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Jay Dinan
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Thanks +Mark Bruce  for another great week of ScienceSundayDigest. I love the neuroscience in 9 & 10.....very exciting.
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 29/2015.
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Gene therapy hearing, Single molecule transistor, Better metamaterials, Crystal light traps, Optofluidic neural probe, Synthetic foods, New particle phenomena, New CRISPR tools, Memory tracking, Regenerating neuronal axons. 

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

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

3. Improvements in Metamaterial Designs
A few interesting new metamaterial designs this week. First, a new and incredibly thin carpet cloak has been designed to incorporate periodic teflon and ceramic dielectric structures that can effectively bend light to shield anything beneath the cloak to give the appearance of a flat surface This is a two-dimensional metamaterial design and now they just need to make the thing to prove that it works. Second, a new metamaterial design is able to accurately preserve the phase of light while guiding it around sharp corners and abrupt bumps Third, progress towards lossless perfect lenses

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

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

6. Better “Synthetic” Foods
At some point we’re going to have to drop that “synthetic” label for these new food technologies. First this week was presentations about the ongoing development of 3D printing with foods and the economic and personalised sensation benefits that might accrue Second, the cost of cultured lab-grown burger meat continues to build on the advance announced in 2013 and is currently projected to decline from $300,000 down to $65 per kilogram

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

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

9. Measuring Memory, Improving Memory, and Altering Neuronal Firing
Electrodes implanted into rat brains and measuring activity from place cells in the hippocampus suggest that there are definite gaps in certain types of normal memory, far from the smooth flow that typically characterises memory A new type of transcranial direct current stimulation known as transcranial pulsed current stimulation appears to boost neuronal excitability and muscle skill acquisition while transcranial magnetic stimulation appears to show good results in dampening neuronal excitability and associated tinnitus symptoms

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

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A Very exciting development.

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The first 3 articles and #6 are  particularly exciting for people interested in neurons, memory, and the central nervous system. The rest of the articles are, as they say, icing on the cake. As always a big H/T to +Mark Bruce for his stellar ScienceSundayDigest!
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 18/2015.
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Whole brain staining, Chemogenic neural switching, Neuronal secrets, Single electron radio, Remote immersive telepresence, Aural parsing machines, Novel materials scaleup, Self-guided bullets, Logistical automation robots, New visual prosthesis. 

1. Whole-Brain Staining for Whole-Brain Mapping
A complex new brain-staining method called BROPA is the first of its kind able to stain an entire brain including all neurons and synaptic connections This now raises the distinct possibility of using the now-standard block-face scanning electron microscope technique to image an entire brain, slice by slice, and stitch these images together into a complete brain connectome map. Until now brain-staining techniques have only been useful for small sections of brain tissue, which could be scanned to produce connectomes but piecing these together into whole-brain maps was infeasible. So far the technique has only been demonstrated for mouse brains and the group plan to produce a complete mouse connectome comprising 40 petabytes, but it is yet to be seen if the technique can scale to human level.

2. Chemogenic Switching of Neurons
A newly developed chemogenic technique allows neurons to be controllably switched on and off The chemogenic technique essentially represents an improved DREADD technology ( in which neural cell-wall receptors were modified and engineered to be sensitive to specific synthetic molecules or drugs. Subsequently, these receptors - and the firing of the neurons they adorn - could be activated or deactivated by adding or removing the synthetic molecule from the animal’s system, and in this case two different receptors were introduced to mature mice via viral-administered gene therapies. In different tests both voracious feeding and drug addiction behaviour could be switched on and off at will.

3. A Duo of Fundamental Neuron Function Discoveries
The first of these sheds new light on exactly how neurons form connections and memories at the molecular and cellular level; a specific signalling protein called Asef2 that actively promotes synapse formation by promoting outgrowths of actin from the neual cytoskeleton - its lack can lead to a range of disorders. The second shows that neurons make methylation alterations to their DNA on a regular and on-going basis; this is believed to be important for maintaining consistent synaptic signalling activity by modulating the activity of key signalling proteins. 

4. Detecting Radio Waves from a Single Electron
For the first time radio waves have been detected from a single spinning electron via new ultra-sensitive experimental techniques that involve trapping single electrons ejected by radioactive samples in cusomised wave-guides. As cool as this is the group ultimately hope to use the technique to perform the most accurate measurements to date for determining the mass of a neutrino. I wonder about the reverse: using a similar setup to influence and control a single electron . . . or a neutrino. 

