Thursday, October 15, 2015

Friday Thinking 16 October 2015

Hello – Friday Thinking is curated on the basis of my own curiosity and offered in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. 

In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

It’s a classic story of technological convergence: Advances in processing power, speech recognition, mobile connectivity, cloud computing, and neural networks have all surged to a critical mass at roughly the same time. These tools are finally good enough, cheap enough, and accessible enough to make the conversational interface real—and ubiquitous.

But it’s not just that conversational technology is finally possible to build. There’s also a growing need for it. As more devices come online, particularly those without screens—your light fixtures, your smoke alarm—we need a way to interact with them that doesn’t require buttons, menus, and icons.

You may not engage heavily with virtual assistants right now, but you probably will soon. This fall a major leap forward for the conversational interface will be announced by the ding of a push notification on your smartphone. Once you’ve upgraded to iOS 9, Android 6, or Windows 10, you will, by design, find yourself spending less time inside apps and more chatting with Siri, Google Now, or Cortana. And soon, a billion-plus Facebook users will be able to open a chat window and ask M, a new smart assistant, for almost anything (using text—for now). These are no longer just supplementary ways to do things. They’re the best way, and in some cases the only way. (In Apple’s HomeKit system for the connected house, you make sure everything’s off and locked by saying, “Hey Siri, good night.”)
We’re on the Brink of a Revolution in Crazy-Smart Digital Assistants

Strategic Planning Assumptions
By 2018,
20% of all business content will be authored by machines.
-6 billion connected things will be requesting support.
-more than 3 million workers globally will be supervised by a "roboboss."
-20% of smart buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism.
-50% of the fastest-growing companies will have fewer employees than instances of smart machines.
-customer digital assistants will recognize individuals by face and voice across channels and partners.
-2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment.

By 2020, 
-autonomous software agents outside of human control will participate in 5% of all economic transactions.
-smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions, and the post-app era will begin to dominate.
-95% of cloud security failures will be the customer's fault.
Gartner - Top Strategic Predictions for 2016 and Beyond: The Future Is a Digital Thing

“The reality is that people who live in supportive, connected, and economically-thriving communities tend to be healthier. Therefore, perhaps the most important contribution that community development finance provides—more than the affordable apartments, more than the startup capital for small businesses, more than the funding for a grocery store, charter school, or day care center—is the larger contribution of a more vibrant and healthier community. In the end, the most important contribution of community development finance may be something we don’t focus on or measure: the billions of dollars of social savings from fewer visits to the emergency room, fewer chronic diseases, and a population more capable of making a contribution as healthy productive citizens.”
Bipartisan Science

This is an interesting discussion of the responsibilities of scientist to face the realities of the socio-political environments within which they work and their research finds footing.
Bipartisan Science
It’s not enough for scientists to clearly communicate their findings to policy makers; they need to be politically smart, too. This means highlighting evidence and options that can appeal to opposing ideologies.
One evening more than 30 years ago, when working as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives, I attended a dinner at which I was the target of an onslaught of attacks from scientists who believed Congress was clueless about the value of the National Institutes of Health and the need for more appropriations. I made my rebuttal in a commentary in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), saying: “Government and the scientific community must work together because two constants exist that are unlikely to change in the years ahead. First, government rightfully continues to demand accountability for the taxpayers’ money. Second, research will go on, if for no other reason than mysteries remain unanswered.”

Those constants still hold. And as one way to help reconcile these two very different worlds, I have collaborated with hundreds of researchers to help them tell their stories so that policymakers might listen. They have been experts on many subjects—malaria vaccines, teen sex, stem cell research, crop science, college drinking, homelessness, health in jails, community college reform, violence reduction, land rights in the Amazon, and many more.

And another related article about changing the process to scientific consensus or self-regulation.
After Asilomar
Scientist-led conferences are no longer the best way to resolve debates on controversial research.
In 1975, some 140 scientists met at the Asilomar resort on California’s rocky Monterey Peninsula to discuss the nascent science of mixing DNA from different organisms.

