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Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Salk scientists for the first time generate "mini-kidney" structures from human stem cells

Salk scientists for the first time generate "mini-kidney" structures from human stem cells | Amazing Science |

For the first time, Salk scientists have grown human stem cells into early-stage ureteric buds, kidney structures responsible for reabsorbing water after toxins have been filtered out. In the laboratory, the scientists used mouse embryonic kidney cells (seen in red in the above picture) to coax the human stem cells to grow into the nascent mushroom-shaped buds (blue and green). Their discovery is a major step in developing regenerative techniques for growing replacement human kidneys.

Scientists had created precursors of kidney cells using stem cells as recently as this past summer, but the Salk team was the first to coax human stem cells into forming three-dimensional cellular structures similar to those found in our kidneys.

"Attempts to differentiate human stem cells into renal cells have had limited success," says senior study author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. "We have developed a simple and efficient method that allows for the differentiation of human stem cells into well-organized 3D structures of the ureteric bud (UB), which later develops into the collecting duct system."

Simon Jean Nunez's curator insight, January 23, 2014 7:20 PM

"For the first time, the Salk researchers have generated three-dimensional kidney structures from human stem cells, opening new avenues for studying the development and diseases of the kidneys and to the discovery of new drugs that target human kidney cells." Really great work, what's next?

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Study: Sun Will End Life on Earth in 2.8 Billion Years

Study: Sun Will End Life on Earth in 2.8 Billion Years | Amazing Science |
A brightening sun will likely snuff out all life on Earth in around 2.8 billion years, suggest astrobiologists.


Currently at a comfortable temperature for life on Earth, our aging sun will slowly warm over its lifetime. Within about five billion years, the sun will exhaust its nuclear fuel and bloat into a "red giant" star that may even engulf our planet.


Things will get toasty for existing life-forms long before that red giant stage is reached. The question examined by a team led by astrobiologist Jack O'Malley-James, of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is: When will things get too hot for life to continue?


Using measures such as temperature and abundance of water and food to examine the future health of Earth's biosphere, the scientists have mapped out how all life may begin to die off. They also analyzed what Earth's "biosignature" might look like to a distant alien civilization searching for life. The study has been accepted for publication by theInternational Journal of Astrobiology and released recently on the physics archive maintained by the Cornell University Library.


Plants will go first. The team's long-range weather forecast for the far future shows that as temperatures on Earth begin to slowly rise, more water vapor will form, resulting in the steady removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plants rely on carbon dioxide to generate energy through photosynthesis, so the complete removal of CO2 would be bad news for foliage. The first hints of the death of life on Earth, the study found, will come in 500 million years, when less-hardy species of plants begin to die off as global carbon dioxide levels drop.


As more plant species go extinct, so will the animals that rely on them as a source of food and oxygen. "When plant numbers decline, these two commodities become increasingly scarce, resulting in the simultaneous end of animals over the next billion years alongside the end of plants," the study says.


Only microbes will be left. By about 2.8 billion years from now, only hardy communities of microbes will be left behind to inherit the Earth. But as the Earth continues to relentlessly warm, oceans will evaporate, triggering a runaway greenhouse effect, which will lead to rapid further heating of the planet and a very scarce supply of liquid water.


"Only the hardiest microbes will be able to cope with this, until even they can no longer survive when temperatures cross the threshold at which DNA breaks down—around 140°C [284°F]," added O'Malley-James.


The team hopes that these findings may help our own search for life beyond Earth, by expanding the number of potential signatures of life to look for when we learn to analyze planetary atmospheres in more detail.


"A planet in a later stage of its habitable development may appear uninhabited if we only look for the signs of life as we know it on Earth today," said O'Malley-James. "Knowing what other potential signatures life could have could help us make a positive detection of life on a planet that may previously have been ignored."

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Sensory Substitution and Brain Plasticity: How to Augment our Senses

Since 1968 scientists have been creating sensory substitution and augmentation devices. With these devices they try to replace or enhance one sense by using another sense. For example, in tactile–vision, stimulation of the skin driven by input to a camera is used to replace the ordinary sense of vision that uses our eyes. The feelSpace belt aims to give people a magnetic sense of direction using vibrotactile stimulation driven by a digital compass. This talk discusses these developing technologies, mentions psychologists studying the minds and behavior of subjects who use these kind of devices, and analyzes the nature of perceptual experience and sensory interaction. The talk also explores the nature, limits and possibilities of these technologies, how they can be used to help those with sensory impairments, and what they can tell us about perception and perceptual experience in general.

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David M. Eagleman at #beinghuman2013: The Future of Being Human

David Eagleman examines how the contemporary journey into massive scales of space, time, and big data irreversibly expands our perspective on ourselves. At Being Human 2013, a recent forward-thinking lecture series, Jer Thorp and David Eagleman delivered new keynotes speculating on the future of being human. The conference, which took place in San Francisco last month, focused on how our perception of the world will change in the future. And, how big data and other technological and medical innovations will affect the way we interact with our surroundings. 

Eagleman kicked off his speech by explaining that every animal in the world (humans included) has "their own window on reality." Our perception of our environment, known as our "umwelt," is typically determined by the biological tools we're born with. Humans, for example, are not equipped to see x-rays or gamma rays or feel the shape of the magnetic field. Eagleman asks: "How are our technologies going to expand our umwelt, and therefore, the experience of being human?" 

