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Samuel Holmes
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In the continuing saga of "News stories that I would never have believed if you told me they were going to happen when I was a kid," there are multiple reports at this point that the FBI has gotten (former National Security Adviser) Michael Flynn to flip and turn state's evidence. (Flynn, through a spokesperson, has declined to comment)

If so, this is a very big deal – Flynn was reportedly in the room for quite a few of the more interesting meetings which Abramson was providing details about yesterday.

Even more crazily, there was this story from the WSJ yesterday, in which it appears that while serving as an advisor to Trump's campaign, Flynn was in a meeting with top Turkish government ministers, where the subject was a plot to kidnap Turkish cleric Fetullah Gülen, who now lives in Pennsylvania, and spirit him out of the country to hand him over to Turkish president Erdogan, who views him as his chief political foe. (Erdogan has blamed Gülen for the attempted coup against him last year, although the evidence for this is scanty to say the least; tens of thousands have been arrested there on claims they are linked to him)

This was admitted by the former director of the CIA, who was also at the meeting and says he thought the entire idea was batshit crazy. Flynn has denied this through a spokesman, but he has recently admitted that he was working for the Turkish government at the time (!) and has retroactively filed his status as a foreign agent, indicating a salary of over $500k for his work. He is also under separate investigation by the Army as to whether he received illegal payments from the Russian government in 2015. (

So just to make this news story clear: a retired three-star general, while simultaneously working on a Presidential campaign and as a well-paid agent of the Turkish government, was in meetings with senior Turkish officials about (completely illegally) kidnapping Turkish-Americans seen as enemies of the regime. He was also meeting with the Russian ambassador and (very possibly illegally) negotiating to lift sanctions on Russia if Trump was elected, and is currently under investigation as to whether he was a paid (but illegally undeclared) Russian agent at the time as well. (The payments are not in question; the question is whether, as they were made via RT, which is not officially a government agency, they make him a Russian agent or not.) He definitely lied to investigators about said meetings, which was caught on wiretaps (presumably of the Russian ambassador), and the revelation of that led to his resignation as National Security Advisor after only 24 days.

On top of all this, he may have been present at the "Mayflower Meetings" between Trump and senior Russian figures, with several senior Trump aides (including Sessions, Kushner, and Manafort) present as well, at which deals involving large sums of money (e.g. 0.5% of Rosneft), illegal campaign assistance (e.g. leaking DNC documents hacked by the FSB, SVR, and GRU), and changing US policy around Russian oil interests were all being discussed.

Absolutely confirmed out of this is Flynn's work as a Turkish agent (he's admitted this and filed the forms), his covert meetings with the Russian ambassador (wiretap evidence, his resignation), and his receipt of payments from the Russian government. Highly likely is the Turkish kidnapping meeting (testimony of Woolsey). Arguable in court is that the Russian payments make him an unregistered Russian agent as well as a Turkish one. Reported but not yet confirmed are the contents of the Mayflower Meetings and that Flynn has turned state's evidence. If the latter is true, then the former may soon be explained in great detail to investigators.

Just let this sink in for a moment. We already know for sure that a retired three-star Army general, who served for three weeks as National Security Advisor before being forced to resign, was a paid agent of at least one, and probably two, other governments, engaging in negotiations which range from the "somewhat illegal" (hacking, campaign collusion) to the "holy shit illegal" (kidnapping). And the fact that it's even a possibility that he flip can only mean that the investigators have even bigger fish in their sights.

There aren't many bigger fish than the National Security Advisor.

This is just getting surreal.

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Glamping in Bordeaux!

You've got to be a bit different just to call your business 'Noise in the Fridge' but here is some real 'out there' thinking...

To encourage hikers to rediscover Bordeaux, 13 very different, very amazing 'tents' are being built around the city perimeter. We've put together an album of 36 images showing the first four in the series. You can view it now on our site!

BTW - if you don't share your thoughts, how will we know if we're posting the things you want?

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SciTech Digest - 11/2017.
Abridged due to an exceptionally busy week.

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Synthetic yeast 2.0, Human CRISPR editing, Automated gene therapy, Mitochondria delivery, Synthetic DNA robot, Molecular switches, Single-atom magnet, Baidu speech synthesiser, Metamaterial radar imaging, Magnetic Mars shield.

1. Synthetic Yeast 2.0 Project
The Synthetic Yeast 2.0 project has produced the first fully designed, partially synthesised, made-from-scratch eukaryotic genome, building on synthetic bacteria work and offering a range of industrial applications

2. CRISPR Edits Human Embryos
CRISPR has been used to edit and correct the mutations in the cells of viable human embryos, correcting the genetic disease beta-thalassemia for example

3. Cheaper Automated Gene Therapy
A new device called Prodigy automates the gene therapy process to genetically alter a patient’s cells - to treat disease or target cancer - before being collected and introduced back into the patient’s body much quicker and cheaper than manual techniques

4. Mitochondria Delivery as Therapy
Proof-of-concept experiments show that healthy mitochondria can be delivered into different cells types in animals to provide healthy replacements for defective mitochondria, and combined with other methods for targeting and destroying defective mitochondria might provide an early stage rejuvenation therapy

5. Synthetic DNA Robot
A DNA-powered micro-robot combines 27 molecular components inside a fluid vesicle and including membrane proteins bound to tags that can reversibly link to specific DNA sequences that in turn bind tags linked to microtubule proteins; when the DNA is activated a cytoskeleton forms that can deform in a cell-like manner A platform that might be loaded with sensors, drugs, or other tools.

