Thursday, June 8, 2017

Friday Thinking 9 June 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



Progressing the Blockchain
Now all of us are obviously excited about permissionless distributed ledgers and their potential especially in the corporate world, which has up until now only adopted private Blockchains for their use cases. The biggest issue next to scalability is transaction fees (they are largely intertwined). Bitcoin’s mean transaction fees have already risen above $1. The question of “Who is going to pay for it?”, arises regularly. Especially when it comes to micropayments and enabling a thriving Machine Economy, this question is no longer just a disadvantage listed on a Powerpoint presentation; but it’s a prohibitive factor that renders many of the use cases useless.

Having uncertainty about how much money you will end up receiving in a monetary transaction means that you have uncertainty if your business model even works (after all, you want to make a profit..). How much money will you end up making from selling one resource (e.g. electricity, bandwidth, computation) from one machine to another, when transactions fees are often unpredictable?

Even though we’re seeing a lot of R&D in this area, the overall conclusion is that Blockchain is not production ready, and most of the use cases that are being discussed right now cannot be executed at scale. Every technology in this space today is a Proof of Concept — even Bitcoin.

A Primer on IOTA (with Presentation)

The industrial make-and-sell model required explicit skills as we still know them. The decisive thing was your individual knowledge and individual education. Today, in the new economic spaces you work more from your relations than your skills. The decisive thing is your network. Work is interaction.

Classification of work as different bundles of skills and responsibility has been very easy to grasp and easy to follow in compensation schemes. More skills and/or more responsibility — more pay. Managers, who are responsible people, are given responsibilities — and higher wages. Workers are given less demanding tasks, less responsibility — and lower wages. The argument behind is a circular, self-fulfilling prophecy. People who are not made responsible tend to avoid responsibilities and therefore never become responsible. Skilled people acquire more skills because of the higher cognitive demands of their work. Less-skilled work roles give less opportunities for learning, leading in fact to a slow but certain de-skilling of the workers. This is something we see in many industries today. The phenomena and the causes of the problem become the same.

The organizational system of skills and responsibilities has been made on the assumption that all that has to be done can be known and managed with efficiency and insight. In mass-production, work corresponds mainly with what has been planned and budgeted. But today, in more contextual problem solving, work corresponds mainly with complex engagements with the customers.

The focus changes from generic skills to contextual presence, empathy and interaction.

The technological environment of work has changed fundamentally, but we haven’t yet developed a new mode of economic space design, neither have we escaped the pull of the traditional industrial system. Our relations at work are still asymmetrical involving status differences based on systems of responsibility and systems of skills. This inbuilt systemic fault generates increasing social distance and inequality, as we have now seen.

To succeed in the new economic spaces we need symmetric relationships, open assets and very open organizations.

Rethinking skills and responsibility

As prospects for India’s coal sector are falling, so is the price of renewable energy. In turn, the country’s future outlook, if all goes accordingly, is pretty good news for the planet. India first set a record-low price in February this year when a kilowatt-hour of solar energy was selling at Rs2.97 ($0.046). This month, the country hit another record low—the price of solar dropped 12% further, currently selling at Rs2.62 ($0.041) per kilowatt-hour. “To spell it out, new solar is 15% cheaper than existing domestic coal. No one, anywhere in the world, was expecting solar to get that cheap for at least a decade,” Buckley says, “and India just got there this year.” It’s a marked shift for India—which, in a matter of months, went from potentially thwarting global climate goals to possibly saving them.

Out of the world’s top three carbon transmitters, the US is the only one at risk of missing its target goal, the Climate Action Tracker report concludes. An energy blueprint released this week by the Indian government predicts that 57% of total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027—exceeding the Paris Agreement’s target of 40% by 2030. Currently, almost 33% of the country’s total energy comes from non-fossil fuel, which makes the Paris target relatively unambitious—it looks like India is almost three-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.

From coal to solar, India’s energy landscape almost too hard to keep up with

In surfing, the principle of non-duality plays a conspicuous role. Surfer, surfboard, and water constitute one integrated process. The truly free surfer is egoless. There is neither moving nor being moved; there is only “moving with.” There is no rational planning; there is only in-the-moment co-operation. There is no telling the difference between water’s energy and surfer’s energy; there is only synergy. Hence the sense of gracefulness.

Deleuze and Zen: An Interological Adventure

But institutional investors argue that climate risk is a long-term financial risk that should be integrated into financial reporting.

