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Hervé Musseau
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 31/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/08/white-laser-crispr-immune-editing.html

White laser, CRISPR immune editing, DeepBind DNA binding, Programming swarm robotics, Light amplification, Power electronics, Resurrecting viruses, Chromatophore simulation, Connectome maps, Macro self-assembly.

1. The First White Laser
The first laser able to emit light over the full spectrum of visible light has been created with the aid of a new semiconducting alloy, arranged in a segmented sheet, and made of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/devices/the-first-white-laser. The fabrication method sounds anything but simple, but the benefits of such a device could be profound. Applications include laser lighting nearly 3 times as efficient as LED lighting as well as more vivid colours and contrast, and Li-Fi wireless data communication up to 100 times as fast as comparable LED systems. 

2. Human Immune Editing with CRISPR
Recent work demonstrates how human T-Cells can now be routinely modified via targeted CRISPR edits https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2015/07/131146/crispr-advance-scientists-successfully-edit-human-t-cells. Interestingly the technique the group uses involves assembling the CRISPR machinery outside of the cells and then transferring these into the cells. Demonstrated edits include disabling the cell-surface protein CXCR4, which HIV uses to exploit T-Cells, and also shutting down the PD-1 protein, which induces T-Cells to attack tumours. Future therapies building on this technology would involve taking T-Cells from a patient, editing them, and injecting them back into the blood to do their work. 

3. DeepBind Determines DNA Binding Sites
In yet another example of deep learning approaches being applied in ever-more areas of inquiry, DeepBind is a new deep learning system for analysing the binding of proteins to DNA and RNA and predicting what the impact of particular mutations in conventional protein binding sites will be for gene regulation http://phys.org/news/2015-07-deepbind-proteins-uncovering-disease-causing-mutations.html. Recent demonstrations of the system showed insights in protein-binding disruptions linked mutations in cancer, haemophilia, and genetically-linked high cholesterol. 

4. Swarm Robotics Programming Language
A new programming language called Buzz has been developed for enabling heterogeneous control of robot swarms http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539761/a-programming-language-for-robot-swarms/. Buzz facilitates both bottom-up control of robot swarms, enabling control of individual robots in the swarm, and also top-down control of swarms, in which the entire swarm can be controlled as a whole. As part of one demonstration the group shows how Buzz can lead to natural-swarm-like self-organised behavior using relatively simple rules. Could possibly be a good widely-applicable tool for enabling more diverse robot swarm applications. 

5. Amplifying Light with Nanoresonators
A new optical nanoresonator device produces optical output up to 10,000 times greater than the light energy it receives http://www.gizmag.com/nanoscale-light-amplification-wisconsin-madison/38435/. Such a device or array of devices might in future substitute for conventional lenses in some situations, with the ability to harvest light not dependent on size. The team hope to develop photodetectors with the technology that could give exceptional low-light performance, photovoltaics, and other optical devices to exploit the ability to condense light to a size smaller than its wavelength.

6. Gallium Nitride Power Electronics
Gallium nitride materials and fabrication has matured to the point that a new company has been launched to commercialise gallium nitride transistors and power electronic circuits that are smaller and should cut energy usage in the devices that use them by up to 20% compared to conventional silicon power electronics http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/gallium-nitride-electronics-silicon-cut-energy-0729. Power electronics convert electricity to different voltages and currents as needed and the new materials have just 10% of the resistance that silicon materials do in these applications, but can be manufactured in the same facilities at the same cost. 

7. Ancient Viruses Resurrected for Gene Therapy
Ancient versions of adeno-associated viruses (which currently circulate in human populations and are used as gene therapy vectors) have been engineered by recreating the evolutionary timeline of these viruses to create older versions that are still stable and effective http://www.masseyeandear.org/news/press-releases/2015/07/researchers-resurrect-ancient-viruses-in-hopes-of-improving-gene-therapy. The oldest version proved to be very effective in delivering genes to a range of tissues without producing toxic side effects. Additional versions of these viruses are valuable because they provide additional delivery options for patients whose immune systems have already seen a particular virus and so render that version less effective. 

8. 100-Million Atom Chromatophore Simulation
The largest ever atomically accurate computer simulation has been conducted on the Titan supercomputer, running an accurate model of a chromatophore containing 100-million atoms that comprise a range of components including 16,000 lipids and 101 proteins https://www.olcf.ornl.gov/2015/07/29/researchers-build-bacterias-photosynthetic-engine/. Chromatophores are simpler bacterial structures for converting light into ATP chemical energy, and this simulation allowed the team to study how this energy conversion process takes place and is coordinated by the various chemical structures. The simulation proceeds in 2 femtosecond steps and hopes to eventually capture a whole microsecond of behaviour. 

9. Most Detailed Connectome Map
The first complete 3D connectome reconstruction of a piece of mammalian neocortex has been made, covering an area just 1,500 cubic microns but including fragments of 1,600 neurons and 1,700 synapses http://www.nature.com/news/crumb-of-mouse-brain-reconstructed-in-full-detail-1.18105. The connectome represents the latest development in the technique for diamond-blade microtome brain slicing (10s of nanometers), automated electron microscope scanning, and algorithmic image stitching to achieve a resolution of just 3nm and able to easily distinguish individual synaptic vesicles. Among the new knowledge gained were surprises in how nearby and distant neurons connected to one another. 

