SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - Week 13 of 2012
A Top 10 selection of the scientific and technological advances that I discovered this week. NEW FORMAT BASED ON FEEDBACK.


1. 3D Printing + Printed Electronics.
The merging of these - before now discreet - technology areas is sure to unleash a surge of technological innovation in the space. A joint development between Stratasys and Optomec marks the development of a hybrid 3D printed component for a UAV with imbedded printed electronics http://investors.stratasys.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=659142

2. The Inevitable Erosion of Public Privacy.
A surveillance / sousveillance system has been developed that is able to check any image of your face that is captured (at any time whether by mobile or fixed cameras) against a database of 36 million faces, in 1 second. http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/computing/it/japanese-surveillance-camera-system-can-check-36-million-faces-per-second? Our future is one in which systems like these are the norm with APIs into systems like these enabling your mobile phone to upload image and video data and quickly have all faces contained therein checked against billions on store, with matches returned in seconds.

3. One Drug vs Many Cancers.
A single antibody has been found to be effective against a very wide range of different tumour types by coaxing the immune system to taget cancer cells that thwart it http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/03/one-drug-to-shrink-all-tumors.html while this is great news, and extremely promising, this drug will not be a panacea and more advanced therapies will still be needed.

4. Metamaterials That Route Heat!
This is groundbreaking. The development of metamaterials that can efficiently route heat suggests avenues for developing an “invisibility cloak” for heat that could shield some areas from excess heat or channel heat into concentrated regions http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?uri=oe-20-7-8207 - pretty fantastic applications for electronics, computers, thermoelectrics, and waste heat management.

5. Tissue Engineering & Production Being Automated.
One more step on the road to factory production of human parts with infrastructure and automation that enables more efficient, faster, and cheaper creation of human tissues for research and medical applications. Skin for now. Hearts and everything else down the track. http://www.labcanada.com/news/automation-improves-tissue-engineering/1001001561

6. A New Neuromorphic Chip with Artificial Synapses.
This CMOS chip was developed with a combination of crossbar memory array and memristor elements to create a circuit of artificial neurons and synapses. The team behind the advance has plans to scale these chips to millions of neurons and billions of synapses and beyond; advanced neuromorphic chips like these will be a crucial component in developing truly intelligent machines http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/nl203687n

7. Mass Production of Microfluidic Chips Cannot Come Soon Enough.
Automated manufacturing and mass production systems such as these http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/manufacturing-polymer-microfabrication-0329.html being developed at MIT will lead to more efficient, fast, and cheaper microfluidic systems that finally make them available to a mass market. Then innovations like artificial guts / intestines such as this http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/researchers-build-gut-on-a-chip? might not only reach a broader market use in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, but also enable implantable artificial gut systems for humans.

8. New, Nuanced Understanding of Genetic Codes.
It turns out that not all genetic codons are redundant or created equal http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2012/03/11794/new-layer-genetic-information-discovered. Apparently different codons for the same amino acid act as a further regulatory control by allowing RNA translation to protein to occur at a faster or slower rate. Understanding this mechanism - which is closely tied to the structure of the ribosome - should enable productive optimisations in synthetic biology for example in the production of biofuels and other molecules.

9. Our Knowledge of Brain Structure Advances.
This landmark brain scanning study revealed that that brain is comprised of an astonishingly simple 3D grid structure with folding 2D sheets of parallel neuronal fibers that cross paths at right angles http://www.nih.gov/news/health/mar2012/nimh-29.htm that resembles the crossbar switching already found in some chips and circuits. Now go back and read #6 above . . . sound familiar?

10. Advanced MEMS for Very Low Power Chips.
New designs and prototypes for MEMS relay or nanorelay chips, might not be as fast as conventional CMOS but they have much lower power requirements and will be ideal for enabling the Internet of Things and imbedded sensor networks running off ambient energy sources, and also perhaps letting your mobile phone get by for weeks on a single charge http://spectrum.ieee.org/semiconductors/devices/mems-switches-for-low-power-logic?
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