Tuesday, January 21, 2020

World’s first living, self-healing robots created from frog stem cells

Scientists have created the world’s first living, self-healing robots using stem cells from frogs. Named xenobots after the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from which they take their stem cells, the machines are less than a millimeter wide, small enough to travel inside human bodies. They can walk and swim, survive for weeks without food, and work together in groups. These are “entirely new life-forms,” said the University of Vermont, which conducted the research with Tufts University’s Allen Discovery Center. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the ability to develop into different cell types. The researchers scraped living stem cells from frog embryos, and left them to incubate. Then, the cells were cut and reshaped into specific “body forms” designed by a supercomputer, forms “never seen in nature,” according to a news release from the University of Vermont. Xenobots even have self-healing capabilities; when the scientists sliced into one robot, it healed by itself and kept moving. One of the lead researchers at the University of Vermont said “they’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.” Xenobots don’t look like traditional robots since they look more like a tiny blob of moving pink flesh. The researchers say this “biological machine” can achieve things typical robots of steel and plastic cannot. The xenobots could potentially be used toward a host of tasks which was partially funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a federal agency that oversees the development of technology for military use. Xenobots could be used to clean up radioactive waste, collect microplastics in the oceans, carry medicine inside human bodies, or even travel into our arteries to scrape out plaque. The xenobots can survive in aqueous environments without additional nutrients for days or weeks, making them suitable for internal drug delivery. Aside from these immediate practical tasks, the xenobots could also help researchers to learn more about cell biology, opening the doors to future advancement in human health and longevity. The organisms come pre-loaded with their own food source of lipid and protein deposits, allowing them to live for a little over a week, but they can’t reproduce or evolve. However, their lifespan can increase to several weeks in nutrient-rich environments. Although, researchers say the artificial intelligence supercomputer plays a big role in building these robots, it’s “unlikely” that the AI could have evil intentions. (Computer Designed Organisms)


Utah governor halts condom campaign over ‘sexual innuendo’ of slogans

Utah health officials were getting busy with an HIV-prevention effort when Governor Gary Herbert halted the distribution of 100,000 condoms due to racy messaging. The Utah Department of Health earlier this month started distributing the condoms with suggestive slogans and teenage humor to promote safe sex. One condom cover, for example, spelled out “SL UT” by using two-letter abbreviations for the state of Utah and its capital, Salt Lake City. Another had a picture of a mountain and the slogan “Enjoy Your Mountin’.” Still another showed an image of a bed with the slogan, “This is the place.” The Governor’s office said in a statement, “The governor understands the importance of the Utah Department of Health conducting a campaign to educate Utahns about HIV prevention. He does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign, and our office has asked the department to rework the campaign’s branding,” the statement said. The Utah Department of Health apologizes for the offensive packaging included on condoms distributed as part of an HIV campaign. Utah Department of Health spokeswoman said in a statement that the designs did not go through necessary approval channels and “at the direction of the governor’s office, we have asked partners to stop distribution immediately.” (NBC News)


NBCUniversal is entering the Hollywood streaming wars.

The media giant unveiled its plans for Peacock, a new direct-to-consumer internet-delivered service that will feature a mix of current NBC shows, original scripted series, movies from the Universal Pictures library, sports content and news programs. Peacock, slated to launch April 15th to select Comcast customers before debuting nationally July 15, arrives as consumers increasingly turn away from traditional linear television and spend more of their viewing time on streaming platforms. NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC, enters a crowded streaming marketplace that includes top-tier digital players Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+. Peacock will differ from platforms like Netflix and Disney+ in crucial ways, however. The service will offer some content free, rely on advertising and feature some live programming, including breaking news coverage from units across NBC News and MSNBC. (NBC News)


Student debt is over $1.6 trillion and hardly anyone is paying down their loans

The rapid increase of student loan debt has slowed over the past few years, but individual borrower balances aren’t going down mostly because hardly anybody is paying down their loans. Total debt over the past year or so has stopped its meteoric rise, according to a study that Moody’s Investors Service released. The study showed a number of factors are constraining borrowers from lightening their loads. Outstanding loans total more than $1.6 trillion, more than doubling over the last decade and tripling since 2006. Since the explosion of student debt following the Great Recession, annual repayment rates, or the amount of existing balances lowered, have been just 3%. Just 51% of borrowers who took out loans from 2010-12 have made any progress at all in paying down their debt. There are multiple reasons why the debt levels are not going down. One is that many borrowers are taking advantage of repayment plans based on borrowers’ incomes, along with some opting for longer repayment options. In the meantime, the burden of student loans continues to be felt with an 11% default rate that is the highest of any debt category. Education also is now second only to mortgages as the highest form of debt for all Americans. (CNBC)


