Technology Tuesday: February 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: Mammals that regrow limbs like lizards, the largest 3D printed rocket in history, a new gene editing technique, heartbeat powered cybernetic implants, and self aware robots.

A PROTEIN COCKTAIL ALLOWED MICE TO REGENERATE FULL TOES

For the first time, scientists have figured out how to regrow not just the bone but even the joints of a mouse’s amputated toes.

Normally mammals like mice don’t regenerate body parts — meaning the new development could help lead to futuristic medical procedures in which amputees are able to grow back their missing limbs.

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UK STARTUP SHOWS OFF WORLDS LARGEST 3D PRINTED ROCKET

We’ve seen 3D printed rockets before, but never on this scale.

UK space startup Orbex just showed off its Prime Rocket’s gigantic second stage — the “world’s largest 3D printed rocket engine,” according to a press release. The entire rocket, including the engine, will stand at 56 feet (17 meters) tall — roughly a quarter of the size of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, for context. In other words, things are heating up in the world of 3D printed spacecraft.

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TINY NEW CRISPR PROTEIN COULD MAKE GENE EDITING LESS RISKY

When people talk about the gene-editing tool CRISPR, they usually mean CRISPR-Cas9. But Cas9 is just one of several CRISPR-associated proteins. A few others are Cas12a, CasY, and CasX.

These proteins act as the “scissors” in the CRISPR system, which acts as a natural defense against viruses for some bacteria, similarly to the immune system in humans. The proteins cut DNA at just the right place, and each one has advantages and disadvantages in the nascent field of gene-hacking.

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NEW IMPLANT POWERS CYBORG DEVICES USING YOUR HEARTBEAT

After you get a medical device like a pacemaker implanted, you’ll probably need occasional surgeries to replace its batteries.

But thanks to new research, that could soon change. A new device can take the kinetic energy of a beating heart and converts it into electricity — a bold glimpse of a cyborg future in which your heart could power up implants like pacemakers.

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NEW ROBOT IS “ON THE PATH TO MACHINE SELF AWARENESS”

Researchers at Columbia University say they’ve built a robot arm that can construct a self-image from scratch — a capability they frame, provocatively, as a step toward machines that are truly self-aware.

“This is perhaps what a newborn child does in its crib, as it learns what it is,” said Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering who worked on the robot, in a press release. “We conjecture that this advantage may have also been the evolutionary origin of self-awareness in humans. While our robot’s ability to imagine itself is still crude compared to humans, we believe that this ability is on the path to machine self-awareness.”

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