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Oct 18, 2015

Cops are asking Ancestry.com and 23andMe for their customers’ DNA

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, genetics

Micah's DNA
Brendan I. Koerner at Wired, explores the ramifications of the authorities requesting DNA from ancestry sites:

Mitch Morrissey, Denver’s district attorney and one of the nation’s leading advocates for familial DNA searching, stresses that the technology is “an innovative approach to investigating challenging cases, particularly cold cases where the victims are women or children and traditional investigative tactics fail to yield a solid suspect.” Familial DNA searches have indeed helped nab people who might otherwise have evaded justice. In the most celebrated example, Los Angeles police arrested a man believed to be the Grim Sleeper serial killer after discovering that the crime scene DNA shared a significant number of genetic markers with that of a convicted felon—who turned out to be the man’s son.

But the well-publicized success stories obscure the fact that familial DNA searches can generate more noise than signal. “Anyone who knows the science understands that there’s a high rate of false positives,” says Erin Murphy, a New York University law professor and the author of Inside the Cell: The Dark Side of Forensic DNA. The searches, after all, look for DNA profiles that are similar to the perpetrator’s but by no means identical, a scattershot approach that yields many fruitless leads, and for limited benefit. In the United Kingdom, a 2014 study found that just 17 percent of familial DNA searches “resulted in the identification of a relative of the true offender.”

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Oct 17, 2015

Programming Hate Into AI Will Be Controversial, But Possibly Necessary

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, neuroscience, robotics/AI

In the last few years, the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) has been thrust into the mainstream. No longer just the domain of sci-fi fans, nerds or Google engineers, I hear people discussing AI at parties, coffee shops and even at the dinner table: My five-year-old daughter brought it up the other night over taco lasagna. When I asked her if anything interesting had happened in school, she replied that her teacher discussed smart robots.

The exploration of intelligence — be it human or artificial — is ultimately the domain of epistemology, the study of knowledge. Since the first musings of creating AI back in antiquity, epistemology seems to have led the debate on how to do it. The question I hear most in this field from the public is: How can humans develop another intelligent consciousness if we can’t even understand our own?

It’s a prudent question. The human brain, despite being only about 3 pounds in weight, is the least understood organ in the body. And with a billion neurons — with 100 trillion connections — it’s safe to say it’s going to be a long time before we end up figuring out the brain.

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Oct 17, 2015

Interstellar Space Travel: Antimatter-Powered Rockets Could Make It A Reality

Posted by in category: space travel

Space travel today is just too slow, so one rocket scientist is developing technology that could send humans to Mars in a matter of weeks.

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Oct 17, 2015

Have researchers really discovered a ‘new miracle drug to cure nine in 10 cancers’? No, but the research is fascinating

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Unfortunately, the answer is no. At least for now. But that’s not to say this isn’t important, promising new research.

The reports centre on the supposedly serendipitous discovery of a link between an experimental malaria vaccine for pregnant women and a molecule that sits on the surface of cancer cells.

So what did the study – published in the journal Cancer Cell – actually show?

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Oct 17, 2015

Beachgoer Discovers 10,000-Year-Old Spearhead That May Hold Clues to Prehistoric Life in NJ

Posted by in category: education

While walking along the Jersey Shore, a woman recently stumbled upon a rare spearhead about 10,000 to 11,000 years old, according to experts who believe the ancient artifact may hold clues into prehistoric life in the Americas.

The projectile point was examined this past Tuesday by curators at the New Jersey State Museum after Audrey Stanick — a 58-year-old resident of Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey — made the discovery on Oct. 6 while walking along a Seaside Heights beach with her sister looking for sea glass after a recent storm.

“I noticed it because it was very dark and shiny, and my sister from Florida who likes to collect sharks’ teeth taught me to always look out for dark and shiny things at the beach,” Stanick said. “Then, I remembered a boy made a similar discovery last year, so I got in contact with the museum.”

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Oct 17, 2015

Humans will be able to use augmented intelligence to compete with robots

Posted by in categories: augmented reality, robotics/AI, virtual reality

In January this year Microsoft announced the HoloLens, a technology based on virtual and augmented reality (AR).

HoloLens supplements what you see with overlaid 3D images. It also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate relevant information depending on the situation the wearer is in. The information is then augmented to your normal vision using virtual reality (VR).

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Oct 17, 2015

Interesting Mathematics Animation

Posted by in category: mathematics

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Oct 17, 2015

Scientists Say Lab-Grown Burgers Will Be Available to the Public in Five Years

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, food

When a team of Dutch scientists unveiled the world’s first stem cell beef burger in 2013, it carried a $300,000 price tag. Worse, it was dry and tasteless. But since the initial lackluster reviews, Mark Post and his colleagues have been hard at work. Now, they say they hope to have a commercially saleable cow-less patty on the market in five years.

Until very recently, lab-grown beef sounded like science fiction. But rapid advances in molecular biology and stem cell technology have placed the futuristic concept within reach. And the arguments for removing animals from the meat equation are practically endless: The meat industry as it exists today swallows an enormous fraction of our land and natural resources, produces vast quantities of greenhouse gases, has contributed to the rise of antibiotic resistant infections, and in many cases, is downright cruel. If test tube burgers can eliminate or diminish even a fraction of these problems, then this seems like one crazy idea worth pursuing.

And pursue it scientists have. In addition to Mark Post’s stem cell burger effort, a team of Israeli researchers under the banner Future Meat are now trying to grow whole chicken breasts in the lab. Meanwhile, efforts to culture fish protein have cropped up intermittently over the years.

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Oct 17, 2015

Software Lets Someone Else Control Your Face

Posted by in category: futurism

Researchers created expression transferring software that projects mouth, eye, and other facial movements onto another face in real time. http://voc.tv/1cRrjAQ

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Oct 17, 2015

Changing The Pace: Your Circadian Rhythm Can Make You Age Faster

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension, neuroscience

We all have different circadian rhythms but they slow down during aging, and we may be able to do something about it.

Your body is in a state of constant flux and the circadian rhythm is its master regulator, controlling everything from sleep cycles to appetite and beyond. Jet lag is a side effect of a confused internal cycle as it adjusts to a new timetable. Shift work and irregular patterns of activity can also potentially cause some serious problems if sustained for a long period, including raising risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia and all cause mortality.

When researchers studied aging mice, they saw a progressive decline in levels of molecules called polyamines. These are involved with a number of processes, but particularly in cell growth and circadian rhythm. The drop in polyamines also coincided with a slowing of their circadian cycle — which increased disease risk.

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