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Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETF Rejection, AMD Microchip Sales, and Hedge Funds

Cryptocurrency News
Although cryptocurrency prices were heating up last week (Bitcoin, especially), regulators poured cold water on the rally by rejecting calls for a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF). This is the second time that the proposal fell on deaf ears. (More on that below.)

Crypto mining ran into similar trouble, as you can see from Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.‘s (NASDAQ:AMD) most recent quarterly earnings. However, it wasn’t all bad news. Investors should, for instance, be cheering the fact that hedge funds are ramping up their involvement in cryptocurrency markets.

Without further ado, here are those stories in greater detail.
ETF Rejection.

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Cryptocurrency News: Bitcoin ETF Rejection, AMD Microchip Sales, and Hedge Funds

See How AI Can Turn Almost Any Surface Into a User Interface

Startup HyperSurfaces demonstrates how its AI-powered technology can make a car door, glass wall, or clothes rack

Midas Touch

A startup called HyperSurfaces wants to completely change how you interact with the physical world — and based on some recently released demo videos, it might just meet that lofty goal.

The London-based startup recently unveiled a new technology that can transform any object into a user interface. Essentially, this tech lets you communicate with a computing system using virtually anything you like as a conduit — a glass wall, a car door, even a metal clothes rack — and it has the potential to end our reliance on keyboards, buttons, and touch screens forever.

Cutting Edge

The HyperSurfaces system comprises two parts: sensors that detect the vibrations that form when a user touches an object and a system-on-a-chip that uses AI to process that sensory information. Because all the processing takes place on the chip — and not, for instance, in the cloud — the feedback in nearly instantaneous.

This wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago, according to HyperSurfaces CEO Bruno Zamborlin.

“The HyperSurfaces algorithms belong to the current state of the art in deep learning research,” he told TechCrunch. “On top of this, the computational power of microchips literally exploded over the last years allowing for machine learning algorithms to run locally in real-time whilst achieving a bill of material of just a few dollars. These applications are possible now and were not possible 3 or 5 years ago.”

Scratch the Surface

In the demos, HyperSurfaces’s system-on-a-chip connects to a laptop that declares the action taking place (“knock wall” or “bounce ball on wall,” for example). However, it’s not hard to imagine how we could calibrate the system to be much more useful. Want to turn on your home audio system? Just tap your wall. Think the music is too quiet? Drag a finger down it to decrease the volume.

HyperSurfaces appears completely aware of its tech’s extraordinary potential, too. The company’s website predicts that “[c]onsumer electronics, IoT, retail, transportation, augmented reality,” and more will “potentially be changed forever.” 

READ MORE: HyperSurfaces Turns Any Surface Into a User Interface Using Vibration Sensors and AI [TechCrunch]

More on smart homes: 17 Smart Home Products That Don’t Need Access to Your Wi-Fi

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See How AI Can Turn Almost Any Surface Into a User Interface

A Wearable Robot Arm Makes You Work for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Arm-A-Dine is a robot arm that picks up food and feeds it to whichever human looks happiest. If you want dinner, you'll have to smile for the camera.

Who’s Hungry?

This Thanksgiving, our robot overlords will only feed us if they feel we truly deserve each morsel of our traditional human meals.

At least, that’s a grim interpretation of Arm-A-Dine, a semi-autonomous robotic third arm that gamifies Thanksgiving Dinner.

Happy Meal

The robotic arm will feed whichever human looks happiest about their upcoming treat, reports IEEE Spectrum. After someone manually guides the chest-mounted robot toward a piece of food, it will grab the morsel and hold it in the air. If the person sitting across from the arm looks happy about the prospect of a snack, Arm-A-Dine will deliver it to their mouth. Yummy!

If that person actively frowns, the food will go to the person wearing the robotic arm. If the person seems fairly neutral, Arm-A-Dine will wave the food back and forth before feeding it to a human mouth of the device’s choosing, according to research published by Australian engineers at Melbourne’s RMIT University that will be presented at the human-robot interaction conference SIGCHI this month.

Benevolent Overlords

Thankfully, IEEE Spectrum mentions, Arm-A-Dine will avoid punching out your teeth by bringing the food about ten centimeters from your face.

Just like in “Hitch,” your feederbot will wait as long as it takes for you to come the last ten percent and claim your reward.

READ MORE: Feed Your Friends With Autonomous Chest-Mounted Robot Arms [IEEE Spectrum]

More on augmentative robotics: New Prosthetic Limbs are More Interchangeable Than Ever

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A Wearable Robot Arm Makes You Work for Thanksgiving Leftovers

See the 3D Images Produced by the First Full-Body Medical Scanner

Researchers from UC David have released the first images produced by EXPLORER, a medical scanner that images the whole body in 3D.

Seeing Daylight

Thirteen years ago, UC Davis scientists Simon Cherry and Ramsey Badawi had an idea for a machine that could scan the entire human body at once, producing a 3D image that could help medical specialists with everything from diagnosing conditions to developing new drug treatments.

Now, that once-hypothetical scanner is very real. And the first images it produced are even more impressive than its creators expected.

Superior Scan

The EXPLORER scanner uses a combination of two well-known imaging techniques — positron emission tomography (PET) and x-ray computed tomography (CT) — to scan the entire human body at once.

But eliminating the need to take separate scans of separate body parts is just one of EXPLORER’s advantages over existing scanning tech. It’s also fast, producing its whole body scan in just 20 to 30 seconds — roughly 40 times faster than a PET scan. It’s safer, too, requiring a far smaller radiation dose than what’s needed for a PET scan.

EXPLORER can even produce movies, giving researchers the ability to track drugs as they make their way through the human body.

Exceeding Expectations

Ultimately, both Cherry and Badawi were highly impressed by the first scan produced by EXPLORER.

“While I had imagined what the images would look like for years, nothing prepared me for the incredible detail we could see on that first scan,” Cherry said in a press release.

“There is no other device that can obtain data like this in humans, so this is truly novel,” Badawi added.

Cherry said he doesn’t think it’ll be long before multiple EXPLORER systems are in use around the world, so take a look at the above video of the machine’s first scan if you want a glimpse at the future of medical imaging.

READ MORE: Human Images From the World’s First Total-Body Medical Scanner Unveiled [UC Davis]

More on medical scanners: These Mind-Blowing Images of the Human Body Were Made by a New Kind of Scanner

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See the 3D Images Produced by the First Full-Body Medical Scanner

It’s No Ancient Secret, a High-Tech Headband Can Help Train Your Brain to Meditate

Many people try to use meditation to do something to their brain. They want to quiet it, focus it, energize it, or zap some ideas into it. What some of those people don’t realize is that, while the end results of meditation can certainly do all those things to their brain, the first step in establishing a beneficial and long-term meditation practice is to start with an understanding of what is going on in that brain in the first place.

In the past, that wasn’t easy to do. To get a glimpse inside the brain, doctors have to use electroencephalography, also known as EEG technology, to get a graph of the different waves traveling through there at any given time. Most people either didn’t have the access, funds, or time to get hooked up to EEG sensors to see what’s happening inside their head. Alternatively, they might lack a medical reason to do so at all. Now, though, with new affordable wearable technology like the Muse headband, people are able to get a glimpse of their brainwaves – and also personalized, data-driven feedback that will guide them in training their brain.