5. Towards True Immersive Telepresence
An Oculus-linked robotic system is edging towards the first true immersive remote telepresence system in which a user can wear a VR headset and receive binocular video input from a distant, remote robotic system that mimics the movement of the users body and head The key to maintaining the feeling of immersion and presence in the remote location is minimal and unnoticeable lag between you moving your head, the robot moving its “head” in exactly the same way, and an updated video feed from the cameras arriving on the headset. 20ms lag is not perceptible and 60ms is considered an upper limit; the group currently have 70ms but hopes to drop this in the near future. 

6. Deep Learning and Aural Parsing
Software arising from deep neural networks has now been demonstrated able to separate human voices from background noise in a wide range of songs (often referred to as the cocktail party problem after the ease with which humans can do the same) The promise here isn’t just a next-gen karaoke machine able to remove the vocals from any and all songs of choice. This should also help make better hearing aids, bluetooth headsets, video transcripts, and other applications we haven’t thought of yet. 

7. Scaling-Up Novel Materials: Semiconductors & Metallic Glass
A couple of interesting scale-up advances this week. First, a new fabrication technique called metal organic chemical vapour deposition can successfully produce wafer-scale atomically-thin (3 atoms) films of molybdenum disulfide or tungsten diselenide for high-performance semiconductor applications Second, a new manufacturing process allows spinel (magnesium aluminate) to be produced in sheets up to 30 inches wide; spinel is a transparent mineral that is much tougher, stronger, and harder than glass - think display screens, camera lenses, building and car windows, etc. 

8. The Latest Self-Guided Bullets from DARPA
DARPA’s new EXACTO bullet is a self-guided 0.50 caliber round that can adjust its trajectory mid-flight In the demonstration video you can see the bullet not only move to allow a trained sniper to hit a moving target, and not only move to allow a novice shooter to hit a moving target but, indeed to move and swerve mid flight to hit a target that starts moving after the bullet has been fired. I’m just imagining swarms of military drones that shoot and never miss. 

9. Another Industrial Automation Entrant
This week Fetch Robotics announced a duo of new robots called Fetch and Freight to tackle the logistics market The duo are intended to form a team in a warehouse, with the slower Fetch and its mobile manipulator shelf-picking arm confined to zones, and Freight a faster smaller unit zipping around between Fetches and a loading point. It’s good to see competition heating up in this space with the likes of Kiva and to a lesser extent ReThink for example. I also can’t resist a call-out to Stanford’s microtug robots able to 2,000 times their weight via novel controllable adhesive technology

10. A Vision Implant Powered by Light
A company called Pixium Vision is launching a new visual prosthetic that is powered by light and enables the blind to see The core of the system is based on a small chip that is implanted behind the retina and which includes pixels that have both a photodiode and retina-stimulating electrode; the person wears video glasses that capture the view in front of them and convert this into an infrared version that is beamed into the persons eyes which serves to both provide power and stimulate the retina. Tests in rats confirm restoration of 20/250 vision and they hope to soon achieve 10/120, below the limit of legal blindness. 

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Thanks +Mark Bruce  for another excellent edition of ScienceSundayDigest.
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 17/2015.
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Human embryo CRISPR, More accurate CRISPR, Programmable DNA photonics, DNA logic gates, Multifunctional neural probes, MRI Temporal boost, Protein structure algorithms, Emotionally aware machines, Invisible perceptual illusions, Single molecule switches. 

1. CRISPR to Modify Human Embryos
Biggest news of the week goes to the Chinese team who used CRISPR methods to produce genetically modified human embryos The group used non-viable (extra chromosomes), pre-implantation embryos from local fertility clinics and used CRISPR-Cas9 to edit and replace a defective ß-thalassemia gene that typically causes a blood disorder. The group achieve low conversion rates and noted a large number of off-target mutations that resulted. However, several commentators noted that the group used an older version of CRISPR (newer versions are far more accurate) and these non-viable cells are probably not an optimal model. 

