Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for February 17th, 2017

These days, most airlines charge you to check a bag. If you have more space than you need in that bag, you might be able to earn extra cash. Airmule is a free app that connects travelers with TSA-approved shipping partners to send stuff overseas. Read more…

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Humanity is on the cusp of de-extincting the Wooly Mammoth

Posted by kenmay on February - 17 - 2017

After successfully extracting sequenceable DNA from a pair of Woolly Mammoth carcasses pulled from Siberia’s permafrost in 2014, a team of Harvard researchers announced on Thursday that they are tantalizing close to cloning the (currently) extinct pachyderms. The team made the announcement ahead of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting this week. They estimate that they’re just two years away from creating a viable hybrid embryo. That is, they take a modern day asian elephant embryo and splice in DNA from the Mammoth to get a fuzzy “mammophant, ” as the team calls it. “Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo, ” Harvard Professor George Church told the Guardian . “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.” So far, the team hasn’t progressed passed the cellular stage in creating one of these beasts though they have managed to splice in as many as 45 mammoth genes, up from their initial 15. Within a few years, the team expects to ramp their efforts up to the embryonic stage but it’ll likely be quite a while until they can birth a living mammophant. Since the Asian elephant is itself endangered, this hybridizing technique could help preserve the species. At the same time, the Harvard team doesn’t want to put one of these valuable animals at risk carrying a mammophant fetus to term, so they’re looking into gestating it in an artificial womb. That’s where the delay comes in. While Church’s team has managed to grow a mouse in an artificial womb for ten days — half its normal gestation period — the technology for doing that for an elephant-scale animal likely won’t be feasible for at least a decade. And even once that technology has matured, there are still a host of hand-wringing ethical arguments that will have to be sorted before Church’s team gets the green light to proceed further. Source: Guardian

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Scientists Use Stem Cells To Grow Animal-Free Pork In a Lab

Posted by kenmay on February - 17 - 2017

A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports describes research “designed to generate muscle from a newly established pig stem-cell line, rather than from primary cells taken directly from a pig, ” says co-author Dr. Nicholas Genovese, a stem-cell biologist. “This entailed understanding the biology of relatively uncharacterized and recently-derived porcine induced pluripotent stem cell lines. What conditions support cell growth, survival and differentiation? These are all questions I had to figure out in the lab before the cells could be turned into muscle.” Digital Trends reports: It may not sound like the most appetizing of foodstuffs, but pig skeletal muscle is in fact the main component of pork. The fact that it could be grown from a stem-cell line, rather than from a whole pig, is a major advance. This is also true of the paper’s second big development: the fact that this cultivation of pig skeletal muscle didn’t use animal serum, a component which has been used in other livestock muscle cultivation processes. [Genovese] acknowledges that there are other non-food-related possibilities the work hints at. “There is a contingent interest in using the pig as a model to study disease and test regenerative therapies for human conditions, ” he said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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It’s called Cayla , it’s about a foot tall, and it can be used to listen to and talk to the child playing with it. But who is doing the listening? Anyone in Bluetooth range, reports Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). An official watchdog in Germany has told parents to destroy a talking doll called Cayla because its smart technology can reveal personal data. … The Vivid Toy group, which distributes My Friend Cayla, has previously said that examples of hacking were isolated and carried out by specialists. However, it said the company would take the information on board as it was able to upgrade the app used with the doll. But experts have warned that the problem has not been fixed. The Cayla doll can respond to a user’s question by accessing the internet. For example, if a child asks the doll “what is a little horse called?” the doll can reply “it’s called a foal”. Watch the BBC’s video of Cayla, in its squeaky, sinister voice, say “I’ve been hacked to say all sorts of scary things.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0Y2KUN6XPM Cayla was on Boing Boing last year when the FCC received complaints about it. Cayla is on Amazon for $45 . It’s so easy to hack that everyday YouTubers are at it! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvMb_TusPPs

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Watch India launch a record 104 satellites in one mission

Posted by kenmay on February - 17 - 2017

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) just launched an amazing 104 satellites in one mission , setting a new record. (more…)

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(credit: Clever Cupcakes ) Yahoo has sent out another round of notifications to users, warning some that their accounts may have been breached as recently as last year. The accounts were affected by a flaw in Yahoo’s mail service that allowed an attacker—most likely a “state actor,” according to Yahoo—to use a forged “cookie” created by software stolen from within Yahoo’s internal systems to gain access to user accounts without a password. Yahoo informed some users in e-mails this week that “Based on the ongoing investigation, we believe a forged cookie may have been used in 2015 or 2016 to access your account.” The messages are regarding possible breaches using the cookie vulnerability in 2014. The Associated Press’ Raphael Satter reports that a Yahoo spokesperson acknowledged the company was notifying users of the potential breach of their accounts, but would not disclose how many users were affected. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Triangulene. No matter how hard you try, you can’t put double bonds on the middle rings without having a carbon atom form five bonds, which it refuses to do. So you end up with unpaired electrons instead. A lot of organic chemistry feels like an episode of Mythbusters , if a bit of an undramatic one. Imagine a couple of chemists sitting at a white board, asking each other, “Is it actually possible to build this thing?” Getting a PhD can often depend on figuring out how to overcome the challenges of constructing a molecule. Sometimes, the challenges come because the starting materials won’t react with anything. Sometimes, the challenge is that the products will react with everything , often with explosive consequences. But clearing these hurdles is usually more than an intellectual curiosity; in many cases these odd molecules can tell us about basic principles of chemistry. The molecules may also have useful properties that we’d like to study in the hope that we can figure out how to make a stable molecule that behaves the same way. In the latest triumph, a Swiss-UK team has managed to make a molecule called triangulene. It’s a strange beast: a flat triangle of carbon that has an odd combination of bonds that leave a couple of electrons free. These electrons are expected to give it magnetic properties, but we haven’t been able to confirm this because the molecule also reacts with everything it comes in contact with. The trick to making it was crafting individual molecules by hand—a hand that operated a scanning-tunneling microscope. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Enlarge This week, Chevrolet announced that its new 2017 diesel Cruze will get a jaw-dropping 52 mpg on the highway , making it the car with the best fuel economy among non-hybrid and non-electric models in America. Chevy says that means the car can drive an estimated 702 miles on a highway before it runs out of diesel. (As an aside: Ars recommends investing in adult diapers or inventing a Dune -style stillsuit to reclaim your—err… water— before you try to drive 700 miles in one go in this car.) The 1.6L, four-cylinder turbodiesel engine has 137hp (102kW) and 240lb-ft (325Nm) of torque, as you’d expect from a diesel passenger sedan. (For comparison, the gas-powered 2017 Chevy Cruze gets 177lb-ft [240Nm] of torque.) Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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