Science and IT news

AxiDraw personal writing and drawing machine writes for you

I can remember back when graduating high school my mom insisted that I handwrite and sign thank you notes to everyone who sent gifts. I can understand now why she did that, but at the time I thought it was some sort of punishment. I’m not a big fan of writing out anything and most folks likely use digital means to type out all their notes and messages these days. If you need to be able to hand write something in fancy form and you lack the penmanship to do so, a group appropriately called Evil Mad Scientist has a new machine called AxiDraw that might be perfect for you. The machine is a pen plotter that can write or draw on most flat surfaces. It is capable of writing or drawing with pens, markers, fountain pens, and other writing utensils. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} The writing head can extend beyond the machine making it able to draw on objects larger than the machine itself. The output from the robot looks handmade compared to items made with an inkjet or laser printer. The software behind the device is a free vector program called InkScape. The travel area of the machine is just a bit larger than US letter and A4 paper sizes and it can also write on smaller items like cards and envelopes. The device is also open-source allowing you to create your own programs. AxiDraw might be just the thing that schools need for creating their own custom achievement certificates for kids that are more personalized than just printing names using a laser printer. Other uses include handmade invitations, drawings of people or animals in ink, cookie decorating with edible markers, and lots more. The AxiDraw sells for $450.  

Hyperloop One wants to build its first 500mph train in Dubai

At its event hosted in the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai, Hyperloop One announced that the Middle Eastern trade capital will be the first city where the company will begin pursuing an opportunity to build its high-speed transport systems for passengers and cargo, in partnership with Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority. When it teased the announcement with a video clip yesterday, Hyperloop One promised train rides from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, to Riyadh in 48 minutes and to Doha in 23 minutes. That works out to a mind-boggling speed of about 500 mph. {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} Hyperloop One has released another video explaining how its proposed system could work: {source}<iframe width="853" height="480" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source} Of course, it’s still early days for the project; the company hasn’t discussed the terms of the deal with Dubai and its technology is still in the testing phase. It’s first move following the new deal is to study the feasibility for building a line linking it to the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi.

These Are the First Color Images Ever Produced By an Electron Microscope

Electron microscopes are renowned for their ability to peer down into the hidden world of the very small. Trouble is, these tools only produce images in black and white. A new technique that took 15 years to develop finally overcomes this optical limitation, producing the first ever multicolor electron microscope images. “It’s a bit like when you first see a color photograph after having only known black and white.” A research team from the University of California, San Diego is the first to create a multicolor electron microscope, allowing for three colors at a time (green, red, and yellow). Technically speaking, the microscope is not producing “true” color images, but rather a false-color visualization of key features found within microscopic objects, such as cells. Importantly, the colors are not “added” after the fact—they’re genuinely indicative of discrete biological components. The project was headed by Mark Ellisman and Roger Tsien (a 2008 Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate who died unexpectedly this past summer). The team used the new technique to capture color photographs of cellular membranes and the synaptic connections between brain cells. Two different brain cells sharing a single synapse. Tagging cells with color allows for enhanced tracking. (Image: Adams et al./Cell Chemical Biology 2016) “It’s a bit like when you first see a color photograph after having only known black and white,” noted first author Stephen Adams, a UCSD chemist, in a statement. “[For] the last 50 years or so, we’ve been so used to monochrome electron micrographs that it’s now hard to imagine that we could go back.” Conventional electron microscopes form images by transmitting electron beams through an object, like a biological specimen. This allows for the creation of a detailed monochrome image, but because the microscope is shooting out electrons, and not colored light, there’s a definite absence of color. A Golgi (an organelle found in most eukaryotic cells) is shown in green, and a cell membrane appears in red. (Image: Adams et al./Cell Chemical Biology 2016) To create the colorized scans, the researchers fitted a special detector on a conventional electron microscope. The researchers then selectively “painted” structures such as proteins, membranes, and cells with various “rare earth” metals, including lanthanum, cerium and praseodymium in the form of a chemical solution. When these specimens were scanned by the modified microscope, the stream of electrons lost by the metallic elements were interpreted as color. “A transmission electron microscope can distinguish each of these metals by electron energy-loss to give elemental maps of each that can be overlaid in color on the familiar monochrome electron micrograph,” explained Adams. “Each color highlights a different component of the cellular ultrastructure.” The process is actually quite similar to fluorescence microscopy, in which glowing proteins are added to a specimen. But with electron microscopy, the images are observed at far higher resolutions. Using the new technique, the researchers used the multicolor electron microscope to visualize a pair of brain cells sharing a single synapse. The team also demonstrated how peptides (short chains of amino acids) are able to penetrate through a cell membrane. The researchers say the new microscope will help biologists to distinguish cellular compartments, track proteins, and tag individual cells. Looking ahead, the team is hoping to improve the process and produce images with three or more colors.  

Synthetic Biology competition team creates light bulb from e-coli

Newcastle University students have attempted to create a novel field of synthetic biology by fusing biology with electronics. Their project involved looking at electronic circuitry and combining biology and electronics to create alternative parts resulting in an electro-biological system. They used the HtpG heat shock promoter to make a biological, heat-induced light bulb, modifying the pores of E. coli to generate a higher electrical output from a microbial fuel cell, along with a biological capacitor and light-dependent resistors. The Newcastle team is competing in the 2016 International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM). It is an annual global competition that ends in a synthetic biology science fair called the Giant Jamboree. The eight-person team from Newcastle is just one of 300 teams from 40 countries. The Newcastle team has set out to create biological versions of the electronic components that are used in many electronic circuits, such as lightbulbs and batteries. They have designed, characterized, and documented new parts in the parts registry. We have also made lots of new friends through collaboration with a number of teams and our attendance in UK and European meetups. Finally, we prototyped an electronic breadboard kit that will allow a user to combine electronic parts with these new biological versions. They placed a microfluidic chip containing E. coli transformed with our BBa_K1895000 construct onto our magnetic breadboard system and captured this image under UV light, indicating that the fluorescing bacteria can be observed. Note - this is a technical recreation wherein the cells were placed in a shaking incubator at 42°C before being injected into the chip. This was due to technical difficulties. We have previously demonstrated that we can successfully achieve the required temperature change within the chamber to induce sfGFP expression via electrical heating, and that sfGFP is expressed highly in E. coli transformed with this construct at this temperature. They placed the miniature microbial fuel cell construct containing E. coli transformed with BBa_K1895004 and another standard microfluidic chip, connecting them via our hardware connector pieces. They confirmed using a multimeter that the voltage across the receiving chip (being output from the 'battery') was as we expected based on our previous results.