Saturday, February 4, 2012

Science Saturday 2.3: The Blue Marble, Flying Nanobots, H5N1 & More

Let's start off with a versatile and potentially comical new synthetic biology breakthrough.  E. chromi is a genetically engineered strain of bacteria designed to produce a different color when exposed to various chemical environments or in reaction with certain proteins or enzymes.  This technology has the potential to detect toxins in water treatment plants, to use as a chemical-free food coloring, or event to diagnose gastrointestinal ailments...yup, poop pink and you know you have salmonella poisoning.

In 1972, Apollo 17 captured an iconic photo of Earth which was named "The Blue Marble."  Last month, NASA captured what is called "Blue Marble 2012" via the satellite Suomi NPP.  Many photos of Earth have been captured and digitally enhanced over the years, but Blue Marble 2012 is the first high definition quality image taken of our planet.

images via NASA

Recent controversy began when the National Science Advisory Board of Biosecurity (NSABB) acted to place a hold on research and publication of two papers that document transmissibility of the H5N1 avian flu virus in ferrets.  Concern is that the results in these papers may lead to possible misuse by bioterrorists.  While there is possibility of using scientific research for harm, continued research would give scientists a much better understanding of how the influenza virus affects its hosts and can also aid in vaccine research.  There is no evidence that this particular strain of H5N1 affects humans.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and KMel Robotics have designed a "swarm" of nano quadrocopters, little nanobots that can fly and interact with each other in intricate patterns.  While this technology is impressive, this video demonstration borderlines scary robot-apocalypse sci-fi.

1 comment:

  1. OK the nanobot thing is, but freaky!

    I love the contrast of the "Blue Marble" our earth is simply amazing!

    I literally laughed out loud at pink poop! But I thought, that would be a unnerving to have pink poop and realize that its because you have salmonella!

    Again, thanks for keeping this thread going. I really do enjoy your finds.

    Lily-Thinking Thoughts