Cotton candy machines help create artificial organs

It’s still early going, but this approach is already much more promising than current alternatives relying on electrospinning. A block of the resulting gel ‘lived’ for over a week, and the fibers are both easier to make and 10 times thinner. They’re potentially cheaper, too. Vanderbilt got its technique working with a $40 cotton candy maker from Target, so hospitals wouldn’t need expensive equipment (beyond an organics-friendly 3D printer, that is) to create viable transplants.

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Less love for tech’s impact on Silicon Valley

Californians have a low opinion of the tech industry that fuels its economy.

Nearly half of respondents in the San Francisco Bay Area said the tech industry is hurting the middle class, according to a survey released Wednesday, and more than half said it is hurting the poor.

Jonathan Wibberley, who runs the West Coast division of research firm Edelman Berland, said the tech industry is still the most trusted in California, above other influential industries like agriculture, retail and energy. But survey respondents don’t see the tech industry doing enough to share the wealth.

The result is that people are getting increasingly frustrated as they watch home prices rise and inequality widen.

“You have to have a broader impact on society,” said Wibberley, whose firm conducts the annual survey.

The latest results are a reminder that while Silicon Valley executives frequently talk about tech’s positive impact on the world, there are large numbers of people who are convinced otherwise. This goes beyond the question of whether we’re in a tech industry bubble — that’s still being debated.

The real question seems to be whether the industry actually improves people’s lives. It appears people are saying that a faster, slimmer gadget that makes it easier to post a photo to a social network isn’t enough.

Throughout the survey, which reached 1,538 people in California last month including 503 in the Bay Area, Edelman found people are frustrated by economic inequality. For example, 76 percent of respondents believe technology has benefited the wealthy, while only 19 percent believe it has benefited the poor.

Who should fix the problem is up for debate.

You could say it’s Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder, who was the most top-of-mind CEO among survey respondents. He was followed by Bill Gates (though Gates is no longer in charge at Microsoft) and Apple CEO Tim Cook. Of course, Zuckerberg and Gates are both known for their philanthropic efforts, so perhaps they have already gotten the message.

All told, Ravi Moorthy, managing director of corporate and public affairs for Edelman, said the responses indicate that people’s faith in the tech industry could erode, even if it has been the most trusted industry for the survey’s past 16 years.

“We’re getting initial signs that this overall sheen and halo tech has may not be a guaranteed thing forever,” he said.

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Feds declare that Google’s self-driving car is its own driver

Google self-driving carEnlarge Image

NHTSA determined that the computer inside Google’s self-driving car is a driver for purposes of the car’s design.

Wayne Cunningham/CNET

US regulations detail much of how cars are designed, from steering wheel placement to headlight brightness, all based on the idea of having a human in the driver’s seat. But what do those regulations mean when a silicon brain is processing the feeds from radar, lidar and cameras, then enacting steering, braking and acceleration decisions in a car?

Chris Urmson, Google’s director of its self-driving car project, apparently queried the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) for clarification on how Google’s proposed self-driving cars could meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS), the rules that automakers must abide by when designing cars for the US market.

NHTSA posted a detailed response on its Web site. The response shows that Google was concerned how the FMVSS could be applied to a computer-controlled car lacking a steering wheel or any other traditional driver controls. Urmson suggested that NHTSA could interpret the FMVSS as not to apply to Google’s cars at all, or that it require a traditional interpretation, assuming a driver in the left front seat, or that the system controlling the car could be considered the driver.

In NHTSA’s letter, it chose the latter solution, determining that the self-driving system is the driver for purposes of the FMVSS.

Google has been developing its self-driving car systems over the last few years, beginning with a fleet of Priuses topped by lidar “chandeliers” to its current fleet of custom-designed pod cars. The current fleet is being tested on roads around Google’s Mountain View, California campus, and are restricted to a top speed of 25 mph. State law allows for testing on public roads, but requires a human driver be ready to take over if the car’s systems fail.

When Google first proposed its current custom-designed self-driving cars, they lacked internal driver controls. Responding to state and federal regulations at the time, Google added in human driver controls to the design.

Having determined that the SDS could be considered the driver, NHTSA’s letter interprets how each section of the FMVSS applies. For example, NHTSA requires that brake pedals be located as to be accessible to the driver. If the SDS is the driver, then brake actuation is accessible through electronic control, and therefore complies with the FMVSS.

The letter shows NHTSA’s difficulty applying some of its rules to Google’s SDS. Rear-view mirror position, for example, is determined based on human driver’s head position, with the FMVSS detailing angles and fields of view based on representative test subjects. Here, the SDS has no need for rear-view mirrors, assuming a full sensor array, making these rules obsolete.

In general, NHTSA’s determination seems to be a victory for Google, letting it go forward with its intended self-driving vehicle design. However, individual state rules will still apply as to how Google’s cars can be operated on public roads.