6. Molecular Switches
First, a single molecule switch has been demonstrated, a molecular tripod bound to surfaces supporting a molecular “cantilever” that can be reversibly switched into two different states mechanically and electrically Second, light-driven molecular crystal motors have also been demonstrated

7. Single-Atom Magnet
The smallest magnet ever produced - a single atom - has been demonstrated and used to store and retrieve a single bit of data

8. Baidu’s Synthetic Speech
Baidu has demonstrated a deep learning system called Deep Voice that functions as a text-to-speech system that can learn to talk in a few hours with little to no human interference This is an improvement on DeepMind’s WaveNet system.

9. 3D Radar Imaging with Metamaterials
A new metamaterial has been formed into a dynamic metasurface that functions as an antenna at radio wavelengths that can be used exert a range of precise controls over radio beams for much higher-resolution, cheaper, quicker 3D radar imaging and jamming applications Achieving this for shorter wavelengths would be transformative.

10. Magnetic Shield for Mars
An interesting proposal suggests that placing a 2 Tesla magnet at Mars’ lagrange point would shield the planet from the Sun’s solar wind and allow the atmosphere to thicken over time, greatly assisting any terraforming efforts

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SciTech Digest - 10/2017.
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Handle the robot, Thawing cryopreserved organs, Complex nanoparticle crystals, Engineering a supersolid, 3D printed blood vessels, Nucleoskeleton structure, Machine learning earthquakes, DNA computing, Custom photoacoustics, 3D fog printing.

1. Boston Dynamics’ Handle
The most impressive demonstration of the week was undoubtedly Boston Dynamic’s Handle robot, a bipedal wheeled robot that attempts to make the best of both fixed limbs and wheels The videos of Handle scooting, falling, and jumping up onto tables while in motion really do have to be seen. It can carry 45kgs and has a range of 24km. “Simply” providing bipedal robots with wheeled feet offers a much larger range of locomotive abilities and flexibility in navigating variable terrain at reduced energy cost.

2. Thawing Cryopreserved Organs
A new approach to rewarming frozen tissues involves first adding silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles into solution to circulate through the tissues before being cryogenically frozen - when the tissue needs to be thawed it is placed in an external magnetic field that heats up the nanoparticles to generate uniform heat throughout the sample This appeared to avoid the tissue damage that can result from conventional warming and thawing. If it could be combined with a technique to freeze the tissue without ice crystal damage then cryogenic preservation takes a big step forward.

3. Complex Nanoparticle Crystal Designs
The most complex nanoparticle crystals ever produced have been created via DNA mediated self-assembly processes In this demonstration gold nanoparticle bipyramids complex crystal structures known as clathrates thanks to DNA sequences attached to their sides that direct the assembly process into an ordered geometric arrangement. Applications might include control of light, pollution capture, drug delivery - and really a whole range of new materials applications depending on the type of nanoparticles used.

4. Supersolid Created for First Time
Beginning with a Bose-Einstein condensate of sodium atoms researchers were able to use precise lasers to manipulate the motion and spin of the atoms to essentially create a mixture two Bose-Einstein condensates coupled one to the other, which realised the first ever supersolid state of matter This appears to be an elegant reduction to practice of pre-existing theory and hypotheses the predicted this state of matter. Of course, this doesn’t explain the mind-bending nature of this quantum state of matter, that of a solid that flows without viscosity.

5. Better 3D Printed Blood Vessels
In a step towards solving one of the biggest challenges in tissue and solid organ engineering, functional vasculature, biomimetic blood vessel networks have now been 3D printed The 3D printed vasculature network can integrate with the body’s own blood vessels to circulate blood, and the printed structures follow similar design principles by branching out from larger to many smaller vessels like capillaries. The custom 3D printing process uses UV light to cure or set a polymer solution into a desired, patterned polymer scaffold that encapsulates live cells that grow to become biological endothelial tissue, and animal tests in mice confirmed the structures and blood flow integrate with and merge successfully with the existing blood supply.

6. Nucleoskeleton Structure Revealed for First Time
3D electron microscopy has revealed the precise architecture of the lamina support for the nuclear wall at molecular resolution for the first time This molecular scaffold stabilises the cell nucleus and defects are often characteristic of certain diseases. Just beneath the nuclear membrane that houses the protein pores for shuttling molecules in and out of the nucleus lies the 14nm thick lamina and its delicate mesh network of 3.5nm thick laminin filaments that help stabilise the nuclear membrane and also contribute to structural and regulatory processes that control the cell’s DNA.