Until that point, researchers had deliberately not performed the final steps of such experiments, owing to concerns about safety and ethics. Over three days of discussions, the conference attendees agreed to voluntary restrictions on recombinant-DNA research, and drafted a document that listed the potential risks of such experiments and how to carry out the work safely.

The meeting is seen as the first time that science had regulated itself — effectively avoiding government intervention — and assuaged public fears by addressing biosafety concerns head-on.

Today, no scientific controversy is complete without calls for an ‘Asilomar-like’ conference. Until such a conversation has taken place, proponents say, researchers should not proceed with risky propositions.

Debates on artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons, geoengineering and the use of gene-editing technology have all referred to Asilomar as a useful model. (Geoengineers went so far as to meet in Asilomar.) This month, a group of scholars, programmers, artists, entrepreneurs and video-game developers published a Biosphere Code to protect people and the planet from the negative impact of computer algorithms — produced after Asilomar-like discussions in Stockholm.

But is Asilomar’s reputation deserved? The invitation-only conference included a handful of journalists and policymakers, but did not cast a wide net outside the scientific community. And in hindsight, many of its safety precautions may have been overkill. As bioethicist Jonathan Moreno puts it: “Asilomar has become a bio-Woodstock in people’s memories, a golden age. People forget how muddy Woodstock was.”

Modern science is muddier still: in a 2008 essay in Nature, even Asilomar organizer Paul Berg admitted that such a conference would be difficult to convene today (P. Berg Nature 455, 290–291; 2008). In 1975, he and his colleagues had yielded to concerns from within their tight-knit community. They could afford to pause their research, having reasonable certainty that the technology would not advance in the meantime.

This is a must read for anyone interested in research about living and complex systems. The 2 min video is a must see to grasp the notion of a Strange Attractor.
A Twisted Path to Equation-Free Prediction
Complex natural systems defy standard mathematical analysis, so one ecologist is throwing out the equations.
Sometimes ecological data just don’t make sense. The sockeye salmon that spawn in British Columbia’s Fraser River offer a prime example. Scientists have tracked the fishery there since 1948, through numerous upswings and downswings. At first, population numbers seemed inversely correlated with ocean temperatures: The northern Pacific Ocean surface warms and then cools again every few decades, and in the early years of tracking, fish numbers seemed to rise when sea surface temperature fell. To biologists this seemed reasonable, since salmon thrive in cold waters. Represented as an equation, the population-temperature relationship also gave fishery managers a basis for setting catch limits so the salmon population did not crash.

But in the mid-1970s something strange happened: Ocean temperatures and fish numbers went out of sync. The tight correlation that scientists thought they had found between the two variables now seemed illusory, and the salmon population appeared to fluctuate randomly.

Trying to manage a major fishery with such a primitive understanding of its biology seems like folly to George Sugihara, an ecologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. But he and his colleagues now think they have solved the mystery of the Fraser River salmon. Their crucial insight? Throw out the equations.

Sugihara’s team has developed an approach based on chaos theory that they call “empirical dynamic modeling,” which makes no assumptions about salmon biology and uses only raw data as input. In designing it, the scientists found that sea surface temperature can in fact help predict population fluctuations, even though the two are not correlated in a simple way. Empirical dynamic modeling, Sugihara said, can reveal hidden causal relationships that lurk in the complex systems that abound in nature.

Sugihara and his colleagues are now putting their insight to use. Earlier this year they reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that their method predicted the 2014 Fraser River salmon run more precisely than any other method. Sugihara’s technique predicted a run of between 4.5 million and 9.1 million fish, while the Pacific Salmon Commission’s models predicted anywhere from 6.9 million to 20 million fish — a forecast so broad as to be of little benefit to, for instance, a fisher wanting to know how many boats to deploy in the coming season. The final count was around 8.8 million.