BlackRock, the world's largest investment firm, with $5.1 trillion in assets under management, and several major global investors—including State Street, Aviva, and Legal & General—have signaled that they want more transparency on climate change risk. BlackRock's first vote against corporate management on climate came this year against Occidental, where it was the largest institutional investor.

"I think we are witnessing a truly historic shift in shareholder support for these resolutions," said Andrew Logan, director of the oil and gas program at Ceres, a nonprofit that works with institutional investors on sustainability issues. "It's a sign that the world is getting ahead of the oil industry. When you have very conservative institutions like BlackRock and Vanguard taking these positions, you know the issue has changed in some fundamental way."

Exxon Shareholders Approve Climate Resolution: 62% Vote for Disclosure

This is a MUST VIEW - for anyone who is interested in the state of the Internet and it’s near future. The article includes the very large slide deck and the 34 min video of her presentation.

Mary Meeker’s 2017 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis

The most anticipated slide deck of the year is here.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker is delivering her annual rapid-fire internet trends report right now at Code Conference at the Terranea Resort in California.

Here’s a first look at the most highly anticipated slide deck in Silicon Valley. This year’s report includes 355 slides and tons of information, including a new section on healthcare that Meeker didn’t present live.
Here are some of our takeaways:
  • Global smartphone growth is slowing: Smartphone shipments grew 3 percent year over year last year, versus 10 percent the year before. This is in addition to continued slowing internet growth, which Meeker discussed last year.
  • Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries. Twenty percent of mobile queries were made via voice in 2016, while accuracy is now about 95 percent.
  • In 10 years, Netflix went from 0 to more than 30 percent of home entertainment revenue in the U.S. This is happening while TV viewership continues to decline.
  • Entrepreneurs are often fans of gaming, Meeker said, quoting Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg. Global interactive gaming is becoming mainstream, with 2.6 billion gamers in 2017 versus 100 million in 1995. Global gaming revenue is estimated to be around $100 billion in 2016, and China is now the top market for interactive gaming.
  • China remains a fascinating market, with huge growth in mobile services and payments and services like on-demand bike sharing. (More here: The highlights of Meeker's China slides.)
  • While internet growth is slowing globally, that’s not the case in India, the fastest growing large economy. The number of internet users in India grew more than 28 percent in 2016. That’s only 27 percent online penetration, which means there’s lots of room for internet usership to grow. Mobile internet usage is growing as the cost of bandwidth declines. (More here: The highlights of Meeker's India slides.)
  • In the U.S. in 2016, 60 percent of the most highly valued tech companies were founded by first- or second-generation Americans and are responsible for 1.5 million employees. Those companies include tech titans Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.
  • Healthcare: Wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016. Leading tech brands are well-positioned in the digital health market, with 60 percent of consumers willing to share their health data with the likes of Google in 2016.

Now from a presentation about the current state of the Internet to a very big view of the future toward 2045 - no one does it better than Ray Kurzweil. There’s a 28 min video that is another Must View.

Ray Kurzweil’s Most Exciting Predictions About the Future of Humanity

Ray Kurzweil is a formidable figure in futuristic thinking, as he is estimated to have an 86 percent accuracy rate for his predictions about the future. The future he envisions is one marked by decentralization of both the physical and mental.

Motherboard has called Ray Kurzweil “a prophet of both techno-doom and techno-salvation.” With a little wiggle room given to the timelines the author, inventor, computer scientist, futurist, and director of engineering at Google provides, a full 86 percent of his predictions — including the fall of the Soviet Union, the growth of the internet, and the ability of computers to beat humans at chess — have come to fruition.

Kurzweil continues to share his visions for the future, and his latest prediction was made at the most recent SXSW Conference, where he claimed that the Singularity — the moment when technology becomes smarter than humans — will happen by 2045. Sixteen years prior to that, it will be just as smart as us. As he told Futurism, “2029 is the consistent date I have predicted for when an AI will pass a valid Turing test and therefore achieve human levels of intelligence.”

One more article on the rise of robotics and automation - however this is only about industrial robots. Interesting when we compare this with the trends of increasing minimum wage and the attention being paid to concepts of universal livable wage - someone has to be able to afford buying the products and services of increased productivity.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, one more industrial robot reduces local employment by roughly six workers, and reduces wages by roughly half of a percent.
But many of those lost jobs will be in the least productive manufacturing industries. Robots make manufacturing cheaper, which means that companies can keep their factories onshore, rather than looking for cheaper alternatives abroad.