10. Macro-Scale Self-Assembly
A new study explores how discrete functionally-designed objects can be induced to self-assemble into larger macroscale objects just by vibrating the container they are in, which seems to draw loose parallels with the much faster and hectic thermal vibration environment in the cell in which proteins self-assemble into stable and functional 3D structures http://phys.org/news/2015-07-self-building-3d-bricks-hint-future.html. This form of programmable self-assembly uses tetrahedral bricks with small embedded magnets and faces that incorporate novel topography to facilitate stable binding. The only drawback is the time it takes to find the stable configuration. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/08/white-laser-crispr-immune-editing.html 
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The news from the year's biggest robocar conference, and some thinking on how the rare ethical problems in developing these cars and other robots should be solved.
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 29/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/gene-therapy-hearing-single-molecule.html 

Gene therapy hearing, Single molecule transistor, Better metamaterials, Crystal light traps, Optofluidic neural probe, Synthetic foods, New particle phenomena, New CRISPR tools, Memory tracking, Regenerating neuronal axons. 

1. Restoring Hearing with Gene Therapy
Deaf mice have had their hearing restored via a gene therapy that used a standard engineered adeno-associated virus to deliver a correct version of a single gene to sensory hair cells in the cochlea http://vector.childrenshospital.org/2015/07/gene-therapy-restores-hearing-in-deaf-mice/. The mechanistic insights into sound perception are equally nice to consider: the gene encodes a channel protein that sits on the microvilli of sensory hair cells whose deformation due to pressure waves causes the channels to open and allow calcium ions to enter the cell. There are a number of different genes that can cause deafness and this platform might be tailored to correct all of them as needed depending on the genetics of each patient. 

2. Single Molecule Transistor
A basic experimental transistor has been demonstrated that consists of a single phthalocyanine molecule surrounded by a hexagon of 12 indium atoms http://phys.org/news/2015-07-transistor-molecule-atoms.html. At this scale structures are hypersensitive to single electron hops and in this case fabricated with a scanning tunnelling microscope; it turns out that electron flow across the molecule is coupled to the orientation of the surface-bound molecule and is capable of generating large conductance gaps. 

3. Improvements in Metamaterial Designs
A few interesting new metamaterial designs this week. First, a new and incredibly thin carpet cloak has been designed to incorporate periodic teflon and ceramic dielectric structures that can effectively bend light to shield anything beneath the cloak to give the appearance of a flat surface http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/materials/a-slender-bright-invisbility-cloak. This is a two-dimensional metamaterial design and now they just need to make the thing to prove that it works. Second, a new metamaterial design is able to accurately preserve the phase of light while guiding it around sharp corners and abrupt bumps http://phys.org/news/2015-07-clever-cloaks-unique-metamaterials-phase.html. Third, progress towards lossless perfect lenses http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2015/july/bringing-back-magic-metamaterials.html

4. Trapping Light in Crystal Granules 
Tiny crystals of hexagonal boron nitride can effectively trap light within their structures http://phys.org/news/2015-07-orbits-intriguing-material.html. Incident light becomes trapped within the material in a form known as a phonon polariton, and at certain resonant frequencies the light adopts simple closed orbits and this produces hot spots of electric fields that form elaborate geometric patterns. The resonant frequencies depend on the physical shape of the crystal and this is an instance of storing light inside a tiny piece of material for extended periods. A nice, elegant new phenomena that we’ll have to wait to see applications for. 

5. Tiny Optofluidic Neural Probe
A tiny flexible neural probe has been developed, a tenth the diameter of a human hair, wirelessly controllable, and able to both deliver drugs to deep inside the brain and also turn on LED lights to switch on optogenetically activated neurons http://neurosciencenews.com/optogenetics-device-neurons-2253/. This new device causes far less damage and displacement compared to existing devices. In experiments it was able to effectively deliver multiple different drugs including gene delivery vectors to the brains of mice and was also able to influence and control behaviour via light activation. Seems to be a great new platform tool for pushing this space forward. 

6. Better “Synthetic” Foods
At some point we’re going to have to drop that “synthetic” label for these new food technologies. First this week was presentations about the ongoing development of 3D printing with foods and the economic and personalised sensation benefits that might accrue http://www.ift.org/newsroom/news-releases/2015/july/13/3d-printers-poised-to-have-major-implications-for-food-manufacturing.aspx. Second, the cost of cultured lab-grown burger meat continues to build on the advance announced in 2013 and is currently projected to decline from $300,000 down to $65 per kilogram http://phys.org/news/2015-07-scientist-texture-lab-produced-hamburger.html

7. Experimental Confirmation of Weyl Point Phenomena
In a nice reduction of theory to practice massless particles with a single point in their energy spectrum , called Weyl points, have been proven to exist experimentally with the aid of new photonic crystal designs http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/Weyl-points-detected-0716. This work was done with microwave light in order to simplify the crystal fabrication but there is no reason visible light couldn’t be used in future. Possible future applications include optical devices, high-power single-mode lasers, and bulk materials or lenses that only allow a certain angle and a certain frequency of light to pass through. 

