Tag Archives | Futurism

Artificial Enzymes from Artificial DNA Challenge Life As We Know It

ynse (CC BY 2.0)

ynse (CC BY 2.0)

via Singularity Hub:

In the decade or so since the Human Genome Project was completed, synthetic biology has grown rapidly. Impressive advances include the first bacteria to use a chemically-synthesized genome and creation of a synthetic yeast chromosome.

Recently, scientists from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, led by Dr. Philip Hollinger, reported creating the first completely artificial enzymes that are functional. The breakthrough was published in the journal Nature and builds on prior success by the group in creating several artificial nucleotides.

Nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA and RNA, consist of a phosphate group, one of five nitrogenous bases (adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, or uracil), and a sugar (deoxyribose in DNA and ribose in RNA).

In their previous studies, Dr. Hollinger’s group investigated whether nucleotides that don’t exist in nature (to our knowledge) could function like natural nucleotides. They designed six artificial nucleotides, keeping the phosphate group and one of the five nitrogenous bases, but switching between different sugars or even entirely different molecules.

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Turning E-Waste into Light

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0)

via IEEE Spectrum:

Bangalore-based IBM Research India has a bright idea for keeping discarded lithium laptop batteries out of landfills: repurposing their cells as energy supplies for the powerless. The idea, presented at this weekend’s fifth annual Symposium on Computing for Development (DEV 2014) in San Jose, has passed a small proof-of-principle test run with Bangalore’s working poor.

The IBM researchers used disused lithium batteries to create a new device they dubbed the UrJar—a multilingual monicker uniting the Hindi word urja for energy with jar. Hardware R&D firm Radio Studio, India, built the units. The first phase was tear-down. Radio Studio disassembled laptop batteries to isolate those cells that could still hold several hours’ worth of charge—over 60 percent of cells on average, according to their sampling.

Cells that passed quality control were repackaged in a housing with basic electronics, starting with a charging circuit to limit the rate and level of charge on the lithium cells and thus minimize fire risk.

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Tweets from the afterlife: social networking with the dead

The possibility of a posthumous digital social life seriously challenges our notions of death. Shimal Ahmed (Fulhi), CC BY-SA

The possibility of a posthumous digital social life seriously challenges our notions of death. Shimal Ahmed (Fulhi), CC BY-SA

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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By Bjorn Nansen, University of Melbourne; James Meese, University of Melbourne; Martin Gibbs, University of Melbourne; Michael Arnold, University of Melbourne, and Tamara Kohn, University of Melbourne

Media technologies have operated as both a means of communicating news of a death and memorialising the deceased for a significant period of time, moving from traditional epitaphs, eulogies, wakes and inscription in stone to centuries-old obituaries printed and circulated in newspapers. So where are we now?

Digital commemoration emerged as the internet became readily accessible and an integral part of people’s communicative practices. Initially, during the 90s, it took the form of memorial websites hosted by the families and friends of the deceased.… Read the rest

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The Time Traveler: George Church Plans to Bring Back a Creature That Went Extinct 4,000 Years Ago


via Recode:

The engineers and scientists spilling out of Greater Boston’s world-class universities built the foundations of the modern computing era and amassed the densest cluster of life sciences companies in the world. The region lost some of its most promising startups to Silicon Valley, famously including Facebook. But business is booming — and researchers and entrepreneurs there are aiming far higher than the next social network. This Re/code special series takes a closer look at past, present and future innovation in the region.

On March 15, 2013, genetic engineer George Church stood in the middle of a circular red rug onstage at the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Auditorium in Washington, D.C., describing a detailed plan for bringing a six-ton, 10-foot, fur-covered creature back from the dead.

By splicing genes responsible for traits like thicker hair, subcutaneous fat and curving tusks into the DNA of an Asian elephant, Church hopes to revive the long-extinct woolly mammoth, or at least create a version of the modern elephant that really likes the cold.

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Many memories, many rooms

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

Maxwell Hamilton (CC BY 2.0)

via Gemini:

Since the time of the Greeks, people have used a special memory trick called the method of loci,  which links memories to familiar places. You retrieve the memory by thinking of the place and calling up the associated memory.