Sales of industrial robots are surging. So what does this mean for human workers?

Industrial robots are becoming smaller and cheaper, and manufacturers are buying them at a record pace, according to new sales figures. So what does this mean for human workers?

Sales of robots in North America have surged by almost a third (32%) in the last year, and that’s after a record year in 2016. It’s the robotics industry’s strongest ever first-quarter results, according to the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), which compiled the figures.

Almost 10,000 robots, worth over $500 million, were ordered from North American robotics companies during the first quarter of 2017.
In 2016, 7406 were ordered, worth around $402 million.

The RIA estimates that 250,000 are now in use in the United States, the third largest buyer of robots behind Japan and China.

A short article explore the future of work - with reference to some Canadian innovators.

The next generation of jobs won’t be made up of professions

To prepare for the future, we need to shift from thinking about jobs and careers to thinking about challenges and problems,
Futurists and human resource executives say that our work lives will consist of doing several long-term projects or tasks at once.

“Instead of identifying your job role or description, you [will be] constantly adding skills based on what is going to make you more employable,” says Jeanne Meister, New York-based co-author of The Future Workplace Experience.

If you’re younger, this will likely mean the ability to pursue flexibility and passions rather enter into a more traditional role, say in accounting or marketing or finance.

The precursor for this shift is already here; it’s becoming more common to take on various roles even within one company, says Esther Rogers, who helps publish a quarterly journal about insight and foresight in the workplace, in addition to client work, as part of her role at Idea Couture, a Toronto-based innovation and design firm. Out of office hours, she also takes on voice acting roles. There’s “a real mishmash of tasks within a role. It's already becoming difficult to come up with [job] titles,” says Rogers.

The idea of building a portfolio career has been around since the late 1980s, tapping into the dreamy interest many of us have in forging a one-of-a-kind career path. But, until recently, the idea has been more theory than practice since a lack of technology made it time-consuming to find out about new opportunities, says Meister. Now that the technology has created more opportunities in the gig economy—think Uber, Instacart or Taskrabbit—the micro-job concept is making its way up the professional ranks.

More traditional companies are catching on and offering freelance-like project opportunities to their own employees, says Meister. For example, both IT giant Cisco and financial services firm MasterCard are testing so-called “internal mobility platforms” that allow employees to cherry-pick projects to fill specific gaps for the company rather than staying in a more structured role, says Meister. Instead of continuing in one department under a single supervisor, workers are encouraged to choose their next projects based on their skills, or skills they want to develop, which can mean working in a different part of the company. She says it’s working, although they’ve yet to study return on investment of the effort.

What sorts of value could people create if Universal Basic Income were available? Here’s a great citizen science project - a signal of many other sorts of knowledge wealth creating projects that the digital environment can and does enable.

Citizen scientists join the search for Planet 9

Backyard Worlds enlists amateurs to look for celestial objects
Astronomers want you in on the search for the solar system’s ninth planet.
In the online citizen science project Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, space lovers can flip through space images and search for this potential planet as well as other far-off worlds awaiting discovery.

The images, taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite, offer a peak at a vast region of uncharted territory at the far fringes of the solar system and beyond. One area of interest is a ring of icy rocks past Neptune, known as the Kuiper belt. Possible alignments among the orbits of six objects out there hint that a ninth planet exerting its gravitational influence lurks in the darkness. The WISE satellite may have imaged this distant world, and astronomers just haven’t identified it yet. Dwarf planets, free-floating worlds with no solar system to call home and failed stars may also be hidden in the images.

The WISE satellite has snapped the entire sky several times, resulting in millions of images. With so many snapshots to sift through, researchers need extra eyes. At the Backyard Worlds website, success in spotting a new world requires sharp sight. You have to stare at what seems like thousands of fuzzy dots in a series of four false-color infrared images taken months to years apart and identify faint blobs that appear to move. Spot that movement and you may have found a new world.
Here’s the link to Backyard Worlds

This is definitely a signal about the advent of progress with genetic-based therapies. A clear signal of the trajectory arising from domesticating DNA.

A first: All respond to CAR-T therapy in a blood cancer study

Doctors are reporting unprecedented success from a new cell and gene therapy for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that’s on the rise. Although it’s early and the study is small — 35 people — every patient responded and all but two were in some level of remission within two months.

In a second study of nearly two dozen patients, everyone above a certain dose responded.

