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Some people miss flying so much that they’re resorted to signing up for “flights to nowhere“. And while I can certainly understand the sentiment, after months of being cooped up in quarantine, I have to take exception with this practice on account of the fact that we really should be flying less these days to help out against Climate Change. I won’t fault someone for taking a vacation or traveling as needed for work but taking a flight just for the sake of taking a flight is a horrible idea. A better idea: flying around the world inside of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator.

CNN explains how it works:

“‘Microsoft Flight Simulator’ lets anyone role play as a pilot and fly anywhere in the world, scoping out highly realistic sights along the way. In the game, players begin by selecting a flight route, which typically begins on a runway. Just as in real life, players achieve liftoff by gaining momentum, and once in the air they must balance speed and momentum while avoiding obstacles like buildings. There are options to skip parts of a flight or accelerate flight time to destinations around the world, but part of the fun is checking out the scenery while en route.”

But the real appeal of the game, at least to me, is the idea that the flight simulator is actually a “living game”, one that perfectly mirrors real life and gets updated in real-time. For example, with up to date weather conditions for the locale that you are passing through. In fact, if you really wanted to you could even become a real life hurricane hunter.

As The Verge puts it:

Microsoft Flight Simulator players have turned into virtual storm chasers this week, hunting down Hurricane Laura as it approached the US Gulf Coast. While Texas and Louisiana brace for what is being described as an ‘unsurvivable storm surge,’ the real-time weather inside Microsoft Flight Simulator is providing a surreal spectacle for players.

Virtual strormchasers have gathered in the skies above the Gulf of Mexico to fly directly into Hurricane Laura. The results demonstrate the incredible realism in Microsoft Flight Simulator, just as Hurricane Laura threatens catastrophic damage in the real world. Players have been flying directly through the eye of the storm, around the outer edges, and even so far up that planes have frozen over and needed to be de-iced.

The virtual views have allowed players to track Hurricane Laura during the moments before it made landfall as a category 4 hurricane with 150mph winds. A YouTube user also captured the virtual experience of flying through Hurricane Laura, showing just how well the storm cloud formations are depicted in the game.”

@TechnicalDIY on Twitter even goes so far as to suggest that we could be witnessing the birth of a new genre of gaming:

I played this game years ago and didn’t really care for it in terms of the mechanics of actually flying a plane. I would crash and burn all the time. But the idea of using the game as a supped-up aerial version of Google Maps has a certain appeal. Now it’s no longer a game. Now it’s a means to an end. A way to see things that we wouldn’t normally be able to see. A way to go sight seeing while we’re still stuck at home. A way to live inside of games that are alive themselves. The birth of a new genre is right. This could change everything.

Microsoft Flight Simulator' will take to the skies via PC next month in  refresh of classic - GeekWire
Is Microsoft Flight Simulator the Greatest Idea Ever?

In the near future it may be possible to kill cancer cells without using any cancer drugs. Instead, a nanoparticle will get cells to destroy themselves after first acting as a Trojan horse. A process that won’t harm healthy neighboring cells at all.

Science Alert explains:

“One of the latest methods pioneered by scientists to treat cancer uses a Trojan horse sneak attack to prompt cancer cells to self-destruct – all without using any drugs.

Key to the technique is the use of a nanoparticle coated in a specific amino acid called L-phenylalanine, one of several such acids that cancer cells rely on to grow. L-phenylalanine isn’t made by the body, but absorbed from meat and dairy products.

In tests on mice, the nanoparticle – called Nano-pPAAM or Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic – killed cancer cells specifically and effectively, posing as a friendly amino acid before causing the cells to destroy themselves.

The self-destruction mode is triggered as the nanoparticle puts production of certain chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) into overdrive. It’s enough to bring down the cancer cells while leaving neighbouring, healthy cells intact.

‘Against conventional wisdom, our approach involved using the nanomaterial as a drug instead [of] as a drug-carrier,’ says material scientist Dalton Tay from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

‘Here, the cancer-selective and killing properties of Nano-pPAAM are intrinsic and do not need to be activated by any external stimuli. The amino acid L-phenylalanine acts as a Trojan horse – a cloak to mask the nanotherapeutic on the inside.’

Nano-pPAAM was shown to kill around 80 percent of breast, skin, and gastric cancer cells in mice, about on a par with current chemotherapy drugs (but without all the side effects of course). While dangerous to cancer cells, it’s based on a silica nanoparticle classed as safe to humans by US food regulators.”

