April 25, 2015

Americans worry about the Terminator Robot Apocalypse but what about a Japanese Sexbot Apocalypse ?

There are interesting cultural differences between Americans and Japanese. Americans fear the Terminator movie scenario of a robot or Artificial intelligence apacolypse. However, Japan is facing sharp population decrease from lowering birth rates. This could be accelerated with more realistic sexbots that extend the Japanese sex doll industry. This is part of Japan's greater cultural acceptance of robots where they think that robots will like Astroboy or the manga fembots or the bots that care for the elderly.

The Japanese sex doll industry is reaching new levels with the release of a new line of dolls, which claims to be more genuine than ever. The dolls, which are made of rubber and silicon, were described in a video as having realistic feeling skin and authentic looking eyes and hair.

A-Lab’s has had the android Asuna since 2014






Will Avengers 2 or Star Wars 7 be the bigger box office movie ?

Avengers 1 was the third highest grossing movie after Titanic and Avatar.
Avengers 2 Age of Ultron will open next week.
Star Wars 7 will open at Xmas 2015. The Star Wars prequels did not perform as well at the box office but Phantom Menace still was 17th for domestic box office when inflation adjusted. The original Star Wars is number 2 when inflation adjusted. The first Star Wars had $1.4 billion in inflation adjusted domestic box office.

The new Star Wars 7 will have the original cast back and transitioning to new actors. However, Han, Chewie, Luke and Leia will be in the movie. Can Star Wars 7 catch that old box office magic?



Will the Marvel movie box office keep growing ?

One head wind that they are facing for global box office is that the US dollar is up about 10-40% against many major foreign currencies.

Here is the survey and below are the trailers.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

April 24, 2015

OECD calculates that China about 65% urbanized and has 17 megacities based on Functional urban area

Instead of just looking at cities' administrative borders or "statutory city population," OECD’s study takes into account surrounding “functional urban areas” (FUA), which may lie outside the administrative borders but are significant to the social and economic makeup of the city. A lot of this is the result of China’s complex “hukou” system, the registration license given to residents of a city, which limits the mobility of citizens from outside from residing inside administrative borders.

OECD functional urban area statistics are here

OECD figured china had 15 cities with at least 10 million people (defined as megacities) back in 2010 but now two more likely joined

UN Figures China is urbanizing faster than official estimates

If Functional urban areas are used to calculate urbanization then China was61.2% urbanized in 2010 and likely is about 65% urbanized now

Uranium deal was only national security adjacent but deal is like the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation

Are there strategic implications for increasing Russian control of uranium production based on the Hillary Clinton Uranium One deal ? I would say no. It is national security adjacent and mainly corruption similar to the Gerhard Schröder Gazprom situation.

As Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder was a strong advocate of the Nord Stream pipeline project, which aims to supply Russian gas directly to Germany, thereby bypassing transit countries. The agreement to build the pipeline was signed two weeks before the German parliamentary election. On 24 October 2005, just a few weeks before Schröder stepped down as Chancellor, the German government guaranteed to cover 1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan. However, this guarantee had never been used.] Soon after stepping down as chancellor, Schröder accepted Gazprom's nomination for the post of the head of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. German opposition parties expressed concern over the issue, as did the governments of countries over whose territory gas is currently pumped.

The Uranium deal I am referring to is the Uranium One buyout that was approved by Hillary Clinton. This appeared to be in exchange for millios to tens of millions donated to the Clinton foundation and perhaps millions of speaking fees for Bill Clinton.

Uranium production matters more than Uranium reserves

Reserves is only how much they bothered to find and the quality of how easy the source is to produce.

Russia and Kazakhstan already produce about 50% of world uranium.
It is about 15 times more than the USA.

USA at about 1900 tons per year
Kazak at about 24000 tons per year
russia at about 4000-5000 tons per year.

Canada having big oilsand reserves but produces a lot less than Saudi Arabia.

The USA has less uranium reserves than Russia and less than Kazakhstan.





