First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.

July 27th, 2017

Via: MIT Technology Review:

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, Technology Review has learned.

The effort, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.

Until now, American scientists have watched with a combination of awe, envy, and some alarm as scientists elsewhere were first to explore the controversial practice. To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.

Now Mitalipov is believed to have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.

Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans.

In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed “germline engineering” because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells—the egg and sperm.

Some critics say germline experiments could open the floodgates to a brave new world of “designer babies” engineered with genetic enhancements—a prospect bitterly opposed by a range of religious organizations, civil society groups, and biotech companies.

The U.S. intelligence community last year called CRISPR a potential “weapon of mass destruction.”


Toyota Set to Sell Long-Range, Fast-Charging Electric Cars in 2022

July 25th, 2017

Toyota made a strategic error in holding out hope for hydrogen fuel cell technology as the leaders in zero emission vehicles went ahead with lithium ion batteries. By opting to attempt to make solid state battery technology viable by 2022, Toyota might be trying to make up for lost time.

Via: Reuters:

Toyota Motor Corp is working on an electric car powered by a new type of battery that significantly increases driving range and reduces charging time, aiming to begin sales in 2022, the Chunichi Shimbun daily reported on Tuesday.

Toyota’s new electric car, to be built on an all-new platform, will use all-solid-state batteries, allowing it to be recharged in just a few minutes, the newspaper said, without citing sources.

By contrast, current electric vehicles (EVs), which use lithium-ion batteries, need 20-30 minutes to recharge even with fast chargers and typically have a range of just 300-400 kilometers (185-250 miles).

Toyota has decided to sell the new model in Japan as early as 2022, the paper said.

Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi said the company would not comment on specific product plans but added that it aimed to commercialize all-solid-state batteries by the early 2020s.

More: Toyota in “Production Engineering” for a Solid State Battery


Judge Offers to Cut Jail Time if Inmates Get Vasectomies or Long Term Birth Control Implants

July 25th, 2017

Via: News Channel 5:

Inmates in White County, Tennessee have been given credit for their jail time if they voluntarily agree to have a vasectomy or birth control implant, a popular new program that is being called “unconstitutional” by the ACLU.

On May 15, 2017 General Sessions Judge Sam Benningfield signed a standing order that allows inmates to receive 30 days credit toward jail time if they undergo a birth control procedure.

Women who volunteer to participate in the program are given a free Nexplanon implant in their arm, the implant helps prevent pregnancies for up to four years. Men who volunteer to participate are given a vasectomy, free of charge, by the Tennessee Department of Health.


UK Unemployment So Low It’s in Danger of Exposing the Lie Used to Create the Numbers

July 25th, 2017

Via: Business Insider:

So what’s going on?

Why does Britain have no wage inflation, if the labour market is so tight?

The answer is that unemployment is not really that low. In reality, about 21.5% of British workers are either officially unemployed, inactive, or employed part time even though they really want full-time work.


Disney’s Next Movie Could Be Watching You

July 25th, 2017

Via: Fast Company:

Now, Disney Research has developed a neural network that seems to be chasing a similar idea–but for the world of movies. The system has been trained to watch an audience of theatergoers as they watch a film. It can track reactions like smiling and laughter on hundreds of faces in a dark theater, allowing Disney to quantify whether or not a film is working as intended on a granular scale. It’s easy to imagine such technology eventually reaching well beyond the movie theater, into the real world, where Disney parks could react to your mood with real-time Disney magic.


Wisconsin Company To Implant Microchips In Employees

July 24th, 2017

“Get that bag of chips faster.” *creepy grin*

Local TV news broadcasts are comedy gold in the zombie apocalypse.

Via: KSTP:

A Wisconsin company is about to become the first in the U.S. to offer microchip implants to its employees.

Yes, you read that right. Microchip implants.

“It’s the next thing that’s inevitably going to happen, and we want to be a part of it,” Three Square Market Chief Executive Officer Todd Westby said. 

