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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest, 16/14.
SCNT embryonic stem cells, universe from nothing, microrobots, nanowire photonics, biological glue, flexible wearables, programmable cells, gecko adhesives.

1. First Embryonic Stem Cells from Adult Human Cells.
Human embryonic stem cells have finally been created with the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique using adult human cells whose nucleus is inserted into an egg cell the nucleus of which has been removed https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2014/04/somatic-cell-nuclear-transfer-achieved-in-adult-human-cells.php. This is how Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1997, and should allow the creation of patient-specific stem cells for use in a range of therapeutic cell therapies. While this is a great advance there exist a number of different methods for achieving the same result such as cellular reprogramming to create induced pluripotent stem cells, and even last week we saw that just two factors were required to induce an adult stem cell to develop into an embryo. 

2. A Universe from Nothing: A Mathematical Foundation.
An interesting result from theoretical physics constitutes the first mathematical proof that the Big Bang could have occured spontaneously from nothing due to quantum fluctuations https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/ed7ed0f304a3. The work is based on exploring new solutions to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, which was originally proposed to combine quantum mechanics with relativity, and also building off Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The interesting twist here is (i) that the spontaneous and sustainable emergence of new Universes from nothing is dependent on the cosmological constant, which (ii) has to be replaced with a quantity known as the quantum potential, a quantity that (iii) comes from pilot wave theory (hidden variables interpretation developed by David Bohm), and (iv) implying that the Universe and quantum mechanics are at heart entirely deterministic. This result also reminds me of the “time emerges from entanglement” work https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/d5d3dc850933

3. Salt Water Flowing Over Graphene Generates Electricity.
Electricity has been generated from graphene simply by dragging a droplet of salt water over it http://gizmodo.com/pouring-saltwater-over-graphene-generates-electricity-1563379860. When moving along the graphene the electrons in the salt water droplet desorb on one end of the graphene and absorb on the other, generating a tiny voltage that is proportional to the speed of the water; 30mV in the proof-of-concept. This is a tiny voltage and further work remains to be done, but what about powering low-power implanted devices with the flow of salty blood, or building large arrays of the devices for deployment in the ocean to harness wave and current power, or self-powered buoys, etc? 

4. Manufacturing with Microrobots.
An innovative new approach to manufacturing electronics and small structures involves the use of swarms of independently controlled microrobots comprised of magnetic platforms with different manipulator arms or tools on top http://www.technologyreview.com/news/526601/microrobots-working-together-build-with-metal-glass-and-electronics/. This video has a good overview Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots for Advanced Manipulation Applications. The bots move over a surface with embedded electronic coils, the control of which coordinates the movement and placement of up to 1,000 microrobots to date; different microrobots with different arms/tools are combined together in order to build and assemble more complex structures. Lots of possibilities and it’ll be interesting to see where they take this platform in future - even an automatic Lego builder would be a great demonstration. Work is progressing on controlled movement of nanomachines over surfaces too http://www.nanowerk.com/spotlight/spotid=35196.php

5. Detecting and Emitting Light with a Single Nanowire.
By straining gallium arsenide nanowires IBM can tune the devices to both absorb and emit light, efficiently functioning as single light emitting diodes or photodetectors http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/optoelectronics/ibm-combines-light-emission-and-detection-in-single-nanowire and opening the possibility to reduce the complexity of nanophotonic chips. Materials strain engineering is a fascinating space where applying different forces to materials alters the atomic bond lengths and spacing, changing symmetries, and opening up novel and sometimes unintuitive electronic and photonic phenomena and applications. 

6. The Benefits of Materials with Precisely Aligned Atoms.
We had a couple examples of such materials this week. First, the demonstration of compound semiconductor materials that comprised semimetal nanowires and nanoparticles made of erbium and antimony embedded into the semiconducting matrix of gallium antimonide http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/optoelectronics/nanostructures-could-bridge-gap-between-optics-and-electronics. This results in the formation of a perfect and uninterrupted crystal lattice due to the fact that the atoms in the semimetal nanostructures match the pattern of those in the semiconductor, and allows a range of novel optoelectronic phenomena to be harnessed. Second, a new chemical vapour deposition process creates precisely layered van der Waals solids comprised of atomically thin two dimensional materials such as graphene, molybdenum disulfide, boron nitride, and tungsten diselenide that can result in optical and electrical performance improvements two orders of magnitude greater than bulk or single layered materials http://phys.org/news/2014-04-chemical-vapor-deposition-atomic-layer.html

