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Aug 8, 2016

China may be the future of genetic enhancement

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

Indeed, if we set ethical and safety objections aside, genetic enhancement has the potential to bring about significant national advantages. Even marginal increases in intelligence via gene editing could have significant effects on a nation’s economic growth. Certain genes could give some athletes an edge in intense international competitions. Other genes may have an effect on violent tendencies, suggesting genetic engineering could reduce crime rates.

We may soon be able to edit people’s DNA to cure diseases like cancer, but will this lead to designer babies? If so, bioethicist G Owen Schaefer argues that China will lead the way.

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Aug 8, 2016

Tunnels in spacetime could someday take us to another universe, claims radical theory

Posted by in categories: cosmology, space travel

But, using an assumption that a wormhole can be found at the middle of a black hole, a group of Portugese researchers modelled how objects like a chair, a scientist and a spacecraft would be able to withstand the journey through it.

‘What we did was to reconsider a fundamental question on the relation between the gravity and the underlying structure of space-time,’ Diego Rubiera-Garcia, lead author from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, said.

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Aug 8, 2016

Triple signal of ‘alien megastructure’ star baffles astronomers

Posted by in category: space

A new dimming signal makes the famous star even more challenging to explain, but astronomers aren’t claiming that it’s aliens… yet.

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Aug 8, 2016

Stem cell breakthrough allows scientists to grow and assemble human eyes

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, innovation

“An ultimate goal of stem cell research is to turn on the regenerative potential of one’s own stem cells for tissue and organ repair and disease therapy,” said Dr. Kang Zhang of the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

You’ll soon be able to see the future with eyes grown in petri dishes. Scientists in Japan’s Osaka University have found a new way to turn stem cells into a human eyeball in what is (needless to say) a remarkable breakthrough for the medical community. According to lead biologist Kohji Nishida, a small sample of adult skin is all that would be required in order to grow retinas, corneas, lenses, and other key components of the eye.

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Aug 8, 2016

IBM scientists emulate neurons with phase-change technology

Posted by in categories: computing, finance, internet

A prototype chip with large arrays of phase-change devices that store the state of artificial neuronal populations in their atomic configuration. The devices are accessed via an array of probes in this prototype to allow for characterization and testing. The tiny squares are contact pads used to access the nanometer-scale phase-change cells (inset). Each set of probes can access a population of 100 cells. There are thousands to millions of these cells on one chip and IBM accesses them (in this particular photograph) by means of the sharp needles (probe card). (credit: IBM Research)

Scientists at IBM Research in Zurich have developed artificial neurons that emulate how neurons spike (fire). The goal is to create energy-efficient, high-speed, ultra-dense integrated neuromorphic (brain-like) technologies for applications in cognitive computing, such as unsupervised learning for detecting and analyzing patterns.

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Aug 8, 2016

Ultrasonic wireless ‘neural dust’ sensors monitor nerves, muscles in real time

Posted by in categories: computing, neuroscience

Prototype wireless battery-less “neural dust” mote (3 × 1 x 1 millimeters) with electrodes attached to a nerve fiber in a rat. The mote contains a piezoelectric crystal (silver cube) that converts ultrasonic signals to electrical current, powering a simple electronic circuit containing a transistor (black square) that responds to the voltage generated by a nerve firing and triggers the piezoelectric crystal to create ultrasonic backscatter, which indicates detection of a neural signal. (photo credit: Ryan Neely/UC Berkeley)

University of California, Berkeley engineers have designed and built millimeter-scale device wireless, batteryless “neural dust” sensors and implanted them in muscles and peripheral nerves of rats to make in vivo electrophysiological recordings.

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Aug 8, 2016

Navigating in deep space: The recipe to make Interstellar travel a reality

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, space travel

An accurate method for spacecraft navigation takes a leap forward today as the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Leicester publish a paper that reveals a spacecraft’s position in space in the direction of a particular pulsar can be calculated autonomously, using a small X-ray telescope on board the craft, to an accuracy of 2km. The method uses X-rays emitted from pulsars, which can be used to work out the position of a craft in space in 3D to an accuracy of 30 km at the distance of Neptune.

Pulsars are dead stars that emit radiation in the form of X-rays and other electromagnetic waves. For a certain type of pulsar, called ‘millisecond pulsars’, the pulses of radiation occur with the regularity and precision of an atomic clock and could be used much like GPS in space.

The paper, published in Experimental Astronomy, details simulations undertaken using data, such as the pulsar positions and a craft’s distance from the Sun, for a European Space Agency feasibility study of the concept. The simulations took these data and tested the concept of triangulation by pulsars with current technology (an X-ray telescope designed and developed by the University of Leicester) and position, velocity and timing analysis undertaken by NPL. This generated a list of usable pulsars and measurements of how accurately a small telescope can lock onto these pulsars and calculate a location.

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Aug 8, 2016

How do we colonize Mercury?

Posted by in category: space

Humanity has long dreamed of establishing itself on other worlds, even before we started going into space. We’ve talked about colonizing the Moon, Mars, and even establishing ourselves on exoplanets in distant star systems. But what about the other planets in our own backyard? When it comes to the solar system, there is a lot of potential real estate out there that we don’t really consider.

Well consider Mercury. While most people wouldn’t suspect it, the closest planet to our sun is actually a potential candidate for settlement. Whereas it experiences extremes in temperature – gravitating between heat that could instantly cook a human being to cold that could flash-freeze flesh in seconds – it actually has potential as a starter colony.

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Aug 8, 2016

Will Warp Drive Finally Become A Reality?

Posted by in categories: genetics, quantum physics, space travel

Not so long ago we had to assume that we’ll never be able to travel faster than light. This was based on scientists’ sensible belief that we can travel through space but cannot change the nature of space itself. Then the idea of ‘Warp Drive’ came along to challenge and seemingly change all of the barriers that Einstein’s theory identified. Warp Drive is all about squashing and stretching space — a pretty ambitious task to begin with. So maybe it’s time again to have a look at how far we’ve already come or how close we are to seeing a real warp drive built by humans.

In May 1994, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre finally presented his proposal of “The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast travel within general relativity” in a scientific journal called Classical and Quantum Gravity.

He indeed was inspired by Star Trek and its creator Gene Roddenberry, who famously coined the expression “Warp Drive” to explain the inexplicable propulsion of the Starship Enterprise as prodigious speed was just necessary to enable his fictional space travelers to leap from star to star on their trek.

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Aug 7, 2016

Five New Ideas to be Explored by NASA Aeronautics Teams

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, energy, transportation

They might not work, but no one will know for sure unless they’re given a chance.

That’s the general idea behind the recent selection of five aviation-related technologies for vigorous study as part of NASA’s ongoing Convergent Aeronautics Solutions project during the next two years of so, which itself is now in its second year.

Researchers will study a new kind of fuel cell, increasing electric motor output with the help of 3D printing, use of Lithium-Air batteries to store energy, new mechanisms for changing the shape of a wing in flight and basing a new antenna design on the use of lightweight aerogel.

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