Brain training is a more critical part of meditation than most people realize. As the billions of neurons in the human brain travel throughout the organ’s complex networks, they communicate with each other via small electrical currents that produce a synchronized movement known as a brainwave. Neuroscientists learned that by placing electrodes on a person’s scalp, in the process known as EEG, they can track and visualize those waves.

They’ve detected five main types of brainwaves, all occurring in different moments of consciousness. The slowest brain waves, delta waves, happen while you sleep – and are crucial for the rest and relaxation that your brain needs after working hard all day. At the other end of the spectrum are Gamma brainwaves, the fastest ones recorded by EEG. They are the waves considered the peak of physical or mental performance, the kind that occur when you feel like you’re “in the zone” at work, or have a sudden burst of inspiration.

While similarities exist between all human brains, scientists have recently begun to realize that the brainwaves of highly experienced meditation practitioners, such as Buddhist monks, are different than those of non-meditators. For most non-meditators, Gamma brainwaves happen infrequently, and often don’t last very long. But in experienced meditators, neuroscientists have observed that Gamma brainwaves are stronger and more regularly observed. Plus, they have more control over the ease at which they switch between waves. While non-meditators have to wait around for their “aha” moment to strike, it’s easier for long-term meditators to switch their brain into focus mode.

Many of those experienced and enlightened meditators got there through hours of brain study, practice, and guidance. That’s a great path for some, but one that most people don’t have the funds, time, or access to pursue. For those people, there is Muse. The sleek, portable headband uses seven small sensors to detect the brain’s electrical activity. Some wearable technology stops there – they simply clock how many steps you’ve taken that day, or how many hours of restful sleep you got. But Muse takes it one step further. In addition to clocking your brain’s activity, it uses a highly complex algorithm to deliver you real-time audio feedback during sessions and usable data metrics post-session to help you improve.

That real time feedback is the roadmap to establishing a meditation practice that can help minimize stress, focus the brain, and improve overall well being. The result is data-driven learning and real time feedback that doesn’t just give you the immediate benefits of a meditative session, but also the tools you need to train your brain to be more focused, rejuvenated, and mindful going forward.

Neuroscientists have already taken the highly portable product into to the field. Researchers from MIT and Harvard have used Muse to learn more about how the brain classifies pain, and researchers from British Columbia took Muse to Nepal to better understand the minds of Buddhist monks.

But the beauty of the product is that it’s not just for neuroscientists. As long as you have a smart device, a few moments, and a brain, you can use it anywhere at any time. And now, you can use it more affordably. As part of a Black Friday deal, you can get a Muse for just $159. It’s a deal so great that if it didn’t have everything to do with bettering your brain, it’d be called a no-brainer.

Futurism fans: To create this content, a non-editorial team worked with Muse, who sponsored this post. This post does not reflect the views or the endorsement of the Futurism.com editorial staff.

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It’s No Ancient Secret, a High-Tech Headband Can Help Train Your Brain to Meditate

NASA Announces Date for First SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight

The Final Countdown(s)

Not counting the time Elon Musk jettisoned a dummy in a Tesla toward Mars, SpaceX hasn’t flown a crewed mission. Ever. In fact, the United States hasn’t flown a crewed mission since the July 2011 Atlantis flight. Luckily, we’ve had Russia to rely on. 

That could change next year. On January 7, the first flight of a SpaceX Dragon craft designed to carry a crew is set to take off from Kennedy Space Center, according to NASA. Now, to be clear, this Dragon capsule is meant for a crew, but this particular flight will not be a crewed mission – yet.

Think of it as a test for NASA’s future Commercial Crew Program. Called Demo-1, the flight – and others like it over the next few months – will culminate in a crewed launch in June 2019 (Demo-2).

Testing…123

In addition to SpaceX, Boeing – which also has a commercial crew contract with NASA – also has many test flights planned over the next year, and a crewed mission in August 2019 using the CST-100 Starliner capsule. Boeing’s first test flight won’t be as early as SpaceX though – it’s slated for March 2019.

Between these flight tests, both companies will also need to complete “abort tests” – proving that the astronauts can safely escape unscathed in the possibility of an emergency. After each test, NASA will look over all the data, reviewing performance, safety, and looking for opportunities to resolve issues – until all systems are certified.

So the big question: Will both companies stay on schedule? If all goes well. But delays also aren’t entirely avoidable. “Flying safety has always taken precedence over schedule,” says NASA spokeswoman Marie Lewis to Reuters. SpaceX has seen delays before. And it’s not just Elon Musk. Space is full of delays.

But, patience is key. As the old saying goes: Test twice and launch once, right?

READ MORE: SpaceX’s crew rocket set for January test flight [Reuters]

More on SpaceX: SpaceX Just Launched a Rocket With a Critical Reused Part

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NASA Announces Date for First SpaceX Crew Dragon Test Flight

This Is the Biggest Thanksgiving Ever for Fake Meat

This Thanksgiving, families across the country will be roasting Torfurkys, Field Roasts and other fake meat in addition to genuine turkeys.

Fake Meat

This Thanksgiving, families across the country will oven-roast Tofurkys, Field Roasts, and other fake meats in addition to — or instead of — genuine turkeys.

That’s according to MarketWatch, which reports that there will be more plant-based meat substitutes at holiday feasts this holiday season than any previous year. It cites a Nielsen report that found that meat substitute sales grew 6.1 percent this year, to $555 million — yet another sign that Americans’ diets are shifting toward meat alternatives.

Pro-Earth Protein

A Fortune profile of Tofurky’s growing meatless empire breaks down the factors that are driving buyers towards meatless goods. There are ethical concerns about the treatment of animals, naturally, but the profile also identified concerns about health and the impact of farming on the environment as factors that are pushing American shoppers toward plant-based meat substitutes.

“That’s not a fad,” Walmart’s Chase Worthen, who helps the company decide what vegetarian goods to stock in its stores, told the business magazine. “It’s a trend that’s here to stay.”

Future Outlook

In addition to these clever simulacrums made out of soy and other plant-based proteins, there’s a specter on the horizon that could further upend Americans’ relationship with protein: meat substitutes that are grown from animal cells in a lab.

MarketWatch pointed to a report by food consultancy Baum and Whiteman that predicted lab-grown meats, like those made by Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies, will be a key food trend in 2019.

If that report is right, Thanksgiving might never be the same again.

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NASA Isn’t Happy About SpaceX’s “Frat House” Culture

NASA's plans to conducts a

Not Amused

Elon Musk is the rockstar of the tech world. The man plays almost as hard as he works. He dates musicians and actresses, tweets from the hip, and *gasp* even dares to smoke legal marijuana on camera.

This lifestyle may have earned the billionaire legions of fans, but now it’s also jeopardizing the future of one of his companies — and maybe humanity’s future in the process.

Safety First

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that NASA would conduct an extensive safety review of Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing, the two private companies contracted to fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

This review will begin in 2019 and examine “everything and anything that could impact safety,” NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration William Gerstenmaier told WaPo.

