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Cameron Scott

Cameron Scott

Cameron received degrees in Comparative Literature from Princeton and Cornell universities. He has worked at Mother Jones, SFGate and IDG News Service and been published in California Lawyer and SF Weekly. He lives, predictably, in SF.

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Fetal DNA Sequencing Experiencing Revolution With New Non-invasive Testing. Goodbye Amnio?

Those who are bullish on DNA are also betting on pregnancy to take sequencing to the masses. And they just got a big bump this month when California’s prenatal screening program began including fetal DNA testing for women whose pregnancies carry a higher risk of genetic abnormalities.

CleverCap Pill Bottle Connects to Wifi, Dispenses Only as Directed, Uploads To The Cloud

About half of all medication prescribed in the United States is not taken as directed. Some have proposed stomach acid-activated microchips. CleverCap is a less sci-fi fix: a cap that fits on standard pill bottles. It includes an alarm that tells patients when it’s time to take their medications and it only dispenses the prescribed amount.

Mobile Med-Tech Revolution Hits Hospitals

Go to a hospital intensive care unit and what you'll see are bulky machines not very different from what you saw on ER in the 1990s. But mobile vital sign monitors are at last making inroads inside the hospital walls. Sotera Wireless's ViSi mobile monitor, recently adopted a San Diego hospital and a few other sites, takes the functions of those enormous beeping bedside machines and puts them in a smartphone-sized oval the patient wears on his or her wrist.

The End of Antibiotics?

The most recent series of alarms about antibiotic resistance come in response to a growing number of bacteria, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae, that are resistant to Carbapenem antibiotics, which have long been a last line of defense for doctors against resistant bugs. Just how serious are these warnings and what developments are on the way that could quell them?

Leading Research Hospital Spins Out a For-Profit Company to Bring Gene Therapy To Market

No gene therapy treatment has yet been approved for general use in the United States and just one has been approved in Europe. But the winds may be shifting for commercial gene therapy. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has placed a $50-million bet on a spinoff company called Spark Therapeutics that will take over the testing, and hopefully marketing, of several treatments developed there.

Doctors Faced With Rare or Difficult Cancers Can Just ‘Google’ Genetic Treatments

Sequencing cancer genes has become easy and cheap, but information on which drugs might or might not work on particular mutations remains buried in PDF files and in a range of medical journals. So twin researchers Malachi and Obi Griffith, of Washington University in St. Louis, recently launched a drug-gene interaction database that makes the emerging research about as easy to find as a plane reservation on Kayak.com.

Pacemaker Okayed in Europe Is One-Tenth the Size of Those Used Now

Developed by Silicon Valley startup Nanostim, a device about the size of a AAA battery, or one-tenth the size of a conventional pacemaker, was recently approved for use in Europe. It is installed through a catheter in the femoral vein in a minimally invasive procedure. Then, for about 10 years it sits inside the ventricle of the heart and delivers its regulatory electrical pulses wirelessly.

Power Storage, Missing Link in Path to Renewables, Gets a Mandate in California

The inability to store electrical power has become more important as the developed world has begun to try to adopt cleaner energy sources, such as solar and wind power. The sun isn’t always shining and the wind isn’t always blowing, but people and factories always need electricity. But energy storage is getting its mainstream debut in California. The state has mandated that by 2024, its major utilities provide 1,325 megawatts of storage, which is slightly more than what a single major power plant produces and about a fifth of a percent of what the state used on average per day, according to the most recent state statistics.

Much-Hyped, MOOCs Maneuver Toward Version 2.0

As even major universities began invested in MOOC platforms, it seemed clear that the future of education would be in the massive, open platforms. But more recently research on their effectiveness has painted a grim picture of their ability to educate students. Can the courses iterate to overcome the challenges?

Tiny AI Startup Vicarious Says It’s Solved CAPTCHA

Vicarious, a Bay Area-based flexible purpose corporation founded in 2010, is today attempting to prove its mettle as an artificial intelligence venture by demonstrating that its algorithms can break a series of text-based CAPTCHA systems that include Google’s reCAPTCHA, the most widely used system.

Willow Garage Spinoff Launches UBR-1 One-Armed, Mobile Robot

Unbounded Robotics, a spinoff of Willow Garage, recently debuted its first machine, UBR-1, a multi-joined robotic arm on wheels that runs on the open-source Robot Operating System, or ROS. The startup hopes UBR-1 will support the development of further applications for dexterous, mobile robots.

No More Lying About Your Age: Tissue Test Can Tell

What causes human to age? A study published recently provides a tool that may help future researchers answer that question. It’s a biological clock that can date the age of a cell by measuring methylation, a chemical modification that affects certain parts of DNA. Using the clock, any piece of tissue identified with the biological age of its human source.

