Bringing you the positive STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) news every Monday and explains why these new futuristic innovations are meaningful. The goal is to leave you feeling optimistic and say "That's Cool!"
92. Asteroid Investigating Solar Sail Spacecraft, 3 Billion Dollar Reverse Aging Startup, Neuralink Gearing Up For Human Clinical Trials
NASA Solar Sail Spacecraft to Chase Tiny Asteroid After Artemis I Launch | SciTechDaily (01:25)
Launching with the Artemis I uncrewed test flight, NASA’s shoebox-size Near-Earth Asteroid Scout will chase down what will become the smallest asteroid ever to be visited by a spacecraft.
The asteroid being targeted is, 2020 GEnear-Earth asteroid (NEA) that is less than 60 feet (18 meters) in size
Asteroids smaller than 330 feet (100 meters) across have never been explored up close before.
The spacecraft will use its science camera to get a closer look, measuring the object’s size, shape, rotation, and surface properties.
It will ride as one of 10 secondary payloads aboard the powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will launch no earlier than March 2022.
After it is dispensed in space it will use stainless steel alloy booms to unfurl a solar sail that will expand from a small package to a sail about the size of a racquetball court, or 925 square feet (86 square meters).Will generate thrust by reflecting solar photons – quantum particles of light radiating from the Sun
Sunlight acts as a constant force, so a tiny spacecraft equipped with a large solar sail can eventually travel many miles per second.
Maneuver by tipping and tilting its sail to change the angle of sunlight
The mission will act as a nimble scout for future human and robotic missions that may utilize asteroid resources – and will gain important planetary defense insights about this class of NEA.
Julie Castillo-Rogez, the mission’s principal science investigator, provides insight as to why looking at even small asteroids are important:“Although large asteroids are of most concern from a planetary defense perspective, objects like 2020 GE are far more common and can pose a hazard to our planet, despite their smaller size.”
Altos bursts out of stealth with $3B, a dream team C-suite and a wildly ambitious plan to reverse disease | FierceBiotech (08:11)
Early details of Altos leaked out last year when MIT Technology Review reported Jeff Bezos had invested to support development of technology that could “revitalize entire animal bodies, ultimately prolonging human life.” The official reveal fleshes out the vision in more detail
Hal Barron, M.D, the future CEO of Altos, provided a statement on the company:“It's clear from work by Shinya Yamanaka, and many others since his initial discoveries, that cells have the ability to rejuvenate, resetting their epigenetic clocks and erasing damage from a myriad of stressors. These insights, combined with major advances in a number of transformative technologies, inspired Altos to reimagine medical treatments where reversing disease for patients of any age is possible.”
Yamanaka is a 2012 Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of the ‘Yamanaka factors’ — four transcription factors (Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc and Klf4) that can reprogram cells to roll back cellular aging and repair tissues.
Altos is bringing in the biggest names in life sciences to staff out their C level positions at the company.
The team will use $3 billion in capital committed by investors to turn breakthroughs in our understanding of cellular rejuvenation into transformational medicines.
Co-founder, Rick Klausner, M.D., stated in a press release:"Remarkable work over the last few years beginning to quantify cellular health and the mechanisms behind that, coupled with the ability to effectively and safely reprogram cells and tissues via rejuvenation pathways, opens this new vista into the medicine of the future. Altos begins with many of the leading scientists who are creating this new science. Together, we are building a company where many of the world's best scientists can collaborate internally and externally and develop their research with the speed, mission, and focus of private enterprise. Our success will depend upon a culture of intense collaboration, enthusiasm, and openness."
91. An Ocean Battery, Regrowing Knee Cartilage, BMW’s Magnet Free Electric Motor
'Ocean battery' targets renewable energy dilemma | TechXplore (00:57)
A wind turbine sitting idle on a calm day or spinning swiftly when power demand is already met poses a problem for renewables, and is one researchers think can be tackled under the sea.