Old Timers

Seems straightforward enough — NASA simply wants to ensure that safety is a top priority for both of companies that could soon be responsible for the lives of astronauts, right?

Not quite. Three officials with knowledge of the probe told WaPo that the review is the direct result of Musk’s recent behavior, specifically his decision to smoke marijuana and drink whiskey on Joe Rogan’s video podcast.

As a source familiar with NASA’s motivations behind the review told Ars Technica, “SpaceX is the frat house, and NASA is the old white guy across the street yelling at them to ‘Get off my lawn.’”

A Team Deferred

NASA has yet to directly confirm those reports, but in a statement to press, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs did say the review would “ensure the companies are meeting NASA’s requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment.”

If NASA believes this review is needed to ensure the safety of astronauts, then it’s clearly warranted. However, if this is simply a case of the old guard attempting to impose its cultural values on the new — as that “frat house” comment seems to imply — NASA really might want to reconsider its priorities.

After all, any time that SpaceX employees spend answering questions as part of this review is time they could be spending help advance the future of human spaceflight.

READ MORE: NASA to Launch Safety Review of SpaceX and Boeing After Video of Elon Musk Smoking Pot Rankled Agency Leaders [The Washington Post]

More on Elon Musk: The Most Far-out Statements From Elon Musk’s Wide-Ranging Interview With Joe Rogan

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NASA Isn’t Happy About SpaceX’s “Frat House” Culture

Scientists Are 3D Printing Fake Moon Dust Into Useful Objects

3D Printing on the Moon

Replacing parts on a lunar base could pose a major challenge, since resupplying missions will likely be massively expensive and time consuming.

That’s why a group of scientists led by the European Space Agency are exploring ways to 3D print anything from screws to coins using artificial lunar regolith — a simulation, essentially, of moon dust.

Easy Space Oven

The scientists partnered with Austrian company Lithoz to develop a 3D printing technology that first mixes the regolith with a special kind of glue that hardens when exposed to light. Then they 3D print it into a particular shape and bake it inside an oven — similarly to how ceramics are hardened inside a kiln.

“If one needs to print tools or machinery parts to replace broken parts on a lunar base, precision in the dimensions and shape of the printed items will be vital,” says Advenit Makya, an ESA engineer working on the project in an ESA blog post.

Fix-it-Yourself

It’s a work in progress, and the project has yet to find out if the 3D printed parts will actually be able to hold up to the stresses of lunar base life, according to Live Science.

But if we do find a way to 3D print objects using locally sourced materials, the possibilities are endless. The tech could make living on the Moon a whole lot easier — and maybe a tiny bit less reliant on the Earth.

READ MORE: European Researchers Baked Fake Moon Dust into Money and Screws [Live Science]

More on 3D printing on the moon: Here Are The Finalists For NASA’s Mars Habitat Design Competition

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Scientists Are 3D Printing Fake Moon Dust Into Useful Objects

The World Reacts to the Success of NASA’s InSight Mars Lander

The successful landing of NASA's InSight probe on Mars set the internet ablaze Monday afternoon. Here's what the world had to say about the mission.

Final Destination

A six-month-long journey that could shape the future of humanity reached its nail-biting conclusion today.

On May 5th, NASA launched its InSight Mars lander from California’s Vanderberg Air Force Base. On Monday afternoon, following “seven minutes of terror,” the craft reached its final destination — Elysium Planitia, a flat plain near the Red Planet’s equator — where it will now spend the next two years conducting scientific research focused on the planet’s interior.

Everybody’s Talking

InSight’s efforts have the potential to teach us valuable information about the formation of rocky planets in our solar system. They could also inform our plans to one day visit, and perhaps colonize, the Red Planet.

No surprise, then, that the success of the landing set the internet ablaze. Here’s what notable experts, organizations, and politicians had to say about InSight’s triumphant touchdown.

Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter
Image Credit: Twitter

There's something in my eye. #MarsLanding

— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) November 26, 2018

READ MORE: Video Shows What Should Happen During the InSight Mars Landing Today [Inverse]

More on InSight: Breaking: NASA’s InSight Lander Just Landed on Mars

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The World Reacts to the Success of NASA’s InSight Mars Lander

Breaking: NASA’s InSight Lander Just Landed on Mars

Mission Accomplished

It took six and a half long months of space travel to reach the Martian surface, but NASA’s InSight Mars Lander has finally made it.

The robotic lander had to cover some 300 million miles (483 million km) to get there after it was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on May 5.

A Treacherous Journey

We don’t have to tell you that landing on the Red Planet is not an easy feat: in fact, as Space.com points out, half of all Mars missions have failed to arrive safely in the past.

It’s a treacherous landing. InSight reached a breakneck speed of 12,000 miles per hour before slowing to just five miles per hour as it touched down with the help of a supersonic parachute and an array of small thrusters.

Destination: the Elysium Planitia plain — a large, mostly flat surface that straddles the equator, close to some of the largest volcanic regions on Mars.

Pulse of the Planet

The InSight team is planning to glean data about Mars’ ancient history. To do so, it’s outfitted with:

  • seismometer to map the Martian interior (and activity)
  • heat probe that will measure the heat coming from deep below the Martian surface
  • A special radio will try to glean how much Mars wobbles on its own axis as it orbits the sun

And Now We Wait

There’s still one more big hurdle to overcome: the lander has yet to unfurl its solar panel array to power the instruments on board. We’re expecting to know if the lander did so successfully in a few hours.

Then we’ll have to wait until InSight actually deploys all its instruments — and finally starts sending some long-awaited data back to Earth.

READ MORE: NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Reaches Mars Today! Here’s What to Expect [Space.com]

More on the InSight lander: NASA’s InSight Mars Lander to Investigate Inside the Red Planet

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Breaking: NASA’s InSight Lander Just Landed on Mars

Here’s how to Watch NASA’s InSight Rover Land on Mars

NASA's InSight rover will land on Mars one way or another on Monday. Here's how you can tune in and watch how it goes down.

Welcome Wagon

NASA’s newest rover, InSight, is set to land on the surface of Mars around 11:00 AM PST on Monday. And in spite of NASA’s spotty track record with Mars landings, experts expect for InSight to touch down and get to work on several years’ worth of scheduled scientific research.

We at Futurism will be watching NASA’s live stream of the event, and you can do the same below. The actual landing will happen shortly after this article goes live, but it will still take three hours after the landing for NASA scientists to confirm that the rover is fully operational.

New Kid on the Block

Recently, we’ve mourned NASA’s Curiosity rover, which spent 14 years exploring the red planet before finally crapping out in October. Then there’s the Kepler Space Telescope, which ran out of fuel and was decommissioned last month.

While we deeply miss these lost scientific instruments, InSight could usher in a new era of Mars exploration and research, probing beneath the planet’s surface and letting us learn more about our planetary neighbor than we ever could — if it survives the perilous landing.

We’ll be watching with our fingers crossed, hoping that it goes well.

Read more: NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV [YouTube]

More on InSight: We’ve Seen Less Than One Percent of Mars. NASA’s New Lander Is Going To Change That.