Static equilibrium equations may be useful for building a bridge, he said, but it’s time to abandon the search for equilibrium in the complex, nonlinear systems that nature produces. Seductively simple correlations may appear for a period of time, he observed, but in a chaotic system such correlations do not provide true insight.

This is an amazing visualization - the tour is a Must View.
Globe of Economic Complexity
Ever wanted to see the true scale of the world economy? Visualize $15 Trillion of World Exports. One dot equals $100M of exports.
The globe of economic complexity dynamically maps out the entire world production of goods to create an economic landscape of countries around the globe.

The Globe is built upon The Atlas of Economic Complexity, a powerful interactive tool that enables users to visualize a country’s total trade, track how these dynamics change over time and explore growth opportunities for more than a hundred countries worldwide.

For any given country, The Atlas shows which products are produced and exported; The Atlas can then use this information to suggest products a country could begin manufacturing in order to fuel economic growth.

Thinking of this Globe of Economic Complexity - here’s a MUST SEE 3 min video describing one of the institutional innovation necessary and possible in the 21st Century.
Improving Transparency with Country-by-Country Reporting
The OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project provides governments with solutions for closing the gaps in existing international rules, that currently allow corporate profits to “disappear” or be artificially shifted to low/no tax environments, where little or no economic activity takes place.

This year’s Nobel Economist is Angus Deaton - here’s a brief exemplar article.
Weak States, Poor Countries
In Scotland, I was brought up to think of policemen as allies and to ask one for help when I needed it. Imagine my surprise when, as a 19-year-old on my first visit to the United States, I was met by a stream of obscenities from a New York City cop who was directing traffic in Times Square after I asked him for directions to the nearest post office. In my subsequent confusion, I inserted my employer’s urgent documents into a trash bin that, to me, looked a lot like a mailbox.

Europeans tend to feel more positively about their governments than do Americans, for whom the failures and unpopularity of their federal, state, and local politicians are a commonplace. Yet Americans’ various governments collect taxes and, in return, provide services without which they could not easily live their lives.

Americans, like many citizens of rich countries, take for granted the legal and regulatory system, the public schools, health care and social security for the elderly, roads, defense and diplomacy, and heavy investments by the state in research, particularly in medicine. Certainly, not all of these services are as good as they might be, nor held in equal regard by everyone; but people mostly pay their taxes, and if the way that money is spent offends some, a lively public debate ensues, and regular elections allow people to change priorities.

All of this is so obvious that it hardly needs saying – at least for those who live in rich countries with effective governments. But most of the world’s population does not.

Here’s a prediction of the top 10 trends for 2016 by Gartner.
Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016
Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with the potential for significant impact on the organization. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technologies impact the organization's long-term plans, programs and initiatives.

"Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends will shape digital business opportunities through 2020," said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "The first three trends address merging the physical and virtual worlds and the emergence of the digital mesh. While organizations focus on digital business today, algorithmic business is emerging. Algorithms — relationships and interconnections — define the future of business. In algorithmic business, much happens in the background in which people are not directly involved. This is enabled by smart machines, which our next three trends address. Our final four trends address the new IT reality, the new architecture and platform trends needed to support digital and algorithmic business."

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2016 are:
  • The Device Mesh
  • Ambient User Experience
  • 3D Printing Materials
  • Information of Everything
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Autonomous Agents and Things
  • Adaptive Security Architecture
  • Advanced System Architecture
  • Mesh App and Service Architecture
  • Internet of Things Platforms

The MOOC is far from dead and may be becoming even more disruptive as it rides the near-zero-marginal cost economy.
Take Free Online Classes, Get Course Credit at MIT
Passing a free online course isn’t as meaningful as taking the same class for credit on a college campus. But that could be changing.
MIT is taking perhaps its biggest step yet to combine free online classes with its traditional on-campus instruction. The university announced Wednesday at its Solve conference that it will allow students to obtain one of its master’s degrees by doing half of the coursework online—from anywhere, for free, without any admissions tests—and then doing the other half in a single semester on campus.