Wing in Ground Effect Plane from South Korea

The Wing Ship Technology Corporation, a South Korean company, is trying to revive the wing in ground effect idea. South Korea's armed forces have already agreed to buy some and the firm says it hopes to announce its first commercial sales (to an oil-and-gas firm and a Mediterranean ferry company) shortly.

In Korea, Wing Ship Technology Corporation has developed and tested a 50 seat passenger version of a WIG craft named the WSH-500 and they have a new design the WSH 1500.

The WSH500 turboprop and can carry 50 passengers. It has a catamaran-style hull and a reverse delta wing. Its cruising speed, 180kph (110mph), makes it faster than a jetfoil, its principal rival. And the production version will have a range of 1,000km.

A ground effect vehicle (GEV) is one that attains level flight near the surface of the Earth, making use of the aerodynamic interaction between the wings and the surface known as ground effect. The ground effects makes flight more efficient and in theory would allow for very big planes with a lot more cargo. Best known are the Soviet ekranoplanes, but names like wing-in-ground-effect (WIG), flarecraft, sea skimmer, or wing-in-surface-effect ship (WISE) are also used. In recent years a large number of different GEV types have been developed for both civilian and military use. However, these craft have yet to enter widespread use.

The delta wing’s geometry amplifies the ground effect, allowing the new craft to cruise as high as five metres above the water’s surface. That means it is less likely to be confined to harbour by rough seas, which was one of the problems encountered by previous designs. It also launches itself by directing some of the airflow from the turbo props downwards, to create a temporary hovercraftlike effect until it is travelling forwards at full tilt. The difficulty of getting airborne was another bugbear of previous designs.

WSH1500 design

WSH500

New Armata Tanks and Variants Seen at Parade Rehearsal, First Redesigned Russian Tanks since 1970s

The Russian Ground Forces' new suite of armoured vehicles have been officially revealed for the first time by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD), ahead of their formal debut at the 9 May Moscow Victory Day Parade.

The new vehicles are principally clean-slate designs and represent the biggest change in Russia's armoured fighting vehicle families since the 1960s and 1970s.

Armata
The flagship of the new armoured vehicles is the Armata main battle tank (MBT), also known as the T-14 and built by UralVagonZavod. The images show an MBT much more in keeping with recent western philosophies on tank design, appearing larger and taller than the T-72/90 it will replace.

The key feature of the Armata is its unmanned turret, with all three crew members (commander, gunner, driver) seated in a crew capsule at the front of the vehicle's hull. Although the turret is covered in the MoD image, Armata is understood to be armed with a 2A82A 125 mm smoothbore main gun fed by a bustle-mounted automatic loader equipped with 32 rounds.

Armata is also reported to feature a 30 mm coaxial secondary armament and a 12.7 mm machine gun.



Complete Woolly Mammoth Genome Sequenced

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth.

A US team is already attempting to study the animals' characteristics by inserting mammoth genes into elephant stem cells.

Current Biology - Complete Genomes Reveal Signatures of Demographic and Genetic Declines in the Woolly Mammoth



Highlights

•Complete high-quality genomes from two woolly mammoths were sequenced and analyzed
•40,000-year time difference between samples enabled calibration of molecular clock
•Demographic inference identified two severe bottlenecks in the species’ history
•One of the last surviving mammoths had low heterozygosity and signs of inbreeding

Summary

The processes leading up to species extinctions are typically characterized by prolonged declines in population size and geographic distribution, followed by a phase in which populations are very small and may be subject to intrinsic threats, including loss of genetic diversity and inbreeding. However, whether such genetic factors have had an impact on species prior to their extinction is unclear; examining this would require a detailed reconstruction of a species’ demographic history as well as changes in genome-wide diversity leading up to its extinction. Here, we present high-quality complete genome sequences from two woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius). The first mammoth was sequenced at 17.1-fold coverage and dates to ∼4,300 years before present, representing one of the last surviving individuals on Wrangel Island. The second mammoth, sequenced at 11.2-fold coverage, was obtained from an ∼44,800-year-old specimen from the Late Pleistocene population in northeastern Siberia. The demographic trajectories inferred from the two genomes are qualitatively similar and reveal a population bottleneck during the Middle or Early Pleistocene, and a more recent severe decline in the ancestors of the Wrangel mammoth at the end of the last glaciation. A comparison of the two genomes shows that the Wrangel mammoth has a 20% reduction in heterozygosity as well as a 28-fold increase in the fraction of the genome that comprises runs of homozygosity. We conclude that the population on Wrangel Island, which was the last surviving woolly mammoth population, was subject to reduced genetic diversity shortly before it became extinct.