8. CRISPR with Non-Homologous Insertions and Light Activation
A new CRISPR system can achieve targeted insertion of genetic sequences up to 5,000 base pairs long into mammalian cells via non-homologous end-joining, i.e. without the need to include lengthy homologous sequence arms on each side of the genetic sequence / gene of interest and DNA cut or insertion site http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/07/over-5000-base-pairs-were-inserted-into.html. Other benefits include simpler, cheaper plasmid vectors and while the efficiency of integration was not high there is scope to improve this if needed in future. Another newly engineered form of CRISPR now allows light-activation of the CRISPR machinery for applications such as regulating genes with light for example http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43255/title/Optogenetics-Meets-CRISPR/

9. Measuring Memory, Improving Memory, and Altering Neuronal Firing
Electrodes implanted into rat brains and measuring activity from place cells in the hippocampus suggest that there are definite gaps in certain types of normal memory, far from the smooth flow that typically characterises memory http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/scientists_watch_rats_string_memories_together. A new type of transcranial direct current stimulation known as transcranial pulsed current stimulation appears to boost neuronal excitability and muscle skill acquisition while transcranial magnetic stimulation appears to show good results in dampening neuronal excitability and associated tinnitus symptoms http://www.kurzweilai.net/could-this-new-electrical-brain-zap-method-help-you-learn-muscle-skills-faster

10. Regenerating Neuronal Axons in Severed Spines
I missed this a couple of weeks ago but switching off or deleting one particular gene was sufficient to induce neuronal regeneration and axon growth in the spines of mice with severed spines http://neurosciencenews.com/corticospinal-axon-regeneration-paralysis-2189/. The neurons were able to bridge the site of injury regardless of whether gene inactivation happened immediately, four months post injury, or one year post injury and are able to form tentative synaptic connections. As a candidate treatment the gene inactivation might be targeted to certain neurons or the specific region of interest. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/gene-therapy-hearing-single-molecule.html
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In this post I'll point out Gensight, a company creating medical biotechnologies that are relevant to the goal of human rejuvenation, and which is about to undertake an IPO in order to pull in more significant funding for ongoing development. This company has over the past couple of years developed mitochondrial repair technologies based on research at the Corral-Debrinski lab in Paris partly funded by the SENS Research Foundation.
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 26/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/06/functional-artificial-neuron-free-air.html 

Square bacterial division, Nanoscale geometric grids, Functional artificial neuron, Free-air holograms, Digital microfluidics, Memory in synapses, Heart powered pacemakers, Lithium battery fabrication, Nuclear spin computing, Ultra-high-res 3D prints. 

1. Squaring Bacteria: Mechanisms of Division
New techniques allow bacteria to be confined and grown into unusual shapes that they would never normally assume, including squares, triangles, and perfect circles, and related methods allow or force the bacteria to grow 30 times larger than normal http://www.tudelft.nl/en/current/latest-news/article/detail/vierkant-driehoek-cirkel-ongeacht-hun-vorm-weten-bacterien-waar-ze-moeten-delen-met-een-bee/. Such bacteria can still find their midlines for cell division by using proteins that sense cell shape via a mechanism originally proposed by Alan Turing. This is important foundational work for understanding how cells organise their internal architectures. 

2. Multimaterial Nanoscale Geometric Grids
I like this new fabrication method involving sweeping lasers (laser zone annealing) to accelerate the self-assembly of multi-layered multi-material nanoscale geometric grids http://www0.bnl.gov/newsroom/news.php?a=11738. For example the team can form deep lattices comprised of nanowire arrays embedded with different functional properties to create a wide range of different functional materials for many different purposes. Applications include custom coatings, photovoltaics, touch surfaces and many others. 

3. Building a Functional Artificial Neuron
A new organic bioelectronic device made of conductive polymers is able to mimic the key function of natural mammalian neurons http://news.cision.com/karolinska-institutet/r/artifical-neuron-mimicks-function-of-human-cells,c9796303. The device can sense chemical changes from neurons in one area, convert this into an electrical signal that travels to the other end of the device, which then releases neurotransmitters that can stimulate subsequent neurons. Future work hopes to miniaturise and implant the device into animals. 

4. Free-Air Holograms from Femtosecond Lasers
Femtosecond high-intensity lasers can now be used to render in-air volumetric displays and graphics by inducing localised plasma production and the emission of light in arbitrary 3D positions http://digitalnature.slis.tsukuba.ac.jp/2015/06/fairy-lights-in-femtoseconds/. The proof-of-concept produces images within a cubic centimeter volume although there is a clear path to scale-up; the images can currently be rendered at between 4,000 and 200,000 dots per second. Be sure to check out the videos; this is magical technology and not something I ever expected to see. 

5. Powerful Digital Microfluidics
New digital microfluidics devices represent a powerful platform for investigating chemical synthesis and biological processes http://news.engineering.utoronto.ca/eavesdropping-on-the-body-new-device-tracks-chemical-signals-within-cells/. Digital microfluidics involves shuttling tiny droplets of liquid around a surface patterned with a checkerboard of small electrodes that provide the means for induced voltages to move multiple droplets around different intersecting paths - YouTube has lots of interesting videos. The demonstration in this case was to rapidly and sequentially expose cells to different chemicals and test their reactions. A related, powerful microfluidic chip design automates the process of constructing plasmids, transfecting cells, and testing / confirming genetic modifications http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/web/2015/06/Microfluidic-Device-Mixes-Matches-DNA.html

6. More Confirmation for the Synaptic Foundation of Memory
New microscopy techniques able to examine the spines and connections formed by deep neurons in the hippocampus of mice have allowed for the first time for confirming that (at least episodic) memory is founded on the synaptic connections between neurons http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-memory-monitor-biox-061715.html. Imaging analysis confirmed that synapse-forming neuronal spines were turned over every 30 days or so, which is the same time that episodic memories are stored in the hippocampus of mice - if retained the memories have been moved to the neocortex by this time. 

