Category Archives: Futurology

Futurology ~ Moon’s mantle, selenium solar, living artificial DNA, printed organoids, inflatable weight-loss, new bio-glue, amber surprise


An incredible 99-million-year-old chunk of amber contains several trapped marine gastropods

Chinese moon rover finds geological evidence — Lying just beneath the cratered, desolate crust, the moon’s upper mantle is thought to be the frozen remnant of a vast magma ocean that existed more than 4 billion years ago. A Chinese mission has discovered signs of mantle material at the moon’s surface, effectively setting an X on lunar maps for future explorers seeking this not-so-buried geological treasure.
~ Not everybody is convinced, though. 

Researchers solve scientific puzzle that could improve solar panel efficiency — A Loughborough University Ph.D. student has helped shed light on a solar panel puzzle that could lead to more efficient devices being developed. Tom Fiducia has helped figure out how adding selenium assists improves efficiency.
~ And duralium?

World’s first living organism with fully redesigned DNA created —
Scientists have created the world’s first living organism that has a fully synthetic and radically altered DNA code. The bug’s existence proves *life can exist with a restricted genetic code and paves the way for organisms whose biological machinery is commandeered to make drugs and useful materials, or to add new features such as virus resistance.
~ *I thought Trump already proved that. 

3D-printed paper organs — Using a 3D printer, an international team of scientists has generated functional organoids that better mimic organs in the body. A 2D layer of cells is a poor substitute for the much more complex 3D structure of tissues in organs. Organs also contain supporting cells, including nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues, which are not adequately represented by 2D cell culture.
~ Organoids … good name for a band. 

Self-inflating weight-loss pill — Today, moderately obese patients and those who are too ill to undergo surgery can opt for the intragastric balloon, an established weight loss intervention that has to be inserted into the stomach via endoscopy under sedation. It is removed six months later via the same procedure. Being invasive, the treatment is not suitable for all patients, but now there’s a prototype capsule containing a balloon that can be self-inflated with a handheld magnet once it is in the stomach.
~ Ah, but can you make a balloonanimal out of it? 

New bio-glue is activated with light — A new bio-glue (an experimental adhesive gel activated by a flash of light) has been proven to stop high pressure bleeding in the hearts of pigs.
~ Pigs go wild celebrating …

99-million-year-old amber holds saline surprise — An incredible 99-million-year-old chunk of amber contains several trapped marine gastropods, including an extinct ammonite.
~ Clearly they were tree-climbing sea life. 

Futurology ~ lasering missiles, carbon-sucking AC, desalination, breakthrough, endlessly recyclable plastic, beetle fire detectors, cancer nanomedicine, arsenic breathers, undersea archaeology


Scientists plan to drop grabs to find archaeological artefacts from a small sample range under the sea

US Air Force lasers missiles — The Force reckons it successfully used a ground-based surrogate for its laser weapons project, the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), to shoot down multiple air-launched missiles during a test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
~ A ground-based surrogate’? You mean the Air Force pretended to shoot down missiles with a laser? What did they use, a laser pointer? 

AC to suck carbon out of the sky — Researchers with the Institute for Micro Process Engineering in Germany have dreamt up a world where air conditioners don’t make climate change worse, but rather suck carbon out of the air.
~ It’s always seemed bizarre to me that you would help warm the planet just to cool down your own little apartment. 

Game-changing way to desalinate water — Temperature Swing Solvent Extraction is designed to purify hypersaline brines (water that contains a high concentration of salts, making it up to seven times as salty as seawater). This kind of waste water is produced by industrial processes and during oil and gas production, and it poses a major pollution risk to groundwater. The game changing part is this can occur at much lower temperatures than previous methods allowed.
~ I wonder if they considered just adding pepper for a cordon bleu solution? 

Endlessly Recyclable Plastic — A team from Berkeley Lab, California  has developed a method to create a new type of plastic that can be broken down at the molecular level to create new plastic without any deterioration in quality.
~ Erp …

Beetles detect oil fires — Pyrophilous jewel beetles approach forest fires and there is considerable evidence these beetles can detect fires from great distances of more than 60 km. Melanophila beetles are equipped with infrared receptors so they are also attracted by hot surfaces: it can be concluded that these infrared receptors are used for fire detection.
~ Fire Service, get your beetles out! 

Nanomeds slip through the cracks to fight cancer — Scientists in Japan have devised a nanoparticle carrier for siRNA that can access hard-to-reach tumours, such as those of the pancreas and the brain. Due to their small size of less than 20 nanometers, the YBCs are able to squeeze into hard-to-reach tumours.
~ Well, it’s working for mice so far, anyway. 

Arsenic breathers deep n the sea — Arsenic is toxic to almost all life forms, but now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered that some microbes in the Pacific Ocean not only tolerate the stuff, but actively breathe it. The discovery has implications for how life may adapt to a changing climate, as well as where we might find it on other planets.
~ Poisson breathing poison: well I never. 

Fishing for stone age settlers — Lost at the bottom of the North Sea almost eight millennia ago, a vast land area between England and southern Scandinavia which was home to thousands of stone age settlers is about to be rediscovered. The area was submerged when thousands of cubic miles of sub-Arctic ice started to melt and sea levels began to rise.
~ North Sea fishing crews have discovered archaeological artefacts in their nets.