Brain Training Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be, Study Finds

The scientific literature offers few answers, with some studies arguing that programs designed to build working memory provide long-lasting memory benefits and even improve overall intelligence, while others claim brain-training programs are little more than snake oil. A recent study by Georgia Institute of Technology psychological scientist Randall Engle concludes that training designed to build working memory capacity can improve cognitive function in that particular area, but that it does not translate to general intelligence.

Wearable Device GIST Helps the Blind ‘See’ What’s Around Them

Wearable computers have generated a lot of excitement and buzz based almost exclusively on their novelty. Sure it’s easier to wear a video camera on your face than to hold it up, what if wearable devices performed useful functions that smartphones can’t? Meet GIST, a gesture-controlled wearable device that helps the visually impaired navigate the world around them.

New York Manhole Covers To Deliver Power to Electric Vehicles

New York startup HEVO has come up with a clever way to make EV charging more convenient in urban environments. Reserved parking spots feature what look like manholes in the pavement, but are in fact wireless charging devices that will give the trucks a little more juice while they sit.

Eyeglass-Mounted Computing Becomes Crowded Field As Glass Competitors Ramp Up

Google Glass has generated a lot of buzz, but the eyeglass-mounted, touch- and voice-operated computer is still not available to the general public. And while Google has hyped and beta-tested, competing “point-of-view” devices have begun to emerge. With competitors’ approaches ranging from conventional eyeglasses with an embedded digital camera to glasses that allow users to manipulate three-dimensional holograms in the air, point-of-view computing is becoming a crowded and diverse field in which Glass will have to compete.

Ambitious Billion-Euro Human Brain Project Kicks Off in Switzerland

The Human Brain Project, which just kicked off with an initial round of meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, has promised to build a functional computer model of the brain to expand scientific understanding of the all-important organ. The project will also bring together the scientific literature on mouse and human brains to focus future inquiry. It will be no small task.

General Electric Expands Internet of Things to More Industrial Equipment

General Electric recently took a big step toward realizing the long overdue promise of the Internet of Things, when it more than doubled the industrial analytical software systems it offers to connect machines and handle their data. The company hopes to make its mark by significantly reducing the amount of “unplanned downtime” that industrial equipment undergoes, thereby bringing about economic benefits.

Is Gmail Wiretapping? Federal Court Considers How Internet Companies Can Read Our Email

If you had learned in 1980 that the Postal Service was opening your letters (postage cost 15 cents) and skimming them for keywords in order to send you more relevant advertising flyers, you probably would have blown a gasket. And yet, come 2004, you may have been among the flood of users who eagerly signed up for Google’s new email service, where all of your missives would be read by a computer in order to show you targeted online advertising. Are the two situations similar? That is what a Northern California federal district judge is trying to determine in a class action lawsuit that alleges that Google essentially wiretapped all Gmail users in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Designer Baby-Making System Patent Stirs Controversy

The Silicon Valley personal genetics company 23andMe has created a wave of controversy about “designer babies,” following its recent receipt of a patent for a system through which prospective parents could select sperm or egg donors most likely to give them children with specific characteristics, such as blue eyes or low risk of heart disease.

Pill-Sized Implant Enters Clinical Trials as Vaccine Against Deadly Cancer

A diverse team of Boston-based doctors and scientists has developed an approach that lets the patient’s own body serve as a bioreactor to nurture an powerful immune reaction to cancer. The process recently began a two-year clinical trial on 25 patients at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center after it resulted in a 90 percent survival rate in an earlier study on mice with otherwise fatal cancer.

Samsung Promises Flex-Screen Phone by the End of the Year

After first promising it as early as 2009, Samsung said recently that it will introduce a curved-screen smartphone in the coming months. Few details are available, but at a recent demo at the Computer Electronics Show, Samsung showed off a phone whose screen cut out at an angle on one side, displaying notifications in the additional space. But an ergonomically curved design or even a phone that unfolds to become a tablet could be in the works.

Facebook Building Major Artificial Intelligence System To Understand Who We Are

Facebook is developing deep learning software to understand what its users say and do online. Unless the company is considering major changes to its business plan, the company will use artificial intelligence to learn more about its users than what they share. And Facebook has a lot of data from which an artificial learning setup could draw inferences.

