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Is the Age of Bio-Computers Upon Us?

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Imagine a world where nature and technology join forces allowing us to maintain our information age but while also working alongside biology? What if we were able to create a living, breathing machines that were patterned after the organisms all around us on the earth today?  

Such ideas and debates have been all throughout science fiction movies, books and discussions but has never really been something we could grasp, until now.  

By studying the biology of our bodies researchers are developing the first living computers.

The exact substance that provides the cells with energy in our bodies is called, Adenosine triphosphate or for short, ATP. An international research team that was led by Prof. Nicolau who is the Chair of the Department of Bioengineering from McGill, strongly believes that this type of substance could possibly be exactly what is utilized to power the next upcoming generations of supercomputers.

This new model of supercomputer would be much smaller than the ones used today, utilizing proteins that are naturally present in all living cells, at the same time using a lot less energy.

Dan Nicolau says,

“We’ve managed to create a very complex network in a very small area.”

The diagram of the circuit the researchers have created kind of resembles the way a large cities roads work. For example in a city you have all different shapes and sizes of vehicles and roads, overpasses and underpasses. A more efficient way of transferring information back and forth.  

If you look at an overhead view of a city, you will see a perfect example, a type of system that can effectively transfer data. A cities roads can typically get you somewhere faster and more organized than a single lane road in which everyone is trying to drive down at the exact same time.

More sustainable computing

In the case of this new biocomputer, this huge city is a tiny chip that only measures about 1.5 cm square in which the channels “roads” have been etched into the material.  Instead of the electrons being powered by electrical charges and move around within a normal, traditional microchip, the short strings of proteins (named biological agents by the researchers) travel all around the circuit in a more controlled way, their every movement fueled by ATP, the chemical, or juice so to speak, for everything from plants to politicians.

Compared to the standard energy output of the supercomputers of today, the energy required to power the new bio supercomputers would be far less, ultimately allowing it to be more sustainable for longer periods of time.  Nowadays our modern-day supercomputers use so much electricity, including heating up from the processing power, pretty much need a whole darn power plant just to function at all.

So to pretty much sum up that more scientific talk,  the scientists were able to create a bio-supercomputer, utilizing the way the human body process energy and information within itself to function. Every item having its own path or road throughout the body to increase processing power.  So why not get the computer to do the same thing.

Moving from model to reality

Remember though, since the model of that bio-supercomputer was able to efficiently handle a complex classical mathematical problem by utilizing the parallel computing of the kind used by modern supercomputers, the researchers were then able to recognize that even though this idea has so much potential, they still have a lot of work ahead of them when moving up to constructing a full-scale functional computer.

Nicolau says,

“Now that this model exists as a way of successfully dealing with a single problem, there are going to be many others who will follow up and try to push it further, using different biological agents, for example. It’s hard to say how soon it will be before we see a full scale bio super-computer. One option for dealing with larger and more complex problems may be to combine our device with a conventional computer to form a hybrid device. Right now we’re working on a variety of ways to push the research further.”

We are now just discovering the secrets of the nano-bio technology from sci-fi films and comic books.  At this rate, the things of science fiction may soon be normal everyday science.

So pretty much what this means is that these guys were able to look at how the human body functions, such as processing information throughout the body, and figure out a way to allow our computers processors to do the same thing.  Before you know it all of our cell phones and desktop computers will become so small and powerful that the technology in movies such as avatar will be the thing of tomorrow.

Sources-

sciencedaily.com

Image Credit: mirrorreport.com

Environment

Florida Set to Release a Billion Genetically Modified Mosquitoes in “Nightmare” Experiment

Jake Johnson

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Environmentalists and Florida residents voiced concern and outrage Monday as state government officials and the biotechnology giant Oxitec announced plans to move ahead this week with a pilot project that involves releasing up to a billion genetically engineered mosquitoes in Monroe County over a two-year period.

Presented by local authorities as an effort to control the population of Aedes aegypti—a mosquito species that can carry both the dengue and yellow fever virus—critics warn that the effort’s supposed benefits and its potential negative consequences have not been sufficiently studied.

Responding to news that the first boxes of genetically modified mosquitos are set to be placed in six locations in Monroe County this week, Friends of the Earth noted in a press release that “scientists have raised concerns that GE mosquitoes could create hybrid wild mosquitoes which could worsen the spread of mosquito-borne diseases and could be more resistant to insecticides than the original wild mosquitoes.”

Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—which approved the project last May—to “halt this live experiment immediately.”

“This is a dark moment in history,” said Perls. “The release of genetically engineered mosquitoes puts Floridians, the environment, and endangered species at risk in the midst of a pandemic. This release is about maximizing Oxitec’s profits, not about the pressing need to address mosquito-borne diseases.”

