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Mark Bruce
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Updating Electromagnetic Theories of Consciousness.

John McFadden's update to CEMI Theory (Conscious ElectroMagetic Information) rests on the original basis that the electrochemical firing of neurons alters the surrounding electromagnetic field, but now includes a defense of the CEMI mechanisms as supported by recent experiments from Christof Koch's lab. 

Paper: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/763034/1/mcfadden_JCS_2013%28a%29.pdf 

CEMI further stipulates that the changing electromagnetic fields caused by the brain's many firing neurons combine, interact, and interfere, and the brain's whole electric field becomes more prominent when neurons fire in synchrony. CEMI posits that neurons fire and alter the electromagnetic field and the electromagnetic field in turn acts on and modulates the firing of neurons. The claim is that this dynamic electromagnetic field, embodying integrated neuronal information, and supported by and influencing neuronal firing is the thing that is consciousness and conscious sensation. 

In this way CEMI provides both a mechanism for consciousness to have a physical effect and also a way to solve the binding problem of consciousness by integrating parts into a unified whole. It also naturally integrates with Tononi's Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness. I must admit I'm partial to both theories and together they provide insight into the properties artificial substrates must have in order to host consciousness should they wind up being true. 

It is important to note that this hasn't solved the Hard Problem of consciousness; there is still no explanation or reason as to why some particular electromagnetic field pattern is the conscious sensation of the colour blue instead of the sound of C for example. And it is more important to note that there has been a long history of intense philosophical and academic criticism of the theory and its short-comings; jumping off points to these references and related material can be found in the Wikipedia link below. 

I stumbled upon McFadden's updated paper via this popular article http://www.learning-mind.com/quantum-theory-explains-what-consciousness-is/ that was shared on Google+ but can't remember by who - thank you, whoever it was!

Wiki: Electromagnetic Theories of Consciousness
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electromagnetic_theories_of_consciousness 

#consciousness   #cemi   #integratedinformationtheory  
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I'm sure vapid is not a term that would ever be associated with you Deen. And I'm sure you know full well the history and arguments around consciousness as the Hard Problem :P
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Ex Machina Image Processing

Continuing on from the Ex Machina post and with thanks to +Jen Spacey for linking to https://ava-sessions.com/ I uploaded my profile pic to Ava for processing and this was the result. Done in the "style" of the Ex Machina credit sequences it looks good as a static image but looks even better on the Ava site itself with dynamic, almost living network nodes subtly moving about constantly. 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 21/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/yeast-opiate-production-crispr-gmo.html

Yeast opiate production, CRISPR GMO killswitch, Optical computation, Continuous roll graphene, Cell periodic table, Immune evading implants, Wearable muscle sensor, Molecular pumps, Learning robots, Laser scanner. 

1. Engineered Yeast for Opiate Production
After a number of years of effort by multiple groups the final enzymatic synthetic step in the pathway for opiate production (morphine, etc) has been completed and it is now possible to create strains of yeast that produce opiate drugs as part of normal metabolism http://www.nature.com/news/drugs-regulate-home-brew-opiates-1.17563. With such a strain and basic fermentation skills morphine-producing yeast could be grown in a home-brew beer kit, but the original development was intended for cheaper, simpler, production of opiates. I disagree strongly with the alarmist commentary and propaganda around this, including this quote from the linked article “All told, decentralized and localized production would almost certainly reduce the cost and increase the availability of illegal opiates — substantially worsening a worldwide problem.” which I consider myopic; I believe this would substantially improve a worldwide problem. 

2. CRISPR-Based GMO Kill-Switch
CRISPR has now been employed in a novel way to trigger the removal and destruction of modified genes from genetically modified organisms and leaving the original genes intact http://www.theverge.com/2015/5/19/8625623/gmo-crispr-kill-switch-self-destructing-dna. It seems the system can kill the cells directly, inactivate or delete just the modified or introduced genes, or do both. Triggers for activating the system could include light levels, the presence or absence of a particular molecule - useful for controlling crops for example - and others. This seems to be similar in application to Terminator gene technology that was developed to limit the spread of GMO crops by preventing the growth of new seed, but in this case you would still get seed that could only be grow in desired areas. 