This blended online-offline offering is an experiment: it will be available, at least for now, only for MIT’s one-year program in supply chain management. Nonetheless, it is a significant endorsement of the idea that massive open online courses, or MOOCs, will help reshape how universities operate.

Typically only about three dozen students are in the supply chain master’s program each year. But now anyone will be allowed to take the first semester of classes for free on edX, the online service that offers courses from MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, and other schools. Then, if their online coursework is good enough and they pass an exam at the end of the semester (by going to a proctoring center near where they live), they can earn a credential that MIT is calling a “MicroMaster’s.” If they want to go on to the second semester and earn the full master’s in supply chain management, they can formally apply. Having been granted the MicroMaster’s, MIT says, will “significantly enhance” their chances of gaining acceptance. The program will increase in size to make room for students coming in this way.

This is a fascinating research finding - that should be the focus of interest - beginning a science of faith.
Placebo Effect Grows in U.S., Thwarting Development of Painkillers
Analgesics struggle to get through clinical trials as the response to sham treatments has become stronger
Drug companies have a problem: they are finding it ever harder to get painkillers through clinical trials. But this isn’t necessarily because the drugs are getting worse. An extensive analysis of trial data has found that responses to sham treatments have become stronger over time, making it harder to prove a drug’s advantage over placebo.

The change in response to placebo treatments for pain, discovered by researchers in Canada, holds true only for US clinical trials. “We were absolutely floored when we found out,” says Jeffrey Mogil, who directs the pain-genetics lab at McGill University in Montreal and led the analysis. Simply being in a US trial and receiving sham treatment now seems to relieve pain almost as effectively as many promising new drugs. Mogil thinks that as US trials get longer, larger and more expensive, they may be enhancing participants’ expectations of their effectiveness.

Stronger placebo responses have already been reported for trials of antidepressants and antipsychotics, triggering debate over whether growing placebo effects are seen in pain trials too. To find out, Mogil and his colleagues examined 84 clinical trials of drugs for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain (pain which affects the nervous system) published between 1990 and 2013.

Based on patients’ ratings of their pain, the effect of trialled drugs in relieving symptoms stayed the same over the 23-year period—but placebo responses rose. In 1996, patients in clinical trials reported that drugs relieved their pain by 27% more than did a placebo. But by 2013, that gap had slipped to just 9%. The phenomenon is driven by 35 US trials; among trials in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, there was no significant change in placebo responses.The analysis is in press in the journal Pain.

Mogil suggests it is also worth investigating the elements that generate the more powerful placebo response in US trials, and then incorporating those elements (such as the relationship between patient and nurse) into patient care. Ted Kaptchuk, director of placebo research at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, agrees. “If the major component of a drug in any particular condition is its placebo component, we need to develop non-pharmacological interventions as a first-line response,” he says.

If we think that the free MOOC is going to accelerate learning - it probably will but even more important will be the enhancing of our memory via the Looming emergence of the ubiquitous personal, E-ssistant integrating, AI and …. well the whole Internet. This is a longish article - but worth the read.
We’re on the Brink of a Revolution in Crazy-Smart Digital Assistants
The prototype is called Hound, and it’s pretty incredible. Holding a black Nexus 5 smartphone, Mohajer taps a blue and white microphone icon and begins asking questions. He starts simply, asking for the time in Berlin and the population of Japan. Basic search-result stuff—followed by a twist: “What is the distance between them?” The app understands the context and fires back, “About 5,536 miles.”

Then Mohajer gets rolling, smiling as he rattles off a barrage of questions that keep escalating in complexity. He asks Hound to calculate the monthly mortgage payments on a million-dollar home, and the app immediately asks him for the interest rate and the term of the loan before dishing out its answer: $4,270.84.

“What is the population of the capital of the country in which the Space Needle is located?” he asks. Hound figures out that Mohajer is fishing for the population of Washington, DC, faster than I do and spits out the correct answer in its rapid-fire robotic voice. “What is the population and capital for Japan and China, and their areas in square miles and square kilometers? And also tell me how many people live in India, and what is the area code for Germany, France, and Italy?” Mohajer would keep on adding questions, but he runs out of breath. I’ll spare you the minute-long response, but Hound answers every question. Correctly.

