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November 23, 2015

The Latest Trend Among Biohackers Is Implanting LED Lights Beneath Your Skin

Inspired by bioluminescent organisms, the DIY biohackers at Grindhouse Wetware have unveiled their latest creation—a magnetically activated, LED-equipped silicone implant.

Read the entire article at Gizmodo.

Will Our Descendants Survive the Destruction of the Universe?

Billions of years from now, the universe as we know it will cease to exist. The good news is, that gives us a lot of time to prepare, and maybe even figure out a way to cheat cosmic death. Here are some possible ways our descendants might survive a cosmological apocalypse.

The Universe, like the organisms that reside within it, is a mortal entity. Born in the Big Bang, it will eventually meet its fate through an equally cataclysmic process, whether it be in the form of a Big Rip, a Big Crunch, or an eternal deep freeze. Regardless, all life as we know it will be extinguished.

Unless, of course, our highly advanced offspring can find a way to escape the confines of the cosmos—or more radically, change the rules of the cosmological game.

Read the entire article at io9.

July 3, 2015

What to Expect From Aliens When We Make First Contact

Given the vastness of space, it may only be a matter of time before we make contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But how might an alien civilization react to such a monumental meet-and-greet, and can we possibly know their intentions? Here's what we might expect.

Alien civilizations will most assuredly be like snowflakes: no two will be the same. Each will differ according to an array of factors, including their mode of existence, age, history, developmental stage, and level of technological development. That said, advanced civilizations may have a lot in common as they adapt to similar challenges; we all share the same Universe, after all.

We've obviously never interacted with an alien civilization, so we have virtually no data to go by. Predicting alien intentions is thus a very precarious prospect — but we do have ourselves to consider as a potential model, both in terms of our current situation and where we might be headed as a species in the future. 

July 1, 2015

Woman Gives Birth Using Ovarian Tissue Frozen In Childhood

In a medical first, a woman has given birth to a healthy baby boy from a transplant of her own frozen ovarian tissue preserved when she was just 13-years-old. It's a remarkable breakthrough that's poised to benefit young people who lose their fertility because of cancer treatments.

As reported in The Telegraph, the unnamed 28-year-old woman, who suffers from sickle-cell anemia, had to have her ovary tissue surgically removed prior to chemotherapy. She was only 13-years-old at the time and had never experienced menstruation, but the doctors had the sense to cryopreserve her ovarian tissue (specifically her right ovary and dozens of tissue fragments) with the hopes that it could be used to restore her fertility in the future — which, as a new study published in Human Reproduction point out, is exactly what happened.

Are Limited Lifespans An Evolutionary Adaptation?

Since the time of Darwin, evolutionary biologists have wondered why the lifespans of different species vary so significantly. A new model now suggests that the life expectancy of any given species is a function of evolutionary pressures — a conclusion that hints at the potential for powerful anti-aging interventions in humans.

The new paper, which now appears in Physical Review Letters, challenges popular conceptions about the nature of aging and why it manifests at different rates in different organisms, including species that are closely related.

By running variations of their model hundreds of thousands of times, a research team led by Yaneer Bar-Yam from the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI), in collaboration with the Harvard Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, observed that evolution favors shorter lifespans in environments where resources are scarce and when pressures to procreate are particularly intense. The simulations appeared to show that lifespans of animals — humans included — are genetically conditioned, and not the result of gradual wear-and-tear. It's a surprising result, one that gives added credence to the burgeoning paradigm known as "programmed aging." At the same time, the study shows that current efforts to develop anti-aging interventions may be based on incorrect assumptions.

It's About To Get A Lot Harder To Experiment On Chimps

The Jane Goodall Institute, in collaboration with other animal welfare groups, has successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare a new rule under which all chimpanzees—both wild and captive—must be protected as an endangered species.

Wild chimpanzees have been listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1990, so it seemed odd and inappropriate to a coalition of animal welfare organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute, that research chimps were not granted the same consideration. According to ESA rules, captive chimps cannot be assigned separate legal status from their wild counterparts owing to their captive state. In an effort to change this, the coalition petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 2010 to list all chimps as endangered. This instigated a formal review of the ESA and the new ruling.

Your Children Won't Be Able To Live In Space, Without A Major Upgrade

We all dream of journeying (or living) among the stars. But space is a spectacularly awful place for humans, and we're not suited for life there at all. And yet, it doesn't have to be that way. Here are all the ways we'll need to re-engineer the human body, in order to make space our home.