Futurology ~ Solar plutonium, water worlds, protein data, AIDS end, pinhol-lographics, one-step biodegradables, four-legged beast


New research describes the remains of a gigantic, four-legged mammalian carnivore that terrorised Africa some 22 million years ago.

Scientists locate neutron star collision that could have created our solar system’s plutonium — in 2017, observatories around the world observed a high-energy collision between a pair of dense objects, each slightly more massive than the Sun but only the size of a city. A similar collision closer to home could have been responsible for producing some of the heaviest elements in our own solar system – and scientists think they know when it happened.
Using measurements of what’s left of these elements in ancient meteorites, a pair of researchers worked backward to locate the neutron star merger that produced some of them.
~ The abundances of these elements spiked approximately 80 million years before the solar system formed.

Water worlds could have very deep oceans — Scientists have good reason to believe that so-called water worlds – exoplanets with surfaces covered entirely by a single gigantic ocean – are common in the galaxy. But new computer simulations suggests that not only are water worlds prevalent, they’re also teeming with water – and at mind-boggling scales. Imagine oceans hundreds, and even thousands, of kilometres deep.
~ That’s no reason for Kev to make a movie, though. Water worlds are still hypothetical.

Data on protein — By 2020, researchers estimate that the world’s digital archive will weigh in at around 44 trillion gigabytes. That’s an astounding amount of data that isn’t necessarily being stored in the safest of places. Most storage mediums naturally degrade over time (if they’re not hacked or accidentally destroyed) and the cloud isn’t as reliable as companies want us to believe.
So researchers at Harvard University have turned to some unique chemistry they believe could safely archive the world’s data for millions of years — without requiring any power. Chemists at Harvard University took inspiration from nature and came up with a way to store data using oligopeptides: molecules made up of amino acids that are considerably smaller and easier to work with than DNA.
~ Getting pumped? Shake it, baby. 

An end to AIDS may be within sight —A landmark study found men whose HIV infection was fully suppressed by antiretroviral drugs had no chance of infecting their partner. The findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.
~ A major step forward. 

Pinholes aid holographic transmission — Researchers in South Korea have designed an ultrathin display that can project dynamic, multi-colored, 3D holographic images.
~ This suggests holographic displays could be projected from thin devices like  cell phones.

One-step method for biodegradable plastics — Researchers in Japan and the Netherlands have devised a one-stop method to produce plant-derived plastics. Bio-based plastics are emerging as a next generation material and are expected to replace petroleum-derived plastics. A plant-derived polyester, called polyethylene furanoate (PEF), is a promising polymer derived from plants that can replace the current favourite of the plastic industry, polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
~ Pfft.

Astonishing Densiovan fossil — The archaeology world has been abuzz with news of the first Denisovan fossil found outside Siberia. The 160,000-year-old jawbone was uncovered by a Buddhist monk in a Chinese cave nearly 40 years ago.
Now that it has finally been studied, it’s known it belonged to a young Denisovan individual who occupied the cave some 160,000 years ago.
~ Home Sapiens date back 200,000 years. 

New research describes the remains of a gigantic, four-legged mammalian carnivore that terrorised Africa 22 million years ago — Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, which translated from Swahili means ‘big lion coming from Africa.’ But this was no feline: it belonged to an extinct group of mammals known as hyaenodonts, which have no close relation to any species of mammalian carnivore living today. Larger than a polar bear, and with a head as big as a rhino’s, Simbakubwa spent its time as an apex predator in Eastern Africa around 22 million years ago, eventually going extinct under mysterious circumstances.
~ Honestly, record keeping back then was all over the place. 

Futurology ~ Universe expansion, cool star flares, hypersonic rocket, balloon plane, coffee solar cells, anti-malaria, AI invisibility, wrap for aged structures


A plane partly developed in the Scottish Highlands has traits of a balloon and flies thanks to variable buoyancy

Universe is expanding faster than expected — New measurements from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope confirm the Universe is expanding about 9% faster than expected based on its trajectory seen shortly after the big bang, astronomers say.
The new measurements reduce the chances that the disparity is an accident from 1 in 3,000 to only 1 in 100,000 and suggest that new physics may be needed to better understand the cosmos.
~ So those distant planets are steadily escaping us. 

Little star sparkles brightly — Scientists spotted a superflare larger than some of the hugest solar storms on record — from what seems to be a tiny, almost Jupiter-sized star. The Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a sky-surveying telescope in Chile, first detected the flare in August 2017. Not only is it the second-largest observed flare to come from a star of the L-dwarf type, but this is the coolest star to show this kind of powerful flare to date.
~ It was so cool, scientists weren’t aware of it till it flared. 

Hypersonic rocket — A Chinese university claimed to have launched and landed a hypersonic prototype rocket that could travel faster than five times the speed of sound.
The success of the experiment means that Chinese engineers are one step closer to building a full-fledged rocket capable of flying faster than 6174kmh (3836mph) and it can be recycled.
~ Recycled because it landed itself after the test. 