April 23, 2015

Gas Giant planets are being spotted up to 27000 light years away with microlensing and the Spitzer space telescope

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer, from its unique perch in space, can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

There is a collaboration between astronomers using Spitzer and the Poland-based Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE.

OGLE’s Warsaw telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile scans the skies for planets using a method called microlensing. A microlensing event occurs when one star happens to pass in front of another, and its gravity acts as a lens to magnify and brighten the more distant star’s light. If that foreground star happens to be orbited by a planet, the planet might cause a blip in the magnification.

Astronomers are using these blips to find and characterize planets up to 27,000 light-years away in the central bulge of our galaxy, where star crossings are more common. Our sun is located in the Milky Way’s suburbs, about two-thirds of the way out from the center. The microlensing technique as a whole has yielded about 30 planet discoveries so far, with the farthest residing about 25,000 light-years away.


Engineered Cas9 Genome-editing protein with 10- to 100-fold increase in specificity

David Liu, and a team of scientists has developed an engineered form of Cas9 that can be turned on with a small drug-like molecule. By using this activatable form of Cas9, the team could modify targets in the human genome with up to 25-fold higher specificity than when using the standard form of Cas9. The study is described in an April 6 paper in Nature Chemical Biology.

"This study sought to improve the specificity of genome editing by carefully controlling when Cas9 is active. We engineered a form of Cas9 that is only active in the presence of a harmless, drug-like small molecule which we provide to the cell," Liu explained. "We showed it's possible to achieve efficient genome editing using this system, but because you can stop the production of active Cas9 by withholding the small molecule once it's had enough time to modify the target genes, you limit the opportunity for off-target genome modification."


Insertion of an evolved ligand-dependent intein enables small-molecule control of ​Cas9.

Nature Chemical Biology - Small molecule–triggered ​Cas9 protein with improved genome-editing specificity

Directly modulating the activity of genome-editing proteins has the potential to increase their specificity by reducing activity following target locus modification. We developed ​Cas9 nucleases that are activated by the presence of a cell-permeable small molecule by inserting an evolved ​4-hydroxytamoxifen–responsive intein at specific positions in ​Cas9. In human cells, conditionally active ​Cas9s modify target genomic sites with up to 25-fold higher specificity than wild-type ​Cas9.

Increasing the accuracy of genome editing

The Chinese gene editing of human embyros does not appear to have been using the latest techniques for maximum accuracy.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful new tool for editing the genome. For researchers around the world, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique is an exciting innovation because it is faster and cheaper than previous methods. Now, using a molecular trick, Dr. Van Trung Chu and Professor Klaus Rajewsky of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Ralf Kühn, MDC and Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), have found a solution to considerably increase the efficiency of precise genetic modifications by up to eightfold.

Many researchers, including Van Trung Chu, Klaus Rajewsky and Ralf Kühn, are seeking to promote the HDR repair pathway to make gene modification in the laboratory more precise in order to avoid editing errors and to increase efficiency. The MDC researchers succeeded in increasing the efficiency of the more precisely working HDR repair system by temporarily inhibiting the most dominant repair protein of NHEJ, the enzyme DNA Ligase IV. In their approach they used various inhibitors such as proteins and small molecules.

"But we also used a trick of nature and blocked Ligase IV with the proteins of adeno viruses. Thus we were able to increase the efficiency of the CRISPR-Cas9 technology up to eightfold," Ralf Kühn explained. For example, they succeeded in inserting a gene into a predefined position in the genome (knock-in) in more than 60 per cent of all manipulated mouse cells. Kühn has just recently joined the MDC and is head of the research group for "iPS cell based disease modeling". Before coming to the MDC, he was on the research staff of Helmholtz Zentrum München. "The expertise of Ralf Kühn is very important for gene research at MDC and especially for my research group," Klaus Rajewsky said.