3. Optical Computing Developments
We had a trio of advances in optical computing this week. First, the smallest-ever silicon photonic beam-splitter has been demonstrated, designed by novel algorithms, measuring just 2.4 microns on a side, and promising faster on-chip communication and processing http://unews.utah.edu/news_releases/silicon-photonics/. IBM announces new CMOS integrated silicon nanophotonics technology and new chips designed to work alongside electrical chips while transferring data at 100 Gbps (full HD movie in 2 seconds), first application in high end servers and data centers http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/46839.wss. Layers of 2D graphene and boron nitride allow controlled propagation of confined light pulses (within the layered sheets) when a voltage is applied to the graphene http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/tuning-light-waves-with-2-d-materials-0520

4. Continuous Roll Production of Graphene
A new continuous roll-to-roll production method for manufacturing large sheets of graphene and possibly other 2D materials https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/manufacture-continuous-rolls-graphene-0521. At a rate of 2.5cm per minute the sheets are uniform and high-quality single-layer graphene; faster rates, up to 20x, still produce coated sheets but these are lower-quality with defects. While the process doesn’t yet produce sheets equal to the best batch-processing methods, different applications will have different quality requirements. Further improvements should result in improved quality and production speed. In related news a new 60% - 70% graphene ink formulation allows 3D printing of robust structures that retain many of graphene’s useful properties and used these as custom tissue scaffolds seeded with stem cells http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/news/articles/2015/05/printing-3D-graphene-structures-for-tissue-engineering.html

5. Towards a Periodic Table of Cells
New microfluidics technology can efficiently isolate single cells from a sample for analysis and when combined with new technology for single cell genomic analysis via cataloguing the mRNA expression profile of single cells is leading to an explosion in data and new knowledeg about different cell types in different tissues http://www.technologyreview.com/news/537416/single-cells-analyzed-at-unprecedented-scale/. This has resulted in identifying cells never seen before and recent studies such as a survey of 466 individual brain cells as a step towards a full cellular brain atlas, and mapping thousands of cells from a mouse brain to identify 47 different types. This is inching towards a periodic table of cells and a complete cellular map for the human body and their functions. In related news microfluidic techniques can now squeeze (immune) cells and force the introduction of desired antigens into them in order to create better and more effective vaccines out of the patient’s own cells http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/cell-squeezing-device-vaccines-0522

6. Better Implants that Evade the Immune System
New studies indicate that the geometry of implanted devices significantly affects how the body and immune system will tolerate their presence http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/designing-better-medical-implants-0518. While the material is important their results suggest that larger, spherical devices are better able to maintain their function and avoid the buildup of scar tissue. 0.5mm spheres loaded with pancreatic islet cells to treat diabetic mice failed within a month, whereas 1.5mm spheres continued to function past six months. Similar performance improvement were observed in many materials and also in primates. This is a very interesting platform for introducing novel living biosensors and living drug factories into people. 

7. Wearable Muscle Sensors with MyoWare
A new muscle sensor designed to be temporarily stuck on to your skin above the muscle group that you want to use can be used to trigger commands in various electronic devices and is currently available via kickstarter http://www.coolwearable.com/myoware-muscle/. This is related to the Myo gesture control armband that I’ve been keen to try out and I’d be tempted to back the kickstarter myself if the device came with bluetooth and could interface with my phone. I’m looking forward to further miniaturisation that allows these sensors and their wireless transmitters to be implanted and to take higher resolution readings. 

8. Designing a New Molecular Pump
The first entirely artificial molecular pump has been designed in which molecules pump other molecules http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/05/nature-inspires-first-artificial-molecular-pump-.html. The pump works via simple chemical reactions, driving molecules step by step up higher energy states and away from a natural equilibrium. The basic architecture involves a ring-shaped molecule that moves along a molecular thread or chain, storing energy as it does so by moving multiple rings towards one end. An interesting research novelty for now the ultimate goal is to have these little molecular machines power nanoscale devices, muscles, and perhaps perform computational operations. 

