Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for July 5th, 2017

Chinese Internet tycoon and LeEco founder Jia Yueting’s ambition to challenge the likes of Apple and Tesla looks even more in doubt after $182 million of his assets were frozen by a Shanghai court following unpaid loans. From a report: Jia and LeEco came in for stinging criticism from Chinese media Wednesday, which warned that the Internet streaming company and hardware manufacturer was set to fall into further trouble, with the asset freeze as only the beginning. LeEco’s development “is too big, too quick and too reckless, ” Beijing Business Today wrote. “Developing TV [programs and TV sets], mobile phones, [electric] cars and sports programs all consume too much cash at the same time. Not only can the capital not sustain these developments; fractures are inevitable in areas ranging from human resources, technology and management.” According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Shanghai High People’s Court last week ruled in favor of China Merchants Bank’s application to freeze $182 million in assets belonging to Jia, his wife and three LeEco affiliates. Further reading: LeEco Said To Lay Off Over 80 Percent of US Workforce, LeEco’s CEO Jia Yueting Says Company Overstretched, Now Running Out of Cash, and China’s LeEco Calls Off Its $2 Billion Purchase of TV Maker Vizio. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Atomic ‘photos’ help make gene editing safer

Posted by kenmay on July - 5 - 2017

Believe it or not, scientists haven’t had a close-up look at CRISPR gene editing . They’ve understood its general processes, but not the minutiae of what’s going on — and that raises the risk of unintended effects. They’ll have a much better understanding going forward. Cornell and Harvard researchers have produced snapshots of the CRISPR-Cas3 gene editing subtype (not the Cas9 you normally hear about) at near atom-level resolution. They used a mix of cryo-electron microscopy and biochemistry to watch as a riboprotein complex captured DNA, priming the genes so the namesake Cas3 enzyme can start cutting. The team combined hundreds of thousands of particles into 2D averages of CRISPR’s functional states (many of which haven’t been seen before) and turned them into 3D projections you can see at the source link. As for what the researchers learned? Quite a bit, actually. They found that the riboprotein forces a small piece of DNA to unwind, allowing an RNA strand to bind and create a “seed bubble” that serves as a sort of fail-safe — if the targeted DNA matches the RNA, the bubble gets bigger and the rest of the RNA continues binding until it forms a loop structure. The riboprotein then locks down the DNA and lets the enzyme get to work. The whole process is surprisingly precise and accident-proof, so it shouldn’t cut the wrong genes. The Cas3 technique isn’t what you’d call delicate. The team likens it to a “shredder” that eats DNA past the point of no return where Cas9 is more of a surgical tool. The discoveries made here could improve gene editing across the board, however. They could modify CRISPR to improve its accuracy and avoid any inadvertent effects, and methods that have only a limited use right now (like Cas3) could be used for other purposes. Ultimately, this could give scientists the confidence they need to use gene editing to eliminate diseases and harmful bacteria — they can go forward knowing their genetic tweaking should be safe. Via: Reddit Source: Harvard , Cell

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…But California keeps green-lighting more natural gas plants, thanks to hydrocarbon industry pressure on state regulators, who operate at cross-purposes to the legislature and its targets for renewables. (moreā€¦)

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A robot that milks scorpions could aid cancer research

Posted by kenmay on July - 5 - 2017

A scorpion-milking robot designed to extract and store venom could put an end to the tricky manual method traditionally used by scientists. Researchers at the Ben M’sik Hassan II University in Morocco claim their robot not only speeds up the extraction process, but also makes it safer. Scorpion venom is used in a variety of medical fields, including cancer research, and the development of anti-malarial drugs. Current harvesting methods include electrical and mechanical stimulation, which can prove deadly for the scorpions and troublesome for scientists, due to electric shocks from the equipment. Not to mention the fact that the mere thought of grasping a venomous arachnid sounds pretty darn terrifying. The lightweight VES-4 device created by Mouad Mkamel and his team of researchers is a portable robot that can be used in the lab and in the field. It works by clamping the scorpion’s tail and electrically simulating the animal to express droplets of venom, which it captures and stores. The VES-4 wouldn’t be the first robot to be utlized by medical scientists. In the past, robotic devices have been used to design drugs , with researchers also recently suggesting humanoid robots be employed to grow human tissue grafts. “[VES-4] is designed to extract scorpion venom without harming the animal and to provide more safety for the experimenters, ” said Mkamel. “It could [even] be used by one person using a remote control to safely recover scorpion venom remotely.” The robot has been tested on multiple species of scorpions and can be programmed to remember them via its adjustable settings. It also contains an LED screen that displays the name of the species being milked. Source: EurekAlert!

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theweatherelectric writes: Hulu has joined the Alliance for Open Media, which is developing an open, royalty-free video format called AV1. AV1 is targeting better performance than H.265 and, unlike H.265, will be licensed under royalty-free terms for all use cases. The top three over-the-top SVOD services (Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu) are now all members of the alliance. In joining the alliance, Hulu hopes “to accelerate development and facilitate friction-free adoption of new media technologies that benefit the streaming media industry and [its] viewers.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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