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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

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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News

Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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