DNA: Is it the hard drive of the future?

DNA: Is it the hard drive of the future?

Researchers store a computer OS, an entire movie and a virus into DNA

Data storage technologies are having a hard time keeping up, as data in the world is doubling every two years, according to a 2014 estimate by EMC. As a result, researchers are looking at various methods to store data as a possible storage medium.

Recently, researchers Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski of the Data Science Institute at Columbia University and the New York Genome Center (NYGC) unveiled a new technique that allows DNA to store more data than ever before. In nature, DNA works by storing information about different forms of life and its characteristics using four base nucleotides: A, G, C and T. DNA has been studied for a while as a possible solution for storing human-generated data.

In essence, DNA works just like your hard drive, but instead of binary ones and zeros to store digital data, it uses a quaternary base to store information about a living organism’s genes. DNA is an ideal storage medium because it is ultra-compact and can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place, as demonstrated by the recent recovery of DNA from the bones of a 430,000-year-old human ancestor found in a cave in Spain.

“DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete – if it does, we have bigger problems,” said Yaniv Erlich from Columbia University.

The researchers showed how an algorithm designed for streaming video on a cellphone can unlock DNA’s nearly full storage potential by squeezing more information into its four base nucleotides. During their experiment, researchers said they successfully stored six files inside DNA molecules — a full computer operating system (KolibriOS), a 1895 French film – “Arrival of a train at La Ciotat”, a $50 Amazon gift card, a computer virus, a Pioneer plaque, and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon—into 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long.

After this, they retrieved the data using DNA sequencing technology and then a software to translate the code back into binary form so that it becomes readable again. The files were recovered with no errors.

“To retrieve the information, we sequenced the molecules. This is the basic process,” Erlich said.

Erlich explained how DNA is a better option than the current ones we already have. “DNA has several advantages to store information,” he said. “The first thing is that it’s very compact. In effect, it’s about one million times more compact than what you can get when you use a regular digital media.”

The storage capacity is massive; it can reach a density of 215 Petabytes per gram of DNA and can last a very long period of time, which can be over a 100 years.

“We believe this is the highest-density data storage device ever created,” said Erlich.

The main barrier at the moment of bringing this into commercialisation is time and money, as it takes about two weeks to synthesize the DNA sequence, while it costs $7,000 to sequence 2MB of data into DNA, and then another $2,000 to read it.

Despite this, the research team is very optimistic. When questioned how long it would take for this technology to be made available to everyone, Erlich replied that, “I would guess more than a decade. We are still in early days, but it also took magnetic media years of research and development before it became useful.”

The research has been published in the journal Science.

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NASA has released massive catalog of free and open source software, here is how you download it

NASA has released massive catalog of free and open source software, here is how you download it

NASA Releases Tons Of Free, Open Source Software, Here’s How To Get Them

You already know NASA, the space exploration arm of United States. From time to time NASA engineers write their own program for air and spacecraft design, business optimization, systems interaction and biomedical applications. Most of these programs are open source and have been made available to general public for free use.

NASA rolled out the third installment of the software.  The newly released NASA 2017-2018 software catalog comes both in hard copy and offline format. The first pilot edition of NASA’s software catalog was made available to the public in April 2014.

NASA Has Just Released Tons Of Free And Open Source Software, Here’s How To Get Them

The software is being made available through the NASA Technology Transfer Program keeping in line with its motto fo “Bringing NASA Technology Down to Earth”. The available codes are listed in the NASA Software Catalog, now in its third edition, published this week. While much of the software is entirely in the public domain, some programs may only be released for use on a government project or are subject to export controls allowing use only by U.S. persons.

NASA says that the freely released tools will be useful for top professionals, entrepreneurs, small businesses, industry, and academia and have a potential to create jobs, save lives, and earn revenue.

The NASA catalog contains some award winning software likeTraffic Aware Planner, is an in-cockpit tool to assist pilots in requesting the most efficient route of flight taking into consideration the position and track of nearby aircraft. The second, Pegasus 5, is a computational fluid dynamics solver, which allows users to calculate the pressure and temperature of fluid flows to model system performance, such as lift and drag from an airframe in flight. Although likely not as popular as astronaut ice cream, the most requested piece of NASA software in 2016 was Schedule Test and Assessment Tool, a plug-in to Microsoft Project to automate reporting of project performance data.

