Now that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned of a possible Cyber-Pearl Harbor, it’s time to change your passwords. And guess what: a more secure password is actually easier to remember, if you follow a very simple rule.

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Is your broccoli still organic if it’s harvested by droids? Plus “microRNA” in food can affect your genes, and glow-in-the-dark bacteria are the new invisible ink.

“Wired reports on Harvest Automation, a Massachusetts company developing small robots that can perform basic agricultural labor. The ones currently being tested in greenhouses and plant nurseries are ‘knee-high, wheeled machines.’ ‘Each robot has a gripper for grasping pots, a deck for carrying pots, and an array of sensors to keep track of where it is and what’s around it. Teams of robots zip around nursery fields, single-mindedly spacing and grouping plants. Key to making the robots flexible and cost-effective is designing them to work only with information provided by their sensors. They don’t construct a global map of their environment, and they don’t use GPS. The robots have sensors that detect boundary markers, a laser range finder to detect objects in front of them, and a gyroscope for navigating by dead reckoning. The robots determine how far they’ve traveled by keeping track of wheel rotations.’”

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/11/13/0410217/startup-testing-mobile-farmbots

You are what you eat–and your genes have to sit up and take notice when you do.

“Tiny bits of genetic material, called microRNAs, can make their way from the food you eat into your blood stream, and change how your genes are expressed, according to a new study. A team of Chinese scientists found tiny bits of white rice microRNA floating around in people’s blood after a meal. When they looked at what was happening on a cellular level, they found that the microRNAs were changing gene expression, decreasing levels of a receptor that filters out LDL (bad) cholesterol. When the scientists gave mice both rice and a chemical to block the microRNAs, their levels of that receptor returned to normal—showing that the microRNAs weren’t just swimming through the blood stream, but acting on genes in the animals’ cells.” http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/09/21/2251238/What-You-Eat-Affects-Your-Genes

Move over e-ink–now there’s b-ink.

“Researchers have invented a new form of secret messaging using bacteria that make glowing proteins only under certain conditions. In addition to being useful to spies, the new technique could also allow companies to encode secret identifiers into crops, seeds, or other living commodities.”
http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/09/28/2010234/Encoding-Messages-In-Bacteria

The FDA is considering whether to recognize a game aimed at schizophrenics as a “therapeutic drug.” Does that mean you can overdose on GTA? In any case, it’s interesting finally to see a convergence between the two industries that refer to their audience as “users.”

“In what’s believed to be an industry first, a developer has begun talks with the American Food and Drug Administration to get its game recognized as a therapeutic drug. ‘Brain Plasticity has been fine-tuning a game to help people with schizophrenia improve the deficits in attention and memory that are often associated with the disorder. Early next year, they will conduct a study with 150 participants at 15 sites across the country. Participants will play the game for one hour, five times a week over a period of six months. If participants’ quality of life improves at that “dosage,” Brain Plasticity will push ahead with the FDA approval process.’”

http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/09/27/060223/Developer-Seeks-FDA-Approval-For-Therapeutic-Game

Meanwhile, in other virtual health news:

“Rite Aid today announced it is offering virtual face-to-face physician consultations through an in-store kiosk. The virtual consultation services are currently being tested in the Detroit area, but the company expects they will do well and the virtual consults will expand to other regions. The service costs $45 for a 10-minute physician consultation. Consultations with nurses are free.”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/09/27/0541231/Rite-Aid-Drug-Stores-Offer-Virtual-Doc-Visits

But wait, there’s more:

They are the two big tech buzzwords of the moment. Now a combination of 3D printing and augmented reality can help researchers design more effective drugs.

At Arthur Olsen’s Molecular Graphics Lab at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, research teams model biological viruses – including HIV – and attempt to work out what kind of proteins and ligand molecules can latch onto them, to see which might inhibit or disable them.

As Olsen shows in this video, 3D printing allows them to create accurate plastic models of virus segments and the potential drug molecules. With smart use of magnets they can be made to self-assemble, too.

