Science and Technology Advances of 2016, Part 2

This is the second part of my science and tech of 2016 entry.  Remember that these are advances and findings that were announced just this year.  This is only one year. Remains to be seen what 2017 will hold.

35. Scientists formally announce HGP-Write, a plan to synthesize the human genome.

36. A Stanford clinical trial finds that stem cells injected directly into the brain of chronic stroke sufferers revived dead brain circuits and restored patients’ ability to walk.

37. A way of pumping CO2 underground and turning it from a gas into solid carbonate minerals is demonstrated in Iceland, offering a potentially better method of carbon capture and storage.

38. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital announce a new method for long-term culturing of adult stem cells.

39. China introduces the Sunway TaihuLight, the world’s fastest supercomputer, capable of 93 petaflops and a peak performance of 125 petaflops.

40. Dutch scientists announce that crops of four vegetables and cereals grown in soil similar to that on Mars are safe to eat.

41. NASA scientists announce the arrival of the Juno spacecraft at the planet Jupiter.

42. China completes construction on the world’s largest radio telescope.

43. Scientists at Rice University announce a new titanium-gold alloy that is four times harder than most steels.

44.  Solar Impulse 2 becomes the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the Earth.

45. Neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used insecticide, are found to reduce bee sperm counts by almost 40%, as well as cutting the lifespan of bee drones by a third.

Okay, so it’s not all good news.

46. A new “vortex” laser that travels in a corkscrew pattern is shown to carry 10 times or more the information of conventional lasers, potentially offering a way to extend Moore’s Law.

47. Using the DNA from over 450,000 customers of gene-testing company 23andMe, researchers identify for the first time 15 regions of the genome associated with depression.

48. Researchers pinpoint which of the more than 4,000 exoplanet candidates discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission are most likely to be similar to Earth. Their research outlines 216 Kepler planets located within the ‘habitable zone’, of which 20 are the best candidates to be habitable rocky planets like Earth.

49. A team at the University of Oxford achieves a quantum logic gate with record-breaking 99.9% precision, reaching the benchmark required to build a quantum computer.

50. MIT announces a breakthrough which can double lithium-ion battery capacity.

51. HI-SEAS IV, the latest Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, an experiment to simulate a human colony on Mars, concludes after exactly one year.

52. Carbon nanotube transistors are shown to outperform silicon for the first time.

53. The development of 1 terabit-per-second transmission rates over optical fiber is announced by Nokia Bell Labs, Deutsche Telekom T-Labs and the Technical University of Munich.

54. A Japanese team accurately sequences a tardigrade genome, finds minimal foreign DNA, and discovers a protein that confers resistance to radiation when transferred into human cells.

55. SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk reveals his plan to send humans to Mars on a new spacecraft, with unmanned flights beginning as early as 2022.

56. A study led by the University of Cambridge finds that body-worn cameras led to a 93% drop in complaints made against police by the UK and US public.

57. The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that playing golf can increase life expectancy by five years.

58. President Obama renews a vision for US government involvement in a human mission to the planet Mars by the mid-2030s.

59. Using 3D imaging techniques on 20 years of photographs by the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers estimate there are 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe, about 10 times more than previously thought.

60. A new automated system that can achieve parity with humans in conversational speech recognition is announced by researchers at Microsoft.

61. Researchers at James Cook University in Australia report that adding a type of dried seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) to the diet of cattle could reduce their emissions of methane by 50-70%.

62. Scanning people’s brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is found to be significantly more effective at spotting lies than a traditional polygraph test.

63. Researchers in the UK announce a genetically modified “superwheat” that increases the efficiency of photosynthesis to boost yields by 20 to 40 percent.

64. Lab-grown mini lungs, developed from stem cells, are successfully transplanted into mice by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System.

65. The University of East Anglia reports that global emissions of CO2 did not grow in 2015 and are projected to rise only slightly in 2016, marking three years of almost no growth.

66. Scientists at Rockefeller University identify which genes in a microbe’s genome ought to produce antibiotic compounds and then synthesize those compounds to discover two promising new antibiotics.

67. The United States Geological Survey estimates there are 20 billion barrels of oil in Texas’ Wolfcamp Shale Formation, the largest estimate of continuous oil that USGS has ever assessed in the United States.

68. Researchers at the Salk Institute use a new gene-editing technology known as HITI, which is based on CRISPR, to partially restore vision in blind animals. Their technique is the first time a new gene has been inserted into a precise DNA location in adult cells that no longer divide, such as those of the eye, brain, pancreas or heart.

69. Researchers from Caltech and UCLA develop a technique to remove mutated DNA from mitochondria, which could help slow or reverse an important cause of aging.