"Our peripheral sensory organs are what we've come to the table with—but not necessarily what we have to stick with," he explains. He describes how we're moving into the MPH (Mr. Potato Head) model of evolution: Our eyes, ears, fingers, etc., essentially act like plug-and-play external devices that can be substituted to improve or enhance our view of the world. "The bottom line is that the human umwelt is on the move," he concludes. "We are now in a position as we move into the future of getting to chose our own plug-and-play devices." Imagine being able to see by transmitting electronic impulses through your tongue, or, embedding magnets into your fingertips that allow you to feel the pull of the magnetic field. There's so much happening in the world that we can't see, and Eagleman envisions a future where we can plug into new experiences and broaden our view of the our environment.

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EPFL is developing a tiny, personal blood testing laboratory that implants under your skin

EPFL is developing a tiny, personal blood testing laboratory that implants under your skin | Amazing Science |

EPFL scientists have developed a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory: a minuscule device implanted just under the skin provides an immediate analysis of substances in the body, and a radio module transmits the results to a doctor over the cellular phone network. This feat of miniaturization has many potential applications, including monitoring patients undergoing chemotherapy.


Humans are veritable chemical factories - we manufacture thousands of substances and transport them, via our blood, throughout our bodies. Some of these substances can be used as indicators of our health status. A team of EPFL scientists has developed a tiny device that can analyze the concentration of these substances in the blood. Implanted just beneath the skin, it can detect up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously, and then transmit the results directly to a doctor’s computer. This method will allow a much more personalized level of care than traditional blood tests can provide. Health care providers will be better able to monitor patients, particularly those with chronic illness or those undergoing chemotherapy. The prototype, still in the experimental stages, has demonstrated that it can reliably detect several commonly traced substances.

The device was developed by a team led by EPFL scientists Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara. The implant, a real gem of concentrated technology, is only a few cubic millimeters in volume but includes five sensors, a radio transmitter and a power delivery system. Outside the body, a battery patch provides 1/10 watt of power, through the patient’s skin – thus there’s no need to operate every time the battery needs changing.


Information is routed through a series of stages, from the patient’s body to the doctor’s computer screen. The implant emits radio waves over a safe frequency. The patch collects the data and transmits them via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends them to the doctor over the cellular network.


Great care was taken in developing the sensors. To capture the targeted substance in the body – such as lactate, glucose, or ATP – each sensor’s surface is covered with an enzyme. “Potentially, we could detect just about anything,” explains De Micheli. “But the enzymes have a limited lifespan, and we have to design them to last as long as possible.” The enzymes currently being tested are good for about a month and a half; that’s already long enough for many applications. “In addition, it’s very easy to remove and replace the implant, since it’s so small.”


The electronics were a considerable challenge as well. “It was not easy to get a system like this to work on just a tenth of a watt,” de Micheli explains. The researchers also struggled to design the minuscule electrical coil that receives the power from the patch.


The prototype has already been tested in the laboratory for five different substances, and proved as reliable as traditional analysis methods. The project brought together eletronics experts, computer scientists, doctors and biologists from EPFL, the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, EMPA and ETHZ. It is part of the Swiss Nano-Tera program, whose goal is to encourage interdisciplinary research in the environmental and medical fields. Researchers hope the system will be commercially available within 4 years.


More wearable technology news here:

Patricia Nicoll's curator insight, October 6, 2013 9:46 PM

Instantaneous sampling and blood results

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Tomorrow's Cities: How may we be living in 2050 - a BBC report

Tomorrow's Cities: How may we be living in 2050 - a BBC report | Amazing Science |

Have you ever wondered where you or your children may be living in 2050? Experts predict that by then three-quarters of the world's population will live in cities. This August and September the BBC is taking a look at how our lives will be changed by the technological innovations being developed for Tomorrow’s Cities.

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This Mind-Reading Headset Gives Users The Power of Mind Control

This Mind-Reading Headset Gives Users The Power of Mind Control | Amazing Science |

Five years ago, Vietnamese-Australian inventor and Emotiv CEO Tan Le released the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset, what was billed as the world’s first commercial brain-computer interface. The product, which still sells for $300, proved to be a hit, making it clear that the public craved this new kind of wearable technology.


Now, Le and Emotiv are back with an entirely revamped headset that features a full redesign and update of the original EPOC. The Emotiv Insight, they promise, not only bridges the electro-communicational gap between one’s brain and computer, but also allows users to track their brain activity in real-time and even monitor their mental health. The team has set up a Kickstarter campaign ahead of the project’s 2014 release, and the response couldn’t have been more viral. With two weeks left in its Kickstarter run, nearly 3,300 backers have pledged over $1 million in support.


The enthusiastic reaction is only surprising if you don’t already know what the Emotiv headsets can do. The new model is a multi-channel device that gives the wearer Jedi-like mind powers, and who doesn’t want to be a Jedi? As Le points out in the Kickstarter video, users can wield the Emotive Insight for very creative ends that to the outside observer might seem like magic.


But how does it work? The Insight sports a new five-channel sensor setup--a significant improvement over the EPOC--that picks up electroencephalography (EEG) data. The headset’s individual sensors target key junctions of the cerebral cortex and translates the EEG they detect into meaningful ways, which the project text explains can be used to “optimize” a user’s cognitive performance. By understanding and breaking down brain activity in this manner, the Insight can also generate brainwaves that power the product's multiple applications.


Just a handful of these are illustrated in the Kickstarter video: A child outfitted with the new headset is seen conjuring up a three-dimensional design for a toy on the computer screen before him, hands free. Another volunteer holds a modified electric helicopter--synced to the headset--in the palm in his hand and watches with amazement as it rises into the air, spurred only by his mental command. In yet another test case, a handicapped man creates the soundtrack that scores the video just using the power of his thought.