7. Biological Glue and Wound Healing.
Polymer adhesive solutions containing silica and iron oxide nanoparticles have been shown to be extremely effective as “biological glue” http://phys.org/news/2014-04-strategy.html. Proof-of-concept demonstrations included (i) quickly gluing deep wounds on skin within seconds to stop bleeding and create minimal scarring, (ii) repair living organs such as the liver that are difficult to suture, even after resection, and (iii) attach medical devices to living, beating hearts for quicker, more intimate, and less invasive monitoring and diagnosis. The nanoparticles can themselves be metabolised by the animal and these materials offer applications across a broad spectrum of clinical scenarios. 

8. Flexible Adhesive Wearable Devices.
A new wearable electronic patch is flexible, stretchable, adhesive to skin, and incorporates standard silicon chips, microcontrollers, microfluidics, flexible wire designs, and sensors http://singularityhub.com/2014/04/18/new-method-points-to-cheaper-more-flexible-wearable-computers/. The new design pursues a compartmentalised, or modular, design strategy in order to facilitate rapid development and compatibility with a broad range of off-the-shelf components and relevant standards. Stuck to the skin such devices can measure biometric data much more clearly than devices that merely sit (and can jostle) on top of the skin. The group hopes that future versions will be even more user-friendly and allow continuous health monitoring of a large range of different measurements. This could also be a very interesting biohacking platform. 

9. Gecko Skin Adhesives Getting Better.
An improved version of “Geckskin”, a reusable adhesive material that mimics gecko’s ability to stick to surfaces has been developed that can adhere even heavy loads onto vertical surface materials ranging from wood to glass http://phys.org/news/2014-04-versatile-version-geckskin-gecko-like-adhesives.html. A video demonstration can be found here Geckskin on Everything. The fabrication process allows tuning of the material components in order to optimise for different applications, although it’s yet to be seen whether that will be for robotics, spider-man suits, home appliances, etc. 

10. Modular Extracellular Sensor Architecture.
Human cells have been engineered to produce a protein biosensor that sits on the cell surface, which is programmed to sense specific molecules and trigger a corresponding gene expression program in the cell’s nucleus http://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/news/articles/2014/04/building-smart-cell-based-therapies.html. The idea of course is to use such systems to create programmable therapeutics able to travel through the patient's body to selectively target metabolites, cells, or diseased tissues of interest. The current platform is modular, allowing additional biosensor + gene expression circuits to be added to the same cell and so enabling increasingly sophisticated programs to be built. For example cells could be programmed to turn on a gene when one protein is sensed and not another, allowing cells to specifically kill certain tumour cells.  

SciTech Digest just debuted on Medium too: https://medium.com/@SciTechDigest 

+ScienceSunday, with your hosts +Buddhini Samarasinghe, +Rajini Rao, +Chad Haney, +Robby Bowles, +Allison Sekuler, +Carissa Braun, and +Aubrey Francisco!

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Nice selection ☺ I'm looking forward to see how (8) held the Quantified Self movement.
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Very Sexy Curve on a Graph.

The main article here http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/16/solars-dramatic-cost-fall-may-herald-energy-price-deflation/ discusses this graph and the massive drop in cost of solar power. The slope of that curve makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and provides further fuel for optimism in the future. 

The article points out that solar is already eating away at the tiny margins of oil and gas demand, but as that curve continues on its inexorable path over the next decade along with the plunge in battery storage costs, we will get to the point where solar triggers energy price deflation in conventional fossil fuels. This point will be a tipping point beyond which everything will change and our planet begins its path to recovery from our primitive, but necessary, technological depredations. The point at which the fossil fuels industry recognises and believes this, is the point at which this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

As pointed out in the article the key here is home-based economical battery storage solutions, which will provide an immense "secondary" market for batteries developed for the automotive EV sector. Batteries that are not yet suitable for a vehicle due to excessive weight for example, would nonetheless be applicable and economical to the home storage sector. 

At this point I'd like to point out that: 
This paints +Elon Musk's recent plans (http://www.technologyreview.com/news/526126/does-musks-gigafactory-make-sense/) for a giant battery factory in a very different light. And that the critics quote risks (http://qz.com/182440/elon-musks-massive-bet-on-batteries-is-riding-on-two-big-ifs/) that are irrelevant and inapplicable. 