But for calculating which drug will likely connect with a receptor area using the least energy, augmented reality comes into play: using small webcam targets on the model virus, they can map it to a computerised model of itself so the researcher can see it move on screen.

(Via Bruce Sterling)

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/10/3d-printed-viruses-meet-their.html

And then there’s Deepak Chopra.

Leela, Deepak Chopra’s debut game for Xbox 360 Kinect and Wii, is part relaxation mechanism, part new age stoner candy.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/vu3zE2BRepc/

Not be outdone, AT&T wants to wire health care into diapers for the young and old. (Shades of Mike Scott’s wearable computing Friend Finder…)

a growing list of people could benefit from connected clothing, says AT&T, which claims ‘the stars have aligned’ for this technology. Prices of clothing sensors have come down; Wi-Fi and wireless networks have become ubiquitous; and mobile apps have become easier to design and simpler to use. ‘For example, parents of babies could cover them in connected clothing to check on their children when they were out of the house … And relatives of elderly people who are “aging in place” in their homes could check on their vital signs and make sure their loved ones haven’t fallen. This could help the elderly stay out of assisted living facilities, as most prefer to do.’”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/11/04/2119205/att-pushes-connected-clothing-for-healthcare

What could possibly go wrong?

Scientists Sequence Genome of Ancient Plague Bacterium

Researchers who have reconstructed the full genome of the ancient plague microbe now hope to bring it back to life to study what made it so deadly.

http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=132e74ce0ce1c1c50deab89c314939ca

Recent research reveals that the bacteria that help us digest food also influence what’s on our minds. The discovery that these microbial partners are our collaborators in cogitation as well as digestion unfortunately coincides with a separate study suggesting antibiotics can kill off gut bacteria permanently.

The good news:

“Hundreds of species of bacteria call the human gut their home. This gut ‘microbiome’ influences our physiology and health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand. Now, a new study suggests that gut bacteria can even mess with the mind, altering brain chemistry and changing mood and behavior (abstract).”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/08/29/2026226/Gut-Bacteria-Exert-Mind-Control

The bad news:

Helpful bacteria in our intestines take a pounding during an antibiotics treatment, but normally recover. Or so we thought. A new study suggests the drugs may permanently alter collections of healthy microbes in pregnant women and young children — for worse.

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wired/index/~3/KSqAxKXEVQg/

A man who lost both legs will be running for South Africa at the 2011 World Athletics Championships, thanks to metal blades where his legs used to be.

It’s easy to cry unfair, but perhaps a bit harder to sort out why his advantage is that much different from the “natural” advantage of, say, tall basketball players.

“The world’s first mechanically augmented athlete, Oscar Pistorius, will now compete against unaugmented peers on behalf of South Africa. He’ll be running in the 400m and 4x400m relay at the World Athletics 2011 Championships. Pistorius, a double leg amputee, has had special leg blades crafted for him that allow him to compete against his peers. He’s fought hard to prove they provide no advantage, and according to IAAF they do not. This should be a very interesting race to watch. His nickname: The Blade Runner.”

http://science.slashdot.org/story/11/08/09/0118202/Worlds-First-Cybernetic-Athlete-To-Compete

I say release a swarm of rogue phospholipids on the Deepwater Horizon and let ‘em barnacle it over. And let some loose on Tony Hayward while you’re at it.

http://tech.slashdot.org/story/10/09/19/232255/Self-Assembling-Photovoltaic-Cells dhj writes “MIT scientists have developed a self-assembling photovoltaic cell in a petri dish. Phospholipids (think cell membranes) form disks which act as the structural support for light responsive molecules. Carbon nanotubes help to align the disks and conduct electricity generated by the system with 40% efficiency. The assembly process is reversible using surfactants to break up the phospholipids. When filters are used to remove the surfactants the system reassembles with no loss of efficiency even over multiple assembly/disassembly cycles. The results were published September 5th in Nature Chemistry.”

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