Category: Technology

Data Storage in DNA Becomes a Reality

By Breanna Draxler | January 24, 2013 3:18 pm

Genetic and binary code. Image courtesy of artida / shutterstock

DNA is the building block of life, but in the future it may also be the standard repository for encyclopedias, music and other digital data. Scientists announced yesterday that they successfully converted 739 kilobytes of hard drive data in genetic code and then retrieved the content with 100 percent accuracy.

The researchers began with the computer files from some notable cultural highlights: an audio recording of MLK Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and, appropriately, a copy of Watson and Crick’s original research paper describing DNA’s double helix structure. On a hard drive, these files are stored as a series of zeros and ones. The researchers worked out a system to translate the binary code into one with four characters instead: A, C, G and T. They used this genetic code to synthesize actual strands of DNA with the content embedded in its very structure.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: data, data centers, DNA

Futuristic Design for Pint-Sized NYC Apartments

By Breanna Draxler | January 23, 2013 12:42 pm

Rendering of My Micro NY construction. Courtesy of NYC Mayor’s Office

How can New York City cram more people into its already overcrowded and overpriced housing market? To go about finding a creative and cheap answer, the city put a piece of public land up for grabs and sponsored a contest called adAPT NYC. The parameters? Build and operate the city’s first micro-unit apartment building in Manhattan.

The winner’s “My Micro NY” design beat out the 32 other submissions by squeezing 55 apartments into the building, each measuring a mere 250 to 370 square feet. The key was to minimize the square footage while maximizing natural light and a feeling of openness. According to the judges, the winning architects achieved this via high ceilings, big windows and multi-functioning spaces. The Juliet balconies didn’t hurt either. To escape the confines of these cube-like rooms, a whopping 18 percent of the building will be designated for shared use—lounges, party rooms, a rooftop garden and a fitness center.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Diagnostic Apps Fail Their Health Check

By Breanna Draxler | January 17, 2013 9:56 am

Image credit: Alexander Raths / shutterstock

In today’s digital world, smartphones can eliminate trips to the grocery store, the library or even the bank. But can downloading a skin cancer application really replace a doctor’s appointment? While avoiding the waiting room may have its appeals, a new analysis of apps to identify cancerous skin conditions shows that their accuracy is lacking and the consequences grave.

How can an app identify skin cancer, you might ask? The technology relies on digital image analysis. Users upload photos of their moles, blotches or blisters in question and the images are examined either by software or a set of eyes.

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How Flight Delays Spread Across U.S. Airports

By Lisa Raffensperger | January 11, 2013 2:38 pm

Real data for three days in 2010, with, from L to R, low, intermediate, and high levels of congestion. Orange and red are congested airports; green airports are not congested. Links connecting airports in the largest cluster of delays are in red.

If you’ve ever been stuck in an airport for hours on end, you know that explanations for such delays are often lacking. A new study of U.S. air traffic helps explain why minor delays spread through the system, and how to prevent them from doing so.

Researchers began with 2010 data from more than 6 million U.S. domestic flights, including their scheduled and actual times of departure and arrival. They were especially interested in how minor delays at a few random airports produced further delays across other parts of the network—i.e., not so much what might happen if a massive storm closed many regional airports, but what might happen if a random scattering of planes across the country each needed 10 extra minutes on the ground to fix mechanical problems. To investigate, researchers produced a computer model, similar to ones used in the past to predict how infectious diseases are carried by air travel.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts

Watch This: The Chemistry Behind Fluorescent Pigments

By Breanna Draxler | January 10, 2013 10:30 am

What do bouncy balls, reflective safety vests, and glow-in-the-dark unicorn posters have in common? They are all produced with fluorescent pigments. As explained in this American Chemical Society video, these pigments absorb and re-emit both visible and ultraviolet light, which makes them extra vibrant to the human eye, particularly under black light.

Fluorescent pigments got their start in the middle of the last century when two amateur chemist brothers combined fluorescent dyes with a plastic resin. The company they began now produces 4.5 million pounds of pigment every year, and in 2012 DayGlo Color Corp. was named a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: flourescence

Look at This: Robonaut 2 Put to Work Aboard the ISS

By Breanna Draxler | January 8, 2013 10:20 am

Robonaut 2 running the show aboard the International Space Station on January 2.

It looks like an astronaut. It acts like an astronaut. And here, on January 2, it operates the valves on a task board like an astronaut.

Robonaut 2 is the second iteration of NASA’s attempts to put a human-like robot in space, and he is fast approaching his second anniversary aboard the International Space Station. In this case he is taking directions from a crew on Earth to operate a slew of valves in the Destiny Laboratory, but he can also be controlled by his fellow astronauts in space or complete certain tasks all on his own.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space, Technology, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: NASA, Robonaut 2

Midnight Showing: Stunning and Scientifically Vital Satellite Views of Earth at Night

By Breanna Draxler | December 7, 2012 12:42 pm

For a clear and cloudless image, this compilation required shots from 312 different orbits taken in April and October of this year.

Yesterday NASA released images from its most recently launched Earth-orbiting satellite, the Suomi NPP. The images it captures demonstrate both the beauty and the benefit that can be gleaned from visions of Earth at night.

The Suomi NPP satellite is significantly more light sensitive than its predecessors. So sensitive, in fact, it can detect the light from a single ship at sea. To put that in numbers: Suomi’s spatial resolution is six times better than the devices that came before it, and the lighting levels show up with 250 times better resolution. And it also has an infrared sensor, which lets it track weather patterns even at night.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Space, Technology, Top Posts

Using the Tesla Effect, Electric Buses Charge as They Go

By Breanna Draxler | December 4, 2012 10:19 am

induction electric bus

A new electric bus prototype doesn’t just pick up passengers at its bus stops; it also picks up a charge for its battery.

Unlike its public transportation contemporaries, the electric “Aggie bus” at Utah State University has no overhead wires. Nor does it need to be plugged into a power source. Instead, the battery receives a five-kilowatt wireless boost from a charge plate installed at each bus stop. With consistent routes and frequent stops, the bus is able to charge as it goes rather than requiring a big battery on board to stockpile an entire day’s worth of power.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Feature, Technology

A California Station Tests Out New Biodiesel Made In Part By Algae

By Ashley P. Taylor | November 21, 2012 11:55 am

spacing is important

Fancy putting a bit of the aquatic in your gas tank? Go to California. A new kind of biodiesel, containing 20-percent algae-based fuel, went on sale at gas stations in the San Francisco Bay area last week as part of a one-month pilot program. The fuel emits 10 percent fewer hydrocarbons, 30 percent fewer particulates, and 20 percent less carbon monoxide than other biodiesels according to its producer, Solazyme, reports Yale Environment 360. This is the first time that an algae-based fuel has made it into cars.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology

Watch This: By Acting as a Plug, This Giant Water Balloon May Keep Subways Dry

By Breanna Draxler | November 20, 2012 11:26 am

Subway flooding was responsible for millions in damage during Hurricane Sandy, but an emerging technology may be able to prevent such soggy situations in the future.

This 32-by-16-foot balloon, featured in the NYTimes recently, can be filled with air or water to seal off a tunnel. The prototype of the inflatable plug has an outer webbing of liquid-crystal polymer fiber; the inside layer uses the same fiber and is reinforced with polyurethane to create a better seal. Researchers say the technology is still a year or two from release. The plug holds promise for preventing future flooding, but at $400,000 a pop, they would be a pretty pricey preventative measure.


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