7. Machine Learning Attempts Earthquake Prediction
A new machine learning algorithm is able to predict that a laboratory earthquake to give way by listening to the sounds it emits under strain While the model laboratory system has many similarities to real-world fault lines, including the same size distribution of small and large slips, how it makes such accurate predictions is not known to the group that developed it and importantly real-world experiments need to be conducted before anyone can claim that the technique should be used in quake forecasting. In related news neural networks promise to produce the sharpest ever astronomical images

8. DNA Computing
There were a couple of interesting advances in DNA computing this week. First, a new method to encode digital data in DNA sequences has produces the highest-ever large-scale data storage scheme ever invented, and capable in theory of storing 215 petabytes per gram of DNA Second, there is an interesting proposal for building a non-deterministic universal turing machine out of DNA that might provide an exponential speed boost over electronic and quantum computers, essentially replicating DNA and growing to process ever more paths and greater equivalent computational output for certain problems

9. Photoacoustic Ultrasound from Light
New 3D printed structures with specifically-designed surface profiles function as precise photoacoustic conversion interfaces - when a pulse of light strikes the material it is absorbed and produces a precisely shaped sound wave in response By tailoring the surface a sound wave of nearly any shape can be produced in response. An algorithm developed by the group can take a desired sound shape and produce the 3D surface structure necessary to produce it; applications include acoustic tweezers and channels for sample analysis.

10. 3D Printing with Nanoparticle Fog
A new 3D printing method employs a fog of microdroplets that contain silver nanoparticles that, as the liquid fog is evaporated, remain behind to be deposited at specific locations in order to build up complex delicate structures While silver was used in the proof-of-concept almost any nanoparticle could be used in the same way. A range of microscaffolds were engineered that might be used as porous anodes and cathodes for batteries, electronic interconnects, and perhaps biomaterials for implantation.

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SciTech Digest - 09/2017.
Abridged this week due to becoming a father for the first time!

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Better optogenetic devices, Autophagy booster, Room temp superconductors, Engineering casimir forces, DeepMind PathNet, BCI thought typing, CRISPR 2.0, Transcription epigenetics, Cellular atlases, Clever drones.

1. Three-in-One Optogenetic Fibers
One device for delivering genetic changes to neurons and optical and electrical inputs and outputs

2. Drug Boosts Autophagy
New drug functions as an autophagy enhancer to better clear metabolic wastes and aging damage

3. Room Temperature Superconducting Cuprates
New models predict cuprates will superconduct at room temperature if the positioning of dopants is atomically precise

4. Nanostructures Engineer Casimir Forces
Surfaces with engineered silicon nanostructures can measure the Casimir forces between them and can generate non-monotonic forces and possibly repulsions

5. DeepMind’s PathNet
DeepMind demonstrates PathNet, a network of neural networks aiming to solve the Transfer Learning problem of neural network applications and in related news neural networks can synthetically age photos of faces

6. Accurate Typing with Brain-Computer-Interfaces
A new BCI allows paralysed patients to type at an average of eight words per minute

7. CRISPR 2.0
A good review article of the improvements and advances being made to make CRISPR better

8. Transcription Epigenetics
Studies in epigenetics have begun to reveal in detail how transcription products (mRNA) are often epigenetically tagged (in addition to the conventional DNA tags) to modify mRNA translation and reulation

9. Cellular Atlases
The Human Cell Atlas Project aims to produce detailed 3D virtual reality maps of tumours, organs, tissues, and perhaps the entire body that show the location of every cell type

10. Ever-Clever Drones
Drones are being engineered to better land on moving platforms and provided with flame throwers to potentiall clean debris from power lines

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SciTech Digest - 08/2017.
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MEMS AFM on-chip, Low power voice chip, Wireless power, LysoSENS development, Chiral carbon nanotubes, MOF molecular looms, Molecular biology of sleep, Electrical brain interfaces, DNA computer drugs, Printable solar cells.

1. On-chip MEMS AFM
A MEMS-based atomic force microscope has been created on a single chip complete with all of the sensors and components needed to control the device The one square centimeter sized device operates an oscillating cantilever that is moved across the surface of the sample to be imaged. While it might not have the sensitivity of a high-end laboratory system such a device should make entry-level AFM applications much cheaper and more widespread - a lot more people having access to and using an AFM can only be a good thing.

2. Low Power Voice Control Chip
A low power voice-control and speech recognition chip has been developed that achieves an energy saving of between 90% - 99%, effectively running speech-recognition software for between 0.2 - 10 milliwatts instead of the usual 1 watt that a phone uses Such low-powered capabilities are ideally suited to internet of things applications and low-power sensors and interfaces with embedded communications. The chip itself incorporates three different hardware implementations of neural networks of varying complexity.

3. Better Wireless Power Transfer
Disney research has demonstrated a quasistatic cavity resonance device for transferring power wirelessly to receivers in devices with 40% to 95% efficiency, and can transfer 1900 watts in this way safely I’ve covered several different technologies attempting to do similar wireless power transfer but this latest attempt appears to significantly improve the range, power, and efficiency. Again, a mature technology would be a key enabler of internet of things devices, sensors, and applications.