Now researchers from NTNU’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation have published new findings on how the brain is able to store many separate but similar events, which helps explain how this trick works. Their results have just been published in the 8 December issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

“We are extremely good at remembering places and we are very visual creatures,” says PhD candidate and first author of the paper Charlotte Alme. “Rats (and most likely humans) have a map for each individual place, which is why the method of loci works.

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Anyone Can Now Use IBM’s Watson To Crunch Data For Free

Screen shot 2014-12-08 at 4.54.15 PM

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via ZDNet:

IBM has launched the public beta of Watson Analytics, its set of cloud-based predictive and analytics tools.

The move to public beta for Watson Analytics on Thursday follows its private beta launch this September. IBM said at the time of the beta release the service will be made available under a freemium model through iOS, Android mobile devices and the web.

Watson Analytics is a cognitive service that’s meant to bear some of the load executives face when preparing data, while making it easier to run predictive analyses and use “visual storytelling”, such as using graphs, maps and infographics to illustrate a point.

Watson Analytics is one piece of IBM’s $1bn gamble that it can commercialise Watson. The company claims it has 22,000 registrations for Watson Analytics since launching in September.

Read More: http://www.zdnet.com/article/ibm-watson-analytics-enters-public-beta/

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Ralph H. Baer, a father of video gaming, dies at 92

Baer is credited with developing the pattern-matching game Simon.

Baer is credited with developing the pattern-matching game Simon.

via Washington Post:

At the dawn of the television age in 1951, a young engineer named Ralph Baer approached executives at an electronics firm and suggested the radical idea of offering games on the bulky TV boxes.

“And of course,” he said, “I got the regular reaction: ‘Who needs this?’ And nothing happened.”

It took another 15 years before Mr. Baer, who died Dec. 6 at 92, developed a prototype that would make him the widely acknowledged father of video games. His design helped lay the groundwork for an industry that transformed the role of the television set and generated tens of billions of dollars last year.

Mr. Baer “saw that there was this interesting device sitting in millions of American homes — but it was a one-way instrument,” said Arthur P. Molella, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

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Who said it: Charlie Brown or Friedrich Nietzsche?

nietzsche charlie

via Mashable:

Good grief, Charlie Brown. You’ll never be able to kick that football because it is an illusion.

Everyone’s favorite bald-headed blockhead isn’t just the socially awkward loner the rest of the Peanuts gang make him out to be. His often nihilistic musings on life over the last 64 years make him a lot like 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

While Neitzsche may not have attempted to kick footballs in his lifetime, Charlie Brown certain has spent plenty of his life gazing long into the abyss. Not too shabby for an 8-year-old.

To play the game, go here: http://mashable.com/2014/12/08/charlie-brown-or-friedrich-nietzsche/

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In world first, researchers convert sunlight to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

(ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ (CC BY 2.0)

via Science Daily:

Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40 percent of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported. A key part of the prototype’s design is the use of a custom optical bandpass filter to capture sunlight that is normally wasted by commercial solar cells on towers and convert it to electricity at a higher efficiency than the solar cells themselves ever could.

UNSW Australia’s solar researchers have converted over 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity, the highest efficiency ever reported.

The record efficiency was achieved in outdoor tests in Sydney, before being independently confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at their outdoor test facility in the United States.

The work was funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and supported by the Australia-US Institute for Advanced Photovoltaics (AUSIAPV).

“This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor and Director of the Advanced Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP) Professor Martin Green said.

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After 35 Years I Tried Magic Mushrooms Again—Here’s What Happened

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

Darron Birgenheier (CC by-sa 2.0)

via Reset.me:

Though I began researching Acid Test, a book about the revival of research into the use of psychedelic drugs for healing, in 2007, my interest in the subject really began 30 years earlier, when I was a college student at the University of Florida. The UF campus is surrounded by a rural landscape, including thousands of acres of palmetto and pine-studded pasturage used to raise cattle. My friends and I had learned to slip gingerly through barbed wire fencing and, keeping an eye out for shotgun-wielding ranchers, hunt for recently deposited piles of cow dung, from which sometimes sprouted the creamy, brown-tipped caps of psilocybin mushrooms. We plucked the mushrooms with rising excitement, as if we were pulling nuggets of pure gold from a mountain stream instead of fungi from cow shit. We knew the power contained within. Steep them in a pot with tea and drink, and before long we would see the world, and ourselves, from a novel vantage point.

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