Other sexy solar curves should be checked out here http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/graph-of-the-day-solars-99-cost-plunge-to-grid-parity-48733 and here http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/citigroup-how-solar-module-prices-could-fall-to-25cwatt-41384

At this point betting against solar is like betting against Moore's Law: you're on the wrong side of history and walking towards a valley (minima) in our technium's fitness landscape. I think our hero Elon is marching up one of our technium's mountains and wish him every success in attaining such an important local maxima. 

#solarpower   #technium   #battery  
 
Solar’s Insane Cost Drop That line dropping almost straight down, is the price of solar energy. Forecast it out 10 years and realize fossil fuels are pretty much doomed.

http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/16/solars-dramatic-cost-fall-may-herald-energy-price-deflation/
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+Mark Bruce as a sidenote.

While I agree with some general tendency, I think the idea of pre rural state of nature of rural areas sounds very American to my German/European ears.

Europe is much more densely populated and there it is most likely, that 99% of the continental Europe has been used by mankind in some sense. Returning to something like "natural state" might probably take several centuries in a guided process, if possible at all. I'd expect to be huge regions in Asia where it is the same.

The mere idea, that there is lots of "unused" nature left around us, that we could let spread back in a natural state, seems to be true mainly for Siberia and a few deserts. It might also already be to late for large parts of the oceans.
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The Act of Killing

There are few times when a movie or documentary induced such a wide range of frequently varying emotions in me as the recent and critically acclaimed masterpiece that is The Act of Killing. I had never even heard of the film until +Koen De Paus listed it in his Top Movies of 2013 list and I decided to add it to my own "to-see" list. Months later and I finally get around to watching it.

The basic premise is a documentary-style interview with some of the militia thugs involved in the mass murders and overthrow of the Indonesian government in the mid 1960s, who are invited to recreate some of their exploits and attrocities in B-Grade movie style (these segments are separate to the main documentary and serve only as a backdrop and reenactment device). Anwar serves as the lead and focus of the piece, a man who personally murdered with his own hands over 1,000 people, and who has not and will not ever be prosecuted for his crimes. 

I can't help but wonder why we aren't suitably educated about these events via a robust history class in school? Why did I only learn about this now?

This documentary has so many different historical, political, emotional, and philosophical threads and the deeper you dig into it the more complex the whole becomes. I felt sadness, anger, rage, disgust, horror, disbelief, bemusement, and pity . . . all at multiple times and varying intensities. Also shock - shock at how easily seemingly normal people could conceal sadistic monsters lurking within. 

Get a hold of this if you can, and give it a watch. 

#documentary   #theactofkilling   #history  
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Good to hear that you liked it! It really is a unique film that can't really be compared to any other documentary. Throughout it straddles the line between the absurd and the surreal. I constantly had to remind myself that this was somehow real and not someone's disturbing fever dream. The director's idea to give the murderers some artistic freedom as they reenact their crimes was a touch of brilliance as it really allowed you a glimpse into their psyche.

What bothered me the most was the contrast between Anwar's two selves which somehow could not be separated. It's not like the Anwar of the past was the bad guy and the Anwar of today is the good guy. He might have mellowed a bit but at no point could you separate the man from the demon and that is positively infuriating. We expect documentaries that detail mass-murder to paint an exclusively dark picture. We want to find out how the people that killed 1000s are monsters and not really human beings like the rest of us. This documentary doesn't do that and remains neutral by letting Anwar and the people around him do most of the talking. Instead of flipping the coin and it coming down on one side. We get to see both. Through the reenactments we get to see Anwar the demon but by documenting his life as it is today, it humanizes the criminal and normalizes the act of killing.

That's what makes this so shocking, almost everyone we meet knows that Anwar has the blood of thousands on his hands yet still he is respected and befriended by many. What's even more worrisome is that to this day, he makes the round with his fellow gangsters, shaking down store owners. He's not afraid to do this on camera because it's "normal". They are even proud to call themselves gangsters because the word has taken on a somewhat different meaning and carries other connotations. Gangsters have political influence and even the president likes to be seen with them because it will win him votes with certain demographics. All signs of a country that still has not yet come to terms with its past.