4. LysoSENS Moves Towards the Clinic
Ichor Therapeutics has demonstrated very promising results in cells for clearing types of lysosomal garbage and is now seeking to complete animal studies and move into a Phase 1 human clinical trial The therapy comes from bacterial enzymes that can break down certain types of lysosomal garbage, and which have also been modified to be targeted to the lysosomes of target cells. In this specific, niche case the therapy breaks down the garbage and removes the accumulated damage A2E metabolic waste aggregates in retinal cells that leads to different types of macular degeneration, and so represents a good, early, embryonic rejuvenation and anti-aging therapy.

5. Catalysts for Chiral Carbon Nanotubes
New work reveals that different carbon nanotube growth catalysts can preferentially form carbon nanotubes with different chiralities - the pattern of graphene hexagons around the tube that control metallic or semiconducting properties of the carbon nanotube Tungsten carbide produces semiconducting carbon nanotubes with 80% - 90% purity, while molybdenum carbide helps produce metallic carbon nanotubes. Meanwhile carbon nanotubes and graphene have been combined into functional 3D graphene rebar structures

6. Molecular Looms from MOFs
Metal Organic Framework materials are now being used to precisely position (four-armed in this case) monomer molecules that are then cross-linked in a precise array similar to two-dimensional polymer textiles This is a clever nanotechnology application for building precisely structured and formulated materials with near perfect atomic organisation. After formation the molecule-thick 2D polymer sheets are actually held together by the mechanical forces resulting from the weave pattern. A versatile platform for creating a wide variety of different, precise, 2D polymer sheets with customisable properties and structures at the atomic scale.

7. The Molecular Biology of Sleep
The molecular biology underpinning and controlling sleep is being further mapped out as part of a huge study in mice with the discovery of two new genes that play a key role in regulating sleep The first, Sik3, influences the total amount of sleep needed, while the second, Nalcn, influences the amount of REM dreaming sleep that is attained. This study took years and involved mutating the genes of thousands of mice and hooking them up to brainwave monitors while they slept. With these targets identified there is further scope to rationally design interventions able to modify sleep in humans.

8. Better Electrical Brain Interfaces
In just one week we had three different improved electronic brain interfaces announced. First, a new complementary metal oxide semiconductor nanoelectrode array can image and map the changing electrical signals within a large group of living cells Second, ultra-flexible nanoelectronic threads can act as reliable brain probes that enable scar-free integration for neural signal recording Finally, glassy-carbon electrodes transmit more robust signals to restore function in people with damaged spinal cords

9. DNA Computer Smart Drugs
A new DNA computer is able to process the presence and concentration of multiple specific antibodies in the body at once in order to diagnose particular disease states or see the paper In this process DNA strands are designed to bind to different antibodies, and when mixed with complementary reporter DNA sequences, these sequences only release the “signal” strand when those specific antibodies are present. These output signals are then processed by a range of DNA computer and logic elements to provide information on the nature of the disease that is present. I’m impressed by how sophisticated the DNA computing and health diagnostics platform is becoming.

10. Printable Perovskite Solar Cells
A new chemical reaction allows an electron-selective solar cell layer to be grown in solution out of nanoparticles directly on top of electrodes and that also incorporate perovskite solar-power ink, and at much lower temperatures than was previously possible. The solar cells created with this process in the lab demonstrated an energy efficiency of 20.1%. The promise of printable solar cells is being able to cheaply produce high-efficiency panels via established printing techniques or even custom-printing onto most desired surfaces.

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SciTech Digest - 07/2017.
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Nanoparticle selection screening, Forming helium compounds, Resilient brain implants, Chip based micro-organs, Reversed hall effect, Ostrich delivery bots, Millimeter computers, Deep learning protein structures, Mammalian gene drives, Acid powered pill.

1. Screening Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery
A new nanoparticle screening system helps to rapidly identify those nanoparticles that can best enter different tissues and organs in the body The technique first generates a family of nanoparticles that vary on some particular trait (PEG structure in this case), then tags each with specific DNA sequences that act as bar codes, then all particles are injected into the body, and samples from different parts of the body are finally sequenced to determine which nanoparticle composition was most effective in getting into which tissues. These lipid nanoparticles can then be loaded with DNA for gene therapy or RNA for gene regulation to preferentially target a specific tissue.

2. Helium Forms Compounds
Conventional chemistry dictates that helium cannot form stable compounds with other elements. A new study however shows that this isn’t the case under intense pressure, and helium can for example form stable compounds with sodium with the formula Na2He This result was completely unexpected, with the novel chemical bonding structures produced by these elements under these pressures fortuitously possessing the precise structural stability required to form the stable helium compound. An interesting scientific curiosity for now, we’ll have to wait and see if a family of different compounds can be formed in this manner and whether they may have any useful applications.

3. Practical, Resilient Brain Implants
Many invasive brain implants being trialled for advanced brain-computer interfaces to allow the patient to interact with their environment with machines just by thinking typically suffer declining performance due to implant degradation and scar tissue formation. A new implant avoids penetrating the brain and instead rests on the surface with an array of microscopic coils that control targeted magnetic fields to instead stimulate particular neural locations Monkey trials are planned next month in which the visual cortex will be stimulated to recreate activity normally generated by the eyes, which is ultimately aimed at using a camera to provide or enhance vision.