70. Large-scale testing of a potential HIV vaccine known as HVTN 702 begins in South Africa.

71. Researchers at UC Berkeley design a wall-jumping robot known as Salto, which is described as the most vertically agile robot ever built.

72. Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan demonstrate a super flexible liquid crystal (LC) device, which could make electronic displays and devices more flexible, increasing their portability and versatility.

73. Scientists use a new form of gene therapy to partially reverse aging in mice. After six weeks of treatment, the animals looked younger, had straighter spines and better cardiovascular health, healed quicker when injured, and lived 30% longer.

74. Ebola virus disease found to be 70–100% prevented by RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine, making it the first proven vaccine against the disease.

 

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Science and Tech Advances of 2016

Now that we are nearing the end of the calendar year 2016, I thought I’d take a little time to evaluate some of what has happened in the last twelve months.  This post is going to be mainly about science and tech advances.  Celebrity deaths and politics have already been covered at length in other parts of the internet. But I truly don’t think enough attention is paid to science and technology by the public at large.  Politicians tend to think wealth is created through taxes.  Lawyers tend to think wealth is created via law suits and judicial rulings.  Business operators tend to think wealth is generated through sales.  Yet it is the scientists and researchers that develop technologies that can start previously undreamed of industries.  I wish more people were as enthusiastic about science as I am.  I guess I was spoiled by growing up around books, having parents who encouraged me to learn and ask questions, and having teachers who made science, reading, history, and math interesting.

The source for this list is mainly wikipedia. This is not meant to be a definitive or exhaustive list, it’s mainly for illustrative purposes. Sometimes the major breakthroughs and improvements receive little note in the press.

1. Glycerol 3-phosphate phosphatase (G3PP), an enzyme that prevents sugar being stored as fat, is identified by scientists at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre.

2. Light-activated nanoparticles able to kill over 90% of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are demonstrated at the University of Colorado Boulder.

3.  Lockheed Martin announces the “Segmented Planar Imaging Detector for Electro-optical Reconnaissance” (SPIDER), a new way of dramatically shrinking the size of telescopes, by using hundreds to thousands of tiny lenses. The diameter does not change, but the SPIDER system is thinner and does not need multiple mirrors.

4. The University of New South Wales announces that it will begin human trials of the Phoenix99, a fully implantable bionic eye.

5.  Google announces a breakthrough in artificial intelligence with a program able to beat the European champion of the board game Go.

6.  Researchers demonstrate that graphene can be successfully interfaced with neurons, while maintaining the integrity of these vital nerve cells. It is believed this could lead to much improved brain implants for restoring sensory functions.

7. Scientists in the United Kingdom are given the go-ahead by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR-Cas9 and related techniques.

8. Scientists at the LIGO, Virgo and GEO600 announce the first direct detection of a gravitational wave predicted by the general relativity theory of Albert Einstein.

9. Scientists report unprecedented success using T-cells to treat cancer. In one trial, 94 percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia saw their symptoms disappear entirely.

10. The University of Southampton announces a major step forward in creating “5D” data storage that can survive for billions of years.

11.  Boston Dynamics reveals the latest version of its “Atlas” humanoid robot, featuring highly dynamic movements and reactions in both indoor and outdoor environments.

12. Paleontologists report the discovery of a pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex, shedding light on the evolution of egg-laying as well as gender differences in the dinosaur.

13. Researchers at Rutgers and Stanford universities develop a novel way to inject healthy human nerve cells into mouse brains, with potential for treating Parkinson’s disease and other brain-related conditions, though human trials are likely 10–20 years away.

14. Researchers at the University of Toronto use stem cell therapy to reverse age-related osteoporosis in mice.

15.  Case Western Reserve University announces an optical sensor a million times more sensitive than the current best available, with potential for improving early cancer detection.

16. A study by the University of Southern California concludes that drinking even moderate amounts of coffee can significantly reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

17.  SpaceX successfully lands the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket (SpaceX CRS-8) on a floating drone ship for the first time.

18. By adding a one-atom thick layer of graphene to solar panels, Chinese scientists report that electricity can be generated from raindrops.

19. Scientists announce Breakthrough Starshot, a Breakthrough Initiatives program, to develop a proof-of-concept fleet of small centimeter-sized light sail spacecraft, named StarChip, capable of making the journey to Alpha Centauri, the nearest extrasolar star system, at speeds of 20% and 15% of the speed of light, taking between 20 and 30 years to reach the star system, respectively, and about 4 years to notify Earth of a successful arrival.

20. A quadriplegic man, Ian Burkhart from Ohio, is able to perform complex functional movements with his fingers after a chip was implanted in his brain.

21. An international team reports synthesising ultra-long carbyne inside double-walled nanotubes. This exotic form of carbon is even stronger than graphene.

