AI Balloons 🎈 Gut depression 🦠 Lab meat 🍗!

Technology News

Alphabet’s Loon hands the reins of its internet air balloons to self-learning AI

Alphabet’s Loon, the team responsible for beaming internet down to Earth from stratospheric helium balloons, has updated its navigation system to no longer run on human-designed software. The company’s internet balloons are steered around the globe by an artificial intelligence – in particular, a set of algorithms both written and executed by a deep reinforcement learning-based flight control system. “Across our simulation benchmark we were able to not only replicate but dramatically improve our navigation system by utilizing RL.” Loon says its system qualifies as the world’s first deployment of this variety of AI in a commercial aerospace system.

Chinese team test jet engine ‘able to reach anywhere on Earth within 2 hours’

Chinese scientists have built what they claim is a revolutionary plane engine for Mach 16 flight called the “standing oblique detonation ramjet engine”, or sodramjet for short. The test flight of a prototype in a hypersonic wind tunnel in Beijing suggested unprecedented performance in terms of thrust, fuel efficiency and operational stability. The team put the engine in a powerful wind tunnel that simulated flight conditions at nine times the speed of sound. In theory, the air-breathing engine could take a flight up to 16 times the speed of sound, but the only wind tunnel on Earth capable of simulating such flight is still under construction in Beijing.

Science News

Microbiome study could change the way doctors diagnose depression

Scientists discovered evidence linking gut microbiome disturbances to major depressive disorder. The findings highlight fascinating links between gut health and mental health and charts a path toward a potential tool capable of diagnosing and treating depression. The team pinpointed three bacteriophages, 47 bacterial species, and 50 fecal metabolites that were significantly different in people with major depressive disorder compared with healthy people. Based on these differences, researchers developed a biomarker panel that they hope can one day offer a companion to clinical interviews and offer extra information for diagnosing clinical depression

Harvard Medical School scientists reverse age-related vision loss, eye damage from glaucoma in mice

Scientists have restored vision in mice by turning back the clock on aged eye cells in the retina to recapture youthful gene function. The team used an adeno-associated virus (AAV) as a vehicle to deliver into the retinas of mice three youth-restoring genes — Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4 — that are normally switched on during embryonic development. This represents the first demonstration that it may be possible to safely reprogram complex tissues, such as the nerve cells of the eye, to an earlier age. The approach could pave the way for therapies to promote tissue repair across various organs and reverse aging and age-related diseases in humans.

Business News

Singapore issues first regulatory approval for lab-grown meat to Eat Just

Singapore Food Agency has approved Eat Just’s cell-cultured chicken, making the country the first in the world to give its go-ahead to selling meat created in a lab. Cultured meat is made by putting stem cells from the fat or muscle of an animal into a culture medium that feeds the cells, allowing them to grow. Eat Just plans to price it similar to that of premium chicken. “We’re going to start out with a single restaurant and then scale out to five, 10, 15 and then eventually into retail.” As Eat Just scales up, the company aims to keep reducing the price, which should also attract consumers and restaurants to try the product.

Salesforce buys Slack in a $27.7B megadeal

Salesforce announced today it is wading deeper into enterprise social by acquiring Slack in a $27.7 billion megadeal. What really has set Slack apart from the pack, at least initially, was its ability to integrate with other enterprise software. When you combined that with bots, those intelligent digital helpers, the company could potentially provide Salesforce customers with a central place to work without changing focus because everything they need to do can be done in Slack. The new deal puts Salesforce more on par — and in competition — with Microsoft, whose Teams product has been directly challenging Slack in the market.

Miscellaneous News

Archaeologists Just Discovered Tens of Thousands of Ultra-Realistic Ancient Rock Paintings in the Colombian Amazon

Archaeologists have uncovered tens of thousands of Ice Age paintings of wild animals and humans on a series of rock faces in the Amazon. “From aquatic environments you have fish, turtles, anacondas, boas. But you also have birds, like eagles and king vulture. Then, of the terrestrial animals, monkeys, deer, giant sloth, and horses.” There is also abstract imagery as well as depictions of finely drawn figures. The artists who created the images were very exacting in their materials as well as the siting of the paintings and the preparation of the surfaces.

Architects Propose World’s Tallest Tower That ‘Eats Carbon’ in NYC

The French architecture firm Rescubika has come up with an interesting concept for a “carbon eating” residential tower that might just be a vision of the future of city living. The firm proposes an enormous “green” residential tower building cited in New York City’s Roosevelt Island. Mandragore was designed for the “City of Tomorrow Project,” which envisions a carbon-neutral New York City by 2050. According to the designers, the 2300 feet+ building would include somewhere in the region of 1,600 trees and almost 300,000 square feet of living plant walls over its 160 floors. 

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