Tag Archives: DNA storage

Futurology ~ Jupiter’s spot close up, laser-sat, moon rocks, teleportation, battery and staircase power, Multi elevator, DNA storage, Living Drug, Ötzi’s axe


Jupiter’s red spot — It’s actually a storm with a diameter larger than Earth’s. It has been the planet’s most conspicuous feature for centuries, yet scientists don’t fully understand what created the storm, or how it’s been swirling around for so long.
And while they haven’t figured that part out yet, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has brought them closer than they’ve ever been before – literally. Last Monday, Juno skimmed just 9012 kilometres (5600 miles) above the storm clouds, and snapped some pictures as it went. It’s taken the data a few days to get back to Juno’s Earthbound science team, but the images are finally here.
~ Edvard Munch, anyone?

Laser-beaming satellites could enable space communications — A  laser beam of infrared light and invisible to the human eye has been beamed from Tokyo. By the time it had traveled through hundreds of miles of outer space and atmosphere, the light was harmless: it had spread out like a spotlight, about as wide as 10 soccer fields. Some of that light made its way into the end of a telescope, where it bounced off mirrors and flew through lenses and filters onto a photon-measuring detector. Some day Masahide Sasaki hopes, that light could be more than invisible wavelengths hitting a telescope—it could be encoded with information, leading to communication with Mars.
~ Yeah … I still don’t want to go to Mars. You can’t even grow spuds there

Wanna buy a Moon rock? Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon.
~ Gosh, yes, everyone wants one of those. 

Object actually teleported — The Micius team has created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they’ve used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.
~ Work needed. Nothing like expecting Captain Kirk and just getting his fingernail. 

Hyperloop tested and it worked — Hyperloop One announced last week that it successfully tested a full hyperloop. The step into the future occurred in May at the company’s Nevada test track, where engineers watched a magnetically levitating test sled fire through a tube in near-vacuum, reaching 112kph (70mph) in just over five seconds.
That is but a fraction of the 1126kph (700mph) or so Hyperloop One promises, but what matters here is all the elements required to make hyperloop work, worked: propulsion, braking, and the levitation and vacuum systems that all but eliminate friction and air resistance so that pod shoots through the tube at maximum speed with minimal energy.
~ Hyperscoop!

Big Australian battery — The awarding of a 129 MWh battery contract to Tesla is big news for South Australia, as it will be able to instantly provide power to the grid when needed, as well as taking out any fluctuations in generating capacity from surrounding wind farms and PV installations. The battery will be able to supply close to 10% of the state’s energy needs for almost an hour. Why? Storage has long been the missing link for renewable energy.
~ What’s next, Tesla battery hens?

Brilliant staircase design stores extra energy to make it easier to climb later — Thanks to engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory University, stairs might one day do all the hard work for you. These energy-recycling stairs store energy when you descend, and then release it to make the ascent easier on the way back up.
~ Or, you know, just do some work you lazy so-and-sos. 

Sideways elevator — After three years of work, ThyssenKrupp is testing the Multi elevator in a German tower and finalising the safety certification. This crazy contraption zooms up, down, left, right, and diagonally. ThyssenKrupp just sold the first Multi to a residential building under construction in Berlin, and expects to sell them to other developers soon.
~ The best comment goes to the company’s CEO Patrick Bass: “There were some doubts”. 

DNA storage — E. coli might best be known for giving street food connoisseurs occasional bouts of gastric regret. But the humble microbial workhorse, with its easy-to-edit genome, has given humankind so much more — insulin, antibiotics, cancer drugs, biofuels, synthetic rubber, and now: a place to keep your selfies safe for the next millennium.
~ Sorry, grandchildren, I could have passed on my cold sore immunity but instead, check out this picture of me and Nanna by the Eifel Tower!

‘Living drug’ fights cancer — A new kind of cancer treatment uses genetically engineered cells from a patient’s immune system to attack their cancer. It has easily cleared a crucial hurdle  when a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee unanimously recommended that the agency approve this ‘living drug’ approach for children and young adults who are fighting a common form of leukaemia.
~ Something we can use so soon? Awesome. 

New York’s genetically engineered insects — Diamondback moths may be a mere half-inch in length, but their voracious appetite for Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower make them a major pain for farmers. This week, the US Department of Agriculture approved moths genetically engineered to contain a special gene that makes them gradually die off. A field trial slated to take place in a small area of upstate New York will become the first wild release of an insect modified using genetic engineering in the US.
~ Let there be rejoicing in the kale fields. 

Ötzi the Iceman ‘s long-distance axe — A recent analysis of the metal found in the Neolithic hunter’s copper axe suggests a point of origin in Southern Tuscany, which is far from where Ötzi’s frozen body was found. This suggests a long-distance trade route might have existed between central Italy and the Alps some 5300 years ago.
~ This Copper Age corpse is the gift that keeps on giving.

Futurology ~ Trappist, turbulent Jupiter, Venus probe, new Supersolid, DNA storage, robots to enrich the rich


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Trappist looking more attractive — A few days ago,  the citizens of Earth were introduced (technically, re-introduced) to a star system 39 light years away hosting seven Earth-sized exoplanets, three of which lie squarely in the habitable zone. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, researchers are now suggesting that a fourth of the TRAPPIST-1 planets might be habitable, too. Although we might have to stretch our imaginations a bit.
~ Every time Trump opens his mouth, it looks more attractive to me. Besides, Trappists make great beer. 

Turbulent Jupiter — Things may be pretty whacky here on Earth, but they’re nothing compared to the gigantic storm twice as wide as our own planet raging on Jupiter. The area just west of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is both dazzling and chaotic, filled with swirling clouds of mystery. Now, thanks to NASA’s Juno spacecraft – and a very skilled citizen scientist – we have the most high-res image of this region ever.
~ Get ready for more dramatic photos thanks to Juno. 

Venus probe cameras — Following an unexpected energy surge, Japan’s space agency has hit the pause button on two of the five cameras aboard its Venus-orbiting Akatsuki spacecraft. It’s a bad sign for the troubled orbiter, which has been exposed to more radiation than anticipated.
~ Just don’t tell the energy industry. 

New Supersolid — American and Swiss researchers have created a strange new ‘supersolid‘ in two different ways. It’s not something you can hold in your hand: these are highly-engineered materials that exist in ultracold vacuum chambers. But there’s been a sort of race to create supersolids, which will help us understand the nature of matter itself.
~ I thought there were only two states of matter: Does and Doesn’t. 

Researchers have now encoded an 1895 French film, a computer virus and a $50 Amazon gift card in DNA —  In 2011, Harvard University geneticist George Church pioneered the use of DNA for electronic data storage, encoding his own book, some images, and a Javascript program in the molecules. A year later, researchers European Bioinformatics Institute improved the method, and uploaded all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a clip of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, a PDF of the paper from James Watson and Francis Crick that detailed the structure of DNA, and a photo of their institute into a tiny speck of DNA. In July, a team from Microsoft and University of Washington also managed to store a record 200 megabytes of data in DNA.
Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University respectively have a new method, dubbed ‘DNA Fountain‘.
~ But where the hell do you plug it in? 

Robots to enrich the rich — Despite a steady stream of alarming headlines about clever computers gobbling up our jobs, the economic data suggests that automation isn’t happening on a large scale. The bad news is that if it does, it will produce a level of inequality that will make present-day America look like an egalitarian utopia by comparison. The real threat posed by robots isn’t that they will become evil and kill us all, which is what keeps Elon Musk up at night – it’s that they will amplify economic disparities to such an extreme that life will become, quite literally, unlivable for the vast majority.
~ Hardly a surprise, surely?