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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

High fevers.  Extreme fatigue.  A long-lasting dry cough.  Flu like symptoms.  Losing your sense of smell.  Shortness of breath.  Possible gastrointestinal issues and organ failure.  Long term damage to your lungs even if you survive.

COVID-19 is a nasty virus to say the least.  That much we know.  What we don’t know is how to avoid it.  How long does it stick to various surfaces?  Can it be spread through Amazon packaging? Through take-out food?  We’re not quite sure yet.

One thing we are sure of: a way to destroy it wherever its lurking.  At least in terms of disinfecting surfaces after they’ve potentially been contaminated.  With 99.99% accuracy.  And it’s all thanks to powerful germ shredding UV lights.

According to IEEE Spectrum, “UVD Robots is a Danish company making robots that are able to disinfect patient rooms and operating theaters in hospitals. They’re able to disinfect pretty much anything you point them at—each robot is a mobile array of powerful short wavelength ultraviolet-C (UVC) lights that emit enough energy to literally shred the DNA or RNA of any microorganisms that have the misfortune of being exposed to them.

They’re even being put to use in Arizona in my own back yard and are likely to become a staple of hospitals around the world in the near future.  Proving once again just how important technology and outside the box thinking is going to be as we attempt to fight back against the global pandemic that currently has brought the world to a standstill.

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Is UVD Robots the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,606 – Copper Blues

What if I told you that there was something that we could be doing to curtail the spread of COVID-19.  Something obvious.  Not at all intrusive.  A solution that’s actually been around for thousands of years.  Would you be interested in hearing about that?  I sure would.

So I’ll let Fast Company explain:

“In China, it was called ‘qi,’ the symbol for health. In Egypt it was called ‘ankh,’ the symbol for eternal life. For the Phoenicians, the reference was synonymous with Aphrodite—the goddess of love and beauty.  These ancient civilizations were referring to copper, a material that cultures across the globe have recognized as vital to our health for more than 5,000 years.

When influenzas, bacteria like E. coli, superbugs like MRSA, or even coronaviruses land on most hard surfaces, they can live for up to four to five days. But when they land on copper, and copper alloys like brass, they die within minutes. ‘We’ve seen viruses just blow apart,’ says Bill Keevil, professor of environmental healthcare at the University of Southampton. ‘They land on copper and it just degrades them.'”

The reason for this is that cooper is highly conductive, comprised of electrons that are constantly moving back and forth in a frenetic frenzy, so much so that microbes can’t stick to them for longer than four hours.  Which begs the question: if Copper works so well and it’s positive effects have been known for so long why aren’t our buildings covered with it?  Why isn’t copper gracing every door knob, every counter top, every surface known to man?

One could probably guess the answer.  The usual suspects: cheaper materials and changes in taste over time.  And that was all well and good up until now.  After all, who am I to argue with aesthetics and architecture. But now that a global pandemic has landed on our doorstep what excuse do we still have to continue living in oblivion? As I like to say, “ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s the reason we miss.”  And right now what we’re missing out on is a chance at a healthy and productive society.  A chance at a return to normalcy anytime soon.

So, what we need, now more than ever, is an equivalent version of the Midas touch.  A way to blanket the world, not in gold, but rather in copper.  All in one fell swoop.

Obviously, there’s no technological way to do that so what we really need is a metaphorical Midas touch.  A real-time commitment to understanding the value of copper and reimagining how we can best put its unique skill set to use as soon as possible.  Perhaps we could direct various industries to produce more copper based products as part of the Defense Protection Act.  Or maybe it’s just something that we can encourage architects to use going forward as a good design principle.  But either way it’s become clear, at least to me, that copper ought to be an integral part of our society.  And until that happens I’ll be resigned to singing the copper blues.

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Is covering the world in copper the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,603 – Solar Foods

As much as we’d like there to be, there probably isn’t a miracle cure out there to solve the problem of Climate Change.  Certainly a technological solution isn’t just going to materialize out of thin air.  Or will it?  Because as outlandish as it sounds, it may soon be possible to create food out of thin air in a sustainable way that would significantly reduce our carbon emissions.

As CNN reports:

“Feeding an ever-growing population is putting a huge strain on the Earth’s resources. Agriculture is one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gases, with animal farming in particular responsible for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from beef and dairy cattle.

On top of that, farming uses vast areas of land that might otherwise be home to carbon-storing forests; it also guzzles huge amounts of water — up to 70% of water-use worldwide, according to the OECD.

But a Helsinki-based company is trying to change that.

‘In order to save the planet from climate change, we need to disconnect food production from agriculture,’ says Pasi Vainikka, CEO of Solar Foods.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Our current way of doing things isn’t sustainable.  We’re running out of land, accelerating Climate Change, eating ourselves into oblivion.  We need a better method of food production.  A cleaner method.  And stat.  But how exactly would we i.e. Solar Foods go about doing that?

According to Vice

“To produce the powder, Solar Foods first creates hydrogen through electrolysis (splitting water cells in a bioreactor using electricity). It then adds the hydrogen to carbon dioxide, as well as nutrients such as potassium, sodium, and phosphorus, and feeds this into microbes derived from soil.