2. Engineering Even Greater Accuracy into CRISPR
In closely related news newer, accurate versions of CRISPR have been made 25-times even more accurate The new CRISPR is depended on a specific molecule to be active, which is provided to the cells of interest for a relatively short period of time, and so ensures that the CRISPR system is only active for a short period of time. This severely limits the chances of off-target modifications. This work builds on prior studies to create CRISPR systems that require longer (and hence more specific) genetic sequences to recognise and seeks to more subtly alter the cellular equilibrium dynamics of CRISPR-Cas9 enzymes. The team predict that further improvements will lead to CRISPR systems that induce chance mutations at a rate below the level of natural chance mutations that the cell produces on a daily basis anyway. 

3. Programmable Matter with DNA Origami
A new modification to self-assembled DNA origami technology delivers the ability to create programmable, tunable fluorescent arrays This is achieved via two parts, (i) generating DNA nanotubes with defined positioning sites; in this case with spacings of 7nm, and (ii) generating silver nanoclusters bound to complementary DNA strands that bind the nanoclusters to the nanotube. The nanoclusters all have the same number of atoms and depending on the preparation and binding of DNA the number of atoms can be controlled to produce clusters tuned to fluoresce at different wavelengths of light, from green-blue to infrared.

4. Fuzzy & Boolean Logic Gates Made of DNA
In related news self-assembled DNA origami structures have been demonstrated that can sense two environmental signals (different oligonucleotides and miRNAs) and produce fluorescent outputs corresponding to Boolean logic gates AND, NAND, OR, NOR, XOR, NXOR There are a few different labs pursuing DNA computation in this way and good to see competition heating up. Possible applications for this particular embodiment include programmed biosensors that enter cells and only deliver a lethal drug payload if they successfully detect one or more cancer biomarkers for example. 

5. Multifunctional Neural Probes for Interfacing the Brain
Neural probes are becoming increasingly sophisticated as evidenced by these fibers and probes that are able to carry light, sense-collect-and-transmit electricity, and also deliver drugs Such fibers can both stimulate the brain in various ways and also record the resulting activity and allows researchers to controllably alter activity in different ways to see what the effect is. The fabrication process for the probes is quite innovative and involves forming different polymers in the desired pattern and then extruding and shrinking these into tiny fibers. 

6. Boosting Temporal Resolution for MRI
Recent advances in MRI technology provide a boost in temporal resolution that allows image capture at 100 frames per second - this can facilitate for example the detailed capture of the complex anatomical coordination that is necessary for a person to sing Such dynamic real-time recordings offering both high spatial and temporal resolution hasn’t been possible until now, and in this application offers new insights into the complex dynamics of the neuromuscular system and larynx in order to better understand changes that occur due to various influences such as aging and disease. 

7. Improved Algorithms for Generating 3D Structures from 2D Images
A new image-processing algorithm results in a 100,000-fold speedup in determining 3D structures for proteins from sets of 2D images The technique utilises (i) electron cryomicroscopy in which a purified protein solution is is frozen into a thin-film one molecule thick, and (ii) transmission electron microscopy in which the film is bombarded with electrons and those that pass through generate images or “shadowgrams” of the molecules in the film. The molecule structure is unknown and orientation is random. Generating the 3D structure from up to 200,000 images used to take two weeks on 300 cores, but now can be done in under 24 hours on a single workstation. 

8. Adapting to Machines that Know How You Feel
Wired had a good piece this week covering Affectiva and the coming ubiquity of computers that know and can respond to your emotional state Affectiva is offering its system to developers to help create a broad range of applications predominantly (for now) based on determining fine emotional nuances on faces. The promise here includes dynamic entertainment that responds to your emotions to give you a different experience to someone with different emotions, assisting those with emotion-identification handicaps to better understand people, automatically determine the emotional content of video, assist wearers of HUDs to determine a person’s emotion they may be trying to hide, targeting advertising to people based on their emotional state, and many many others.

9. The Perceptual Illusion of an Invisible Body
An interesting new psychological experiment explores the perceptual illusion on participants of having an invisible body Participants were instructed to look downwards as they wore a stereoscopic head mounted display, which received video input from a pair of binocular cameras that were pointed downwards towards the floor. A researcher then simultaneously touched the person’s body with a brush while touching the corresponding areas in empty space under the cameras with another brush. In less than a minute most people had altered body-maps and perceived the brush-touching-empty-air as actually touching themselves, and this was confirmed via measured stress response when a surprise knife was thrust into the same spot of empty space. I’m always fascinated by how easily malleable our sense of embodiment is. 

