Tech News Review Week 6-13 December 2020, by Stelios Iordanis

Transportation

Scientists Have Created A Star Trek-Like Plane That Flies Using “Ion Thrusters” And No Fuel | IFLScience

https://www.iflscience.com/technology/scientists-have-created-a-star-treklike-plane-that-flies-using-ion-thrusters-and-no-fuel/

No propellers or jet engines with expendable fuel are entailed paving the way to super stealth fly planes that are solid-state and electricity- or even nuclear-driven. Unfortunately, a surrounding atmosphere is required, therefore, this thrust method is not applicable in space vacuum.

 

https://www.engadget.com/boeing-mq-25-tanker-drone-flies-with-refueling-pod-160152881.html

The robotic aircraft should not only free accompanying military jet planes for their intended combat roles, but spare human pilots from having to fly a routine and often mundane mission. While that could lead to fewer pilots overall, it could also help keep people out of harm’s way.

 

Biotech

CRISPR Treatment Is Injected Directly Into a Patient’s Body — a First for Gene Editing | Discover Magazine

https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/crispr-treatment-is-injected-directly-into-a-patients-body-a-first-for-gene

The envisaged CRISPR treatment will cut out the mutated stop sign gene and allow the body to begin making the crucial photoreceptor protein and repair the damage. While gene therapies are viewed as controversial by some people, restoring vision of patients in such a near-miraculous way could reverse their negative image.

 

Europe’s Biggest Vertical Farm Will Be Powered by Wind and Planted by Robots

https://singularityhub.com/2020/12/11/europes-biggest-vertical-farm-will-be-powered-by-wind-and-planted-by-robots/

Combining layers, lights, and small robots on wheels will be deployed to deliver seeds to the various rows of stacked growing shelves, while sensors combined with smart software will monitor and process more than 5,000 different data points; food quality of final product will be the highest possible while minimizing need for workers and enhancing food self-reliance of abundant industrial economies.

 

Researchers identify the physical mechanism that can kill bacteria with gold nanoparticles

https://phys.org/news/2020-12-physical-mechanism-bacteria-gold-nanoparticles.html

Nanoparticles could act as alternatives to antibiotics solving the problem of finding novel antibacterial drugs, which is so severe, as the major pharmaceutical companies are not incentivized to allocate R&D funds for new antibiotics due to relatively low return on capital.

 

France Says It’s Working on Bionic Supersoldiers Because Everybody Else Is Doing It

https://futurism.com/the-byte/france-bionic-supersoldiers

The ethics committee concluded that developing supersoldiers inevitably introduces complex philosophical and moral issues, but that France must keep pace because other countries are developing similar concepts, i.e. we are confronted with the same dilemma that has plagued mankind in the 20th century.

 

Brain Stimulation Via Earbuds: Unobtrusive Technology Could Treat a Variety of Diseases – IEEE Spectrum

https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/devices/earbuds-electrically-stimulate-the-nervous-system-to-treat-rheumatoid-arthritis

The whole treatment approach may appear highly invasive, however, it is much less harmful than modern drugs, if it proves to be effective.

 

AI

Amazon’s Judgy Wearable Tells You If You Sound “Condescending”

https://futurism.com/the-byte/amazon-halo-wearable-condescending

The device can also monitor activity, heart rate, sleep patterns, and even skin temperature, but it has already been viewed as disturbing and judgemental by many users, giving AI a bad reputation.

 

AI can predict Twitter users likely to spread disinformation before they do it

https://techxplore.com/news/2020-12-ai-twitter-users-disinformation.html

While the underlying intentions are undoubtedly benign, such endeavours have a strong censoring character and are thus demonized by conspiracy theorists, primarily, but also those sceptical regarding the monopoly power of the major social networks.

 

Optical pre-processing makes computer vision more robust and energy-efficient

https://techxplore.com/news/2020-12-optical-pre-processing-vision-robust-energy.html

Energy optimization for state-of-the-art computer vision based on deep learning has an enormous margin for improvement, if we take into account energy efficiency of animal vision; we will see further such research in the near future, which is quintessential, as almost all modern real-world robotics solution require advanced computer vision capabilities.

 

Energy

Single-crystal technology holds promise for next-generation lithium-ion batteries

https://phys.org/news/2020-12-single-crystal-technology-next-generation-lithium-ion-batteries.html

An alternative to lithium is needed to be found urgently, otherwise, the shift to electric energy for mobility is impossible at a large scale, due to the scarcity of lithium.

 

Scientists publish open resource to help design ‘greener’ energy systems

https://techxplore.com/news/2020-12-scientists-publish-resource-greener-energy.html

this openly published data and their detailed statistical analysis improve energy production and demand forecasting by analyzing fluctuations of the frequency around the reference value in order to infer when trading takes place, how large the grid is, how much control is enforced, and many other factors.