The company, Dutch startup Ocean Grazer, has come up with the concept of a “ocean battery”
relies on massive flexible bladders on the seabed, which are filled up with seawater by the wind farm.
When the power is needed, the pressure of the ocean squeezes the water through the system on the seafloor that includes turbines—and the result is electricity.
Systems that rely on pressure are already used in hydroelectric dams that pump water into the reservoir behind the dam when electricity demand falls, effectively storing it to come back through the facility's turbines.
Bliek, the Ocean Grazer CEO, said undersea systems take advantage of the pressure below the ocean that is free, while creating a system that he said is about 80 percent efficient in storing energy.
Bliek said his company aims to have an offshore system in place by 2025, though one will be deployed onshore in the northern Netherlands by 2023.
Though various aspects of energy storage via pressure are not new, the pairing of it with green energy sources carries significant potential.
Compelling Evidence That Multiple Sclerosis Is Caused by Epstein-Barr Virus | SciTechDaily (06:37)
Multiple sclerosis (MS), a progressive disease that affects 2.8 million people worldwide and for which there is no definitive cure, is likely caused by infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), according to a study led by Harvard researchers.
Establishing a causal relationship between the virus and the disease has been difficult because EBV infects approximately 95% of adults, MS is a relatively rare disease, and the onset of MS symptoms begins about ten years after EBV infection.
A study was conducted on more than 10 million young adults on active duty in the U.S. military and identified 955 who were diagnosed with MS during their period of service.
The team analyzed serum samples taken biennially by the military and determined the soldiers’ EBV status at time of first sample and the relationship between EBV infection and MS onset
the risk of MS increased 32-fold after infection with EBV
Serum levels of neurofilament light chain, a biomarker of the nerve degeneration typical in MS, increased
The delay between EBV infection and the onset of MS may be partially due the disease’s symptoms being undetected during the earliest stages and partially due to the evolving relationship between EBV and the host’s immune system.
Alberto Ascherio, senior author of the study stated, “This is a big step because it suggests that most MS cases could be prevented by stopping EBV infection, and that targeting EBV could lead to the discovery of a cure for MS.”
Regrowing knee cartilage with an electric kick | MedicalXPress (12:57)
Arthritis is a common and painful disease caused by damage to our joints. Normally pads of cartilage cushion those spots. But injuries or age can wear it away.
As cartilage deteriorates, bone begins to hit bone
The best treatments available try to replace the damaged cartilage with a healthy piece taken from elsewhere in the body or a donor
healthy cartilage is in limited supply
The best possible treatment would be to regrow healthy cartilage in the damaged joint itself.
"The regrown cartilage doesn't behave like native cartilage. It breaks, under the normal stresses of the joint", says UConn bioengineer Thanh Nguyen.
Nguyen's lab has also been working on cartilage regeneration, and they've discovered that electrical signals are key to normal growth.
A steady electrical field encourages cells to colonize and grow into cartilage.
They designed a tissue scaffold made out of nanofibers of poly-L lactic acid (PLLA), a biodegradable polymer often used to stitch
90. Hovering Space Rover, New Advances In 3D Printing, Protein Found to Reverse Muscle Aging
MIT Engineers Test An Idea For A New Hovering Rover | Brighter Side News (01:28)
Due to the lack of atmosphere, the moon and other airless bodies such as asteroids can build up an electric field.Because of direct exposure to the sun and surrounding plasma.
Moon’s electric charge is strong enough to levitate dust more than 1 meter above the ground.
Engineers at NASA and elsewhere have recently proposed harnessing this natural surface charge to levitate a gliderMylar wings, which is a material that holds the same charge as surfaces on airless bodies.