Alphabet passes trillion-dollar mark

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, became the fourth U.S. company to pass the market-capitalization post of $1 trillion, joining Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. While the e-commerce giant has since slipped below the mark, Apple and Microsoft have continued to grow and, along with Facebook (valued at $632.9 billion), the five tech and internet companies lead all others in the U.S. by billions of dollars. Alphabet, contending with rising costs, has nonetheless continued to grow on the back of its online advertising business. (The Wall Street Journal)


Oklahoma State Representative Wants To Ban ‘Alternative’ Milk

A bill introduced into the Oklahoma state legislature would only allow some types of milk to be labeled as such. State Representative Jim Grego, from Wilburton, Oklahoma, says milk that doesn’t come from a goat, cow or “other hooved mammal” should not be labeled as milk in the state of Oklahoma. That would include soy, cashew, coconut and almond milk. The bill calls for a “ban on all products that do not meet the requirements of subsection B of this section, including plant-based products mislabeled as milk.” (News On 6)


Disagreement leads to man being shot in his butt

Jackson, Mississippi police are investigating a shooting incident that happened around 11:30am Friday (1/17) morning. A man ran to a neighboring street for help after he was shot in the buttocks. The shooting stemmed from a prior disagreement between the victim and another man. The suspect ran away from the scene on foot. (WLBT)


Deaf man from Brooklyn sues Pornhub over lack of closed captioning

A deaf man from Brooklyn, New York is claiming that he can’t fully enjoy videos on Pornhub because they don’t provide closed captioning. So he has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the site is in violation of federal law. He claims the porn site has violated his and others’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because the deaf and hearing-impaired can’t understand the audio portion of the skin flicks. As part of MindGeek, Pornhub makes up one of several adult websites in the company’s network, along with YouPorn and RedTube, which also are named in the lawsuit. He tried to watch a variety of videos on the three sites, but their lack of closed captioning stripped him of his enjoyment, he lawsuit claims. “The websites are ‘places of public accommodation’ which deny equal access to their video content which is available to hearing individuals and violates the ADA,” according to the lawsuit. To make matters worse, he pays for a premium subscription on Pornhub, which hosts millions of adult videos. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in areas of “employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government programs and services,” according to the US Department of Labor. He is seeking compensatory damages, civil penalties and fines against the company. (New York Post)


World’s largest Snickers bar weighs in at over 2 tons in Texas

The Guinness Book of World Records was at the Mars Wrigley plant in Waco on Thursday to declare its latest masterpiece: the biggest Snickers bar in the world. The bar weighs over 4,700 pounds and is 2 feet high and 26 inches wide. It is the size of 43,000 single size Snickers bars put together. “This is incredibly impressive,” says the Guinness World Records adjudicator. “Some of my favorite record categories are big food because it has to be edible and it is also an engineering feat, so to get a 5,000-pound bar of chocolate to stay together is really challenging.” Their inspiration for creating the bar was living up to Texas’ reputation. “People really told me everything is bigger in Texas, and that’s what all our social team mentioned, as well,” says Snickers value manager. “This bar that we made in the last week absolutely is the {sum} of, I think, what you could call, ‘Everything is bigger in Texas’. Because it’s the biggest Snickers bar ever made. It’s the largest chocolate nut bar ever made in the world.” The plant is one of the world’s largest producers of candies such as Snickers, M&M’s and Skittles. They thought of the idea two weeks ago, and the bar took a week to complete. Mars says this world record is a tease to the Snickers Super Bowl commercial you can see on February 2nd. Afterwards, plant plans to give out pieces of the bar to Mars workers around the country. (KWKT)


Supreme Court will hear case that could change how presidents are chosen

The Supreme Court agreed to take up an issue that could change a key element of the system America uses to elect its president, with a decision likely in the spring just as the campaign heats up. The answer to the question could be a decisive one: Are the electors who cast the actual Electoral College ballots for president and vice president required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states? Or are they free to vote as they wish? A decision that they are free agents could give a single elector, or a small group of them, the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie or is close. America has never chosen its president by direct popular vote. (NBC News)


Tuesday Comes With A List Of Reasons Such As:

  • International Sweatpants Day
  • National Cheesy Socks Day
  • National Hugging Day
  • National Hug Your Puppy Day

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