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Scientists Build Robots From Living Frog Cells: Is This a New Form of Life?




Scientists Build Robots From Living Frog Cells Is This a New Form of Life?
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A book is made of wood. But it is not a tree. The dead cells have been repurposed to serve another need.

Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells – scraped from frog embryos – and assembled them into entirely new life forms. These millimeter-wide “xenobots” can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) – and heal themselves after being cut.

“These are novel living machines,” says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. “They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

This research, for the first time ever, “designs completely biological machines from the ground up,” the team writes in its new study.

Then the team at Tufts, led by Levin and with key work by microsurgeon Douglas Blackiston – transferred the in-silico designs into life. First, they gathered stem cells, harvested from the embryos of African frogs, the species Xenopus laevis. (Hence the name “xenobots.”)

These were separated into single cells and left to incubate. Then, using tiny forceps and an even tinier electrode, the cells were cut and joined under a microscope into a close approximation of the designs specified by the computer.

Assembled into body forms never seen in nature, the cells began to work together. The skin cells formed a more passive architecture, while the once-random contractions of heart muscle cells were put to work creating ordered forward motion as guided by the computer’s design and aided by spontaneous self-organizing patterns – allowing the robots to move on their own.

Many technologies are made of steel, concrete or plastic. That can make them strong or flexible. But they also can create ecological and human health problems, like the growing scourge of plastic pollution in the oceans and the toxicity of many synthetic materials and electronics.

“The downside of living tissue is that it’s weak and it degrades,” Bongard said. “That’s why we use steel. But organisms have 4.5 billion years of practice at regenerating themselves and going on for decades.” And when they stop working – death – they usually fall apart harmlessly. These xenobots are fully biodegradable. When they’re done with their job after seven days, they’re just dead skin cells.”

Both Levin and Bongard say the potential of what they’ve been learning about how cells communicate and connect extends deep into both computational science and our understanding of life.

“The big question in biology is to understand the algorithms that determine form and function,” Levin said. “The genome encodes proteins, but transformative applications await our discovery of how that hardware enables cells to cooperate toward making functional anatomies under very different conditions.”

To make an organism develop and function, there is a lot of information sharing and cooperation – organic computation – going on in and between cells all the time, not just within neurons. These emergent and geometric properties are shaped by bioelectric, biochemical, and biomechanical processes “that run on DNA-specified hardware,” Levin said, “and these processes are reconfigurable, enabling novel living forms.

“As we’ve shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be,” Levin said.

He believes that building the xenobots is a small step toward providing a deeper view of the overall way organisms are organized – and how they compute and store information based on their histories and environment.

Many people worry about the implications of rapid technological change and complex biological manipulations.

“That fear is not unreasonable,” Levin said. “When we start to mess around with complex systems that we don’t understand, we’re going to get unintended consequences.”

© Copyright, 2020, Wallowa County Chieftain (Enterprise, OR). All Rights Reserved.


Anti-Coronavirus Foundation Created in Davos to Fund Research for Coronavirus Vaccine




Anti-Coronavirus Foundation Created in Davos to Fund Research for Coronavirus Vaccine
Image via Shutterstock

On January 23, The Geneva based Anti-Coronavirus Foundation announced that it will raise funds among crypto enthusiasts for the further financing of a vaccine against coronavirus.

The outbreak of a new coronavirus in China has killed at least 17 people and infected more than 400, and the foundation feels there might be a risk of the virus spreading to several other countries. The foundation fears the new virus may resemble or even outpass damage brought on by the SARS virus, which affected thousands of people around the world and killed nearly 800 during the 2003 outbreak.

There is currently very little known about the virus, the way it spreads, its incubation period (which is believed to be about two weeks) and who is most at risk. For now, the coronavirus is as the pathogen behind a mysterious illness that had affected 59 people in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China

Yury Myshinskiy, co-founder and CEO of CryptOcean, will chair the new foundation. The Anti-Coronavirus Foundation intends to finance the first company or group of individuals to develop a working vaccine, available for mass production and use. The first task set by the creators of the foundation is to create a $30,000,000 reward pool to be given to a person or institution which creates a vaccine for the coronavirus.

The foundation feels that it is important that all resources are mobilized to start financing of the laboratory work and clinical studies in as many medical and scientific institutions around the globe as possible to deliver the solution of the problem to be able to help the affected.