9. Learning Robots & Machines with Complex Goals
New deep learning algorithms enable some robots to learn new tasks via trial and error without pre-programmed details about the environment http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2015/05/21/deep-learning-robot-masters-skills-via-trial-and-error/. A variety of tasks were successfully tested including putting a hanger on a rack, assembling a toy, screwing a cap on a bottle, and others, with learning times averaging 10 minutes to 3 hours depending on the level of complexity. In related news a reinforcement learning approach has demonstrated game-playing software that is capable of creating a hierarchy of goals while working towards a delayed reward http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/05/keen-software-house-makes-ai-that-can.html

10. Non-Mechanical Laser Scanner
DARPA has demonstrated its SWEEPER technology for enabling drastically improved LIDAR applications http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2015/05/21.aspx. Unlike conventional LIDAR devices SWEEPER does not require mechanical components and instead exploits silicon-based on-chip optical phased array technology that can sweep a laser beam back and forth 100,000 times per second. This is expected to enable LIDAR systems that are drastically miniaturised and extremely low-cost. Given LIDAR systems in autonomous vehicles are one of the most expensive components in an autonomous vehicle the benefits for a diverse array of applications are immense. A future version of Project Tango could even have one of these devices. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/yeast-opiate-production-crispr-gmo.html 
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Great comment and suggestions +James Field!
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Towards the Automated Production of Everything

This is one of those little news stories that pass through our feed every day and which we go hmm that's pretty cool. But I think this one represents a very powerful, if embryonic, early demonstration of what will be completely automated and reconfigurable production facilities capable of taking a bunch of raw material inputs and transforming them to manufacture . . . anything and everything. 

I've been thinking about such facilities for a few years now and I refer to them in my idle ponderings as Everything Machines. This story looks like the experimental top-down creation of an early, limited machine of this nature. Whereas my thoughts often consider building one from a bottom-up beginning. 

A mature technology like this, in future, looks like an immense multi-level warehouse. Inside a multitude of specialised, modular, mobile production and technology units are coordinated and reconfigured by a central computer to come together as needed, each fulfilling a step in the production process of some desired object or test before passing it to the next unit in line to do its piece. 

This Everything Machine takes instructions from external and internal users, producing virtually any product, producing virtually any material, performing virtually any scientific experiment, performing its own maintenance, maintaining old and producing new modules for its own internal operational requirements.

Nearly all manufacturing outside of these machines ceases to exist. Nearly all scientific laboratories outside of these machines cease to exist. Customers and researchers submit orders for goods and experiments online. At least until the machine ships personal atomically-precise fabrication devices, because the machine is the robotically-automated equivalent of a personal fabricator that fails the user due to distance and centralisation and which represents a significant peak on the evolutionary fitness landscape that our Technium is rapidly climbing. 

#technium   #automated   #factory  
 
Factories are about to get smarter. The machines that make everything from our phones to our sandwiches rely on creaking technology -- but not for long
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I'm pro basic income, but, the way I look at it, automation is good for everyone. Including the people losing jobs. Why are their jobs being automated away? Because it's cheaper. There's a positive side to this.

If I could set up my own factory for tens of thousands (and then hundreds), that would have costed tens of millions in the early 21st century, then certainly I'd have no where near as many qualms over the elimination of my job.
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Amateur Tile-Pointing. Very Amateur.

There I was on the weekend, up on my roof for 2.5 hours, doing some needed maintenance to the mortar / tile pointing around some ridge tiles. Me, a tech guy, little trowl in hand, bucket of pointing mortar nearby, getting rid of old cracked mortar in places and trowling and shaping fresh pointing mortar into the gaps and cracks. After watching a few YouTube videos of course. It's rough and amateur as hell but will keep the rain out and extend the time before I have to get it properly done by someone. 
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a wire brush mark after the mortor green stage would have blended it in
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Nickelback Concert Last Night

Nickelback put on a pretty damn good show last night with a good mix of old and new / soft and hard stuff. It’s been a while since I went to a concert – stage production seemed top-notch with great visuals and lighting to match the music, not to mention the confident presence of the band themselves. Band-audience engagement was really good. Great to see, even from the nose-bleed seats Elise chose for us :P

Bonus points for a good introduction by support band Monster Truck. 
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There new song got to me when I was sitting down earlier. Cool song. 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 19/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/custom-dna-scaffolds-eukaryotes-join.html

Custom DNA scaffolds, Eukaryotes join archaea, Autonomous trucks approved, Reading monkey minds, Chimeric virus therapies, Neuro-memristor chip, Centimeter-accurate GPS, Mitochondrial geometry features, Better IVF eggs, Blood drawing device. 

