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Jun 3, 2016

Scientists want to perfect humanity with synthetic DNA

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, economics, ethics, health

Following a controversial top-secret meeting last month, a group of scientists have announced that they’re working on synthesizing human genes from scratch. The project, currently titled HGP-Write, has the stated aim of reducing the cost of gene synthesis to “address a number of human health challenges.” As the group explains, that includes growing replacement organs, engineering cancer resistance and building new vaccinations using human cells. But in order for all of that to happen, the scientists may have to also work on developing a blueprint for what a perfect human would look like.

In some ways, the concept is just an extension of current gene editing (CRISPR) techniques that are proving their worth by saving lives. CRISPR has already been used to save the life of a one-year-old girl with a terminal case of drug-resistant leukemia. Other initiatives using the system involve curing hemophilia and HIV, although the latter has proven capable of fighting back against attempts to kill it. This new project, meanwhile, will devote time and resources to examining the ethics and economics of how far we should go with gene editing.

HGP-Write is being led by DNA pioneer George Church, a Harvard biologist who is already working on various projects to tweak humanity. In a profile, Stat revealed that the scientist published a paper in 2014 pushing “de novo synthesis,” the concept of creating perfect genes from scratch. In early 2015, he used CRISPR to implant wooly mammoth DNA into a living Asian elephant as the first step toward bringing extinct animals back from the dead. Which, when you write it down like that, makes him sound like a less plausible version of John Hammond, the fictional creator of Jurassic Park.

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Jun 3, 2016

Entrepreneur and CEO Martine Rothblatt thinks we’ll 3D print new bodies and live forever on the internet

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, education, habitats, law, life extension, media & arts, neuroscience, robotics/AI

When you think about the headliners at a music festival, it’s unlikely that the first person to pop into your head would be Martine Rothblatt—the founder of Sirius XM, the one-time highest-paid female CEO in the world who made a robot clone of her wife, and the founder of the Terasem religion, which believes we’ll live forever by uploading our consciousness to the cloud. But Moogfest, a four-day citywide festival of music and technology in Durham, North Carolina, was not the average music festival. Unlike other festivals that make cursory overtures to technology, Moogfest dedicated as much time to explaining how technology influences creativity as to the creative output itself, even listing headline ‘technologists’ alongside its top-billed musical acts.

On the festival’s second day, Friday 20 May, Rothblatt took the stage to talk to a packed house at Durham’s Carolina Theater, in an atmosphere that felt far more like a TED talk than a music fest. Rothblatt, who is transgender, discussed the contentious North Carolina HB2 law, which bans transgender people from using public bathrooms of the gender they identify with; the idea that creativity would be better encouraged by free college tuition; and how she got to a point where she and her company, United Therapeutics, can actually think about 3D printing new body parts, and leaving our bodies behind—if we want. “You want to win more than you want to live,” she told the rapt crowd. “You yell ‘Geronimo’ as you jump crazily into monopolistic opposition.”

Quartz sat down with Rothblatt after her talk to chat more about her thoughts on AI, living forever, free education, and what happens to the soul once we’ve made digital copies of ourselves.

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Jun 3, 2016

Gravitational diode could lead to futuristic Star Trek technologies — From teleportation to highly efficient energy generation

Posted by in categories: computing, futurism

A very interesting press release appeared yesterday morning that was brought to our attention. A startup company, Gravitomagnetism, LLC, was granted a patent that enables it a multitude of applications ranging from energy generation to teleportation.

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Jun 3, 2016

Google Voice Search Stores Everything It Overhears

Posted by in category: futurism

Google Voice hears all, records all.

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Jun 3, 2016

New CRISPR system for targeting RNA

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

The new approach has the potential to open a powerful avenue in cellular manipulation. Whereas DNA editing makes permanent changes to the genome of a cell, the CRISPR-based RNA-targeting approach may allow researchers to make temporary changes that can be adjusted up or down, and with greater specificity and functionality than existing methods for RNA interference.

In a study published today in Science, Feng Zhang and colleagues at the Broad Institute and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, along with co-authors Eugene Koonin and his colleagues at the NIH, and Konstantin Severinov of Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Skoltech, report the identification and functional characterization of C2c2, an RNA-guided enzyme capable of targeting and degrading RNA.

The findings reveal that C2c2—the first naturally-occurring CRISPR system that targets only RNA to have been identified, discovered by this collaborative group in October 2015—helps protect bacteria against viral infection. They demonstrate that C2c2 can be programmed to cleave particular RNA sequences in bacterial cells, which would make it an important addition to the molecular biology toolbox.

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Jun 3, 2016

HoloTrump and the future of elections

Posted by in categories: computing, life extension

My speech at the Augmented World Expo on the future of politcs was covered by the BBC.


I spend time with a man who wants to live forever and thinks a computer may one day run the US.

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Jun 3, 2016

Google wants to teach its self-driving cars to honk politely

Posted by in categories: robotics/AI, transportation

The cars can emit different types of honks depending on the situation.

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Jun 3, 2016

AMC is live streaming a TV show on Facebook right now

Posted by in category: entertainment

This is an interesting use of the platform.

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Jun 3, 2016

“Quantum Entanglement in Space” –A New Global Satellite-Based Quantum Network

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics, space

“We are reaching the limits of how precisely we can test quantum theory on Earth,” says Daniel Oi at the University of Strathclyde. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Strathclyde, UK, have become the first to test in orbit technology for satellite-based quantum network nodes. With a network that carries information in the quantum properties of single particles, you can create secure keys for secret messaging and potentially connect powerful quantum computers in the future. But scientists think you will need equipment in space to get global reach.

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Jun 3, 2016

Animal-plant integration

Posted by in category: biological

LeafInsect

[Image: An animal that looks like a plant. From simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stick_insect#/media/File:LeafInsect.jpg.]

Future genetic engineering may create animals that can photosynthesize like plants. These animals would require less food because they will make some of it from sunlight. In principle, even humans could be modified this way!

There are already some natural cases of animal-plant integration. Some marine flatworms have algae living in their translucent bodies,between their cells. Increasing the degree of plant-animal integration further, the method used by coral and various other marine animals is to have symbiotic algae living, not between their cells (like the flatworms), but actually inside some of their cells. The algae are typically of the genus Symbiodinium, and live in “symbiosomes,” blobs inside the animal cells that hold the algae separate from the rest of the cell. Each symbiosome is a kind of really, really tiny terrarium (a “nanoterrarium”) maintained by the finely engineered nanotechnology device of nature we call the cell. The cells supply the algae, in its symbiosome home, with basic chemicals and exposure to light. In return the algae produce nutrients that the animals extract from the symbiosome and use. In coral, when these algae die the coral loses color and, if not reversed, itself dies in the phenomenon called “coral bleaching.”

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