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Monthly Archives: December 2013

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The Future of Search and the Internet of Everything According to Google’s Scott Huffman

In a recent interview with the Independent, Google engineering director, Scott Huffman, outlined the kind of future he thinks is right around the corner—a future when typing our queries into a little box will be seem downright archaic, and our interaction with technology will be more like a conversation. Instead of keyboards, we’ll have microphones and speakers in the ceiling recording conversations and giving answers to direct questions, like the Star Trek computer.

2013 in Review: The Eight Biggest Stories In Exponential Tech

It’s been a fast-moving year, so before diving headlong into 2014, we thought we'd take stock and revisit some of the year’s most notable stories in exponential technology.

Genomic Studies Sift Centenarian DNA for Genes Protecting Against Age-Related Diseases

Occasionally, you hear tell of a hale hundred-year-old who drank and smoked her way through life—or the reverse, a health nut who tragically fell prey to a killer disease at 40. Though diet and exercise influence health and longevity, they're only part of the story. The inherited, genetic drivers of aging and illness are still poorly understood.

Progress in Efforts to Develop Lab-Grown Lungs: Functional Cells

Since the development of induced pluripotent stem cells in 2006, scientists have managed to use the manufactured stem cells like seeds to grow a wide range of tissues and rudimentary organs. But different tissue types have not proven equal, and researchers are still struggling to coax stem cells to take on certain roles: Lung cells have proved difficult to create. Columbia University researchers recently managed to develop functional lung and airway cells from human iPSCs.

Medtronic’s Minimally Invasive Pacemaker the Size of a Multivitamin

Back in November, we wrote about a tiny pacemaker made by Silicon Valley startup Nanostim. Whereas traditional pacemakers require chest surgery and a pocket to implant the device in—the Nanostim pacemaker is implanted by making a simple incision in the thigh and snaking a catheter through an artery to the heart. Nanostim was approved for use in Europe, subsequently acquired by St. Jude Medical—and now it has competition. Medtronic recently announced they’ve successfully implanted a similar device into the heart of an Austrian patient.

Drug Hopes to Delay Onset of Alzheimer’s Symptoms With a Monthly Shot in the Arm

An Alzheimer's drug is attracting the spotlight as it enters clinical trials. The drug, called solanezumab, appears to slow the buildup of amyloid beta in the brain and improves cognitive function in patients with mild dementia when given as a monthly shot. But the excitement about the drug is as much a measure of other treatments’ failures as it is of its success.

Researchers, Startups Hope One Drop of Blood Could Diagnose All Types of Cancer

As genetics reveals the incredible diversity among cancer cells, researchers have largely given up pursuing a silver bullet to cure all types of cancer. Instead, many have begun searching for the next-best thing: a silver bullet test to diagnose all cancers. The test would look for markers of cancer in the patient’s blood, where the process of tumor-making leaves a trail that can often be picked up before tumors are big enough to spot.

Edible Batteries Could Power a Range of Smart Pills and Medical Devices

Carnegie Mellon materials engineer Christopher Bettinger argues that flexible biodegradable batteries safe for human consumption could maximize the benefits of smart pills and devices “by harnessing simultaneous advantages afforded by electronically active systems and obviating issues with chronic implants.” In a recent paper, Bettinger documents that such a battery made from the pigment cuttlefish — sea creatures related to squid — can discharge 10 microamperes of electricity for a period of five hours, with performance under ideal circumstances of up to 24 hours.

Delicate Eye Cells Are Latest to Be 3D-Printed

Blindness might just be the first major disability to disappear, at least if our high-tech future takes more a utopian than dystopian bent. A bionic eye is already on the market in the United States, and stem cell therapy has been shown to restore sight in mice. Now British scientists have successfully printed retinal cells.

It’s Settled: Electric Cars Are Cleaner Than Their Gas-Powered Cousins

One major issue that has dogged the electric vehicle is the complexity of any answer to the simple question, Are EVs better for the environment than gasoline-powered cars? Many instinctively believe the answer is no, because the cars get their power from the electrical grid — which is, in turn, driven chiefly by coal and natural gas. While that instinct may have been valid in decades past, it no longer is.

Prosthetic Hand With Sense of Touch Picks Stems From Cherries

Igor Spetic lost his hand on the job three years ago to an industrial hammer. But like Luke Skywalker, Spetic’s testing a new bionic hand. And though the hand hasn’t caught up to the tech of faraway galaxies, long ago, it’s closer than you might think.

NASA Unveils Valkyrie, a Humanoid Robot Destined for Space Exploration

What comes to mind when you hear valkyrie? Fierce female deities escorting Viking warriors to Valhalla? Bold World War II assassination plots? Friendly human-like robots diligently at work on Martian habs? NASA’s hoping the latter will swamp the former. Robots based on their new bipedal robot, Valkyrie, may eventually wind up spacewalking in orbit or on Mars doing the kind of work current rovers could only dream of doing.

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