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 […]

Tesla has a design for a submarine car just sitting around

Tesla  wants to show off a prototype of an electric pickup this year and it’s working on bringing the Model Y and Class 8 semi truck into production. But really, who cares about any of that, because Tesla apparently has a design for a submarine car just sitting around collecting dust. Tesla CEO Elon Musk  mentioned the electric submarine car in response to a question during the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting Tuesday in Mountain View, Calif. The shareholder asked whether Tesla had considered building an aquatic car, meaning a vehicle that could travel on roads, then transition into or under water. It turns out a design exists for a submarine car, inspired by the Lotus Esprit featured in the James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” “I thought that was like the […]

Scientists create a four-winged robot insect that flies with grace

It’s difficult to make an insect-like flying robot — realistic four-winged bots are typically too heavy, while lighter two-winged models tend to fly erratically. USC researchers have edged one step closer to the dream machine, however. They’ve created Bee+, a four-winged bot (pictured at right) that flies with more of the agility and poise of real insects while weighing just over 0.003oz. The trick was to drop earlier bimorph actuators, cantilevers made of two layers of piezoelectric material with a passive layer in between, with unimorphs that only have one piezoelectric layer. The four actuators combined weigh half as much as bimorphs would at just under 0.002oz, reducing the wing loading and significantly improving control. The tiny flier can follow paths, dodge obstacles, perch and land. It’s even simpler to build than There’s still […]

Should Companies Use AI to Assess Job Candidates?

Few things seem creepier than algorithms mining our voices or photos to determine whether we should be considered for a job, and yet we’re not that far from this scenario at all. What’s more, it may not be as creepy as you think. For starters, all organizations struggle with talent identification, which is why many complain that they are unable to find the right person for key positions, and why most people end up in jobs that are far from inspiring. Consider that even in the biggest economy in the world, where talent management practices are far more science-driven and sophisticated than anywhere else, the labor market is quite inefficient. Today in the U.S., there are around six million job seekers for seven million job openings. Even if we look at the global knowledge economy, comprised of the most […]

Life 3.0 and Biohacking: Rewriting Human Life in the Digital Age

I. Setting the stage Healthcare is a rare bird. We can neither disregard it nor make it cheap, simple, and safe (Fernandez et al., 2012). In fact, we globally spend more than 10% of the GDP in healthcare and about $1,000 per capita every year (World Health Organization, 2018). But this is not the whole story: approved drugs halve every 9 years (i.e., Eroom’s Law); population aged over 60 years is expected to grow by 56% over the next ten years (TM Capital, 2017); the workforce to meet patients demand is declining; and the need of having a higher quality of care and more control and transparency over individual healthcare are affecting the sector. All this is creating the perfect storm for biohacking to emerge as a new healthcare paradigm that could […]

On May 20th, the kilogram will no longer be defined by a lump in France

On May 20th, World Metrology Day, the scientific community will officially change the definition of the kilogram. For 130 years, the kilo has been defined by a physical cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy, known as Le Grand K and stored in a vault outside of Paris. But every time scientists handled it, the cylinder lost atoms — an estimated 50 micrograms over its lifetime. So, beginning Monday, the kilogram will officially be measured by a physical constant known as the Planck constant. The change has been years in the making, and on May 20th, three other units of measurement — the ampere, kelvin and mole — will also get new definitions. Those proved to be easier to update, as they weren’t based on a Victorian-era lump in France. The kilo will now correspond […]

Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens. Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe. Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems. Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job. So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?” This is where 3D simulation […]

In China, a link between happiness and air quality

For many years, China has been struggling to tackle high pollution levels that are crippling its major cities. Indeed, a recent study by researchers at Chinese Hong Kong University has found that air pollution in the country causes an average of 1.1 million premature deaths each year and costs its economy $38 billion. Now researchers at MIT have discovered that air pollution in China’s cities may be contributing to low levels of happiness amongst the country’s urban population. In a paper published today in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, a research team led by Siqi Zheng, the Samuel Tak Lee Associate Professor in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and Center for Real Estate, and the Faculty Director of MIT China Future City Lab, reveals that higher levels of pollution […]

Microrobotics: Ingesting tiny robots to treat diseases

Microrobotics research at EPFL and ETH Zurich means that in the future, we may be able to ingest tiny robots which deliver drugs directly to diseased tissue. The team of scientists is led by Selman Sakar at EPFL and Bradley Nelson at ETH Zurich. The microrobotics research into highly flexible, biocompatible microrobots was inspired by bacteria. Nelson added: “Nature has evolved a multitude of microorganisms that change shape as their environmental conditions change. This basic principle inspired our microrobot design. The key challenge for us was to develop the physics that describe the types of changes we were interested in, and then to integrate this with new fabrication technologies.” The challenge of creating a microrobot Microrobots are able to swim through fluids, modify their shape when necessary, and pass through narrow blood vessels […]