Nature Biotechnology - Increasing the efficiency of homology-directed repair for CRISPR-Cas9-induced precise gene editing in mammalian cells

The insertion of precise genetic modifications by genome editing tools such as CRISPR-Cas9 is limited by the relatively low efficiency of homology-directed repair (HDR) compared with the higher efficiency of the nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway. To enhance HDR, enabling the insertion of precise genetic modifications, we suppressed the NHEJ key molecules KU70, KU80 or DNA ligase IV by gene silencing, the ligase IV inhibitor SCR7 or the coexpression of adenovirus 4 E1B55K and E4orf6 proteins in a 'traffic light' and other reporter systems. Suppression of KU70 and DNA ligase IV promotes the efficiency of HDR 4–5-fold. When co-expressed with the Cas9 system, E1B55K and E4orf6 improved the efficiency of HDR up to eightfold and essentially abolished NHEJ activity in both human and mouse cell lines. Our findings provide useful tools to improve the frequency of precise gene modifications in mammalian cells

Double Nicking to avoid off target changes

Cell - Double Nicking by RNA-Guided CRISPR Cas9 for Enhanced Genome Editing Specificity

Highlights

•Cas9 nickase can facilitate targeted DNA double-strand break using two guide RNAs
•Double nicking of DNA reduces off-target mutagenesis by 50- to 1,000-fold
•Multiplex nicking stimulates homology directed repair, microdeletion, and insertion
•Double nicking provides efficient modification of mouse zygotes

Summary

Targeted genome editing technologies have enabled a broad range of research and medical applications. The Cas9 nuclease from the microbial CRISPR-Cas system is targeted to specific genomic loci by a 20 nt guide sequence, which can tolerate certain mismatches to the DNA target and thereby promote undesired off-target mutagenesis. Here, we describe an approach that combines a Cas9 nickase mutant with paired guide RNAs to introduce targeted double-strand breaks. Because individual nicks in the genome are repaired with high fidelity, simultaneous nicking via appropriately offset guide RNAs is required for double-stranded breaks and extends the number of specifically recognized bases for target cleavage. We demonstrate that using paired nicking can reduce off-target activity by 50- to 1,500-fold in cell lines and to facilitate gene knockout in mouse zygotes without sacrificing on-target cleavage efficiency. This versatile strategy enables a wide variety of genome editing applications that require high specificity.



Supercavitating Very High Speed Stealth Anti-Piracy and Special Ops ship

Juliet Marine Systems is a maritime technology think tank that is developing innovative solutions for naval and commercial applications. They seek to assure fleet force protection in response to small vessel terrorist attacks against our Navy and coalition ships. There is a clear and present danger of these tactics being used against the U.S. Navy throughout the world and in our home ports. These same innovative technologies, applied to commercial needs, will provide a significant decrease in transit time and increase in energy efficiency, resulting in the savings of thousands of gallons of fuel daily.

As a maritime systems think tank, Juliet Marine Systems provides offensive, defensive and ISR solutions that are developed in a skunk works operation able to rapidly invent and construct needed technologies and systems for the Navy and armed forces. We have already developed a surface variant of a supercavitating craft and are planning to apply our unique technology in a Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) prototype.

Although it is a surface vessel, the hydrodynamics of the twin submerged buoyant tubular foils are also a test bed for Juliet Marine's next planned prototype, a long duration UUV. This revolutionary proprietary technology vessel platform will assure force protection through stealth fighter/attack capabilities along with integrated situation awareness. These vessels would create a protective fleet perimeter, providing sensor and weapons platforms, allowing no surface or subsurface intrusions.