7. Implanted Pacemakers Powered by the Heart
Two new pacemaker designs offer promise for implanted pacemakers that no longer need batteries and costly replacement surgeries but rather are able to use novel piezoelectric elements to directly harvest energy from the beating of the heart itself http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/nextgen-pacemakers-may-be-powered-by-the-beating-of-a-heart. The first concerns a conventional pacemaker that connects to the heart via leads, but the most promising is the newer, tinier, leadless pacemaker that nestles inside the heart itself; proof-of-concept studies confirm that both generate more than enough power to keep the heart properly beating. Human trials will be needed; I’ll be interested to see if other implanted medical devices might also be powered in this way. 

8. Halving the Cost of Lithium Ion Batteries
I rarely include battery technologies but any new manufacturing process promising to slash the cost of lithium ion batteries by half is worthy of note http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/manufacturing-lithium-ion-battery-half-cost-0623. This entailed a redesign of the basic battery to incorporate features of both flow and solid batteries, resulting in a  semisolid colloidal suspension of particles for the electrodes and a battery that uses fewer, thicker electrodes, reduces nonfunctional materials, and is flexible, robust, and cheaper to manufacture. 

9. Computing with Nuclear Spins
A new optical technique allows room temperature control over electron spins in certain crystals of silicon carbide to indirectly control the spins of certain atomic nuclei in silicon carbide, which can then be used to store and process information http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2015/06/24/spintronics-advance-brings-wafer-scale-quantum-devices-closer-reality. In tests 99% of targeted nuclear spins were controlled. Applications include ultra-sensitive magnetic resonance imaging, advanced gyroscopes, quantum computing, maybe even ultra-high density data storage one day. In related spintronics news we have a great overview of the development of magnetoelectric RAM http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/design/the-computer-chip-that-never-forgets

10. 3D Printing: High-Res and Glass Materials
A new 3D printing technique has been developed in the lab that can produce ultra-high-resolution 3D printed patterns with structures measuring one micron in size and forming features smaller than a blood cell http://news.unist.ac.kr/realizing-futuristic-3d-printing-technology/. Meanwhile company Micron3DP has demonstrated a new 3D printing method that can use glass as a feedstock material, melting glass filaments and depositing precise layered patterns http://www.3ders.org/articles/20150622-micron-3dp-announces-breakthrough-in-3d-printing-glass-materials.html

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/06/functional-artificial-neuron-free-air.html 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 30/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/brain-inspired-networking-scene.html 

Brain inspired networking, Scene description, Bacteria vs cancer, Deep learning genetics, Sophisticated DNA origami, Graphene on silicon, Viral immune aging, Stretchy conducting fibers, Biomimicking solar cells, Useful metal foams. 

1. Better Brain-Inspired Networking
New fundamental insights into how the growing brain develops neural networks through variable rates of synaptic pruning have led to the development of algorithms for building efficient computer networking architectures http://www.salk.edu/news/pressrelease_details.php?press_id=2096. Simulations of such networks suggest that they are more efficient than current computer networks, allowing more direct information flows, multiple paths to reach destinations, and reduced risk of network failure. 

2. Image Recognition and Scene Description
Here’s an interesting and accessible update article on Stanford’s NeuralTalk algorithm that can analyse images, recognise objects in them, and describe the scene in natural language with regards to the relation between different objects and their number http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/17/8985699/stanford-neural-networks-image-recognition-google-study. This work continues to be developed and there are now far more examples of its use; it isn’t perfect and doesn’t yet work in all situations reliably but the results are impressive nonetheless and realtime relevant applications such as for autonomous vehicle operation are also being explored. In related news object recognition for robots takes a step forward http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/object-recognition-robots-0724

3. Bacteria that Kill Cancer Cells
An interesting twist on modern cancer immunotherapies involves the use of engineered bacterial strains that attack tumour cells by entering them and subsequently thrive and replicate in the low-oxygen environments that are usually present http://www.newsweek.com/programming-bacteria-kill-cancer-cells-355474. This whole field began with the observation that surgical tumour-removal patients were more likely to recover if they developed post-surgical infection. Engineered bacterial strains are designed to retain efficiency while reducing overall human toxicity. It’s also interesting to think about this in the sense of a lethal form of endosymbiosis. 

4. Deep Learning: Genetics and Sketching
A couple of interesting deep learning advances this week. First, Deep Genomics launches to offer advanced personalised medicine and genome analysis services to better predict the consequences of certain mutations on a person’s health http://www.deepgenomics.com/news/2015/7/22/meet-deep-genomics-a-start-up-bringing-the-power-of-deep-learning-to-genomics. Second, the Sketch-a-Net system demonstrated that it can correctly identify the subject of a line-drawn sketch better than a human can http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/se/159633.html. In related news deep learning can recognise faces from just thermal images http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539656/deep-neural-nets-can-now-recognize-your-face-in-thermal-images/

5. Increasing Sophistication of DNA Origami
Improvements in computer aided design of 3D DNA origami structures now make it easier than ever to create custom, atomically-precise, 3D DNA origami materials http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/22/9013851/dna-nanotechnology-origami-3d-printing-automation-bunny. The algorithms will take an arbitrary 3D shape, optimise the interlocking DNA scaffolding to realise the shape at the nanoscale and determine the best DNA sequences that need to be produced in order to form the structures; in the example demonstration these included bunny rabbits, nanotubes, toruses, humanoids, icosahedra and other things. In the same week another group also pushed the boundaries with their 2D and 3D DNA origami patterns http://phys.org/news/2015-07-rare-built-dna-emerge.html.

