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Nov 11, 2019

Why Designing Our Own Biology Will Be the Next Big Thing in Medicine

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

While the public is still imagining the future to be very much like the past, the researchers at the forefront of genetics are planning to redesign human bodies, to make us more long-lived, more resilient to disease, more strong and (I hope) more intelligent.

In a talk at Exponential Medicine, Jane Metcalfe said that tools like gene editing and synthetic biology could make design the next big thing in medicine.

Nov 11, 2019

Do You Need Vitamin D Pills?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, health

North Americans spent more than $936 million on vitamin D pills in 2017, doctors ordered more than 10 million laboratory tests for vitamin D for Medicare patients at a cost of $365 million in 2016, and 25 percent of older adults take vitamin D supplements. A Kaiser Health News investigation recently reported that the man most responsible for the obsession with vitamin D pills, Boston endocrinologist Michael Holick, has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by supplement and drug manufacturers, the indoor-tanning industry and commercial laboratories that run blood tests for vitamin D (New York Times, August 18, 2018). Many doctors have been concerned about the recommendations for very high doses of vitamin D for a long time. In 2004, highly-respected Dr. Barbara Gilchrest, then head of Boston University’s Department of Dermatology, asked Holick to resign from the department. In 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reported that there is not enough evidence to recommend routine vitamin D testing. In 2015, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield reported that they had spent $33 million on 641,000 vitamin D tests.

No Benefits Shown in Recent Studies • Vitamin D pills were not shown to help prevent heart attacks or cancer: A study led by a Harvard researcher, Dr. Joanne Manson, followed 25,871 men and women for a median of 5.3 years. Participants who took vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), 2000 IU per day, had no added protection from heart diseases or cancers (NEJM, November 10, 2018).

Nov 11, 2019

The next software revolution: programming biological cells

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

The cells in your body are like computer software: they’re “programmed” to carry out specific functions at specific times. If we can better understand this process, we could unlock the ability to reprogram cells ourselves, says computational biologist Sara-Jane Dunn. In a talk from the cutting-edge of science, she explains how her team is studying embryonic stem cells to gain a new understanding of the biological programs that power life — and develop “living software” that could transform medicine, agriculture and energy.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

Nov 11, 2019

DNA is only one among millions of possible genetic molecules

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

Biology encodes information in DNA and RNA, which are complex molecules finely tuned to their functions. But are they the only way to store hereditary molecular information? Some scientists believe life as we know it could not have existed before there were nucleic acids, thus understanding how they came to exist on the primitive Earth is a fundamental goal of basic research. The central role of nucleic acids in biological information flow also makes them key targets for pharmaceutical research, and synthetic molecules mimicking nucleic acids form the basis of many treatments for viral diseases, including HIV. Other nucleic acid-like polymers are known, yet much remains unknown regarding possible alternatives for hereditary information storage. Using sophisticated computational methods, scientists from the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Emory University explored the “chemical neighbourhood” of nucleic acid analogues. Surprisingly, they found well over a million variants, suggesting a vast unexplored universe of chemistry relevant to pharmacology, biochemistry and efforts to understand the origins of life. The molecules revealed by this study could be further modified to gives hundreds of millions of potential pharmaceutical drug leads.

Nucleic acids were first identified in the 19th century, but their composition, biological role and function were not understood by scientists until the 20th century. The discovery of DNA’s double-helical structure by Watson and Crick in 1953 revealed a simple explanation for how biology and evolution function. All living things on Earth store information in DNA, which consists of two polymer strands wrapped around each other like a caduceus, with each strand being the complement of the other. When the strands are pulled apart, copying the complement on either template results in two copies of the original. The DNA polymer itself is composed of a sequence of “letters,” the bases adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine © and thymine (T), and living organisms have evolved ways to make sure during DNA copying that the appropriate sequence of letters is almost always reproduced. The sequence of bases is copied into RNA by proteins, which then is read into a protein sequence.

Nov 11, 2019

Chinese State-Run Newspaper Publishes Bitcoin Introductory Article

Posted by in categories: bitcoin, cryptocurrencies

China’s cryptocurrency and blockchain appreciation continue as Xinhua, another state-run media organization publishes a full article about bitcoin. Some commentators opine that the flurry of positive digital currency sentiments in the country is part of Beijing’s efforts to normalize the industry before introducing the proposed digital RMB.

Despite these positive signs, trading and initial coin offerings (ICOs) remain banned. However, there appears to be a movement towards nationalizing the Chinese crypto space. Such a move might prompt a response from state actors in the West to adopt more crypto-friendly policies or risk losing out to China in the race for control of the emerging digital landscape.


Nov 11, 2019

Global Citizenship — Uniting Humanity in the Transhuman Era

Posted by in category: transhumanism

By transhumanism australia and future faqtory

Thu., 21 November 2019 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm AEDT.