Plane lifts like  balloon — Researchers from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have helped create a revolutionary new type of aircraft.
Phoenix is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to stay in the air indefinitely using a new type of propulsion: variable-buoyancy.
~ It propels via compressed air, and it’s way cheaper to launch than a satellite.

Coffee-improved solar cells — UCLA professor Yang Yang’s lab, chock-full of coffee drinkers, spent several years searching for a stability-enhancing additive to turn famously unstable perovskite PV cells into a useful product. One day, on a lark, Yang’s graduate student Rui Wang suggested they try adding caffeine to the mix. To the team’s surprise, caffeine produced longer lasting and more powerful solar cells.
~ But do they stay up longer? 

First anti-malarial vaccine — Health officials are making history, rolling out the first approved vaccine aimed at stopping a human parasite for malaria. The vaccine could save the lives of tens of thousands of children each year.
This vaccine RTS,S is one of the few immunisations designed and launched specifically to help young children in Africa, says Deborah Atherly at PATH, a nonprofit that helped develop the immunisation.
~ The vaccine has taken 30 years to develop. 

Printed pattern fools AI recognition — A group of engineers from the university of KU Leuven in Belgium shared a paper shared on how simple printed patterns can fool an AI system designed to recognise people in images.
If you print off one of the students’ specially designed patches and hang it around your neck, from an AI’s point of view, you may as well have slipped under an invisibility cloak.
~ So print some t-shirts with it immediately!

Sticky wrap for old buildings — Fast Wrapping Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FasRaP),  created using commercially available glass fibres, includes a proprietary glue-like resin developed by NTU materials scientists. The resin will harden only when exposed to light, making it possible for it to be pre-applied in the factory and packaged into a roll of sticky wrap, similar to double-sided tape.
FasRaP can be applied directly to an ageing wall or pillar by only three workers.
~ But do flies then stick to it? People? 

Futurology ~ Wormhole travel, AI invents game, better water filter, human monkeys, reanimated pigs, U2 archaeology


AI has invented a sport for us, and it’s called Speedgate. Um, gee, thanks AI.

Travel through wormholes is possible, but slow — A Harvard physicist has shown that wormholes can exist: tunnels in curved space-time, connecting two distant places, through which travel is possible.
But it’s probably not useful for humans to travel through, said Daniel Jafferis, from Harvard University, the author of the study written in collaboration with Ping Gao, also from Harvard and Aron Wall from Stanford University: it takes longer to get through these wormholes than to go directly.
~ Well, you know, maybe it’s more scenic. 

AI invents a sport — The game, Speedgate, combines elements of several existing sports including Rugby, Soccer, and Handball, and can be customised to suit large or small fields. Players pass a ball (a size four Rugby training ball is currently used until the official Speedgate ball hits the market) to teammates by tossing, kicking, or punting it. The full rules and regulations for Speedgate are available on a website.
~ And it easily looks as crazy as all the human-invented ones. 

Nanowires improve water filtration — Combining nanowires with natural plant fibres, a team of scientists in China has found a way to purify water efficiently using water purification filter paper made from ultralong hydroxyapatite nanowires combined with natural plant fibres.
~ And when it breaks down, will add it to the plastic apocalypse?

Human genes ‘improve’ monkeys — A research group in China has introduced a human gene regulating brain development into monkeys, resulting in transgenic nonhuman primates that exhibited improved working memory and shorter reaction times.
~ Now how about we reintroduce them into humans? 

Pigs reanimated — In a study that raises profound questions about the line between life and death, researchers have restored some cellular activity to brains removed from slaughtered pigs.
~ It should help work out what kinds of brain functions could be restored after, say, a stroke. 

Declassified U2 spy pix show hidden archaeological sites — Inspired by a Chinese researcher who used the U2 images to view historical aerial imagery of his hometown, Emily Hammer and Jason Ur decided to see if the copious amounts of declassified data had any scientific worth. Much of the landscape in Europe, the Middle East, and central eastern Asia has changed since the Cold War, making these aerial records both historically and archaeologically important.
~ For example, they found the historical Aleppo from before the massive destruction wrought in the ongoing civil war; ancient stone animal-trapping ‘kites’; Marsh Arab settlements; ancient waterworks. 

Futurology ~ Better encryption, better batteries, better pesto, post menopause, better movement, Pole trees, new Mammoths, 4-legged whale


Remnants of a previously unknown, 42.6-million-year-old quadrupedal whale has been discovered along the coast of Peru

Un-decryptable — set of computer scientists has taken a major step toward this goal with the release today of EverCrypt, a set of digital cryptography tools. The researchers were able to prove ( in the sense that you can prove the Pythagorean theorem) that their approach to online security is completely invulnerable to the main types of hacking attacks that have felled other programs in the past.
~ But did they only achieve this by very strictly limiting the operational parameters? 

Better solid-state batteries — Scientists in Japan have developed a complex hydride lithium superionic conductor that could result in all-solid-state batteries with the highest energy density to date.
All-solid-state batteries incorporating a lithium metal anode have the potential to address the energy density issues of conventional lithium-ion batteries. But until now, their use in practical cells has been limited by the high resistance of lithium ion transfer within anode materials.
~This should open up new fields in solid electrolyte materials.