The NASA catalog also contains some super software which can help ordinary computer users. Here are some of the popular tools that have been open sourced by NASA:

  • Worldview Satellite Imagery Browsing and Downloading Tool
  • Global Planetary Reference Models
  • NASA Root Cause Analysis Tool
  • PixelLearn
  • Cart3D
  • JPL’s Stereo Vision Software Suite
  • Video Image Stabilization and Registration
  • What’s Up at Wallops (Android and iOS)
  • Lossless Hyper-/Multi-Spectral Data Compression Software

Here is how you can download the free software tools released by NASA:

NASA has nicely indexed the software it is releasing to the public. Here’s the complete list of tools released by NASA.

To download any of this software, feel free to visit this link. You may find the site little unresponsive or unavailable due the rush to download the free offering from NASA, but the wait is certainly worth it.

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This flow battery can last a full 10 years on single charge

This flow battery can last a full 10 years on single charge

Battery issues? No problem, this new renewable Flow Battery can last for a full 10 years

While we have moved from basic cell phones to feature phones and now smartphones, one thing has remained constant. Ditto for laptops which have seen doubling of processing power but the Lithium-Ion charging bot smartphones, laptops and other gadgets like cameras have remained more or less like they were 10 years ago. In fact, the further development of these gadgets has been stuck for want of more power or rather uninterrupted power. If all things go according to the plan of Harward University researchers, we could see a new Flow Battery which would power any device for a full 10 years before need a recharge.

Researchers at Harvard University have developed a new liquid flow battery that uses organic structures for power that could potentially help it last for a decade. Currently “flow batteries” store energy in a liquid and wear out rapidly when used regularly.

Developed by a team at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the battery stores organic molecules dissolved in neutral pH value water. According to the researchers, the new battery can run for a decade or more without maintenance.

“Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement,” said lead author Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science. “If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.”

Apparently, this ensures a long lifespan due to the water’s lack of toxicity and corrosiveness.

“Lithium ion batteries don’t even survive 1000 complete charge/discharge cycles,” says Michael Aziz, one of the researchers on the project. “Lithium ion batteries are the standard energy source for many modern electronics.”

Flow tanks work on a simple size principle – the bigger the better. In simple words, bigger tanks store more energy.

The new creation could provide us with non-corrosive, non-toxic batteries which are cheaper to produce than today’s batteries, as well as having a considerably longer lifetime of approximately 10 years.

This flow battery could also greatly cut costs. It could also meet the United States Department of Energy’s target of a battery that can store energy for less than $100 per kilowatt-hour, as this would make renewable energy competitive with energy produced from traditional power plants.

“If you can get anywhere near this cost target then you can change the world,” Aziz says. “It becomes cost effective to put batteries in so many places. This research puts us one step closer to reaching that target.”

The research was published in ACS Energy Letters.

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Scientists Discover World’s 8th Continent Known As ‘Zealandia’

Scientists Discover World's 8th Continent Known As ‘Zealandia’

Zealandia: World’s 8th Continent Is 5 Million Square Kilometer Big!

Scientists say they have identified a new continent called ‘Zealandia’ hidden in the Pacific Ocean and attached to New Zealand, according to a new report.

A team of 11 geologists submitted their findings in a paper known as “Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent” in Geological Society of America, and claimed Zealandia to be recognised as the world’s eighth continent in its own right.

“Based on various lines of geological and geophysical evidence, particularly those accumulated in the last two decades, we argue that Zealandia is not a collection of partly submerged continental fragments but is a coherent 4.9 Mkm2 continent,” the study says.

Zealandia is a 4.9 million-square-kilometre expanse of continental crust that’s 94% underwater, with only New Zealand and New Caledonia sitting above the ocean’s surface. This is mostly as a result of crustal thinning before the super continental break-up,which can be seen using upgraded satellite-based elevation and gravity map technology.

The continent is a 3 million-square-mile region in the southwest Pacific Ocean. The islands are connected by “submerged continental crust across a large area of Earth’s surface,” the authors of the study wrote. This would be the youngest, thinnest and most submerged continent on the planet.

Currently, there are six recognised continents geographically: Africa, Antarctica, Australia, Eurasia, North America, and South America. Eurasia is the geographical landmass that includes Europe and Asia. Therefore, the new addition of Zealandia brings the total number of official geologic continents to seven.

Typically, Zealandia’s crust thickness ranges from 10 to 30km (6 to 19 miles) and is roughly the size of India. It’s believed to have broken off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then again from Australia about 80 million years ago.

“This is not a sudden discovery but a gradual realization; as recently as 10 years ago we would not have had the accumulated data or confidence in interpretation to write this paper,” the researchers wrote.