Still, these choice examples aside, the exact applications of the system are vague. That’s intentional because, as Le explains, the Insight is a platform that allows you, the user, to develop newer and unexpected uses for the technology. The Emotiv team plans to offer up API and SDK for developers wanting to play around with the technology; doing so, Le says, will “make it possible for anyone to take this innovation and create new applications with the technology.”

randy yerrick's curator insight, September 26, 2013 10:31 AM

Another advancement in connecting the Brain directly. - MJP

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The biological microprocessor, or how to build a computer with biological parts

The biological microprocessor, or how to build a computer with biological parts | Amazing Science |

Two decades have passed since the landmark paper of Adelman.  A major game changer has been the advance of synthetic biology, with novel concepts for bioengineering strongly based on systems theory. This led to trials for identifying, characterizing and standardizing biological parts useful for a general purpose computer. Major advances have been made in areas such as engineering of switches and logic gates, letting the dream of engineering a general Turing machine come close to reality. This dream is finally about our human superiority and rule over nature, making biocomputers one of the really exiting challenges in contemporary science, both in respect to engineering and ethics. We still face a couple of challenges before we will see biocomputers in our daily environment.


Novel concepts for Turing machines have been suggested, such as a deoxyribozyme based molecular walker, as this kind of machines have the ability to read and transform secondary cues. However, the general Turing machine requires the ability of erasing and writing of symbols. Recently, major advantages have been made in respect to genome wide codon replacement in vivo by applying multiplex automated genome engineering technology. This technology provides novel opportunities to implement a general Turing paradigm.


On this road we need to clarify whether the digital paradigm is in fact the best approach to molecular computing. The values of biological signals are typically analog, so we need to explore, if analog computing might be an alternative road to explore. In any case, we need to engineer signals, both as input and output with well-defined stable concentrations, thus do not fluctuate, and stable circuits. If we wish to use Boolean logic we need to be able to group signals in low expressed and high expressed. The engineering design of the logic gate based on the transcriptor mark the advances that have been made towards digitalization of signals and the engineering of clearcut thresholds.

Silicon computers have been a fruitful inspiration for the engineering of computing systems from biological materials. These engineered biological computers have some advantages over the silicon counterpart, as they can potentially self-organize and self-replicate. This has the potential to reduce engineering costs and efforts. However, the overall capabilities of today’s artificial engineered biological computers are still premature in many aspects in comparison to the silicon based one.

Today’s logic gates can only be concentrated for up to order 10 processing steps. The logic problems solved so far by biological computers are impressive, but also demonstrate the inferiority of such systems in comparison with their silicon counterparts, as they are still of relatively simple nature. These problems are both due to the novelty of the field, but also to system specific properties of the biological matter. Biochemical reactions have by nature often long reaction times. The input and output signals are of analog and not digital nature. Biochemical reactions are often in solution and not in all cases compartmentalized, which results in the lack of signal separation. Novel compartmentalization concepts, organizing signal transduction by binding mediators to a scaffold, might further contribute to signal separation.  Although these kinds of inert material properties might define the natural limitations for the engineering of biological computers, one might consider a change in the computing paradigm applied, in order to engineer more in coherence with these material properties.

The analog computer paradigm, which uses continuous values, might be interesting in this respect. Daniel et al. have recently published a paper exploring analog computing in living cells and demonstrate that synthetic analog gene circuits can be engineered to execute sophistical computational functions in living cells. Moreover, further improvement might be possible to advancements in biological engineering. Much of the work necessary is in line with standard quality insurance in biological experiments such as system stability and consistency under different conditions, system quantification, and identification of system imperfections. Examples of such experimental problems are: systems might be unstable due to transient transfections.

Moreover, cell populations might be not homogenous due to heterogeneity of gene copies, rate constants and stochastic effects. Furthermore, system measurements are potentially difficult in respect to measuring intracellular input levels.  Once experimental advances are made towards standardized and well defined parts, one of the major next engineering steps will be to combine the different units of the biological microprocessor to one complex system.

A challenge will be the spatial organization of such a complex system. Novel artificial scaffold systems might be necessary to develop for this purpose. Efficient manufacture methods might also be required. The emerging field of 3-D printing might provide novel ways for system engineering.  Further advancements in engineering of biological control units might be necessary for powerful integrated systems. Altogether, this will push biological systems closer to the level of complexity and problem solving power of silicon computers. Such an integrated system will have much more computing power and advances the problem solving capability. Evidence for the potential of the potential computing power of a biological system is provided by the capabilities of nature’s most powerful biological computer, the human brain.


Novel areas for development are on the horizon. Hybrids of electronic semiconductor and biological machines might be interesting to explore; playing on the initial discussed feedback loop between biology inspired engineering and engineering inspired biology. Some interesting research is going on in this area both in academic labs and in industry.

Several promising biocomposites have been developed, such as cells treated with silicic acid; DNA as a mediator that arranges fullerenes, golden particles and DNA-templated nanowire formation; and DNA metamaterials and hydrogels with memory. Another interesting device under development is IBM’s DNA transistor. This system controls DNA translocation through the nanopore. It is composed of a metal/dielectric/metal/dielectric/metal multilayer nano-structure built into the membrane that contains the nanopore. The function of this system is based on the interaction of discrete charges along the backbone of a DNA molecule with the modulated electric field to trap DNA in the nanopore with single-base resolution. DNA might be moved through the nanopore at a rate of one nucleotide per cycle. This could lead among other to a nanopore-based reading device.

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UK man has new nose growing on his arm

A British man who lost his nose to cancer is having a new nose made for him by scientists at University College London. The nose is currently being grown inside the man's arm, where it will acquire blood vessels, nerves and skin.