To ensure the transparency of its functioning, all transactions are to be handled in CRON blockchain, run by the firm CryptOcean under the supervision of the founding advisory board, which will be comprised of trusted and publicly recognized individuals. The foundation is registered in Switzerland, a country with high level of transparency and legislation for non-profit organizations

The blockchain platform will allow anyone to send funds to finance future research. Initially, developers are considering cryptocurrency donations, but, a Coinstelegram report referring to the official website of the project, suggests support for fiat donations will appear in the near future.

On the official website of the Anti-Coronavirus Foundation, the founders turn to pharmacological corporations, urging them to make every effort to solve the problem. The published message also urges prominent entrepreneurs, philanthropists and humanitarian organizations to help mobilize support for the affected.

For more information about the Anticoronavirus Foundation, click here.

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Larry Page Invests To Change Your Daily Commute




Larry Page Invests To Change Your Daily Commute

The future is here – flying cars may no longer be a fictional notion of futuristic and optimistic technological predictions, thanks to Google’s co-founder Larry Page.

Page has reportedly invested up to 100 million US dollars to fund two new startup companies, which are dedicated to the development of the technology which has up until now remained a distant yet somehow attainable possibility, represented in varying degrees of plausibility by fictional films and cartoons alike.

With just under $37 billion at his disposable, the 12th wealthiest person on the planet (according to Forbes Rich List) is also CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and has played a pivotal role in the development of Google from a fledgling search-engine startup.

Alphabet’s current status is that of a trustworthy source of information with respect to fact, fiction, and a power.

The company is in the position to take risks and gamble on everything from pictures of the moon, to curing devastating diseases, which is a testament to Page and his business partner Sergey Brim’s talent and track record.

Flying cars, however, is a notion that even Google seems to have found hard to believe in – there has been no support from Alphabet for this side-project.

Amidst tight security and secrecy, Page’s funding helped Zee.Aero take flight in their business venture and set up offices on Google property – land previously unheard of and impossible to secure for up-and-coming companies.

This in is itself was a curious move.

Even more so were the employee’s strict instructions to deflect questions from the public, should they ever be quizzed about the details of their new endeavors.

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Page’s desired anonymity within the company – know simply as ‘GUS’, or ‘the guy upstairs’ to employees- also made for an increase in public interest once his association became known.

Why keep his investments secret?

Zee.Aero was soon joined by Kitty Hawk on Page’s list of startup investment expenditure, as Google X’s  Sebastian Thrun of the research division decided to follow the flying car dream and take off with his startup effort.

Both companies aim to produce a small, self-sufficient and compact vehicle that can take off and land vertically.

With Kitty Hawk’s staff having been sequestered from the Zee.Aero original team, it’s difficult to understand the differences between each company’s designs as of yet, and calls into question the necessity for the division of the workforce in the first place.

Suffice it to say that both designs revolve around the production of a vehicle with the potential to change the daily commute forever.

As the leading airborne vehicle enthusiast, Paul Moller recalled a chance meeting with a young and idealistic Page at a talk on flying car technology in 2000, at the Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) Page’s cautious questioning of the practicality of such a vehicle ultimately served him well.

As Moller’s determination and impatience to succeed let him declare bankruptcy in 2009.

Page’s contrasting careful planning and investment has evidently had some measure of success, however, as outside observers of both Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk have noted regular test flights and safety checks of strange looking contraptions on the grounds of both companies.

Zee.Aero apparently has two prototype planes that it tests at grounds in the airport at Hollister, CA.

According to outside sources both designs are similar to a miniature version of the modern commuter plane – a bulbous cockpit with a slender body, yet the later design features several propellers along the sides.

Both vehicles reportedly seat one person, yet secrecy surrounding technical functions or details has prevented any further knowledge or insights to the mechanical aspects of them.

It is in part the secrecy surrounding the mysterious research and trials in advances to this transport system that makes it all so intriguing – why exactly did Larry Page feel the need to maintain such a strict level of security on his investments?

Why did the company seemingly split in two in the early days of production, leading Page to double his expenditure and form Kitty Hawk almost as an afterthought to Zee.Aero?

What exactly is this fascination with airborne transport that centuries after its discovery still seems to captivate us with its magical, almost dreamlike possibilities?

According to Bloomberg, the fascination with flying cars has long been a focal point of Northern California in particular, and with this in mind, it makes sense that any potential breakthrough in the technological advancement of the kind will eventually occur here.