6. Graphene-on-Silicon Innovations
A new wafer-scale ion-implantation synthesis method has demonstrated a simple and scalable way to produce uniform graphene sheets on silicon, potentially enabling integrated circuits that can more readily dissipate heat http://phys.org/news/2015-07-easy-scalable-method-graphene-silicon.html. In other work graphene on silicon creates a near frictionless surface in which two surfaces can slide past each other smoothly when separated by nanodiamond clusters that encase themselves in graphene nanoscrolls http://phys.org/news/2015-07-simulations-near-frictionless-material.html

7. Why Tackle a Virus that Causes No Symptoms
Infection and its recurrence by cytomegalovirus (CMV), which is prevalent throughout most of the population, causes few if any symptoms and so might be innocuous. But chronic life-long infection by this virus activates the immune system on an on-going basis and this leads to aging of the immune system, the accumulation of damage, and contributes to the reduction of immune efficiency with age https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/immune-profiling-the-contribution-of-cytomegalovirus-to-aging.php. So there are good reasons for developing therapies and interventions towards such a seemingly harmless virus. 

8. Stretchy, Electrically-Conducting Fibers
A new fiber material has been developed that can reversibly stretch to over 14 times its length while electrical conductivity increases by 200 times when fully stretched http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2015/7/23-31627_Scientists-Stretch-Electrically-Conducting-Fibers-_story-wide.html?WT.mc_id=NewsHomePageCenterColumn. The base fibers consist of a rubber core wrapped in carbon nanotube fibers, and these are engineered with a deliberate buckled structure that helps provide the beneficial properties. The group hope to develop applications in artificial muscles and machine actuators. 

9. Biomimicry Improves Solar Cells
A new solar cell design utilises a surface that mimics the texture and structure of the compound eyes of moths, albeit at much smaller feature sizes of 20nm, in order to exploit anti-reflective properties http://phys.org/news/2015-07-artificial-moth-eyes-silicon-solar.html. The surfaces are self-assembled from block copolymers and effectively reduce light reflections to less than 1% across all visible and near-infrared wavelengths of light. The self-assembly process appears scalable; hopefully this can be applied to commercial grade solar cells and other materials. 

10. Useful Properties for Metal Foams
Lightweight composite metal foam materials are effective at both blocking a range of radiation sources (x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons) and also absorbing high-impact collision energy https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/07/rabiei-foam-rays-2015/. Initial tests were very promising but the group believe further optimisation and improvements are possible, mainly with their lead candidate comprising stainless steel with small amounts of tungsten. Applications include nuclear safety and transportation, space exploration, and medical devices - particularly those that utilise radiation. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/brain-inspired-networking-scene.html
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"Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road. That’s a big motivator for us."
Summer is one of the most dangerous times of the year on U.S. streets, as many of us spend more time behind the wheel, h…
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 28/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/graphene-ultrasound-deepstereo-image.html

Graphene ultrasound, DeepStereo image synthesis, Collaborative smartphone photography, Quantum dot AFM, Gut bacteria computers, Aging repair signals, Multi-brain networking, Mitochondrial gene therapy, Implantable microfluidics, Wireless device charging. 

1. Wideband Ultrasound with Graphene
Tiny ultrasonic wideband microphones have been made with graphene  http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/graphenebased-microphone-provides-rangefinding-capabilities-of-bats. The device represents the first good, scalble, economical, wideband ultrasound transmitter / receiver and was used to create an ultrasonic radio that can be used for wireless communications. Sensitivity is significant, from 20 Hz to 500 kHz (double what a bat can hear) and helped the group accurately record the sounds of bats. Expect applications in imaging, medical, communications, surveillance, remote sensing, drones and robotics. 

2. Google’s DeepStereo Deep Learning Image Synthesis
Google’s latest deep learning advance is an algorithm called DeepStereo that take two images of a scene and synthesise a third image from a different point of view http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539051/googles-deep-learning-machine-learns-to-synthesize-real-world-images/. The system was originally tested for Google Streetview, and worked to synthesise new images in between existing Streetview images in order to create additional frames so that a 25 fps video of Streetview images would run at an acceptable rate and not ridiculously quick; virtually any sequence of images can be turned into smooth running video and it produces images that are difficult to distinguish from originals. Very interesting for producing more complete virtual maps and environments. 

3. Collaborative Photography via Ad Hoc Collections of Smartphones
Possessing a lot of overlap with the DeepStereo item above but worthy of its own entry is the new CamSwarm and PanoSwarm collaborative computational photography software applications for smartphones http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539191/collaborative-photography-app-allows-smartphones-to-record-bullet-time/. This allows one smartphone to easily coordinate an array of other smartphones and their users as a collaborative array of cameras to synchronously capture images and video, for example to generate Matrix-style “bullet-time” videos on the fly. Tools like DeepStereo might help fill in gaps in these ad hoc arrays.