Hopefully, this research continues to develop and winds up becoming a viable treatment option. Considering how bad 2020 has been we sure could use a win right about now and a cure for cancer would most definitely fit the bill.

Trojan horse - color by jacktzekov on deviantART | Trojan horse, Ancient  greece, Trojan war
Is a Trojan horse cancer treatment the Greatest Idea Ever?

Back in March, when the coronavirus global pandemic was first getting underway I wrote about some tracking apps that would, in theory, let you know if it was safe to visit any given area. However, these apps needed a certain amount of users to be effective, and not everyone was going to be using them. However, there is now another way to track the proficiency of COVID-19 in any given area. An app that everyone already uses: Google Maps.

The Verge explains what will be happening:

“Google Maps will soon include information on COVID-19 spread in states, counties, and some cities. Toggling on the ‘COVID’ layer in the app will show the seven-day average number of confirmed cases in each area per 100,000 people. Areas of the map will be color-coded based on case rate, and a label shows if cases are going up or down. The feature will roll out on Android and iOS this week.

The layer is designed to help people ‘make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do,’ wrote Sujoy Banerjee, a Google Maps project manager, in a blog post. Public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people keep track of the amount of COVID-19 spread in their area to figure out the risk of certain activities. Transmission rates in local communities is important for parents to consider when deciding if they should send their kids to school and for families to monitor in advance of any holiday plans.

This is one of many pandemic-related features introduced in Google Maps over the past few months — the app also includes alerts about face-covering mandates on public transportation, information about takeout options at restaurants, and warnings to call ahead to a doctor’s office if you think you have COVID-19.”

Such information is a welcome addition to an app that most of us already use. Hopefully, it will help us feel comfortable going outside once again. Something that I have been hesitant to do thus far, partially because there was no way to know where to go, or what to do. Now there is.

Google Maps coronavirus layer: How to get data on COVID-19 outbreaks in  your area | Express.co.uk
You can now use Google Maps to track COVID-19 in your area.

A few ideas that I’ve written about stand out among all the others. Transcendent ideas that form the foundation of the future. Most of these headline grabbing ideas you are probably already intimately familiar with: Artificial Intelligence, 3-D Printing, Genetic Editing, Virtual Reality, Driverless Cars, the Blockchain, the Internet of Things, etc. But there’s another idea that could wind up being even more important in the long run: Synthetic Biology; the practice of re-engineering living organisms and imbuing them with new abilities.

Such technology could let us “grow” chairs instead of building them or give us the ability to create food packaging that changes color based on freshness. It could also let us create a vaccine for COVID-19. A living vaccine.

MIT Technology Review explains:

“Now, researchers say, synthetic biology has led to a way to create a weakened form of the pandemic coronavirus that causes covid-19. Although the idea remains a long-shot in the vaccine race, an attenuated coronavirus could be formulated into inexpensive nose drops for use around the world.

The startup company behind the new version of SARS-CoV-2, called Codagenix, is working with Serum Institute of India, based in Pune, which bills itself as the world’s largest vaccine maker. Plans are for the first volunteers to sniff up the synthetically designed virus starting in November, in initial human safety tests in the UK.

The most advanced covid vaccine candidates, including those from AstraZeneca and Moderna Pharmaceuticals, expose a person to only one part of the virus, the crown-shaped ‘spike’ that gives it its name, in order to generate antibodies.

The potential advantage of a vaccine using an attenuated live strain is that the body will encounter—and be able to react to—the entire virus. People will ‘catch’ it through their nose, and it will even grow inside them. In theory, that could prompt the formation of not just antibodies but also T cells and specialized forms of immunity in the nasal passage, leading to broader protection.

It might seem scary to imagine getting infected by the coronavirus on purpose, but attenuated-virus vaccines are common. The kids’ flu vaccine FluMist has a weakened influenza virus in it. And Serum Institute sells 750,000 doses a year of vaccines using live measles. The only disease ever successfully eradicated from the globe, smallpox, was wiped out with shots of a live virus…”

The article further explains how the process works:

“Viruses, which hijack cells to copy their proteins, have, predictably, evolved a taste for the same codons that human cells prefer. But evolution’s choices can be reversed in the laboratory, in a process Codagenix calls ‘deoptimization.’ Coleman says the company has made versions of the coronavirus whose genes are peppered with 240 mutations that endow it with some of the worst-performing codons.

