Technology Tuesday: February 27th

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: Human-sheep hybrids, computers that process like human brains, fully autonomous vehicles in California, a space catapult startup, and water on the moon.


SCIENTISTS ANNOUNCE NEW ANIMAL-HUMAN HYBRID EXPERIMENT

A team of researchers from Stanford University has produced the latest result in the controversial practice of growing a hybrid species — this time by merging a sheep embryo with human stem cells.

The sheep-human hybrid experiment followed the pioneering creation of a pig-human hybrid by a team at the University of California, Davis back in 2016. The UC Davis research was originally undertaken to determine whether or not human organs could be grown in another species.

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COMPUTERS WILL PROCESS AND REMEMBER INFORMATION AT THE SAME TIME, LIKE BRAINS

As much as it might seem like our computers are “thinking” as they perform human-like tasks, like recognizing our faces and predicting what we might say next, they don’t actually function like the human brain — at least not yet. Researchers at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering have developed a device known as the “memtransistor,” which performs both memory and information processing functions. This makes it remarkably similar to a neuron and unlike a computer, which can only complete these processes separately. The team’s work was recently published in the journal Nature.

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CALIFORNIA IS LETTING FULLY DRIVERLESS CARS HIT THE ROAD

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is making it easier for carmakers to test their driverless cars on state roads. On February 26, the DMV’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved new regulations allowing companies to test fully driverless vehicles without a human behind the wheel.

Since September 2014, California has granted 50 autonomous vehicle manufacturers permits to test their self-driving cars with a person behind the wheel. The new rules lifting those restrictions go into effect on April 2, 2018, at which point the DMV can officially start handing out permits to interested manufacturers.

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NEW STARTUP PLANS TO LAUNCH SPACECRAFT WITHOUT ROCKETS

A launch startup is hoping to make companies in the spaceflight industry more equal by removing the need for expensive rocket boosters and the fuel that propels them.

With a design that seems more Wile E. Coyotesque than a legitimate space launch plan, a company called SpinLaunch is working on a means of catapulting items into space.

The company is working on building a spinning centrifuge — a piece of equipment that rotates an object around a fixed point — which will harness enough momentum to sling a payload into space. Sources told TechCrunch that the centrifuge will be able to launch satellites at hypersonic speeds around 4,800 kilometers per hour (3000 mph).

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NEW STUDY SHOWS WIDESPREAD WATER ON THE MOON

Recently, scientists discovered that there is an enormous quantity of water on the Moon, hiding beneath the surface. Since these initial findings, researchers with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado have found evidence that this water is widely distributed all across the Moon and is present during both the lunar day and the lunar night.

However, they also noted that the water seems to exist mostly as OH (a reactive hydroxyl molecule, instead of H2O) and may not be easily accessed. These findings are published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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