As early as 2015, your Amazon purchases could be dropped at your door within 30 minutes courtesy of unmanned aerial drones. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed plans for the delivery service Prime Air (an extension of Amazon Prime which guarantees two-day shipping) in a 60 Minutes prime time interview.
The service would ship orders under five pounds (2.3 kg) after they are packed into small plastic containers and then scooped up by Amazon's custom-built "octocopter." The drone then delivers the package to customers within a 10 mile (16 km) radius of Amazon's fulfillment centers.
Clearly the company will need to jump through various hoops to get the service off the ground, with public safety being a primary concern. "Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies designed to commercial aviation standards," the company says.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working on rules and regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles, a process which Amazon hopes will be completed sooner rather than later. "We hope the FAA's rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015. We will be ready at that time."
We have seen a rise in proposals for the use of drones to deliver commercial products. One Australian startup plans to use drones to deliver school textbooks to customers in March 2014, while The Burrito Bomberhopes to be dropping Mexican cuisine on people as soon as 2015. With Amazon's product range, however, Prime Air would be the first to do so on such a large and diverse scale.
It may sound like science fiction, but given that Bezos claims that 300 items per second will be ordered from Amazon on Cyber Monday, it is possible that flocks of Prime Air drones will be zipping around above us in the very near future.
Deep beneath the Pacific’s surface, the world’s tallest waves have been discovered. Reaching up to 800 feet, they are known to researchers as internal waves.
Almost three miles beneath the ocean’s surface, internal waves are formed at the boundary of layers of water with different densities in a deep South Pacific trench, known as the Samoan Passage. These giant waves rise up due to ridges on the ocean floor in a narrow channel to the northwest of Samoa where cold, saltier water rises up into the warmer water above then plunges back down into the denser water on the other side of the ridge.
The findings are published in a journal named Geophysical Research Letters where Professor Matthew Alford says, “the flow accelerates substantially at the primary sill within the passage, reaching speeds as great as 0.55 m s−1. A strong hydraulic response is seen, with layers first rising to clear the sill and then plunging hundreds of meters downward.”
Although it will never (we can safely assume) be possible for surfers to ride these waves, they do play a much more important role. Scientists say that the waves are essential for mixing nutrients in the ocean.
“Oceanographers used to talk about the so-called ‘dark mixing’ problem, where they knew that there should be a certain amount of turbulence in the deep ocean, and yet every time they made a measurement they observed a tenth of that,” Alford said.
As the dense bottom layer of water flows over two consecutive ridges in the Samoan Passage, it forms waves, similar to air rising over a mountain. On reaching the lighter, warmer water above, they become unstable and break, mixing the two layers of water. The waves may also play a role in stimulating global currents teaching us that the seasonal swells we enjoy at our local breaks aren’t an annual coincidence.
NanoDoc is a system where scientists can setup simulated tumor scenarios and players are then invited to design nanoparticles to attack the tumor. Various characteristics of the nanoparticles can be manipulated and strategies developed by utilizing players’ own intuition, the true source of crowdsourced research projects.
Before any gaming can commence though, the players are first led through a training session that introduces them to concepts in nanomedicine and how the NanoDoc is to be used. Players then participate in creating new nanoparticles and the most promising candidates will end up being validated in: 1) in vitro tissue-on-a-chip constructs that we have designed to emulate the extravasation of functionalized nanoparticles from artificial vessels into a compartment containing tumor cells and 2) robotic swarm systems (kilobots) in collaboration with Radhika Nagpal’s lab from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University.”
Researchers design drug-carrying nanoparticles that can be taken orally
Several types of nanoparticles carrying chemotherapy drugs or short interfering RNA, which can turn off selected genes, are now in clinical trials to treat cancer and other diseases. These particles exploit the fact that tumors and other diseased tissues are surrounded by leaky blood vessels. After the particles are intravenously injected into patients, they seep through those leaky vessels and release their payload at the tumor site.
For nanoparticles to be taken orally, they need to be able to get through the intestinal lining, which is made of a layer of epithelial cells that join together to form impenetrable barriers called tight junctions.
“The key challenge is how to make a nanoparticle get through this barrier of cells. Whenever cells want to form a barrier, they make these attachments from cell to cell, analogous to a brick wall where the bricks are the cells and the mortar is the attachments, and nothing can penetrate that wall,” Farokhzad says.
Researchers have previously tried to break through this wall by temporarily disrupting the tight junctions, allowing drugs through. However, this approach can have unwanted side effects because when the barriers are broken, harmful bacteria can also get through.
To build nanoparticles that can selectively break through the barrier, the researchers took advantage of previous work that revealed how babies absorb antibodies from their mothers’ milk, boosting their own immune defenses. Those antibodies grab onto a cell surface receptor called the FcRN, granting them access through the cells of the intestinal lining into adjacent blood vessels.
The researchers coated their nanoparticles with Fc proteins — the part of the antibody that binds to the FcRN receptor, which is also found in adult intestinal cells. The nanoparticles, made of a biocompatible polymer called PLA-PEG, can carry a large drug payload, such as insulin, in their core.
After the particles are ingested, the Fc proteins grab on to the FcRN in the intestinal lining and gain entry, bringing the entire nanoparticle along with them.
“It illustrates a very general concept where we can use these receptors to traffic nanoparticles that could contain pretty much anything. Any molecule that has difficulty crossing the barrier could be loaded in the nanoparticle and trafficked across,” Karnik says.
The researchers’ discovery of how this type of particle can penetrate cells is a key step to achieving oral nanoparticle delivery, says Edith Mathiowitz, a professor of molecular pharmacology, physiology, and biotechnology at Brown University.
People who can accurately remember details of their daily lives going back decades are as susceptible as everyone else to forming fake memories, psychologists and neurobiologists have found.
Persons with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM, also known as hyperthymesia) -- which was first identified in 2006 by scientists at UC Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory -- have the astounding ability to remember even trivial details from their distant past. This includes recalling daily activities of their life since mid-childhood with almost 100 percent accuracy.
The lead researcher on the study, Patihis believes it's the first effort to test malleable reconstructive memory in HSAM individuals. Working with neurobiology and behavior graduate student Aurora LePort, Patihis asked 20 people with superior memory and 38 people with average memory to do word association exercises, recall details of photographs depicting a crime, and discuss their recollections of video footage of the United Flight 93 crash on 9/11. (Such footage does not exist.) These tasks incorporated misinformation in an attempt to manipulate what the subjects thought they had remembered.
"While they really do have super-autobiographical memory, it can be as malleable as anybody else's, depending on whether misinformation was introduced and how it was processed," Patihis said. "It's a fascinating paradox. In the absence of misinformation, they have what appears to be almost perfect, detailed autobiographical memory, but they are vulnerable to distortions, as anyone else is."
He noted that there are still many mysteries about people with highly superior autobiographical memory that need further investigation. LePort, for instance, is studying forgetting curves (which involve how many autobiographical details people can remember from one day ago, one week ago, one month ago, etc., and how the number of details decreases over time) in both HSAM and control participants and will employ functional MRI to better understand the phenomenon.
"What I love about the study is how it communicates something that memory distortion researchers have suspected for some time: that perhaps no one is immune to memory distortion," Patihis said. "It will probably make some nonexperts realize, finally, that if even memory prodigies are susceptible, then they probably are too. This teachable moment is almost as important as the scientific merit of the study. It could help educate people -- including those who deal with memory evidence, such as clinical psychologists and legal professionals -- about false memories."