The result: the engineered virus looks exactly the same on the outside but has a ‘virtual brake pedal’ inside, causing it to replicate much less quickly. The coronavirus can usually make 100 million copies of itself inside a cell in about a day, but Coleman says the deoptimized version will copy itself half as well in the lab. Inside a person, it could be less efficient by a factor of up to 1,000, giving the immune system time to respond.”

Essentially, all of this means that we can use synthetic biology to engineer vaccines that are just as effective, if not more so, than traditional vaccines and in just a fraction of the time. This could not only lead to a vaccine for COVID-19 but a pathway towards following similar processes to cure other illnesses and diseases. The Dawn of a New Era of healthcare is upon us. The Era of Synthetic Biology. Buckle up.

Synthetic Biology
Is using Synthetic Biology to engineer a Live Vaccine the Greatest Idea Ever?

We already have smart devices capable of tracking our every move and providing us with useful feedback and information. But what if we took things one step further? What if we had devices that were so smart, they could even change their behavior on their own?! Well, thanks to Apple and their self-aware AirPods that’s a future that we may be headed towards. At least, if recent patent filings are to be believed.

Inceptive Mind explains:

“One of the new patents describes a ‘contextual audio system’ that would make AirPods a whole lot more self-aware. It could enable future AirPods to determine a user’s location or current activity and automatically adjust their audio accordingly.

If a person is standing on the side of the road with headphones in, riding a bicycle or walking on a busy street, the system might automatically adjust the audio settings to give you better awareness, either by lowering the volume or, if necessary, completely cutting off playback. According to Business insider, it may adjust the volume of audio on whatever ear is closer to the street, while leaving the other ear’s volume unchanged in this scenario. This would enable users to better perceive traffic and possibly avoid accidents. The system will also take into account whether the user is facing the street at all.

The new Apple AirPods should also provide feedback, directional instructions, safety information, and more. GPS data from smartphones or smartwatches, as well as the position data from the earphones, are used with the aim of providing users with greater security. Cyclists could also be protected in the future with the help of recorded speed data. If they exceed a certain speed limit, the music would be stopped.”

In today’s day and age we’re all off in our own little world. Our heads buried in our phones, our minds drifting off while deep in thought. Open-minded, yet closed off at the same time.

It’s a somewhat sad commentary on modern life. Have we really zoned out reality that much that we’re at the point where we need technology to help us pay more attention? Self-aware AirPods are cool and all but you know what’s cooler? Living in the moment! Being a self-aware human who doesn’t need to rely on self-aware AirPods. Is that really too much to ask?!

Don’t answer that. I think I know the answer. Or at least Apple does. The company that was made famous by knowing what we wanted before we did is probably just one step ahead of the game once more.

AirPods Pro Official; Brand New Design With Active Noise Cancellation,  Water-Resistance & So Much More
Are self-aware AirPods the Greatest Idea Ever?

A few weeks ago I wrote about how seaweed could be used to treat COVID-19. And as amazing as that would be, it’s surprisingly not the only way that seaweed could soon be saving lives. For seaweed may turn out to be key to counteracting the damaging effects of Climate Change, doing far more good than any forest ever could.

Fast Company explains:

“Off the coast of Portland, Maine, an aquaculture startup that raises shellfish is also working on a more radical project: raising kelp in the open ocean, then sinking it to the seafloor to sequester the carbon inside.

The company, called Running Tide, argues that the approach could be essentially a permanent way to deal with the excess carbon in the atmosphere. Like trees, seaweed forests suck in carbon from the air as they grow. But while carbon in forests on land can sometimes be lost—as in California, where more than 2 million acres of trees have burned so far this year—kelp that sinks to the bottom of the ocean can stay there for centuries.

‘Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great,’ says Marty Odlin, the founder of Running Tide. ‘So you can get at least 1,000 years of sequestration. More likely, it will turn into oil or sediment and be sequestered on the geologic timescale—millions of years.’