22. BioViva USA reports the first successful use of gene therapy to extend the length of telomeres in a human patient.

23. Scientists announce the discovery of an extensive reef system near the Amazon River, covering an estimated 3,600 square miles (9,300 km2).

24. A team at Stanford University reveals “OceanOne”, a humanoid robot capable of moving around the seabed using thrusters.

25. Astronomers discover three potentially Earth-like planets in the habitable zone of an ultracool brown dwarf star (TRAPPIST-1) just 40 light years away from Earth.

26. NASA’s Kepler mission verifies 1,284 new exoplanets – the single largest finding of planets to date.

27. Samsung announces a 256 gigabyte microSD card.

28. Scientists at IBM Research announce a storage memory breakthrough by reliably storing three bits of data per cell using a new memory technology known as phase-change memory (PCM). The results could provide fast and easy storage to capture the exponential growth of data in the future.

29. A detailed report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine finds no risk to human health from genetic modifications of food.

30. Researchers at the University of Virginia Health System find that the Oct4 gene, once thought to be inactive in adults, actually plays a vital role in preventing heart attacks and strokes. The gene could delay at least some of the effects of aging.

31. India conducts the first successful launch of a new space plane, called the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), which is delivered to a height of 65 kilometres (40 mi).

32. A survey of 216,000 adolescents from all 50 US states finds the number of teens with marijuana-related problems is declining and marijuana use is falling, despite the fact that more US states are legalising or decriminalising the drug.

33. Strimvelis, an ex-vivo stem cell gene therapy for adenosine deaminase deficiency, and the first gene therapy for children, is granted regulatory approval by the European Commission.

34. Worldwide, renewable energy grew at its fastest ever rate in 2015, according to a report by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).

This list is getting longer than I thought.  I’m breaking this into two blog entries.

 

Hosting Christmas With A Mental Illness

I twisted my knee a few days before Christmas bad enough I could barely walk.  Fortunately after a few days of rest and ibuprofen I’m as good as new.  Since I couldn’t navigate stairs over Christmas, my parents came to my apartment on Christmas.  They brought Christmas dinner and a few gifts.  I hosted them for a few hours and they then went to Oklahoma to visit my brother’s family for a few days.  I was glad they left some left over turkey and pie.  Those were my meals the day after Christmas.

I didn’t get much for Christmas.  But I might be getting a FitBit in a few days once the crowds settle into the winter doldrums.  After my car accident I got lazy about exercising and dieting.  As a result I gained back most of the weight I lost in the previous two years.  I’m starting over.  I hope the FitBit can help in this regard.  I found out my general practice doctor retired recently.  So I’m in the market for a different doctor.  My psych doctor and therapist are also older men who are starting to think retirement too.  I’ve had my current psych doctor for over ten years and my current therapist for two years.  One of the problems of having a chronic illness like schizophrenia is that the illness outlasts even the best doctors because schizophrenia doesn’t retire.  Sure in my case the problems have gotten less severe over the years.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve mellowed as the years have passed or I’m just getting better at managing the illness.  Either way I’m glad I have a routine that more or less works and has kept me out of the mental hospital for three years.

Another holiday season has come and passed.  I did pretty well mentally but I think that’s because I avoided crowds and shopping malls.  I’ve learned what I can and cannot handle over the years through trial and error.  It was a successful holiday season as far as I’m concerned even though I didn’t get to see my extended family.  It actually felt pretty good hosting a small gathering over Christmas this year.  I might have to do this more often if I can limit the size of the gathering.

Physical Pain With Schizophrenia

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Twisted my knee the other day.  It hurt bad enough I couldn’t even walk on it.  Had to take an ambulance to the emergency room because I couldn’t drive myself because of the pain.  I got my knee x-rayed and there was no breaks in the knee or bones.  There was a lot of swelling.  So I got my knee wrapped and some pain pills.  I received a prescription for a walker.  So I’m renting a walker for now until my knee clears up.  I’m also taking over the counter pain pills every few hours.  I hope this clears up soon.

Mentally I have managed to stay in high spirits.  I am still doing well mentally in spite the pain.  I won’t be able to go home for Christmas because of my limited mobility.  So I’m spending Christmas at my apartment by myself.  My parents have talked about coming to my place in a day or two so we could have a mini celebration.  But I’m glad to be back home and on the mend.

 

Getting Back Into Routines

Things have calmed down considerably for myself the last few weeks.  I’m back on my normal doses of meds and I haven’t had a mental breakdown since about Halloween.  I still haven’t worked up the nerve to brave the mall during the Christmas rush.  But I see no need to as I did all my shopping online this year.  I think I’ll be doing all my shopping online for the foreseeable future.

