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Ed Yong: Suicidal crickets, zombie roaches and other parasite tales

Ed Yong: Suicidal crickets, zombie roaches and other parasite tales

New Bone Grown from Monkey's Own Skin Cells Researchers have been able to grow new bone using a monkey's own skin cells. The US study is the first time such a development has been shown in an animal that is similar to humans. Professor Martin Pera, program leader of the ARC Stem Cells Australia, says the work, published today in Cell Reports, is "another step towards the development of safe stem cell therapies for human disease". PHOTOS: Funniest-Faced Monkeys The study uses induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), which are derived from adult skin cells and can be reprogrammed to work as other cells. Pera says pluripotent stem cells can be used to make any type of healthy human tissue and therefore have great potential for treatment of disease. However, he adds, knowledge of whether stem cell therapies will be safe and effective in a clinical setting is limited. Previous work in this field has relied on scientists giving human iPSC products to immunodeficient mice, she says. Monkey Math and Other Number-Crunching Critters

Eavesdropping on Bees Reveals State of the Environment Researchers have translated the “conversations” honeybees have with each other, to the point that scientists can now eavesdrop on such communications to learn from bee wisdom, a study finds. Honeybees, via their waggle dances, share detailed information about the environment, so scientists may now monitor wide sections of a given landscape without even breaking a sweat. Details about the research are published in the latest issue of the journal Current Biology. Photos: Animals Live in Democracies Too “In the past two decades, the European Union has spent €41 billion ($56.17 billion) on agri-environment schemes, which aim to improve the rural landscape health and are required for all EU-member states,” co-author Margaret Couvillon of the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex said in a press release. “However, there is little evidence evaluating these schemes,” she continued. Photos: Faces of Bees, Flies and Friends How Killer Bees Kill

Hacker-Themed Video Game Debuts Hacker-themed video game "Watch Dogs" makes its hotly anticipated debut on Tuesday in a world grappling with real-life fears about privacy in the Internet era. France-based Ubisoft's new title features a protagonist who controls the world around him by hacking into systems and has generated intense buzz for eerie parallels with the storm about US surveillance. Games typically use weapons ranging from guns and swords to lasers to special powers to defeat enemies, overcome obstacles or simply score points. But in "Watch Dogs", the player-controlled antihero can access everything from the cellphone conversations and medical records of passers-by to computers which control traffic lights, to advance through the game. Hackers' Playbook: Common Tactics: Photos "We knew we had a relevant topic," Canadian Ubisoft developer Dominic Guay told AFP as the game was previewed at the E3 video game trade show last year. Hackers Target Cards; Here Are Safer Ways To Pay

Quantum Teleportation Feat Brings Ultrafast Computer Networks Step Closer To Reality No one's getting beamed up anytime soon, but teleportation may have taken a big step closer to reality. Researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands say they have succeeded in accurately transferring information from one quantum bit to another quantum bit located 3 meters away -- without the information traveling through the intervening space. A quantum bit (qubit) is analogous to a conventional computer bit -- though unlike a conventional bit, a qubit can represent more than two possible values. The feat is considered a critical step toward the development of a network of so-called quantum computers. In addition, quantum computers would allow data transfer to be completely secure, according to a written statement released by the university. To achieve their feat, the researchers exploited quantum entanglement. "Entanglement is arguably the strangest and most intriguing consequence of the laws of quantum mechanics," Prof. Take a seat, Scotty.

Military's 'Iron Man' Suit Debuts This Month A prototype of the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, will be available later this month, and a more complete version should be ready between 2016 and 2018, according to Battelle, a science and technology research institute headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. "How do you protect against direct action engagement?" said John Folkerts, vice president for the special operations market group at Battelle. To protect troops in combat, soldiers must have access to better armor, better protection and better communication, Folkerts told Live Science. [Humanoid Robots to Flying Cars: 10 Coolest DARPA Projects] Soft Exoskeleton Flexes Its Artificial Muscles In addition to the TALOS, Battelle is helping develop other innovative technologies such as robotic underwater vehicles, digital "heads-up" displays and a de-icing aircarft coating. Ironman suit 11 Insane Inventions You Didn't Know Existed The suit is being developed by engineers at MIT, the U.S. Heads-Up Displays