1. Building Customised DNA Scaffolds and Sensors
We kick off the week with a trio of recent examples of the increasing sophistication of structural DNA “origami” technology. First, a new technique to controllably produce custom supramolecular DNA strands and DNA nanotubes in larger volumes and at predetermined lengths and with enzymes used to add covalent bonds for greater stability https://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/node/22523. Second, a stable DNA shell to protect and deliver sequence-specific mRNA sensors to living cells http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=39981.php. Third, modifying DNA aptamers with a sugar molecule that is foreign to humans, to create alphamers that bind specific pathogentic bacteria and tag them for immune distruction http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/molecular_homing_beacon_redirects_human_antibodies_to_fight_pathogenic_bact

2. Rewriting The Ancient Evolutionary Tree of Life on Earth
A recent discovery seems to offer a fascinating modification to the ancient evolutionary tree of life on Earth http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/05/06/newly-discovered-missing-link-called-loki-ties-us-to-our-single-celled-ancestors/. A new archaea named Lokiarchaeota was discovered in Atlantic Ocean marine sediments; its DNA sequence revealed genes that were very similar to eukaryotic genes and suggested this organism had the potential to evolve into a more complex cell. The very base of the tree of life has for a long time had three main branches; prokaryotes, archaea, and eukaryotes. But Loki’s discovery provides evidence that the real divide is between prokaryotes and archaea, with complex eukaryotic cells and organisms descended from archaea after one lineage engulfed or assimilated bacterial prokaryote. 

3. Autonomous Trucks Get Their First Approval
An inevitable development that seems to have happened sooner rather than later: autonomous trucks built by Daimler have received regulatory approval in Nevada http://singularityhub.com/2015/05/07/daimlers-driverless-18-wheelers-approved-to-cruise-nevadas-highways/. While the trucks aren’t quite 100% autonomous with regulatory approval demanding a human driver in attendance and technical capabilities requiring human control in urban areas, they can and will perform 100% autonomous driving on highways and deliver a range of interim benefits. But these regulatory and technical limitations are only temporary; major disruption of our transportation industries is on the way. 

4. Reading a Monkey’s Mind and Decisions
Sophisticate new experiments on monkeys catch a glimpse of the brain in the process of making and changing decisions and record the moment-by-moment changes in brain activity associated with this behaviour http://engineering.stanford.edu/news/stanford-researchers-observe-moment-when-mind-changed. The setup involved monkeys with 192 electrodes implanted in the motor and premotor cortex that monitored brain activity as the monkey performed a decision-making task that they had previously been taught to do. A new algorithm developed to analyse these patterns of brain signals enabled the group to precisely track single decisions and essentially read the monkey’s mind during free choices; brain activity for free choices looked indistinguishable to that for forced choices although some free choice trials revealed indecisiveness. Possible applications include prosthetic devices that better interface with the brain.

5. Hybrid Virus versus Brain Tumours
A hybrid virus engineered by combining genes from both Lassa virus and VSV has shown promising results in completely destroying cancer cells in mice http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/scientists-discover-ebola-like-virus-safely-destroys-brain-tumors/. VSV is typically able to bypass the blood-brain-barrier and kill cancer cells, but also attacks healthy cells and causes serious neurological damage. Turning VSV into a chimeric virus by swapping out some genes and replacing with those from Lassa Virus resulted in a brain cancer cell killer that bypassed the blood-brain-barrier yet was safe for healthy cells.

6. Functional Brain-Like Memristor Chip
A simple 12x12 array of crossbar memristors makes up a prototype chip able to recognise simple black and white patterns http://www.technologyreview.com/news/537211/a-better-way-to-build-brain-inspired-chips/. As inherently analogue memory devices memristors share many parallels with neuronal synapses. While simulated neural networks have made huge gains for various areas of computing, reducing these neural networks to hardware is expected to result in significant performance gains for these applications. This is apparently the first time a hardware neural network chip has been created just with memristors, despite many other neuromorphic computing architectures already existing such as those from IBM but which are based on digital transistors. Now all they need to do is scale the chip.

7. Algorithms for Centimeter-Accurate GPS
A new centimeter-accurate GPS positioning system is set to give mobile and other devices significantly higher spatial positioning resolution http://news.utexas.edu/2015/05/05/texas-engineers-develop-centimeter-accurate-gps-system. While centimeter-accurate systems currently exist they possess larger, bulkier equipment and antennas. The key advance here is the development of a powerful and sensitive software-defined GPS receiver that can extract much greater accuracy from the small, cheap antennas in current mobile devices. A company called Radiosense was launched to commercialise the technology, while a partnership with Samsung should see basic devices made available soon. 

