Gene Edited, Human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs)

December 4th, 2016 | Brain

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The Allen Institute just released a set of five cell lines that were created using CRISPR/Cas9 technology to track structures throughout the cells’ life cycles. These gene edited, fluorescently-tagged human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) will help researchers better understand how cells develop and how disease damages cells.

Nuclei of glowing human stem cells moving and dividing on the left and a colony of stem cells on the right:

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Beating heart cells in a petri dish:

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-RSB

[via Allen Institute]

The Wonderful Elephant Brain

April 19th, 2016 | Brain

Enjoy this video about the highly developed elephant brain made by Alex Gendler. Elephants are much more like humans than most people realize. They can use tools, understand human body language, remember humans and other elephants for decades, and even mourn their dead.

They have roughly 300 billion neurons in their brains, which is about the same as humans. The many similarities support the theory of convergent evolution.

human and elephant brain

-RSB

A Journey to Photograph Alpha Centauri

April 12th, 2016 | Space

Breakthrough starshot nanocraft yuri milner alpha centauri lasers

Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking revealed a plan today to send small robotic spacecraft 4.37 light years away to our closest neighbor solar system, Alpha Centauri, and send back pictures.

The basic idea is to send thousands of probes into space and then propel them forward with powerful laser beams from Earth. The nanocraft could then accelerate to 1/5th the speed of light and reach Alpha Centauri in approximately 20 years.

Of course there are 10’s of billions of dollars to raise for the mission and countless details to be worked out like building robust light sails, circuits that can withstand radiation in space and high gravity, and a suite of high powered lasers that work in perfect unison. However, if successful, we might get actual close-up pictures of a new solar system. Alpha centauri hosts three different stars and at least 1 known planet (and likely many more).

We all may be alive to see the launch, but we’ll have to wait about 20 years + whatever time it takes to beam back the images to see the fruits of the mission. Exciting nonetheless!

-RSB

Atlas, The Next Generation

February 24th, 2016 | Robot

Atlas, The Next Generation

Boston Dynamics has released an updated model of the Atlas Robot, and it’s impressive! The robot is untethered and can navigate a diverse, snowy terrain with relative ease. Once they get some good artificial intelligence algorithms loaded on this machine, it will be force to be reckoned with. It can even stand back up when it gets knocked down by evil humans!

Google owns Boston Dynamics, and I am sure they have some exciting plans in store for the ATLAS. Stay tuned!

-RSB

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