A scene that really stuck with me, which is also featured in the trailer, is the one where he plays with his grandchildren and teaches them to treat their little ducklings with love and respect. This is the same man who only moments earlier seemed somewhat proud that at one point he had created an artificial stream from killing so many people a day that their blood had started carving a path from their base of operations to a nearby river. At that point my mind started to come apart because the cognitive dissonance was so overwhelming. I can't understand how he can live with himself. He sounds like a walking contradiction. You can read a lot into his emotions near the end but the man remains an enigma. If there is one film that shows you the world is not black, white or gray but sometimes one, then the other, sometimes all separately then together, it's this one.

+Denise Case, you are very much right. This film truly is very hard to watch. Imagine Schindler's list interspersed with footage of Hitler nursing abandoned baby kittens back to health. It just doesn't fit the picture you want to have of someone responsible for killing 6 million people. To answer your question, yes, Anwar can still be happy. In fact, at the start he's even having fun reenacting hist past... As I said, it's not easy to watch. 
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Very awesome, ,,, 
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Some Personal Data-Logging.

I tried some different exercise from my usual routine this evening, going on my first proper run in over a year and deciding to run the My Tracks[1] app while my phone was strapped to my arm. The map data was mostly accurate, except for the stretch along the river bank where it missed large sections of positional data. The rest of the data produced by the app, such as it is, is shown in the two images below:

1. Elevation & Speed.
Elevation isn't too bad; the route did indeed take in a reasonable hill. But I'm pretty sure I didn't jump off of any 25 or 40 meter cliffs and keep on running - although the timing of these errors also correlate with the stretches of positional errors on the map data. Speed is bizarrely patchy; I didn't stop running once and yet speed data continuously plunges to zero without maintaining a consistent curve of variable speed. At about 3.4km you can see my speed declining as my elevation climbs sharply - but given the other errors I'm not sure how accurate that is. 

2. Main Summary.
I called the route "Main Loop". Lots of errors here. The total distance is more like 5.6 - 5.7km. Total time sounds reasonable but I can't know if the app suspended time counting while it encountered positional errors or not. Moving time is about 1/3 of total time, weird given I didn't stop running at all - my guess is that this proportion seems to correlate with the total amount of speed data from the first image. Finally, max speed is same as average moving speed at 33.5 km/h - not bad given Usain Bolt sprints 100m at an average speed of 37.58 km/h :-P

Conclusion: Probably need to get a better app!

Still, first proper run in over a year, didn't push too hard, aiming to complete the ~5.5 km route without stopping, which I did reasonably easily. Minor muscle fatigue afterwards and happy to do something different to the usual cardio + resistance interval training I typically do. 

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.maps.mytracks&hl=en-GB 
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The last time I was running and tracking, I just held my phone, and used the volume buttons for lap cycling via something like ultratimer.  Haven't tried a more dedicated app yet.
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Have him in circles
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Computational Photography Starts to Mature.

Computational photography (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_photography), the use of advanced algorithms and software to simulate powerful (and expensive) cameras such as DSLRs, starts to make an impact in the latest update to the Google Camera application on current Android (4.4+) phones. The default Google Camera for Android already shipped with an impressive second-generation HDR mode (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-dynamic-range_imaging), but the latest update includes a Lens Blur mode that allows tiny phone camera sensors and lenses to simulate a big lens and big aperture in order to reproduce shallow depths of field or "bokeh" effects. This is another great example of software eating the world.

The image below demonstrates the new camera application using the crappy front-facing 1.3MP camera on my Nexus 5 and delivers a believable depth of field. Look closely and you can see some artifacts on the edges of the foreground subjects; a good DSLR with a good lens is obviously going to still produce superior images. But those algorithms will get better with time; results will improve and image artifacts will be taken care of. While DSLRs will always have superior light capture capabilities the best camera is always the one you have on you. More details can be found here http://googleresearch.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/lens-blur-in-new-google-camera-app.html and I'm particularly interested in the ability of this app and its algorithms to produce depth maps of an image like the Lytro camera and adjust the point of focus as needed after the image is taken.

Further advances might allow these depth maps to be used in 3D scanning applications for 3D modeling and printing, 3D imaging for 3D TVs and Oculus Rift devices, and might even tie in with Project Tango to help more accurately model our world.

If you have a recent phone running the latest version of Android and don't have a Nexus device then head over to the Play Store to grab the app and have a play https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.GoogleCamera. This is also the first time that non-Nexus devices get access to the amazing PhotoSphere capability that I've been enjoying and wowing people with for the last 18 months now.