10. Towards Single Molecule Switches
A new candidate molecule approximately 3nm in size has been demonstrated to function as a single-molecule electronic switch The molecule possesses two stable states, one of which is an insulator and the other a conductor. The group was able to successfully switch the molecule into the “on” conductive state via light, which allowed current to flow between the two nanowire electrodes it was connected to. They can’t yet switch the molecule back to the “off” insulating state but are confident of achieving this in future.

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A great, comprehensive list of websites offering free services. Worth checking out.
H/T +Peter Vogel 

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Thanks +Mark Bruce for another scintillating week of science!
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 12/2015.
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Consciousness is global, CLIP 3D printing, Neuromorphic optical computing, Silicon photonic switches, DNA molecular transport, Magnetised graphene, More drone advances, Robotic arms, Targeted nucleic acids, Nanoparticles click. 

1. Network Theory and Global Consciousness.
Recent brain imaging studies strongly suggest that consciousness, our rich conscious experience, is indeed a global rather than local phenomenon in the brain Network or graph theory was used in this case to examine the links between various parts of the brain that were related to conscious awareness; in this case subjects reported when they were aware of a small disk flashed briefly on a screen while an fMRI scanner imaged the activity of their brains. The data suggested that the whole of the brain became more functionally connected following reports of awareness. This would also appear to provide experimental support for Tononi’s Integrate Information Theory of Consciousness. 

2. CLIP Optical 3D Printing Technology.
If you missed this one this week you were living under a rock - everyone was sharing and watching the amazing new 3D printing technology unveiled by Carbon3D this week CLIP stands for Continuous Liquid Interface Production and involves the use of a projector to programmably solidify discrete regions of a UV-curable liquid resin as the growing part is pulled out of the resin bath. This is forming solid structures in three dimensions continuously, without a print-head, and is 25x to 100x faster than conventional approaches on the market. A potentially transformative technological evolution, only now emerging from stealth-mode after heavy venture backing. Oh, and it does 1 micron resolution too; be sure to watch the videos if you haven’t already. In related news commercial interests develop open-source algorithms for better 3D printing

3. Brain-Like Computing with Light.
Microofibers produced from chalcogenide glasses possess a range of optical properties that allow them to be used to replicate a range of equivalent neuron and brain functions and signal protocols These can be thought of as photonic neurons that might one day enabled neuromorphic hardware with ultrafast signal transmission speeds, higher bandwidth and lower power consumption than their biological and electronic counterparts. The paper concluded: “we implemented an optical axon in an amorphous metal-sulphide microfiber that enables photonic synapses to perform analogues of fundamental neurophysiological functions of the mammalian central nervous system.” 

4. Large-Scale Silicon Photonic Switches.
In related photonics news the largest-ever silicon photonic switch has been developed, which enables higher bandwidth and lower energy losses Previous photonic switches incorporated just 64 switching elements but the new design manages 2,500 and 10k should be feasible. Existing architectures would never be able to scale to this level due to optical losses, but the new architecture circumvents this problem by incorporating new MEMS switching element that can switch states 1,000 times faster than existing MEMS switches. Applications include computing, networking, data transmission and routing. 

5. Tethered DNA Origami for Molecular Transport.
Advancing on the work of DNA origami “walkers” to transport molecular cargo across a surface this latest work simplifies and accelerates the process by using a tethered DNA origami molecule that is free to swing around and facilitate rapid molecular transport across surfaces in conjunction with natural diffusions processes The concept here is to use partial compartmentalisation that is able to rectify and utilise brownian motion to advantage, and the embodiment was a 30nm atomically-precise DNA arm swinging a molecular cargo around on a 90nm x 60nm platform.  Future hurdles to overcome include interfacing with the outside world and other applications include structured DNA sensing and computing arrays. 

