SciTech Bulletin 3.9
Your monthly dose of the latest in science and technology
2019 has started off with scientists pushing the boundaries across various domains. From influencing natural inheritance to conquering the vast boundaries of space, mankind’s quest for knowledge knows no limit. Starting of with a pioneering computation technique and possibly a new particle, this is a promising year indeed.
Breakthrough in Gene Drive application:
With over 4 years of research stemming from initial success in its working on insects, gene drive has now been successfully executed on mammals. Gene drive meaning to essentially add to the probability of inheriting a certain allele more frequently than normal can drive the expression of certain required characteristics. Developed by evolutionary developmental biologists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the project was inspired by the replication of gene changes within species.
The key technical ability that aided in the process was that of quickly converting heterozygous mutations to homozygous ones in the population. Using a CRISPR-Cas9 strategy, they were able to expand the desired trait from 50 percent of mouse pups to about 72 percent. The success of the process was pondered upon owing to the difference between the insects and the mouse pups being generated for over seven hundred and fifty million years, which can change many parameters required for the mechanism to work. Potentially allowing the rapid spread of lethal genes into an unwanted population, this development is fundamental for the elimination of various pest species.
Read more at: http://bit.ly/2sIb3me
Novel method uses light to perform computational logic
All our electronics from smartphones to data centres run on semiconductor chips containing billions of minuscule transistors. The number of transistors in a chip has roughly doubled every two years. However, we have reached a stage where these transistors cannot be made any smaller because of how matter behaves at the quantum scale they’re approaching. Thus, pioneering changes in the way electronics function are the need of the hour.
Now for the first time, researchers performed logic operations — the basis of computation — with a chemical device. Conventional computers use electric charge to represent binary digits (1’s and 0's), but the engineers’ device uses electric fields and UV light. These consume less power and are also more heat efficient. The device features disk and rod-shaped molecules that self-assemble into spiral staircase-like shapes called columnar liquid crystals (CLC) in the right conditions. When exposed to both UV rays and an electric field, the CLCs which were randomly oriented arrange themselves. But this does not happen when exposed to only one of them. Thus, effectively performing a logical AND function.
The device and the pioneering methods used open up research possibilities including low-power, high-performance computer chips.
Read further at: https://www.utokyo.ac.jp/focus/en/press/z0508_00025.html
Scientists at CERN in Geneva might have achieved a breakthrough in discovering the enigmatic “ghost particle”. During experiments at the famous LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the signal of a particle twice the mass of a carbon atom was detected. Since particle analysis is complex and it will be a while before the existence of this ghost particle is validated, it is a promising advancement in the research undertaken at CERN.
Just before that, the elusive Higg’s Boson particle was discovered at the LHC. These particles might just be the stepping stones to solve the various mysteries of the universe. Earlier in 2018, astronomers recorded neutrinos from a galaxy 4 billion light-years away. Thus, the year has been a phenomenal one in terms of such findings which broaden the nuances of research in particle physics.
Read more at: https://bit.ly/2SCytp5
2019: The start of a new era in space?
Of all of the years past, 2019 is steadily panning out to be the first year to cement its place in the history of space tourism. With recycled rockets becoming a trend amongst the private space organisations only in this decade, this year is ripe with potential for the start of a new market.
While there have been tourists in space before, a full-fledged system of tourism is yet to be unlocked. Companies have remarked that 2019 will be an eventful year, one that will be a “culmination of two decades of development work that have gone into space tourism”, according to Caleb Williams, an industry analyst.
Companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have both been verbal about their intentions of kick-starting their space tourism businesses by the end of the year.
On the 13th of December, Virgin Galactic conducted their first near-space trip with two pilots to an altitude of about 83 kilometres. The company plans on carrying its first customers this year, the first being the CEO Richard Branson.
Blue Origin plans on its first manned flight into space this year as well, with Jeff Bezos as their head.
Companies like SpaceX and Boeing also plan on flying their own astronauts into space, in hopes of opening up the extraterrestrial market up to the common public. They expect to start tourism on the moon by 2023.
With industry giants focussing their efforts on a common goal, commercialised space travel might no longer be a hope of the future, but a reality in our present.
Read more at: https://bit.ly/2MxEzV6