Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 3, 2020

in rsslog •  2 months ago 

IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; Researchers implant sheets of stem cells to treat heart disease; Twitter adds a bitcoin emoji; A TED talk describing a new protein-based class of medications that uses custom-designed constrained peptides; and a Steem post describing the use of biomass materials as a source of energy

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Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.

First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


pixabay license: source.

  1. Video Friday: How Robots Are Helping to Fight the Coronavirus Outbreak - This week, IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos includes: Robots in Chinese hospitals that are delivering food and medicine as well as disinfecting rooms; A telepresence robot in Seattle that's being used for treatment of a Corona virus patient; A mini-cheetah quadruped with predictive capabilities; Disposable cargo-carrying UAVs from Logistics Gliders; Tech United's robotic soccer team for Robocup 2020; A field experiment demonstrating an urban military raid by an autonomous swarm of air and ground vehicles; and more...

    Here is an EZ Science episode from NASA that discusses some of the robotics in use for Mars missions. These include landers and rovers, a small helicopter, and even a sky crane:

    Click through for the other videos.

  2. Osaka University transplants iPS cell-based heart cells in world's first clinical trial - In a clinical trial for safety and efficacy, Yoshiki Sawa and colleagues plan to implant sheets of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in 10 patients during three years. The first transplant was successfully completed last month. These sheets of stem cells are about 4-5 centimeters in width and 0.1 millimeters in depth. The researchers are expecting that cells on the sheet will grow and secrete a protein that helps with regeneration of blood vessels and improving cardiac functioning. Sawa is quoted as saying that he hopes the technique will lead to life-saving break throughs that will save as many lives as possible, and the article adds:
    The trial involves stringently evaluating risks, particularly cancer probabilities, and the efficacy of transplanting some 100 million cells per patient that may include tumor cells.
    This is Japan's second iPS trial. The first involved the use of iPS for eye disease patients by the Riken research institute. -h/t Daniel Lemire

  3. Twitter Adds Bitcoin Emoji, Jack Dorsey Suggests Unicode Does the Same - Twitter's CEO, Jack Dorsey, sent a Tweet showing off the platform's new bitcoin emoji, that is apparently inserted when someone uses the bitcoin or btc hashatags. Dorsey also cc'd the unicode account, seemingly as a suggestion that they add the character into the unicode character set. If the embed works, here's the tweet:

    #bitcoin cc:@unicode

    — jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) February 2, 2020

    Lightning Labs' Elizabeth Stark echoed Dorsey's request to add a unicode character.

  4. A new type of medicine, custom-made with tiny proteins - This 4 1/2 minute TED talk by Christopher Bahl was posted in April of 2019 and appeared on the site's RSS feed on January 28, 2020. As a protein designer, Bahl talks about an emerging class of drugs that make use of custom designed constrained peptides. He says that this class of treatment is very rare right now, but it will be much more common later in the decade. Constrained peptides are very small proteins with extra chemical bonds that keep their sizes small and also make them extraordinarily stable. Constrained peptides are found in nature, but Bahl and his team have worked on designing their own, using open source peptide design software. Molecules interact, he says, when they fit together perfectly - like a lock and key, so the key to designing these drugs is to find shapes that will interact with the targeted molecules. And constrained peptides are very durable, so they can be administered by mouth, by injection, or through the use of inhalers and ointments. Bahl and his colleagues have designed constrained peptide drugs that can neutralize influenza, protect against botulism poisoning, and even block cancer cells from growing. He says that these drugs have been determined to be safe and effective, but they are still 3-5 years away from human trials. There is a large amount of work going on in the field, however, and as a result, he says he believes "that designed peptide drugs are going to enable us all to break free from the constraints of our diseases."

  5. STEEM Energy - Biomass - Here is the latest in the "Energy" series by @scholaris. In this post, the author discusses Biomass energy. The topic is introduced with the notion that people should pursue a complete cradle to grave philosophy for sustainable energy production followed by the assertion that biomass energy should be part of that production because it allows us to make productive use of material like animal, industrial, and agricultural waste, instead of filling landfills with it. Biomass energy makes use of organic materials, which can be sourced from "plants, crops, wood, solid waste, landfill or biogas, and even plastics,"and the essay focuses particularly on using these materials to produce electricity. Humans have used biomass in the form of firewood throughout all of recorded history, with a (relatively) recent switch to coal and then other fossil fuels. In modern biomass production, the article says that the goal is to produce energy at an industrial scale by creating steam that can turn a turbine in order to produce electricity. To accomplish this, biomass-based waste materials are fed as input to a "gasification system, and that system produces Syngas and Biochar as output. The production of Syngas causes air motion which can be used to spin a turbine without combustion, and the resultant product can also serve as input for a boiler, kiln or additional electrical generation and the Biochar output can go as input to agricultural or industrial processes. The post goes on to describe a cofiring method to mix biomass and coal-based forms of energy production to give coal a cleaner environmental impact. Possible drawbacks to biomass production include its high cost, its potential drain on resources - like forests, and its large requirements for space.

    From the post, here is an introductory video to the topic of biomass: but click through for more information and to upvote the post by @scholaris.

    (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @scholaris.)

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Thank you very much for including my post among your curation of excellent articles. I am honored by your selection and fascinated by the material you have advertised.


You're welcome. And thank you for your post. I enjoyed reading it and appreciated the balanced treatment that you gave the topic, pointing out both positive aspects and challenges that are associated with the form of energy.

It's a little different, but I have been a fan of biomass energy production ever since a 2003 article in Discover Magazine, Anything into oil, though it seems that technology eventually did not work out. As I recall, they ran into issues with the community due to an unpleasant smell that was emitted from their plant.

I agree with you that razing forests for biomass energy is not a great idea, and I also don't think it's a good idea to use crops that could otherwise be used to feed people, but I think it seems very promising with various forms of waste as a feedstock.


You are indeed correct regarding the use of biomass power and crops. It isn't a good idea. My take on that notion is that IF a region has just one person starving, then they should focus on feeding their people.

Using crops is a bad prospect as the almighty currencies will have a say in how the crops get disseminated. People in ivory tours can't, or won't, see the problems at ground-level.

Biomass is a robust technology when applied correctly. If possible, I prefer testing the technology at smaller scales before building commercially. It helps to solve lots of problems and would save in the long run. Nothing says failure like a vast fortune spent creating something that fails when you try to start it up.

I am also a fan of waste recycling and biomass power generation. If we can recycle waste in space, then we can certainly make an aggressive goal to put our wastes to good use.


Supporting the #posh initiative. Shared on Twitter and Facebook.