Thinking of magnets, the same charged sides would repel causing a levitation effect
A design would likely be limited to small asteroids, as larger planetary bodies would have a stronger, counteracting gravitational pull. Or would it?MIT’s rover could get around this
The concept resembles a retro-style, disc-shaped flying saucer, and uses tiny ion beams to both charge up the vehicle and boost the surface’s natural charge.Generates a relatively large repulsive force between the vehicle and the ground with a small amount of power
In an initial feasibility study, the researchers show that such an ion boost should be strong enough to levitate a small, 2-pound vehicle on the moon and large asteroids.
Large asteroid using a 10-kilovolt ion source
The Moon the same rover would need a 50-kilovolt source
Design relies on the use of miniature ion thrusters, called ionic-liquid ion sources
Using a basic disc model with ion thrusters
Could achieve levitation of about one centimeter off the ground
Co-author Paulo Lozano explains why levitation on a rover would be good:“With a levitating rover, you don’t have to worry about wheels or moving parts … An asteroid’s terrain could be totally uneven, and as long as you had a controlled mechanism to keep your rover floating, then you could go over very rough, unexplored terrain, without having to dodge the asteroid physically.”
MIT unveils the world's longest flexible fiber battery. You can weave and wash it in fabrics | ZME Science (08:01)
Engineers at MIT have created a rechargeable lithium-ion battery in the form of very long fiber.Could be used to 3D print batteries in any shape.
The proof of concept is 140 meters long, making it the longest flexible fiber battery thus far.Length is arbitrary according to the engineers since they could do much longer lengths.
Fiber batteries are not new, however previously they have all the lithium and other key materials outside the fiber, which would leave them unprotected.This Fiber is the opposite with the new system embedding the battery inside the fiber
This provides a protective outside coating, which gives the fiber both stability and waterproofing.
The thickness of the fiber device is only a few hundred microns, much thinner than any previous attempts at a fiber battery.
To demonstrate the functionality of this proof of concept, the researchers used the fiber battery to power a “Li-Fi” communications system, the kind that uses pulses of light to transmit data rather than radio waves. Includes a microphone, pre-amp, transistor, and diodes
The 140-meter-long battery fiber has a rated energy storage capacity of 123 milliamp-hours Enough to power a smartwatch or phone.
Battery fibers could be woven to produce two-dimensional fabrics like those used for clothing, but could also be used in 3-D printing to create solid objects, such as casings.Because the system creates it all without having to add anything else it would be one-step printing.
Scientists Can Now Print Metal Objects That Are Only 25 Nanometers Long | Interesting Engineering (13:08)
A group of scientists has set a new benchmark in 3D printing by succeeding in fabricating ultrasmall metal objects using a new technique.
According to the team, their system can be used to make objects out of copper just 25 billionths of a meter in diameter (equival
89. James Webb Space Telescope Launch & Merry Late Christmas
Launch Day From Nasa.gov:
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope launched at 7:20 a.m. EST Saturday (Dec. 25th) on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, South America.A joint effort with ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency,
The Webb observatory is NASA’s revolutionary flagship mission to seek the light from the first galaxies in the early universe and to explore our own solar system, as well as planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets.
Ground teams began receiving telemetry data from Webb about five minutes after launch.`
Approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb unfolded its solar array, and mission managers confirmed that the solar array was providing power to the observatory.
Engineers and ground controllers will conduct the first of three mid-course correction burns about 12.5 hours after launchFiring thrusters to maneuver the spacecraft on an optimal trajectory toward its destination in orbit about 1 million miles from Earth.
Sun-Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2)
The world’s largest and most complex space science observatory will now begin six months of commissioning in space. At the end of commissioning, Webb will deliver its first images.
Webb’s program director at NASA Headquarters, Gregory L. Robinson, talks about the launch: “The launch of the Webb Space Telescope is a pivotal moment – this is just the beginning for the Webb mission … Now we will watch Webb’s highly anticipated and critical 29 days on the edge. When the spacecraft unfurls in space, Webb will undergo the most difficult and complex deployment sequence ever attempted in space. Once commissioning is complete, we will see awe-inspiring images that will capture our imagination.”