Better pesto — Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. The effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture.
~ I’ll wait till the machine learning learns to harvest my basil and make the pesto.

Bone loss mechanisms in post-menopausal women — Japanese researchers have found that blood serum levels of Sema3A decrease in premenopausal women as they get older and drop even further once women reach menopause, linked to oestrogen loss, and this appears to be the mechanism for weakened bones.
~ See how I didn’t use ‘Osteoporosis breakthrough’?

Even an hour of walking a week can help older adults with ailing knees — Researchers looked at data from an earlier project studying thousands of middle-aged and elderly Americans with knee osteoarthritis, the Osteoarthritis Initiative, which began in 2004. Exercise helps prevent conditions of knee osteoarthritis and improve symptoms, reduces pain, and slows down the disease’s progression.
~ I’ve always been of fan of ‘more movement, less worrying about food’.

‘New’ Californian mammoths — Mammut pacificus, a new species of mastodon specific to a small segment of the North American West, is the first new mastodon species to be recognised in 50 years.
~ There have been known examples, just not recognised as distinctive.

Four-legged Peruvian whale — The discovery of a fossilised, 42-million-year-old, four-legged whale is shedding new light on the evolution and geographical spread of these aquatic mammals.
~ The ancestors of modern whales and dolphins evolved from a small, four-limbed hoofed animal that lived in south Asia around 50 million years ago during the Eocene.

Trees almost at the Pole — Using sedimentary records and plant fossils, researchers have found that temperatures near the South Pole were about 20C higher than now in the Pliocene epoch, from 5.3m to 2.6m years ago. Then, a variety of beech and possibly conifer trees grew at Oliver Bluffs, 300 miles from the South Pole.
~ So plants may colonise that area again, at current rates. 

Futurology ~ CERN antimatter, ancient flare, twisted graphene, tiny Bluetooth, tiny circuits, silk microelectronics, old brains new cells, no hangover, self-heal plastic, online AI


South Korean scientists have invented a method to fabricate silk-based microelectronics

Popping corks at CERN — Scientists have announced the observation of “CP violation in a D0 meson” at CERN, a discovery that will appear in physics textbooks for years to come. So?
The universe is full of regular matter. There’s also antimatter, which exists even here on Earth, but there’s much less of it. This new observation is important on its own, but it also takes physicists another step closer to explaining where all the antimatter has disappeared to.
~ D0, a Meson, a CP violation, Ray, a …

Kazakhstan meteorite hid evidence of ancient solar super flare — Scientists found evidence of an ancient solar “superflare” hidden in a meteorite first found in Kazakhstan in 1962. Meteorites can be useful for telling the story the Solar System’s history through the elements they contain. By analysing the Efremovka meteorite, a pair of researchers determined a superflare that occurred around 500,000 years after the Sun’s birth could have emitted as many x-rays as the largest solar flare each second, but for perhaps an entire year.
~ On the bright, well very bright, side: free X-Rays.

Twisted graphene is exciting stuff — Carbon sheets only a single atom thick, called graphene, take on a pair of important physical properties when they are twisted at just the right ‘magic’ angle relative to one another.
If the atmosphere this month at the world’s largest physics conference was any indication, twisted graphene has now spawned an entirely new field of physics research.
~ But is it recyclable? 

Teeny-tiny Bluetooth transmitters — Battery-powered and energy-harvesting millimeter-scale sensors are meant to last for years without needing replacement, but their radios can’t muster the energy needed to communicate using even the lowest energy version of Bluetooth, called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). But now engineers at the University of Michigan have built the first millimetre-scale stand-alone device that speaks BLE. Consuming just 0.6 milliwatts during transmission, it would broadcast for 11 years using a typical 5.8-millimeter coin battery.
~ Teeny-tiny trackers, in other words. 

Silk-based microelectronics — A research group from South Korea has invented a method to fabricate silk-based microelectronics. They published their method in ACS Advanced Materials & Interfaces. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: https://www.asianscientist.com/2019/03/in-the-lab/silk-fibroin-pattern-microelectronics/

Old human brains still make new cells — Humans can make fresh brain cells well into their 90s, but the production of new neurons falls in those with Alzheimer’s, even when the disease has recently taken hold, scientists have found. The findings may help doctors to diagnose Alzheimer’s at an earlier stage.
~ OK, brain, make me some new ones right now. 

Booze without the bad effects — Alcarelle, a synthetic alcohol that should provide the relaxing and socially lubricating qualities of alcohol without the hangovers, health issues and the risk of getting paralytic, is starting to look like a possibility.
~ Cheers to that.

Gene editing record — Using a modified version of CRISPR, a team of geneticists has successfully triggered 13,200 genetic changes to a single human cell. That’s a new record, and by a long shot. This sweeping new editing process could eventually be used to strip DNA of useless or dangerous genetic information – or create entirely new kinds of life.
~ Oh, wait, will we get singe-cell humans? Lol. 

Corn-starch plastic heals itself with a blast of heat — Researchers from the Leibniz Institute for New Materials in Saarbrücken, Germany, and from the nearby Saarland University, turned to corn starch to help develop a new lacquer coating that can bounce back from minor damage.
~ Boom-shacka-lacquer, oh yeah!

