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Efficient hydrolysis using Chromium and Cobalt on seawater February 4, 2023

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science.
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Right. A Chinese team has performed direct electrolysis of untreated seawater, achieving long-term stability exceeding 100 hours at 500 mA cm−2 and performance similar to a typical PEM electrolyzer operating in high-purity water. This is achieved by introducing a Lewis acid layer (for example, Cr2O3) on transition metal oxide catalysts to dynamically split water molecules and capture hydroxyl anions. Such in situ generated local alkalinity facilitates the kinetics of both electrode reactions and avoids chloride attack and precipitate formation on the electrodes. A flow-type natural seawater electrolyzer with Lewis acid-modified electrodes (Cr2O3–CoOx) exhibits the industrially required current density of 1.0 A cm−2 at 1.87 V and 60 °C. Managing this without filtering the seawater or alkalizing it first is the real key, here. The efficiency is near 100%, the first step towards green hydrogen production at scale. You are seeing the first glimpse of the sun-fueled future, where solar power is stored as hydrogen.

Hpomework: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-023-01195-x

Full-body medical scanner February 4, 2023

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science.
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A  company was founded by Hjalmar Nilsonne and Daniel Ek has created a 360-degree body scanner comes equipped with over 70 sensors that collect more than “50 million data points on skin, heart, vessels, respiration, microcirculation and more.” This data is then analyzed by a “self-learning AI-powered system” created by Neko Health.

This sort of thing seems vaguely familiar.

Base Editing Cures T-cell Leukemia December 17, 2022

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Recently base editing technology allowed researchers to add several novel modifications to T-cells from a healthy donor. The base edits altered several key markers that identify the immune cells as T-cells. This meant the edited cells were essentially invisible to other T-cells (and themselves, so they wouldn’t kill each other).

Other base edits to the T-cells removed markers that were unique to the donor, turning the cells into a “universal” treatment. Now this treatment can become an off-the-shelf drug given to many patients, in contrast to the slow and expensive personalized nature of current T-cell therapies.

These are enormous changes. The first patient to receive this treatment is completely cured instead of being dead, which was the next stage of her leukemia.

Homework: The Nature article describing the technique. There’s no paper with just this story.

Nanobots Cure Pneumonia in Mice December 13, 2022

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Well, that’s an exciting title, but a trifle misleading. Yes, the mice were fully cured of pneumonia but not by nanobots. It was algal cells whose surfaces are speckled with nanoparticles containing antibiotics. A bit of a cheat I admit, but I would never have thought of it. The algal cells migrate through the lungs delivering antibiotics (actually the cell membranes of neutrophiles, which I also would not have thought to do). Looks like this:

Pretty slick, right? The big green bit is the algal cell itself and the crumbly crust is the added cell membranes. The researchers (Wang and Zhang) treated the infected mice directly through their windpipes. Some were treated with this nanobots and got well in a week. The untreated mice died in three days.

I’ve had pneumonia twice; I know how they feel.

Homework: “Nanoparticle-modified microrobots for in vivo antibiotic delivery to treat acute bacterial pneumonia” by Fangyu Zhang, Jia Zhuang, Zhengxing Li, Hua Gong, Berta Esteban-Fernández de Ávila, Yaou Duan, Qiangzhe Zhang, Jiarong Zhou, Lu Yin, Emil Karshalev, Weiwei Gao, Victor Nizet, Ronnie H. Fang, Liangfang Zhang and Joseph Wang, 22 September 2022, Nature Materials
DOI: 10.1038/s41563-022-01360-9

Science News, and Trivial Commentary November 8, 2022

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Science, Uncategorized.
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30% of FDA regulations are not made from data

According to a team of US researchers their results (based on an examination of drug safety signals identified by the FDA from 2008 to 2019) show that the FDA is either taking regulatory measures on information that has not been made public or that more comprehensive safety evaluations may be required when possible safety signals are identified. Less than a third (30%) of regulatory actions were corroborated by at least one relevant published research study

Homework: “Characterization and corroboration of safety signals identified from the US Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System, 2008-19: cross sectional study” by Meera M. Dhodapkar, Xiaoting Shi, Reshma Ramachandran, Evan M. Chen, Joshua D. Wallach and Joseph S. Ross, 5 October 2022, The BMJ.
DOI: 10.1136/bmj-2022-071752

Eight harvests from one rice planting in China and Uganda

New strains of rice are being used in Uganda and China, which can be harvested for several years (as opposed to current practice of planting yearly). With few exceptions, perennial rice yield was equivalent to annual rice over the first four years. Yield began to drop off in the fifth year due to various factors, leading the researchers to recommend re-sowing perennial rice after four years.