University College London professor Alex Seifalian explained that the new nose will look exactly the same as the old one. "His nose was a little bit bent to the left and we asked if he wanted it straight but he said no, he wanted it exactly the same," Seifalian said.

This animation illustrates how the University College London scientists created the new nose from stem cells taken from the man's cartilage.

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MIT: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013 you should know about

MIT: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013 you should know about | Amazing Science |

MIT's definition of a breakthrough is simple: an advance that gives people powerful new ways to use technology. It could be an intuitive design that provides a useful interface (e.g., “Smart Watches”) or experimental devices that could allow people who have suffered brain damage to once again form memories (“Memory Implants”). Some could be key to sustainable economic growth (“Additive Manufacturing” and “Supergrids”), while others could change how we communicate (“Temporary Social Media”) or think about the unborn (“Prenatal DNA Sequencing”). Some are brilliant feats of engineering (“Baxter”), whereas others stem from attempts to rethink longstanding problems in their fields (“Deep Learning” and “Ultra-Efficient Solar Power”). As a whole, this annual list not only tells you which technologies you need to know about, but also celebrates the creativity that produced them.

Jean HAGUET's curator insight, August 30, 2013 9:56 AM

Very eclectic and enlightening!

Sieg Holle's curator insight, August 30, 2013 11:28 AM

technology - the great equalizer 

wallemac's comment, August 30, 2013 5:08 PM
great to see two solar verticles included in the top 10 - PV Solar and Supergrids
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The last survivors of the end of the world

The last survivors of the end of the world | Amazing Science |

In 2 billion years' time, life on Earth will be confined to pockets of liquid water deep underground, according to PhD astrobiologist Jack O'Malley James of the University of St Andrews. The new research also suggests that though the hardiest forms of life may have a foothold on similar worlds in orbit around other stars, evidence for it may be very subtle. O' Malley- James will present the findings at the National Astronomy Meeting in St Andrews, Scotland.

All species have finite lifetimes, with each eventually facing an event that leads to its extinction. This can be sudden and catastrophic, like the giant impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, or a slow and gradual process. Ultimately, a combination of slow and rapid environmental changes will result in the extinction of all species on Earth, with the last inhabitants disappearing within 2.8 billion years from now.

The main driver for these changes will be the Sun. As it ages over the next few billion years, the Sun will remain stable but become steadily more luminous, increasing the intensity of its heat felt on Earth and warming the planet to such an extent that the oceans evaporate. In his new work, O'Malley James has created a computer model to simulate these extremely long-range temperature forecasts and has used the results to predict the timeline of future extinctions.

Within the next billion years, increased evaporation rates and chemical reactions with rainwater will draw more and more carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere. The falling levels of CO2 will lead to the disappearance of plants and animals and our home planet will become a world of microbes. At the same time the Earth will be depleted of oxygen and will be drying out as the rising temperatures lead to the evaporation of the oceans. A billion years after that the oceans will have gone completely.

"The far-future Earth will be very hostile to life by this point", said O'Malley-James. "All living things require liquid water, so any remaining life will be restricted to pockets of liquid water, perhaps at cooler, higher altitudes or in caves or underground". This life will need to cope with many extremes like high temperatures and intense ultraviolet radiation and only a few microbial species known on Earth today could cope with this.

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Regenerative medicine breakthrough: lab-grown human heart tissue beats on its own

Regenerative medicine breakthrough: lab-grown human heart tissue beats on its own | Amazing Science |

Progress in regenerative medicine has been coming fast and furious in recent months: scientists are now using far-out tissue engineering techniques to restore liver function in mice, regrow human muscle, and even implant bioengineered blood vessels into ailing patients. Now, a team at the University of Pittsburgh has managed to grow human heart tissue that can beat autonomously in a petri dish — an exciting step towards devising transplantable replacement organs.


The group used induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) to accomplish the feat. These mature human cells are first "reprogrammed" to an embryonic state, before being spurred to develop into a specialized type of cell. In this instance, iPS cells derived from human skin were induced to become multipotential cardiovascular progenitor (MCP) cells — basically heart cells that can further differentiate into three varieties of highly specialized cells required for cardiovascular function.


From there, scientists transplanted the cells onto a mouse heart that had been completely stripped — turning the organ into what's known as a "scaffold." Over a period of weeks, the transplanted human cells proliferated and differentiated, rebuilding the scaffold into a functional organ capable of beating on its own. Right now, the heart tissue contracts at a rate of 40 to 50 beats per minute (on-par with a human's resting heart rate) but needs to be further refined before it's capable of beating strongly enough to distribute blood, or speeding up and slowing down when necessary.


This isn't the first time that scientists have managed to engineer heart tissue — in recent years, other teams have created lab-grown beating rat hearts and even human heart tissue. The latter breakthrough, however, relied on embryonic stem cells, which can't be derived from a specific patient for subsequent, personalized transplant the way this new technique allows.


A full-sized, fully functional replacement human heart is, of course, several years off. But in the near future, scientists hope to develop personalized "patches" of human heart muscle to repair damaged organs, and hope to see their technique used to more accurately study the effects of new pharmaceuticals to treat cardiovascular ailments.

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Amazing Science: Future and Singularity Postings

Amazing Science: Future and Singularity Postings | Amazing Science |

The future might hold a technological singularity and the emergence of superintelligence through technological means. Proponents of the singularity typically postulate an intelligence explosion, where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, that might occur very quickly and might not stop until the agent's cognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any human. Ray Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 whereas artificial intelligence predictions by experts found a wide range of dates, with a median value of 2040.