8. Proteins and Mitochondrial Structure
New insights into the properties of mitochondria reveal that a mitochondria’s respiratory proteins help create the complex inner membrane geometry that mitochondria are known for and, in turn, this geometry itself turns out to be crucial for the respiratory proteins to perform their key functions in the first place http://phys.org/news/2015-05-internal-mitochondria.html. I like this discovery because it is a reminder of the critical role that geometry plays in so many biological and technological processes, and might also serve as additional inspiration for the design and function of optimal nanomolecular machine processes in future, exploiting tricks that nature’s nanomachines discovered in the past.

9. Better IVF with Egg Stem Cells
Babies are now being born via a new and much improved IVF technique in which a type of egg-precursor stem cells (cells with stem cell properties only able to turn into eggs) are isolated from a woman, purified, and have their mitochondria extracted, which are then added to the woman’s existing adult egg cells http://time.com/3849127/baby-stem-cells-augment-ivf/. This makes the older eggs act young once again and results in dramatically improved IVF outcomes; perhaps genetically optimal or engineered mitochondrial might be used in future. 

10. Device for Easily Drawing Blood
The HemoLink is a seemingly trivial and simple device but I like the concept and support what the team are trying to do with it http://gizmodo.com/this-vampire-like-suction-device-lets-patients-draw-blo-1702269260. The device is pressed against a person’s arm where attaches, pricks the skin, and induces a slight negative pressure to draw a small sample of blood that is collected in a standard tube for testing. Cheap and accessible it doesn’t require conventional needles and it doesn’t require expert training to safely pierce veins in particular places - another good step towards affordable at-home and remote blood testing. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/custom-dna-scaffolds-eukaryotes-join.html
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2 - A fascinating and fairly fundamental revision to our family tree there!  I find it amazing that we're still able to make such revisions so far back in evolutionary time.

3 - Can we stick +Volvo Cars' road train on the back of that, please?

4 - If any sufficiently advanced technology should be indistinguishable from magic, then we're looking at magical mind reading technology here.  We're rapidly heading towards being able to give people their independence back.  Prostheses almost as good as the original limb.  Exoframes allowing paraplegics to walk almost normally.  I love this stuff!

5 - This is indeed I Am Legend but it's a very promising avenue.  Either tweaking the body's natural defences or engineering a virus to fight cancer cells have to be my two favourite options.  I'm sure I read about a girl who was treated several times for Leukemia which returned after each 'successful' treatment.  The final time, no treatments worked.  She was then given an experimental modified HIV strain.  Her immune response nearly finished her off, but the virus did clear her of Leukemia.  Whether it's urban legend or not, it seems to be the direction we're taking.
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Just Finished the Nexus Trilogy

Apex is the first book I've read in a while and one I read through very quickly, eager to reach the conclusion of the Nexus trilogy that included the books Nexus and Crux. My synopsis would be:

The ultimate nanotechnological brain-computer-interface cooked up by nanobiotechnology developers (protagonists) allows people to seamlessly enjoy mind-to-mind communication and experience sharing while running a full computer and mobile communications inside their head. This results in conflict with state authorities who treat it as a drug, abuses of power, global geopolitical tensions, arms-races, espionage, power-grabs, and the rise of powerful cognitive software and related abilities. Throw in clones, engineered and enhanced humans, superintelligent AIs, and secret quantum computing facilities and you have some compelling fiction that any transhumanist or sci-fi connoisseur would enjoy losing themselves in.

This was also the first book I've read on my phone; Goolge Play Books on Nexus 6 works a treat. 
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Looks like audible has the first two, I'll have to wait for Apex. I'm actually pretty excited. Been looking for some good sci fi recently.
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Saw this movie yesterday.
Good. Hard. Sci-Fi. Loved it. Surprised me.
Did not end how I expected and another factor I was sure would be revealed, wasn't. 
Preface any spoiler comments with a warning!
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+Mark Bruce I hadn't really planned on watching the movie, but then I listened to the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast review and changed my mind.  Of course, they gave away the ending, so I already know how it will end, but now I want to see all the details.  Glad to hear that you also liked it.  Always good to get the opinions of people you know and trust on things like this.
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This is brilliant - a swarm of precise little nanomachines replicating as they attack a target and disassemble it so its molecules can be utilised elsewhere in the organism as needed. 
[Yes I know white blood cells are 10s of microns in size but they are powered by nanomechanical components]

Via +Addison Rennick 
 
Immune system Attack: white blood cells knockout strong worm.
#biology   #scienceeveryday  

Captured by Steven Rosen and his colleagues at UC San Francisco over a period of 80 minutes. It shows white blood cells from a mouse attacking a parasite known as Caenorhabditis elegans.