6. The Benefits of Magnetised Graphene.
A simple and robust method for magnetising graphene with hydrogen has been developed The magnetism can be controlled by adding or limiting the amount of hydrogenation, and a commercial electron-beam process can then etch away hydrogen to produce precisely defined magnetic patterns on the graphene. Applications include magnetic data storage of course, but it will be quite a stretch to see if they can actually achieve the million-fold improvement over current hard drives that they claim as “possible”. Tightly packed magnetic graphene might also make for much more powerful permanent magnets and this would also be worth exploring. In related news graphene quantum dots get better

7. More Drone Advancements.
A few of interesting drone developments this week. First, drones can now be used to build high-resolution 3D scans of landmarks and larger areas, and as drone traffic and capabilities increase this might lead to high resultion 3D maps of the entire planet. Second, a new hybrid gas-electric drone has 13 times the range of a battery electric drone, with a flight time of 2.5 hours and a range of 100 miles, which is pretty damn amazing when you think about it. Finally, leading on from last week’s cockroaches, other researchers are flying beetles via remote control

8. Easy-to-Program Robotic Arms Take Another Step.
A couple of important robot arm advances this week. First, Universal Robotics launched its new UR3 robotic arm in three different sizes This is an easy to program multi-articulated robotic arm for a wide range of repetitive tasks that is safe to work near humans. Rethink Robotics also followed up its previous Baxter robot by launching the new Sawyer Robot which is again an easy to program multi-articulated robotic arm (unlike Baxter’s two) that incorporates a range of improvements to make it smaller, faster, stronger, and more precise It’s great to see competition heating up in this area and ongoing technical improvements delivering ever-better robotic capabilities. 

9. Targeted Nucleic Acid Drugs.
Nanoparticles (of gold or lipid in this case) that are coated with 100+ strands of DNA of specific sequence have been termed “spherical nucleic acids” and recently demonstrated very effective immunomodulatory properties The DNA is designed to target different cell receptors and in the this “spherical” form proves to be one of the most simple, efficient, and potent immunomodulators to be developed, with significant promise against cancer and autoimmune disorders. And also this week we had specific microRNAs being used in tissue regeneration, effectively - and temporarily - boosting cell proliferation to take the place of damaged tissue

10. Nanoparticulate Click Chemistry.
A tough choice for number ten this week, but I went with the deceptively simple and innocuous click chemistry technique developed for easily and controllably joining nanoparticles together and to other surfaces Click-chemistries are usually used to precisely control the chemical connection of one molecule to another as part of a defined synthetic step, but in this work the concept was adapted to nanoparticles and allowing the quick and permanent bonding of nanoparticles together and to solid substrates. Think ordered arrays of different nanoparticles, even quantum dots, in defined patterns working to perform some function. 

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 Some amazing pictures with informative captions.

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This was a particularly exciting week of science stories. From printable skin sensors to biomolecular quantum criticality, just a lot of mind blowing science stories. As always a big hi and thank you to +Mark Bruce  our intrepid editor of this fine blog.
SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 10/2015.
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Virtual simulated mouse, Mind controlled flight, Tensegrity robot, Amazing drones, Printable skin sensors, Biological quantum criticality, Conducting microbial nanowires, CRISPR germline engineering, Quantum error correction, Graphene. 

1. Simulated Mouse Brain in Virtual Mouse Body
A new neurorobotics platform developed by the Human Brain Project involves a single simulation that houses both a model mouse brain and model mouse body that interact with each other To build the virtual mouse brain the team integrated data from the Allen Brain Institute and the Blue Brain Project, which included the positions of the 75 million neurons in a mouse brain plus neuron shapes, sizes, and connectivity patterns, and mapped this to different parts of the mouse body. This is a prototype of course, a simplified version with just 200,000 neurons, but still very exciting to see such a platform demonstrated and especially to see it develop into the future. 

2. Intimate Mind Control Over Plane Flight
A woman with electrodes implanted into her brain who previously demonstrated the ability to control a robotic arm by thinking, has now demonstrated the ability to fly a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter simulator with her thoughts The team claims an important distinction: in this case the woman wasn’t thinking about controlling a joystick or robotic arm, but rather more naturally thinking about controlling the plan directly, in a seemingly far more intuitive fashion. If true this marks a fairly significant development for seamless brain computer interfaces. 

