Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Science Round-Up

A lot of the science that makes mainstream news is downbeat and gloomy. We're destroying the planet. We're running out of resources. We still can't manage to feed the global population. We may be making progress against cancer and AIDS, but then we might not. Birth control could be illegal this time next year. Luckily, a lot of the scientific research and advances are positive and awesome, to counter the trend. I much prefer the future they show.

On the medicine front, we now have a powerful acoustic microscope sensitive enough to hear microbes, if we can only find a way to make it work outside lab conditions. A British company has designed a gene sequencer in a USB stick, which makes sequencing portal and fast and could open up all kinds of avenues. (They call it MinION, which is adorable.) And we can now use 3D printing to create human tissue. It's only being used for drug testing right now, but hopefully in the near future we'll be able to substantially shorten organ transplant lists.

Continuing with biological news, there's an almost viable microbe that can turn seaweed into biofuel as well as a (natural!) plastic-eating fungus in the Amazon. Scientists can reconstruct sound from brainwaves, which I'll admit is a little scary. We've also germinated seeds from the last ice age, which says some very awesome things about the hardiness of plants.

And shifting to technology, we now have a computer program that paints, which is cool, but not quite as cool as flexible circuitry and a wearable electronics platform. Add those to Google's promised glasses and the following video, and we should be in the Future within the next couple years.



Of course, it's anyone's guess how and when all this stuff will be publicly available, rather than exorbitantly expensive and only owned by the rich. Or whether any of it's going to take off, even. Oh, for a time machine … Someone get on inventing that.

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