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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - Week 19 of 2012
A Top 10 selection of the scientific and technological advances that I discovered this week.

1. Quantifiably Curious Quantum Curiosities
More support for Quantum Entanglement and its utility was achieved with a Chinese team teleporting photons - or rather their information states - nearly 100km; long dreamed-of applications for satellite communications and cryptography may be in reach. But, perhaps more importantly, some physicists claim to have proven that quantum wavefunctions are real, and not merely statistical, entities, which is incompatitble with conventional quantum mechanics, but in line with the views of the great Schrodinger (a hero of mine at nearly the same level as Einstein). However, my confirmation bias is buzzing, because it is also in line with my own thinking on “quantum reality” . . . which is something I might summarise and throw out here for the solicitation of criticism some time. Finally, this week we had physicists storing short movies in clouds of Rubidium gas, and it seems the jury is still out on quantum biology

2. Problems Continue to be Solved for Tissue Engineering
On engineering functional and effective human cartilage, new teeth, and noses, ears, & windpipes We all know that we’ll have replacement organs as needed in the future, but advances like this are just great - we really are designing, engineering, and making functional human tissues. In this area, and others, the progress seems indomitable as we bring the future into the present.

3. The Choroid Plexus & Neuronal Rebooting
This week I learned for the first time about the Choroid Plexus, a structure in the brain that acts as a filter for cerebrospinal fluid and is particularly effective at clearing beta-amyloid protein from the brain; turns out that its function declines with age and so boosting function is a plausible strategy for preserving brain function and preventing brain diseases such as Alzehimers. Meanwhile, a viral gene therapy targeting neurons has been used to reboot protein production in the brains of animals and succeeded in reversing the dementias they were suffering from

4. More Automated Brain Mapping
This robotic, automated brain mapping system uses a micropipette to find (but not damage) individual neurons within a living, active, conscious brain, and then insert a tiny electrical probe to record the neuron’s electrical activity and also, if desired, extract a sample of the cell’s genetic makeup Multi-tip probes are in the works. While this sounds cool, it almost sounds innocuous in a way. But imagine that simple little term “multi-tip” being extended significantly, to “multi-billion”, and then ponder being hooked up to a system that inserts 10s, possibly 100s of billions of probes into your brain to simultaneously record the activity and connections of every one of your neurons (yes, I’m aware that is a horrendously complex, “seemingly” impossible undertaking). But the end result of the development of tools like these is mind-uploading, make no mistake.

5. Implanted Machines and Materials; Body Augmentation
DARPA is planning to develop implanted nanosensors for disease detection initially, and later disease treatment Meanwhile a dozen different devices have been implanted into cadavers and tested, with various sensor inputs (sound, pressure, capacitive, brightness) through the skin and outputs including sound, light, vibration, as well as inductive charging and bluetooth capabilities. How long until us early adopters start getting implants en masse? Everyone this week probably saw that tattoo artist implant those magnets in(!?) his skin in order to attach his iPod

6. Catalytic Materials for Splitting Water
A cheap new catalytic material has been demonstrated to be able to replace expensive platinum in water-splitting applications, and should help with driving down the cost for producing hydrogen gas for fuel cells.

7. Lots of New Electronics Materials
(i) Better battery anodes to provide 10 times the energy density with comparable discharge cycles and lifetime capacity, (ii) spider silk made into usable conductive wires with the addition of gold nanoparticles or nanotubes, (iii) nanotube yarn to replace the copper in airplanes by 2014, (iv) low-cost piezoelectric nanocomposite material for energy harvesting applications, (v) 3D printed circuit boards for solder-free printable electronics, (vi) graphene nanoribbons combined with metal particles suggest practical spintronics devices

8. Metamaterials and Optical Developments
A pentamode metamaterial, before now thought to be purely theoretical, has been created in the lab, comprising a new class of metamaterial - a metafluid - for arbitrarily transforming acoustics. We also had metamaterials made with topological transitions, and a lens was made that can actually bend gamma rays

9. Arbitrarily Guided Material Crystalisation
Researchers demonstrated a method to guide the crystalisation of a material along arbitrary patterns in the plane of organic thin films by using an organic semiconductor I think this is more impressive than it sounds; just think about it, the arbitrarily guided crystalisation - or phase-change - of a material across a surface. I wonder if this can be extrapolated into 3 dimensions?

10. Autocatalysis: The Evolution of Life and Economies
Autocatalytic sets of molecules have been previously observed; self-sustaining chemical factories with one product feeding into the creation of another. Now, the mathematics of such autocatalytic sets show that they can have a deep structure of their own with mutually dependent nested subsets This has intriguing implications for the origin of life on Earth. But perhaps the most interesting feature of the mathematics is that they are substrate independent - the chemistry in this example is incidental - and could perhaps just as easily describe the bacteria in one’s gut or the global economy in general.
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