Sure, Racehorses Are Getting Faster, but at What Cost?

A new study shows racehorses have gotten progressively quicker over the past 160 years, and in sprint races, especially. But given the startling number of race-related deaths each year, it's nothing to be proud of.

US Congress Wants Religious Experts to Weigh in on Three-Parent IVF

Several months ago, the UK approved a groundbreaking reproductive technique in which babies are created from the genetic material of three people. The US is now considering the procedure, but Congress's new spending bill will require religious experts to review a forthcoming report.

Are These "Double-Muscled" Pigs the Future of Meat?

By editing a single gene, researchers from South Korea and China have engineered pigs that produce about twice the amount of muscle as normal pigs. The goal is to produce leaner meat and at higher yields, but early results show it could be a long time before this jacked-up pork appears on your dinner plate.

June 5, 2015

What Would Happen If All Our Satellites Were Suddenly Destroyed?

Since their inception 60 years ago, satellites have gone on to become an indispensable component of our modern high-tech civilization. But because they're reliable and practically invisible, we take their existence for granted. Here's what would happen if all our satellites suddenly just disappeared.

Read the entire article at io9.

How Chess Has Changed Over The Last 150 Years

The rules of chess have remained consistent since the early 19th Century, but that doesn't mean our approach to the game has stayed the same. Here are some intriguing and surprising ways the Game of Kings has changed its shape over the past 150 years.

The history of chess dates back 1,500 years, but it wasn't until the introduction of competitive chess in 1834 that the rules were solidified. Since that time, players of all calibers have diligently worked to find new and better ways of winning.

Read the entire article at io9.

The White House Supports A Proposed Ban On Editing The Human Germline

In the wake of news that scientists in China modified the DNA of human embryos, a number of scientists and bioethicists have called for a global moratorium on experiments that could alter the human germline. The White House has come out in support of such a ban — for now.

Animals Are Now "Sentient Beings" According To New Zealand Law

Earlier this month, a change was made to New Zealand's Animal Welfare Amendment Bill stating that animals — like humans — are "sentient" beings.

An Artificial Intelligence Is Being Taught To Simulate Anger

Data scientists from New Zealand are teaching an AI to learn anger. Sounds crazy, but the idea is to help companies deal with common customer complaints.

Tech firm Touchpoint Group is using machine learning to help its AI system recognize — and even simulate — anger. Called Radiant (a name taken from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series), the purpose of the AUD $500,000 project (USD $404,000) is to develop an automated system that can defuse angry customer service calls. Once complete, the system will be capable of generating over a hundred million (!) angry interactions. Touchpoint's data scientists are hoping to build a system that can autonomously find the best response to typical customer complaints.

May 8, 2015

Watch for me in an upcoming episode of Al Jazeera's Fault Lines

As reported in Al Jazaeera America:

In "The Death of Aging," Fault Lines looks at what happens when for-profit companies set their sights on helping humans live healthier longer. The film airs on Monday, May 11, at 10 pm Eastern time/7 pm Pacific on Al Jazeera America. 

They turned our interview into a nice little feature, which you can find here.

This Animated Explanation Of The Fermi Paradox Is Fantastic

The Great Silence is a vexing problem we all love to speculate and argue about, but it's not the most intuitive concept. This wonderful animated video by Kurz Gesagt explains the problem that is the Fermi Paradox and why our apparent isolation in the galaxy is so damned weird.

China's Manufacturers Are Shifting Towards Zero-Labor Factories

A company in South China's Guangdong province is building the city's first zero-labor factory. It's an effort to address worker shortages and rising labor costs, but the rise of semi-autonomous "smart factories" could be a sign of things to come, in China and elsewhere.

Read more at io9.

Your Doctor Probably Has A DNR. Here's Why You Should Consider One, Too.

Most patients receiving end-of-life care want to avoid aggressive attempts to prolong their life, but medical culture and practices often contradict these wishes. Part of the problem is due to confusion surrounding do-not-resuscitate orders. Here's what patients really need to know about the "no code."

Read the rest of the article at io9.

May 3, 2015

9 Bizarre Jobs That Will Redefine Our Lives In The 2050s

The fields of biotechnology and medicine are rapidly evolving, and with them their associated employment opportunities. Here are nine biomedical professions to look for in the coming decades.

Read the entire article at io9.

