Starshade exoplanet-hunting missions may be technologically daunting, but not beyond NASA’s reach. Such a mission would employ a space telescope and a separate craft flying about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) ahead of it. This latter probe would be equipped with a large, flat, petaled shade designed to block starlight, potentially allowing the telescope to directly image orbiting alien worlds as small as Earth that would otherwise be lost in the glare. Instruments called coronagraphs, which have been installed on multiple ground-based and space telescopes, work on the same light-blocking principle. But coronagraphs are incorporated into the telescope itself.

 

 

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The world’s largest maker of quantum computers, Canada’s D-Wave Systems Inc., recently announced the Pegasus generation of its quantum computers, featuring 2.5 times the qubits (more than 5,000) than its predecessor, as well as the elimination of a major stumbling block to commercialization by directly connecting each of those qubits to three times as many nearby qubits as its previous generation, the Chimera. Analysts are predicting that Pegasus will advance quantum applications down the technology lifetime exponential growth curve.

 

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Follow the Food – a new series by BBC Future and BBC World News – looks into where our food comes from and how will this change in the near future, thanks to new technologies and innovative ways of farming.

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A Russian biologist has told a journalist at Nature that he wants to create more gene-edited babies and will do it if he can win approval.

 

Who’s involved: Denis Rebrikov of the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University in Moscow says he wants to repeat last year’s widely condemned experiment in China to create humans resistant to HIV. He believes he can do a better job.

 

Is this serious? Rebrikov isn’t known for his work with gene editing. A search of his publications mostly turns up reports on biomarkers of gum disease. However, last October he did author a report in which the gene-editing tool CRISPR was applied to human IVF embryos, one of just a dozen or so such experiments ever described. What’s more, his coauthors included the director of a large Russian maternity clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Perinatology in Moscow. Rebikov believes Russian rules on creating gene-modified babies are unclear and says that he plans to seek approval to carry out the procedure.

 

Expert response: Experts say it wouldn’t be responsible to make more CRISPR babies at this time. One reason is that it is hard to know what unexpected effects altering a baby’s genes will have. The gene the Russians want to delete from embryos, CCR5, doesn’t just protect against HIV. It appears to have potential effects on cognition and life span, too. Yet some scientists will remain driven to genetically modify children, no matter what. “I think I’m crazy enough to do it,” Rebikov told Nature.

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A team of researchers with the Royal Botanic Gardens in the U.K. and Stockholm University has found that plant extinctions over the past two and a half centuries have been more extensive than previous estimates suggested. In their paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the group describes their exhaustive study of plants and which have gone extinct, and what it might mean for future plant life.

 

In recent years, botanists have estimated that fewer than 150 plant species have gone extinct in modern times—most due to human activities. In this new effort, the researchers have found that the real number is closer to quadruple such estimates—they found 571 plants that have gone extinct since 1753. That was the year that famed botanist Carl Linnaeus published his Species Plantarum—a collection of all known plant species at that time.

 

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Scientists once thought that neurons, or possibly heart cells, were the oldest cells in the body. Now, Salk Institute researchers have discovered that the mouse brain, liver and pancreas contain populations of cells and proteins with extremely long lifespans — some as old as neurons. The findings, demonstrating "age mosaicism," were published in Cell Metabolismon June 6, 2019.

 

The team’s methods could be applied to nearly any tissue in the body to provide valuable information about lifelong function of non-dividing cells and how cells lose control over the quality and integrity of proteins and important cell structures during aging.

"We were quite surprised to find cellular structures that are essentially as old as the organism they reside in," says Salk Vice President, Chief Science Officer Martin Hetzer, senior author and professor. "This suggests even greater cellular complexity than we previously imagined and has intriguing implications for how we think about the aging of organs, such as the brain, heart and pancreas."

 

Most neurons in the brain do not divide during adulthood and thus experience a long lifespan and age-related decline. Yet, largely due to technical limitations, the lifespan of cells outside of the brain was difficult to determine.

 

"Biologists have asked — how old are cells in an organism? There is this general idea that neurons are old, while other cells in the body are relatively young and regenerate throughout the organism’s lifetime," says Rafael Arrojo e Drigo, first author and Salk staff scientist. "We set out to see if it was possible that certain organs also have cells that were as long-lived as neurons in the brain."

 

Since the researchers knew that most neurons are not replaced during the lifespan, they used them as an "age baseline" to compare other non-dividing cells. The team combined electron isotope labeling with a hybrid imaging method (MIMS-EM) to visualize and quantify cell and protein age and turnover in the brain, pancreas and liver in young and old rodent models.

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Thirty-three years have passed after the melt-down of reactor No. 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, Ukraine. It has resulted in the permanent evacuation of entire towns, killing thousands and creating a massive Exclusion Zone. The disaster is now back in the news thanks to HBO’s hit miniseries, “Chernobyl” and its accompanying podcast.

 

With a cumulative series viewership of 8 million and counting, the buzz has even caused controversy, spurring tourists to visit the overgrown corner of Ukraine, posing for selfies in front of the now-dormant shuttered nuclear plant, and at the ruins of Pripyat. There is debate as to whether the Exclusion Zone is becoming too commercialized.

 
 
 

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The intuitive idea that objects influence each other because they’re in physical proximity is soon to become another of those beliefs that turn out to be wrong when we look deeper.

 

One persistent illusion is that physical objects only interact with other objects they are close to. This is called the principle of locality. We can express this more precisely by the law that the strengths of forces between any two objects falls off quickly—at least by some power of the distance between them. This can be explained by positing that the bodies do not interact directly, but only through the mediation of a field, such as an electromagnetic field, which propagates from one body to the other. Fields spread out as they propagate, with the field lines covering a constantly greater area—providing a natural explanation for the laws that say the forces between charges and masses fall off like the square of the distance between them.

 

 

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The story behind the sound that rules our lives.

 

The electronic beep is everywhere. When you don’t fasten your seatbelt, your car beeps. When your microwave has finished reheating your leftover Chinese takeout, it beeps. The dishwasher beeps; the smoke detector beeps; when the coffee maker turns itself off automatically, it beeps. If you misplace your iPhone, you can make it beep, by remote control.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.fastcompany.com