Five AI experiences you can try now in a browser — It can be hard to get your head around exactly what AI does and how it can be deployed though, which is why we present to you these five fun online experiments — all you need is a web browser and a few minutes to see some of the party tricks AI is already capable of.
~ Hmm, yeah. 

Futurology ~ 83 Black Holes, space superbugs, invisibility, blue wake-up, animal magnetism, Irish dirt


Bacteria in some Irish dirt killed four of the top six organisms that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA

Loads of ‘new’ super-massive Black Holes — A team of international astronomers has been hunting for ancient, supermassive black holes and discovered 83 previously unknown quasars.
~ OK, just try not to upset them.

New tools against superbugs in space — For years, scientists have sounded the alarm about a potential nightmare for astronauts on the International Space Station: antibiotic-resistant superbugs that could be even more dangerous in space than they are on Earth. This week, research say they’ve found a way to better prevent such hardy bacteria from growing on surfaces of the ISS.
The magical property is called AGXX, a mix of silver and ruthenium. Its developers claim AGXX can more effectively kill off bacteria and other microbes like fungi than conventional silver, while having a lower risk of depositing silver in the environment. The chemical makeup of AGXX even allows the coating to self-regenerate, ensuring that its effects last longer.
~ Did you think the secret was Janola? Or magical Irish dirt? (See below.)

Kevlar invisibility cloak — Chinese researchers fabricated an aerogel film made of DuPont Kevlar fibres. By itself, the aerogel turned out to be a good thermal insulator, but the researchers enhanced its capabilities by coating its fibres with polyethylene glycol (PEG) and a protective waterproof layer.
~ It’s actually invisible to heat detectors rather than eye sight.

Wake-up blue — A team of scientists in South Korea has demonstrated that blue-enriched light can effectively help people overcome morning drowsiness.
~ Seems obvious to me: if you shouldn’t have blue light at night coz it keeps you awake, then …

Humans feel the magnetic field — A new study from researchers at the California Institute of Technology suggests that humans can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, although the strength of the response varied hugely among participants.
~ ItAnimal magnetism, indeed. 

Magical Irish dirt kills bacteria — Old timers insisted that the dirt in the vicinity of a nearly 1500-year-old church in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, an area once occupied by the Druids, had almost miraculous curative powers. So microbiologist Gerry Quinn and his team decided to focus on the Irish soil, they narrowed their search to a specific type of bacteria, called Streptomyces, because other strains of this bacteria have led to the development of 75% of existing antibiotics.
~ This is important as in the United States at least 23,000 people die every year from an antibiotic resistant infection.

Futurology ~ Mercury closest, sound discoveries, nano-threading, new gripper, burry still video, Stonehenge pork, Greenland solar storm, Woolly Mammoth mice


Scientists have devised a shape that blocks all sound.

Planetary reshuffle — A team of scientists has just demonstrated that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth on average. The researchers presented their results this week in an article in the magazine Physics Today. They explained that other methods of calculating which planet is ‘the closest’ has been oversimplifying the matter.
~ Further, Mercury is the closest neighbour, on average, to each of the other seven planets in the solar system!

Sound waves carry mass — Surprising new research shows there are still secrets waiting to be found, hidden in plain sight—or, at least in this case, within earshot.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, a group of scientists theorised that sound waves possess mass, meaning sounds would be directly affected by gravity. They suggest phonons, particle-like collective excitations responsible for transporting sound waves across a medium, might exhibit a tiny amount of mass in a gravitational field.
~ So, you really can get a sound stuck in your head!

Shape blocks almost all sound — A team of Boston University researchers recently stuck a loudspeaker into one end of a PVC pipe. They cranked it up loud. What did they hear? Nothing.
The pipe was actually left open save for a small, 3D-printed ring placed around the rim. That ring cut 94% of the sound blasting from the speaker: enough to make it inaudible to the human ear.
The implications for architecture and interior design are remarkable, because these metamaterials could be applied to the built environment in many different ways. For instance, they could be stacked to build soundproof ,yet transparent, walls.
~ It’s an ‘acoustic meta material’.

Nano-threading plants to modify DNA — Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter thanks to their cell-membrane walls. UC Berkeley researcher Markita Landry found a way to do it using carbon nanotubes: tiny long stiff tubes of carbon.
~ So can we now modify plants to pick and cook themselves?. 

Origami inspires better grippers — Robotic hands have a tough time getting a grip on pliable objects as rigid pincers aren’t designed for precision grasping. Now researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard describe a novel gripper design that’s capable of lifting items in a range of weights, shapes, and sizes.
The team’s hollow, cone-shaped gripper comprises three parts — a 3D-printed, 16-piece silicone rubber skeleton with a gripper-to-mount connector encased by an airtight skin — that together collapse in on objects as opposed to clutching them.
~ Collapso-Grab!

Blurry still images become video frames — Researchers from Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s (EPFL) Engineering Mechanics of Soft Interfaces Laboratory worked with another team from Harvard University’s SMRLab to develop a way to analyse blurry photos and generate step-by- step frames representing detailed slices of the original motion that previously appeared to be frozen in time.
~ And this tech could be coming to smartphones soon.