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J Craig Venter wants to digitize DNA and transmit the signal to teleport organisms

J Craig Venter wants to digitize DNA and transmit the signal to teleport organisms | Amazing Science |

Craig Venter states:

"As the industrial age is drawing to a close, I think that we're witnessing the dawn of the era of biological design. DNA, as digitized information, is accumulating in computer databases. Thanks to genetic engineering, and now the field of synthetic biology, we can manipulate DNA to an unprecedented extent, just as we can edit software in a computer. We can also transmit it as an electromagnetic wave at or near the speed of light and, via a "biological teleporter", use it to recreate proteins, viruses and living cells at another location, changing forever how we view life."

"At this point in time we are limited to making protein molecules, viruses, phages and single microbial cells, but the field will move to more complex living systems. I am confident that we will be able to convert digitised information into living cells that will become complex multicellular organisms or functioning tissues."

"We could send sequence information to a digital-biological converter on Mars in as little as 4.3 minutes, that's at the closest approach of the red planet, to provide colonists with personalised drugs. Or, if Nasa's Mars Curiosity rover were equipped with a DNA-sequencing device, it could transmit the digital code of a Martian microbe back to Earth, where we could recreate the organism in the laboratory. We can rebuild the Martians in a P4 spacesuit lab -- that is, a maximum-containment lab -- instead of risking them crash-landing on the surface. I am assuming that Martian life is, like life on Earth, based on DNA. I think that because we know that Earth and Mars have continually exchanged material, in the order of 100kg a year, making it likely that Earth microbes have travelled to and populated Martian oceans long ago and that Martian microbes have survived to thrive on Earth. Simple calculations indicate that there is as much biology and biomass in the subsurface of our Earth as in the entire visible world on the planet's surface. The same could be true for Mars."

"If the life-digitalizing technology works, then we will have a new means of exploring the universe and the Earth-sized exoplanets and super Earths. To get a sequencer to them soon is out of the question with present-day rocket technology -- the planets orbiting the red dwarf Gliese 581 are "only" about 22 light-years away -- but it would take only 22 years to get the beamed data back. And that if advanced DNA-based life does exist in that system, perhaps it has already been broadcasting sequence information."

"Creating life at the speed of light is part of a new industrial revolution. Manufacturing will shift from centralised factories to a distributed, domestic manufacturing future, thanks to the rise of 3D printer technology. Since my own genome was sequenced, my software has been broadcast into space in the form of electromagnetic waves, carrying my genetic information far beyond Earth. Whether there is any creature out there capable of making sense of the instructions in my genome, well, that's another question."

Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, November 1, 2013 4:01 AM

J Craig Venter has already been teleported))

I love him for his style of reporting simple deeds as awesome technologies) 


Nalina Nagarajan's curator insight, November 9, 2013 4:24 PM

Star trekkies for real!

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Data Driven Computing: The Future Fabric of Data Analysis

Data Driven Computing: The Future Fabric of Data Analysis | Amazing Science |
The nature of computing has changed dramatically over the last decade, and more innovation is needed to weather the gathering data storm.


When subatomic particles smash together at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, they create showers of new particles whose signatures are recorded by four detectors. The LHC captures 5 trillion bits of data — more information than all of the world’s libraries combined — every second. After the judicious application of filtering algorithms, more than 99 percent of those data are discarded, but the four experiments still produce a whopping 25 petabytes (25×10E15 bytes) of data per year that must be stored and analyzed. That is a scale far beyond the computing resources of any single facility, so the LHC scientists rely on a vast computing grid of 160 data centers around the world, a distributed network that is capable of transferring as much as 10 gigabytes per second at peak performance.


Google’s Alon Halevy believes that the real breakthroughs in big data analysis are likely to come from integration — specifically, integrating across very different data sets. “No matter how much you speed up the computers or the way you put computers together, the real issues are at the data level,” he said. For example, a raw data set could include thousands of different tables scattered around the Web, each one listing crime rates in New York, but each may use different terminology and column headers, known as “schema.” A header of “New York” can describe the state, the five boroughs of New York City, or just Manhattan. You must understand the relationship between the schemas before the data in all those tables can be integrated.


That, in turn, requires breakthroughs in techniques to analyze the semantics of natural language. It is one of the toughest problems in artificial intelligence — if your machine-learning algorithm aspires to perfect understanding of nearly every word. But what if your algorithm needs to understand only enough of the surrounding text to determine whether, for example, a table includes data on coffee production in various countries so that it can then integrate the table with other, similar tables into one common data set? According to Halevy, a researcher could first use a coarse-grained algorithm to parse the underlying semantics of the data as best it could and then adopt a crowd-sourcing approach like a Mechanical Turk to refine the model further through human input. “The humans are training the system without realizing it, and then the system can answer many more questions based on what it has learned,” he said.


Chris Mattmann, a senior computer scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and director at the Apache Software Foundation, faces just such a complicated scenario with a research project that seeks to integrate two different sources of climate information: remote-sensing observations of the Earth made by satellite instrumentation and computer-simulated climate model outputs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would like to be able to compare the various climate models against the hard remote-sensing data to determine which models provide the best fit. But each of those sources stores data in different formats, and there are many different versions of those formats.


Many researchers emphasize the need to develop a broad spectrum of flexible tools that can deal with many different kinds of data. For example, many users are shifting from traditional highly structured relational databases, broadly known as SQL, which represent data in a conventional tabular format, to a more flexible format dubbed NoSQL. “It can be as structured or unstructured as you need it to be,” said Matt LeMay, a product and communications consultant and the former head of consumer products at URL shortening and bookmarking service Bitly, which uses both SQL and NoSQL formats for data storage, depending on the application.