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Here’s how to Watch NASA’s InSight Rover Land on Mars

Bill Gates: Wind and Solar Alone Can’t Fight Climate Change

During an interview with Axios, Bill Gates noted his concern that people focusing on renewables as the answer to climate change are missing the big picture.

Think Again

According to billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, the world’s current approach to fighting climate change isn’t just ineffective — it’s downright dangerous.

On Sunday night, HBO aired the last episode of the four-part “Axios on HBO” documentary series. During the episode, Gates told Axios journalists Ina Fried and Amy Harder he believes too many people view renewables as the answer to Earth’s climate change woes — when in reality it’s only one piece of a complex solution.

According to Gates, this focus on solar and wind is “as dangerous” as the belief that we could solve the problem of climate change without making any trade-offs.

Pie in the Sky

As appropriate for Thanksgiving weekend, Gates had a pie analogy at the ready to describe the problem of climate change.

He told Axios he views the world’s sources of greenhouse gas emissions as a pie chart. His concern is that many people focus on just one slice of the pie — electricity — when they should be looking at the pie as a whole:

A lot of people think, OK, renewable energy, wind and solar, has gotten a lot cheaper, isn’t that it? Well, electricity is only a quarter of the problem. In fact, we’ve got to solve the entire 100 percent. You know, unless somebody has the pie in their mind that, OK, electricity’s 25 percent, agriculture’s 24 percent, transport’s 14 percent, unless they start with that, we’re not really talking about the same problem.

Ch-Ch-Changes

Ultimately, Gates believes people need to change far more than their electricity source if the world is going to have any hope of avoiding a climate catastrophe.

“You know, for example, if synthetic meat works, that actually is a pretty big deal,” he told Axios. “But that’s at an early stage. If electric cars become mainstream products, which they are not today, that’s also a little piece of the problem. But you need to make steel in new ways, you need to make fertilizer in new ways.”

READ MORE: Bill Gates’ New Crusade: Sounding the Climate-Change Alarm [Axios]

More on Bill Gates: Bill Gates and Richard Branson Invest in Lab-Grown Meat Startup

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Bill Gates: Wind and Solar Alone Can’t Fight Climate Change

Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Gene-Edited Human Babies For the First Time

A new gene-editing clinical trial, still shrouded in secrecy and surrounded by questions, allegedly resulted in living people with boosted HIV resistance.

Super Babies

For the first time, doctors have reportedly used gene-editing techniques to make a human embryo more resistant to HIV. And if those doctors are to be believed, one of those embryos developed into a pair of twin girls who are alive today.

In a clinical trial that’s still largely shrouded in mystery, a team of scientists led by He Jiankui of China’s Southern University of Science and Technology used CRISPR to alter the genome of human embryos, reports the MIT Technology Review. Specifically, they knocked out a gene called CCR5 that makes people susceptible to HIV, smallpox, and cholera.

Later, The Associated Press published claims that one of those embryos survived and resulted in a successful birth.

“Can” Versus “Should”

But scientists around the world still have tons of unanswered questions about this clinical trial, and it’s sure to be the talk of the Second International Summit On Human Genome Editing, set to begin Tuesday in Hong Kong.

The consensus in the field of gene editing is that any human trials, especially those that would result in living, breathing, gene-edited humans, must undergo thorough and transparent review by ethicists and other doctors — more or less the opposite of how this new, highly secretive experiment was handled. As a result, Jankui is now under investigation by the Chinese government, according to MIT Tech.

Secrecy aside, the decision to try to prevent HIV by altering an embryo is a highly controversial one — so much so that Feng Zhang, the scientist who first developed CRISPR, has called for a moratorium on altering human embryos in the wake of this news, MIT Tech reported in a separate story.

Now What?

Part of the problem comes from the fact that silencing the CCR5 gene does make people more resistant to HIV — a condition that medical developments have made easier to manage in recent years — but in turns makes those people more susceptible to West Nile Virus, a fact that Zhang mentioned in his official statement on the matter.

The consensus among biomedical ethicists and leaders in genetics research, according to BBC, seems to be that editing human embryos is an ethical minefield — which the team from the Southern University of Science and Technology marched straight through in their biggest boots.

READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: Chinese scientists are creating CRISPR babies [MIT Technology Review]

More on CRISPR: New Test Predicts how Smart Babies Will be Before They’re Born

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Chinese Scientists Claim to Have Gene-Edited Human Babies For the First Time

A Lifetime of Security: The 3 Best Deals on Unlimited VPN Subscriptions

In a recent post, we discussed the many benefits of using a trusted, third-party virtual private network (VPN). You can watch basically anything on Netflix – even if it isn’t typically available in your country, use public wi-fi without worrying, and generally have a more secure browsing experience.

Sold on the idea yet? Well, here’s how you can get a lifetime VPN subscription for less than the normal yearly cost.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a VPN, it’s basically a third-party server that encrypts your data and hides your personal information from hackers, advertisers, and even your own internet service provider (ISP). This encryption allows you to search the web securely from anywhere in the world, even on unsecured WiFi networks. A VPN also allows you to access geo-blocked content by hiding your true location.

The only real downside to using a trusted third-party VPN is the cost of the service. While they aren’t usually prohibitively expensive, a good VPN normally runs around $50 dollars a year. However, some companies are currently offering a lifetime VPN subscription for as low as $20. That’s right. You’ll pay less than half the normal cost of a yearly subscription for a product will last as long as you (or the company) exist.

So if you’re interested in safeguarding your online privacy without the monthly or yearly payments, check out these VPN deals.

VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription

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KeepSolid VPN offers strong encryption, an easy-to-use interface, servers in multiple countries, and much more. However, it is also currently offering a lifetime subscription on up to five devices for less than $40. That’s a savings of more than 90 percent from the normal lifetime subscription rate. So while there are many other VPN options to choose from, most can’t come close to matching this deal.

Windscribe VPN Lifetime Pro Subscription

Burst

Windscribe is more than a VPN. It’s a desktop application and browser extension that work in conjunction to protect your online privacy, unblock websites, and remove ads and trackers. Just turn on your desktop application, and you’ll never have to worry about confusing settings and option menus again. And while Windscribe might cost slightly more than the other options on this list, it also allows for unlimited, simultaneous device connections, which is basically unheard of among VPN providers. And of course, the company doesn’t log your data, and allows for anonymous sign-up.

VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription

Burst

VPN Secure has many of the same features offered by the other providers on this list: encryption, a strict no-logging policy, geo-blocking/spoofing capabilities, etc. But it somehow manages to offer them all as part of a lifetime subscription for under $20. So for less that the cost of a full tank of gas, you can protect your online data for a lifetime.

Given the current state of internet security, there are very few legitimate reasons for not using a VPN. And given the ridiculously low price of these lifetime VPN subscriptions, cost is no longer one of them.

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Elon Musk Says There’s a 70 Percent Chance He’ll Move to Mars

During an interview with Axios, Elon Musk said he thinks there's a 70% chance he will go to Mars himself — and not just for a short visit.

It’s Personal

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk doesn’t just want to send people to Mars — he plans to travel to the Red Planet himself.