“Zealandia illustrates that the large and the obvious in natural science can be overlooked,” reads the journal article. “The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list. That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented makes it a useful and thought-provoking geodynamic end member in exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust.”

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Humans must become Cyborgs or become irrelevant in AI age, warns Elon Musk

Humans must become Cyborgs or become irrelevant in AI age, warns Elon Musk

Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk Wants Humans To Become Cyborgs To Avoid Getting Redundant

Human brains need to merge with AI to stay competitive with machines to avoid becoming redundant, said Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX at the World Government Summit in Dubai this week, which brings together prominent international thought leaders who discuss the future of governments to improve the lives of citizens around the world.

“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence. It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output,” the South African-born businessman outlined to the leaders from 139 nations as Musk spoke during day two of the Summit.

He also spoke of his fear of “deep AI”, artificial intelligence that’s “smarter than the smartest human on earth”, labeling it a “dangerous” situation.

Computers can communicate at ‘a trillion bits per second’, while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second,” explained Musk. “In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there’s a need to merge with machines,” added Musk.

“Some high-bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,” Musk continued.

In the past too, Musk has voiced his concerns over the dangers of AI and recently Stephen Hawking, he and many other scientists created a set of 23 principles to ensure that AI is developed in an ethical way.

According to Musk, AI threatens to displace jobs in the short term —particularly those belonging to delivery drivers, cabbies, and chauffeurs, among other professions that require a human to operate heavy machinery.

He said: “The most near term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … That is going to happen much faster than people realise and it’s going to be a great convenience. “But there are many people whose jobs are to drive. “In fact I think it might be the single largest employer of people … Driving in various forms.

“So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick,” he added.

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Even after 6 Years Extreme Radiation Levels Inside Fukushima Deep Fry A Cleanup Robot

Six years after Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, a cleanup Robot deep fried due to high radiation levels

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened after a tsunami following the T?hoku earthquake on 11 March 2011. Immediately after the earthquake, the tsunami destroyed the emergency generators that would have provided power to cool the reactors. The insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen-air chemical explosions, and the release of radioactive material in Units 1, 2 and 3 from 12 March to 15 March. Loss of cooling also caused the pool for storing spent fuel from Reactor 4 to overheat on 15 March due to the decay heat from the fuel rods. This incident happened six years ago and the Japanese scientists are still trying to clear up the mess.

When they introduced a remotely controlled cleanup robot to drain the nuclear plant, they found that even after six years the radiation levels in Fukushima remained so high that the cleanup robot was deep fried. Eventually the scientists had to aport the entire cleanup mission.

Earlier this week, the robot equipped with a high-pressure water pump and a camera designed to withstand up to 1,000 Sieverts of cumulative exposure had been pulled off the inactive Reactor 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, citing the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), reported The Japan Times on Friday.

A TEPCO official said a reading of 500 to 600 sieverts should be “basically correct,” especially given that the camera, which was designed for 1,000 sieverts of cumulative exposure, broke down within two hours.

Last week, Gizmodo reported that radiation levels inside the containment vessel of reactor No. 2 at Fukushima reached a jaw-dropping 530 sieverts per hour, a level high enough to kill a human within seconds.

Japan Nuclear

“The abbreviated mission suggests that radiation levels inside the reactor are even higher than was reported last week — and that robots are going to have a hell of a time cleaning this mess up,” reports Gizmodo.

It was the first time that a robot had entered the reactor since the earthquake and tsunami disaster six years ago. The robot only covered a part of the course it was supposed to take while removing thick layers of dirt and other wreckage with a scraper clearing ways for another remotely controlled robot to enter the area. It may have been completely destroyed had it entered deeper into the reactor. Its operators aborted the mission before losing complete control of the probe.

While extreme radiation levels have been registered within the reactor, officials insist that no new leaks from the facility or radiation leaking into the air or sea have been detected.

The failure might force Japan to rethink the robot-based strategy it has adopted for locating melted fuel at Fukushima.

“We will further study Thursday’s outcome before deciding on the deployment of the scorpion,” said TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto.

Since TEPCO’s attempt is the first to get so close to the melted fuel, it is likely to show even higher radiation readings. TEPCO is still in the early stage of assessing the conditions in and around the damaged reactors to figure out the best and safest ways to remove the fuel. The decommissioning work is expected to take decades.

Source: The Japan Times

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Researchers develop a self-destructing gadget that destroys a smartphone in 10 secs

Researchers develop a self-destructing gadget that destroys a smartphone in 10 secs

Researchers create a self-destructing gadget that can completely destroy a smartphone in just ten seconds.