But because they didn’t have to plant each season, farmers growing perennial rice put in almost 60% less labor and spent nearly half on seed, fertilizer, and other inputs. This is a potential game changer for poorer farmers.

Homework: “Sustained productivity and agronomic potential of perennial rice” 7 November 2022, Nature Sustainability.
DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00997-3

Carbon nanotubes grown vertically–in quantity

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are scaling up the production of vertically aligned single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), useful in rechargeable batteries, sporting goods, and auto parts, boat hulls and water filters.

Homework: “Synthesis of wafer-scale SWCNT forests with remarkably invariant structural properties in a bulk-diffusion-controlled kinetic regime” by Sei Jin Park, Kathleen Moyer-Vanderburgh, Steven F. Buchsbaum, Eric R. Meshot, Melinda L. Jue, Kuang Jen Wu and Francesco Fornasiero, 29 September 2022, Carbon.
DOI: 10.1016/j.carbon.2022.09.068

Treatments for senescent cells

 University College London scientists have discovered a new mechanism that slows down and maybe even prevents the normal aging (of immune cells only; don’t get too excited).

A telomere transfer reaction between two types of white blood cells, in ‘extracellular vesicles’ (small particles that facilitate intercellular communication) had an antigen-presenting cell (APC), consisting either of B cells, dendritic cells, or macrophages, function as a ‘telomere donor’, to the T lymphocyte – the telomere recipient cell. Upon transfer of these telomeres, the recipient T cell became long-lived and possessed memory and stem cell attributes, enabling the T cell to protect a host against lethal infection in the long term.

The telomere transfer reaction extended certain telomeres about 30 times more than the extension exerted by telomerase.

Homework:  “An intercellular transfer of telomeres rescues T cells from senescence and promotes long-term immunological memory” by Alessio Lanna, Bruno Vaz, Clara D’Ambra, Salvatore Valvo, Claudia Vuotto, Valerio Chiurchiù, Oliver Devine, Massimo Sanchez, Giovanna Borsellino, Arne N. Akbar, Marco De Bardi, Derek W. Gilroy, Michael L. Dustin, Brendan Blumer, and Michael Karin, 15 September 2022, Nature Cell Biology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41556-022-00991-z

Executable Circuitry From Fruitfly Brains December 28, 2021

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Uncategorizable.
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Science marches on: FlyBrainLab is an interactive computing platform for studying the function of executable circuits constructed from fruit fly brain data.  The FlyBrainLab UI runs in your browser and officially supports Ubuntu, MacOS and Windows.

Like other well-made computing platforms it boasts documentation, tutorials, datasets, curated examples and a troubleshooting section.

Drosophila melanogaster: is there anything it can’t do?

Additional Homework : https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.62362

Ant-man’s Camera December 1, 2021

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Photography, Science.
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Oh sure, it needs a nice camera bag. But at least it works well enough for Science.

Eye Repair December 30, 2020

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There is a lovely article on Hackaday about restoring vision to blind persons which eye can see will be enlightening[0]. It will open your eyes to brilliant possibilities.[1]

[0]Sorry about the puns; I seem to be in a vitreous humor today.

[1]Not really sorry.

COVID Vaccine Info Dump December 30, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Science, Uncategorized.
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Berthub.eu has an excellent deconstruction of the Pfizer vaccine (“a character-by-character look at the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine”).

You won’t be sorry.

Ion-propelled Aircraft December 8, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorized, Video.
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Yanked from the scripts of Star Trek with embarrassing plagiarism, researchers from MIT have created a proof of concept aircraft propelled by ionic thrust. They have only tested it in a (pretty large) gymnasium, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Simple in concept[0], a wire with 20Kv ionizes air in front of an airfoil while the oppositely-charged airfoil draws the air over itself:

The amount of thrust generated by this system is pretty small admittedly, so there are several airfoils stacked atop one another to provide enough lift for sustainable flight.

…well, it is just a prototype

An intriguing design, it is possibly a first step of a solution to the problem of noisy propeller-driven flight. If we imagine a future with drones filling our skies, I sure hope they are quiet[1]

[0] to be honest

[1] unlike my wife’s drone

Stabilizing Perovskites December 3, 2020

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Professor of Chemistry Biwu Ma and his team from Florida State University published a new study that shows if you add a layer of N,N‐bis(tert‐butyloxycarbonyl)‐quinacridone (TBOC‐QA) to a perovskite solar cell, it increases the stability and efficiency of the cell with an efficiency of 18.9% without the layer of pigment to 21.1%.  It also seems to have enhanced the durability of the cell (perovskites do poorly in humidity and air).

