Lab-produced wood doesn’t grow on trees

Each year, the world loses about 10 million hectares of forest – an area about the size of Iceland – because of deforestation. At that rate, some scientists predict the world’s forests could disappear in 100 to 200 years.

In an effort to provide an environmentally friendly and low-waste alternative to deforestation, researchers at Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) have pioneered a tunable technique to generate wood-like plant material in the lab. This could let someone ‘grow’ a wooden product like a table without needing to cut down trees, process lumber, etc.

The researchers have now demonstrated that, by adjusting certain chemicals used during the growth process, they can precisely control the physical and mechanical properties of the resulting plant material, such as its stiffness and density. They have also shown that, using 3D bioprinting techniques, they can grow plant material in shapes, sizes and forms that are not found in nature and that can’t be easily produced using traditional agricultural methods. They report their work in a paper in Materials Today.

“The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need, so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste,” says lead author Ashley Beckwith, a recent PhD graduate at MIT. “There is a lot of potential to expand this and grow three-dimensional structures.”

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Startup Plans Nuclear-Powered Data Centers on the Moon

Lonestar Data Holdings to launch RISC-V servers to the Moon.

By Anton Shilov

Modern datacenters consume loads of power, require extremely complex cooling, and are physically vulnerable to natural disasters and military conflicts. Datacenters 10 years from now will get even more complex, power hungry, and hot. There are several radical ways to solve power and cooling problems, but one startup plans to solve the problem by putting data centers on the Moon, and it already has two spaceflights booked to place equipment on the moon. The end goal is to have a network of servers on the moon that’s fed by a nuclear reactor. 

As it turns out, Lonestar Data Holdings plans to establish a network of data centers on the Moon, reports DataCenterKnowledge. In fact, the company has already contracted with Intuitive Machines for its first two missions to the lunar surface and to build its first proof-of-concept data services payload, thus building the first data center on the Moon. The actual RISC-V-based machines will be built by Skycorp.  

“Data is the greatest currency created by the human race,” said Chris Stott, Founder of Lonestar. “We are dependent upon it for nearly everything we do and it is too important to us as a species to store in Earth’s ever more fragile biosphere. Earth’s largest satellite, our Moon, represents the ideal place to safely store our future.” 

There are numerous challenges with installing a data center on the lunar surface. Of course, the expenses associated with delivering the servers to the Moon are one of them, but powering the servers and connecting them to the Internet are two other challenges. 

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Interactive virtual reality emerges as a new tool for drug design against COVID-19

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Interactive virtual reality emerges as a new tool for drug design against COVID-19

Bristol scientists have demonstrated a new virtual reality [VR] technique which should help in developing drugs against the SARS-CoV-2 virus—and enable researchers to share models and collaborate in new ways. The innovative tool, created by University of Bristol researchers, and published in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling, will help scientists around the world identify anti-viral drug leads more rapidly.

A SARS-CoV-2 enzyme known as the main protease (Mpro) is a promising target in the search for new anti-viral treatments. Molecules that stop the main protease from working—called enzyme inhibitors—stop the virus reproducing, and so could be effective drugs. Researchers across the world are working to find such molecules. A key predictor of a drug’s effectiveness is how tightly it binds to its target; knowing how a drug fits into the protein helps researchers design changes to its structure to make it bind more tightly.

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New nuclear engine concept could help realize 3-month trips to Mars

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The concept engine is twice as efficient as chemical rockets

Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has developed a concept for a new Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) engine and delivered it to NASA. Claimed to be safer and more reliable than previous NTP designs and with far greater efficiency than a chemical rocket, the concept could help realize the goal of using nuclear propulsion to revolutionize deep space travel, reducing Earth-Mars travel time to just three months.

Because chemical rockets are already near their theoretical limits and electric space propulsion systems have such low thrust, rocket engineers continue to seek ways to build more efficient, more powerful engines using some variant of nuclear energy. If properly designed, such nuclear rockets could have several times the efficiency of the chemical variety. The problem is to produce a nuclear reactor that is light enough and safe enough for use outside the Earth’s atmosphere – especially if the spacecraft is carrying a crew.

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Caterpillar bets on self-driving machines impervious to pandemics

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Jason Ramshaw, Commercial Manager for Caterpillar Construction Digital & Technology, demonstrates the Cat Command remote control console to operate a 320 excavator at Caterpillar’s Construction Industries

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Question: How can a company like Caterpillar CAT.N try to counter a slump in sales of bulldozers and trucks during a pandemic that has made every human a potential disease vector?

Answer: Cut out human operators, perhaps?

Caterpillar’s autonomous driving technology, which can be bolted on to existing machines, is helping the U.S. heavy equipment maker mitigate the heavy impact of the coronavirus crisis on sales of its traditional workhorses.