Featuring Sam Barton.

Continue reading “Global Citizenship — Uniting Humanity in the Transhuman Era” »

Nov 11, 2019

Die transhumanistische Bewegung

Posted by in categories: singularity, transhumanism

Global citizenship — uniting humanity in the transhuman era.

Der so genannte Transhumanismus strebt eine Verbesserung der menschlichen Biologie durch Technik und/oder genetische Eingriffe an. Er beginnt sich in aller Welt auszubreiten, auch organisatorisch/politisch. Seine Anhänger sind keine weltfremden Sektierer, sondern oft hoch dekorierte Wissenschaftler an staatlich geförderten Instituten. Es mag zum jetzigen Zeitpunkt noch übertrieben klingen zu behaupten: Die zentrale künftige Streitfrage quer durch alle politischen Lager wird die nach der technologischen „Optimierung “des Menschen sein. Ein Blick in das Mind-Set des Transhumanismus.

”Innerhalb von 30 Jahren werden wir die Technologie für superhumane Intelligenz besitzen. Kurz danach wird die Ära des Menschen enden.” (Vernor Vinge, Transhumanist, Mathematiker und Computerwissenschaftler in seinem Essay „The Coming Technological Singularity ”im Jahr 1993)

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Nov 11, 2019

New research synthesizes different aspects of causality in quantum field theory

Posted by in category: quantum physics

In current quantum field theory, causality is typically defined by the vanishing of field commutators for spacelike separations. Two researchers at the University of Massachusetts and Universidade Federal Rural in Rio de Janeiro have recently carried out a study discussing and synthesizing some of the key aspects of causality in quantum field theory. Their paper, published in Physical Review Letters, is the result of their investigation of a theory of quantum gravity commonly referred to as “quadratic gravity.”

“Like the ingredients of the standard model, quadratic gravity is a renormalizable , but it has some peculiar properties,” John Donoghue, one of the researchers who carried out the study, told “The small violation of causality is the most important of these and our goal was to understand this better. In the process, we realized that some of the insights are of more general interest and we decided to write our understanding as a Physical Review Letter, to share these insights more widely.”

The paper written by Donoghue and his colleague Gabriel Menezes synthesizes many different aspects of causality that have been part of quantum field for several decades now. The realization that there can be microscopic violations of causality in certain theories dates back to the 1960s, specifically to the work of physicists T.D. Lee and G.C. Wick. In their study, however, Donoghue and Menezes also drew inspiration from a more recent study carried out by Donal O’Connell, Benjamin Grinstein and Mark B. Wise.

Nov 11, 2019

New photonic liquid crystals could lead to next-generation displays

Posted by in categories: electronics, virtual reality

A new technique to change the structure of liquid crystals could lead to the development of fast-responding liquid crystals suitable for next generation displays—3D, augmented and virtual reality—and advanced photonic applications such as mirrorless lasers, bio-sensors and fast/slow light generation, according to an international team of researchers from Penn State, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan.

“The liquid crystals we are working with are called blue-phase liquid crystals,” said Iam Choon Khoo, the William E. Leonhard Professor of Electrical Engineering, who is the corresponding author for this article. “The most important thing about this research is the fundamental understanding of what happens when you apply a field, which has led to the development of Repetitively-Applied Field technique. We believe that this method is almost a universal template that can be used for reconfiguring many similar types of liquid crystals and soft matter.”

Blue-phase liquid crystals typically self-assemble into a cubic photonic-crystal . The researchers believed that by creating other structures they could develop properties not present in the current form. After nearly two years of experimentation, they realized that by applying an intermittent electrical field and allowing the system to relax between applications and to dissipate accumulated heat, they could slowly coax the crystals into stable and field-free orthorhombic and tetragonal structures.

Nov 11, 2019

AI and automation will disrupt our world — but only Andrew Yang is warning about it

Posted by in categories: economics, education, employment, robotics/AI

Disruption of the job market and the economy from automation and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the primary ideas animating Andrew Yang’s surprising campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Alone among the candidates, Yang is directly engaging with one of the central forces that will shape our futures.

A recent report from the consulting firm Deloitte found that, among more than a thousand surveyed American executives, 63 percent agreed with the statement that “to cut costs, my company wants to automate as many jobs as possible using AI,” and 36 percent already believe that job losses from AI-enabled automation should be viewed as an ethical issue. In other words, while media pundits dismiss worries about automation, executives at America’s largest companies are actively planning for it.

It may seem odd to worry about AI and automation at a time when the headline unemployment rate is below 4 percent. But it is important to remember that this metric only captures people who are actively seeking work. Consider that, in 1965, only 3 percent of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 — old enough to have completed education but too young to retire — were neither working nor actively looking for employment. Today, that number is about 11 percent.

Continue reading “AI and automation will disrupt our world — but only Andrew Yang is warning about it” »