The entire process results in cells that Vainikka estimates are 50 percent protein, 25 percent carbohydrates, and 5 to 10 percent fat.

According to Vainikka, the powder could be consumed in three ways: as a protein supplement to existing foods, such as breads or drinks; as an ingredient in plant-based meat alternatives, such as veggie burgers; or as a sustainable source of amino acids needed to create lab-grown meat products.”

This protein would be known as Solein and it would change everything.  The way we eat, the way we live, the way we think about agriculture and sustainability.  Perhaps a technological solution for Climate Change was within reach after all.  Just waiting for us to pull it out of thin air.

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Is Solar Foods the Greatest Idea Ever?

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It’s the Holy Grail of Modern Science.  Something tantalizingly close yet forever out of reach.  Something, that if it ever came to pass, would change everything.  Irrevocably.  And it may soon be within reach.  That’s right.  A cure for cancer is right around the corner.  And not just one specific kind of cancer but rather all cancers.  In everyone.

As Futurism puts it, “On Monday, researchers from Cardiff University published a new study in the journal Nature Immunology detailing their discovery of a T-cell equipped with a new type of T-cell receptor (TCR) that recognizes a molecule called MR1.

This molecule appears on the surface of many types of cancer cells as well as healthy cells, but T-cells equipped with this TCR know to kill only cancer cells.

And not just the kind linked to a single type of cancer, either. When the Cardiff researchers equipped T-cells in lab tests with this new TCR, the cells killed lung, skin, blood, colon, breast, bone, prostate, ovarian, kidney and cervical cancer cells — all while ignoring healthy cells.”

Now comes the hard part: waiting.  For further research and animal testing to occur.  For clinical trials to take place.  For a treatment to be developed.  But if this early research is any indication it’ll be well worth the wait.  Now if only we can do something about the deadly Coronavirus before it wipes us all out…

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Is a Universal Cancer Cure the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Meteorologists get a lot of flak for their inability to accurately forecast the weather, especially when it comes to matters of precipitation.  But one area that they usually excel in is predicting the temperature, the expected highs and lows for the day.  There’s just one problem: that information is too broad.  Too general.  It doesn’t take into account the conditions in your exact surroundings.

For example, let’s say it’s 60 degrees out and you want to run across the street from your office to get a cup of coffee.  Based on the temperature you figure you can get by without bringing a jacket or sweater.  But you failed to take into account the fact that the other side of the street is in the shade and more so in a wind tunnel that the other nearby buildings have created.  Instead of feeling like 60 degrees it now feels like 50 and in turn you’re freezing to death.  Similarly, you may be hiking on a cool day when you enter an exposed canyon with no tree cover.  Instead of feeling like it’s 76 degrees out it now feels closer to 87 as the sun directly beats down on you.

Since the hyper-local temperature you feel may be different than the general overarching temperature in your area, shouldn’t we come up with a way for people to judge the temperature in their immediate surroundings?  What I’m imagining then is an app for smart phones, smart watches, or other wearable devices that would help people figure out once and for all weather or not they need to bring that jacket with them.

It would do this by using satellite images to scan surroundings for pockets of sunlight and potential blind spots where cooler air could sneak in.  It would also take into account the movement of clouds to accurately predict cloud cover and even evaluate the composition of nearby building materials to calculate their magnifying effects.

Future iterations may even take into account your own metabolism and body temperature to help you figure out exactly how hot or cold you feel independent of what the actual weather is.  At any given time you’ll be able to know your internal temperature, how hot or cold you feel, how hot or cold it feels in your exact area, and generally how hot or cold it really is outside.  Anything and everything you could ever want to know about temperature would be at your disposal.  All in one location.  Making it so that we never have to rely on that pesky weatherman ever again.

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Is knowing the temperature in your exact spot the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Trying to predict trends ahead of time can be challenging.  You never quite know how new ideas will be received in the marketplace.  New technologies and scientific breakthroughs seemingly pop up out of nowhere.  Flashes of brilliance coming when we least expect them.  But I have a fair bit of confidence in predicting that Dopamine Hacking is likely going to increase in popularity in the near future.  At least for a short while.

According to Web MD, “Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting.  Your body spreads it along four major pathways in the brain. Like most other systems in the body, you don’t notice it (or maybe even know about it) until there’s a problem.  Too much or too little of it can lead to a vast range of health issues. Some are serious, like Parkinson’s disease. Others are much less dire.”

And now people want to hack it. To achieve optimal performance.  In theory, it makes sense.  In practice, it seems a little bit odd.

As Science Alert puts it, “It’s the latest fad in Silicon Valley. By reducing the brain’s feel-good chemical known as dopamine – cutting back on things like food, sex, alcohol, social media and technology – followers believe that they can ‘reset’ the brain to be more effective and appreciate simple things more easily.

Some even go so far as avoiding all social activities, and even eye contact.”