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Robotic system can lead to faster medicine development

The study’s lead author Armaghan Naik said it can be tough for humans to pick the right experiments: they have to guess the hypothetical outcomes for each one to be able to choose. For their study that used 96 drugs and 96 cells, for instance, there were 9,216 possible experiments. Imagine having to conjure up a hypothetical result for each and every one of those.

Now, here’s where the team’s algorithm comes in. During their tests, the machine chose a few experiments to run, which were then conducted using liquid-handling robots and automated microscopes. It learned more about the drugs, the cells and how they interact after each round of testing. The AI then used what it learned from the past round to choose what to run in the next. In the end, the machine performed 2,697 out of the 9,216 possible experiments after 30 rounds. The team says the algorithm was “able to learn a 92 percent accurate model for how the 96 drugs affected the 96 proteins” by conducting only 29 percent of the almost 10,000 possible experiments.

The video below shows the tests chosen by the AI each round. But if you’re ready and able to grapple with scientific terms and the nitty-gritty of the study, you can check out CMU’s longer write up or the paper itself on eLIFE.

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Mavs enter All-Star break in miserable fashion

2:56 AM ET

DALLAS — What a bummer before heading to the beach.

The Dallas Mavericks couldn’t have entered their extended All-Star break in much more miserable fashion.

The Mavs failed to protect a 15-point lead on Tuesday night against the Utah Jazz. They managed to give up a 3-pointer while leading by three in the final seconds of regulation. And they got beat by a Gordon Hayward buzzer-beater in overtime, the 121-119 loss marking the Mavs’ fourth defeat in five games.

“Honestly, I was just thinking, ‘How’d we lose the game?’” said Mavs center Zaza Pachulia, who switched onto Hayward on the final possession but couldn’t stop the Jazz star from hitting a tough step-back jumper. “Honest to God, did it really happen? We had so many opportunities to close the deal. We’d been controlling the game the whole night.

“I mean, it was crazy. Honestly, I have no answer [for] how we lost the game.”

Actually, there are dozens of plays the Mavs can point to throughout the course of the game. It came down to shots by big-money small forwards on the last two possessions of overtime: Dallas’ Chandler Parsons missing a good look at a 3 from the left wing, and Utah’s Hayward swishing his 2 from the left baseline.

But the extra period wouldn’t have been necessary if not for a regrettable coaching decision by Rick Carlisle on the final possession of regulation.

The Mavs led by three with 7.1 seconds remaining. A foul would have probably forced the Jazz to make the first free throw, miss the second and get a putback to tie it up.

But Carlisle opted not to call for the foul, not even when 62-percent free throw shooter Trey Lyles was dribbling the ball with his back to the basket about 16 feet from the hoop. Lyles dished to Rodney Hood, who drained a 3 from the left corner over a rotating Parsons with 1.9 seconds remaining.

Why not foul?

“It’s an easy question to ask after the fact,” Carlisle said. “We decided not to. We decided to switch it and make them make as difficult a shot as possible. They did. Give them credit.”

Carlisle acknowledged that “you can certainly second-guess” his decision in that situation. The Dallas players didn’t go that far, but a few noted that it’s not the first time that the Mavs have managed to give up a game-tying 3-pointer late. In fact, it happened with 23 seconds left on Saturday night in Memphis, although the Mavs pulled out an overtime win there.

“We’ve got to be smarter about it,” Pachulia said. “We’ve been in this situation so many times. We give up 3s and go into overtime. We just have to be smarter. Fouling is one of the options. We just have to be on the same page and make sure he doesn’t get a 3. It’s frustrating, real frustrating.”

Parsons, who led the Mavs with 24 points, agreed.

“[Fouling is] definitely an option that we might look at now,” he said, “because it’s burned us a couple of times. Looking back now, it’s obviously hindsight. It’s easy to say, but it’s definitely an option that we should keep in our back pocket.”

Carlisle was surprisingly calm about the loss. He knows nobody needs a long break as much as the Mavs, who have several players fighting through significant aches and pains as they wrap up a grueling stretch of schedule after having played 23 games since the calendar flipped to 2016.

Carlisle made a point to praise the Mavs, saying he was disappointed with the loss but not the effort. He said he didn’t “give a s—” right now about Dallas’ record, which is 29-26 and the sixth best in the West, but only a game ahead of the Jazz.

Carlisle emphasized the positives, specifically noting that nobody expected Parsons and Wesley Matthews to perform as well as they have coming off of major surgeries or Raymond Felton to have this type of bounce-back season. He patted his players on the back as they left the American Airlines Center, where they won’t return until an afternoon practice on Feb. 17.

“We need this break; we need to get away,” Carlisle said. “I told the guys to enjoy break, get away from this game and not think about it.”

That will be a heck of a lot easier said than done.

“We can’t let that one slip, and we did,” Matthews said. “So we’ve got to let that eat at us, got to let it haunt us a little bit, and we’ve got to come back with the whole mind frame of winning and nothing but wins, by any means.”

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Lightning time-lapse from space seethes with electricity

Feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you watch a dramatic video of lightning strikes seen from the International Space Station.

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