Hound, which is now in beta, is probably the fastest and most versatile voice recognition system unveiled thus far. It has an edge for now because it can do speech recognition and natural language processing simultaneously. But really, it’s only a matter of time before other systems catch up.

Here’s a 2 min video about the self-driving smart assistant - worth the watch to see the non-driver’s reaction.
Tesla's Autopilot System Is Awesome And Creepy And A Sign Of A Beautiful Future
The Tesla Model S isn’t the first truly autonomous car on the road and available for sale to the public. We’re not there yet, just as a society. But it is the first car with what Tesla’s calling its “Autopilot” system. And if this is the future not of driving, but of sitting in traffic, then please sign me up.

Now for anyone worried about digital assistants becoming smarter than who they’re serving? Here’s some answers from a favorite physicist
Answers to Stephen Hawking’s AMA are Here!
ICONIC PHYSICIST STEPHEN Hawking joined the #maketechhuman debate today with his first-ever Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).
The AMA was announced in July and within days had become the third-largest AMA in Reddit’s history. Over 9,000 comments were submitted to the open AMA thread, with Hawking selecting and responding to questions at his own pace.

In choosing to answer mostly questions about artificial intelligence, Hawking signaled his concern about the future of AI, as well as the role AI could play in all of our futures.
Earlier this year, Hawking joined tech luminaries Elon Musk and Bill Gates to sign an open letter imploring researchers to balance the benefits of artificial intelligence with the risks. While Hawking himself is an early adopter of communications technology – a primitive form of AI – he fears that intelligent machines could overtake the human race if left unchecked.

In the AMA, Hawking clarified his beliefs on the topic and addressed the threat — real or imagined — of robots coming for our jobs. He also noted the one mystery of the universe he thought should stay a mystery.

The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence. A super-intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble. You’re probably not an evil ant-hater who steps on ants out of malice, but if you’re in charge of a hydroelectric green energy project and there’s an anthill in the region to be flooded, too bad for the ants. Let’s not place humanity in the position of those ants.

Please encourage your students to think not only about how to create AI, but also about how to ensure its beneficial use.

Here’s a development toward the emergence of the tri-corder.
MouthLab: Patients' Vital Signs Are Just a Breath Away

  • Vital sign monitors in hospitals are bulky, restrictive and capture limited information.
  • A professor-engineer at Johns Hopkins has designed a battery-powered, hand-held, 3-D printed device that acts as a “check-engine light” for people.
  • The device uses mouthpiece and thumb pad sensors to quickly test a patient’s blood pressure, breathing, blood oxygen, heart rate and heartbeat pattern.

Engineers and physicians at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a hand-held, battery-powered device that quickly picks up vital signs from a patient’s lips and fingertip. Updated versions of the prototype, called MouthLab, could replace the bulky, restrictive monitors now used to display patients’ vital signs in hospitals and gather more data than is typically collected during a medical assessment in an ambulance, emergency room, doctor’s office or patient’s home.  

Speaking of the acceleration of sensing technology - here’s something else - not yet ready for the tri-corder…. But
New test detects all viruses that infect people, animals
A new test detects virtually any virus that infects people and animals, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where the technology was developed.

Many thousands of viruses are known to cause illness in people and animals, and making a diagnosis can be an exhaustive exercise, at times requiring a battery of different tests. That’s because current tests aren’t sensitive enough to detect low levels of viral bugs or are limited to detecting only those viruses suspected of being responsible for a patient’s illness.

“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” said the study’s senior author, Gregory Storch, MD, the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics. “It casts a broad net and can efficiently detect viruses that are present at very low levels. We think the test will be especially useful in situations where a diagnosis remains elusive after standard testing or in situations in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown.”

