Category Archives: Cool things

Craig Venter lecture at the Beckman Symposium

It was a pleasure to meet Dr. Craig Venter at Stanford this week. As you can imagine, he had strong views and a huge amount of energy. I’m super-interested in all of his work, but was surprised to find out about his efforts to fight the spread of influenza using genomics. He convinced me that it is possible to create an annual flu vaccine that actually targets the flu of that year. That would be useful.

Craig Venter and Charles Shultz

Blind Minnesota man gets ‘bionic eye,’ beholds his wife for first time in a decade

A great story. And another example of how man is blending with machine.

From the NY Daily News:

“Zderad became the 15th person in the country, and the first in his home state, to receive the implanted sight device created by Second Sight, Inc., according to the Mayo Clinic.

The tiny implant works by sending light waves to the optic nerve, bypassing the damaged retina. Wires attach to a prosthetic device that looks like sunglasses and renders a certain amount of imagery.”

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Lots of people I know will be interested in this. Here’s the story from the researchers at Sanford-Burnham.

“We have developed a method using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells capable of initiating human hair growth. The method is a marked improvement over current methods that rely on transplanting existing hair follicles from one part of the head to another,” said Alexey Terskikh, Ph.D., associate professor in the Development, Aging, and Regeneration Program. “Our stem cell method provides an unlimited source of cells from the patient for transplantation and isn’t limited by the availability of existing hair follicles.”

91-year-old woman finishes San Diego marathon in record time

From Reuters:

“Harriette Thompson, who ran her first marathon at age 76, set a U.S. record on Sunday for the fastest finish in her 90-and-over age group, finishing the 26.2-mile Rock’n’Roll San Diego Marathon in seven hours, seven minutes and 42 seconds, according to race organizer Dan Cruz.”

64 Year-Old Diana Nyad Swims from Cuba to Florida

Interestingly, it’s a swim that she tried to do in her late 20s but failed. Victorious this time, she told reporters, “I feel like I could walk through a brick wall. … I think I’m truly dead center in the prime of my life at 64.” Awesome.

Here’s a few news stories about it: Associated Press and CBS News.

80-Year-Old Climbs Everest, Breaks Record

Another beautiful case of the ‘old’ not really being quite so old. 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura reached the top of Everest and called his daughter, saying that “This is the best feeling in the world.” Gotta love it. Here’s the WSJ article covering it.

H+ Summit June 12-13 @ Harvard

If you are looking for an interesting technology event to shake up your summer, I recommend the H+ Summit. It’s a two day event that explores how humanity will be radically changed by technology. Visionary speakers will explore the potential of technology to modify your body, mind, life, and world. Here’s the link for more info.

Biologist’s Mother’s Day Song

I’m just catching up on the DIY bio mailing list and saw this video. A great little tune that the scientifically-minded should like.

94 years old and ready to graduate from college

What a great story in today’s SF Chronicle.

Hazel Soares now 94, has been married twice, raised six kids, seen two economic depressions, 15 U.S. presidents and two world wars. She’s been a working single mother, a nurse, a concert event organizer and an art lover. She has more than 40 grandchildren.

And next month, at the 2010 commencement ceremonies for Mills College, Soares will become a college graduate, 78 years after her high school graduation from then-Roosevelt High School in East Oakland.

YouTube meets econ 101 — Keynes & Hayek rap it out

Spike TV’s John Papola and GMU economics professor Russell Roberts teamed up to create an exceptional and entertaining “rap video” pitting John Maynard Keynes against F. A. Hayek. If you ever wondered what would happen if the two famous economists went out drinking together, here’s one answer. Now, this is a great use of social media.

Singularity U kicks off & smart comments from Kurzweil

Anyone who seriously follows new technologies and cutting edge science knows that Singularity University officially launched this week. Here is an uplifting welcome message from Vice-Chancellor and Chairman Peter Diamandis and below is a thoughtful video featuring a Q&A with Chancellor Ray Kurzweil (he discusses the key goal of our species, FDA risk assessment, and big pharma).

I’m very happy to be involved with SU and am looking forward to seeing more thoughtful work coming out of the organization!

New device can detect viruses in a matter of minutes

From the Singularity hub:

“Researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have created a prototype device that is capable of detecting viruses and bacterium within the body in a matter of minutes rather than the week or two that is commonplace nowadays. The technique was first used to detect the Herpes Simplex Virus and scientists are now in the process of making it capable of detecting all known infectious diseases.”

Yeast-powered fuel cell feeds on human blood

From the New Scientist:

“Yeast cells feeding on the glucose in human blood might one day power implants such as pacemakers. A living source of power that is able to regenerate itself would eliminate the need for regular operations to replace batteries.”

Artificial muscles

From rdmag:

Researchers at the UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute have demonstrated a fundamentally new type of artificial muscle, which can operate at extreme temperatures where no other artificial muscle can be used—from below the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-196°C) to above the melting point of iron (1538°C).

The discovery is reported in the March 20 issue of Science under the title “Giant Stroke, Superelastic Carbon Nanotube Aerogel Muscles.”