Technology Tuesday: April 17th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: A DNA testing company is set to challenge 23andMe’s dominance, storing stem cells to treat future diseases, a new kind of computer memory, AI that mimics the way the human brain works, and the world’s first luxury space hotel.


DNA TESTING COMPANY HELIX TO START OFFERING GENETIC DISEASE TESTS

Genetic tests that were once only available through doctors are now sent right to your mailbox. PerkinElmer and its consumer genomics marketplace, Helix, have announced that they will soon start selling tests for serious genetic diseases.

Helix’s new offerings could make it a strong competitor against genetic testing giant 23andMe, which currently offers a limited array of tests for health conditions (which will soon see cancer risk added to the mix) alongside the ancestry tests that made it famous.

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STORING YOUR OWN STEM CELLS WHEN YOUR YOUNG COULD BE THE KEY TO TREATING FUTURE ILLNESS

Every time someone does a survey on what people are most afraid of, death is right at the top of the list (somehow public speaking often beats it, but that’s beside the point). With so many people afraid of dying, there are logically many out there looking for ways to prolong their lives. One possibly life-extending solution is becoming increasingly popular and studied: Your own stem cells.

Unfortunately for humans, our stem cells deteriorate and decrease in quantity with age. Any treatment meant to extend your life, possibly by preventing disease, would be best conducted using your stem cells from when you were very young. Fortunately though, one company is trying to combat that exact problem.

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A NEW KIND OF COMPUTER MEMORY COULD MAKE RAM AND ROM OBSOLETE

Between the glowing blue and yellow swirls of distant galaxies, this tiny pinprick of light doesn’t look like much: a white smudge on the infinite black of the universe.

But this tiny speck has enormous significance for astronomers. It’s the most distant star ever seen, affording astronomers a glimpse back in time.

The star, MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1 (more simply known as “Icarus”) was about 9 billion light years away when it emitted the light now reaching Earth. Most other objects spotted at this distance are either galaxies or exploding stars (AKA supernovas), which produce much more light than this distant glimmer.

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THE MILITARY WANTS TO CREATE AN AI THAT MIMICS THE WAY THE HUMAN BRAIN THINKS

No matter how many times you may hear that AI is going to make us human slaves and take over the world, it’s kind of hard to believe when we’re constantly confronted with AI that’s consistently stupid. A few reminders: Alexa once played porn when someone requested a children’s song; AI playing one of those old text-based computer games got stuck when it kept giving nonsense commands.

While that might save us from a Skynet-type situation, it’s problematic as we use AI for increasingly sophisticated applications, such as robotic prosthetics, writes DARPA’s Justin Sanchez in the Wall Street Journal. Brains and computers process information very differently, and the software for a prosthetic arm can’t keep up with all the different ways a person’s brain might attempt to control it. The result is that prosthetics spend an awful lot of time sitting still.

What if the software was better adapted to how brains actually work?

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THE FIRST LUXURY HOTEL IN SPACE IS PLANNED FOR 4 YEARS FROM NOW

Space tourism is no longer a distant dream: multiple companies want to be the first to get tourists off the ground for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Earlier this week, tech startup Orion Span joined the ranks of Virgin Galactic and Axiom Space by revealing a fully modular space vacation-station called “Aurora Station” for trips to space that can last up to 12 days.

Their timeline is aggressive: the company wants to take the first guests into space in just four years from now. But what does it take to get a room on the Aurora?

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