Done at a large scale, the process could make a meaningful difference. A 2019 study that looked at the potential for seaweed farming to offset carbon emissions calculated that growing and sinking macroalgae in a tiny fraction of the federal waters off the California coastline could fully offset emissions from the state’s enormous agriculture industry, for example. Negative emissions projects such as this—or forest restoration or technology designed to suck carbon from the air—will be necessary to reach climate goals. Shifting to zero-carbon solutions such as renewable energy is also necessary, but the world will also need to capture the excess carbon that already exists (and offset sectors such as aviation that will be slower to decarbonize).”

This is an amazing idea. Allowing us to offset carbon in the atmosphere without having to rely solely on planting trees, which are susceptible to factors beyond our control. Instead, we can put the planet’s lungs deep under water, where no one can get to them, and nothing bad can happen to them. Where there’s no chance of them getting punctured.

I especially like the part where we allow nature to run its course on geological timescales once again. To me, that makes sense. Removing something from the Earth while simultaneously replenishing the source. Doing what we do now: taking twice as much as our planet can offer and never replacing it, makes no sense whatsoever.

Who would have thunk it though? Seaweed saving the day. In more ways than one. Amazing.

Can the forests of the world's oceans contribute to alleviating the climate  crisis? | Greenbiz
Is offsetting carbon with seaweed the Greatest Idea Ever?

Tesla’s annual stockholders meeting yesterday revealed a lot of interesting new developments for everyone’s favorite car company including the fact that they plan to deliver a $25,000 version by 2033 and a Plaid Model that can go 0-60 in 2 seconds. But the biggest news of all pertained to the car’s battery and the fact that soon it will become a part of the frame itself.

TechCrunch explains:

“Tesla has fundamentally redesigned the way that its battery packs integrate into their vehicles, turning them into structural elements of the car, rather than just fuel sources on their own. At Tesla’s Battery Day event on Tuesday, Elon Musk compared this to how commercial aircraft used to load fuel into tanks that were contained within the wings, but that were essentially bolted onto internal structure — later on, they realized much greater efficiencies in how much fuel could be carried, as well as weight and parts usage, by making the wing bodies actual fuel tanks themselves…

By turning the battery cell into a structural component of the vehicle, Musk pointed out that they can actually save more mass overall in the car than you would assume on paper if you just took out the structural supports in the battery cells as they currently exist. That’s because the battery itself is doing a lot of that support work — which, he points out, actually makes the overall vehicle safer, which might seem counterintuitive.”

For what it’s worth I couldn’t agree more. Structural batteries are definitely the way to go and I concur with Musk’s assessment that this is how all electric cars will be built in the near future. At least that is, until Tesla comes up with some other new innovation to push the envelope even further.

Latest Tesla news: Model S Plaid details revealed at Tesla Battery Day 2020  | carwow
Is a Structural Battery the Greatest Idea Ever?

I haven’t been feeling good lately. Do I have cancer? Am I coming down with COVID? Or experiencing something else entirely? I’m not sure. And to be honest there might not be anything wrong with me at all. I could just be anxious or stressed out. The problem is I don’t really know how healthy I am at any given moment. Which, ironically, could be what’s contributing to my anxiety and making me feel even worse!

But perhaps in the near future I’ll be able to know exactly what’s going with me. Thanks to a newly developed gut based “credit score”, capable of monitoring your health or at least indicating if you’re heading in the right direction or not.

New Atlas explains:

“Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have developed a test that can predict a person’s general health status by measuring the levels of 50 gut microbial species. Called the Gut Microbiome Health Index (GMHI), the formula does not diagnose specific diseases at this stage, but instead offers a general indication of one’s health.”

But how exactly does it work?

The article adds that:

“So a higher number is going to tell you: ‘Oh, you look very healthy. Your microbiome resembles that of a healthy population,’ says [Jaeyun] Sung. ‘But a low number reveals: ‘Oh, we can’t tell yet exactly which disease you may have, but we can tell that something looks off. Your microbiome resembles very close to what a microbiome would be in a disease population.’ And that’s what we call the Gut Microbiome Health Index. You can view it as a ‘credit score for your gut.’

At this stage the GMHI is still in preliminary stages of development. The researchers suggest there are several factors that need to be incorporated into the GMHI to enhance its accuracy. Including more disease phenotypes, focusing on microbial strains more specifically rather than species, and including a greater spread of ethnic and geographical populations, are all factors that should be incorporated into the system.