3. A Whole Bunch of Freaking Amazing Robots & Drones
First, check out this amazing tensegrity robot developed by NASA, called the Super Ball Bot, and consisting of an array of rods connected by an array of cables Check out the video; this thing looks ungainly but comes with a range of design benefits and I’ve been waiting to see more tensegrity principles incorporated into robotics for a while now. The latest robotics Video Friday is also a gem, with my favourites being first-person-view drone racing crashes, “weaponised” drone dog fights, robotic Oculus Rift surrogate telepresence, and the Taurus II telepresence manipulation system. 

4. More Drones: Bug Vision & Object Tracking
Leading on from some of the cool drone demonstration videos of existing capabilities in the last item I couldn’t help but include some new drone technological developments from this week. First, the development and demonstration of drones with biomimetic insect vision capable of autonomous navigation without on-board inertial control systems; the system is powered by optic-flow sensors that measure changes in the surrounding environment. Second, Perceptiv’s Shift technology represents a new level in autonomous drone autopilot capabilities for easy-to-use and seamless tracking of moving objects and smooth, stabilised video recording; the team is working on advanced object-sense-and-avoid technology. Be sure to check out the video. 

5. Printable Skin Sensors
New conductive bio-inks have been developed that can be applied with an ordinary pen to create sensors on a variety of surfaces including human skin and leaves, and which can measure the presence of different molecules Using fairly standard materials, in the demonstrations so far the inks could measure glucose beneath the skin and pollutants on leaves provided a reading device is brought in contact with the sensor. In related news a new flexible sensor material has been developed called iSkin intended for people to wear as multi-purpose customisable computer touch interfaces

6. The Edge of Conduction: Quantum Criticality in Biological Molecules
A new discovery seems to show that most biomolecules are quantum critical conductors whose electronic properties are precisely tuned to the transition point between a metal and an insulator The electronic states of these molecules are balanced between conduction and insulation and typified by unpredictable currents that flow in avalanches whose size can vary significantly. The insight was enabled by new molecular measurement and modelling tools able to analyse the charge and energy distribution, which revealed that a few biomolecules are conductors and a few are insulators but the vast majority are quantum critical conductors, which was a significant surprise, considered statistically very unlikely and implying that these properties were selected by evolution. A fascinating result and implications. 

7. Conducting Microbial Nanowires
In news perhaps related to biological quantum criticality we have the latest experimental evidence suggesting that protein-based microbial nanowires do indeed possess metal-like conductivity There has been a lot of debate over the last few years whether this is indeed the case. But if this is indeed true then the promise is that these protein-based conductive nanowires are now a tool that might be added and engineered into other cells in order to perform useful functions for example, converting chemical energy into electricity, using electricity to power related or re-engineered enzymes such as artificial photosynthesis, and interfacing with our electronic technologies and devices. 

8. Riding the Slope Towards Germline Engineering
This week we had a fascinating article exploring the rise of CRISPR technology and the fact that it is the easiest germline engineering tool we have ever developed Germline engineering refers to altering the genetic material that will develop into an embryo and subsequent human baby, whether for purposes of fixing disease-causing mutated genes, or for making genetic enhancements. This is already being done in animals, will soon be done in monkeys, and is a matter of when not if it will be done in humans, and could well form a standard part of IVF procedures; a number of companies are already pursuing opportunities in this space that are already tinkering with human egg cells. Personally, I believe we have a moral obligation to correct disease-causing genes for new people if it is possible to do so, and I support the pursuit of human enhancement using these technologies for a range of reasons within certain constraints. 

9. Google’s Quantum Computing Error Correction
Research supported by Google has resulted in the development of the ability to program qubits to detect certain types of quantum error and prevent these errors from ruining a quantum calculation The proof-of-concept only used nine qubits, but successfully demonstrated the ability to monitor and prevent bit-flip errors (a 1 flips to a 0) caused by environmental noise from contaminating the calculation. Future work will focus on other errors caused by environmental noise such as phase alterations and also demonstrate error correction larger arrays of qubits. 

10. Some Interesting Graphene Developments
First, graphene nanoribbons formed into a three dimensional aerogels turn out to be excellent catalysts for fuel cells Second, when graphene is stretched or strained, external electric and magnetic fields can precisely control and switch the movement of electrons that exhibit almost photon-like behaviour in graphene Third, graphene seems to form one of the most efficient thermionic energy conversion materials ever discovered, in which a heat source evaporates electrons that are collected on a condenser anode Finally, modified buckminsterfullerene might produce high-energy buckybomb explosive materials

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