The company designs software for break room markets that are commonly found in office complexes.
Just as people are able to purchase items at the market using phones, Westby wants to do the sam thing using a microchip implanted inside a person’s hand.


Japan Pictures Likely Show Melted Fukushima Fuel for First Time

July 22nd, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

New images show what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel hanging from inside one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the cleanup of one of the worst atomic disasters in history.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Friday showing a hardened black, grey and orange substance that dripped from the bottom of the No. 3 reactor pressure vessel at Fukushima, which is likely to contain melted fuel, according to Takahiro Kimoto, an official at the company. The company sent a Toshiba-designed robot, which can swim and resembles a submarine, to explore the inside of the reactor for the first time on July 19.

Decommissioning the reactors will cost 8 trillion yen ($72 billion), according to an estimate in December from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Removing the fuel is one of the most important steps in a cleanup that may take as long as 40 years.


Wall Street Journal Editorial Writer Found Dead

July 21st, 2017

Via: Wall Street Journal:

Joseph Rago, a Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal who was known for his richly reported pieces and influence on policy makers, was found dead Thursday evening at his home in Manhattan. He was 34 years old.

The New York Police Department found Mr. Rago dead in his apartment at 7:40 p.m., according to a police official. The authorities went to check on Mr. Rago after he didn’t show up for work on Thursday. Paul Gigot, the editor of the Journal’s editorial page, had alerted the paper’s security officials, who then contacted the police.

Mr. Rago was found with no obvious signs of trauma and emergency responders declared him dead at the scene, the police said. The cause of death was still being determined by the medical examiner on Friday.


Elon Musk Claims U.S. Approval for World’s Longest Tunnel

July 21st, 2017

My guess is that there are so many secret underground facilities in and around Washington DC that this will simply not happen. But if this does somehow get approved, an additional guess is that you’ll be able to slap a Mr. Fusion on your Tesla before the DC hyperloop is running.

In any event, Musk seems to be channeling his inner Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field on this one:

The RDF was said by Andy Hertzfeld to be Steve Jobs’s ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible.

Via: Bloomberg:

Elon Musk says he won “verbal” government approval to build the world’s longest tunnel for an ultra-high-speed train line to connect New York to Washington.

The train, known as a hyperloop, would make the 220 mile connection in 29 minutes, Musk said in a post on Twitter Thursday. He provided few details, and a spokesperson for his new digging enterprise, called the Boring Company, declined to comment on the project.

Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 20, 2017

It’s not clear what Musk is doing with these announcements on Twitter. Such an ambitious project would require billions of dollars in funding and extensive approvals from federal, state, and local authorities. The tunnel would be more than twice as long as the current record holder: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, a rail line that runs through the Swiss Alps. For some urban context: a recently opened stretch of subway in New York cost $4.5 billion for less than 2 miles of rails. It was first proposed in 1919 and opened to the public in January 2017. These things take time.

Whatever this new “verbal approval” means, the posts on Twitter are probably little more than an attempt to generate interest in future Boring Co. projects. Musk himself suggested as much Thursday. David Lee, a Silicon Valley reporter for the BBC, questioned Musk’s promises: “Verbal? Not on the dotted line? Seems premature to announce … unless you’re drumming up support for the project?”

Musk’s response: “Support would be much appreciated!”


U.S. Navy Ship in Persian Gulf Armed with Laser Weapon

July 21st, 2017

Via: CNN:

In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the US Navy’s first — in fact, the world’s first — active laser weapon.

The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew.

Today, the laser is intended primarily to disable or destroy aircraft and small boats. “It’s designed with the intent of being able to counter airborne and surface-based threats,” said Hughes. “And it’s been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that.”

However, the Navy is developing more powerful, second-generation systems which would bring more significant targets into its crosshairs: missiles.

Those missions remain classified.

More: Watch the US Navy’s New Laser Weapon in Action


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