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May 13, 2019

How Cyanobacteria Could Help Save the Planet

Posted by in category: biological

It’s very easy to forget that complex life on Earth almost missed the boat entirely. As the Sun’s luminosity gradually increases, the oceans will boil away, and the planet will no longer be in the habitable zone for life as we know it. Okay, we likely have a billion years before this happens—by which point our species will probably have destroyed itself or moved away from Earth—but Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old or so, and eukaryotic life only started to diversify 800 million or so years ago, at the end of the “boring billion.”

In other words, life seems to have arisen around four billion years ago, shortly after Earth formed, but then a few billion years passed before anything complex evolved. Another few hundred million years of bacteria, algae, and microbes sliding around in the anoxic sludge of the boring billion, and intelligent life might never have evolved at all.

Unraveling the geologic mysteries of the boring billion, and why it ended when it did, is a complex scientific question. Different parts of the earth system, including plate tectonics, the atmosphere, and the biosphere of simple lichens and cyanobacteria interacted to eventually produce the conditions for life to diversify, flourish, and grow more complex. But it is generally accepted that simple cyanobacteria (single-celled organisms that can produce oxygen through photosynthesis) were key players in providing Earth’s atmosphere and oceans with oxygen, which then allowed complex life to flourish.

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May 13, 2019

Snapshot of chikungunya could lead to drugs, vaccines for viral arthritis

Posted by in category: biotech/medical

Chikungunya virus, once confined to the Eastern Hemisphere, has infected more than 1 million people in the Americas since 2013, when mosquitoes carrying the virus were discovered in the Caribbean. Most people who become infected develop fever and joint pain that last about a week. But in up to half of patients, the virus can cause severe arthritis that persists for months or years. There is no treatment to prevent the short-lived infection from persisting into chronic arthritis.

Now, researchers have uncovered information that could help stop the debilitating condition. A team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has snapped high-resolution pictures of the virus latched onto a found on the surface of cells in the joints. The protein used in the study was taken from mice, but people have the same protein, and the virus interacts with the mouse and human proteins in virtually identical ways.

The structures, published May 9 in the journal Cell, shows in atomic-level detail how the virus and cell-surface protein fit together – data that promises to accelerate efforts to design drugs and vaccines to prevent or treat arthritis caused by chikungunya or related viruses.

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May 13, 2019

Explorer Reaches Bottom of the Mariana Trench, Breaks Record for Deepest Dive Ever

Posted by in category: business

Explorer and businessman Victor Vescovo descended 35,853 feet (10,927 meters) into the Pacific Ocean, breaking the record for deepest dive ever.

At the very bottom, he found colorful rocky structures, weird critters and the ever-pervasive mark of humankind — plastic.

Until now, only two people have successfully made it to the bottom of Challenger Deep, the planet’s deepest point at the southern end of the Mariana Trench. Back in 1960, oceanographer Don Walsh was the first to make it down to the trench successfully, reaching about 35,814 feet (10,916 m). He took the journey with Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard. [In Photos: James Cameron’s Epic Dive to Challenger Deep].

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May 13, 2019

Scientists bioengineer a cellular speedometer

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, transportation

An all-Princeton research team has identified bacteria that can detect the speed of flowing fluids.

Many kinds of cells can sense , just as our skin cells can feel the difference between a gentle breeze and a strong wind. But we depend on feeling the force involved, the push-back from the air against us. Without that push, we can’t distinguish speed; when the windows are closed, our skin can’t feel any difference in whether we are sitting in an office, a speeding car or a cruising airplane. But now, a team of Princeton researchers has now discovered that some bacteria can in fact detect the speed of flow regardless of the force. Their paper appears in the online journal Nature Microbiology.

“We have engineered bacteria to be speedometers,” said Zemer Gitai, Princeton’s Edwin Grant Conklin Professor of Biology and the senior author on the paper. “There’s an application here: We can actually use these bacteria as flow sensors. If you wanted to know the speed of something in real time, we can tell you.”

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May 13, 2019

NASA Is Working on Electric Planes Powered by Cryogenic Hydrogen

Posted by in categories: energy, transportation

To clean up the aviation industry, NASA-funded scientists are working to develop an all-electric aircraft powered by cryogenically-liquified hydrogen fuel.

The University of Illinois scientists behind the project nailed down $6 million over three years from NASA to develop the tech, according to a university-published press release — tech that could, if the project pans out, revolutionize the aviation industry.

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May 13, 2019

Amazon Now Has Machines to Automatically Box Up Orders

Posted by in category: futurism

But there are still plenty of humans involved in preparing orders.

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May 13, 2019

Fertilize the ocean, cool the planet?

Posted by in category: futurism

MIT researchers find unintended consequences of an idea to stimulate ocean phytoplankton growth in order to geoengineer a cooler atmosphere.

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May 13, 2019

US Army to test radical ‘Iron Man’ bullet-proof liquid armour

Posted by in category: entertainment

Circa 2016

U.Scientists are working on next-generation combat wear for soldiers inspired by the nano suit worn in the Iron Man films — and say it could be just two years away.

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May 13, 2019

Want a tougher space suit? Just add liquid

Posted by in category: space

Using a special liquid, engineers are designing new treatments for spacesuits so that they can better resist puncturing from tiny meteorites and other hazards.

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May 13, 2019

Atlas is rockstar cross-stepper over tricky terrain

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

Robot enthusiasts were sending up cheers this month to the team advancing Atlas into an even more human-like walker through obstacles including a bunch of cinder blocks and a balance beam. They have turned Atlas into the very credible hulk, who wins the spotlight with its display of walking, which was recorded May 1.

The video is “IHMC Atlas Autonomous Path Planning Across Narrow Terrain.” Don’t miss the key word “narrow.” This is why the walk is being eyed as a big deal.

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