#googlecameraapp   #computationalphotography   #lensblur  
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Very nice +Mark Bruce! Thank you for sharing this great info! :)
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Videos to Add to Watch Later.

1. Connections I-The Trigger Effect (High Quality), with James Burke.
Originally found after listening to James interview on a You Are Not So Smart podcast I was pleasantly surprised that I watched the whole 50 minutes of the show and look forward to watching others in the series. This episode concerns our complete and utter dependence on society and the risks that entails; also the phenomenon of how thoroughly we take the our nurturing envelope of technology for granted. The conclusions are interesting but unsurprisingly I think more technology, not less is the answer. Really interesting insights into historical developments of technology and how they reach down through time to influence us now. Dated but somehow still relevant. 

2. How do psychedelic drugs work on the brain? with Robin Carhart-Harris.
Really interesting scientific-style presentation on psychedelic drugs, their history, and their effects on the brain; discussion of psilocybin and DMT among others. Studies with fMRI and effects on consciousness, receptor targets, the concept of self, oneness, and other neural networks that are affected by such substances and the benefits of such. Makes me want to try some psilocybin in order to explore altered states of consciousness. 

3. TEDxBoulder - Thad Roberts - Visualizing Eleven Dimensions via TEDx.
I've watched this one a couple of times now; proposing a unified model of the Universe based on 11 dimensions, quantised spacetime, gravity via concentration gradients (always how I've imagined it) rather than "curved spacetime", and the possibility to solve many existing mysteries and weave together many different observations and phenomena. 

#technology   #consciousness   #physics  
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Thanks for sharing this list, +Mark Bruce  . I sorta requested it a while back, so thanks for delivering.   : )
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest, 15/14.
Programmable microfluidics, Nanobot computers, stem cell mastery, organ rejuvenation, reinforced graphene, self-assembled films, software radio, atom-photon coupling.

1. Punch-Card Programmable Microfluidics.
A programmable microfluidic system based on the principles of a type of music box that operates with a pattern of holes punched in a paper tape that causes an array of cogs to strike different metal “notes” is deceptively simple yet carries transformative potential http://phys.org/news/2014-04-music-stanford-bioengineer-chemistry-video.html & see Stanford bioengineer creates $5 chemistry set. In the device a pattern of holes causes cogs to strike valves in a microfluidic chip interfaced to the device in order to produce a droplet of [1 or 15 different] chemicals that flow along a chip; a suitable pattern of holes can thus produce a desired chain of microfluidic chemical reactions. Applications include synthesising new chemicals from feedstocks, running diagnostic assays, and testing samples. The device can be 3D printed for $5, and the simplicity of the crank and punch card tape could be replaced with an Arduino microcontroller and electric motors for added control and a “limitless” tape length. Combine this with the simple microfluidics from last week and click-linked DNA and future versions might produce any desired DNA sequence in your home for example. 

2. DNA Origami Produced Nanorobots Function as Computer Inside Animals.
That is a headline from the future if ever there was one. Researchers have produced a variety of DNA Origami sequences that self-assemble into different nanorobots capable of interacting with biological substrates, and each other, while inside a living animal and, further, such interactions generate logical outputs capable of switching molecular payloads on or off that were used to build AND, OR, XOR, NAND, NOT, CNOT, half-adder logic gates as part of a functional computational system http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25376-dna-nanobots-deliver-drugs-in-living-cockroaches.html#.U0QqJKL3t94. The system successfully carried out a simple program inside a cockroach and interacted with the insect’s cells. The group believe that they can scale the computational power for such a system inside an animal up to the equivalent of an 8-bit computer like the Commodore 64 and further enhance stability for use in mammals. Future systems will deliver drugs to you in future, based on sensed inputs (your genotype) and releasing the correct output (drug for your genotype and not another). The above microfluidic systems will also produce these DNA origami systems cheaply and in your home should you wish. 

3. Just Two Signals Turn Stem Cells into Embryos.
In a significant advance it has been discovered that just two molecular signals are required to trigger a stem cell to develop into a complete functional embryo are now able to direct embryonic development and formation of tissues and organs by controlling signal locations and concentrations http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-smashes-barrier-growing-organs-stem-cells. The group plans to replicate the findings in mice before attempting humans and if the mechanisms prove similar then in future we can expect to be able to turn any of our stem cells into any organ that we might need. 

