Technology Tuesday: October 11
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: The age of vertical farming is upon us, A true cure for HIV, a genetics breakthrough that could help cure aggressive cancers, a step closer to an artificial brain, and a quantum powered robotic exoskeleton.
The Age of Vertical Farming is Upon Us
As cities expand, eating up swathes of countryside in the process, agricultural pioneers are finding new ways to grow the fresh produce we need, in containers, empty buildings and any other spare space they can find to create new vertical farms.
“We are just trying to imitate nature. It’s not as futuristic as it might sound,” insists a smiling Maarten Vandecruys, the youthful founder of Urban Crops, a new Belgian company specialising in indoor growing systems with the help of LED (light emitting diodes) lamps.
Behind him, in a spooky, futuristic purple halo of light, stand rows of shelves dedicated to horticulture. It is a closed environment with no natural light.
The purple glow is the result of red and blue lamps and is believed to provide the optimal growing conditions.
British Man May Have Been Cured of HIV
The medical community is abuzz after a new experimental therapy may have cured a 44-year-old British man of HIV. Scientists working on the experimental therapy say that the HIV virus is completely undetectable in the man’s blood. The research team investigating the new therapy consists of a team from five UK universities and the trial they are conducting currently has 50 people involved.
“We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable,” said managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, Mark Samuels in an interview with The Sunday Times.
MicroRNA Specifically Kills Cancer Cells With Common Mutation
Approximately 20 percent of all human cancers have mutations in a gene called KRAS. KRAS-mutant cancers are among the most difficult to treat, with poor survival and resistance to chemotherapy. Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center used microRNAs — small pieces of genetic material — to systematically inhibit thousands of other genes to find combinations that are specifically lethal to cancer cells driven by a KRAS mutation.
Computers Growing Neurons
Computers that function more like the human brain rather than conventional digital systems would be based on neuronal-like networks rather than series of binary 1s and 0s. They would be able to more easily deal with the vast data sets currently being generated around the world thanks to being massively parallel. To make these new generation of machines, researchers need to develop simple, energy-efficient electronic devices that mimic the brain’s building blocks – neurons and synapses.
The new device is made from a memory resistor or memristor (a resistor that “remembers” how much current has flowed through it). Unlike other modern-day electronics memories like those made from CMOS devices, memristors are able to remember their state (that is the information stored in them) even if you lose power. They also use much less energy and, importantly, so-called diffusive memristors can realistically mimic how ions, such as Ca2+, diffuse through synapses.
Quantum AI Allows One Human to Do the Work of Four
As if quantum computing wasn’t mind-bending enough, one of D-Wave Systems’ founders is now pursuing another futuristic idea: using artificial intelligence and high-tech exoskeleton suits to allow humans—and, at least according to one description of the technology, monkeys—to control and train an army of intelligent robots.
Geordie Rose is a cofounder and chief technology officer of D-Wave, the Canadian company selling machines that it claims exploit quantum mechanical effects to solve certain problems hundreds of millions times faster than traditional computers.
Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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