Hayabusa-2: Japanese spacecraft makes final touchdown on asteroid

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a faraway asteroid, where it will collect space rock that may hold clues to how the Solar System evolved. The successful contact with the Ryugu asteroid was met with relief and cheering in the control room at Japan’s space agency, JAXA. It is the second touchdown for the robotic Hayabusa-2 craft, which grabbed rocks from the asteroid in February. After blasting a crater into Ryugu, it has returned to pick up fresh rubble. As the samples will come from within the asteroid, they will have had reduced exposure to the harsh environment of space. It’s hoped the rock will give scientists more data on the origins of the Solar System. Hayabusa-2 is due to bring the specimens back to Earth next year. Left […]

Google DeepMind: AI becomes more alien

Google’s DeepMind says it has made another big advance in artificial intelligence by getting a machine to master the Chinese game of Go without help from human players. The AlphaGo program, devised by the tech giant’s AI division, has already beaten two of the world’s best players. It had started by learning from thousands of games played by humans. But the new AlphaGo Zero began with a blank Go board and no data apart from the rules, and then played itself. Within 72 hours it was good enough to beat the original program by 100 games to zero. DeepMind’s chief executive, Demis Hassabis, said the system could now have more general applications in scientific research. “We’re quite excited because we think this is now good enough to make some real […]

Vertex Pharma Shells Out $420M to Move Into Muscular Dystrophy

Xconomy Boston – Vertex Pharmaceuticals is committing $420 million in a pair of dealsthat expand the company’s research scope to experimental genetic treatments for two forms of muscular dystrophy. Boston-based Vertex (NASDAQ: VRTX) announced late Thursday that it reached an agreement to pay $245 million up front to acquire Exonics, a company using gene editing techniques to develop a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and myotonic dystrophy type 1. Vertex also said it is paying CRISPR Therapeutics (NASDAQ: CRSP) $175 million up front to expand an existing research collaboration to include Duchenne and myotonic dystrophy type 1. Watertown, MA-based Exonics Therapeutics is developing treatments intended to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to repair the genetic mutations that cause Duchenne and other neuromuscular diseases. Vertex says Exonics’ preclinical research has demonstrated the ability to […]

Uber will test its flying taxis in Melbourne

Uber has chosen the third test city to join Dallas and Los Angeles for its flying taxi trials: Melbourne, Australia. The third location was supposed to be Dubai, but negotiations fell through and prompted the company to look for another site for trials outside the US. Uber considered Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Paris, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney. In the end, Melbourne won. Susan Anderson, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, told Reuters that it’s because the Australian government “adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology.” Melbourne, in particular, has a “unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology” that make it perfect for the trials. The ride-hailing service plans to start testing UberAir’s electric vertical-take-off-and-landing vehicles in 2020, three years before the […]