On Sunday night, HBO aired the latest episode of “Axios on HBO,” a four-part documentary series covering the latest in tech, science, and politics. During an interview with Musk, Axios‘s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei asked the billionaire entrepreneur how likely he was to go to Mars himself. Musk’s reply: “70 percent.”

He’s not just planning to visit the planet, either — “I’m talking about moving there,” he told Allen and VandeHei.

The Ultimate Relocation

Musk attributes his willingness to travel to Mars to the progress SpaceX is making, noting that several breakthroughs have him really “fired up.”

During the interview, he also elaborated on the conditions he expects to face if he does make it to Mars, noting that life there would be anything but leisurely:

Your probability of dying on Mars is much higher than Earth… It’s gonna be hard, there’s a good chance of death, going in a little can through deep space. You might land successfully. Once you land successfully, you’ll be working nonstop to build the base. So, you know, not much time for leisure. And once you get there, even after doing all this, it’s a very harsh environment, so you, there’s a good chance you die there. We think you can come back, but we’re not sure.

Best of the Rest

Mars wasn’t the only topic Musk talked about during the Axios interview. He also discussed his neuroscience company, Neuralink, noting that its long-term goal is “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” which he asserts is an “existential threat” to humanity.

And of course, no Musk interview would be complete without mention of Tesla.

Musk told Axios the company was near-death as it ramped up production of the Model 3 earlier in 2018: “Essentially, the company was bleeding money like crazy, and if we didn’t solve these problems in a very short period of time, we would die. And it was extremely difficult to solve them.”

READ MORE: Elon Musk: There’s a 70% Chance That I Personally Go to Mars [Axios]

More on SpaceX and Mars: Elon Musk Just Changed the BFR’s Name for a Fourth Time

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Elon Musk Says There’s a 70 Percent Chance He’ll Move to Mars

Watch Out Tesla: Rivian’s Electric Truck Will Drop in 2020

Nuts for Trucks

As the electric car market heats up worldwide, more and more car manufacturers are closing in on a market dominated by prominent brands like Chevrolet, Nissan, and Tesla.

And it’s not just luxury sedans or dinky subcompacts that drivers will be charging at night. US-based automaker startup Rivian revealed a brand new plug-in pickup truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. The company is also expected to announce a similar SUV tomorrow, according to The Verge.

Need for Speed

The R1T pickup has some pretty incredible specs. It comes in three different battery capacities, the biggest of which offers an impressive range of 400 miles. And it’s fast, too: zero to 60 mph in just three seconds — that’s even faster than the Tesla Model 3 Performance’s 3.3 seconds. That’s thanks to four motors that provide 200 horsepower to each wheel, according to Rivian’s website. Top speed: 125 miles per hour.

It also boasts some pretty luxurious features: multiple massive touchscreen displays in the dashboard, three power outlets in the truck bed, and self-driving technology.

And, perhaps most importantly, it might beat Tesla’s “Blade Runner-style” pickup truck to market. Rivian has an ambitious timeline in mind, and wants to start selling first units in 2020. We have yet to hear from Tesla about an exact release date for its truck, but the specs will likely be pretty comparable.

Keep on Truckin’

Rivian is targeting an audience that loves to spend time outdoors or needs a reliable utility truck for work. That’s a steadfast market that prides itself on raw power, and performance.

Will these kind of specs win over enough contractors and construction workers? As Faraday Future’s recent demise goes to show, the electric car market is a sink-or-swim industry.

READ MORE: The all-electric Rivian R1T is a dream truck for adventurers [The Verge]

More on electric pickup trucks: Tesla Pickup Truck Will Be Straight Out of “Blade Runner”

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Watch Out Tesla: Rivian’s Electric Truck Will Drop in 2020

Scientists Want to Fight Climate Change by Dimming the Sun

To halt climate change, some scientists suggest geoengineering our own planet by releasing particles into the stratosphere that will deflect sunlight.

Sum of the Particles

The long-term outlook on climate change is bleak. Last month, a United Nations report found that the international community’s current efforts are unlikely to stave off catastrophic global fallout.

That gloomy consensus is driving some researchers to investigate moonshot solutions, including an idea so extreme that it has divided scientific community: geoengineering our own planet by releasing particles into the stratosphere that will deflect sunlight and prevent future warming.

Backup Plan

A new study by researchers from Harvard and Yale, published Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that building a fleet of high-altitude planes to release sunlight-blocking particles could cost just $2 or $3 billion per year — a drop in the bucket compared to the tens of trillions of dollars in climate-related damages the UN report predicted.

The report’s authors found that the effort could be pulled off by about 100 specially-designed aircraft, which would eventually make a total of about 60,000 flights per year. That’s not an enormous program, they wrote, but it is substantial enough that a rogue nation wouldn’t be able to pull off something comparable in secret.

Risky Business

Many scientists oppose geoengineering. They argue that it could have unintended consequences and that it treats the symptoms of climate changes instead of the causes.

But other researchers say it’s imperative to investigate the effects of programs like the sunlight-blocking particles before governments start their own geoengineering programs to fight climate change.

“Unfortunately, climate change is dire enough for us to have to consider drastic action,” University of Bristol Earth scientist Matthew Watson, who was not an author of the paper, told The Guardian. “Some argue against researching these ideas but personally I think that is a mistake. There may come a time, in a future not so far away, where it would be immoral not to intervene.”

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Scientists Want to Fight Climate Change by Dimming the Sun

Self-Driving Trucks Will Transport Limestone in a Norwegian Mine

Rock Carriers

An often-overlooked use for autonomous driving technology is in industrial applications, where raw materials have to be shipped from point A to point B.

In what automaker Volvo calls its “first commercial autonomous solution transporting limestone from an open pit mine to a nearby port,” six existing autonomous trucks will be upgraded with sophisticated tech, allowing them to deliver raw limestone to a crusher three miles away without any human interaction.

Enemy Mine

If anything does go wrong, it will be up to Volvo fix it — in fact, Volvo claims full responsibility of the transportation of goods. Otherwise it won’t get paid.

One big advantage: higher efficiency, as the self-driving trucks can operate during the day and night.

Truck Drivers

That also means fewer truck drivers on the payroll. We have yet to find out the effects of that shift on the economy. But it’s a trend that’s here to say — more and more driverless commercial trucks are planning to hit the road in the very near future, developed by autonomous driving juggernauts like Waymo.

Volvo’s mine trucks bring us yet another step closer to a future where pretty much any vehicle — self-driving taxis, and industrial trucks alike — can take care of driving without the intervention of humans.

READ MORE: Volvo’s self-driving trucks will haul limestone from a mine [Engadget]

More on autonomous trucks: Uber’s Autonomous Trucks Still Need a Human Touch

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Self-Driving Trucks Will Transport Limestone in a Norwegian Mine

Nanotechnology – Wikipedia

Nanotechnology (“nanotech”) is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology[1][2] referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research. Through 2012, the USA has invested $3.7 billion using its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the European Union has invested $1.2 billion, and Japan has invested $750 million.[3]

Nanotechnology as defined by size is naturally very broad, including fields of science as diverse as surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics, energy storage,[4][5] microfabrication,[6] molecular engineering, etc.[7] The associated research and applications are equally diverse, ranging from extensions of conventional device physics to completely new approaches based upon molecular self-assembly,[8] from developing new materials with dimensions on the nanoscale to direct control of matter on the atomic scale.