The Florida Keys Mosquito Control District and Oxitec said late last week that “less than 12,000 mosquitoes are expected to emerge each week” in Monroe Country over a duration of around three months, the initial phase of the experiment.

The stated goal of the project is for Oxitec’s genetically altered, non-biting male mosquitos to mate with the local biting female population, producing female offspring that die in the larval stage before they can spread disease.

As the Miami Herald explained earlier this year: “A ‘death mechanism’ designed into mosquitoes is meant to ensure no viable female offspring will result from the mating, according to Oxitec. The male offspring will pass on the ‘self-limiting gene’ to half of their offspring, said company spokesman Ross Bethell.”

While Oxitec’s CEO claims “strong public support” from Florida Keys communities, the project has sparked protests and pushback from local residents since the proposal was first floated.

“My family’s bodies, blood, and private property are being used in this trial without human safety studies or my consent,” Mara Daly, a resident and local business owner in Key Largo, Florida, said in a statement Monday.

Barry Wray, executive director of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition, added that the “EPA has set the lowest possible bar for approving genetically engineered insects and has opened Pandora’s Box for future experiments that will slide through with little investigation.”

“Everyone should be writing the White House to stop this release until there are regulations and standards that truly protect us,” Wray said.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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News

SpaceX Starship Had “Near Collision” With Unknown Flying Object, NASA Confirms

Elias Marat

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On Friday, NASA was able to successfully deliver four astronauts into orbit on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon starship, marking the first time that a manned mission took place using a reused rocket and spacecraft.

While the launch was a historical success, with the four astronauts from the United States, Japan and France reaching the International Space Station without any complications, there was a tense moment when they were warned of a potential collision with an unidentified flying object, or literal “UFO.”

While there was no time to perform an avoidance maneuver to avoid colliding with an object, the crew was informed that they should get into their pressurized suits to mitigate any harm in case of a collision, reports Futurism.

“The NASA/SpaceX team was informed of the possible conjunction by US Space Command,” said NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries. “The object being tracked is classified as ‘unknown.’

“The possibility of the conjunction came so close to the closest approach time that there wasn’t time to compute and execute a debris avoidance maneuver with confidence, so the SpaceX team elected to have the crew don their pressure suits out of an abundance of caution,” Humphries added.

The space agency was notified by the Pentagon about the potential collision roughly seven hours after the launch of the spacecraft, according to U.S. Space Command spokesman Erin Dick.

“After further analysis, the 18th Space Control Squadron quickly determined there was no conjunction threat, all aboard are safe and the spacecraft was not at risk,” Dick said.

While the “UFO” hasn’t been precisely identified, the most likely explanation was that it was a piece of space junk – or one of a growing number of human-made pieces of junk like chunks of rockets and dead satellites that have been the subject of increasing concern over the years, with the European Space Agency hosting a major conference on space debris just last week.

Humphries notes that the object only came as close as 45 kilometers from the spacecraft, posing “no real danger to the crew or the spacecraft.”

Nevertheless, the small scare illustrates the potential havoc that could be caused by the increasingly litter-strewn low-Earth orbital space.

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Bizarre

Scientists Create First-Ever Embryos With Monkey and Human Cells

Elias Marat

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For the first time, scientists have created embryos in a lab that contain the cells of both humans and monkeys.

Scientists hope that by creating chimeric embryos – embryos containing cells from two distinct species – they might be able to create organs for people who desperately need transplants.

Over 100,000 people in the United States lone are currently on a waiting list for organ transplants crucial to saving their lives, but the supply of donor organs has dropped significantly since the pandemic began unfolding.

Researchers have attempted to inject human stem cells into the embryos of pigs and sheep in recent years in hopes of growing organs for transplants, but this hasn’t yielded positive results. Scientists are hoping that by turning to macaque monkeys, which share a greater genetic similarity to humans, they may have more success.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Cell, researchers in the U.S. and China injected 25  pluripotent stem cells from humans into embryos from macaque monkeys.

After one day, the researchers detected human cells beginning to grow in 132 of the embryos. They embryos ultimately survived for 19 days.

However, bioethicists have raised concerns about the potential for abusing medical regulations that currently govern the treatment of animal and human subjects, as well as the possibility that a rogue scientists might potentially spike living creatures with human cells.

“My first question is: Why?” Kirstin Matthews, a science and technology fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, told NPR. “I think the public is going to be concerned, and I am as well, that we’re just kind of pushing forward with science without having a proper conversation about what we should or should not do.”

Researchers insist that the study serves purely humanitarian goals that could save countless lives in the future.

“This work is an important step that provides very compelling evidence that someday when we understand fully what the process is we could make them develop into a heart or a kidney or lungs,” said University of Michigan professor Jeffrey Platt, who was not involved in the study.

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