Their study aimed to determine whether a specific type of white blood cell, known as eosinophil granulocytes, would attack parasitic worms including the Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans).

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine:

http://jem.rupress.org/content/211/7/1281.full
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I imagine there would be lots of signalling cascades taking place in an environment like that Tony
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Every Capital City in Australia

I was somewhat absent from G+ last week due to busy travelling for work. This business trip took me to Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory - my first visit and the last Australian capital city that I had yet to see. While I only had a few hours to spare and take some photos like the one below of the newly redeveloped harbour / waterfront, I definitely want to head back at some stage to do more touristy stuff. 

Work-wise it went well; my presentation and discussion on Australian Venture Capital and other funding options for promising University research and spin-out companies seemed to be well-received. 
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Awesome as always. 'Touristy stuff' eh mate? Hoho 😂
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 20/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/crispr-cancer-targets-sensory-cortex.html

CRISPR cancer targets, Sensory cortex organisation, Implantable drug factories, Prosthetics with sensation, Atomic switch networks, Antiaging cellular interventions, Making graphene composites, 3D printed engine, Regeneration and senescent cells, Structural colour. 

1. Identifying Anticancer Drug Targets with CRISPR
A new technique uses CRISPR technology to quickly and comprehensively identify specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells, across cell types http://www.cshl.edu/news-and-features/using-crispr-biologists-find-a-way-to-comprehensively-identify-anti-cancer-drug-targets.html. The proof-of-concept surveyed 200 possible possible targets in leukemia, successfully identified the 6 previously-known targets and verified an additional 19 new targets. This works by specifically mutating key regions of genes, nucleotide by nucleotide, that are involved in encoding functional binding pockets in proteins; if modification of a particular pocket causes the cancer cell to die then it becomes a candidate site to design a new drug against. This should lead to many more viable drug targets the development of therapeutics that were never considered; but I’d also like to see the tool used to identify other targets for other cellular modifications, e.g. cell senescence, stem cell proliferation and differentiation etc. 

2. New Organisational Principles of the Sensory Cortex
Custom-designed high-resolution 3D reconstruction and modelling techniques have provided incredible new insights into the interconnectedness of neurons within and across the fundamental processing units called neocortical columns http://www.maxplanckflorida.org/news-and-media/news/3d-reconstruction-of-neuronal-networks-provides-unprecedented-insight-into-organizational-principles-of-sensory-cortex/. Previously, the neuronal networks within cortical columns were thought to be the most important structural feature. This work shows that, instead, the majority of neuronal circuitry actually interconnects neurons across multiple cortical columns by following very specific principles. The group extend the concept of cortical columns to intracortical units, and proposes that these higher-order units integrate information across multiple stimuli to anticipate future, related, stimuli. 

3. Implantable Cellular Drug Factories
Bacteria genetically modified to (i) produce and secrete an enzyme that converts a harmless prodrug into a cytotoxic chemotherapy drug and (ii) control this production subject to temperature-dependent regulatory control, have been encapsulated in magnetic nanoporous capsules that prevent the cells from coming into contact with the immune system while still allowing the passage proteins and nutrients, and which are then implanted into animal tumours where the application of an alternating magnetic field causes the capsules to heat up and for the bacteria to then induce the localised production of cancer-killing therapeutic drugs http://cancer.dartmouth.edu/about_us/newsdetail/73456/. I wonder what we might do with systems like this that allow the localised or systemic controlled production of any protein or biomolecule of choice?

4. Prosthetic Limbs with a Sense of Touch
A new circular electrode designed to encase and stimulate nerves in the upper arm is being tested in non-human primates to determine what touch sensations can be induced and “felt” on the primate’s hand, how best to induce these sensations, how many sensors can be packed onto a prosthetic hand to provide as much sensation as possible, and how much bandwidth the brain is capable of taking in from the electrode array http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/device-may-allow-sensation-in-prosthetics.aspx. The mechanical sophistication and thought-control via brain-computer interfaces of prosthetic limbs have come a long way; the key missing component of sensory feedback has remained elusive however. 

