Sure, 3-D printed parts (Jennifer Lewis, Miami, Dec 2011) aren’t as strong as their traditionally manufactured counterparts. But it turns out they can withstand heat pretty well: NASA “successfully hot-fire tested a [3-D printed] combustion chamber” at its Marshall Space Flight Center.
Platelet BioGenesis, a Cambridge, Mass., startup, has been awarded $3.5 million by the U.S. Defense Department for a method to generate blood platelets from stem cells (Dusko Ilic, London, Jul 2015). The potential battlefield and civilian benefits are considerable.
Germany’s fastest computer, JUWELS, is only #23 on the Top500 supercomputer list, but its creators, the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, are more interested to improve its energy efficiency than its speed. (Satoshi Matsuoka, Tokyo, Jul 2012)
Twitter, big data, and circadian rhythms: A study at the University of Bristol analyzing tweets by time-of-day found that we’re predictably more analytical in the morning and more emotional late in the day, and not always for the better. Apparently at 3–4:00 am we have “existential concerns” that are “anticorrelated with expression of positive emotions.” (David Virshup, Seattle, Dec 2006)
If the Amesbury poisonings made you think of Ginkgo Bioworks (Reshma Shetty, San Diego, Feb 2015), you’re not alone. IARPA apparently had the same thought. The company is now working on “biosecurity tools that aim to prevent the misuse of synthetic biology” as part of a “broader U.S. Government investment in biosecurity.”
Autonomous vehicles will refashion cities (Zabe Bent, McLean, Sep 2017). But will they also bankrupt them? Traffic tickets and parking revenue play a big role in many municipal budgets. And if, as expected, most AVs are electric, there will be dramatic reductions in gas tax collection.
At current prices for nickel and copper, the U.S. Mint loses two cents on every five-cent coin, and so scientists at NIST have been working on a replacement formula (Cyrus Wadia, Detroit, May 2015). The task is surprisingly hard: Among other things, it has to retain the coin’s weight, hardness, corrosion-resistance, and conductivity. (Bill Maurer, Pittsburgh, Oct 2012)
A student team from the University of British Columbia won the 2018 Biodesign Challenge with a portable toilet made of mushroom mycelium. The design uses natural substances to break down liquid and solid wastes after separating them and is meant for refugee and migrant camps. When full, the toilet is buried and turns into compost. (Pashon Murray, Detroit, May 2015; Matthew Atwood, Vienna, Jul 2013)
An atomic-scale 3-D model constructed out of “tens of thousands of two-dimensional images” provides “the clearest and most detailed image yet of Zika, the virus that set off a global health crisis in 2015 and 2016.” (Barbara Han, Austin, Feb 2016; Alicia Jackson, San Francisco, Dec 2015; Erica Ollmann Saphire, San Diego, Feb 2015)
A Sophia robot from Hanson Robotics gave a commencement address to the Rhode Island School of Design last month. (Rodolphe Gelin, Brooklyn, Jul 2016; Brian David Johnson, Boston, Apr 2014; Sherry Turkle, Rome, Jul 2008)
“We need you to bring to the world a different kind of dream. A dream that wakes people to their better selves.”
—Sophia, from her commencement address