And one more part of the pre-tri-corder multi-tool kit.
A fast cell sorter shrinks to cell phone size
Commercially available cell sorters can rapidly and accurately aid medical diagnosis and biological research, but they are large and expensive, present a biohazard and may damage cells. Now a team of researchers has developed a cell sorter based on acoustic waves that can compete with existing fluorescence-activated cell sorters and is an inexpensive lab on a chip.

"The current benchtop cell sorters are too expensive, too unsafe, and too high-maintenance," said Tony Jun Huang, Penn State professor of engineering science and mechanics. "More importantly, they have very low biocompatibility. The cell-sorting process can reduce cell viability and functions by 30 to 99 percent for many fragile or sensitive cells such as neurons, stem cells, liver cells and sperm cells. We are developing an acoustic cell sorter that has the potential to address all these problems."

Over the past decade, microfluidic cell sorters have emerged as a promising new tool for single cell sequencing, rare cell isolation, and drug screening. However, many of these microfluidic devices operate at only a few hundred cells per second, far too slow to compete with commercial devices that operate on the order of tens of thousands of operations per second. The Penn State system can sort about 3,000 cells per second, with the potential to sort more than 13,000 cells per second.

We’ve all seen movies about the cyborg - hardware implants to enhance the human - with even more access to powerful software - but here’s another twist on the ‘BioBorg’.
Scientists from the University of Twente's MESA+ research institute have developed a method for naturally incorporating living cells in materials, while fully preserving all properties. They succeeded in changing bacteria in such a way that they can be incorporated in man-made materials with dynamic weak bonds (non-covalent bonds). This new method opens the way for 'living implants', such as stents on which cells from the lining of blood vessels can attach themselves. The research was published in the leading scientific journal ACS Nano.

Supramolecular chemistry is the science that is concerned with molecular self-assembly: chemical building blocks which, when you combine them, naturally form larger ordered structures. In this case they are held together by so-called non-covalent bonds: weak bonds that play a key role in all natural processes. Within this branch of science, the art is to develop the various building blocks in such a way that they naturally form the desired structures. Researchers from the University of Twente MESA+ research institute have now found a method that allows them to ensure that living cells - in this case bacteria from the human body - can be incorporated in materials while maintaining their mobility. This opens the way to a wide range of new applications, for example as part of medical implants. Examples include stents equipped with bacteria on which endothelial cells (cells that form the lining of blood vessels) can grow, or bacteria that can release medicines in specific parts of the body.

According to research leader prof. dr. ir. Pascal Jonkheijm, this research is an important scientific step. "With this research we can now also incorporate real living building blocks in materials, while they retain their full function and mobility."

Now this is a different sort of living implant - an interesting discussion of the ecology that is the human self.
Should We Bank Our Own Stool?
BY last August, my 1-year-old son had taken five courses of antibiotics for recurrent ear infections. That was alarming. By age 10, the average American child has had about 10 courses, and some microbiologists argue that even one course a year is too many — that it might damage our native microbial ecosystem, with far-reaching consequences.

My son was off to a worrisome start. Why, I wondered, didn’t doctors work harder to prevent this collateral damage, not with store-bought probiotics, but with “microbial restoration”? Why didn’t we reinfuse patients with their own microbes after antibiotics?

The scientific term for this is “autologous fecal transplant.” In theory, it could work like a system reboot disk works for your computer. You’d freeze your feces, which are roughly half microbes, and when your microbiome became corrupted or was depleted with antimicrobials, you could “reinstall” it from a backup copy.

That damage from antibiotics may not be trivial. Studies have linked antibiotic use early in life with a modestly increased risk of asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and rheumatoid arthritis. These are associations, of course; they don’t prove that antibiotics cause disease.