4. Micro-Organs on Chip
Standard 96-well plates have been used to create vascularised micro-organs in each well, with each miniature tissue being a much better model for reproducing human drug responses than earlier model systems The vascularisation and blood flow is key here, and in proof-of-concept work was shown to deliver nutrients to multiple tissues including heart, pancreas, brain, and different tumours. The platform proved itself as an effective drug screening tool for tumours. Linking these micro-tissues together would also provide an interesting tool for micro-human-on-a-chip in which multiple interconnected organs might be tested. In related news we have microfluidic chips that emulate human kidney function, and beating 3D heart tissue being created .

5. Metamaterial with Reversed Hall Coefficient
The Hally Effect is the occurrence of a transverse electric voltage across an electric conductor passed by current flow, if this conductor is located in a magnetic field, and can be negative or positive. In a nice experimental confirmation of theoretical predictions, a metamaterial with a positive Hall Effect coefficient has been created out of negative coefficient materials The geometry must be precise, resembling interlinked ring structures, and was created by 3D printing high-resolution polymer scaffolds and then coating with semiconducting zinc oxide; while the charge carriers remain negatively charged electrons the material responds as if they are positively charged. Further work will further develop different versions of the material and alter the direction of the response.

6. Cassie the Robot Delivery Ostrich
Agility Robots has developed Cassie, an agile bipedal robot intended for research, disaster relief, and package delivery Partially inspired by ostrich leg and locomotion dynamics, Cassie manages dirt, grass, wobbly docks, rain and other environmental challenges. It is intended as a platform on which to build a range of peripherals including sensor systems, arms, and other devices. In related robot news rethink robotics gets a major software upgrade for its Sawyer platform of assistive train-by-imitation robots, and DARPA has developed a novel platform for launching and landing larger drones

7. Millimeter Computers with Deep Learning
The latest version of micro-mote computers that measure just one cubic millimeter have been demonstrated that are intended to be tiny energy efficient computing sensors for internet of things applications Some designs now use only a few nanowatts of power, increased radio range to 20m from 50cm a year ago, embedded flash memory from 8KB to 1MB, and dedicated deep learning neural network processors. This has always been an interesting platform to follow, something that seems intent on birthing genuine smart “dust” in future.

8. Machine Learning Elucidates Protein Structures
In related machine learning news new algorithms are helping to quickly generate complete 3D structures of protein molecules This approach better utilises electron cryomicroscopy, which takes tens of thousands of low-resolution images of frozen protein samples from different positions, which is typically stitched together on a large computing cluster. This can take days or weeks and up to 500,000 CPU hours. The new system makes many structure determinations possible in minutes using a single personal GPU.

9. Mammalian Gene Drives for Pest Eradication
Building on work to develop gene drives in mosquitos, the technology has now been demonstrated in mice for the first time, in which the modified mice only ever produce male offspring and so would result in a crash of the local population if released into the wild The proposal under consideration is to repeat the feat in rats, and introduce animals to islands that have been overrun with mice and rats - considered an invasive pest that threaten native birds and fauna - and so drastically reduce numbers or eradicate the population completely. CRISPR was again used to engineer the modifications. Speaking of CRISPR a new genetic engineering platform called PfAgo that creates artificial restriction enzymes appears to surpass even CRISPR’s amazing capabilities in many areas

10. Acid Powered Pill
A pill-sized ingestible electronic device has been developed that can be powered by stomach acid and other environments with large pH differences This system can generate enough power without a battery to run small sensors or operate a drug delivery device over extended periods of time in the gastrointestinal tract. Inspired by the classic “lemon battery” the demonstrations of the device powered a temperature sensor and transfer data to a receiver two meters away every 12 seconds. Next steps will be further miniaturization and performance in lower pH areas further down the GI tract.

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SciTech Digest - 06/2017.
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Human proteome, Increased transgene expression, Mapping nanoparticle atoms, Radioisotope dating, Biomimicking bat robot, BCI for locked-in patients, Deep learning image processing, Immune system reconstruction, Microbial manufacturing, Aerogel consumer products.

1. Human Proteome Milestone
In a major milestone for the Proteome Tools component of the Human Proteome Project, 330,000 human peptides have now been synthesised to create a reference library representing all cananonical proteins from the human proteome The data is freely available to foster collaboration. Next steps in the project will comprise the continuing generation of an additional one million peptides, essentially variants corresponding to splice variants, mutations, and post-translational modifications such as phosphorylation, acetylation, and ubiquitination. The end-goal is a range of vastly better diagnostic tools and devices for improving patient health.

2. Increasing Transgene Expression 100-Fold
An adeno-associated viral vector has been used to deliver a new mini-intronic plasmid that can carry a gene of interest and significantly enhance the subsequent expression of this gene after it has been delivered into cells Experiments demonstrated that transgene expression in cells was between 40 and 100 times higher compared to conventional methods. Such enhanced gene expression and protein production for example, significantly reduces the dosing needed and the number of cells needed to be transformed in order to adequately achieve a minimum therapeutic response. This will be an interesting platform to watch for future gene therapies.

