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Naoki Watanabe
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At home electroplating on the cheap

3D printing, additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping. Great, and now once you have your printed object you can electroplate it in copper, nickel, palladium or gold at home on your desktop for only $2USD/gram.

http://www.gizmag.com/orbit1-tabletop-electroplater/37102/
Orbit1 is an electroplating solution aimed at small businesses and hobbyists, allowing them to coat any small object in a choice of metallic finishes. The device is relatively low cost, efficient to run, and pairs with a smartphone app to provide an accessible metal-coating experience.
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Audi's new synthetic diesel - e-Diesel

Audi, the purveyor of fine automobiles, has teamed with a startup company to produce synthetic diesel. Sunfire's process first splits hydrogen from water (electrolysis) using electricity from renewable sources before pairing it with carbon from CO2 into long chain hydrocarbons. The CO2 can be sequestered from the atmosphere making it entirely carbon neutral and it doesn't contain sulfur or other pollutants like natural fossil fuels. 

Further refining creates what they call e-Diesel which can work in diesel engine cars. Like their absolutely fearsome Le Mans winning R18.

Efficiency is claimed to be in the 70% range which is pretty good and end prices are hoped to be only slightly more than standard diesel. 

http://www.gizmag.com/audi-creates-e-diesel-from-co2/37130/
Audi is making a new fuel for internal combustion engines that has the potential to make a big dent when it comes to climate change – that's because the synthetic diesel is made from just water an...
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No they didn't. They used the byproducts of a chemical cascade involving air and water, that happened because of a huge energy infusion.
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Big Tape

If you've ever seen an old movie featuring a big computer in the background chances were you saw two big open reels of tape winding back and forth. These magnetic tape systems were, amazingly, the best thing going at the time. Early IBM 360 (2401) mainframe nine-track tape systems came in a cabinet and had a staggering 140MB of storage capacity and had transfer rates of up to 1.25MB/s. Of course if you were at the end of your tape and needed to read something from the beginning you had to wait 4-5 minutes to rewind it all.

These sorts of tape systems were huge in the 70s and 80s but declined steadily over the years with the introduction of much faster floppy/hard disks until in 2002 when the last nine-track tape came off the last assembly line.

However, tape never actually died. Smaller, higher density formats were developed and they actually have a lot of use in backup systems and cold (offline) storage. 

IBM continues to research tape because it is still just so much cheaper than other methods of storing a lot of data.

Their latest announcement is a whopping 220 terabytes on a single cartridge. Top put that in other terms it's the storage capacity of 1,718.75 top end iPhone 6s.

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2403498/ibm-creates-teeny-tiny-220tb-tape-to-entrench-a-trillion-texts
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Their latest announcement is a whopping 220 terabytes on a single cartridge.

Crap, and we just bought 10 T10K-D drives that store 8T per cartridge.
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Cloning a wooly mammoth

Wooly mammoth carcases turn up frozen in permafrost and finds really started to hit the news in 2013 when talking of possibly cloning them started. Since 2013 Russian scientists have been working toward a goal of de-extinction. The process would taking DNA extracted from the carcasses and implanting it into elephant egg cells, which would then be given to an elephant surrogate mother (who could be quite surprised). The animals would finally be introduced into the Pleistocene wildlife reserve in Siberia.

Well it seems some progress has been made but using a different, more direct process. While not yet published or peer tested one Harvard team claims to have spliced (using CRISPR technique) some genes related to cold resistance, hair and ears inside a living Asian elephant. 

Exciting work! 


https://richarddawkins.net/2015/03/woolly-mammoth-dna-inserted-into-elephant-cells/
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Oh Ray Romano, what have they done to you?
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Opportunity has finished a marathon

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover has just completed a marathon. It has travelled 42.195 kilometers on the red planet.