4. Graphene Reinforced with Carbon Nanotubes.
A new processing technique allows carbon nanotubes to be added to sheets of graphene, functioning as reinforcing bars and improving the stability and strength of the overall structure http://news.rice.edu/2014/04/07/rebar-technique-strengthens-case-for-graphene/. The tubes become covalently bound in many places and were even observed to get thinner when the material was stretched and placed under tension. Many fabrication processes produce imperfect graphene sheets comprised of large domains connected at different angles and the tubes help bridge these interfaces and improve overall conductivity and electrical performance. The group hopes to develop multi-layered versions of “rebar” graphene capable of displacing indium-tin-oxide in many electronic display applications. 

5. Spray-Painting Self-Assembling Nanoparticle Films.
A solvent solution comprising flat nanoparticles - or nanoplatelets - with specific functional groups of either side can be applied to a surface via a conventional off-the-shelf spray can http://phys.org/news/2014-04-common-gun-self-assembling-nanoparticle.html. As the solvent evaporates the nanoplatelets connect and self-assemble into a structured film or coating with interesting properties. The proof-of-concept was simply a barrier to oxygen molecules, suitable in gas separation applications. But with different nanoplatelets engineered as photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, LEDs this could possibly lead in future to the ability to spray-paint your roof into one continuous solar panel or your inner walls as huge lighting and digital displays for example. 

6. One Signal to Regenerate & Rejuvenate a Living Organ for the First Time.
The thymus, an organ critical for the development and function of the immune system but whose function rapidly declines with age, has been regenerated and rejuvenated in aged mice for the first time http://www.mrc.ac.uk/Newspublications/News/MRC009803. The thymus in the aged mice took on the structure, histology, and gene expression profile of a young and healthy thymus, which began making more T-Cells. Furthermore, this incredible feat was achieved by up-regulating the activity of just a single transcription factor, FOXN1, which instructed stem cell-like cells to rebuild the organ. Further work will test this further before moving to humans and hopefully restoring youthful immune function in compromised patients and elderly people; similar interventions may allow a range of other organs to be restored to youthful function in this way too. 

7. Fruitful Battles Between Software-Defined Radio Algorithms.
A diverse range of software-defined radio algorithms battled it out as part of DARPA’s Spectrum Challenge, aiming to see which algorithm was better able to use a given communication channel in the presence of other users and interfering signals http://spectrum.ieee.org/telecom/wireless/radio-wrestlers-fight-it-out-at-the-darpa-spectrum-challenge. Two different divisions separately tested (i) the ability to send a batch of pre-defined packets on a slice of spectrum on which others are trying to do the same and to simultaneously interfere with and prevent others from doing so; such adaptive radio was obvious military applications, (ii) the ability to optimise data-throughput on spectrum shared with other users, with obvious commercial and consumer applications and benefits. The competition format encouraged rapid innovation; six months ago algorithms typically lacked feedback, spectrum sensing, or adaptation, but they now all exploit these tools. 

8. Massively Improved Communication Channels Between Genetic Circuit Elements.
A significant development in synthetic biology comprises the engineering of much more sensitive, robust, and rapid communication channels between various genetic circuit elements and processors http://phys.org/news/2014-04-bacterial-fm-radio.html. This new platform comprises a tool-set to enable rapid and tunable post-translational coupling of genetic circuits, solving the problem of noisy genetic circuits with limited communication channels and highly variable circuit performance limited by inefficiencies in reusing different parts of a program, and achieves order-of-magnitude improvements in response time. In related news synthetic gene circuits boost the activity of cellular degradation pathways to clear misfolded protein junk, offering a tantalising possibility to treat a range of diseases of the aged http://phys.org/news/2014-04-synthetic-gene-circuits-cell.html

9. The Promise of Enzyme-Powered Microfluidic Micropumps.
A self-powered enzyme micropump has been developed that is able to autonomously deliver small molecules and proteins in response to different stimuli http://phys.org/news/2014-04-mechanobiology-enzyme-micropump-autonomously-insulin.html. The device functions by anchoring desired enzymes to the surface of a fluidic chip, and the enzymes act as a pump when their substrates are present, setting up a directional flow of fluid through the chip. The proof-of-concept demonstration involved the release of insulin at a rate depending on and proportional to the concentration of glucose; pumping volume is dependent on stimulus concentration; basically an artificial pancreas. The group are expanding the work to incorporate multienzyme cascades and microfluidic logic gates. Future devices might be created with #1 above, and implanted to controllably process any biological molecule as desired. Optimum chemical reaction conditions can now also be easily determined http://phys.org/news/2014-04-reactor-enables-optimum-conditions-chemical.html

