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A Virus That Creates Electricity

ANNALEE NEWITZ

A virus called simply M13 has the power (literally) to change the world. A team of scientists at the Berkeley Lab have genetically engineered M13 viruses to emit enough electricity to power a small LED screen. M13 poses no threat to humans — it can only infect bacteria — but it could one day serve humanity by powering  your laptop, or even your city.

The secret of M13 lies in something called the “piezoelectric effect,” which happens when certain materials like crystals (or viruses) emit a small amount of power when squeezed. M13 exhibits this effect, and also has the handy ability to organize itself into tidy, invisible sheets of film. Imagine painting a layer of this film onto the casing for your laptop. Every time you tap the keyboard, these viruses convert the pressure from your fingers into electricity that constantly powers up your battery. Any kind of motion can power up M13, so you could conceivably power your house by jumping up and down on a virus-coated floor, or power your iPod by jiggling it in your pocket.

M13 is a natural power source, but researchers enhanced its output by genetically engineering the virus, adding some negatively-charged amino acids to one end of its tough outer shell. Basically, the GMO version of M13 became a better voltage generator, because it had a negatively charged end and a positively charged end, thus aiding the flow of electricity. Then, they tested it.

According to a release from Berkeley Lab:

They created the conditions for genetically engineered viruses to spontaneously organize into a multilayered film that measures about one square centimeter. This film was then sandwiched between two gold-plated electrodes, which were connected by wires to a liquid-crystal display.

When pressure  is applied to the generator, it produces up to six nanoamperes of current and 400 millivolts of potential. That’s enough current to flash the number “1″ on the display, and about a quarter the voltage of a triple A battery.

Obviously this is a beta version of what’s to come. Berkeley bioscientist Seung-Wuk Lee, who worked on the project, is hopeful that it can pave the way for more research into virus-powered electronics. I think we’re all looking forward the day when we can power our monitors just from slamming our heads onto (M13-covered)  desks while streaming Transformers 2.

Science & Technology

Scientist Peter Scott-Morgan is set to become “the world’s first complete cyborg”

Scientist and roboticist Peter Scott Morgan, who is using an advanced version of Stephen Hawking's communication system, built by Intel. INTEL

Two years ago scientist Peter Scott-Morgan was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and today he is still fighting for a new life, not just for survival.

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan is on track to become the world’s first full-fledged cyborg, potentially giving him more years of life.

The world’s first complete cyborg

It was in 2017 that Dr. Peter Scott-Morgan (a brilliant robotics writer, scientific writer, and talented speaker) was diagnosed with degenerative motor neuron disease that ultimately paralyzed his entire body except his eyes.

The diagnosis is understandably grim, especially considering that he has only two years to live, but he has not given up the fight.

Teaming up with world-class organizations with expertise in artificial intelligence, Dr. Scott-Morgan is transforming himself into what he calls “the world’s first fully fledged cyborg.”

“And when I say ‘Cyborg’, I mean not just that some kind of payment will be implanted in me, I mean that I will become the most advanced human cybernetic organism ever created on Earth for 13.8 billion years. My body and brain will be irreversibly changed, ”says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

What does it mean to be human

According to Dr. Scott-Morgan, he will become part robot and part living organism. Moreover, the change will not be one-time, but with subsequent updates.

“I have more updates in the process than Microsoft ,” says Dr. Scott-Morgan.

AI-powered creative expression

The cyborg artist is a great example of the power of human-AI collaboration. AI uses the data that make up Peter’s digital portrait ( articles, videos, images, and social media ) and is trained to recognize key ideas, experiences, and images.

Peter will introduce a theme, AI will suggest composition, and Peter will apply images to suggest style and mood. Peter will direct the AI ​​to render a new digital image that none of them could create alone.

A unique blend of AI and human, reflects Peter’s creative and emotional self – a critical aspect of what it means to be human.

Peter 2.0

This October, Dr. Scott-Morgan will undergo what he calls the latest procedure that will transform him into “Complete Cyborg”.

October 9 he tweeted a photo of himself, writing the following:

“This is my last post as Peter 1.0. Tomorrow I will trade my vote for potentially decades of life as we complete the last medical procedure for my transition to Full Cyborg, in the month that I was told statistically I would be dead. I am not dying, I am transforming. ! Oh, how I LOVE science !!! “.

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Science & Technology

Japan has developed an inflatable scooter that weighs practically nothing

The University of Tokyo engineers have developed the Poimo inflatable electric scooter, which is created individually for each owner. It is enough to send your photo to the manufacturers – and a personal optimized model will be assembled for you.

The scooter is designed with a special program for the body size of a particular user and his specific fit. Moreover, each owner is free to make any changes to this model. If he makes any changes to the drawing, the program will automatically redesign the electric bike to maintain its strength, stability and controllability. When the model is finished and approved, it is handed over to the manufacturer.