Its time - 11 years, two months (and some change)

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-097&rn=news.xml&rst=4521
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Ten rotor tilt wing hybrid electric unmanned aircraft from NASA

It can hover like a helicopter, or more accurately like a quad-rotor drone, for up to 24 hours. And cruise mode is hoped to be four times more efficient than a helicopter.

http://www.gizmag.com/ten-engine-electric-plane-takes-off/37280/
NASA has dusted off and improved on a tilt wing aircraft design. Called the Greased Lightning GL-10, the unmanned prototype made a successful vertical takeoff and transition to horizontal flight at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia, not far from NASA Langley.
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Real time MRI imaging

See inside the head of a man as he sings "If I only had a brain". Brilliant technology with many practical applications.

http://www.popsci.com/see-inside-guys-head-he-sings-if-i-only-had-brain-video?dom=fb&src=SOC
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The continued rise of the electric car

Combustion engine cars
1901: Wilhelm Maybach's first Mercedes has 35 HP
2005: Bugati Veyron 16.4 is built with 1,001 HP
2009: Koenigsegg creates the CCXR with 1,018 HP (on biofuel)
2010: Bugati makes the "Super Sport" version with 1,200 HP
2012: Hennesy built the Venom GT with 1,244 HP
2014: Koenigsegg's Agera One:1 comes with 1,341 HP (1kW)

Electric cars
1999: GM's EV1, considered the first modern electric car, had 137HP
2004: Tesla's Roadster came with 248 HP
2010: Tesla's Model S is propelled by 416 HP
2015: Tesla revised the Model S up to 691 HP
2015: eO PP03 race car has 1368 HP (1.02 kW)

Now a Latvian EV will compete in the Pike's Peak hillclimb where electric cars and motorbikes are already hounding the competition due to the wonderful advantage of losing no power as altitude rises. And at a weight of only 1200 kgs this PP03 blows away even the mighty $1.5 million dollar One:1's power to weight ratio. 

Pike's Peak master and multi-decade champion Nobuhiro 'Monster' Tajima set a new record and won the EV class in 2013 with his custom built E-Runner. With a sub-10 minute run he matched the 2012 unlimited class. In 2014 the unlimited class winner set a time of 9m 05s. The EV class winner had a time of 9m 08s (you can watch Greg Tracy doing his run here: http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/videos/a8311/greg-tracy-demolishes-pikes-peak-ev-record/).

I think this year we will see EVs take home the absolute win.

http://www.electricautosport.com/2015/04/worlds-first-1-megawatt-all-electric-race-car-to-compete-at-pikes-peak/
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Does welfare incentivize laziness?

We often hear from the political right about how welfare encourages people to be lazy, entitled and it stifles the economy. While if we greatly reduced or even removed welfare altogether it would encourage people to go out and get work.

This is clearly a broken argument for a number of reasons;

1. It assumes there are jobs to get (which is generally very wrong in times of high welfare assistance such as our recent recession).
2. It ignores the fact that low income groups put their money straight back into the economy much of which is then drawn up in tax revenue. It does not drag down the economy in any devastating way.
3. The social and law enforcement costs of high crime resulting from not having any safety net are huge.
4. The argument is not an economic one and is simply one of human psychology, "I didn't get any help therefore nobody else should".

So the GOP stance on welfare has been well and truly debunked for decades (at least) but what if we did analyze their claims objectively..

Well, then they are still wrong.

"Survey responses from 19,000 people in 18 European countries" taking into account the "amount the country spent on welfare benefits and employment schemes, while taking into account the population differences between states" found "the more a country paid to the unemployed or sick, and invested in employment schemes, the more its likely people were likely to agree with the statement, whether employed or not."


http://phys.org/news/2015-03-welfare-benefits-people.html
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I love that the article explicitly points out in the first line the UK was included in the 18 countries. It's as if they're tacitly acknowledging that if there was one country which would be closest to proving a counter-example (i.e. that the presence of welfare DOES in fact cause laziness) then it would be that one, and so you need to say it to stop people responding with "18 countries, but not the UK, right ?"

It's true though, most people are comparatively lazy here by world standards with or without jobs. Welfare has nothing to do with it, as tempting as it is to blame it on that. It comes from a culture still heavily influenced by its trade union history, and shows up as an expectation that any day longer than 9-5 is unthinkable, regardless of salary inducements.