Experts at an American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago, where the results were announced Monday, say it’s a first for multiple myeloma and rare for any cancer treatment to have such success.

Chemotherapy helps 10 to 30 percent of patients; immune system drugs, 35 to 40 percent at best, and some gene-targeting drugs, 70 to 80 percent, “but you don’t get to 100,” said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

The treatment, called CAR-T therapy, involves filtering a patient’s blood to remove immune system soldiers called T cells. These are altered in a lab to contain a gene that targets cancer and then given back to the patient intravenously.

Doctors call it a “living drug”— a one-time treatment to permanently alter cells that multiply in the body into an army to fight cancer. It’s shown promise against some leukemias and lymphomas, but this is a new type being tried for multiple myeloma, in patients whose cancer worsened despite many other treatments.

I’ve been looking forward to regrowing teeth via stem cell therapy for over a decade - this isn’t stem cells but seem like a good signal.

End of fillings in sight as scientists find Alzheimer's drug makes teeth grow back

Fillings could be consigned to history after scientists discovered that a drug already trialled in Alzheimer's patients can encourage tooth regrowth and repair cavities.

Researchers at King's College London found that the drug Tideglusib stimulates the stem cells contained in the pulp of teeth so that they generate new dentine – the mineralised material under the enamel.

Teeth already have the capability of regenerating dentine if the pulp inside the tooth becomes exposed through a trauma or infection, but can only naturally make a very thin layer, and not enough to fill the deep cavities caused by tooth decay.

But Tideglusib switches off an enzyme called GSK-3 which prevents dentine from carrying on forming.

Scientists showed it is possible to soak a small biodegradable sponge with the drug and insert it into a cavity, where it triggers the growth of dentine and repairs the damage within six weeks.

The tiny sponges are made out of collagen so they melt away over time, leaving only the repaired tooth.

This is a fascinating signal from recent research findings - perhaps it can help in countering the anti-vaccination movement.
"So it's really been a mystery — why do children stop dying at such high rates from all these different infections following introduction of the measles vaccine,"

Scientists Crack A 50-Year-Old Mystery About The Measles Vaccine

Back in the 1960s, the U.S. started vaccinating kids for measles. As expected, children stopped getting measles.

But something else happened.
Childhood deaths from all infectious diseases plummeted. Even deaths from diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea were cut by half.
Scientists saw the same phenomenon when the vaccine came to England and parts of Europe. And they see it today when developing countries introduce the vaccine.

"In some developing countries, where infectious diseases are very high, the reduction in mortality has been up to 80 percent," says Michael Mina, a postdoc in biology at Princeton University and a medical student at Emory University.

Mina and his colleagues think they now might have an explanation. And they published their evidence Thursday in the journal Science.

"We found measles predisposes children to all other infectious diseases for up to a few years," Mina says.

Like many viruses, measles is known to suppress the immune system for a few weeks after an infection. But previous studies in monkeys have suggested that measles takes this suppression to a whole new level: It erases immune protection to other diseases, Mina says.

Here another good piece of news about new antibiotics.

New antibiotic packs a punch against bacterial resistance

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have given new superpowers to a lifesaving antibiotic called vancomycin, an advance that could eliminate the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections for years to come. The researchers, led by Dale Boger, co-chair of TSRI's Department of Chemistry, discovered a way to structurally modify vancomycin to make an already-powerful version of the antibiotic even more potent.

"Doctors could use this modified form of vancomycin without fear of resistance emerging," said Boger, whose team announced the finding today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Boger called vancomycin "magical" for its proven strength against infections, and previous studies by Boger and his colleagues at TSRI had shown that it is possible to add two modifications to vancomycin to make it even more potent. "With these modifications, you need less of the drug to have the same effect," Boger said.

The new study shows that scientists can make a third modification—which interferes with a bacterium's cell wall in a new way—with promising results. Combined with the previous modifications, this alteration gives vancomycin a 1,000-fold increase in activity, meaning doctors would need to use less of the antibiotic to fight infection.

The discovery makes this version of vancomycin the first antibiotic to have three independent mechanisms of action. "This increases the durability of this antibiotic," said Boger. "Organisms just can't simultaneously work to find a way around three independent mechanisms of action. Even if they found a solution to one of those, the organisms would still be killed by the other two."