The Time Machine from The Conversation:
Benefit of the James Webb Telescope, and most space telescopes, is that they are time machines.Any light that hits a telescope (i.e. image) you will be looking at old light. For instance looking at an object 10,000 light years away if you have an image you will be looking at 10,000 years in the past.Light would take 10,000 years to reach Earth.
The further out in space astronomers look, the further back in time we are looking.JWST is trying to look FAR back.
JWST is specifically designed to try to look at light from the end of the Dark Ages by detecting the faint infrared light of the earliest stars or galaxies. Dark Ages: Around 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was 10 million light years across and the temperature had cooled to 5,500 F (3,000 C).
The universe would have been glowing dull red like a giant heat lamp.
As the expanding universe became bigger and colder, the high energy particles thinned out and everything faded to black.
The Dark Ages ended when gravity formed the first stars and galaxies that eventually began to emit the first light.
Compared to massive, bright galaxies of today, the first objects (i.e stars & galaxies) were very small. Additionally, due to the constant expansion of the universe, they’re now tens of billions of light years away from Earth.
This leads to the why infrared is important:As the universe expands, it continuously stretches the wavelength of light traveling through it. That leads to a “redshift.”
Light shifts from shorter wavelengths – like blue or white light – to longer wavelengths like red or infrared light when stretched.
Therefore, by the time light emitted by an early star or galaxy 13 billion years ago reaches any telescope on Earth, it has been stretched by a factor of 10.It arrives as infrared light!
Comparing it to Hubble, JWST has a 15 times wider field of view on its camera, collecting six times more light and its sensors are tuned to be most sensitive to infrared light.
How will Data be collected?
The strategy will be to stare deeply at one patch of sky for a long time, collecting as much light and information from th
88. Self-Driving Microscopes, Significant Water Hidden on Mars, Eye Drops Replacing Reading Glasses
Self-Driving Microscopes to Navigate the Nanoscale | IEEE Spectrum (02:11)
3D IMAGING ENHANCES CHECKS FOR AGGRESSIVE PROSTATE CANCER | Futurity (07:34)
Scientists Discover 'Significant' Water Hidden In Martian Grand Canyon | Vice (14:45)
AI Predicts Which Individuals Will Develop Dementia Within Two Years | GenEngNews (20:40)
FDA Approves New Eye Drops that Could Replace Glasses for Millions | ExtremeTech (29:01)
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87. WhatsApp Cryptocurrency Payments, Sleeping Bag Protects Astronauts Vision, Tool to Speed Up Solar Cell Discoveries
WhatsApp Launches Instant Cryptocurrency Payments in the US | MacRumors (01:42)
Two-year follow up shows delaying umbilical cord clamping saves babies' lives | MedicalXpress (10:11)
Body-sucking sleeping bag may help protect astronauts' vision | New Atlas (19:19)
Blue Origin's Third Space Tourism Flight Takes Off | Interesting Engineering (26:11)
MIT and Google Brain Create Tool To Speed Development of New Solar Cells | SciTechDaily (30:10)
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This podcast is such a gift-I recently discovered it and listen to it as I get ready in the mornings, and it really affects my mood and outlook for the better. Learning about all the ways that the world is innovating, and therefore getting better, makes me a better human in all domains of my life. Thanks, Adam, for putting this out there and shining a light on all the things that are going right. :)
Tapping into my Inner STEM
Listening to Adam really helps me re-awaken my inner STEM by keeping me updated with the latest and greatest.
I am in awe of the interesting developments in STEM and how it impacts our world. I appreciate that Adam digests the articles bu also includes them in the show notes if I’m interested in going deeper. I am finding on several episodes my initial reaction to the content was fear, however with Adam sharing how the developments relate to current state, pros and cons really helped me appreciate the new developments. (For example VR surgery). I also appreciate the research and sourcing he does to frame each episode.