If you have seen James Bond movies, you would have watched a scene in which Bond is trapped in some dire situations and he flicks a button on his gadget and the gadget goes boom temporarily blinding his enemy and letting him escape. Well, that might soon be a reality thanks to researchers who have developed a new prototype which can destroy any smartphone in 10 secs flat when triggered.

Researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia recently demonstrated a prototype of a self-destructing device that can destroy a smartphone or other electronic device in as little as 10 seconds, and be programmed to automatically trigger itself under certain conditions.

A self-destruct mechanism based on an expanding polymer layer can destroy a silicon chip within 10 seconds

The self-destruct mechanism consists of a special polymer layer that rapidly expands up to seven times its original size when subjected to temperatures above 80°C (176°F), effectively bursting the bursting open the given device from the inside. Heating the polymer is achieved using roughly 500 to 600 milliwatts of electricity, which trigger the reaction and crumple the chip within 10 to 15 seconds.

“The expandable polymer expands much more and causes sufficient tension in the thin silicon—which is sitting on top of the polymer—so it simply crumples and then breaks,” Muhammad Mustafa Hussain, an electrical engineer with KAUST explains.

The temperature needed to activate the self-destruct mechanism could even be tuned between 80- and 250 degrees C by using different polymeric materials. The result is a device that works perfectly fine one second, and is rendered completely inoperable the next.

The mechanism was successfully tested by the KAUST researchers successfully using different methods, as if in a real-life situation, including a GPS sensor that automatically destroyed the device when it passed beyond the boundary of a designated area. They also built an app that could communicate with a specific device and trigger the burst with a password. Lastly, one involved fitting a pressure sensor inside the device that caused it to self-destruct if someone forced the cover off.

Hussain believes that the device has a lot of potential applications and could be a huge hit. “The first customers would be the ones who need data protection: Intelligence communities, corporations, banks, hedge funds, social security administrations, collectors who handle massive data,” he told Spectrum. The self-destructing gadget can be installed on most contemporary chipsets, which means it doesn’t require a specialized device to work.

Currently, the technology is still in its testing and prototyping stage, but the KAUST team hope to implement the mechanism at a grand stage in the coming months that would successfully destroy not just a chip, but the storage drives and other components as well. The overall cost of adding the self-destruct security mechanism would likely be about $15 or less, depending on volume, added Hussain.

The research will be revealed in one of the upcoming issues of the Advanced Materials Technologies, a renowned international journal focused on engineering techniques.

This isn’t the first time such a technology has been invented. Recently, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has developed a glass chip that shatters within 10 seconds.

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Scientists discover the world’s oldest emoji written 328 years ago

Scientists discover the world’s oldest emoji written 328 years ago

Believe it or not: World’s first emoji was drawn by a lawyer 382 ago

If you thought that emoji came with computers and smartphones, you are mistaken. Emojis have existed for years, however, the oldest emoji in existence was discovered recently. Researchers from the National Archives in Trencin, Slovakia claimed to found what they believe is the world’s oldest original emoji drawn by a lawyer called Jan Ladislaides – a 382-year-old smiley face.234131-1

Believe it or not: World's first emoji was drawn by a lawyer 382 ago

Head of the archive in Trencin Peter Brindza in Slovakia said: “We found a smiley face, which dates from the 17th century – from 1635 – by notary Jan Ladislaides next to his signature.”

Drawn in a legal document dating back to 1635, Ladislaides had signed his go-ahead on the municipal account documents by drawing a small circle with two dots and a line – an image recognised today as a smiley-face emoji. Although the drawing could also be interpreted as a straight-face expression, the picture follows a passage that states the lawyer had no problems with the accounts, Brindza was quoted as saying by the ‘New York Post’. There also appears to be a clown’s finger with a hashtag drawn on it, but the archivists are unsure of its context.

Believe it or not: World's first emoji was drawn by a lawyer 382 ago

“I do not know if it’s the oldest Slovakian smiley or the world’s oldest. But it is certainly one of the oldest in the Trencin region,” said Brindza.

The previous oldest smiley is commonly acknowledged to have come from the poem, “To Fortune” by Robert Herrick, from England in 1648. This new discovery beats that by 13 years.

The first set of digital emojis was created by the Japanese engineers in 1999, and the word “emoji” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013.

It has been a long time since Ladislaides drew a smiley-face emoji in his memo. Little must he have known that the simple emoji that he drew would one day be an eternal part of our day to day life. To put things in perspective, an estimated 6 billion emojis are sent throughout the world every day. Ladislaides must be smiling in his grave.