I have felt quite calm the last few weeks.  I’m back to mediating at least once a day.  I leave my apartment more now.  I just don’t go entire days without leaving the apartment anymore.  I still don’t watch regular news as I have realized I’m not missing much.  I really don’t watch regular tv anymore.  If my cable didn’t come with my apartment I’d cancel it.  I don’t use it.

I’m still eating less.  For a couple months when I was eating out twice a day I ate a lot and gained some weight.  Now I usually make it a point to have at least one day a week without meat.  Been doing that for several weeks now.

Slowly but surely I’m settling back into my traditional routine.  It’s been a long time since I had any calm for more than a few days.  I think it’s coming back.

Stretch Run To The Holidays

It’s been colder than normal December, especially the last several days.  So I’ve pretty much stayed home, caught up on my reading, watched some videos on youtube, and played some computer games.  I’ve even eaten less these last several days but did rediscover my caffeine habit through coffee and diet soda pop.

Mentally I have felt surprisingly stable in spite not being able to get out of my apartment complex.  We haven’t had the bad snow that many places have but it’s just been so cold.  I’m pretty much content to curl up under a blanket and read most evenings.  But I haven’t had problems with anxiety, depression, or hallucinations for a long time.  I think it helps that I have made it a point to avoid the mall and Wal Mart this Christmas season.  I just don’t like crowds, bright lights, and loud music even on a good day.  I can’t imagine how tough sensory overload is for autistics during the holidays.

In spite the cold I still keep in contact with friends and family.  I’m calling someone at least once a day and I drop into Facebook a few times a day to check on friends and family.  I have been on Facebook more since the end of the election.  I’m so glad that people have more or less settled down from that madness.  It was actually quite unbearable for awhile knowing that every time I logged onto Facebook I was going to get a sermon from my friends about how the Republicans or Democrats were going to be the death of us all.  I just got so sick of hearing about it that I let many of my social connections go by the wayside.  I’m only now beginning to socialize again.

Christmas will be here soon.  I’m looking forward to the return to normal.  2016 has been anything but normal for me. Spent the first part of the year in chiropractic treatment.  Got burned out not the election even before the end of spring.  Spent the entire summer out of commission with a bad back.  Spent eh fall depressed and angry about how irritable and angry my friends were about the election.  And now I’m dealing with the stretch run for the end of the holidays.  My life has been unsettled since my car accident last October.  I’m just ready for things to settle down again.  I’m sick of all the needless drama and upheaval.

Christmas Projects and Monetizing My Blog

 

Besides buying groceries and running a couple miscellaneous errands around town, I haven’t been out that much this Christmas season.  I have mainly stayed home, worked on some projects around my apartment, cleaned a little, and rearranged some of my furniture.  As I don’t have much for furniture the rearranging took less than a couple hours.  I’m also messing with a few new computer games I bought for myself as an early Christmas gift.

I still haven’t worked up the courage to brave the mall or box stores.  The crowds are bad every holiday season.  I get real bad sensory overload from the lights, bells, bright decorations, crying children, and stressed out adults.  I don’t enjoy holiday shopping.  I’d rather just buy all my gifts online and let the post office worry about delivery.  That and I don’t have to put on shoes when I’m shopping online.

A few months ago I decided to monetize my blog and see if I could make something off it.  I also set up a pateron account.  Between the two of them over the last few months I made some money.  Granted it’s only a few bucks but I had no expectations when I started doing this blog three years ago.  Even though I have had the taste of making some money through my online work, I’m not delusional enough to believe I will become rich from my blogging.  I doubt I’ll even be able to get off disability insurance from my writings.  But I don’t care that much about the money.  I have learned to live on not much, at least not much by American standards.  If this blog became popular enough that I could buy a pizza every month from my blog earrings, I’d consider that a huge success.

In some aspects I already consider this blog a success.  I have gotten dozens of messages from readers that have told me that what I am writing is helpful.  I got one message from someone who claimed he was biased against mentally ill people until he read several of my postings.  Changing minds one blog post at a time I suppose.  Another success of the blog is that the audience has grown bigger with each passing year.  I am happy with what this blog has been able to accomplish in only a few years of determined effort.  In the back of my mind I always wanted this blog to have lots of readers and be well known within the mental health community.  But I didn’t set myself up for disappointment if my blog never got noticed.  I would blog even if I didn’t get paid or if my blogs weren’t read by more than a couple people.  I post this material also for future audiences as something that may be able to help anyone years down the road.  If something ends up on the internet, it’s practically permanent anymore.  And that is still considering that over half the world’s population still doesn’t have easy access to internet.  Think about it, over three and a half billion people still haven’t seen a youtube video, bought anything online, or seen a troll face meme as of December 2016.  The internet is not going away.  Neither are mentally ill people who will tell their stories and demand more fair treatment.