Remember the home chemistry kit that was made for children to learn about chemistry at home - here come the next version of domesticating DNA.
"This is so cool to learn about; I hadn't studied biology since like ninth grade," says Ruthie Nachmany, one of the class participants. She had studied anthropology, visual arts, and environmental studies in college, but is now a software engineer.
At Acera, an elementary and middle school in Massachusetts, 13-year-old Abby Pierce recently completed a CRISPR experiment, genetically modifying bacteria so that it could grow in an antibiotic that would have killed it otherwise.

How A Gene Editing Tool Went From Labs To A Middle-School Classroom

On a Saturday afternoon, 10 students gather at Genspace, a community lab in Brooklyn, to learn how to edit genes.

There's a recent graduate with a master's in plant biology, a high school student who started a synthetic biology club, a medical student, an eighth grader, and someone who works in pharmaceutical advertising.

In the 1970s, personal computers emerged from labs and universities and became something each person could have. That made it possible for people like Nachmany to become a professional programmer despite not having studied it in school.
Some compare that democratization of personal computing in the '70s to the current changes in access to genetic engineering tools.

Today, the CRISPR tool is no longer something that only researchers do in labs. You can take classes in gene editing at a community lab. You can buy a $150 kit to do it at home. Some middle schoolers are doing it in their science classes.

And the state of CRISPR research is accelerating as more human trials get underway.

Boom in human gene editing as 20 CRISPR trials gear up

A pioneering CRISPR trial in China will be the first to try editing the genomes of cells inside the body, in an effort to eliminate cancer-causing HPV virus
The CRISPR genome editing revolution continues to advance at an astounding pace. As many as 20 human trials will be under way soon, mostly in China, New Scientist has learned.

One of these trials will involve the first-ever attempt to edit cells while they are inside the body. The aim is to prevent cervical cancers by using CRISPR to target and destroy the genes of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause tumour growth. This study is due to begin in July at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-Sen University in China.

Gene therapy, which involves adding extra genes to cells, was first used to cure people in 1990, but it is mainly useful for treating rare genetic disorders. In contrast, gene-editing, which involves altering existing genes inside cells, promises to treat or cure a much wider range of conditions, from HIV infection to high blood cholesterol.
“One of these trials will involve the first-ever attempt to edit cells inside the body”

Another signal in the changing global energy geopolitics.
“On an upfront basis, these things will start to get cheaper and people will start to adopt them more as price parity gets closer,” said Colin McKerracher, analyst at the London-based researcher. “After that it gets even more compelling.”

Electric Cars Soon Will Cost Less Than Gasoline Autos, Research Shows

Battery powered cars will soon be cheaper to buy than conventional gasoline ones, offering immediate savings to drivers, new research shows.

Automakers from Renault SA to Tesla Inc. have long touted the cheaper fuel and running costs of electric cars that helps to displace the higher upfront prices that drivers pay when they buy the zero-emission vehicles.

Now research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicates that falling battery costs will mean electric vehicles will also be cheaper to buy in the U.S. and Europe as soon as 2025. Batteries currently account for about half the cost of EVs, and their prices will fall by about 77% between 2016 and 2030, the London-based researcher said.

This is a very short article about a start with a concept of a modular designed self-driving electric vehicle. The 1.5 min video clearly illustrates what should have become a key feature of automobile design a long time ago - the ability to adapt one’s car to changing lifestyle needs through modular design.

OSVehicle comes out of stealth with a modular self-driving car called EDIT

OSVehicle is a B2B Self-Driving vehicle startup, backed by Y Combinator, which creates what they call ‘white-label solutions’ for auto fleets owners.
Dubbed ‘EDIT’ this claims to be the first “ready-to-use Self-Driving EV” which is modular, open to different designs and “white-labelled”, in that it can be branded with any car marque.

Emerging out of stealth mode after a year in development, the idea is that auto companies can customize EDIT’s specifications. That means you could tinker with any variant, drawing on self-Driving hardware, a connected car, the code, the vehicle range, the look. The advantage being that it’s faster to market (half the time in fact) and with lower investments (around one sixth the cost).

This white-label, self-driving “Vehicle as a Service” means companies could quickly create models tailored for each service and country. In other words, it’s taking advantage of the move towards food delivery, ride and car sharing, which means vehicles would tailored to the application, not the car brand.

How often do we find ourselves need an extra pair of hands - or even just one other hand. This is a signal for new forms of prosthetics to enhance our working in the world - and improving our dexterity and coordination. There’s a cute 3 min video.