Scientists currently debate the future implications of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology may be able to create many new materials and devices with a vast range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, biomaterials energy production, and consumer products. On the other hand, nanotechnology raises many of the same issues as any new technology, including concerns about the toxicity and environmental impact of nanomaterials,[9] and their potential effects on global economics, as well as speculation about various doomsday scenarios. These concerns have led to a debate among advocacy groups and governments on whether special regulation of nanotechnology is warranted.

The concepts that seeded nanotechnology were first discussed in 1959 by renowned physicist Richard Feynman in his talk There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom, in which he described the possibility of synthesis via direct manipulation of atoms. The term “nano-technology” was first used by Norio Taniguchi in 1974, though it was not widely known.

Inspired by Feynman’s concepts, K. Eric Drexler used the term “nanotechnology” in his 1986 book Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology, which proposed the idea of a nanoscale “assembler” which would be able to build a copy of itself and of other items of arbitrary complexity with atomic control. Also in 1986, Drexler co-founded The Foresight Institute (with which he is no longer affiliated) to help increase public awareness and understanding of nanotechnology concepts and implications.

Thus, emergence of nanotechnology as a field in the 1980s occurred through convergence of Drexler’s theoretical and public work, which developed and popularized a conceptual framework for nanotechnology, and high-visibility experimental advances that drew additional wide-scale attention to the prospects of atomic control of matter. Since the popularity spike in the 1980s, most of nanotechnology has involved investigation of several approaches to making mechanical devices out of a small number of atoms.[10]

In the 1980s, two major breakthroughs sparked the growth of nanotechnology in modern era. First, the invention of the scanning tunneling microscope in 1981 which provided unprecedented visualization of individual atoms and bonds, and was successfully used to manipulate individual atoms in 1989. The microscope’s developers Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zurich Research Laboratory received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.[11][12] Binnig, Quate and Gerber also invented the analogous atomic force microscope that year.

Second, Fullerenes were discovered in 1985 by Harry Kroto, Richard Smalley, and Robert Curl, who together won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.[13][14] C60 was not initially described as nanotechnology; the term was used regarding subsequent work with related graphene tubes (called carbon nanotubes and sometimes called Bucky tubes) which suggested potential applications for nanoscale electronics and devices.

In the early 2000s, the field garnered increased scientific, political, and commercial attention that led to both controversy and progress. Controversies emerged regarding the definitions and potential implications of nanotechnologies, exemplified by the Royal Society’s report on nanotechnology.[15] Challenges were raised regarding the feasibility of applications envisioned by advocates of molecular nanotechnology, which culminated in a public debate between Drexler and Smalley in 2001 and 2003.[16]

Meanwhile, commercialization of products based on advancements in nanoscale technologies began emerging. These products are limited to bulk applications of nanomaterials and do not involve atomic control of matter. Some examples include the Silver Nano platform for using silver nanoparticles as an antibacterial agent, nanoparticle-based transparent sunscreens, carbon fiber strengthening using silica nanoparticles, and carbon nanotubes for stain-resistant textiles.[17][18]

Governments moved to promote and fund research into nanotechnology, such as in the U.S. with the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which formalized a size-based definition of nanotechnology and established funding for research on the nanoscale, and in Europe via the European Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

By the mid-2000s new and serious scientific attention began to flourish. Projects emerged to produce nanotechnology roadmaps[19][20] which center on atomically precise manipulation of matter and discuss existing and projected capabilities, goals, and applications.

Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced. In its original sense, nanotechnology refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

One nanometer (nm) is one billionth, or 109, of a meter. By comparison, typical carbon-carbon bond lengths, or the spacing between these atoms in a molecule, are in the range 0.120.15 nm, and a DNA double-helix has a diameter around 2nm. On the other hand, the smallest cellular life-forms, the bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, are around 200nm in length. By convention, nanotechnology is taken as the scale range 1 to 100 nm following the definition used by the National Nanotechnology Initiative in the US. The lower limit is set by the size of atoms (hydrogen has the smallest atoms, which are approximately a quarter of a nm kinetic diameter) since nanotechnology must build its devices from atoms and molecules. The upper limit is more or less arbitrary but is around the size below which phenomena not observed in larger structures start to become apparent and can be made use of in the nano device.[21] These new phenomena make nanotechnology distinct from devices which are merely miniaturised versions of an equivalent macroscopic device; such devices are on a larger scale and come under the description of microtechnology.[22]

To put that scale in another context, the comparative size of a nanometer to a meter is the same as that of a marble to the size of the earth.[23] Or another way of putting it: a nanometer is the amount an average man’s beard grows in the time it takes him to raise the razor to his face.[23]

Two main approaches are used in nanotechnology. In the “bottom-up” approach, materials and devices are built from molecular components which assemble themselves chemically by principles of molecular recognition.[24] In the “top-down” approach, nano-objects are constructed from larger entities without atomic-level control.[25]

Areas of physics such as nanoelectronics, nanomechanics, nanophotonics and nanoionics have evolved during the last few decades to provide a basic scientific foundation of nanotechnology.

Several phenomena become pronounced as the size of the system decreases. These include statistical mechanical effects, as well as quantum mechanical effects, for example the “quantum size effect” where the electronic properties of solids are altered with great reductions in particle size. This effect does not come into play by going from macro to micro dimensions. However, quantum effects can become significant when the nanometer size range is reached, typically at distances of 100 nanometers or less, the so-called quantum realm. Additionally, a number of physical (mechanical, electrical, optical, etc.) properties change when compared to macroscopic systems. One example is the increase in surface area to volume ratio altering mechanical, thermal and catalytic properties of materials. Diffusion and reactions at nanoscale, nanostructures materials and nanodevices with fast ion transport are generally referred to nanoionics. Mechanical properties of nanosystems are of interest in the nanomechanics research. The catalytic activity of nanomaterials also opens potential risks in their interaction with biomaterials.

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications. For instance, opaque substances can become transparent (copper); stable materials can turn combustible (aluminium); insoluble materials may become soluble (gold). A material such as gold, which is chemically inert at normal scales, can serve as a potent chemical catalyst at nanoscales. Much of the fascination with nanotechnology stems from these quantum and surface phenomena that matter exhibits at the nanoscale.[26]

Modern synthetic chemistry has reached the point where it is possible to prepare small molecules to almost any structure. These methods are used today to manufacture a wide variety of useful chemicals such as pharmaceuticals or commercial polymers. This ability raises the question of extending this kind of control to the next-larger level, seeking methods to assemble these single molecules into supramolecular assemblies consisting of many molecules arranged in a well defined manner.

These approaches utilize the concepts of molecular self-assembly and/or supramolecular chemistry to automatically arrange themselves into some useful conformation through a bottom-up approach. The concept of molecular recognition is especially important: molecules can be designed so that a specific configuration or arrangement is favored due to non-covalent intermolecular forces. The WatsonCrick basepairing rules are a direct result of this, as is the specificity of an enzyme being targeted to a single substrate, or the specific folding of the protein itself. Thus, two or more components can be designed to be complementary and mutually attractive so that they make a more complex and useful whole.

