Txch This Week: Neural Signatures and Brand New Blood Groups


by Jared Kershner

This week on Txchnologist, we saw astrophysicists develop a new sensing technique to map out a section of the universe 10.8 billion light years away from Earth. Observing this immense expanse of space has enabled a clearer view of what the universe looked like 3 billion years after the Big Bang. By using faint light from 24 galaxies almost 11 billion light years away from our planet, the scientists were able to discern higher and lower densities of hydrogen gas in between these galaxies and us, providing a sharper portrait of the physical structure of our seemingly infinite cosmic web.

Researchers at Microsoft and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, have developed an app that uses your smartphone camera to translate hand gestures into input commands. The app processes only the outline of the gesture to minimize the processing needed. The team says the decrease in computing requirements means that their program will even be able to run on smaller pieces of wearable tech, such as smartwatches.

Space exploration company Astrobotic plans to begin flying missions to the moon in summer 2016, with enough room to deliver a satellite into lunar orbit as well as four robotic rovers to the surface of the moon. At least one of these rovers will be Astrobotic’s own autonomous vehicle for excavation and exploration.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Ancient Roman Nanotechnology —- The Lycurgus Cup

In the 1950’s the British Museum acquired one of the most amazing archaeological finds from Ancient Rome.  The Lycurgus Cup is a beautiful 1,600 year old goblet crafted from glass by the Ancient Romans.  The cup depicts the punishment of Lycurgus, a mythical king who was ensnared in vines for committing evil acts against the Greek god Dionysus.  The craftsmanship and artwork of the cup are certainly amazing on their own. During the age of the Roman Empire the Romans were master glassmakers, producing some of the finest pieces of glassware in history.   However the Lycurgus cup has one incredible property that goes far beyond traditional glassmaking.  When exposed to light, the cup turns from jade green into a bright, glowing red color.  For decades historians, archaeologists, and scientists had no idea why this occurred or how the Romans made the cup with such light changing properties.  Then in 1990 a small fragment of the cup was examined by scientists under a microscope.  What they discovered is truly amazing.

The Lycurgus cup is not only made of glass, but is impregnated with thousands of small particles of gold and silver.  Each of the gold and silver particles are less than 50 nano-meters in diameter, less than one-one thousandth the size of a grain of table salt.  When the cup is hit with light, electrons belonging to the metal flecks vibrate in ways that alter the color depending on the observer’s position.  What is even more amazing is that the addition of the particles to the glass was no accident or coincidence.  The Romans would have had to have known the exact mixture and density of particles needed to give the cup light changing properties.  This would have been done without the aid of a microscope, without the knowledge of atomic theory, and 1,300 years before Newton’s Theory of Colors.

Today the Lycurgus Cup has profound affects on modern nanotechnology.  After studying the cup, researchers and engineers are looking to adapt the technology for modern purposes.  A researcher from the University of Illinois named Gong Gang Liu is currently working on a device which uses the same technology to diagnose disease.  Another application of the technology is a possible device which can detect dangerous materials being smuggled onto airplanes by terrorists.  

The legacy of Ancient Rome continues.  Arena’s, baths, arches, and  nanotechnology. 

Toy chest?

The size of a speck of dust, this tiny box folded up all on its own when heated. Such an autonomous process is known as “self-assembly,” in which unorganized components form an organized structure solely through interaction with one another, with no outside direction. In this case, the researchers developed a 2-D pattern for a 3-D cube, using different metals for the “walls” than for the corners or “hinges.” When heated, the hinges balled up and in doing so pulled the walls of the pattern together, forming the box.

Credit: MRS

How Nanotechnology Could Reengineer Us

from Keithly:

Nanotechnology is an important new area of research that promises significant advances in electronics, materials, biotechnology, alternative energy sources, and dozens of other applications. The graphic below illustrates, at a personal level, the potential impact on each of us. And where electrical measurement is required, Keithley instrumentation is being used in an expanding list of nanotechnology research and development settings.



Viral Membrane Protects Medical Nanorobots From Immune System

Scientists say they have developed a cloaking device to spirit medical nanorobots of the future past immune systems into diseased cells. Their innovation comes from stealing a powerful weapon viruses wield to infect their hosts.

Some viruses wrap themselves in a protective membrane to avoid detection by their host’s immune system and enter cells they are trying to infect. A team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have been able to construct their own version of a viral membrane.

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Tiny, Logical Robots Injected into Cockroaches

Nanotechnology just got a little bit smarter.

At the Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Ido Bachelet led a team of scientists in building tiny robots that can respond to chemical cues and operate inside a living animal. More than that, they can operate as logic gates, essentially acting as real computers.