Dr. Eric Pamer, a physician and scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, has discovered that the diversity of the microbiota just after the stem cell transplant predicts well-being and survival.
In a study of subjects who underwent stem cell transplants, those with the least diverse microbiomes after surgery were five times less likely to remain alive three years later, when compared with those with the most diverse microbiomes, when you exclude those who died from cancer relapse. This finding excluded subjects who died of cancer and other non-transplant-related causes, such that when you include all causes of death, those who had less diverse microbiomes were two to three times more likely to die.

The acceleration of the development and use of technologies involved in domesticating DNA - may be beyond control.
A Tale of Do-It-Yourself Gene Therapy
An American biotech CEO claims she is the first to undergo gene therapy to reverse aging. Judge for yourself.
Can aging be slowed by using gene therapy to make permanent changes to a person’s DNA?

One Seattle-area woman says she has tried exactly that. Her claim has entangled some high-profile American academics in a strange tale of do-it-yourself medicine that involves plane flights to Latin America, an L.A. film crew, and what’s purported to be the first attempt to use gene therapy to forestall normal aging.

Elizabeth Parrish, the 44-year-old CEO of a biotechnology startup called BioViva, says she underwent a gene therapy at an undisclosed location overseas last month, a first step in what she says is a plan to develop treatments for ravages of old age like Alzheimer’s and muscle loss. “I am patient zero,” she declared during a Q&A on the website Reddit on Sunday. “I have aging as a disease.”

Since last week, MIT Technology Review has attempted to independently verify the accuracy of Parrish’s claims, particularly how she obtained the genetic therapy. While many key details could not be confirmed, people involved with her company said the medical procedure took place September 15 in Colombia.

And one more smart device potentially bringing DNA sequencing to the DIY community.
Mini DNA sequencer tests true
The performance of the MinION™ miniature DNA sequencing device has been evaluated by an open, international consortium, and the resulting recommendations and protocols published before peer-review on the F1000Research platform.

Public access to Oxford Nanopore’s MinION™ USB-attached miniature sensing device enabled an international consortium to evaluate the technology and provide a standard protocol for its use;
  • Preliminary analysis of data generated in five very different laboratories indicates the performance and accuracy of the device is consistently good;
  • Data are freely available for re-analysis and innovation in the Nanopore analysis channel on F1000Research.

The MinION, a handheld DNA-sequencing device developed by Oxford Nanopore, has been tested and evaluated by an independent, international consortium coordinated by EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). The innovative device opens up new possibilities for using sequencing technology in the field, for example in tracking disease outbreaks, testing packaged food or the trafficking of protected species.

The MinION works by detecting individual DNA bases that pass through a nanopore, and unlike existing sequencing technologies, there are few inherent sensing limits on the length of the DNA sequence that it could read at one go. The MinION device was initially made available to thousands of laboratories all over the world, who were inspired to explore the technology and contribute to its development through the MinION Access Programme (MAP).

And for anyone interested in the DIY bio-technology exploration here’s how from the Journal of Peer Production: New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Build your own lab
Most articles on garage biology and do-it-yourself (DIY) biology – whether academic papers or media reports – highlight its somewhat “immaterial” cultures or ideologies. The issues usually raised include: the ways in which do-it-yourself biology potentially democratizes science and fosters a citizen science (Wolinsky, 2009), that its practitioners are a “creative proof of the hacker principle” (Ledford, 2010: 650), that the field is an illustration of the open source movement, that concerns about control, security and safety need to be addressed (Sawyer, 2011). However, rather than focusing on such relatively abstract cultures, this article focuses on the more material aspects of do-it-yourself biology: its locations, its equipments, its objects. I thus follow Watson and Shove’s (2005) approach and focus on the tools and materials, rather than the symbolic meanings and effects of, do-it-yourself practices (see also Shove et al., 2007: 41-68). This article presents three sites of DIY practices: a community laboratory in Paris, a private laboratory in Boston and, third, cheap alternatives to scientific equipment, such as the DremelFuge. The argument I am concerned with is that the circulability, the affordability and the mutability of objects play a key role in do-it-yourself biology and, at the same time, that we witness the emergence of a “citizen biotech-economy”.