A Long-Lived Rodent Offers Hints to the Causes of Aging

The secret to a long life could lie with the naked mole-rat. This admittedly unsightly rodent is about the size of a mouse but lives about 10 times as long. Vera Gorbunova, a biologist at the University of Rochester, wants to know why. In her lab’s most recent study on this unlikely animal, published September 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Gorbunova and her colleagues show that naked mole-rat cells made just one-tenth the protein-synthesis errors of mouse cells. (Other studies put humans on a par with mice.) The accuracy may stem from an extra strand of RNA that makes their ribosomes different from those of most mammals.

FDA Approves Artificial Pancreas You Can Wear

The Food and Drug Administration recently issued its first-ever approval of an artificial pancreas that may make life easier and healthier for such patients. The device, made by Minneapolis-based Medtronics, relies on a computer algorithm to sync the results of a continuous reading of the wearer’s glucose levels and with a pump that provides appropriate amounts of insulin.

Life Expectancy Gains Are Slowing, Especially in the U.S.

Modern medicine has undeniably extended the lives of people around the world, but, recently, a few data points have begun to muddle the clean upward trends. Gains in life expectancy have begun to slow, particularly in the United States.

Stem Cell Breakthrough in Mice Points Toward a Way to Repair Tissue in Humans

Some Spanish researchers were the first to turn mature cells into stem cells inside the body itself. They prompted the cells of adult mice to regain the ability to develop into any type of specialized cell, which is normally only briefly present during embryonic development. The results were published in September in the journal Nature.

Nearly Half of U.S. Jobs Could Be Done by Computers, Study Says

A recent study out of Oxford University found that almost half of U.S. jobs are vulnerable to being taken over by computers as artificial intelligence continues to improve. The study, based on 702 detailed job listings, found that computers could already replace many workers in transportation and logistics, production labor and administrative support. But computers are also increasingly qualified to perform "non-routine cognitive tasks."

Google To Fight Aging With New Health Startup Calico – Experts Weigh In

Google made a big press splash when it announced the launch of a life sciences spinoff company, Calico. But what exactly will the company do? The breadcrumbs point to a data-driven approach to improving healthy life expectancy by attacking common diseases.

NSA Leaks Could Spur Security Renaissance

Most tech players are now engaged in a race to distance themselves from the NSA by safeguarding user data. Such efforts, if they reach fruition, will help users, who have ever-expanding parts of their lives in digital format stored with a handful of tech companies. But they shouldn't be mistaken for altruism.

Is The Developed World So Hygienically Clean That It’s Making Us Sick?

Few would argue the overall health benefits of living in the industrialized world. But does it also bring threats to health that aren’t present in countries that have stuck to their agrarian traditions? A recent Cambridge University study suggested that, paradoxically, improved sanitation in developed countries may leave residents more exposed to Alzheimer’s disease. The study is apparently the first to link Alzheimer’s disease to an increasingly accepted theory called the hygiene hypothesis.

Scientists Struggle to Provide Better Data on Fish Populations

Even as climate change has made it more important for us to monitor the health of marine ecosystems, the science of tracking and counting fish remains relatively rudimentary and haphazard. A recent study from the University of Mānoa proposes a method to expand what is known about fish populations and migrations within the limits of current underwater tracking technology.

3D Printing Delivers Functional Prosthetic Hands at a DIY Price

Dylan Laas, 12, says Robohand makes him look like Darth Vader. For $150, the 3-D printed Robohand also lets Dylan, who is missing the fingers on one hand as a result of Amniotic Band Syndrome, grab things with bendable fingers, which most prosthetic hands don’t.

iPhone 5S Will Be a Trial Balloon for Biometric Log-in Systems

Apple is giving biometrics a huge bump as a result of its latest iPhone, the 5S, which goes on sale September 20. The model employs fingerprint identification as the way users unlock their devices. If users like it, they may be more open to other biometric identification systems. But the reverse is also true.

Can Bacteria Fight Obesity? Gut Bacteria From Thin Humans Can Make Obese Mice Slim

Why are some people fat? It’s not just a question that fat people ask themselves, but also one that drives much medical research because obesity increases the risk of serious illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. The proposed causes of obesity range from diet plain and simple to hormonal conditions to genetics. A study recently published in Science adds to that list gut bacteria.

Israeli Researchers Debut Software That Extracts 3-D Objects From Photos

When editing digital images, algorithms struggle to differentiate one object from another, even when it seems obvious to the human eye. Some Israeli researchers have developed a workaround software that prompts the human user to do the identifying work, and then allows the computer to do what it’s good at: turning the object into data that can be manipulated.

Robots Are So Hot, Even Robotic Cockroaches Sell Like Hotcakes

The hottest holiday gift this year for children of tech geeks will be the Dash. That’s right, all across Silicon Valley, little Jacks and Jills will be diving into their Christmas stockings or Hanukkah gifts to find robotic cockroaches. If geek world isn’t your world, perhaps this requires some explanation.