April 30, 2015

New Test Suggests NASA's "Impossible" EM Drive Will Work In Space

Last year, NASA's advanced propulsion research wing made headlines by announcing the successful test of a physics-defying electromagnetic drive, or EM drive. Now, this futuristic engine, which could in theory propel objects to near-relativistic speeds, has been shown to work inside a space-like vacuum.

Read the entire article at io9.

Journal Defends Its Publication Of Controversial Human Embryo Study

The science world was rocked last week by news that geneticists in China had modified the DNA of human embryos. In the face of mounting criticism, science journal Protein & Cell has issued a formal response explaining why it chose to publish the controversial study.

Read the entire article at io9.

This "Liver On A Chip" Lets Researchers Forgo Animal Testing

Testing new drugs on animals can be costly, cruel, and ineffective. In the quest to identify an alternative, a U.K. biopharmaceutical company has developed a "liver on a chip," an important advance in the effort to minimize, and even put an end to, animal experimentation.

Read the entire article at io9.

April 27, 2015

School Projects With Internet Brains

My friend Andy Forest recently sent me an email I'd like to share:

I'm writing to you because I'm working on some interesting community technology education projects. I think they would be of interest to your readers, and we're working to build awareness and support. 

My wife Marianne and I founded MakerKids a few years ago, and it's been amazing - we've taught digital literacy and other tech skills to thousands of kids. Marianne and my next venture is STEAMLabs, a non-profit community makerspace for all ages in the new Centre for Social Innovation's building on Spadina at Queen. One of our main focuses is to transform education by injecting the maker movement into it.

One project is "School Projects with Internet Brains". The idea here is to give public school teachers a way to teach the mandated curriculum in a way that is multi-subject integrated, experiential, self-directed and creative! So we went in to a grade 6 class, and worked with them to build a model of Ontario's power system out of craft materials and Arduino-controlled electronics. The finished product pulls XML files over the Internet and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on colour coded RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains. The kids learned HTML, CSS and Javascript to build a web interface to send commands to the Spark and explain the system. Their project has been accepted as an exhibition at the TIFF DigiPlaySpace this Saturday, April 18th and the kids will be there all day to explain it. 

STEAMLabs has also published a free, open source Internet of Things teaching kit to enable other educators to make projects with Internet brains! 

We are also currently crowdfunding the equipment for our makerspace. We're going to get some awesome tools like a laser-cutter, a 4'x8' CNC router, a wood shop, electronics lab and of course lots of 3D printers.

So if there's anything you can do to help us tell these stories to the world, I would greatly appreciate it!

April 23, 2015

Scientists Make History By Genetically Modifying Human Embryos

After weeks of speculation, it can finally be confirmed that geneticists in China have modified the DNA of human embryos. It's a watershed moment in biotech history, but the experiment may ultimately serve as a major setback in the effort to responsibly develop beneficial interventions involving the human germline.

Read the entire article at io9.

April 21, 2015

A New York Judge Has Granted Legal Person Rights To Chimpanzees

For the first time in U.S. history, a supreme court has granted a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two lab chimpanzees, effectively recognizing them as legal persons. While the future of the chimps has not yet been decided, it's a huge step forward in establishing personhood status for highly sapient animals.

Yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe issued an order to show cause and writ of habeas corpus on behalf of two chimpanzees, Hercules and Leo, who are being used for biomedical experiments at Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. A writ of habeas corpus requires a detained person to be brought before a judge or court to secure their release unless it can be shown that they're being held for lawful reasons. Stony Brook University, who are being represented by the Attorney General of New York, will now have to present their case to the court on May 6th.

In New York, only a legal person can have an order to show cause and have a writ of habeas corpus issued on their behalf. The judge, by virtue of doing so, implicitly decided that the chimps are legal persons for the purpose of habeas corpus.

Read the rest of the article at io9.

April 15, 2015

A Scan Of 100,000 Galaxies Shows No Sign Of Kardashev III Civilizations

A pioneering infrared scan of 100,000 galaxies by Penn State astronomers has failed to detect any signs of galaxy-spanning extraterrestrial supercivilizations. This result, though very preliminary, may be a sign that aliens aren't capable of conquering entire galaxies.

Read the entire article at io9.

8 Possible Alternatives To The Turing Test

The Turing Test, which is intended to detect human-like intelligence in a machine, is fundamentally flawed. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved or modified. Here are eight proposed alternatives that could help us distinguish bot from human.

Check out the entire list here.

