Technology Tuesday: May 1st

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: SpaceX just launched a NASA satellite to look for exoplanets, scientists stored an entire album in DNA, a plan to sequence the genome of every type of complex life on earth, pig brains that are kept alive outside a body, and Amazon’s super secret home robot project.


SPACEX SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED NASA’S NEW EXOPLANET SEARCHING SATELLITE

Boiling atmospheres, roiling winds, dead shells of entities once vibrant — scientists have discovered some pretty amazing exoplanets in the past few years. But what we don’t yet know is if any of them host life.

Many of these exoplanets have been too distant to learn much about. But a new mission is seeking out exotic worlds a little closer to home.

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SCIENTISTS JUST STORED AN ENTIRE ALBUM IN DNA

A, T, G, and C are the 0s and 1s of living things. Unlike the code stored in silicon, data stored in DNA won’t degrade for thousands of years. And DNA can just hold a lot more data— one gram of DNA can store one billion terabytes of data (approximately a kajillion iPods).

Now scientists at ETH Zurich have figured out how to store one of humanity’s great works in the inalterable medium of DNA: Massive Attack’s epic album Mezzanine, which came out on this date 20 years ago. The British trip hop duo’s masterpiece now lives inside 5,000 tiny glass beads, spread out over almost a million short DNA strands.

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SCIENTISTS PLAN TO SEQUENCE THE GENOME OF ALL KNOWN SPECIES ON EARTH

Running a marathon. Finishing a novel. Dry January.

Think those things are ambitious? Now biologists are giving people who do these things a run for their money: a team of researchers just announced a proposal to sequence the DNA of all 1.5 million known species of complex life on Earth.

Even skydiving to land on a pyramid in heels seems easier than that.

The biologists behind the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) estimate it will take 10 years and $4.7 billion, but they firmly believe the benefits of this biological moonshot will far outweigh those costs.

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PIG BRAINS CAN NOW BE KEPT ALIVE OUTSIDE OF THE BODY

At a National Institutes of Health (NIH) meeting last month, Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan shared a bit of info he had hoped would stay in the room:

He had found a way to keep pig brains “alive” outside the body for up to 36 hours.

Today, MIT Technology Review reported on Sestan’s comments from the March 28 meeting, which Sestan told the publication he had “not intended…to become public.”

According to the report, Sestan and his team obtained between 100 and 200 pig brains from a slaughterhouse. Then, they restored circulation to the brains within about four hours of decapitation using “a system of pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood warmed to body temperature.”

What they found next was “mind-boggling,” according to Sestan: billions of active, healthy brain cells.

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AMAZON RAMPS UP WORK ON THEIR SECRET HOME ROBOT

By this time next year, you could have your very own robot to do stuff around your home, courtesy of Amazon.

Lab126, the company’s hardware research and development division, is quietly working on a domestic robot, according to a Bloomberg report. And it could be ready to roll (or, maybe, walk? who knows) into customers’ homes as soon as 2019.

Like any secret project worth its salt, this one has a codename — “Vesta” — and details are scant.

What we do know is that the project began several years ago, and that Amazon recently ramped up hiring for it. The company’s jobs page features openings for several robot-related positions for Lab126, such as “Senior Applied Robotics Scientist” and “Sr. Software Engineer, Robotics,” all posted since the beginning of the year.

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