Ancient British pork-rests at Stonehenge — Prehistoric Britons travelled impressive distances to attend celebrations at monumental sites like Stonehenge, according to new research. Incredibly, many of them brought their pigs along with them for the journey – an impressive feat considering some participants came from hundreds of miles away. They brought their locally raised pigs with them, which were then slaughtered and served at these mass gatherings.
~ Scientists have realised they can analyse pig bones as proxies for human bones to reconstruct human movements. 

Greenland ice preserves solar stem relics — Traces of an enormous solar storm that battered the atmosphere and showered Earth in radioactive particles more than 2500 years ago (in 660 BC) have been discovered under the Greenland ice sheet.
~ That explains those ancient complaints about bad cell phone reception.

Mammoth cells ‘reawakened’ in mice — Cells from a woolly mammoth that died more than 28,000 years ago have been partially reactivated inside mouse egg cells.
~ So, learn to fear the massive woolly mouse!

Futurology ~ New products and processes, lasers, smarter glass, robot homes, three HIV cures, vaccine benefits, new Orca, elixir of immortality,ancient tattoos


A rare photo of a newly-identified ‘type D’ species of Orca between South America and Antarctica shows the whales’ blunt heads and tiny white eye patches. (JP Sylvestre)

Laser passes through fog or white paint — It’s not quite seeing through walls, but scientists are working to engineer light beams so they can pass through an opaque medium without scattering, according to a new paper.
~ It’s all about tailoring light beams. 

Robot-built house produces more power than it needs — The world’s first home designed, planned, and built with mainly digital processes just opened its doors in Switzerland. Developed by eight ETH Zurich professors, DFAB House is a pilot project showcasing futuristic building technologies that may someday work their way into our homes. It’s topped with a solar array that generates 1.5 times more energy than the unit needs (intelligent control eliminates the risk of load peaks), and it has waste heat recovery systems – one recycles heat from shower trays back into the boiler.
~ I like that one of the processes uses wood rather than concrete.

Smarter windows — Windows that filter out atmospheric particulate matter (PM) while allowing indoor light intensity to be adjusted could soon be a reality with the invention of a silver (Ag)-nylon mesh by scientists in China. The invention allows the light intensity of commercial buildings to be tuned to maintain thermal comfort.
~ So, pollute like crazy as your windows will keep your home safe? 

Welding metal to glass — Researchers at Edinburgh, Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University have developed a process called “ultrafast laser microwelding,” which uses very, very short pulses of infrared laser light to fuse two dissimilar materials together. The Heriot-Watt system tested the method on quartz, borosilicate glass, sapphire and aluminium, titanium and stainless steel. Being able to directly weld panels of glass and aluminium could open up many interesting possibilities for auto design and manufacturing.
~ Goodness’s gracious, tiny balls of lightning.

Third person ‘cured’ of HIV — A man in the UK has been free of HIV since his cancer treatment, and now a similar case has been reported by researchers who treated a patient in Germany. Together, they add to evidence that it may be possible to cure HIV.
~ This has been such a long time coming. 

Unintended benefits of vaccines — A new study shows that vaccination with a weakened strain of salmonella not only protects against typhoid fever but also seems to rev up the immune system to fight off other problems, like influenza and yeast infection.
~ More strength to the anti-anti-vaxxers.

‘New’ orca — Scientists have found a mysterious type of killer whale they’ve been searching for for years. It lives in parts of the ocean near Antarctica.
The notion there might be some unusual kind of killer whale emerged in 1955 when photos from New Zealand showed a bunch of whales stranded on a beach. This was a very different-looking group of killer whales, with blunter noses and smaller white eye-patches.
~ This is probably the largest animal to have remained unidentified by biologists.

Chinese elixir of immortality is 2000 years old —A yellowish liquid found in a bronze pot dating back some 2,000 years is not wine, as Chinese archaeologists initially thought. It’s actually an “elixir of immortality” concocted during ancient times. It’s most likely a mixture of potassium nitrate and alunite.
~ Lucky it lasted so long …

American tattoo kit 2000 years old — A 2000-year-old wooden implement with black-tipped cactus spines is now the oldest example of a tattoo tool in western North America, a discovery that’s shedding important new light on this ancient practice. The 10cm-long device was, created over 1400 years prior to the arrival of European colonists.
~ Incredibly, the relic might have never been discovered had it not been for an inventory check.

Tongan tattoo tools 2700 years old — Tattooing goes back millennia and spans cultures, as evidenced by mummified remains, yet many details of the body modification’s origins have been shrouded in mystery. Now an ancient bone tattoo kit from the Pacific island nation of Tonga is providing researchers with more than an inkling into the rich history of Polynesian body art.
~ Two of the tools were made of bird bone and two are ‘probably’ of human bone.

Futurology ~ Building blocks of life, self-learning robo-hand, meat physics, room superconductor, uranium soaker, youngster reactor, 10x zoom, all-season fabric, Stonehenge


Freaky 8-letter DNA could be the stuff aliens are made of — Conventional DNA is comprised of the familiar A, C, G and T base pairs, but a newly created genetic system is packed with eight, thus doubling the number of letters normally found in self-replicating molecules. Intriguingly, the new system model, dubbed ‘hachimoji’, could resemble the building blocks of extraterrestrial life.
~ Gah! I always thought DNA was a 3-letter thing! The main point is, our accepted model of DNA-RNA may not be the only model that works.

