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Archive for August, 2011

Contributory Info: The Walk Again Project

From, we read:

“The Walk Again Project, an international consortium of leading research centers around the world represents a new paradigm for scientific collaboration among the world’s academic institutions, bringing together a global network of scientific and technological experts, distributed among all the continents, to achieve a key humanitarian goal.

“The project’s central goal is to develop and implement the first BMI capable of restoring full mobility to patients suffering from a severe degree of paralysis. This lofty goal will be achieved by building a neuroprosthetic device that uses a BMI as its core, allowing the patients to capture and use their own voluntary brain activity to control the movements of a full-body prosthetic device. This ‘wearable robot,’ also known as an ‘exoskeleton,’ will be designed to sustain and carry the patient’s body according to his or her mental will.”

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Contributory Info: Monkeys Move a Virtual Avatar Hand With Their Brains

Duke Medicine News and Communications released an article last Wednesday about new research enabling monkeys to move a virtual hand with their brains:

“In a first-ever demonstration of a two-way interaction between a primate brain and a virtual body, two monkeys trained at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineeringlearned to employ brain activity alone to move an avatar hand and identify the texture of virtual objects.”

The article continues,

“‘Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton,’ said study leader Miguel Nicolelis, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center and co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering.”

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Contributory Info: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was just 18.  It was the only product of a friendly competition between Mary, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and John Polidori.  Each wanted to see who could write the best horror short story.

Mary Shelley’s main character, Victor Frankenstein, is an ambitious scientist whose creation is abhorred by not only his creator, but all of society.  In the beginning of the novel, Frankenstein speaks to Captain Walton, who is heading an expedition to the North Pole:

“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”

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Contributory Info: Cloned Human Embryo Makes Working Stem Cells

Written by David Cyranoski, Nature‘s article explains, “It is not the end-all experiment that scientists aiming to create embryonic stem cells have been hoping for — the embryos are not true clones, because the DNA of the stem-cell line does not match that of the patient who donated cells — but it is a step in that direction and addresses some of the problems that have flummoxed experiments.”

Cyranoski continues, “In conventional cloning techniques, researchers remove the single set of chromosomes from an unfertilized egg, inject the two sets from a patient’s adult cell and try to get the introduced DNA to drive the egg towards embryonic development. But such cells usually stop developing after a few divisions.”

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Contributory Info: ExxonMobil Announced a $600 Million Collaboration with Synthetic Genomics

In 2009, an article in the New York Times read, “Oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. is making a major jump into renewable energy with a $600 million investment in algae-based biofuels.

“Exxon is joining a biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc.,” continues the NYT,  “to research and develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum.

“‘The world faces a significant challenge to supply the energy required for economic development and improved standards of living while managing greenhouse gas emissions and the risks of climate change,’ said Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at Exxon Mobil Research and Engineering Co. ‘It’s going to take integrated solutions and the development of all commercially viable energy sources, improved energy efficiency and effective steps to curb emissions. It is also going to include the development of new technology.'”

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Contributory Info: Human Genome Project

The National Human Genome Research Institute describes the Human Genome Project (HGP) as, “the international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. All our genes together are known as our ‘genome.'”

The NHGRI continues, “The HGP was the natural culmination of the history of genetics research. In 1911, Alfred Sturtevant, then an undergraduate researcher in the laboratory of Thomas Hunt Morgan, realized that he could – and had to, in order to manage his data – map the locations of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) genes whose mutations the Morgan laboratory was tracking over generations. Sturtevant’s very first gene map can be likened to the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk. In turn, the Human Genome Project can be compared to the Apollo program bringing humanity to the moon.”

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Contributory Info: Master Chief

On a website that advertises Halo 3 action figures, I found a biography of Halo’s Master Chief.  It reads:

“The Master Chief is among the most apparent symbols from the Halo series and the game world. First fashioned by Marcus Lehto, Rob McLees, and Shi Kai Wang, the character is a lofty and anonymous cybernetically heightened supersoldier; he’s never shown without his green armor or helmet. Downes made his persona of the Chief from a character description that asked for a Clint Eastwood-type character of few words.

“In the storyline, he’s a SPARTAN-II Commando of the UNSC Naval Special Warfare Command who’s got almost thirty years of active duty. Master Chief is among the most decorated soldiers in the United Nations Space Command and has attained every notable medal in the UNSC excluding the Prisoner of War Medallion.”

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