3. Determining the Location & Identity of all Atoms in a Nanoparticle
For the first time powerful electron microscopes have been used to map the identity and precise 3D location of each of 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle made of iron and platinum Despite generally being a genuine step for nanotechnology, determining that this particular nanoparticle had precisely 16,627 platinum atoms and 6,569 iron atoms, such detailed knowledge of materials at this scale better helps map material composition to material properties and will help provide ways to better engineer and analyse materials at this and higher scales.

4. Radioisotope Dating Flaws
Subtle flaws have been discovered in a common radioisotope dating technique in which the ratios of different strontium and rubidium isotopes are measured along with known decay rates to determine the age of formation of a particular rock formation or meteorite The group discovered that these isotopes are subject to differential mass diffusion through the rock they are embedded in, in which different isotopes will diffuse through the material at different rates depending on material composition; despite being a very slow process, over geological timescales the difference can impact measurements and thus dating accuracy. Important to note that this doesn’t apply to carbon dating. It’ll be interesting to follow this work to see how it is applied to generate more accurate dates, and how much difference there will be for the standard ages we currently apply to events from deep history.

5. Bat Robot Biomimicry
Work on flying bio-mimicking robots is getting increasingly complex and elegant with a newly demonstrated bat-robot A bat’s wings and flight surface actually has 40 degrees of freedom that allows a huge amount of aerial agility - replicating this in a robot is incredibly difficult. The bat-robot design includes 5 degrees of freedom that in theory can replicate 57% of bat maneuverability, and this is all enabled by a very thin, flexible, deformable membrane stretched over limbs that control various deformations as needed during flight.

6. BCI for Locked-In Patients
A non-invasive brain computer interface appears to have allowed patients with locked-in syndrome, who cannot even move their eyes to communicate, to respond to yes/no questions simply via thought Tests with a range of patients suffering from late-stage ALS revealed that the system was able to interpret correct responses about 70% of the time. This particular technique uses near-infrared spectroscopy combined with EEG measurements to determine the activity of particular parts of the brain.

7. Neural Network Image Processing Tricks
First, we have a neural network PaintsChainer tool that can take balck and white drawings and line art and automatically - and artistically - colour them in a dreamy watercolour / coloured pencil style The user can specify what colours to apply or simply allow the tool to decide for itself. Second, a neural network tool called PixelCNN can produce photo-realistic higher-resolution images from extremely low resolution starting images that might plausibly represent a great many different images This isn’t to say that the algorithm reproduces the original image, but just one that could pass for the original. Finally, deep learning software reported last week can also be used to diagnose cataracts as well as a human

8. Immune System Reconstruction for Autoimmunity
Recent clinical trials support efforts to treat autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis by destroying the existing population of immune cells and recreating them from the patient’s own blood-forming stem cells While incredibly promising for those suffering terrible and debilitating autoimmune diseases the future promise is in finding more selective methods to destroy these specific populations of cells and so enable poorly functioning immune systems for a wide range of disorders including disease and simple aging to be rebuilt to healthy, youthful functioning status.

9. Microbial Manufacturing
Manus Bio is developing genetically engineered microbes as well as manufacturing fermentation facilities to mass produce flavours, fragrances, and other specialty chemicals In many cases this entails extensive engineering to add complex metabolic pathways to bacteria, for example adding the natural biochemical pathway to cheaply produce the natural sweetener Reb M from the stevia plant, and producing the molecule with 95% purity. Other examples include the 17 step biochemical process for producing the pharmaceutical drug Taxol. A great platform producing commercial products and with almost unlimited applications.

10. Consumer Aerogel Products
I always like seeing advanced technology trickle its way down into consumer products that people can use routinely and directly. A good recent example is aerogels, unique insulators that trap huge amounts of air by weight, that have now made their way into jackets and other cold weather clothing Despite being around for a long time this application of aerogel was only made possible recently with new synthesis processes that made aerogels that were flexible and able to be used in flexible clothing - resulting 2 - 8 times better insulated clothing that is much lighter.

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SciTech Digest - 05/2017.
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Synthetic genetic code, Bioprinting skin, Deep learning skin cancer, Insect cyborgs, Chimeric tissue farming, Construction robots, Evolved optoelectric metasurfaces, Better immunotherapies, Human initiator sequence, Autonomous shipping.

1. Improved Semi-synthetic Genetic Code
Improving on work from 2014 in which a semi-synthetic organism was created with the addition of an extra basepair into its DNA, expanding its genetic code from four letters to six, this improved version survives significantly longer without losing the synthetic addition Improvements include the addition of CRISPR to force the modified bacteria to keep the extra basepair, modifying the synthetic base transporter to be less toxic, and changing one of the synthetic bases to one that showed better retention. The ongoing challenge of course is to design functional genes and proteins that incorporate the new bases (almost limitless design options here), and recoding fundamental genes such as DNA polymerase with the new base to evolutionarily force the synthetic organism to keep the base.