Such bottom-up approaches should be capable of producing devices in parallel and be much cheaper than top-down methods, but could potentially be overwhelmed as the size and complexity of the desired assembly increases. Most useful structures require complex and thermodynamically unlikely arrangements of atoms. Nevertheless, there are many examples of self-assembly based on molecular recognition in biology, most notably WatsonCrick basepairing and enzyme-substrate interactions. The challenge for nanotechnology is whether these principles can be used to engineer new constructs in addition to natural ones.

Molecular nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing, describes engineered nanosystems (nanoscale machines) operating on the molecular scale. Molecular nanotechnology is especially associated with the molecular assembler, a machine that can produce a desired structure or device atom-by-atom using the principles of mechanosynthesis. Manufacturing in the context of productive nanosystems is not related to, and should be clearly distinguished from, the conventional technologies used to manufacture nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles.

When the term “nanotechnology” was independently coined and popularized by Eric Drexler (who at the time was unaware of an earlier usage by Norio Taniguchi) it referred to a future manufacturing technology based on molecular machine systems. The premise was that molecular scale biological analogies of traditional machine components demonstrated molecular machines were possible: by the countless examples found in biology, it is known that sophisticated, stochastically optimised biological machines can be produced.

It is hoped that developments in nanotechnology will make possible their construction by some other means, perhaps using biomimetic principles. However, Drexler and other researchers[27] have proposed that advanced nanotechnology, although perhaps initially implemented by biomimetic means, ultimately could be based on mechanical engineering principles, namely, a manufacturing technology based on the mechanical functionality of these components (such as gears, bearings, motors, and structural members) that would enable programmable, positional assembly to atomic specification.[28] The physics and engineering performance of exemplar designs were analyzed in Drexler’s book Nanosystems.

In general it is very difficult to assemble devices on the atomic scale, as one has to position atoms on other atoms of comparable size and stickiness. Another view, put forth by Carlo Montemagno,[29] is that future nanosystems will be hybrids of silicon technology and biological molecular machines. Richard Smalley argued that mechanosynthesis are impossible due to the difficulties in mechanically manipulating individual molecules.

This led to an exchange of letters in the ACS publication Chemical & Engineering News in 2003.[30] Though biology clearly demonstrates that molecular machine systems are possible, non-biological molecular machines are today only in their infancy. Leaders in research on non-biological molecular machines are Dr. Alex Zettl and his colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories and UC Berkeley.[1] They have constructed at least three distinct molecular devices whose motion is controlled from the desktop with changing voltage: a nanotube nanomotor, a molecular actuator,[31] and a nanoelectromechanical relaxation oscillator.[32] See nanotube nanomotor for more examples.

An experiment indicating that positional molecular assembly is possible was performed by Ho and Lee at Cornell University in 1999. They used a scanning tunneling microscope to move an individual carbon monoxide molecule (CO) to an individual iron atom (Fe) sitting on a flat silver crystal, and chemically bound the CO to the Fe by applying a voltage.

The nanomaterials field includes subfields which develop or study materials having unique properties arising from their nanoscale dimensions.[35]

These seek to arrange smaller components into more complex assemblies.

These seek to create smaller devices by using larger ones to direct their assembly.

These seek to develop components of a desired functionality without regard to how they might be assembled.

These subfields seek to anticipate what inventions nanotechnology might yield, or attempt to propose an agenda along which inquiry might progress. These often take a big-picture view of nanotechnology, with more emphasis on its societal implications than the details of how such inventions could actually be created.

Nanomaterials can be classified in 0D, 1D, 2D and 3D nanomaterials. The dimensionality play a major role in determining the characteristic of nanomaterials including physical, chemical and biological characteristics. With the decrease in dimensionality, an increase in surface-to-volume ratio is observed. This indicate that smaller dimensional nanomaterials have higher surface area compared to 3D nanomaterials. Recently, two dimensional (2D) nanomaterials are extensively investigated for electronic, biomedical, drug delivery and biosensor applications.

There are several important modern developments. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) are two early versions of scanning probes that launched nanotechnology. There are other types of scanning probe microscopy. Although conceptually similar to the scanning confocal microscope developed by Marvin Minsky in 1961 and the scanning acoustic microscope (SAM) developed by Calvin Quate and coworkers in the 1970s, newer scanning probe microscopes have much higher resolution, since they are not limited by the wavelength of sound or light.

The tip of a scanning probe can also be used to manipulate nanostructures (a process called positional assembly). Feature-oriented scanning methodology may be a promising way to implement these nanomanipulations in automatic mode.[53][54] However, this is still a slow process because of low scanning velocity of the microscope.

Various techniques of nanolithography such as optical lithography, X-ray lithography, dip pen nanolithography, electron beam lithography or nanoimprint lithography were also developed. Lithography is a top-down fabrication technique where a bulk material is reduced in size to nanoscale pattern.

Another group of nanotechnological techniques include those used for fabrication of nanotubes and nanowires, those used in semiconductor fabrication such as deep ultraviolet lithography, electron beam lithography, focused ion beam machining, nanoimprint lithography, atomic layer deposition, and molecular vapor deposition, and further including molecular self-assembly techniques such as those employing di-block copolymers. The precursors of these techniques preceded the nanotech era, and are extensions in the development of scientific advancements rather than techniques which were devised with the sole purpose of creating nanotechnology and which were results of nanotechnology research.[55]

The top-down approach anticipates nanodevices that must be built piece by piece in stages, much as manufactured items are made. Scanning probe microscopy is an important technique both for characterization and synthesis of nanomaterials. Atomic force microscopes and scanning tunneling microscopes can be used to look at surfaces and to move atoms around. By designing different tips for these microscopes, they can be used for carving out structures on surfaces and to help guide self-assembling structures. By using, for example, feature-oriented scanning approach, atoms or molecules can be moved around on a surface with scanning probe microscopy techniques.[53][54] At present, it is expensive and time-consuming for mass production but very suitable for laboratory experimentation.

In contrast, bottom-up techniques build or grow larger structures atom by atom or molecule by molecule. These techniques include chemical synthesis, self-assembly and positional assembly. Dual polarisation interferometry is one tool suitable for characterisation of self assembled thin films. Another variation of the bottom-up approach is molecular beam epitaxy or MBE. Researchers at Bell Telephone Laboratories like John R. Arthur. Alfred Y. Cho, and Art C. Gossard developed and implemented MBE as a research tool in the late 1960s and 1970s. Samples made by MBE were key to the discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect for which the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded. MBE allows scientists to lay down atomically precise layers of atoms and, in the process, build up complex structures. Important for research on semiconductors, MBE is also widely used to make samples and devices for the newly emerging field of spintronics.

