Tag Archives | Science

Germ Line Engineering the Perfect Baby

Scientists are developing ways to edit the DNA of tomorrow’s children. Should they stop before it’s too late? asks Antonio Regalado for MIT Technology Review:

If anyone had devised a way to create a genetically engineered baby, I figured George Church would know about it.

A smiling baby.jpg

Photo: Kenny Louie (CC)

 

At his labyrinthine laboratory on the Harvard Medical School campus, you can find researchers giving E. Coli a novel genetic code never seen in nature. Around another bend, others are carrying out a plan to use DNA engineering to resurrect the woolly mammoth. His lab, Church likes to say, is the center of a new technological genesis—one in which man rebuilds creation to suit himself.

When I visited the lab last June, Church proposed that I speak to a young postdoctoral scientist named Luhan Yang, a Harvard recruit from Beijing who’d been a key player in developing a new, powerful technology for editing DNA called CRISPR-Cas9.

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10 emerging technologies that could change the world in 2015

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Hyundai Fuel Cell engine.

Bernard Meyerson via Business Insider:

Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. While never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise innovative solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.

From zero-emission cars fuelled by hydrogen to computer chips modelled on the human brain, this year’s 10 emerging technologies offer a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet.

To compile this list, the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, a panel of 18 experts, draws on the collective expertise of the Forum’s communities to identify the most important recent technological trends.

By doing so, the Meta-Council aims to raise awareness of their potential and contribute to closing the gaps in investment, regulation and public understanding that so often thwart progress.

The 2015 list is:

1. Fuel cell vehicles

2. Next-generation robotics

3. Recyclable thermoset plastics

4. Precise genetic engineering techniques

5.

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Scientists capture first ever image of light acting as a particle and a wave


Ryan Whitwam via ExtremeTech:

Despite being a well-established tenet of modern physics, the particle-wave duality of light can be a real mind-bender. This approach to understanding the universe was pioneered by scientists like Albert Einstein and Max Planck, eventually leading to quantum mechanics. Researchers have been trying to visualize light in both forms ever since, but haven’t had success until now. A team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) claim they’ve devised an experiment to photograph light as both a particle and wave.

Einstein’s eureka moment in the study of light came when he described the photoelectric effect. When UV light hits a metal surface, it results in an emission of electrons. Einstein explained this phenomenon by proposing that light can act as a particle in addition to a wave. We now know these particles as photons, but that term wasn’t coined until later. Subsequent experiments have confirmed the dual property of light, but actually seeing both at once would be something.

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Is this life real?

Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Via Mathew Francis at Aeon.co:

Our species is not going to last forever. One way or another, humanity will vanish from the Universe, but before it does, it might summon together sufficient computing power to emulate human experience, in all of its rich detail. Some philosophers and physicists have begun to wonder if we’re already there. Maybe we are in a computer simulation, and the reality we experience is just part of the program.

Modern computer technology is extremely sophisticated, and with the advent of quantum computing, it’s likely to become more so. With these more powerful machines, we’ll be able to perform large-scale simulations of more complex physical systems, including, possibly, complete living organisms, maybe even humans. But why stop there?

The idea isn’t as crazy as it sounds. A pair of philosophers recently argued that if we accept the eventual complexity of computer hardware, it’s quite probable we’re already part of an ‘ancestor simulation’, a virtual recreation of humanity’s past.

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Jürgen Schmidhuber to do AMA on reddit /r/MachineLearning

"Structure of the Universe" by NASA, ESA, and E. Hallman (University of Colorado, Boulder) - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hst_img_20080520.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Structure of the Universe” by NASA, ESA, and E. Hallman (University of Colorado, Boulder) – http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hst_img_20080520.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Jürgen Schmidhuber will be hosting an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the subreddit, /r/machinelearning, this Wednesday (March 4) at 10am EST.