With both small and large customers looking to protect their operations from future disruptions, demand has surged for machines that don’t require human operators on board.

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PriestmanGoode designs autonomous on-demand passenger and cargo vehicles for Dromos

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PriestmanGoode has designed an electric and autonomous concept vehicle that would be part of a transport network providing private trips for passengers and urban freight delivery.

 The modular concept car was chosen as winner of a competition by autonomous network transit (ANT) company Dromos to imagine a vehicle that would run on its own dedicated road-like system.

Aiming to reimagine mass transit for the 21st century, Dromos’ brief was to design a safe, reliable and affordable vehicle that focuses on modularity, sustainability and flexibility of use.

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NASA funded scientist claims new thruster can approach the speed of light

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The concept of interstellar travel has fascinated the human race for thousands of years.

(TMU) – The concept of interstellar travel has fascinated the human race for thousands of years. Discoveries made in the last century, however, have both bolstered and dampened that fascination. While the number of habitable star systems available for visitation has grown exponentially, the distance between these systems has grown more bleakly, mathematically daunting.

If we sent our fastest space probe to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, it would take tens of thousands of years to arrive. While galaxies look like homogenous swirls of star clusters, the reality is we are looking at it from a vast, intergalactic scale; the extraordinary distances between stars still make crewed interstellar travel a dubious proposition that many scientists believe won’t be possible for centuries if at all.

However, in recent years, a number of technological models of propulsion – such as light sails pushed by lasers, ion thrusters, fusion engines, wormholes, and even hydrogen bombs – have made the concept of an interstellar probe that can travel a certain percentage of the speed of light increasingly possible.

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“Impossible” EmDrive engine could make interstellar travel a reality

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Latest research aims to resolve whether the exciting and controversial thruster could actually work.

The EmDrive could usher in an era of interstellar voyages for human beings. Or it could be a failed experiment that unsuccessfully tried to break the laws of physics. A pair of upcoming papers may just settle that decades-long argument.

The EmDrive was first proposed in 2001 by scientist Roger Shawyer. In theory, the drive—also called a radiofrequency resonant cavity thruster—converts electricity into microwaves and forces them through a sealed cone. The microwaves would bounce around the reflective surface of the cone, and since the microwaves carry momentum, they would impart that momentum to that surface. The waves would exert more force on the larger end of the cone than the smaller one, creating enough thrust—without the need for propellant—to push a spacecraft through the vacuum of space. And, the drive could theoretically increase momentum once it starts moving.

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Microsoft’s underwater server experiment resurfaces after two years

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Turns out, dunking data centers is a great idea

Back in 2018, Microsoft sunk an entire data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea, plunging 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage 117 feet deep in the ocean. Today, the company has reported that its latest experiment was a success, revealing findings that show that the idea of an underwater data center is actually a pretty good one.

On the surface, throwing an entire data center to the bottom of the ocean may seem strange, but Microsoft’s Project Natick team hypothesized that placing would result in more reliable and energy-efficient data centers.

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UAVOS presents concept SumoAir urban air taxi

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UAVOS has presented their air taxi SumoAir as an autonomous concept for vertical e-mobility.

 The all-electric, tandem rotor helicopter concept consists of a five-seater passenger including the pilot cabin that can be attached to either a car or a flight module.

The helicopter will be operated both manually and autonomously. The project is a part of UAVOS’ R&D efforts to explore and understand the fundamental technologies behind electric aircraft and the urban air mobility (UAM) market.

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TrueLimb robotic arms look real and cost less than traditional prosthetics

Each arm from Unlimited Tomorrow is custom 3D-printed for a perfect match.

Easton LaChappelle was 14 years old when he designed and built his first robotic arm. Ten years later, he’s now the CEO of his own company, looking to upend the prosthetics industry.

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A.I. can tell if you’re a good surgeon just by scanning your brain

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Could a brain scan be the best way to tell a top-notch surgeon? Well, kind of. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University at Buffalo have developed Brain-NET, a deep learning A.I. tool that can accurately predict a surgeon’s certification scores based on their neuroimaging data.

This certification score, known as the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery program (FLS), is currently calculated manually using a formula that is extremely time and labor-consuming. The idea behind it is to give an objective assessment of surgical skills, thereby demonstrating effective training.

“The Fundamental of Laparoscopic Surgery program has been adopted nationally for surgical residents, fellows and practicing physicians to learn and practice laparoscopic skills to have the opportunity to definitely measure and document those skills,” Xavier Intes, a professor of biomedical engineering at Rensselaer, told Digital Trends. “One key aspect of such [a] program is a scoring metric that is computed based on the time of the surgical task execution, as well as error estimation.”

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