Far be it from me to ever refer to the Daily Mail as an actual "newspaper", but this comment from Jamie Oliver made me nod and giggle, especially the bit about the hours: 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2403575/
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Fun science fact - genome sizes

Humans rank only fifth on the list of largest genome sizes. The top five are;

- #1 Polychaos dubium amoeba (670,000,000,000 base pairs)
- #2 Japanese-native pale-petal plant (150,000,000,000 bp)
- #3 Fritillaria assyrica plant (130,000,000,000 bp)
- #4 Marbled lungfish (130,000,000,000 bp)
- #5 Humans (3,200,000,000 bp)

If you think being 4% different to a Chimpanzee is interesting remember that humans have been to the moon while #1 on the list has a DNA sequence over two hundred times larger than ours and looks like a snot.
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I would imagine a plausible mutation for a genome is to accidentally keep around two copies of a chromosome instead of one (or even double the entire genome by accident).  Instead of counting base pairs, it would be more interesting to count unique genes, or some other measure of information-carrying unit.
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Genetic engineering of humans - lets do it

Sometimes people can be put off by this idea and cite arguments such as "playing god" or it is "unsafe". Although if you frame genetic engineering in terms of a medical cure they become a lot more positive and less scared about it.

"Should we allow the genetic engineering of humans?" A lot of people say no.

"Should we develop a cure for Cystic Fibrosis?" Almost everybody says yes. As they should.

So assuming for a second we live in a world where we can dismiss the irrational arguments for the ethical greater good how do we stamp out genetic disorders? Lets take the Cystic Fibrosis example.

We can perform what's known as somatic gene therapy, somatic cells are the non-sex cells that make up almost all of your body. Any cell that isn't a stem, sperm or egg cell.

A therapy to address a genetic disorder in your somatic cells might include introducing an engineered virus that can enter your cells and delivery a new gene to replace the faulty one causing CF. Non-viral techniques (including the awesomely named "gene gun") show advantages are also being heavily researched.

So far so good but since this was only a somatic gene therapy you still carry, and pass along, the defective gene(s) in your germline cells. The sex cells such as sperm and eggs.

There are techniques, namely CRISPER-Cas9, which have the potential to alter these sex cells too. If we developed this technology not only would we be able to cure the individual but also they would not pass along the disorder to their children, or their children and so on until eventually the disease or disorder would be wiped out for good.

I imagine a world completely free of;
- Huntington's
- CF
- Hemophilia 
- Tay-Sachs disease
- Polycystic kidney disease
.. and of course many more.

Weirdly to me there are a number of people who actually dislike this idea. Scared it would lead to a new form of eugenics. Trying to improve the human race. Well, we've been doing that since the ancient Egyptians started a public health system over 5,000 years ago (and performed the first known surgery in 2750BC).

This fear though is so prevalent though that about 40 countries have discouraged or outright banned this work. Two Nobel prize winners say "scientists should accept a self-imposed moratorium on any attempt to create genetically altered children until the safety and medical reasons for such a step can be better understood".

That's creating a catch-22, you cannot stop working on something until it's tested and safe until you have a therapy.

Sensible and ethical medical trials require you develop something and then test with willing volunteers who perhaps have little no alternatives left. You slowly increase the number of patients in the trial until you have something ready for the general public. You don't stick your head in the sand and stop working on something with massive potential for widespread good because you think somebody might one day do something negative with it. You approach the technology sensibly and regulate as necessary.
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Australia hosts largest impact crater yet discovered

At roughly 450 x 300 kilometers wide it is massive enough to take the crown away from South Africa's Vredefort crater. Indications are an asteroid of about 20 kilometers across broke into two halves before slamming the earth and creating a mass extinction event in the process.

The age of the impact so far remains a bit of a mystery but expect something on the order or 300 million years ago or more.

http://www.popsci.com/worlds-largest-asteroid-impact-crater-found-australia?dom=fb&src=SOC
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