Scooter Poimo

The scooter consists of seven separate inflatable sections that are constructed from durable fabric and sewn with straight stitch. It remains to add electronic components – in particular, a brushless motor and a lithium-ion battery. 

The finished electric scooter weighs about 9 kg and can travel at speeds up to 6 km / h (that is, slightly faster than a pedestrian). It can work for an hour on one charge.

This is how the current version of Poimo looks like in action:

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Science & Technology

Excerpts from Elon Musk’s speech at the Martian Society convention

Elon Musk’s comments with questions relayed from the Mars Society Membership by Dr. Robert Zubrin, James L. Burk, and Carie Fay. Following Elon’s 30 min time, Dr. Zubrin took additional questions. This special event was part of the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention from October 14-18, 2020.

About Starship Test Schedule:

– entering orbit – with a probability of 80% -90% will take place in 2021

– the probability of the return of the ship and the 1st stage in this flight is 50%

– test of refueling in orbit – 2022

– Starship lunar version – 2022 or 2023

– Starship flight to Mars – around 2024

The goal of the Starship is to build a self-sufficient settlement on Mars as quickly as possible. Musk does not rule out the possibility that this will not be achieved during his lifetime. According to his rough estimates, to create a self-sufficient city, it will be necessary to deliver 1 million tons of cargo, which corresponds to 4-5 million tons in a low Earth orbit. Modern single-use launch vehicles are capable of removing less than 1% of this value.

“Disposable launch vehicles are completely stupid. They are a waste of time. I think people need to stop wasting time on this. If you try to sell a disposable plane, you will be thrown out of the office. If you try to sell a disposable car, you will also be thrown out of the office. “

A series of questions and answers followed:

What is the best landing site on Mars?

– I’m not sure about that. But I can name the criteria. The first of these is latitude: most likely it will be in the northern hemisphere, far enough to the north to have water ice, but to still have enough sunlight.It also needs to be low to get the most benefit from atmospheric braking.

How do you prioritize mission priorities: research, infrastructure construction, and science?

– The first will be the construction of a fuel plant.

A question from a teenager who wants to become an engineer and robot maker with a dream to work at SpaceX: what is the most important education in order to become an engineer?

– There are many varieties of this profession: you can be an aerospace engineer, in the field of electronics, software, or a chemical engineer involved in creating safe production of fuels. I think physics is a good foundation for critical thinking.

Boring Company was originally conceived as a tunnel manufacturing firm on Mars?

– No. It was originally something of a joke. I thought tunnels were a good solution to reduce the traffic problem in cities and improve the quality of life by turning parking lots into green parks. To do this, you need to go to 3d [get away from the “flat” infrastructure – approx. per.]. I think tunnels are good for Mars too. But there you need a lot lighter equipment: you don’t care about mass on Earth, but you will have to take care of it a lot when going to Mars.

At Boring Company, have you learned a lot of technology that might come in handy on Mars?

– I think, yes.

Do you have any tips for young people who love Mars but don’t know how to participate in its settlement?

– I think any strong advocate of the need to conquer Mars matters. People often don’t even think about it. I often talk to people who don’t even know about it. Therefore, I consider it important for humanity and consciousness in general to bring a discussion about this to society. Talking about it with friends and acquaintances – I think this is what we should do. In my estimate, we will spend less than 1% of our efforts on Mars exploration, exactly less than healthcare, perhaps even less than cosmetics – this will be enough to make life multi-planetary. But this requires people to start talking about it 100 times more often. I think this is what really matters. [the entire cosmonautics of the world is $ 424 billion a year, while cosmetics is $ 532 billion, and tobacco production is $ 849 billion – approx. per.]

What’s the coolest part about Starship development?

– I think the coolest detail is the ability to work with a great group of engineers and come up with interesting solutions. I think the best thing is the opportunity to work with smart and creative people who come up with solutions that were not available before. This is a great reward.

What do you focus on when hiring, especially with regard to engineers?

“We’re looking for signs of exceptional ability. Or at the very least, striving to do exceptional things at SpaceX.

Are you planning to make a Mars-Earth communication system like Starlink?

– Yes, I think we will use a laser, probably launched into orbit, to avoid atmospheric diffraction. Thus, it will be a laser beam going from the orbit of the Earth to the orbit of Mars. And also relay satellites in solar orbit, since the laser beam cannot be sent through the Sun [when it is between Mars and Earth – approx. per.].

Can Starship be used for other destinations like Venus and other planets?

– Starship will be able to travel to any target in the solar system that has a solid surface when fuel depots appear. It is not the kind of transport that will take us to other stars, but when we become a multi-planetary species, we will create a demand for innovation in space travel that will ultimately lead us to interstellar travel.

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