MetaLimbs: Wearable Robotic Limbs Controlled with Your Feet

So you wish you had more hands to get things done? MetaLimbs might help. We are talking about robot limbs mapped to your legs that can be controlled using your feet. MetaLimbs consist of a positional tracking system and a mounted robotic arm. The system relies on foot and knee sensors for tracking.
Smart socks with bending sensors are used to detect the position of the toes, allowing you to change the grip with your toes.

Here’s a great signal about the trajectory of drone sensor - both autonomous and directed - by harnessing insects and domesticating DNA. There’s is a gif and a very short video.
The dragonfly has been upgraded with a collection of tiny sensors that will eventually let it collect data, or make readings, in places where humans can’t safely go. Tiny onboard solar cells power the DragonflEye’s electronics, which includes a unique technology that allows a pilot to remotely control where the insect flies.

This Cyborg Dragonfly Is the Tiniest Drone

The smaller a drone gets, the more places it can be easily flown. But while many researchers have been trying to tackle the monumental challenge of building drones that look and behave like tiny insects, a new approach has engineers giving Mother Nature’s existing creations drone-like upgrades.

The biggest hurdle with building tiny drones that can fly almost anywhere is powering them. A small flying craft is only strong enough to carry a small battery, which dramatically limits its flight time. But somehow that mosquito in your tent while camping can buzz your ear for hours on end before refueling—on you.

We can only make electronics so small, though, so upgrading a mosquito isn’t currently feasible. But a dragonfly? Researchers at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute have created something they call DragonflEye: a remote control drone built on a living dragonfly.

The dragonfly used here has been genetically engineered with what the researchers call “steering neurons” inside the creature’s spinal cord. By inserting light-sensitive genes similar to those found in an eye, the DragonflEye can be controlled using pulses of light transmitted using custom-designed optical structures that are more flexible than fiber optics. The advantage to this approach is that other neurons in the dragonfly aren’t affected (or damaged) in the process, allowing it to fly with far more agility than even our most advanced drones.

This is fascinating research signaling a possible new paradigm for understand biological systems - especially in relation to health.

Bioelectricity is a new weapon to fight dangerous infection

Drugs already approved for other uses in people help frogs survive deadly E. coli by changing their cells’ electrical charge
Changing the natural electrical signaling that exists in cells outside the nervous system can improve resistance to life-threatening bacterial infections, according to new research from Tufts University biologists.  The researchers found that administering drugs, including those already used in humans for other purposes, to make the cell interior more negatively charged strengthens tadpoles’ innate immune response to E. coli infection and injury. This reveals a novel aspect of the immune system – regulation by non-neural bioelectricity – and suggests a new approach for clinical applications in human medicine. The study is published online May 26, 2017, in npj Regenerative Medicine, a Nature Research journal.

“All cells, not just nerve cells, naturally generate and receive electrical signals. Being able to regulate such non-neural bioelectricity with the many ion channel and neurotransmitter drugs that are already human-approved gives us an amazing new toolkit to augment the immune system’s ability to resist infections,” said the paper’s corresponding author Michael Levin, Ph.D., Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology and Director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts and the Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. Levin is also an Associate Faculty member of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

When one considers the changes in geopolitics in the last 200 and how quickly major changes can happen, it provides a useful context for considering the present and near future. This is a wonderful 3.5 min video visualization that is well worth the view.

Visualizing empires decline

This is mainly an experimentation with soft bodies using toxi's verlet springs.
The data refers to the evolution of the top 4 maritime empires of the XIX and XX centuries by extent. The visual emphasis is on their decline.

And another development related to visualization come to Google’s ‘Sheets’ it’s spreadsheet applications. The graphics provide clear illustrations.

Visualize data instantly with machine learning in Google Sheets

Sorting through rows and rows of data in a spreadsheet can be overwhelming. That’s why today, we’re rolling out new features in Sheets that make it even easier for you to visualize and share your data, and find insights your teams can act on.

Ask and you shall receive → Sheets can build charts for you
Explore in Sheets, powered by machine learning, helps teams gain insights from data, instantly. Simply ask questions—in words, not formulas—to quickly analyze your data. For example, you can ask “what is the distribution of products sold?” or “what are average sales on Sundays?” and Explore will help you find the answers.  

Now, we’re using the same powerful technology in Explore to make visualizing data even more effortless. If you don’t see the chart you need, just ask. Instead of manually building charts, ask Explore to do it by typing in “histogram of 2017 customer ratings” or “bar chart for ice cream sales.” Less time spent building charts means more time acting on new insights.

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