5. Self-Organised Atomic Switch Networks
A new type of chip called an atomic switch network is fabricated by growing silver nanowires atop a patterned seed network of copper posts; the chaotic pattern of silver nanowires connect points where the nanowires touch and form memristor connections http://phys.org/news/2015-05-scientists-atomic-scale-hardware-natural.html. The research team believes the device demonstrates emergent behaviour and patterns of electrical activity that can only be attributable to the network as a whole, with the memristive connections and switches constantly reconfiguring and adapting to inputs. Whether such an architecture might ever perform useful computations is yet to be seen, although I’d love to see them scale the chip further and add extra layers of interconnections, moving from 2 to 3 dimensions and so becoming more brain-like. 

6. Sophisticated Cellular Interventions for Anti-Aging
A few studies this week showed how old cells might be taught young tricks again. First, leading on from parabiosis studies we have targeted knock-down of Transforming Growth Factor Beta successfully renewing stem cell function in both brain and muscle tissue of old mice and also, specifically showed that hippocampal stem cells became more youthful http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2015/05/13/drug-perks-up-old-muscles-and-aging-brains/. Second, specific proteins isolated from stem cells were shown, when introduced to mice, to be sufficient for stimulating the growth of new bone http://gladstoneinstitutes.org/pressrelease/2015-05-11/scientists-regenerate-bone-tissue-using-only-proteins-secreted-by-stem-cells. Four, targeted disablement of telomeres in cancer cells http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-05/cndi-csa051115.php. Finally, we had a good review article on new ways to specifically stimulate the rejuvenation of muscle stem cells in older animals https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/05/considering-the-rejuvenation-of-muscle-satellite-cells.php

7. Large-Scale Fabrication of Graphene Composites
A new chemical vapor deposition technique allows the fabrication of multi-layered polymer graphene composite materials that, in the proof of concept, contains 2 inch square sheets of graphene http://www.ornl.gov/ornl/news/news-releases/2015/ornl-demonstrates-first-large-scale-graphene-fabrication?. This is apparently the first time graphene composites have been manufactured at this scale and enabling graphene’s amazing mechanical and electrical properties to be evidenced at the macroscale. In related news 3D printed graphene aerogels have interesting properties and applications https://www.llnl.gov/news/3d-printed-aerogels-improve-energy-storage

8. The Latest 3D Printed Jet Engine
GE demonstrated its completely 3D printed mini jet engine this week http://www.gereports.com/post/118394013625/these-engineers-3d-printed-a-mini-jet-engine-then. Their promotional video is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6A4-AKICQU. This functional little engine was successfully tested at 33,000 rpm after being printed via laser in a Direct Metal Laser Melting process built up from powdered metal and metal alloys. It’d be nice to see them test it in flight on a hobby aircraft, but there are no plans yet for a fully 3D printed commercial jet engine. 

9. Salamanders, Regeneration, and Senescent Cells
An interesting study exploring salamander limb regeneration reveals that this process involves a significant induction of cellular senescence followed by rapid and effective (immune) mechanisms for senescent cell clearance in both normal and regenerating tissues https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/05/an-intriguing-finding-on-senescent-cells-in-salamanders.php. Interfering with the immune system during regeneration results in defects in the process. The promise here is that further studies might reveal how the salamander immune system consistently targets and clears senescent cells and this mechanism might be replicated in humans as an anti-aging therapy to clear damaging senescent cells. 

10. Structural Nanomaterials for Structural Light
A new structural colour technology platform has been developed that involves the use of nanoparticles of polydopamine packed into solid layers on a thin film http://phys.org/news/2015-05-nanomaterials-bird-feathers.html. Inspired by the use of nanoparticles of melanin by some birds to produce colour, the thin films reflect pure colours of (so far) red, orange, yellow, and green light that are determined by the thickness and density of the film. Unlike colours or dyes based on pigments, materials exhibiting structural colour are not expected to fade with time. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/05/crispr-cancer-targets-sensory-cortex.html
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5 comments
 
4 - Isn't it incredible how something we take for granted every day (a sense of touch) is so difficult to replicate?  I'm always happy to see someone making strides in the right direction in this area, as you're very much correct that this is a sort of missing link.

7 - Yay, graphene!

8 - I've not seen the video, but I have seen various discussions around this.  Running anything at 33,000rpm requires serious balancing, so it's nice to see this achieved with MLS techniques.  The resolution must be very high.

9 - Come on, you know where this is really heading...!

Also thumbs up for the various anti-ageing and cancer work.
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