Sung suggests this kind of generalized microbiome analysis could be incorporated into routine health check-ups in the future. With further refinement the GMHI could offer a consistent way to predict one’s general heath, as well as a way to monitor the effect of certain medical treatments on the microbiome.”

Sounds good to me. Just so long as these gut credit scores don’t wind up coming back to haunt us later on in life like a real credit score.

A credit score for your gut? Scientists develop index to distinguish  between healthy and diseased microbiomes
Is a credit score for your gut the Greatest Idea Ever?

Back in June, I wrote about Euphoric Beverages, non-alcoholic drinks that are capable of altering your mood to ensure that you can still have a good time when you’re out and about. Now, there’s another new drink on the market, Pepsi’s Driftwell, that is capable of pulling off the opposite effect: making you drowsy so that you can fall asleep easily.

The invention of Driftwell points to a growing trend. One in which our food and beverages do more than just keep us fed and hydrated. Instead, they provide added health and wellness benefits as well.

Fast Company explains:

“Driftwell falls into the broader category of so-called functional food and drinks, which aren’t new. People have come to expect what they consume to do more for them—from Activia yogurt’s digestive boost to the calmness of CBD gummies. It’s a trend that Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at the research firm NPD Group, expects to continue, especially with everything going on now.

‘You can have function in the foods and beverages you’re consuming,’ he says. ‘It’s not just about thirst. It’s not just about sustenance. It’s about helping you feel good.’

He adds that functional beverages ‘are able to provide the taste consumers like in a format that’s convenient,’ which may give them an edge in the marketplace. ‘For the time being, health is more about getting through the day and staying focused on what your basic needs are and providing stress relief,’ Seifer says.

Other sleep-related foods include Nightfood ice cream, Dream Water, and Celestial Seasonings’ Sleepytime tea.”

Ice cream that helps you fall asleep?! Now we’re talking! I usually eat ice cream before I go to bed anyway and would prefer not to drink something so that I won’t have to keep waking up to go to the bathroom. Nightfood ice cream could be a real game-changer for me! Which begs the question: what other functional foods are out there currently or in development?! What else could we be eating or drinking to help improve our lives?!

Pepsico's Newest Beverage Is Supposed To Help You Sleep Better
Is Driftwell the Greatest Idea Ever?

Bill Gates announces plan to pursue the development of a vaccine for COVID-19 and people freak out, thinking that because he forecasted the pandemic, he must have been behind creating it; the parallel between computer viruses and this new coronavirus too big a coincidence to ignore; vaccination shots a likely cover for inserting computerized trackers into our bodies.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk announces plan to implant the Neuralink, an actual computer, into our brains and everyone celebrates it. Genius! Super cool! Can’t wait!

The hypocrisy is unreal. The double-standard comical. Its Idiocracy come to life. Proof that we are doomed. And what’s really funny is the fact that we might wind up with trackers inside of us anyway. Not implanted during a vaccination. But years ahead of time. Well before we ever get sick. So that we can monitor our bodies and find out in advanced what’s going on. A preventative approach that could save lives and prevent the next pandemic from getting as out of control as this one has.

Defense One explains:

“Why are pandemics so hard to stop? Often it’s because the disease moves faster than people can be tested for it. The Defense Department is helping to fund a new study to determine whether an under-the-skin biosensor can help trackers keep up — by detecting flu-like infections even before their symptoms begin to show. Its maker, Profusa, says the sensor is on track to try for FDA approval by early next year.

The sensor has two parts. One is a 3mm string of hydrogel, a material whose network of polymer chains is used in some contact lenses and other implants. Inserted under the skin with a syringe, the string includes a specially engineered molecule that sends a fluorescent signal outside of the body when the body begins to fight an infection. The other part is an electronic component attached to the skin. It sends light through the skin, detects the fluorescent signal and generates another signal that the wearer can send to a doctor, website, etc. It’s like a blood lab on the skin that can pick up the body’s response to illness before the presence of other symptoms, like coughing.”

Conspiracy theorists aren’t going to like this news at all. This is a worse case scenario for them. But everyone else might. Especially if such an implant can keep us healthy and safe. And if that’s the case then I’ll be the first one to sign up.

The Profusa Lumee sensor system consists of a special hyrogel and an emitting device. Together the two can detect and transmit data on subtle changes in the body, including, potentially, infection from diseases and viruses like coronovirus.
Is an implantable biosensor to detect COVID-19 the Greatest Idea Ever?