4. Quantum Dot Tips Boost AFM Sensitivity
Scanning Quantum Dot Microscopy is a new imaging technique enabled by attaching a single molecule quantum dot to the tip of an Atomic Force Microscope and allowing ultra-high-resolution sub-nanometer imaging of the electric fields around atoms and molecules http://www.fz-juelich.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/UK/EN/2015/15-07-07prl-sqdm.html. The molecule itself, positioned at the tip, and comprising just 38 atoms, functions like another sensitive balance or cantilever whose tiny movements can be measured as it responds to the tiniest changes in electric field strength of the substrate below. 

5. Engineering Computing Elements into Bacterial Gut Populations
Bacteria have previously been engineered with genetic sensors, memory elements, and circuits but now these tools have been extended to include common gut bacterial species that are present at abundant levels in most people’s intestinal flora, and these have been tested in mice http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/basic-computing-for-bacteria-0709. The bacteria were engineered with an expanded toolkit able to respond to different signals to switch certain genes on and off and to alter specific regions of DNA to record triggered events; in mice the bacteria could be examined to determine what the mice ate. The group will expand to other species of bacteria to account for an even greater proportion of the gut population, aim for establishment of permanent engineered populations in the gut, and help build disease diagnostics and other tools.

6. Signalling Aging and Repair
While introducing new cells is an exciting prospect for repair and rejuvenation therapies, remotely signalling existing cells to do the same preferable in some cases. Examples this week of the latter include (i) isolating vesicles or exosomes secreted by stem cells and introducing these into mice with damaged hearts to significantly boost repair of the heart http://www.templehealth.org/content/newsroom.htm?page_id=11&minor=1&inCtx5pg=0&inCtx5news_id=1375, and (ii) strong evidence that a particular microglobulin molecule plays a major role in cognitive decline and that moving it from circulation in the body would boost neurogenesis and significantly improve cognitive function https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/more-on-beta-2-microglobulin-blood-levels-and-aging-resulting-from-parabiosis-research.php

7. Collaborative Networking of Brains
Three monkey brains were networked together as part of a demonstration for multiple brains able to cooperate and solve problems together http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27869-animal-brains-connected-up-to-make-mindmelded-computer.html. The three monkeys, with electrodes implanted into their brains, were able to accurately control a robotic arm by synchronising their thoughts, even when each monkey was restricted to controlling a single linear dimension of the arm’s movement; the work was also replicated in a more complex fashion in rats. In related news a live neurofeedback art experiment has collected real-time EEG data from more than 500 adult humans all wearng BCI headbands https://www.baycrest.org/research-news/crowdsourcing-brain-data-overnight-experiment-creates-social-brain-lab-yields-new-insights-about-speed-of-learning-changes-in-the-brain/

8. Mitochondrial Gene Therapy
The company Gensight has developed a powerful mitochondrial gene therapy platform for delivering correct genes to defective mitochondria and looks set to pull in significant amounts of funding via an public listing https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/gensight-developing-a-mitochondrial-repair-therapy.php. This platform delivers correct genes to the cell nucleus but incorporates a specific tag sequence that causes the cell to transport the mRNA transcript to mitochondria (much like most other mitochondrial genes) for translation to functional protein. In addition to treating mitochondrial diseases this is a great platform for treating one of the seven key causes of aging. Regarding aged immune systems, restoring youthful immune function with the use of implanted engineered thymus organoids is showing promise https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/thymus-organoids-restore-immune-function-in-mice.php

9. Implantable Microfluidics for Drug Delivery
In conjunction with Teva Pharmaceuticals, Microchips Biotech has developed and will commercialise an implantable microfluidic wireless microchip device able to store and release drugs into the body over extended periods of time https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/implantable-drug-delivery-microchip-device-0629. The chip represents years of complex testing and development and can be programmed to deliver drugs or else activated by an external wireless device, improving patient compliance and convenience over time. I think the main promise is as a platform that others can develop and use, and I’d like to see it incorporate microfluidics able to sense items from blood and synthesise required drugs / compounds from simple feedstocks present in blood. 

10. Advances in Wireless Charging
A new wireless battery charging system can recharge devices up to half a meter away with an energy efficiency of up to 34% and regardless of the orientation of the device itself http://www.gizmag.com/new-wireless-power-tech-can-charge-multiple-devices-at-once-at-a-distance/38361/. The key innovation here is the agnostic orientation for the charged device. Applications aren’t limited to desks that easily charge phones and laptops, but rather this technology would be very useful for remote drones, robots, sensors, and even charging the implanted devices described above. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/graphene-ultrasound-deepstereo-image.html
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 27/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/femtosecond-photodoping-liquiglide.html 

Femtosecond photodoping, LiquiGlide Coatings, Quantum dot spectrometer, Doubling fiber data, Microfluidics and colloids, Graphene flexoelectrics, Printable conductive inks, Prions and memory, Functional meshes, Antibodies and CFS. 

1. Femtosecond Semiconductor Photo-Doping
Following on the heels of femtosecond lasers being used for in-air holograms last week we have femtosecond lasers being used in ultrafast photo-doping experiments http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/making-a-better-semiconductor/. In this case the femtosecond lasers are being used to controllably alter the electronic properties of semiconductors, using brief high-intensity laser light to mimic the chemical doping of bulk semiconductor materials, temporarily - the electrical properties of a chip might be altered on the fly as needed. 

2. Commercial Launch of LiquiGlide Coatings
The commercial roll-out of LiquiGlide coatings is finally picking up, promising to come to a product near you after launching to some fanfare a number of years ago http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/liquiglide-condiments-0630. LiquiGlide typically coats the inner surface of a container for example, and is tailored to allow the contents (such as a viscous sauce) to glide out completely without leaving a residue. The coating is typically tailored to a particular application, which can include foods and condiments, oil and gas pipelines, catheters, de-icing situations, and in the case of foodstuffs is comprised of edible materials. 

