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Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humankind in jeopardy, say researchers

July 15, 2015

Earth-space battery. The planet is a positive charge of stored chemical energy (cathode) in the form of fossil and nuclear fuels and biomass. As this energy is dissipated by humans, it eventually radiates as heat toward the chemical equilibrium of deep space (anode). The battery is rapidly discharging without replenishment. (credit: John R. Schramski et al./PNAS)

Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” said the study’s lead author,… read more

How science can build a better you

November 4, 2012

How far would you go to modify yourself using the latest medical technology?

In a New York Times article Saturday, author and broadcaster David Ewing Duncan offers a partial checklist of cutting-edge medical-technology therapies now under way or in an experimental phase that might lead to future enhancements, including:


  • supermemory or attention pill
  • cochlear implant to improve hearing
  • brain-boosting neuro-feedback and

read more

Green tea extract blocks formation of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease

March 8, 2013


Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a new potential benefit of a molecule in green tea: preventing the misfolding of specific proteins in the brain.

U-M Life Sciences Institute faculty member Mi Hee Lim and an interdisciplinary team of researchers used green tea extract to control the generation of metal-associated amyloid-β aggregates associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the lab.

The specific molecule… read more

A ’3D printer’ for customized small molecules such as drugs

March 12, 2015

3D Printer for Small Molecules1

Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a simpler way to synthesize small molecules, eliminating a major bottleneck in creating new medicines.

As the scientists note in the March 13, 2015, issue of the journal Science, “small-molecule syntheses typically employ strategies and purification methods that are highly customized for each target, thus requiring automation solutions to be developed [inefficiently] on an ad hoc basis.”

According to Martin Burke, an… read more

‘Green Brain’ project to create autonomous flying robot with honeybee brain

October 2, 2012

The honeybee brain: a schematic view of the major neuropils of the central brain area excluding the eyes, showing the olfactory pathway (credit: Randolf Menzel and Martin Giurfa/TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences)

Scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are embarking on an ambitious project to produce the first accurate computer models of a honeybee brain in a bid to advance our understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how animals think.

The team will build models of the systems in the brain that govern a honeybee’s vision and sense of smell. Using this information, the researchers… read more

Graphene micro-supercapacitors to replace batteries for microelectonics devices

Will power biomedical implants, active RFID tags, embedded micro-sensors, and flexible electronics
February 27, 2013


UCLA researchers have developed a groundbreaking technique that uses a DVD burner to fabricate miniature graphene-based supercapacitors — devices that can charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand times faster than standard batteries.

These micro-supercapacitors, made from a one-atom–thick layer of carbon, can be easily manufactured and readily integrated into small devices, such as next-generation pacemakers.

The new cost-effective fabrication method holds promise for the… read more

Drug laws are ‘worst case of scientific censorship in modern times’

June 17, 2013


Outlawing psychoactive drugs amounts to the worst case of scientific censorship in modern times, leading scientists have argued.

UN conventions on drugs in the 1960s and 1970s have not only compounded the harms of drugs but also produced the worst censorship of research for over 300 years. This has set back research in key areas such as consciousness by decades and effectively stopped the investigation of promising… read more

FDA orders 23andMe to halt sales of its its Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service

November 26, 2013

(Credit: 23 And Me

The FDA has told 23andMe, Inc., the Google-backed DNA analysis company cofounded by Anne Wojcicki, to halt sales of its Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS).

In a letter, the FDA said the company was acting “without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act)….”

“Most of the intended uses for PGS listed on your… read more

A 3D-printed Moon base baked from lunar dust

March 20, 2013


Space architects have unveiled a concept for a 3D-printed Moon base called SinterHab near the lunar south pole. Modules would be constructed from lunar dust by microwave sintering and contour crafting, built by a large NASA spider robot.

Unlike an earlier, more bulky concept using a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution (glue) onto… read more

Blue Brain project accurately predicts connections between neurons

September 18, 2012

Patterning of putative synapses between synaptically coupled neurons (credit: EPFL)

In a landmark paper, published this week in PNAS (forthcoming), the EPFL’s Blue Brain Project (BBP) has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing (in supercomputer) a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

These principles now make it possible to predict the locations of synapses in the neocortex, the researchers say.

“This is a major breakthrough,… read more

Non-invasive brain-to-brain interface: links between two brains

Direct communication between the brains of human and rat .... or between humans
April 8, 2013


We reported last month how Duke University researchers remotely linked the brains of two rats. Now researchers from the U.S and South Korea have have taken it a step further: a non-invasive functional link between the brains of different species (human and rat) — a brain-to-brain interface (BBI).

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School set up a system intended to allow a human to… read more

3D printed meat development funded

August 17, 2012


Billionaire investor Peter Thiel’s philanthropic foundation has announced a six-figure grant for bioprinted meat, part of an ambitious plan to bring to the world’s dinner tables a set of technologies originally developed for creating medical-grade tissues, CNET reports.

The recipient of the Thiel Foundation’s grant, a Columbia, Mo.-based startup named Modern Meadow, is pitching bioprinted meat as a more environmentally-friendly way to satisfy… read more

The cosmological supercomputer

How the Bolshoi simulation evolves the universe all over again
October 3, 2012


Most of the ordinary matter in the universe — the stuff that makes up all the atoms, stars, and galaxies astronomers can see — is invisible, either sprinkled throughout intergalactic space in tenuous forms that emit and absorb little light or else swaddled inside galaxies in murky clouds of dust and gas, Joel R. Primack writes in IEEE Spectrum.

When astronomers look out into the night… read more

A bucket-full of this material can absorb all the oxygen in a room

The stored oxygen can be easily released again whenever and wherever needed
October 1, 2014

This exotic crystalline material changes color when absorbing or releasing oxygen. Crystals are black when saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released. (Credit: University of Southern Denmark)

A new crystalline material absorbs 160 times more oxygen than in the air around you — only a spoonful bucket-full (10 liters) of it is enough to suck up all the oxygen in a room, according to its developer, Professor Christine McKenzie in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark.

A few grains of this material might absorb enough oxygen from the… read more

Replacing a defective gene with a correct sequence to treat genetic disorders

April 10, 2014


Using a new gene-editing system based on bacterial proteins, MIT researchers have cured mice of a rare liver disorder caused by a single genetic mutation.

The findings, described in the March 30 issue of Nature Biotechnology, offer the first evidence that this gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, can reverse disease symptoms in living animals. CRISPR, which offers an easy way to snip out mutated DNA and replace it with… read more

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