10. Dual Development of Coupling Atoms and Photons for Quantum Logic.
A group from MIT & Harvard, and another from Max-Planck, have both independently developed the means to precisely couple individual atoms and photons in such a way that might allow the creation of quantum logic gates; http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/new-switch-could-power-quantum-computing-0409 and http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=140833&CultureCode=en respectively. The former involved trapping a lone rubidium atom close to the surface of a photonic crystal, while the latter involved trapping lone atoms in mirrored cavities, and both enabled the atom to “quantumly” interact with individual photons. Future possible applications could include quantum communications or computation. 

If you'd like notifications of these weekly Digests then just grab the SciTech Digest page here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/105994073381308284341/+ScitechdigestNet/posts

+ScienceSunday, with your hosts +Buddhini Samarasinghe, +Rajini Rao, +Chad Haney, +Allison Sekuler, +Robby Bowles, +Carissa Braun, and +Aubrey Francisco!

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I love the idea of using industrial techniques at atomic scales (#4 graphene + CNT rebar).

The possibilities for #5 are almost endless, but you hit upon the ones I immediately thought of.  Assuming the film is pretty transparent, I wonder if it could be used for HUDs on windows, glasses, etc.  Having it fluoresce in the presence of certain chemicals or EM frequencies might be useful as a catch-all leakage detector, too.

#7 will also come in very handy with our ludicrously noisy radio environment these days.  This is one of those things which will find its way into consumer tech so stealthily that we'll never realise it has happened.  All we'll know is a newer device will get a better wi-fi signal than the one before it.  And that's fine with me!

The new approach to an artificial pancreas in #9 is very cool.  Thinking outside the box there.  I can't wait to see what other chemistry comes from these creations.
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Mark Bruce

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Super Planet Crash.

A fun web-based solar system simulator to pass a few moments; my latest attempt is below, on track for a total score of 26 million - I've no idea how the high score is 8 times this. But there is no way such a system could be stable, could it? In fact this one broke shortly after capturing this screenshot at 26 years, ejecting one of the inner Super Earths at high speed out of the system. 

http://www.stefanom.org/spc/#
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Joe Schmidt's profile photoYasin Gülener's profile photoNico P.'s profile photoToby Grauberger's profile photo
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Yeah, that small one is a PITA.
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Mark Bruce

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Damn You Brain.

I spend 3 hours tonight struggling with a problem preventing me from kicking off my next tech project, before finally admitting defeat and going, begrudgingly, to bed at 1am. Laying in the darkness at 1:15am a flash of insight strikes and brain instantly arouses to full alertness and a hand instinctively reaches out for the tablet-shaped portal to teh interwebz.

It is now 2:45am. Problem has been smashed. Learned more about optics, absorption phenomena, lab protocols, circuit design, expensive kit, and cheap hacks. Have a very sound and elegant plan that not only solves my problem, but might even result in a cheap, useful product that many, many others would also appreciate.

You can go to sleep now you silly fatigued brain, just please remember a fraction of that plan in the morning. Ta! 
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Neils Schoenfelder's profile photoJohn Kellden's profile photoDavid Alan Gilbert's profile photoAdam Black's profile photo
19 comments
 
Yes, its true that good insights come when one is relaxed.  Something about falling asleep that sweeps the bullshit away and reveals the truth.  Hot showers work too.  Long walks mostly don't ... somehow, the sensory deprivation is an important part; during long walks, the b.s. ends up dominating, and nothing happens. Sometimes, (rarely?) being drunk and explaining technical things to someone results in a revelation.

But its a mixed bag, ... in the end, I get so many good ideas, I don't know what to do with them all.  More than I can pursue in a multiple lifetimes.  Trying to prioritize them is draining.   Sometimes, its like being in a candy shop, being asked to pick just a few things ... sometimes, its like having to choose between friends in some crisis; some must be sacrificed, because you can't save them all.

So, the other day, I decided I needed to explore the algebra of the  binary-tree equivalent of the simplicial set. WTF. When, exactly, am I ever going to find time for that?
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