That gives the nanobots — on the order of nanometers, or one-billionth of a meter — the ability to follow specific instructions, making them programmable. Such tiny robots could do everything from target tumors to repair tissue damage.

The experimenters used a technique called “DNA origami” to make the robots. DNA comes in a double-helix shape, making long strings. And like yarn, the strings can be linked together to make different shapes. In this case, the researchers knitted together DNA into a kind of folded box with a lid, a robot called an “E” for “effector.” The “lid” opened when certain molecules bumped into it.

Nanomotors Operate Inside Living Cells 

For the first time, researchers from Penn State University have created “nanomotors” that can be controlled while inside a living cell. These microscopic synthetic motors can move inside a cell, spin around and bump against cell membranes.

According to the researchers, this breakthrough has the potential to improve cancer treatments and change the way medicine is administered, and could one day help treat diseases by mechanically manipulating cells.

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Next Nature: NANO Supermarket introduces new line of products

The NANO Supermarket presents speculative & probable nanotechnology products from the next ten years, to discuss desirable and unwanted futures.

During the next Dutch Design Week, the supermarket staff from Next Nature (they are also the inventors of the in-vitro meat cuisine) will introduce a new line of items and goods:

Among the fresh items are the Healing Game, the videogame that keeps you healthy and PastaMarine, the high protein pasta that everyone can cultivate at home. Other newcomers include the allergy sensitive cutlery, the spray to bake food, the genetically modified rose that increases the libido and more!

Come visit the NANO Supermarket to discover all the products and experience the impact of nanotechnology on everyday life.

NANO Supermarket @ Dutch Design Week Location: 18 Septemberplein in Eindhoven Dates: 18 – 26 October 2014 – 10:00-18:00

Be sure to check the new collection and buy some nano socks, cloud cryons, coating cola or keratin ink.

[NANO supermarket] [next nature]


Nanotechnology solutions to combat superbugs

At at a meeting of infectious disease experts in early 2012, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan, has warned vividly that the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria may pose grave risks for society: “A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” Chan pointed out that there is a global crisis in antibiotics caused by rapidly evolving resistance among microbes responsible for common infections that threaten to turn them into untreatable diseases. Every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless…

The first bug that became resistant to penicillin was Staphylococcus aureus3. This bacterium is often a harmless passenger in the human body, but it can cause illness such as pneumonia or toxic shock syndrome, when it overgrows or produces a toxin. In 1967, another type of penicillin-resistant pneumonia, caused by Streptococcus pneumonia and called pneumococcus, surfaced in a remote village in Papua, New Guinea. In 1983, a hospital acquired intestinal infection caused by the bacterium Enterococcus faecium joined the list of bugs that outwit penicillin. In the past half century, from penicillin to methicillin to vancomycin to daptomycin, a large number of multiple classes of antibiotics have been discovered that inhibit cell-wall synthesis.

Over the years, however, more and more microorganisms, exposed to more and more antibiotics, have adapted to these compounds. Resistance to antimicrobial drugs has now become a worldwide problem. As the use of antibiotics increases for medical, veterinary and agricultural purposes, the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria is an unwelcome consequence. The incidence of the multidrug resistance (MDR) of bacteria which cause infections in hospitals/intensive care units is increasing, and finding microorganisms insensitive to more than 10 different antibiotics is not unusual5. The most striking example is Tuberculosis (TB), which is one of the most deadly diseases in the world. The bacteria causing multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) are resistant to the most potent anti-TB drugs like isoniazid and rifampicin…

The emergence of superbugs has made it imperative to search for novel methods, which can combat the microbial resistance. Thus, application of nanotechnology in pharmaceuticals and microbiology is gaining importance to prevent the catastrophic consequences of antibiotic resistance. Nanotechnology based approaches are advantageous to improve various preventive measures such as coatings and filtration. Similarly, diagnosis using efficient nanosensors or probes can speed up the treatment process at an early stage of disease. Nano-based drug carriers for existing antibiotics enhance their bioavailability and make them more targets specific. Also the combination of nanoparticles (NPs) along with antibiotics makes them more lethal for micro-organisms…

General treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria requires multiple drugs regimen,which can cause many side-effects. Also, the treatment is costly and time consuming. Nanoscience can pave way for new treatment methods at much accelerated rate as compared to developing new antibiotics, which probably takes 10-12 yrs at an estimated cost of approximately $4 billion…

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Welcome to nanoscale fall, y’all. 

These lovely leaves are actually the dendritic sprawl of lithium growing inside a battery. We use a technique called transmission electron microscopy to study the emergence of the atomic structures that cause batteries to age so poorly. Mapping what goes wrong on this fundamental scale helps us design new and improved nanotechnology for everything from smartphones to electric vehicles.

Plus, the data is stunning.