NASA explores the building blocks of live in ancientEarth recreation — NASA researchers showed that systems with specific kinds of iron dissolved in water, which could have been common on the early Earth seafloor, could have assisted in the creation of the molecules that turned into life. Understanding these reactions could be important in understanding the emergence of life on our own planet – or even the potential for alien life beneath the ice of certain moons around Saturn and Jupiter.
~ Another triumph by the beaker people. 

New robot hand learns how to hold and manipulate — In a split second before you reach to pick up an object, your brain pre-calculates all the movements needed to safely reach and grasp it securely. This subconscious approach results from years of childhood development and learning, and now robotics researchers are using the method for their own creations.
Festo’s new BionicSoftHand is not only remarkably dextrous, but using AI, it figures out how to properly hold and manipulate an object before it makes any actual movements.
~ Self learning robots means even faster automation. 

Meatball collider — A team of particle physicists wanted “to unveil the deepest secrets of the Universe — and of Swedish cuisine”. So they built a Swedish meatball collider.
The MEAL, or MEatball AcceLerator collaboration, could answer important questions such as why we’re made of meatballs, rather than anti-meatballs, or whether we can create dark meatballs. The proof-of-concept experiment was a success.
~ But what about the critical question? What spices did they use …

US Nav scientist maybe invents room temperature superconductor — A scientist working for the US Navy has filed for a patent on a room-temperature superconductor, representing a potential paradigm shift in energy transmission and computer systems.
~ Cool!

New material soaks up uranium from seawater — The world’s oceans contain some 4 billion metric tons of dissolved uranium. That’s roughly 1000 times as much as all known terrestrial sources combined, and enough to fuel the global nuclear power industry for centuries. But the oceans are so vast, and uranium’s concentration in seawater so low, extracting it remains a formidable challenge. H2BHT’s high selectivity and uranium uptake capacity, coupled with molecular insights from the team’s analyses, may lead to improved methods for recovering uranium from seawater.
~ Coz the world needs more nuclear power. 

14-year-old creates nuclear reactor — An American 14-year-old has reportedly become the world’s youngest known person to create a successful nuclear reaction. The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, a hobbyist group, has recognised the achievement by Jackson Oswalt, from Memphis, Tennessee, when he was aged 12 in January 2018.
~ Coz, you know, most youngsters have ‘playrooms’ capable of this.

10x lossless camera zoom — OPPO has been showing off  a 10x lossless zoom smartphone camera. This involves a triple-lens setup at the rear and includes a 48MP main camera, a periscope telephoto camera and a 120-degree ultra wide-angle camera.
~ 48MP camera in a smartphone?!

All-season fabric heats and cools — A simple piece of fabric, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland, could help someday replace your seasonal wardrobes with clothing that keeps you either warm or cool all year round. Basically, the gaps between fibres expand when it’s hot, and contract to keep heat in when it’s cold.
~ Perhaps it can even, one day, be used as home insulation. 

Stonehenge rocks debunked? A team of 12 geologists and archaeologists from across the United Kingdom unveiled research this month that traces some of the prehistoric monument’s smaller stones to two quarries in western Wales. The team also found evidence of prehistoric tools, stone wedges and digging activity in those quarries, tracing them to around 3000 BC, the era when Stonehenge’s first stage was constructed.
~ This is rock-solid evidence.

Futurology ~ LIGO upgrade, new Neptune moon, Mars water, Earth’s atmosphere, Malawi fish proliferation, new neural connection, macular therapy, self-healing elastic, light to clean water


LIGO to get powerful upgrade — The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities, residing in Washington and Louisiana, will be upgraded via grants from the US National Science Foundation, UK Research and Innovation and the Australian Research Council to provide stronger, more frequent detections and decreasing noise. The $34 million upgrade will takeLIGO from its crusty old 2015 Advanced LIGO phase to Advanced LIGO Plus, and greatly increase the number of events LIGO will detect.
~ I’d just call it the Super Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory:” SLIGO.

New moon for Neptune —Hippocamp is a small Neptunian moon that has gone undetected until now. New research published in Nature describes a newly detected moon in orbit around Neptune. Hippocamp is the ice giant’s seventh known inner moon and fourteenth moon in total. When NASA’s Vo
yager 2 spacecraft zoomed past Neptune in 1989, it imaged six previously unknown inner moons, but the probe missed at least one during its brief visit some 30 years ago, as this new research shows.
~ ‘Moon’ might be a little generous (see the image above left).

Mars water channels — Dramatic dried-up river channels over a mile wide and 198.12m deep have been detected on Mars, showcasing how the Red Planet once hosted liquid water at its surface.
~ But where were the Mars bars?

Earth’s atmosphere extends further than thought — Contrary to general belief that Earth’s atmosphere stops a bit over 100 kms (62 miles) from the surface, a new study based on observations made over two decades ago by the joint US-European Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite shows it actually extends as far as 630,000 kms (391,000 miles) or 50 times the Earth’s diameter. This makes the Moon a very high altitude aircraft.
~ It just never comes in to land, which is probably a good thing.