3. Quantum Dot Spectrometer
A new spectrometer device is small enough to fit inside a cell phone camera module, and is powered by an array of quantum dots http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/quantum-dot-spectrometer-smartphone-0701. The prototype uses 200 different quantum dots, each tuned to absorb a different wavelength of light spanning a 300nm slice of spectrum, and was made with cost effective solution processing and thin film printing. More dots could be used to cover a wider spectral range, with applications comprising personal medical diagnostics, materials identification, and many others. 

4. Doubling Fiber Optic Data Transmission
Newly developed wideband frequency combs allow an effective doubling of the amount of data that can be carried by a fiber optic cable http://www.jacobsschool.ucsd.edu/news/news_releases/release.sfe?id=1768. The comb allows for signal distortions that inevitably occur when piping large amounts of data to be predictable and reversible, and so enables significantly increased power and longer distances for which optical signals can be sent through optical fibers. 

5. Confined Colloids Improve Lab-on-Chip Design
New models have been developed for better optimising the design of microfluidic chips with miniaturised features that hold fluids under superconfinement - where it is meaningful to discuss the size of fluid channels in reference to the size of the particles in the fluid. These models were generated by studying larger colloidal particles (instead of fluid molecules) in small fluid channels http://theconversation.com/how-oversized-atoms-could-help-shrink-lab-on-a-chip-devices-43791. The study used 200nm colloidal particles and altered the size of channels to determine and subsequently model behaviour. 

6. Graphene Flexoelectric Straintronics
“Straintronics” is a fascinating field that involves controllably stretching, compressing, and bending a material to induce different electrical properties. The latest work in this space involves stretching and bending graphene into new and novel shapes, particularly cones, with different properties and bandgaps, sometimes called the flexoelectric effect http://phys.org/news/2015-06-electrical-properties-carbon-cones.html. And swelling / shrinking graphene sheets can create a range of novel surfaces http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=40607.php

7. Advanced Printable Inks
Printable materials innovations continue to be a hot this week. First, the latest developments in printable silver inks continue to show promise for printable electronics http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2015/jul/new-technology-using-silver-may-hold-key-electronics-advances. Second, new graphene polymer inks are being used to produce 3D prints of strong, flexible, biocompatible, and conductive scaffolds for tissue engineering and medical applications, and with base properties tunable by modifying the proportions of graphene and polymer http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/news/articles/2015/05/printing-3D-graphene-structures-for-tissue-engineering.html. Finally, we have a good overview of photopolymer inks and 3D printing advances http://www.technologyreview.com/photoessay/538326/speeding-up-3-d-printing/

8. Prions, Proteins, and Long Term Memory
In a series of new studies functional prion proteins have been found to be critical components underlying the mechanism of long term memory formation http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2015/07/02/long-term-memories-and-prions/. When production of this particular protein was interrupted in mice recently formed long term memories were disrupted and lost. Like disease-causing prions, the memory “prion” proteins are made available as a soluble form in the cell and as new synapses are formed by neurons they are recruited to form aggregates that stabilise the synapses and are responsible for their long-term stability. 

9. Functional Mesh Materials
Silver nanowires have been formed into functional, flexible meshes that can securely encase different body parts and apply uniform heating and protection http://phys.org/news/2015-07-stretchy-mesh-heater-sore-muscles.html. Cheap to manufacture and sandwiched in insulation such meshes or functional textiles might form therapeutic heating bandages or elements in clothes, and applications could expand in future with additional features such as antennas and other electronic interfaces. 

10. Antibodies Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Rituximab, a drug that wipes out most of the body’s B-cells and is used to treat certain blood cancers and arthritis, has been found to be very effective in treating chronic fatigue syndrome for many patients http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22730284.000-antibody-wipeout-relieves-symptoms-of-chronic-fatigue-syndrome.html. This seems to be the second human clinical trial exploring this possibility and others are planned. The implication of the result is that CFS is most likely an autoimmune disorder in many cases, triggered by wayward antibodies, and further studies aimed at identifying the antibodies responsible might enable even better treatment options. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/femtosecond-photodoping-liquiglide.html 
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A grand experiment in a city that could really use it. 
Officials see the technology as a way to make the city-state “even more sustainable and liveable.”
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 25/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/06/cheap-genomic-sequencer-translating.html

Cheap genomic sequencer, Nuclear batteries, Translating brain signals, Machine learning, Powerful software, Genetic aging programs, Graphene collection, Cellulose 3D printing, Locks control GMOs, Robot hands & legs. 

1. MinION: Quick, Cheap Genome Sequencing
The palm-sized MinION DNA sequencer, which plugs in via USB to a PC and sequences DNA samples using a novel nanopore architecture, continues to make strides with both length and number of sequence reads http://phys.org/news/2015-06-full-genome-technology.html. The device has now passed low-accuracy concerns with better error correction and for the first time can produce complete bacterial genome sequences and should eventually be able to tackle mammalian genomes. 

2. Nuclear D Cell Battery
Some groups are trying to develop 5 watt nuclear-powered regular D-sized batteries that derive their energy from the decay of small amounts of radioisotopes contained within a tungsten casing that provides shielding and generates heat http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/06/developing-5-watt-nuclear-d-cell.html. Applications include power sources for mini-satellites and long-lived remote devices. Energy densities are typically 5 - 6 orders of magnitude bigger than for conventional chemical batteries. 