Silicon Valley seems to have a lot of fads.  Micro-dosing LSD.  Injecting yourself with the blood of a younger person to stave off the effects of aging.  Various diet crazes.  But Dopamine Fasting, an attempt to literally hack your brain has got to take the cake.  It’ll be interesting to see just how far this trend goes.  And if it lasts until 2021.

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Is Dopamine Hacking the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The most impactful scientific breakthroughs and technological advancements of the past year.  In short, the Greatest Ideas of the Year!

Picture of a Black Hole – There is still much we don’t know about the Universe and Black Holes are usually found near the top of that list.  Is it really true that information can’t escape them? Are they clumps of Dark Matter and not holes at all? No one knows for sure.  We don’t even know what they look like.  At least we didn’t.  Until now.  Thanks to the biggest scientific breakthrough of 2019.

Prime Editing – Forget about ordinary, run of the mill CRISPR-CAS-9 gene editing.  The capabilities of the new Prime Editing technique are light years beyond that, providing scientists with significantly more precision, enabling edits to be made quicker and with fewer mistakes.  This means that scientists can now make virtually any edit – additions, deletions, swapping letters – without severing the famed DNA double helix.  It’s like using copy and paste in a word processor instead of crude scissors.  Already 89 percent of the mutations that cause human diseases can be fixed.  The future of gene editing just got turbo charged.

Blue Origin’s Moon Lander – In May, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveiled a mock-up of his private space company’s moon lander, Blue Moon, laying the groundwork towards establishing a permanent human colony on the Moon.  An important first step towards eventually making our way to Mars and beyond.  All part of Bezos’ vision to move all mining and industrial operations on Earth to outer space.  It may not seem like it yet but this news could be foreshadowing the Dawn of a New Era – the key moment in time when human civilization began its inevitable climb to the sky.

PDK Plastic – The creation of plastic in 1907 was a revolutionary breakthrough that altered society several times over.  Nearly every industry has been touched by it from food to transportation.  But sadly one of our greatest creations is also one of most troubling as we are now literally drowning in a sea of plastic and microplastic waste with a whopping 91% of plastic not even getting recycled and those that are taking over four hundred years to degrade.  Thankfully there may be a solution on the way.  A new kind of plastic, known as PDK, that would be 100% recyclable and reusable in a variety of ways.  This massive reduction in plastic’s environmental impact can not be understated.  At this point it would be nearly impossible to untether ourselves from our reliance on plastic.  Now we won’t have to.

Wildfire Vaccine – As the Australian Brush Fires rage out of control, killing over 500 million animals, displacing thousands of people, and ruining air quality for everyone else, it becomes increasingly clear that we need new technological solutions to combating the devastating effects of Climate Change.  Thankfully we may have one with a new gel capable of acting like a delivery system for fire retardant, in essence acting like a Wildfire Vaccine, thereby preventing fires from spreading in the first place.  All we’d have to do is coat the world’s forests with the stuff.

Google’s Quantum Supremacy – Google’s quantum computer was reportedly able to perform a calculation in three minutes and twenty seconds, a calculation so complex that it would take the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, 10,000 years to complete!  If that’s true then Google has achieved Quantum supremacy and the future of search, and everything else, will never be the same again.

Room Temperature Superconductors – One of the Holy Grails of Science is to create a room temperature superconductor, a breakthrough that could have far-reaching implications.  A breakthrough that may now be possible thanks to a new design from Navy Scientist Salvatore Cezar Pais.

Drug Sponge – The ravaging effects of chemotherapy may be dampened in the near future thanks to a newly designed drug sponge that would sit inside a patient’s vein during treatment and absorb excess drugs, thereby minimizing side effects.  A potential game-changer for cancer patients everywhere.

Borophene – As much as it pains me to say it may be time for Graphene to leave the spotlight and make way for another 2D material with exciting properties, Borophene.  This single layer of Boron atoms that form various crystalline structures could eventually lead to a new generation of more powerful lithium-ion batteries among other uses that has got everyone from chemists to physicists excited beyond belief.

Self-Sovereign Identity – Instead of relying on Facebook and Google to authenticate our identities for us (allowing us to access various webpages) we may soon be able to control our own online identities enabling us to move across the web more securely.  And even more importantly we may soon be able to give people without any kind of identifying credentials at all, the means to access financial services like opening bank accounts and securing loans.  This idea of Self-Sovereign Identity, one of the holy grails of Internet Technology, may be the most important technological development of the last decide.  Even more so than BitCoin, the Blockchain, or any other digital or cryptocurrency development.

Heliogen Solar – Bill Gates secretive clean energy startup is capable of capturing enough sunlight so as to create a “Solar Oven”, one capable of reaching temperatures at a rate that is an astonishing 1/4 of what the Sun can produce.  This means that for the first time, concentrated solar can be used to create the extreme heat required to make cement, steel, glass, and other industrial processes, essentially enabling sunlight to replace fossil fuels.  A revolutionary breakthrough in the fight against Climate Change.

Curing Cancer in Space – A team of doctors from Australia’s University of Technology believes that it may be possible to cure cancer in space since microgravity disrupts cells ability to detect their surroundings and communicate with one another.

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2019 had no shortage of great ideas.

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