April 12, 2015

12 Ways Humanity Could Destroy The Entire Solar System

We humans are doing a bang-up job of messing up our home planet. But who's to say we can't go on to screw things up elsewhere? Here, not listed in any particular order, are 12 unintentional ways we could do some serious damage to our Solar System, too.

Read the entire post at io9.

April 2, 2015

Tatooine-Like Planets May Be More Common Than We Thought

For decades, astronomers have assumed that Earth-like planets cannot form around binary stars on account of wacky gravitational effects. Which, for Star Wars fans, was a total downer. But a new study suggests that not only is the formation of Tatooine-like planets very much possible, they may actually be quite common.

Unlike the accretion disk surrounding a young solitary star, the planet-forming environment around a binary system is subject to seriously disruptive gravitational ebbs and flows. In turn, many astronomers believed that the formation of rocky planets around binary stars is either very difficult or outright impossible. A new study by Ben Bromley from the University of Utah and Scott Kenyon of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory now suggests otherwise.

March 31, 2015

Tiny 'Nanoneedles' Could Help Your Damaged Organs Repair Themselves

In a trial involving mice, an international team of researchers used microscopic "nanoneedles" to coax the body into generating new blood vessels. Applied to humans, the technology could eventually be used to get organs and nerves to repair themselves.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the Houston Methodist Research Institute used the nanoneedles to deliver nucleic acids — the building blocks of all living organisms and transmitters of genetic information —to a specified area. Once delivered to a cell or tissue, the nucleic acids do their work by regenerating lost function. The researchers, a team led by Ciro Chiappini and Molly Stevens from the Imperial College London, describe their findings in the latest issue of Nature Materials.

The Real-Life Science Behind Orphan Black

In addition to being incredibly entertaining and provocative, the popular Orphan Black series is absolutely teeming with science. From human clones and genetic engineering through to DNA barcodes and genetic patents, here's what you need to know about the science behind the show.

For the uninitiated, Orphan Black is a conspiracy thriller that stars Tatiana Maslany as several human clones. Uncertain of their true origins, the clones struggle to evade the unscrupulous Dyad Corporation as they try to learn more about their past.

And to the show's credit, the writers — with the help of science advisor Cosima Herter — get much of the science right. There's too much to cover in a single article, so we boiled it down to four main topics: human cloning, genetic engineering, the viability of the show's timeline, and the issue of genetic patenting.

Read the rest of the article here.

March 30, 2015

Do You Suffer From 'Exploding Head Syndrome'? You're Not Alone.

New findings indicate nearly one in five college-age students has been startled awake by an abrupt, loud noise that doesn't actually exist. Known as "exploding head syndrome," the psychological condition appears to be more common and disruptive than previously thought.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 27, 2015

A.I. Pilots Are Not The Solution To Preventing Airline Disasters

We're still trying to understand the horrific Germanwings tragedy. But already, some people are suggesting it could have been prevented if a computer had been flying the plane. But that's not the solution. We spoke to an expert about why an A.I. pilot would open up an entirely new set of risks and complications.

Read the entire article at io9.

This Biohacker Used Eyedrops To Give Himself Temporary Night Vision

A team of biohackers from California successfully induced a temporary sense of night vision by injecting a simple chemical cocktail directly onto the eye. Incredibly, it allowed them to see over 160 feet in the dark for a brief period of time.

Read the entire post at io9.

March 26, 2015

This New Infrared Telescope Could Help Us Detect Dyson Spheres

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence just got a big boost, thanks to the introduction of a powerful new infrared telescope. In addition to scanning for pulses of infrared light, astronomers will use device to search for alien megastructures, such as Dyson Spheres.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 25, 2015

The 9 Weirdest Implications Of The Many Worlds Interpretation

According to the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, we live in an infinite web of alternate timelines. It's a serious claim that carries some rather serious scientific, philosophical, and existential baggage. And here are the nine weirdest possible implications.

Read the entire post at io9.

We Should Be Able To Detect Spaceships Moving Near The Speed Of Light

A pair of engineers say it's possible to detect the signatures of spacecraft traveling at relativistic speeds, and we can do so using current technologies. The trouble is, their new analysis also suggests that moving through space at ludicrous speed is more hazardous than previously thought.

Read more at io9.

