classroom or laboratory, where one research grade EEG system was used by a number students, now the same amount of money could be used to outfit every student with their own device. And we’ve seen that in our customer base, as a huge proportion of our customers are students, graduate-level researchers and professors who want to use OpenBCI as a learning tool.”

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Aug 2, 2016

Drones Set to Deliver Medicine to Remote Parts of the U.S. — By Jamie Condliffe | MIT Technology Review

Posted by in categories: drones, government, policy, robotics/AI

“The White House has asked whether Zipline’s drones, pioneered in Rwanda, could fly much-needed drugs and blood to Americans.”

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Aug 2, 2016

The Evolution of Antimatter Propulsion

Posted by in categories: government, space travel

Thinking about Eugen Sänger’s photon rocket concept inevitably calls to mind his Silbervogel design. The ‘Silverbird’ had nothing to do with antimatter but was a demonstration of the immense imaginative power of this man, who envisioned a bomber that would be launched by a rocket-powered sled into a sub-orbital trajectory. There it would skip off the upper atmosphere enroute to its target. The Silbervogel project was cancelled by the German government in 1942, but if you want to see a vividly realized alternate world where it flew, have a look at Allen Steele’s 2014 novel V-S Day, a page-turner if there ever was one.

I almost said that it was a shame we don’t have a fictionalized version of the photon rocket, but as we saw yesterday, there were powerful reasons why the design wouldn’t work, even if we could somehow ramp up antimatter production to fantastic levels (by today’s standards) and store and manipulate it efficiently. Energetic gamma rays could not be directed into an exhaust stream by the kind of ‘electron gas mirror’ that Sänger envisioned, although antimatter itself maintained its hold on generations of science fiction writers and scientists alike.

Enter the Antiproton

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Aug 2, 2016

The Next Five Years will be a Critical Time for the Development of Rejuvenation Biotechnology after the SENS Model of Damage Repair

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, chemistry, internet, life extension

Tempus fugit. I’m just about old enough to remember a time in which 2020 was the distant future of science fiction novels, too far away to be thinking about in concrete terms, a foreign and fantastical land in which anything might happen. Several anythings did in fact happen, such as the internet, and the ongoing revolution in biotechnology that has transformed the laboratory world but leaks into clinics only all too slowly. Here we are, however, close enough to be making plans and figuring out what we expect to be doing when the third decade of the 21st century gets underway. The fantastical becomes the mundane. We don’t yet have regeneration of organs and limbs, or therapies to greatly extend life, but for these and many other staples of golden age science fiction, the scientific community has come close enough to be able to talk in detail about the roads to achieving these goals.

Of all the things that researchers might achieve with biotechnology in the near future, control over aging is by far the most important. Aging is the greatest cause of death and suffering in the world, and none of us are getting any younger. That may change, however. SENS, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence, is a synthesis of the scientific view of aging as an accumulation of specific forms of cell and tissue damage, pulling in a century of evidence from many diverse areas of medical science to support this conclusion. Aging happens because the normal operation of our cellular biochemistry produces damage, wear and tear at the level of molecules and molecular structures, and some of that damage accumulates to cause failure of tissues and organs, and ultimately death.

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Aug 2, 2016

Tethers Unlimited Signs Contracts with NASA and Millennium Space Systems to Deliver HYDROS™ Water-Propelled Thrusters

Posted by in categories: economics, energy, satellites

Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) announced that it has signed a Public-Private Partnership with NASA to deliver a HYDROS™ propulsion system for a CubeSat mission. Concurrently, TUI has signed an associated contract to provide three HYDROS thrusters sized for Millennium Space Systems’ (MSS) ALTAIR™ class microsatellites to support three different flight missions. Total contract value for the two efforts is $2.2M.

The HYDROS propulsion system uses in-space electrolysis of water to generate hydrogen and oxygen gas, which it then burns in a bipropellant thruster. This water-electrolysis method allows small satellites to carry a propellant that is non-explosive, non-toxic, and unpressurized. The hydrogen and oxygen generated on-orbit will enable high-thrust and high-fuel-efficiency propulsion so these small satellites can perform missions requiring orbital agility and long-duration station-keeping.

The partnership with NASA is a cost-sharing program funded under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s “Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Tipping Point Technologies” Program. In this effort, TUI will conduct lifetime and environmental testing of prototypes of HYDROS systems sized for CubeSats and microsatellites and then deliver a flight unit HYDROS thruster intended for testing on a CubeSat mission as part of NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstration Program, at Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California.

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