2. Bioprinting Skin
A 3D bioprinter has been developed that can create functional human skin that can be transplanted to patients or used in research for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics The device replicates the structure of the skin with the epidermis and stratum corneum along with the deeper layer comprising the dermis. Newly developed bioinks are the key to this working, with specific formulations designed to nurture and maintain the cells and protect them from deterioration. The system can produce allogeneic skin at large scale for industrial purposes or autologous skin from a patient’s own cells for therapeutic purposes.

3. Deep Learning Diagnoses Skin Cancer
A deep learning system based on GoogleNet Inception architecture is able to recognise and diagnose cases of skin cancer from photos as well as expert human dermatologists The system will need to be proven on other skin conditions, melanomas, and different cancers before it is ready for testing and release with patients and customers. Even though dermatologists note that touch can be important for diagnosis, such a system has significant potential to drastically reduce doctor visits and health costs, as well as catch genuine skin cancers and other conditions earlier, improving health outcomes and reducing late-stage costs.

4. Turning Insects into Cyborgs
The DragonflEye project is developing a miniature backpack for dragonflies that incorporates solar panels, battery, electronics, guidance & navigation, wireless communications, and optrodes that can control optogenetically-modified dragonflies for a range of applications The optrodes work to activate dragonfly steering neurons with pulses of light, indirectly controlling muscles and steering, while avoiding clumsy and imprecise implanted electrodes that can degrade over time. Such a cyborg insect, with solar powered electronics and a living insect that eats normally, can function as a long-lived autonomous sensor for a range of environmental, industrial, military, and civilian applications.

5. Chimeric Tissue Farming
Another approach to solve the shortage of organs for transplantation took a step this week with the latest proof-of-principle demonstration of creating chimeric animals that grow the particular organs of another species In this case rats are genetically engineered to be unable to make (for example) a pancreas, and during early development pluripotent mouse stem cells are transplanted, meaning that the pancreas formed by the animals can only come from mouse cells. The pancreas functioned well in the rats, and islets harvested and transplanted into diabetic mice were able to rescue the mice from diabetes. Human applications might do the same with pigs for example.

6. Construction Fabricator Robot
In Situ Fabricator1 is a new construction robot able to construct novel structures on a building site, uses a bunch of tools with sub-5mm accuracy, senses and responds to its environment, operates semi-autonomously, tolerates the dirty conditions in such environments, and can move through standard spaces to reach a workspace Demonstrations include building a complex, undulating wall out of 1,600 bricks, and welding wires into a complex, curved steel mesh design for filling with concrete. Future versions aim to reduce the weight of the robot and increase its strength. While 3D printing a building is an interesting space to follow, the need for robots like this that can build structures much bigger than themselves.

7. Evolved Optoelectronic Metasurfaces
Effective optoelectronic metasurfaces can now be evolved and fabricated out of titanium nitride for the first time Such surfaces can be effective in high resolution imaging and 3D holography, but this new work also enables control of polarisation and ultrasensitive biosensing. The use of titanium nitride also solves a number of problems including CMOS compatibility, high strength, and high temperature operation. The group used evolutionary algorithms as part of an optimise-and-prototype platform to develop ever-better patterned titanium nitride metasurfaces.

8. Better Immunotherapies
Two babies have been cured of their cancer (leukemia) in a world first involving the injection of genetically engineered T-cells from a donor Other approaches by the likes of Novartis, that take a patient’s own immune cells & engineer them before returning them, are logistically complex and still trying to reach first sales. This work used the most-engineered cells to date (four genes modified) in order to a make an off-the-shelf treatment that creates large batches of cells that can be given to many different people in need of similar treatments, and resulting in logistics that are much simpler and cheaper.

9. Human Gene Initiator Sequence
After a convoluted history the main initiator DNA sequence in promoter regions for human genes has been locked down This initiator sequence is the most common sequence identifying the start site for transcription of genes and further improves the knowledge of and methods for tweaking how genes are turned on and off; it is located precisely at the start site of more than half of all human genes. One of the immediate benefits should be improved function of gene delivery and genetic engineering generally.

10. Autonomous Shipping
Semi-autonomous and fully autonomous ships and shipping logistics are well under development as outlined in this excellent overview article Most of the attention for autonomous vehicles goes to cars, trucks, and planes / drones, but international shipping is a fundamental aspect of the global economy and autonomous capabilities here provide a similar range of benefits in safety, efficiency, and cost. With 75% - 96% of marine accidents caused by human error, and a number possibilities to drastically reduce the incidence of piracy there are many benefits to be had.

Bonus: 5G wireless communications standards are being made possible by merging a range of advanced communications technologies

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SciTech Digest - 04/2017.
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Atmospheric laser lenses, EMP artillery, Virus communications, Smartphone DNA sensing, Learning software creates learning software, Functionally imprinted polymers, Better RNA aptamers, Manipulating the vacuum, Safer Tesla autopilot, Filtering radioactivity.