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The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond — and Why They Might Not Come True

The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond — and Why They Might Not Come True | Amazing Science |

The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond. 

Every year, the editors of the Futurist magazine identify the most provocative forecasts and statements about the future that we’ve published recently and we put them to into an annual report called “Outlook.” It’s sprawling exploration of what the future looks like at a particular moment in time. To accompany the report, we draft a list of our top 10 favorite predictions from the magazine’s previous 12 months. What are the criteria to be admitted into the top 10? The forecast should be interesting, relatively high impact, and rising in likelihood. In other words, it’s a bit subjective.


There are surely better methods for evaluating statements about the future, but not for our purposes. You see, we aren’t actually interested in attempting to tell our readers what will happen so much as provoking a better discussion about what can happen—and what futures can be avoided, if we discover we’re heading in an unsavory direction.


The future isn’t a destination. But the problem with too many conversations about the future, especially those involving futurists, is that predictions tend to take on unmitigated certainty, sounding like GPS directions. When you reach the Singularity, turn left—that sort of thing. In reality, it’s more like wandering around a city, deciding spur of the moment what road to take.

Via Szabolcs Kósa, Margarida Sá Costa
Say Keng Lee's curator insight, October 7, 2013 5:06 AM

Fascinating forecasts!

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Method of recording brain activity could lead to mind-reading devices, Stanford scientists say

Method of recording brain activity could lead to mind-reading devices, Stanford scientists say | Amazing Science |

A brain region activated when people are asked to perform mathematical calculations in an experimental setting is similarly activated when they use numbers -- or even imprecise quantitative terms, such as "more than" -- in everyday conversation, according to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists.


Using a novel method, the researchers collected the first solid evidence that the pattern of brain activity seen in someone performing a mathematical exercise under experimentally controlled conditions is very similar to that observed when the person engages in quantitative thought in the course of daily life.


"We're now able to eavesdrop on the brain in real life," said Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences and director of Stanford's Human Intracranial Cognitive Electrophysiology Program. Parvizi is the senior author of the study, published Oct. 15, 2013 in Nature Communications. The study's lead authors are postdoctoral scholar Mohammad Dastjerdi, MD, PhD, and graduate student Muge Ozker.


The finding could lead to "mind-reading" applications that, for example, would allow a patient who is rendered mute by a stroke to communicate via passive thinking. Conceivably, it could also lead to more dystopian outcomes: chip implants that spy on or even control people's thoughts.


"This is exciting, and a little scary," said Henry Greely, JD, the Deane F. and Kate Edelman Johnson Professor of Law and steering committee chair of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, who played no role in the study but is familiar with its contents and described himself as "very impressed" by the findings. "It demonstrates, first, that we can see when someone's dealing with numbers and, second, that we may conceivably someday be able to manipulate the brain to affect how someone deals with numbers."


The researchers monitored electrical activity in a region of the brain called the intraparietal sulcus, known to be important in attention and eye and hand motion. Previous studies have hinted that some nerve-cell clusters in this area are also involved in numerosity, the mathematical equivalent of literacy.


However, the techniques that previous studies have used, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, are limited in their ability to study brain activity in real-life settings and to pinpoint the precise timing of nerve cells' firing patterns. These studies have focused on testing just one specific function in one specific brain region, and have tried to eliminate or otherwise account for every possible confounding factor. In addition, the experimental subjects would have to lie more or less motionless inside a dark, tubular chamber whose silence would be punctuated by constant, loud, mechanical, banging noises while images flashed on a computer screen.


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Elon Musk designs real-world gesture interface and 3D modeler

Elon Musk designs real-world gesture interface and 3D modeler | Amazing Science |

Elon Musk manipulates 3D object with hand gestures (Credit: SpaceX) Elon Musk has released a video demonstrating SpaceX's new custom 3D design interface.


After generating and manipulating the 3D model, Musk then 3D-prints an actual titanium metallic rocket-engine part from the model. “I believe we are on the verge of a major breakthrough in design manufacturing, in being able to take the concept of something from your mind, translate that into a 3D object, really intuitively on the computer, and than take that virtual 3D object and be able to make it real just by printing it,” says Musk in the impressive video.

“So it is going to revolutionize design manufacturing in the 21st century.”

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3D faxing with the world's first all-in-one multifunction 3D printer / scanner

3D faxing with the world's first all-in-one multifunction 3D printer / scanner | Amazing Science |

The technology startup AIO Robotics has a prototype of an all-in-one 3D printer, scanner, copier and fax machine. The company states that it created a 3D printer with an integrated 3D scanner. The idea is to have an all-in-one 3D printer that is capable of 3D scanning, 3D printing, 3D copying, and 3D faxing.

The machine has a 7-inch color touchscreen with an on-board computer (ARM based) so the printer can totally work by itself without connection to a desktop computer. The on-board computer also handles 3D scanning data (HD camera pictures from a swiping laser) and uploads the data to the cloud for final 3D reconstruction."All linear components are made by CNC-machined aluminum (xyz-carrier, turntable) to ensure super rigid structure without any deforming and heat soaking. In addition, we also created an auto-bed leveling feature by integrating a Z-probe mechanism onto the extruder. This way, users don't need to calibrate the bed height at all. We will include a full API-package for developers to fully control all sensor and motors."

Although AIO Robotics have not finalized the pricing yet, the company says that it will be significantly cheaper than the Makerbot Replicator + Digitizer.