Laser Alters Fruit Flies' Minds, Makes Them Dance We must admit, we did not see this one coming: A team of Austrian scientists has developed a laser system that causes fruit flies to dance. Dubbed FlyMAD (short for Fly Mind Altering Device), the system uses cameras to track fruit flies in flight and hit them with specially calibrated laser beams. The system is so precise that it can not only target individual fruit flies, it can hone in on specific parts of the flies’ bodies. Feminine Appeal Can Be a Curse (for Fruit Flies) The mind of a fruit fly, it turns out, is not terribly complex. The researchers at the Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna were able to trigger dancing and singing responses in the flies, behavior correlated with a persistent state of courtship. Flies Use Fighter Pilot Maneuver to Avoid Swatting Lasers, dancing and perpetual courtship behavior? via DVICE Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Brain-Zapping Implant Could Aid Injured Soldiers DARPA's SUBNETS program (short for Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies) will fund teams of researchers to develop brain interfaces, computational models of brain activity and clinical therapies for illnesses, including depression, chronic pain, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. The project is part of the Obama administration's BRAIN Initiative, a collaborative effort between government agencies and industry to revolutionize understanding of the human brain. "The neurotechnologies we will work to develop under SUBNETS could give new tools to the medical community to treat patients who don't respond to other therapies, and new knowledge to the neuroscience community to expand the understanding of brain function," Justin Sanchez, the DARPA program manager for SUBNETS, said in a statement. Mind Meld! In health and disease, brain activity is not confined to distinct parts of the brain, but rather, is distributed over different neural systems.

Learn Mad Skills With Superhuman Speed The glove looks humdrum, like a garment you might pick up at a sporting-goods store. It’s made of soft black leather and fingerless, like a cyclist’s or weightlifter’s glove. The similarity is, however, deceiving. "I have a glove that can teach you how to play a piano melody,” Thad Starner declares when I call to chat about the future of wearable computing. Now a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the technical lead of Google Glass, he helped pioneer the field in the 1990s as a student at MIT. Tech-Ed Out Clothing Is Fashion Forward: Photos “Really?” “Sure,” he says and invites me to Atlanta to see for myself. Caitlyn Seim, a Ph.D student, slips the glove onto my hand. But she doesn’t tell me which tune I’ll be learning. Once every minute for the next two hours, the motors in the glove vibrate across my fingers. Finger Computer Reads Books Aloud At last, Starner escorts me to a keyboard. “Start here,” Starner says, hitting the first note.

Our Best Bet for Colonizing Space May Be Printing Humans on Other Planets Assuming human deep space travel turns out to be not just incredibly dangerous, but perhaps “crazy idiotic" and "laughable," as Harvard biologist Gary Ruvkun put it, the tenacious dream of an interstellar civilization forces some out-of-the box thinking. What if, instead of rocketing humans to other planets, we made an exact copy on site? Adam Steltzner, the lead engineer on the NASA JPL's Curiosity rover mission, believes that to send humans to distant planets, we may need to do one of two things: look for ways to game space-time—traveling through wormholes and whatnot—or rethink the fundamental idea of "ourselves." "Our best bet for space exploration could be printing humans, organically, on another planet," said Steltzner on stage at Smithsonian Magazine’s Future Is Now conference in Washington, DC this month. The "printing" idea starts out by encoding human genetic information in bacteria so that our DNA can hitch a ride to another planet. Beautiful, fantastic, and totally bonkers.

Yámana Science and Technology - Events 'Mapping the Systems of Science and Technology: Assessing Tools for Teamwork' was the next stage in convening critical conversations for the future of science and technology. This hands-on working conference included 'Tools Tueday' with an intro to mindfulness training (used since 2006 at Genentech-Roche) and 'Dynamic Interactions' lead by top facilitators in the industry. We explored a) the importance of impacts of workplace culture on individual and team performance b) key challenges in our systems of science and technology and c) some attributes of effective collaboration. We looked at how and where needs, challenges and opportunities interlock in the systems of science and technology, utilizing visual processes for 'Mapping the Systems of Science and Technology.' This technique is used for communicating key knowledge in strategic and visionary planning.

Focus Area Forum On June 25, the Office of Naval Research will host the next Focus Area Forum. The forum is designed to assist ONR in developing the scientific foundation and advanced technologies in the area of data science. It will support tactical decision-making by bringing together researchers and Department of Defense stakeholders in panel discussions, Q&As, poster sessions and one-on-one conversations about research directions and challenges. (See registration details below.) Current Landscape: Assured information for naval forces relies heavily on extracting actionable knowledge for tactical decision-making from often heterogeneous data. Data science is the combination of how data is represented, organized, processed, shared and interpreted under relevant context and with necessary assurance. The challenge is: to automatically make use of this rich data -- with its varying degrees of quality, assurance, and uncertainty -- in the context of a mission to support tactical warfighting objectives.

2014 Eco-Engineering Forum: Harnessing the Potential of Big Data The focus for the 2014 Eco-Engineering Forum is, The New Eco-System of Information: Harnessing the Potential of Big Data. This event is the sixth in a series of annual forums sponsored by Hitachi, and featuring panels organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and The Brookings Institution. Keynote Address The Honorable Terry McAuliffe, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia Panel 1: Big Data and Transportation We are at a point in American history where the confluence of technology and the built environment has tremendous ability to fundamentally change the way we experience places, how metropolitan areas function, and how we engage in public dialogue. Panel 2: Meeting Environmental Challenges