This is awesome for many reasons not just the content of the title - but the opening of how we can participate in the exploration of our brains. This is a Must See.
Beautiful 10-Minute Film On The Current State Of Neuroscience
The brain is one of the most-studied - and most complex - things on the planet, so it can be hard to keep up with what the current state of neuroscience is. This 10-minute video does a wonderful job of explaining.

It's a whistle-stop tour of the entire field of brain science, from the treatment of neuro-degenerative diseases and brain-computer interfaces, to building unprecedented maps of the brain's deep-most connections and the ethics of tampering with them. It ricochets between researchers from places like Imperial College London, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Stanford and Max Planck Institute. And it's also beautifully put together. It's well worth a watch.

A looming phase transition in mass transit is emerging - I think this is safe to say more than a weak signal and more than a mobile nomad app.
Tiny, automated bus experiment begins in Greece
Four tiny, driverless buses are on trial in the Greek city of Trikala, the first of five European cities to introduce the automated transportation.

The vehicles are part of CityMobil2, an EU-funded research project that is staging tests of automated road transport systems with self-driving buses across Europe. Each bus can carry 10 to 12 passengers along the road at speeds of up to 20 kilometers an hour, around the same speed as a milk float, but faster than a golf buggy.

While Greece is experimenting with a mini-bus China trials something larger.
Google may have little pod-like driverless cars tootling about the streets of California, but a Chinese company recently sent a massive, self-driving bus packed with passengers on a 20-mile ride through the city of Zhengzhou.

Yutong, the firm that helped build the vehicle, said that on its maiden journey earlier this month the specially adapted bus “successfully completed a series of highly complex driving acts,” such as automatically changing lanes, overtaking, and responding to lights.

Hitting a top speed of 42 mph and reaching its destination without so much as a scratch, the journey apparently marked the world’s first successful trial of a self-driving bus.

Yutong has spent the last three years working with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and driverless-car experts to create tech for the bus that includes two cameras, four laser radars, and an integrated navigation system.

The company says the bus and its self-driving technology require further development and testing before a proper rollout can be considered.

Here’s something that indicates another trajectory towards other forms of energy.
Artificial Leaf Harnesses Sunlight for Efficient Fuel Production
Generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy. When the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) was established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub had one main goal: a cost-effective method of producing fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and storing energy in the form of chemical fuels for use on demand. Over the past five years, researchers at JCAP have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

And there is more energy news.
Largest ocean thermal energy conversion OTEC Facility Inaugurated in Hawaii
One of the world’s largest facilities that harvests energy from ocean temperature gradients began operation this August in Hawaii.

The 100-kW ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) facility’s inauguration at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) marks a significant milestone for the technology (Figure 1). One key aspect being tested at the facility is a heat exchanger. “Heat exchangers make up about [a third] of the cost of a 100-MW OTEC plant,” says developer Makai Ocean Engineering. “Any slight reduction in cost, improvement in efficiency, reduction in size, or extension of life will go a long way towards improving the economics of OTEC.”

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, on an average day 23 million square miles of tropical seas absorb an amount of solar radiation equal in heat content to about 250 billion barrels of oil—a tenth of which could supply 20 times the power needs of the entire U.S. on any given day. OTEC is a technology that was proposed as far back as 1881 by a French physicist for converting this solar radiation into electrical power. It essentially seeks to exploit the ocean’s thermal gradients—temperature differences of at least 36 degrees F or more between warm surface water and cold deep seawater—to drive a power-producing cycle. OTEC has been proven to provide continuous baseload power as well as fresh drinking water and cold water for refrigeration, but while several prototypes have been tested intermittently since the first experimental 22-kW low-pressure turbine was deployed in 1930, no commercial-scale plants exist.

This is just awesome - must see
A 17-Year-Old Artist Created This Incredible Map Of Literature
Martin Vargic is a 17-year-old artist from Slovakia who specialises in creating intricate maps drawn from modern data and pop culture.
Here’s his website

No comments:

Post a Comment