3. Translating Brain Activity to Speech
A new brain-to-text system has been demonstrated that captures the brain signals from an electrocorticography electrode array placed on the surface of the cortex and can decode these signals and reconstruct the basic phonemes, words, and complete sentences to generate corresponding text http://www.kit.edu/kit/english/pi_2015_063_speech-recognition-from-brain-activity.php. Error rates remain high but this is still a good proof-of-principle; the immediate hope is to develop the device as a means of communication for locked-in patients. Future possibilities include advanced brain-computer interfaces for people, parallels to DARPA’s neocortical modem project come to mind, and I also wonder if the reverse mechanism could be used in input speech as well. 

4. Trio of Machine Learning Developments
First, Google’s DeepMind has a deep learning system that learns to read and develop an “understanding” of the grammatical links and causal relationships between entities in the text and so summarise key points that aren’t explicitly stated by the text http://www.technologyreview.com/view/538616/google-deepmind-teaches-artificial-intelligence-machines-to-read/. Second, a deep learning system can now beat humans in the verbal reasoning component of IQ tests http://www.technologyreview.com/view/538431/deep-learning-machine-beats-humans-in-iq-test/. Third, IBM’s machine learning technology is being open sourced as part of its big push for the Spark cluster computing framework http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/06/ibm-calls-apache-spark-most-important.html

5. Duo of Powerful Software Tools
Leading on from the machine learning pieces I had to include these additional tools that look very promising. First, the demonstration of a fact-checking algorithm http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/06/computational-fact-checker.shtml that was trained on Wikipedia data and automatically generated a knowledge graph complete with truth scores assigned to each factual relationship and was able to consistently match the performance of human fact checkers. Second, a new algorithm provides significant improvements in predicting which mutations in a given genome sequence are likely to have the largest effect on the activity of regulatory elements for genes, providing not just insights for disease but also design possibilities for targeted regulatory control via CRISPR for example http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/vulnerabilities_in_genomes_dimmer_switches_should_shed_light_on_hundreds_of_complex_diseases

6. Aging via Genetic Programming
The theory of aging being due to evolutionary selection and associated genetic programming has been getting a bit more coverage lately with a study looking at simple simulated organisms that consistently demonstrated the emergence of a built-in life expectancy that helped preserve species integrity over time under spatial and resource constrained conditions https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/06/yet-more-discussion-of-programmed-aging.php. The result is interesting but not definitive and has attracted critiques and rebuttals from other more mainstream groups such as aging as accumulation of damage. 

7. Graphene NEMS, Dots, & Lights
First up this week we have graphene being demonstrated in the thinnest visible on-chip light source ever http://engineering.columbia.edu/worlds-thinnest-light-bulb%E2%80%94graphene-gets-bright. Second, a graphene coating on the copper wires or traces that connect components on computer chips boosts transmission speed in these connectors by 17% now and possibly 30% in future http://phys.org/news/2015-06-simple-clever-boost-chip.html. Third, graphene electrodes provide significant improvements to piezoelectric MEMS and NEMS resonators http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=40427.php. Finally, graphene quantum dots can produce LED-type displays with brightness exceeding that of standard devices http://phys.org/news/2015-06-graphene-quantum-dot.html

8. 3D Printing Cellulose
A new technique allows cellulose (very strong polymer of linked glucose units) from wood to be mixed with a hydrogel and used as a 3D printing material for the first time; drying the final print to remove the water and leave behind the strong scaffold of cellulose is a key step http://phys.org/news/2015-06-cellulose-wood-d.html. This is interesting in the sense of not being a plastics / hydrocarbon based printing material, and mixing other components can produce cellulose inks with a range of properties such as electrical conductivity. In related news 3D printing in colour is set to get better http://www.technologyreview.com/view/538676/solving-the-last-great-3-d-printing-challenge-printing-in-color/, and 3D printing inflatable, flexible, stretchable structures is pretty promising https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmuf_6h7Kl8

9. Controlling GMOs with Molecular Locks
 A better lock-and-key mechanism allows for better control of genetically modified organisms http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/06/16/molecular-lock-and-key-control-gmos/. In addition to the genetic modifications of interest one or more of a number of genes that are essential to the survival of cells are also engineered so as to produce proteins whose functional shape is dependent on the presence of a particular non-natural compound; without this compound as an easily available nutrient the cell reverts to its default state: death. This isn’t perfect or foolproof for a number of reasons but does build on similar mechanisms being employed by CRISPR for example to controllably induce the desired genetic activity. 

10. Better Robotic Hands and Legs
The bebionic small prosthetic hand for amputees was announced this week, billed as the “world’s most lifelike hand” and using miniaturised components to mimic the functions of a real hand http://rslsteeper.com/news/first_uk_user_receives_worlds_most_lifelike_bionic_hand. Meanwhile the new Durus robot has demonstrated ultra-efficient walking abilities after a large research project aimed at optimising the efficiency of every possible aspect of robotic walking, and ending up with a far more human-like gait that is 20x more efficient than ATLAS and currently allowing the 80kg robot to walk 10km with just the on-board 2.2 kWh battery http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/durus-sri-ultra-efficient-humanoid-robot

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/06/cheap-genomic-sequencer-translating.html 
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