While many dreams of achieving the goal, Larry Page has found himself in a position (and with enough money) to help fund the research and work that will (hopefully) drive us into the future that has been so often depicted on TV and film.

Trials, errors, and failures are all a part of the process of improvement and discovery, leading us to land at whatever destination required.

With the Google empire behind them, the potential and possibilities to Zee.Aero’s and Kitty Hawk’s research is endless.

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Market Prefers Natural Gas Over Oil




Market Prefers Natural Gas Over Oil

Markets reflect a preference to natural gas over oil futures and what is driving the trend.

All indicators point to another quarter of lackluster performance for the crude oil markets

However, there has been a positive optimism shown towards natural gas in the last six months. 

Clear indication for its preference over coal and oil is driven by a few factors.

Weather, Mexican demand and production shortfalls.

The markets are reflecting several factors that are influencing the figures. 

There is foreign demand for US gas coming from Mexico. 

The proximity of the resources keeps the prices accessible and is favored for consumption in southern countries.

The warmer weather expected in the US will inflate the need for power. 

EIA (Energy Information Administration) data shows that, even though total stocks are standing at 2.972 trillion cubic feet, which is 660 billion cubic feet more than 12 months ago, it is still 80 billion cubic feet below that which was predicted by analysts. 

Even while there is increased demand, production has failed to address that.

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Coal is not the new black.  Factors behind the flatline.

However, the demand for coal has remained stagnant. 

Coal has priced itself out of the competition. 

The choice to power the US homes this summer is natural gas, and this is expected to remain unchanged for the next three months. 

Whether US consumers continue to prefer natural gas over coal to power their heating systems and not just their air conditioners will be subject to production and prices in ensuing months.

The chart for coal consumption below shows the markets trend towards the mild usage. 

This is further reflected by the increase in natural gas.


A clear picture is emerging for natural gas

With the production levels of natural gas remaining below the expected consumer driven demand, the prices will rise accordingly. 

But it is still priced cheaply enough to remain a desirable choice for the power sector natural gas consumption.

Energy suppliers for homes in the summer heat prefer natural gas. 

With summertime comes that threat of natural weather patterns that might disrupt the production and supply of natural gas.

Looking at the forecasts for both, it is necessary to gauge the chances of severe Gulf weather causing a disruption in the output and subsequent fall in supply. 

This is a precaution that is always needed when factoring in Gulf weather patterns.

Storms in the Atlantic have so far passed without disruption. 

The tropical weather systems expected during the hurricane season will continue to drive up the price of natural gas in expectation of possible disruption.

Stockpiles of crude oil are falling in the face of increased production.

It has not been announced yet if US producers will continue to produce more or follow the global trend of reduced outflow.

Reporting on this financial news – Myra. P. Saefong, Markets/Commodities Reporter with Biman Mukherji from Marketwatch – recently addressed this trend. 

It states in the article the reasons behind the continued rise in consumer demand and the reflected optimistic pricing of natural gas.

Comparing the chart below to the one above showing the indicators for coal consumption, the trend in the upward swing for natural gas is apparent.


Outside of market influence, some independent thinkers are of the opinion that possibly turning to natural gas choices and options may be swayed by the inherent naturalness of gas as opposed to the emissions culminating from coal and oil.

Politically, natural gas may be fundamental in breaking the stranglehold that unreliable sources in foreign countries wield.

Predicting trends and analyzing alternative energy desirables is increasingly important as those markets are not sustainable for any long term forecasts.

This leads to the exchange being effected by weather, politics and demand.

Interlinked to the weather is the unpredictability of decisive forecasting. 

If the supply of any product (in this case natural gas) is already understocked in the face of increased demand, this will drive up the desirability of the commodity.

The oil markets have been hit by political unrest in Nigeria

This leads to several factors coming into focus that are linked to that market. 

The supply is effected so alternate energy sources will be focused on as a solution to the Western summertime demands. 

There is a growing reluctance to rely solely on oil, and this is reflected in the markets.

Globally, alternate energy sources are being embraced as a necessity, and this is showing in the consumption and price of coal and oil being brought into question. 

A cautious approach to sustainability for all energy supplies is strictly monitored by the EIA.

Taking all these factors into consideration complete the global picture for natural gas marketing trends. 

The general sway of opinion tends to back up the consensus that natural gas will continue on its current path for some months to come.

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