Thursday, 27 June 2013

A robot in space.

In August this year, Japan are sending a little robot called Kirobo into space. His mission is to communicate with the other astronauts on the International Space station.

Kirobo was designed by Dentsu alongside Toyota with the help of the University of Tokyo. the robot is voice activated and basically an enhanced artifical person. All of this technology and cuteness is packed within a height of 1 foot. Kirobo can recognise emotions and body language and can also respond correctly. Which is pretty amazing considering he is effectively a mass of chipboard and wires and electricity.

Who knows what having a robot in space will lead to?! 

It could potentially open the door to a new frontier of having robots for human companionship, or more likely for robots to be used in technical and laborious jobs.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

5 fingered thunder.

I don't know about you, but I actually quite enjoy clapping my hands in response to a good performance, and generally some crowds are more noisy than others.

According to a Swedish study in the Journal of the Royal Society of Interface, it has been discovered that clapping is in fact contagious.

It has been recognised that it is not the quality of the performance which determines the length of the applause but it is the group dynamic of the people in the audience. Apparently it only takes 1 or 2 people to begin clapping for an applause to ripple through the audience and likewise it takes only a few people to stop clapping in order to stop the applause in its tracks.

A researcher in this study has said that there is a strong social pressure to start clapping and an equally strong  pressure to continue clapping until another person has initiated the termination of the applause.

So the next time clapping appears to be appropriate, be bold and either initiate the clapping or be the first person to rest your hands.

Be the clapping trendsetter.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

DNA's day in court.

Should DNA have a right to be owned? Well, the US Supreme Court has said no.

The courts have ruled that human genes themselves cannot be given a patent, however artificially copied DNA (cDNA) can be claimed on the grounds of intellectual property. Obviously DNA cannot be physically owned as it originates from a natural source, so no-one technically has rights to it, as it belongs to everyone equally. In contrast, cDNA has the ability to be patented as it does not occur naturally.

There have been grumbles from the biotechnological industry; they believe that a ban like this has the ability to affect any investments in gene therapies and research opportunities. (I guess that gene technology has a lot of money in it.)

This ruling has been a long time coming, having first started in 2009 with the question of whether companies should have the right to patent genes. However Universities and medical research firms have had the right to hold intellectual property over human genes for the past 30 years!

So in a nutshell:

  • DNA--> can't be patented
  • cDNA--> can be patented 

Explorer fact: around 40% of the human genome is already patented.