From Schmidhuber’s website:

Since age 15 or so, Prof. Jürgen Schmidhuber’s main scientific ambition has been to build an optimal scientist through self-improving Artificial Intelligence (AI), then retire. He has pioneered self-improving general problem solvers since 1987, and Deep Learning Neural Networks (NNs)since 1991. The recurrent NNs (RNNs) developed by his research groups at the Swiss AI Lab IDSIA & USI & SUPSI (ex-TU MunichCogBotLab) were the first RNNs to win official international contests. They recently helped to improve connected handwriting recognition, speech recognition, machine translation, optical character recognition, image caption generation, and are now in use at Google, Microsoft, IBM, Baidu, and many other companies.

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Astrology could help take pressure off NHS doctors, claims Conservative MP

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Hartwig HKD (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Via The Guardian:

A Conservative MP has claimed that astrology could have “a role to play in healthcare”.

David Tredinnick said astrology, along with complementary medicine, could take pressure off NHS doctors, but acknowledged that any attempt to spend taxpayers’ money on consulting the stars would cause “a huge row”.

He criticised the BBC and TV scientist Professor Brian Cox for taking a “dismissive” approach to astrology, and accused opponents of being “racially prejudiced”.

The MP for Bosworth, in Leicestershire, who is a Capricorn and in 2010 paid back £755 he had claimed in expenses for software that used astrology to diagnose medical conditions, told Astrological Journal: “I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors.

“Ninety per cent of pregnant French women use homeopathy. Astrology is a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart.

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SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 Carrying World’s First Ion Propelled Electric Satellites

(Photo : SpaceX) Electric satellites ABS 3A and Eutelsat 115 B West stacked on top of each other prior to launch.

(Photo : SpaceX) Electric satellites ABS 3A and Eutelsat 115 B West stacked on top of each other prior to launch.

Arthur Dominic Villasanta via China Topix:

The world’s first commercial satellites powered by xenon-ion electric engines were successfully orbited March 1.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched two “electric satellites” equipped with revolutionary xenon-ion engines that turn gas into a propellant from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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Feast-and-famine diet could help extend life, study suggests

Vox Efx (CC BY 2.0)

Vox Efx (CC BY 2.0)

via ScienceDaily [Based on materials from the University of Florida]:

Think of it as interval training for the dinner table.

University of Florida Health researchers have found that putting people on a feast-or-famine diet may mimic some of the benefits of fasting, and that adding antioxidant supplements may counteract those benefits.

Fasting has been shown in mice to extend lifespan and to improve age-related diseases. But fasting every day, which could entail skipping meals or simply reducing overall caloric intake, can be hard to maintain.

“People don’t want to just under-eat for their whole lives,” said Martin Wegman, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the UF College of Medicine and co-author of the paper recently published in the journal Rejuvenation Research. “We started thinking about the concept of intermittent fasting.”

Michael Guo, a UF M.D.-Ph.D. student who is pursuing the Ph.D. portion of the program in genetics at Harvard Medical School, said the group measured the participants’ changes in weight, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, cholesterol, markers of inflammation and genes involved in protective cell responses over 10 weeks.

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Monster black hole discovered at cosmic dawn

This is an artist's impression of a quasar with a supermassive black hole in the distant universe. Credit: Zhaoyu Li/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Misti Mountain Observatory

This is an artist’s impression of a quasar with a supermassive black hole in the distant universe.
Credit: Zhaoyu Li/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Misti Mountain Observatory

via ScienceDaily:

Scientists have discovered the brightest quasar in the early universe, powered by the most massive black hole yet known at that time. The international team led by astronomers from Peking University in China and from the University of Arizona announce their findings in the scientific journal Nature on Feb. 26.

The discovery of this quasar, named SDSS J0100+2802, marks an important step in understanding how quasars, the most powerful objects in the universe, have evolved from the earliest epoch, only 900 million years after the Big Bang, which is thought to have happened 13.7 billion years ago. The quasar, with its central black hole mass of 12 billion solar masses and the luminosity of 420 trillion suns, is at a distance of 12.8 billion light-years from Earth.

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