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Amazon Was Spotted Using a Self-Driving Truck to Haul Cargo

They See Me Haulin’

On Jan. 25, a Reddit user posted a photo of a self-driving truck pulling a trailer emblazoned with Amazon’s Prime logo.

“Saw this on the I-10 today,” the user wrote. “Is amazon making driverless trucks?”

Almost a week later, CNBC reported that Amazon is, in fact, using tractors created by self-driving truck developer Embark to haul cargo — and the truck spotted last week could be the first of many.

No Secret

The CNBC article claims the publication “has learned” about Amazon’s use of the Embark technology, but it wasn’t clear whether its knowledge was based strictly on the Reddit photo or some additional insights.

Neither Embark nor Amazon would comment to CNBC about a deal between them, but they didn’t deny it either. And in any case, the Embark logo is featured prominently on the tractor, and it’s impossible to miss the giant Amazon logo on the trailer.

Autonomous Future

As for what the companies would say when questioned, Embark’s CEO Alex Rodrigues told CNBC, “Embark moves freight for a number of major companies on the I-10, however we cannot discuss any company specifically as our relationships are confidential.”

“We are always innovating and working with innovative companies to improve the customer experience and safety of our team,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. “We think successful over-the-road autonomy will create safer roadways and a better work environment for drivers on long-haul runs.”

So, while we don’t know if this is the only Embark tractor hauling Amazon cargo or if more are already on the road, that second part of Amazon’s comment seems to imply autonomous shipping is poised to play a major role in the company’s future.

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10 robotic dogs pull truck along in new video

Image Credit: YouTube / Boston Dynamics

The robots seemed to have no problem hauling the truck.

A small army of Boston Dynamics’ dog-like robots have been filmed hauling a truck through a parking lot.

Known as SpotMini, this four-legged contraption has become something of a celebrity in recent years thanks to videos showing it performing a wide range of tasks and balancing acts.

This latest footage shows more of the robots than ever before – ten of them to be exact – all working together to haul a large truck through the parking lot outside Boston Dynamics’ headquarters.

Each robot is 0.84 meters tall and can carry a payload of around 14kg.

What’s interesting is that these robots will actually be available for companies to purchase in the near future, meaning that they are no longer just a work-in-progress.

“It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot,” the firm wrote in the caption for the video on YouTube.

“These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.”

Source: Evening Standard

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New CRISPR Tech Could Cure Herpes

Hunter-Seeker

Gene hacking techniques that were recently used in human cells for the first time could someday let doctors shred up and destroy viruses like herpes or hepatitis B inside human cells, scientists say.

The new technique is called CRISPR-Cas3 — usually, when you hear about CRISPR tech, it’s the Cas9 variety — and Cornell researchers believe it could be used to cure viral diseases, according to a university-published press release.

DNA Shredder

The scientists used Cas3 to identify and shred long stretches of human DNA, according to research published in the journal Molecular Cell last week. The new gene-hacking tool makes more and broader cuts in genetic material than CRISPR-Cas9, meaning it could let scientists quickly learn what specific, long stretches of genetic information do and how they interact with certain diseases.

It also means that the gene-hacking tool could attack and shred viral DNA.

“My lab spent the past ten years figuring out how CRISPR-Cas3 works. I am thrilled that my colleagues and I finally demonstrated its genome editing activity in human cells,” said Cornell molecular biologist Ailong Ke. “Our tools can be made to target these viruses very specifically and then erase them very efficiently. In theory, it could provide a cure for these viral diseases.”

READ MORE: CRISPR-Cas3 innovation holds promise for disease cures, advancing science [Cornell Chronicle]

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Scientists Put Human Brain Genes in Monkeys and Made Them Smarter

It’s time for the latest edition of “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”, the game show that pits seemingly unethical science against potentially catastrophic predictions. In today’s competition, scientists in China (one point already for the catastrophic team) announce they used gene-editing to place human brain genes in rhesus macaque monkeys and it made their brains smarter. Cue the music from every “Planet of the Apes” movie and let the game begin!

“The presented data represents the first attempt to experimentally interrogate the genetic basis of human brain origin using a transgenic monkey model, and it values the use of nonhuman primates in understanding human unique traits.”

If the opening paragraph of the new study, “Transgenic rhesus monkeys carrying the human MCPH1 gene copies show human-like neoteny of brain development,” published recently in the journal National Science Review, is any indication, scientists are learning from lawyers how to protect their clients/experiments by hiding them in clouds of big, confusing words and phrases. Experimentally interrogate?

This is interesting.

China Daily reports that researchers from the Beijing-based National Science Review, the Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of North Carolina (that’s in the U.S. – looks like it’s playing for the Seemingly Unethicals) edited human MCPH1 genes – a gene that is critical in fetal brain development because it controls brain size and rate of growth – and created 11 transgenic (a cloud word meaning “artificially carrying DNA from an unrelated organism”) monkeys. Eight of those monkeys were first-generation and three were second-generation, obliterating the ‘artificial’ part of ‘transgenic’ by getting their human genes from their monkey parents.

“According to the research article, brain imaging and tissue section analysis showed an altered pattern of neuron differentiation and a delayed maturation of the neural system, which is similar to the developmental delay (neoteny) in humans.”

In other words, the monkeys showed the human trait of slow brain development (neoteny) rather than the rapid growth of normal monkey brains. What was the benefit of this slow growth?

“The study also found that the transgenic monkeys exhibited better short-term memory and shorter reaction time compared to wild rhesus monkeys in the control group.”

To put it bluntly — even the monkeys could understand the results because the human genes made them smarter!

Ding-ding-ding! That bell means it’s time to play the lightning “What could possibly go wrong?” round.

Time-out called by the Potentially Catastrophics. In a shocking and somewhat honorable display of conscience, Martin Styner, a University of North Carolina computer scientist and coauthor of the Chinese report, told the MIT Technology Review that his role was merely to train Chinese student on how to extract brain volume data from MRI images and, after learning the true purpose, considered removing his name from the paper, which he claims could not find a publisher in the West. Styner then throws his “What could possibly go wrong?” pitch:

“I don’t think that is a good direction. Now we have created this animal which is different than it is supposed to be. When we do experiments, we have to have a good understanding of what we are trying to learn, to help society, and that is not the case here.”

Is this going to be a sequel to Planet of the Apes or Flowers for Algernon?

Unfortunately, that pitch didn’t strike out Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the research. He told the MIT Technology Review he is planning to create more smart monkeys and is planning to test another gene — SRGAP2C – which has been called the “humanity switch” and the “missing genetic link” because it appeared about two million years ago when Australopithecus (the Southern Ape) was being replaced by the smarter Homo habilis.

Putting the “humanity switch” in a monkey? What could possibly go wrong? This game isn’t over … it’s barely starting. Is this progress … or an unethical march down the field to unforeseen consequences?

If we’ve learned anything from “Planet of the Apes,” it’s that if this game goes into overtime, it won’t be a sudden death.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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