Why A Moratorium On Heritable Genetic Modification Is A Bad Idea

A group of geneticists has called for a moratorium on research into modifying heritable human DNA — a practice that could lead to so-called "designer babies." But as scientists consider this drastic proposal, they should also recognize the potential benefits this technology could afford – and the risks of an outright ban.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 12, 2015

New "Senolytic" Drugs Can Dramatically Increase Healthy Lifespan

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute and the Mayo Clinic have developed a new class of drugs that were shown to significantly slow the aging process in animal models. Remarkably, dramatic improvements were noticeable just days after treatment.

The research was only carried out on mice, but the introduction of an entirely new class of drugs, called "senolytics," could have incredible potential for humans as well.

Read the entire article at io9.

March 6, 2015

These Are The Surprising Jobs You'll Be Doing By The 2030s

As our technological and sociological realities change, so too do our jobs. But just what, exactly, will we be doing 15 years from now? Here are some completely unexpected jobs you've almost certainly never heard of—but likely will soon.

Indeed, the landscape of careers is changing. But knowing which vocations are around the corner is not obvious. This is why the Canadian Scholarship Trust, as part of its Inspired Minds campaign, recently collaborated with the foresight experts at Idea Couture (a team that included scifi author Karl Schroeder). Together, they came up with 10 jobs that are likely to appear within the next 15 years or so, along with the skills and education required.

The end result is Careers 2030—an intriguing piece of speculative work designed to inspire conversations—between parents and kids, teachers and students, and so on—about what the world of work might look like in the near future. To learn more, we contacted Jayar LaFontaine, a Foresight Strategist at Idea Couture.

Read the entire article at io9.

The 10 Algorithms That Dominate Our World

The importance of algorithms in our lives today cannot be overstated. They are used virtually everywhere, from financial institutions to dating sites. But some algorithms shape and control our world more than others — and these ten are the most significant.

Read the entire article at io9.

12 Futuristic Forms of Government That Could One Day Rule the World

As history has repeatedly shown, political systems come and go. Given our rapid technological and social advances, it's a trend we can expect to continue. Here are 12 extraordinary — and even frightening — ways our governments could be run in the future.

Read the entire article at io9.

9 Unexpected Outcomes Of Human Cloning

Human cloning is currently illegal in virtually all parts of the world, but that doesn't mean it will stay that way. Here are some surprising things we can expect once we're finally allowed to make genetic duplicates of ourselves.

Read the entire article at io9.

How Artificial Superintelligence Will Give Birth To Itself

There's a saying among futurists that a human-equivalent artificial intelligence will be our last invention. After that, AIs will be capable of designing virtually anything on their own — including themselves. Here's how a recursively self-improving AI could transform itself into a superintelligent machine.

When it comes to understanding the potential for artificial intelligence, it's critical to understand that an AI might eventually be able to modify itself, and that these modifications could allow it to increase its intelligence extremely fast.

Read the entire article at io9.

The Radical Plan To Phase Out Earth's Predatory Species

Should animals be permitted to hunt and kill other animals? Some futurists believe that humans should intervene, and solve the "problem" of predator vs. prey once and for all. We talked to the man who wants to use radical ecoengineering to put an end to the carnage.

Read the entire article at io9.

Why Do the Anarcho-Primitivists Want to Abolish Civilization?

Anarcho-primitivists are the ultimate Luddites — ideologues who favor complete technological relinquishment and a return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. We spoke to a leading proponent to learn more about this idea and why he believes civilization was our worst mistake.

Read the entire article at io9.

10 Horrifying Technologies That Should Never Be Allowed To Exist

As we head deeper into the 21st century, we're starting to catch a glimpse of the fantastic technological possibilities that await. But we're also starting to get a grim sense of the potential horrors. Here are 10 frightening technologies that should never, ever, come into existence.

Read the entire article at io9.

Are We Overthinking the Dangers of Artificial Intelligence?

Futurists and science fiction authors often give us overly grim visions of the future, especially when it comes to the Singularity and the risks of artificial superintelligence. Scifi novelist David Brin talked to us about why these dire predictions are often simplistic and unreasonable.

Read the entire article at io9.

12 Technologies We Need To Stop Stalling On And Develop Now

The pace of technological change is governed by many factors — including public demand. Which is why we need to be demanding more. Here are 12 transformative technologies whose development should be expedited right now.

Read the entire article at io9.

Want to Stay Healthy? You'll Need to Become a Human-Animal Hybrid.

Biologists have been mixing the DNA of different animals since the 1970s, but the idea of injecting the genes of animals into humans remains taboo. Called transgenics, it's a practice that could cure illness in the future — and eventually reshape our species. Here's what you need to know about it.

Read the entire article at io9.
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