Despite Faster Care, Heart Attack Mortality Rates Remain Steady

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world, accounting single-handedly for one in eight deaths. It has proved a difficult incumbent to unseat, and a new a study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows just how difficult. It turns out that faster treatment times have not budged the mortality rates among patients who present with heart attacks.

Ring Could Log Users In to Houses, Phones and Website as Soon as Next Month

After Google researchers floated the idea of a USB stick or a ring that would generate login keys, it appeared the Web giant would lead the way in wearable access keys. But a UK project recently closed a $380,000 Kickstarter campaign, promising delivery of 61,000 password-bearing rings in September.

Facebook Plans to Add Millions More Faces to Its Facial Recognition Database

Facebook is proposing to expand its use of facial recognition technology, which has been controversial since the company acquired Face.com in 2012. The Israeli startup’s app, which suggested whom a user might want to tag in photos, became an integral part of the social network.

Harvest Automation Brings Affordable Robotics to Big Ag

Harvest Automation has built a robot to do something not especially difficult or sexy: move potted plants around in nurseries and greenhouses. It’s a task the company decided to tackle with its first robot, dubbed Harvey, not because humans can’t do it, but because they don’t.

Scientists Grow Miniature, but Distinctly Human, Brain in the Lab

Austrian researchers have used regenerative techniques to grow a miniature human brain in the lab, they reported recently in the journal Nature. Using a bioreactor to improve cellular growing conditions, scientists obtained a brain-like organ that exhibited differentiated brain regions but stopped growing after a few months.

Singularity University Graduates 2013 Class: Startups Emerge To Solve Major Health Problems

Over the weekend, the latest graduates of Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program presented their proposals for using accelerating technologies to solve major world problems. The exhibition offered a sneak peek at the kinds of innovations that may hit the market two to five years from now.

Researcher Remotely Operates Colleague’s Brain Over The Internet

A network of connected brains is the Holy Grail of Internet communications: Rather than type out an email, one user simply sends his or her thoughts directly to another. Researchers at the University of Washington recently moved one step closer to that goal with an experiment in which a researcher in one building controlled the hand movements of a colleague in another building.

Brazil and India Lead the Way in Everyday Use of Biometrics

As the prices for various types of sensors have fallen in recent years, businesses have found all sorts of uses for them. And anyone who’s watched even one of Hollywood’s forays into science fiction knows that one main use for sensors will be to confirm identities using biometric traits. But here’s a plot twist: Developing countries like Brazil and India are leading the way to biometric forms of identity confirmation, in which sensors limit access to secure systems such as banking or governmental assistance programs, to users who possess anatomical traits, deemed unique to each person, that have previously been entered into a database.

Already in Use in Canada and India, Iris Scans Get Thumbs-Up in U.S. Government Study

As far back at the late 1980s, the U.S. Patent Office issued its first patent for iris recognition scans. (Retinal scans, though widely referenced, at not as widely used as iris scans.) The Canadian Border Services offer an opt-in expedited security program that relies on an iris scan. But some researchers who have studied iris-scanning technology have found too much variety in the scans generated over time by a single person.

Study Suggests Copper May Be the Culprit in Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers from the University of Rochester have pursued an increasingly common hypothesis that copper consumption may play a role in triggering Alzheimer’s disease. In findings published August 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they showed that exposing the brain to copper not only spurs the production of the amyloid beta protein that characterizes the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers, but also slows the brain’s efforts to clear out the plaque.

Tiny Lab-Grown Heart Beats On Its Own

A growing number of researchers are looking to build hearts, like other organs, from biological tissue. Such hearts have the added benefit of using the patient’s own tissue, reducing the chance of rejection. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh medical school made a significant breakthrough: They created a heart that beat on its own.

Solar Continued Exponential Growth in 2012, But Politics May Stymie Growth

At any given moment, the sun bathes the earth in enough solar energy to power the world 10,000 times over. Capturing and converting that energy into usable electricity presents major technical challenges. And, for the time being, an international tangle of politics and prices complicates matters further.

Drone Climbs Up Sewer Pipes to Perform Surveillance, Deliver Goods

The words robot and drone may conjure up images of a sleek, austere future, but some of the most compelling use cases for the machines involve situations that are too dangerous, or just plain messy, for a human to handle. To wit, two recent grads of the U.S. Air Force Academy have patented a drone that climbs into a building via the water or sewage pipes. The inventors, Kyle Fitle and David Carte, described the vehicle to the Washington Post as a way to facilitate communication between first responders and people trapped inside a compromised building.

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