Better still, this is a pretty simple process from a manufacturing point of view: spray and heat (“surface passivation by annealing”). “We believe that surface passivation of these cells using low-cost pigments is a very promising approach to improving their stability and efficiency,” Ma said.

Homework: Qingquan He et al. Highly Efficient and Stable Perovskite Solar Cells Enabled by Low‐Cost Industrial Organic Pigment Coating, Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2020). DOI: 10.1002/anie.202012095

COVID-19 Cracked by A.I. November 7, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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The Summit computer at Oak Ridge has looked at scads and scads of data about Covid and pretty much figured out what Covid is and what to do about it therapeutically. There is an excellent writeup of it on Medium.com which I am not going to plagiarize, but tell you all to read right here.

Novel and Effective HSV Treatment July 30, 2020

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Alex Evilevitch of Lund University has published a paper in PLOS Pathogens describing an effective treatment for HSV using chemical moieties to block replication. Not a cure, but a treatment that works by not allowing the injection of DNA into cells targeted by the virus. He, with the help of preclinical studies at the National Institutes of Health in the United States, has identified small molecules that are able to penetrate the virus and “turn off” the high pressure (20 atmospheres! No wonder injection is so easy) in the genome of the virus without damaging the cell. These molecules proved to have a strong antiviral effect that was several times higher than the standard treatment against certain herpes types with the drug Aciclovir, as well as against resistant herpesvirus strains where Aciclovir does not work. The approach prevented viral infection.

The University of Lund has a nice news announcement covering this.

Homework: Pressurized DNA state inside herpes capsids—A novel antiviral target, Alberto Brandariz-Nuñez, Scott J. Robinson, Alex Evilevitch 

Game-changing engineered PET enzyme to break down and recycle plastic bottles April 13, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science.
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Nature published a paper by researchers at Carbios and Université de Toulouse that describes an enzyme that breaks down PET plastics (the kind in those clear water bottles that everyone uses…and throws away–like 800 billion tons, which is only an estimate) really, really fast and efficiently. They made the protein which “achieves, over 10 hours, a minimum of 90 per cent PET depolymerization into monomers, with a productivity of 16.7 grams of terephthalate per liter per hour (200 grams per kilogram of PET suspension, with an enzyme concentration of 3 milligrams per gram of PET)” with good, old-fashioned genetic engineering to solve a recycling problem two generations in the making.

Carbios plans to begin testing its enzyme in 2021 in a demonstration plant near Lyon, France.

The paper is available at Nature (not just the abstract, if using the link below), and is fairly readable by a layman.

Homework:  An engineered PET depolymerase to break down and recycle plastic bottles: V. Tournier, C. M. Topham, A. Gilles, B. David, C. Folgoas, E. Moya-Leclair, E. Kamionka, M.-L. Desrousseaux, H. Texier, S. Gavalda, M. Cot2, E. Guémard, M. Dalibey J. Nomme, G. Cioci, S. Barbe, M. Chateau, I. André , S. Duquesne & A. Marty

Electric, Adjustable Waterproof Glue March 6, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Geek Stuff, Science.
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The title is quite a promise, isn’t it? Bruce Lee, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Tech, is a part of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Young Investigator Program (YIP) and showed how to use pH to make smart underwater adhesives (similar to mussels’ adhesives). He and Saleh Akram Bhuiyan developed a new method using an electrical current to turn off the adhesion of a catechol-containing material.

For extra coolness the adhesive turns red when it’s shut off.  For ultimate coolness, they can turn it back on.

Homework: Md. Saleh Akram Bhuiyan et al, In Situ Deactivation of Catechol-Containing Adhesive Using Electrochemistry, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2020). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b11266

New Aussie Fusion Technology February 25, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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The lateral-thinking Australian fusion start-up HB11 (from the University of New South Wales) patented a unique new fusion technology. Interestingly, this laser-driven technique uses no radioactive fuel(!), and much lower temperatures than “traditional” approaches employed by most fusion researchers involving heating deuterium and tritium fuel up to 15 million C.

I don’t need to tell you that method hasn’t worked yet, do I? Fifty-something years and no joy yet. I wonder why in an industry arguably filled with geniuses or at least Really Smart People that someone hasn’t said, “Hmmm…maybe we should try something new.”

UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora did. His research is being commercialized by HB11, which uses hydrogen-boron fusion wherein two lasers to push  atoms of hydrogen into boron. The lasers use “Chirped Pulse Amplification” technology, which won Gérard Mourou, Arthur Ashkin and Donna Strickland the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics(!).

One laser creates the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction. The alpha particles produced by the reaction would create a positive electrical flow that can be channelled almost directly into the existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator, and no chance of blowing the whole thing to atoms leaving a smoking crater.