However, new therapeutic products, based on responsive nanomaterials, such as the ultradeformable, stress-sensitive Transfersome vesicles, are under development and already approved for human use in some countries.[56]

As of August 21, 2008, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies estimates that over 800 manufacturer-identified nanotech products are publicly available, with new ones hitting the market at a pace of 34 per week.[18] The project lists all of the products in a publicly accessible online database. Most applications are limited to the use of “first generation” passive nanomaterials which includes titanium dioxide in sunscreen, cosmetics, surface coatings,[57] and some food products; Carbon allotropes used to produce gecko tape; silver in food packaging, clothing, disinfectants and household appliances; zinc oxide in sunscreens and cosmetics, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes; and cerium oxide as a fuel catalyst.[17]

Further applications allow tennis balls to last longer, golf balls to fly straighter, and even bowling balls to become more durable and have a harder surface. Trousers and socks have been infused with nanotechnology so that they will last longer and keep people cool in the summer. Bandages are being infused with silver nanoparticles to heal cuts faster.[58] Video game consoles and personal computers may become cheaper, faster, and contain more memory thanks to nanotechnology.[59] Also, to build structures for on chip computing with light, for example on chip optical quantum information processing, and picosecond transmission of information.[60]

Nanotechnology may have the ability to make existing medical applications cheaper and easier to use in places like the general practitioner’s office and at home.[61] Cars are being manufactured with nanomaterials so they may need fewer metals and less fuel to operate in the future.[62]

Scientists are now turning to nanotechnology in an attempt to develop diesel engines with cleaner exhaust fumes. Platinum is currently used as the diesel engine catalyst in these engines. The catalyst is what cleans the exhaust fume particles. First a reduction catalyst is employed to take nitrogen atoms from NOx molecules in order to free oxygen. Next the oxidation catalyst oxidizes the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to form carbon dioxide and water.[63] Platinum is used in both the reduction and the oxidation catalysts.[64] Using platinum though, is inefficient in that it is expensive and unsustainable. Danish company InnovationsFonden invested DKK 15 million in a search for new catalyst substitutes using nanotechnology. The goal of the project, launched in the autumn of 2014, is to maximize surface area and minimize the amount of material required. Objects tend to minimize their surface energy; two drops of water, for example, will join to form one drop and decrease surface area. If the catalyst’s surface area that is exposed to the exhaust fumes is maximized, efficiency of the catalyst is maximized. The team working on this project aims to create nanoparticles that will not merge. Every time the surface is optimized, material is saved. Thus, creating these nanoparticles will increase the effectiveness of the resulting diesel engine catalystin turn leading to cleaner exhaust fumesand will decrease cost. If successful, the team hopes to reduce platinum use by 25%.[65]

Nanotechnology also has a prominent role in the fast developing field of Tissue Engineering. When designing scaffolds, researchers attempt to the mimic the nanoscale features of a Cell’s microenvironment to direct its differentiation down a suitable lineage.[66] For example, when creating scaffolds to support the growth of bone, researchers may mimic osteoclast resorption pits.[67]

Researchers have successfully used DNA origami-based nanobots capable of carrying out logic functions to achieve targeted drug delivery in cockroaches. It is said that the computational power of these nanobots can be scaled up to that of a Commodore 64.[68]

An area of concern is the effect that industrial-scale manufacturing and use of nanomaterials would have on human health and the environment, as suggested by nanotoxicology research. For these reasons, some groups advocate that nanotechnology be regulated by governments. Others counter that overregulation would stifle scientific research and the development of beneficial innovations. Public health research agencies, such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are actively conducting research on potential health effects stemming from exposures to nanoparticles.[69][70]

Some nanoparticle products may have unintended consequences. Researchers have discovered that bacteriostatic silver nanoparticles used in socks to reduce foot odor are being released in the wash.[71] These particles are then flushed into the waste water stream and may destroy bacteria which are critical components of natural ecosystems, farms, and waste treatment processes.[72]

Public deliberations on risk perception in the US and UK carried out by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society found that participants were more positive about nanotechnologies for energy applications than for health applications, with health applications raising moral and ethical dilemmas such as cost and availability.[73]

Experts, including director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski, have testified[74] that successful commercialization depends on adequate oversight, risk research strategy, and public engagement. Berkeley, California is currently the only city in the United States to regulate nanotechnology;[75] Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2008 considered enacting a similar law,[76] but ultimately rejected it.[77] Relevant for both research on and application of nanotechnologies, the insurability of nanotechnology is contested.[78] Without state regulation of nanotechnology, the availability of private insurance for potential damages is seen as necessary to ensure that burdens are not socialised implicitly. Over the next several decades, applications of nanotechnology will likely include much higher-capacity computers, active materials of various kinds, and cellular-scale biomedical devices.[10]

Nanofibers are used in several areas and in different products, in everything from aircraft wings to tennis rackets. Inhaling airborne nanoparticles and nanofibers may lead to a number of pulmonary diseases, e.g. fibrosis.[79] Researchers have found that when rats breathed in nanoparticles, the particles settled in the brain and lungs, which led to significant increases in biomarkers for inflammation and stress response[80] and that nanoparticles induce skin aging through oxidative stress in hairless mice.[81][82]

A two-year study at UCLA’s School of Public Health found lab mice consuming nano-titanium dioxide showed DNA and chromosome damage to a degree “linked to all the big killers of man, namely cancer, heart disease, neurological disease and aging”.[83]

A major study published more recently in Nature Nanotechnology suggests some forms of carbon nanotubes a poster child for the “nanotechnology revolution” could be as harmful as asbestos if inhaled in sufficient quantities. Anthony Seaton of the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland, who contributed to the article on carbon nanotubes said “We know that some of them probably have the potential to cause mesothelioma. So those sorts of materials need to be handled very carefully.”[84] In the absence of specific regulation forthcoming from governments, Paull and Lyons (2008) have called for an exclusion of engineered nanoparticles in food.[85] A newspaper article reports that workers in a paint factory developed serious lung disease and nanoparticles were found in their lungs.[86][87][88][89]

Calls for tighter regulation of nanotechnology have occurred alongside a growing debate related to the human health and safety risks of nanotechnology.[90] There is significant debate about who is responsible for the regulation of nanotechnology. Some regulatory agencies currently cover some nanotechnology products and processes (to varying degrees) by “bolting on” nanotechnology to existing regulations there are clear gaps in these regimes.[91] Davies (2008) has proposed a regulatory road map describing steps to deal with these shortcomings.[92]

Stakeholders concerned by the lack of a regulatory framework to assess and control risks associated with the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes have drawn parallels with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (“mad cow” disease), thalidomide, genetically modified food,[93] nuclear energy, reproductive technologies, biotechnology, and asbestosis. Dr. Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, concludes that there is insufficient funding for human health and safety research, and as a result there is currently limited understanding of the human health and safety risks associated with nanotechnology.[94] As a result, some academics have called for stricter application of the precautionary principle, with delayed marketing approval, enhanced labelling and additional safety data development requirements in relation to certain forms of nanotechnology.[95][96]

The Royal Society report[15] identified a risk of nanoparticles or nanotubes being released during disposal, destruction and recycling, and recommended that “manufacturers of products that fall under extended producer responsibility regimes such as end-of-life regulations publish procedures outlining how these materials will be managed to minimize possible human and environmental exposure” (p. xiii).

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society has found that people respond to nanotechnologies differently, depending on application with participants in public deliberations more positive about nanotechnologies for energy than health applications suggesting that any public calls for nano regulations may differ by technology sector.[73]

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Nanotechnology – Wikipedia


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