1. Atmospheric Laser Lenses
The atmosphere can play havoc with light and lasers but a Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens system proposes methods to use powerful lasers to turn regions of the atmosphere into lenses, mirrors, and “deflector shields” This system would produce ordered hot and cold layers or structures of air in order to control the refractive conditions that light must pass through. This might be used to produce large atmospheric lenses for terrestrial or space-based telescopes, or a region that disperses incoming lasers and directed energy and act as a shield. This would spark an arms race of defensive and offensive capabilities.

2. EMP Artillery
In related news artillery shells capable of delivering a targeted EMP or ElectroMagnetic Pulse are being developed These munitions are intended of course to knock out all electronics within a region. While shielding may protect certain key electronics, those driving any wireless communications when the EMP hit would of course be knocked out. Of course, the atmospheric lenses from above may also provide protection from such EMP blasts (depending on strength) as well as modifying the effects of an EMP in an offensive manner.

3. Virus Communication System Discovered
A viral communication system has been discovered for the first time in which viruses sense chemical signals left behind by earlier viral copies to decide whether to kill or just infect their bacterial hosts Evolutionarily this makes sense, because if the virus is running out of bacterial hosts (having killed too many), then it is best to insert into the host cell’s genome and await reactivation at a later date to re-establish growth. This mechanism might also be present in viruses that infect human cells that have an active and dormant phase, such as HIV and HSV; forcing the viruses to stay dormant via a drug would be therapeutically beneficial.

4. DNA Mutation Detection and Molecular Diagnostics via Smartphone
A new 3D printed device combines sample wells, a moveable stage, lenses, and laser diodes, and docks with your mobile phone to allow your phone camera to detect mutations present in the DNA of cells in the sample as part of performing remote, distributed, point of care molecular diagnostic analysis Cells of interest are loaded into the device along with fluorescent DNA probes for mutations and DNA sequences of interest, and after following the protocol the phone camera can confirm via imaging the sample whether certain sequences are present or not. These might be as common as thermometers at home one day.

5. Machine Learning System Creates New Machine Learning Systems
Researchers at Google Brain have developed machine learning system that designed another machine learning system that was able to run a language-processing software benchmark better than software designed by humans So here we have learning software making learning software, which can be expected to more rapidly disseminate machine learning tools and capabilities across the digital ecosystem. Other experiments demonstrated learning systems creating new learning systems with a better ability to generalise and able to master new tasks with less additional training than usual. Meanwhile machine learning is getting ever-better at creating pop music

6. Functionally Imprinted Polymers
Novel polymers can now be functionally imprinted with DNA molecules, and retain the ability to bind to that specific DNA sequence In this process the target (DNA or other molecule) is added to a solution of special monomers that assemble around the target before being electrochemically polymerised. Applications for such molecular imprinting include creating recognition films for chemical sensors and also in for purification of solutions, removing specific contaminants and other molecules as needed.

7. Evolving Better RNA Aptamers
A better way to evolve more effective and stable RNA aptamers has been discovered simply by utilising naturally occuring stable RNA structures as a starting point As part of the proof-of-concept the group used pieces of natural riboswitches and ribozymes as scaffolds to evolve RNA aptamers that bind target molecules of interest such as amino acids and other small molecules. This work provides a robust set of design principles that others can use to quickly generate RNA aptamers that specifically bind target molecules of interest, and which fold correctly and remain stable in cells, which was a major problem solved by this work.

8. Manipulating the Vacuum Group State
As part of a new way to study the quantum vacuum ground state physicists claim to demonstrate the detection of signals from completely empty space In this work femtosecond light pulses are used to probe electromagnetic fluctuations that apparently lack intensity, probing discrete time points instead of discrete frequency bands, and these are believed to be vacuum fluctuations. The thrust of the work appears to be the direct detection of electromagnetic background noise & fluctuations in a small region of space. They claim to be able to manipulate the vacuum in this way such that the measured noise is lower than the conventional vacuum ground state. The group aim to determine whether this qualifies as a weak measurement system that leaves quantum systems unperturbed. I wonder if such a method might help with “hidden variables” type experiments.

9. Tesla’s Autopilot Ten Times Safer
Federal data analysis reveals that Tesla’s first generation Autopilot reduced the crash rate incidence by 40%, while the second generation software is set to reduce the crash rate by 90%, or ten times lower than human drivers This software is built on 1.3 billion miles of data collected from the suite of sensors carried by the cars and the 90% reduction rate is made possible by new upgradeable hardware introduced in October 2016. It only has to be better than human drivers at saving lives; ten times better (and beyond that in future) is so compelling it cannot be ignored.

10. Extracting Radioactive Elements from Water
An inexpensive “oxidatively modified carbon” material has been developed that is efficient at absorbing radioactive elements including cesium and strontium from contaminated water Conventional absorbents often have to be stored as nuclear waste, but this material can be burnt in a nuclear furnace to produce a much smaller amount of radioactive ash for storage and handling. Cleaning contaminated water and soil would be a great application of course, but I also wonder about the utility here for extraction and harvesting of particular elements from the oceans for example.

Bonus: I couldn’t pass up this fascinating method for making huge soap bubbles and the accompanying discussion on using modifications to this for manufacturing huge complex structures in space

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