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Artificial Earth: Adam Rutherford on the Promises of Synthetic Biology

Artificial Earth: Adam Rutherford on the Promises of Synthetic Biology | Amazing Science |

In the basement recording studio of the journal Nature scientist and broadcaster Adam Rutherford sat down with speculative architect Liam Young to discuss the mythical beasts of synthetic biology. Rutherford recently worked with the BBC on a series called the ‘Gene Code’ which explored the consequences of decoding the human genome. Recognizing the potential externalities of communicating science poorly, Rutherford works at conveying the poorly understood field of synthetic biology to a broader audience.

Via Alessio Erioli
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First "mini human brains" grown from stem cells

First "mini human brains" grown from stem cells | Amazing Science |

Scientists have grown the first mini human brains in a laboratory and say their success could lead to new levels of understanding about the way brains develop and what goes wrong in disorders like schizophrenia and autism.

Researchers based in Austria started with human stem cells and created a culture in the lab that allowed them to grow into so-called "cerebral organoids" - or mini brains - that consisted of several distinct brain regions. It is the first time that scientists have managed to replicate the development of brain tissue in three dimensions.

Using the organoids, the scientists were then able to produce a biological model of how a rare brain condition called microcephaly develops - suggesting the same technique could in future be used to model disorders like autism or schizophrenia that affect millions of people around the world.


"This study offers the promise of a major new tool for understanding the causes of major developmental disorders of the brain ... as well as testing possible treatments," said Paul Matthews, a professor of clinical neuroscience at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the research but was impressed with its results.


Zameel Cader, a consultant neurologist at Britain's John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, described the work as "fascinating and exciting". He said it extended the possibility of stem cell technologies for understanding brain development and disease mechanisms - and for discovering new drugs.


Although it starts as relatively simple tissue, the human brain swiftly develops into the most complex known natural structure, and scientists are largely in the dark about how that happens. This makes it extremely difficult for researchers to gain an understanding of what might be going wrong in - and therefore how to treat - many common disorders of the brain such as depression, schizophrenia and autism.


To create their brain tissue, Juergen Knoblich and Madeline Lancaster at Austria's Institute of Molecular Biotechnology and fellow researchers at Britain's Edinburgh University Human Genetics Unit began with human stem cells and grew them with a special combination of nutrients designed to capitalize on the cells' innate ability to organize into complex organ structures. They grew tissue called neuroectoderm - the layer of cells in the embryo from which all components of the brain and nervous system develop.


Fragments of this tissue were then embedded in a scaffold and put into a spinning bioreactor - a system that circulates oxygen and nutrients to allow them to grow into cerebral organoids.


After a month, the fragments had organized themselves into primitive structures that could be recognized as developing brain regions such as retina, choroid plexus and cerebral cortex, the researchers explained in a telephone briefing.


At two months, the organoids reached a maximum size of around 4 millimeters (0.16 inches), they said. Although they were very small and still a long way from resembling anything like the detailed structure of a fully developed human brain, they did contain firing neurons and distinct types of neural tissue.

Alexis Meneses Arévalo's curator insight, August 29, 2013 2:28 PM


olsen jay nelson's curator insight, August 29, 2013 8:19 PM

If we can't ask the brains any questions, then ...

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Human teleportation is far more impractical than previously thought

Human teleportation is far more impractical than previously thought | Amazing Science |
Physics students from the University of Leicester have calculated the time and energy required to beam a complete person from the Earth’s surface to a location in space. Their results were discouraging, to say the least.


Teleportation, or beaming, has long been a staple of science fiction. As anyone who’s seen Star Trek or The Fly knows, teleportation describes a hypothetical mode of near-instantaneous transportation in which matter is dematerialized at one place and reconsructed at another. The particular scheme that’s often employed in scifi is what’s called “destructive copying,” meaning that a source person is scanned and copied down to the molecular level and then reconstituted at a secondary location.


Neverminding the fact that this sort of teleportation strategy would serve as a veritable suicide machine (the source person would be destroyed during the copying procedure, as evidenced in the TNG episode, “Second Chances” when an ‘extra’ Riker was accidently created), the energy and bandwidth required to pull off such a feat would be astronomical. What’s more, due to the sensitivity of the transfer, the potential for catastrophic accidents would be significant.


For their analysis, the students assumed that a person would be beamed from the surface of the Earth to a location in orbit directly above it. Their first task was to figure out how much data constitutes a person — which is easier said than done. This is an area of great contention as we’re not entirely sure what level of granularity is required to capture a person's complete essence. Is is the cellular level? Molecular? Atomic? Indeed, would we be the ‘same’ person if even a few atoms in the brain were out of place?


The students settled on the idea that transferable data could be represented by the DNA pairs that make up genomes in each cell. Each human cell was calculated to contain about 10 billion bits of information. They also assumed that each cell contains enough information to replicate any other type of cell in the body. After calculating the amount of information encapsulated in a typical human brain, the total data content was shown to be 2.6x10E42 bits. That’s a big staggering number!


Now, the trick is to transfer all that information — and quickly. In Star Trek, it takes about two to three seconds. But in reality, it would take considerably more. Assuming a bandwidth rate of about 29 to 30 GHz (a somewhat conservative figure based on current technologies), it would take 4.85x10E15 years. That’s 350,000 times longer than the current age of the Universe!


‘Current data transmission techniques’ being the key phrase, here. Humanity's demand for energy is growing at an astonishing rate. In future, we may be able to increase throughput considerably by devising more powerful energy sources, and/or by transmitting the data along multiple parallel streams (like a data torrent). We could also employ data compression schemes to limit the amount of information that has to be transferred. For example, we could limit transfers to neural information only; a cyborg body could await the traveller at the destination, which would in turn produce all the bio-chemicals required for normal cognitive function (e.g. neurotransmitters).