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First ever blueprint for constructing an open-sourced quantum computer unveiled

First ever blueprint for constructing an open-sourced quantum computer unveiled

Scientists Unveil First Ever Blueprint To Build A Large Scale Quantum Computer

Looks like quantum computers should soon be commonplace if researchers have it thier way. Researchers at the University of Sussex have unveiled the first ever open-source practical blueprint for how to build a large-scale quantum computer – the most powerful computer on Earth – that could reform industry, science, medicine and commerce.

The study, which was a collaboration between University of Sussex (UK), Google, RIKEN (Japan), Siegen University (Germany), and Aarhus University (Denmark), is featured in the journal Science Advances.

In the past, scientists had proposed using fiber optic connections to link individual computer modules to obtain efficient computing powers.

The invention introduces connections created by electric fields that let charged atoms (ions) to be transported from one module to another.

Researchers said they have managed to overcome some important obstacles, developing a “new approach (that) would allow 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current state-of-the-art fibre link technology,” said the study, which would be a leap forward toward building a universal quantum computer.

“For many years, people said that it was completely impossible to construct an actual quantum computer,” said Professor Winfried Hensinger, head of the Ion Quantum Technology Group at the University of Sussex, who has been leading this research.

“With our work, we have not only shown that it can be done but now we are delivering nuts and bolts construction plan to build an actual large-scale machine,” he added.

“It was most important to us to highlight the substantial technical challenges as well as to provide practical engineering solutions,” said lead author Bjoern Lekitsch, also from the University of Sussex.

Based on this design, the team will construct a prototype quantum computer at the University as a next step, which they hope to complete in two years.

Hensinger said: “The availability of a universal quantum computer may have a fundamental impact on society as a whole. Without doubt it is still challenging to build a large-scale machine, but now is the time to translate academic excellence into actual application building on the UK’s strengths in this ground-breaking technology. I am very excited to work with industry and government to make this happen.”

While we won’t be seeing quantum computers in our homes or offices anytime soon, the blueprint is for building quantum computers at an industrial scale. They are proposed to be built alongside individual sophisticated vacuum apparatus and integrated quantum computing silicon microchips where the ions are stored using electric fields. They are likely to take up entire buildings, not just space on an office desk.

Once built and successfully integrated into the industry, the computers know-how mean it would have the potential to answer many questions in science; create new, lifesaving medicines and solve the most complex scientific problems, and unravel mysteries of deep space.


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Mind reading device reveals that deeply paralyzed patients want to live despite their disabilities

Deeply Paralyzed Patients Answer Via Mind-Reading Device- "Yes We Want To Live"

Connected to Mind-Reading Device, Deeply Paralyzed Patients Say They Want to Live

Acute paralysis is one of the worst conditions that a human can suffer. It paralyzes your body and leaves in a zombie like state requiring 24×7 nursing. You would have thought that most such deeply paralyzed patients would have lost their will to live. No! Actually, they want to live. Scientists have used a new mind-reading device to find out whether these deeply paralyzed patients want to live or die and most of them replied in positive!

The researchers have developed a new brain-computer interface records “yes” and “no” answers in patients who lack any voluntary muscle movement. The researchers who are from Europe say they’ve found out the answer after using a brain-computer interface to communicate with four people completely locked in after losing all voluntary movement due to Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

In response to the statement “I love to live” three of the four patients replied yes. They also said yes when asked “Are you happy?” The fourth patient, a 23-year-old woman, wasn’t asked open-ended questions because her parents feared she was in a fragile emotional state.

The new mind-reading tool has been developed by neuroscientist Niels Birbaumer from Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva. Birbaumer’s brain-computer interface fits on a person’s head like a swimming cap and measures changes in electrical waves emanating from the brain and also blood flow using a technique known as near-infrared spectroscopy.

To verify the four could communicate, Birbaumer’s team asked patients, over the course of about 10 days of testing, to respond yes or no to statements such as “You were born in Berlin” or “Paris is the capital of Germany” by modulating their thoughts and altering the blood-flow pattern. The answers relayed through the system were consistent about 70 percent of the time, substantially better than chance.

The new device opens up new vistas in the treatment of patients suffering from acute paralysis. Though the tools are in a primitive stage and can only record yes and nos from the patients, researchers feel that the tool can soon help for better treatment of such patients. The tool is also a manna from heaven for relatives and loved ones of the patients as they can finally communicate with such patients.

The study has been published in the journal PLOS Biology.

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