The surface vessel is a combination of stealth fighter aircraft and attack helicopter technologies packaged in a marine platform. It is designed to provide a marine surface and subsurface platform for tracking and identification of multiple targets. Systems for integrating on-board weapons will be designed to be capable of multi-target firing solutions while it operates at very high speed. These weapons integration systems will also allow for attacking several targets simultaneously with a variety of weapons systems options.

The same capabilities that have made helicopters valuable to get to hard to reach locations fast, will apply to the surface vessel in commercial applications in the maritime environment. Crew rotations or resupply runs for critical items to off-shore oil rigs can be accomplished two to three times faster than the craft currently in use and would be far less expensive and have fewer weather restrictions than using helicopter assets. The surface vessel is two to three times as fast as most ferries in use today.

* The roof holds a mount for a machine gun and rocket launcher.
* Triple the range of comparable sized ships
* super-cavitating surface craft which can achieve 900 times less hull friction than a conventional watercraft.
* The Ghost has achieved speeds of over 30 knots, and is being tested to 50 knots
* The current Ghost costs $10 million per copy, is crewed by 3-5 sailors, has an endurance of 30 days, and can be partially disassembled to fit in a C-17 Globemaster III for transport if needed. There is room for 16 passengers with two 6 in (15 cm)-diameter round windows in the hull.
* High-level discussions have been held with a foreign nation interested in 25 Ghosts for a potential $300 million sale. Juliet Marine also offered a scaled-up corvette-sized Ghost 150 ft (46 m) in length to the U.S. Navy as part of their re-evaluation of the Littoral Combat Ship program; costing about $50 million per vessel, it is six times cheaper than the $300 million per-ship cost of a Freedom-class and Independence-class littoral combat ship.

Counter Piracy. Guido Vitti. Ghost flies through the ocean on buoyant foils, long propeller-tipped pontoons that sit six feet underwater.





April 22, 2015

Journal Nature reports Chinese scientists have genetically modified human embryos with 32.5% success rate

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein and Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

"I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale," says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.

Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.

The team injected 86 embryos and then waited 48 hours, enough time for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act — and for the embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Of the 71 embryos that survived, 54 were genetically tested. This revealed that just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%,” Huang says. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”

His team also found a surprising number of ‘off-target’ mutations assumed to be introduced by the CRISPR/Cas9 complex acting on other parts of the genome.

A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos.

An interview with Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and lecturer at NYU, at Vice shows that there is a difference in cultural attitude to genetic enhancement of children between Asia and the West

We have ideological biases that say, “Well, this could be troubling, we shouldn’t be meddling with nature, we shouldn’t be meddling with God.” I just attended a debate in New York a few weeks ago about whether or not we should outlaw genetic engineering in babies and the audience was pretty split. In China, 95 percent of an audience would say, “Obviously you should make babies genetically healthier, happier, and brighter!” There’s a big cultural difference.

There was other progress identifying the genes to enhance intelligence

Molecular Psychiatry - Genetic contributions to variation in general cognitive function: a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies in the CHARGE consortium

General cognitive function is substantially heritable across the human life course from adolescence to old age. We investigated the genetic contribution to variation in this important, health- and well-being-related trait in middle-aged and older adults. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies of 31 cohorts (N=53 949) in which the participants had undertaken multiple, diverse cognitive tests. A general cognitive function phenotype was tested for, and created in each cohort by principal component analysis. We report 13 genome-wide significant single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) associations in three genomic regions, 6q16.1, 14q12 and 19q13.32.

The proportion of phenotypic variation accounted for by all genotyped common SNPs was 29% (s.e.=5%) and 28% (s.e.=7%), respectively. Using polygenic prediction analysis, ~1.2% of the variance in general cognitive function was predicted in the Generation Scotland cohort (N=5487; P=1.5 × 10−17). In hypothesis-driven tests, there was significant association between general cognitive function and four genes previously associated with Alzheimer’s disease: TOMM40, APOE, ABCG1 and MEF2C.

Stephen Hsu posted on the main genetic findings on intelligence. Stephen Hsu has written extensively on the genetic basis on intelligence and the near future of embryo selection. Stephen advises BGI the main genomics company of China.

There was a review of five years of genome-wide association studies in 2011.



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