The simplicity is pretty compelling…if it works. Time will tell.


Artificial Intelligence Finds an Antibiotic February 20, 2020

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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In a news flash from M.I.T. scientists announce the discover of a (potentially) low-toxicity molecule which interferes with bacteriological cell walls’ ability to maintain electrochemical gradients, which are essential to creating ATP, the main energy molecule in, well, everything: the cells would starve. An A.I. was trained on 2,500 molecules and then scanned the Broad Institute’s Drug Repurposing Hub, a library of about 6,000 compounds. The model picked out one molecule that was predicted to have strong antibacterial activity and had a chemical structure different from any existing antibiotics. Using a different machine-learning model, the researchers also showed that this molecule would likely have low toxicity to human cells.

It worked very well in vitro and in mouse models on a bunch of stubborn microbes that are getting to be pretty resistant to everything we have: Clostridium difficileAcinetobacter baumannii, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The drug apparently worked on EVERYTHING they tested, except Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

A.I. and Gene Regulation December 27, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Brain, Geek Stuff, Mutants, Science.
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Understanding gene regulation is a bitch. Seriously, this is one of the thornier problems of science today and it is because the complexities of living cells, with the thousands of proteins in each cell, make tracing a single protein’s regulation just as complex as hell. Smart guys Tareen and Kinney have figured out a way for AI to interpret (some) interactions using massively-parallel reporter assays to figure out the biophysical basis for (some) gene regulation…which is more than we have had heretofore. They did this by assigning nodes and weights with explicit physiochemical interpretations. This last is the important bit; many AI algorithms are very difficult to interpret, so the underlying “logic” is impenetrable to humans.  The smart guys made many of the decisions explicit, so they would be better able to understand the “logic” by which the characterizations were derived.



Homework: Biophysical models of cis-regulation as interpretable neural networks, Ammar Tareen, Justin B. Kinney BioRxiv,

Nanowired Brain-like Functions December 25, 2019

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Nation Institute of Material Science geeks have created a complex metallic nanowire structure that mimics brain-like functions, such as memorization, learning, forgetting, becoming alert and returning to calm.

"figure: (a) Micrograph of the neuromorphic network fabricated by this research team. The network contains of numerous junctions between nanowires, which operate as synaptic elements. (b) A Human brain and one of its neuronal networks." Image

This indicates that self-organizing structures can be built from random arrangements of conducting fibers. This suggests that many different types of brain-like activity can be induced from stuff other than the kind of materials from which you and I are made.
Intelligent life on other worlds might be made of very different stuff indeed.


Homework: “Emergent dynamics of neuromorphic nanowire networks” by Adrian Diaz-Alvarez, Rintaro Higuchi, Paula Sanz-Leon, Ido Marcus, Yoshitaka Shingaya, Adam Z. Stieg, James K. Gimzewski, Zdenka Kuncic and Tomonobu Nakayama, 17 October 2019, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-51330-6

Multi-dimensional Blood Testing and A.I. December 23, 2019

Posted by stuffilikenet in Applications, Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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I suggested long ago that sufficiently-comprehensive blood tests could effectively predict a person’s risk of developing a broad array of different diseases. We would use artificial intelligence to find patterns of varying concentrations of blood proteins to predict and/or diagnose disease. Someone much better funded than me has a newly developed platform called SomaScan which can scan five thousand individual proteins from a single blood sample.

In a new study testing the efficacy of predicting 11 different health indicators using these protein expression patterns some models were much more effective than others, such as the protein expression model predicting percentage body fat. The cardiovascular risk model was cited as only modestly predictive, however, the researchers do suggest the protein-pattern-based system is generally more convenient, and cheaper, than many traditional tests currently available for evaluating health conditions.

The study in Nature Medicine was funded by SomaLogic which owns SomaScan, so grain of salt, people. But it’s exciting to see that someone is actually looking into what I feel will be the method of the future for maximizing health…also, the study used ~85 million protein measurements in 16,894 participants, which is a pretty damn good sample size.  Plenty of data there for an A.I. to examine for hidden relationships.


Plasma protein patterns as comprehensive indicators of health, Nature Medicine, Stephen A. Williams, Mika Kivimaki, Claudia Langenberg, Aroon D. Hingorani, J. P. Casas, Claude Bouchard, Christian Jonasson, Mark A. Sarzynski, Martin J. Shipley, Leigh Alexander, Jessica Ash, Tim Bauer, Jessica Chadwick, Gargi Datta, Robert Kirk DeLisle, Yolanda Hagar, Michael Hinterberg, Rachel Ostroff, Sophie Weiss, Peter Ganz & Nicholas J. Wareham