Technology Tuesday: December 12th

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: Insurance companies are beginning to offer discounts for automated cars, thought controlled prosthetics that actually restore the sense of touch, Boeing claims it will beat Space X to Mars, a “breakthrough” cancer product was approved by the FDA, and scientists have taken a huge step forward in the quest to create artificial life.


INSURANCE COMPANIES ARE NOW OFFERING DISCOUNTS IF YOU LET YOUR TESLA DRIVE ITSELF

While accidents have happened, one of the most appealing things about autonomous vehicles is their capacity to make our roads a safer place. Now, insurance companies are starting to offer financial incentives to promote adoption.

Britain’s largest automobile insurance company, Direct Line, has announced a 5 percent discount for customers who activate Autopilot functionality in their Tesla. It follows in the footsteps of Root, a startup that offers a similar promotion across nine states in the US.

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THOUGHT CONTROLLED PROSTHETICS RESTORE SENSE OF TOUCH

Researchers from the University of Utah have developed a mind-controlled robotic hand that can simulate 100 unique touch sensations in the user’s brain. The developers used a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded arm affectionately referred to as the LUKE, so named after Luke Skywalker’s prosthetic arm from the Star Wars films.

The updates developed by the Utah group involve implanting a device into the patient’s residual nerves, along with electrodes implanted in muscles to create a loop of information that is transferred into signals that the brain recognizes as sensations of touch.

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BOEING BELIEVES IT CAN BEAT SPACEX TO MARS

Boeing CEO and president Dennis Muilenburg recently told CNBC‘s Squawk on the Street host Jim Cramer that his company will be beating Elon Musk to the Red Planet. “…I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket,” he told Cramer after being asked whether he or Musk would “get a man on Mars first.”

Muilenburg’s answer reiterates a claim he made in October 2016 at The Atlantic‘s “What’s Next” conference — underwritten by Boeing — nearly word-for-word. There, he discussed impending innovations to low-Earth orbit space travel, space tourism and, almost as an afterthought, the first person on Mars. “I’m convinced that the first person to step foot on Mars will arrive there riding on a Boeing rocket,” he said at the recorded event.

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BREAKTHROUGH CANCER TEST IDENTIFIES WHICH OF 15 DRUGS MOST LIKELY TO BE EFFECTIVE

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it has approved a “breakthrough device” that has the potential to match cancer patients with individualized treatment regiments with just one test. This could allow doctors and patients to choose treatments that are most likely to be effective for specific types of cancer — and to make those decisions sooner.

The test, called FoundationOne CDx, is what’s known as a “companion diagnostic.” This means that rather than screening patients for cancer itself, the test is used on patients who’ve already been diagnosed with cancer in order to determine which drugs or therapies are best suited to their individual case.

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SCIENTISTS JUST TOOK A GIANT LEAP FORWARD ON THE QUEST TO CREATE ARTIFICIAL LIFE

At the core of all life on Earth is the molecule deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). From the different combinations of DNA’s nucleotide bases — adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) — come the various genetic expressions of a living being. But what if you could add more letters to this genetic alphabet?

Back in 2014, chemical biologist Floyd Romesberg did just that. He and his team at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, expanded the natural genetic alphabet to include an X and a Y in a strain of E.coli bacteria. Now, they’ve taken that work one step further through a study recently published in the journal Nature.


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