Malawi lake where evolution has gone crazy — Cichlid fish are found all over the world, mainly in Africa and Latin America, but they’re especially abundant in Lake Malawi, where they’ve diverged into at least 850 species. That’s more species of fish than can be found in all of the freshwater bodies of Europe combined.
~ The impetus is female-run beauty contests. No, really!

Scientists think they’ve identified a previously unknown form of neural communication — It self-propagates across brain tissue, and can leap wirelessly from neurons in one section of brain tissue to another, even if they’ve been surgically severed. The discovery offers some radical new insights about the way neurons might be talking to one another, via a mysterious process unrelated to conventionally understood mechanisms, such as synaptic transmission, axonal transport, and gap junction connections.
~ Telepathy, anyone?

Gene therapy for macular degeneration — An 80-year-old woman from the United Kingdom is the first patient to undergo gene therapy to treat age-related macular degeneration – the most common cause of sight loss in the world. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for Americans over the age of 65.
~ Unfortunately it only halts the degeneration – there’s no regeneration.

Elastic polymers that heal themselves — Scientists in Japan have found a method to produce a self-healing material that does not require external stimuli to trigger its healing properties.
~ I wonder if the healing efficiency degrades over time, as with humans. 

Taking a morning stroll can do wonders for your blood pressure — This according to a study out Wednesday, especially if you’re not moving around much to begin with. The research found that sedentary older adults who walked in the morning for 30 minutes experienced a noticeable drop in blood pressure. And women who also took breaks from sitting throughout the day experienced an even larger drop.
~ Makes sense. Some people are incredibly resistant to doing anything, though. 

Purifying water with light — Scientists in China have developed an energy-efficient technique for purifying water using graphitic carbon nitride sheets. The researchers demonstrated that their photocatalyst killed more than 99.9999% of bacteria in contaminated water.
~ And it works in just 20 minutes.

Futurology ~ Universal origin, Arctic crater, new magnet, important obscure car, smart sneakers, connection cutting, cow Tinder, Planetary Health Plate, new Sauropod


The Primula debuted the now nearly ubiquitous transverse front engine/front wheel drive design

Origin of the Universe — NASA has announced it will create a new telescope mission, the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer. Luckily we can call it SPHEREx for short. It’ll look at how our universe has changed, and how common the ingredients of life are in the Milky Way.
~ Maps it.

Another Arctic crater, 35kms across — NASA glaciologists used topographical maps, satellite images, and radar scans to analyse an area of the Arctic and found a flat, bowl-shaped depression in the bedrock. This was surrounded by an elevated edge and characteristic central peaks, which form on the crater floor after an impact. The crater has eroded significantly over time, causing the team to estimate it was created somewhere between a hundred thousand years and a hundred million years ago.
~ Those big white bits of Earth must be easier to aim at. 

A new kind of magnet — It has been theorised for decades, and now may have been experimentally proven to exist. It could eventually lead to better data storage devices. In a normal magnet, the magnetic moments of individual grains align with each other to generate a magnetic field. In contrast, in the new “singlet-based” magnet, magnetic moments are temporary in nature, popping in and out of existence.
~ I like singlets, especially in this weather, but they singularly fail to make me more of an attractant. 

The most important car you’ve never heard of — According to Gizmodo, the Autobianchi Primula (main picture, above) is perhaps the most technically influential car ever, because the fundamental theory and design of that car dictated the template that most modern cars use today. Fiat built almost 75,000 Primulas between 1964 and 1970.
~ And now, I have heard of it. But to me it looks rather distressingly like an Austin 1100. 

Smart sneakers not dumb — The right shoe of every pair of UnderArmour HOVR shoes contains a chip that connects with the Map My Run app (also owned by Under Armour). With it, you can keep track of metrics like distance, pace, splits, cadence, and stride length.
~ You know you want ‘personal gait coaching’!

Cutting connection — Internet entrepreneur Arianna Huffington sees a bright future for a new kind of technology — the kind that helps individuals disconnect from the damage done by the internet’s first generation. And it can’t come soon enough, she says, as the next generation of technology may pose an ever greater threat to our lives and jobs.
~ So the next big thing in tech might be tech that lets us disconnect from tech …

Tinder for cows — UK farming start-up Hectare has launched its own equivalent for livestock. It’s called ‘Tudder‘. The app features data profiles of animals from 42,000 UK farms in an effort to help farmers find the perfect breeding partner for their cattle.
~ Cud-dle time.

The planetary health plate — This is a diet put together by scientists as a general guide for how to feed a projected 10 billion humans in 2050 while also keeping the planet from keeling over. It consists largely of vegetables and whole grains.
~ This has pretty much been my diet for the last 30 years. What are you doing? 

‘New’ dinosaur — Living 140 million years ago in the early Lower Cretaceous, the newly discovered herbivore Bajadasaurus pronuspinax had a thing for growing spikes. It was part of the Sauropod family, but looked a little like a small Brontosaurus crossed with a porcupine.
~ OK, then.