So, yes — teleportation is certainly implausible by today’s standards — but it’s still not beyond the realm of theoretic possibility.

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Self-Tracking Meets Ready-To-Wear: eTextiles -- Make Room in Your Closet for Smart Clothes

Self-Tracking Meets Ready-To-Wear: eTextiles -- Make Room in Your Closet for Smart Clothes | Amazing Science |

Your LBD (little black dress) is about to be joined in your closet by a SWD (smart wearable device). The worlds of electronics and textiles are becoming interwoven and the results are going to profoundly impact your health. Here’s what you need to know about e-textiles and smart fabrics and a preview of the clothes, shoes, and accessories  that may soon find their way into your closet.


Just when you thought you’d finally gotten a handle on terms like ruching, GORE-TEX, and tulle, along comes a whole new fashion lexicon. Forget about SmartWool. We now have smart fabrics and smart clothes. And intelligent textiles, interactive textiles, interactive clothing, and wearable computing. And e-fabrics, e-textiles, e-fibers, and e-broidery.


E-textile is short for electronic- or electro-  textile. E-textiles are essentially fabrics with electronics and other components that are embedded in, or intrinsic to, the fabric such that the fabric maintains its key properties, like draping.

Smart fabrics are generally defined as, well, smart. This means a fabric can not only sense the environment, but alsoreact to it. Scenarios include a fabric that warms you when you’re cold, cleans itself when it’s dirty (hooray!), lights up to ensure you’re visible when it’s dark, and automatically stiffens to protect you when you’re falling. Smart clothes could monitor your fitness parameters as you train and give you advice to modify your workout, during your workout. And of course smart clothes would recharge your mobile device while it was tucked in your pocket.


Smart clothes and e-textiles offer a second skin to help you understand what goes on under your real skin. They enable you to wear sensors comfortably and unobtrusively to track your physiological signals and your surrounding environmental conditions in real time – anytime, anywhere. They are going to influence the health of patients, the training of athletes, and the safety of fire fighters. And perhaps most significantly, they are going to create an entirely new paradigm of wear, share, and compare.

Sensors that detect physiological signals may be embedded or integrated directly into a textile (such as part of a yarn that is woven or knitted into the fabric) or they may be applied on top of the fabric, such as in an ink. Since the sensors are part of the garment, they are usually in direct contact with your skin.


The sensors can detect an amazing range of physiological stimuli from you and your surrounding environment. These include mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, optical, and magnetic signals. Once the sensors detect the signal, it’s collected, processed, stored and transmitted.


The potential of e-textiles and smart clothes is best demonstrated by applications in two key areas: health/medical and sports/professional performance and safety.

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Cisco’s Forecast: 50 Billion Internet-Connected Devices by 2020 -- Too Conservative?

Cisco’s Forecast: 50 Billion Internet-Connected Devices by 2020 -- Too Conservative? | Amazing Science |
As a tech memes go, the Internet of Things is getting a bit long in tooth. The idea of internet-connected smart stuff has been heralded for years now. But where exactly are we in the quest to connect all things?


According to Cisco, there are an estimated 1.5 trillion things in the world (no mention of exactly how they counted those things, but let’s go with it) and approximately 8.7 billion, or 0.6%, were connected in 2012. The firm expects a 25% annualized decrease in price to connect between 2012 and 2020 and a matching 25% annualized increase in connectivity. That means we can expect 50 billion connected things by 2020, with 50% of those connections happening in the final three years of the decade.


Fifty billion sounds like a big number, but one could argue Cisco’s forecast is pretty conservative. Of their estimated 1.8 trillion total things in 2020, 50 billion would be a mere 2.7% of the total. Yes, it’s an increase from 2012′s 0.6%—but a fairly modest increase as these things go. Cisco is a big company, and it pays to be careful.


Maybe we can go out on a limb where Cisco can’t. The firm bases its projected annualized growth rate primarily on the decreasing price to connect. But there are other drivers too—the declining price and increasing power of embedded chips, for example. Or rapidly improving “big data” software that makes all that new information useful, and therefore more highly demanded.


In a world of exponential technology, things can move faster than our linear brains can fathom. If the number of connected things grew at twice Cisco’s predicted annualized rate, we’d have 223 billion connected things, or 12% of the total, by 2020. At a little less than quadruple Cisco’s forecast, we’d be talking 1.5 trillion connected things, or 82% of the total, by the end of the decade.

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Software upgrades to bionic eye enable color recognition, improve resolution, image focus, zooming

Software upgrades to bionic eye enable color recognition, improve resolution, image focus, zooming | Amazing Science |

The first bionic eye to be approved for patients in the U.S. is getting software upgrades. The FDA-approved Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System from Second Sight Medical Products transmits images from a small, eye-glass-mounted camera wirelessly to a microelectrode array implanted on a patient’s damaged retina. The array sends electrical signals via the optic nerve, and the brain interprets a visual image.

Now, to speed up the development process, Second Sight is working on a software platform called Acuboost that would make updating previously manufactured Argus models as easy as updating your computer’s operating system. This is especially important because the Argus is an implanted device, and installing it inside a patient’s eye requires pretty invasive surgery. So software upgrades would benefit both new patients and patients who already have the device implanted.

The company is currently developing algorithms to improve resolution, image focus and zooming. Their latest software can also automate brightness adjustments and enable color recognition.


Thus far, scientists at Second Sight have been able to produce the perception of multiple colors in the lab by sending different patterns of stimulation to each electrode in the retinal implant. When the Argus camera picks up red or green, that information would be encoded through different patterns of electrical activity, which would be sent to the electrodes in the patient’s eye, creating the perception of color.

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