Breakthroughs of the Year: pictures of the beginning of the universe, medicine that can (kind of) reverse death, and other leaps of human ingenuity.
Singularity Hub: 25 Tech Stories From Around the Web in 2022 – https://singularityhub.com/2022/12/31/these-were-our-favorite-25-tech-stories-from-around-the-web-in-2022/
AI Hackathon in San Francisco: report from TL;DR
Studying muonium to reveal new physics beyond the Standard Model:
“Professor Christine Charles, the inventor of the helicon double-layer thruster and one of the co-authors of the team’s recent study, spoke with The Debrief about the implications their discovery could have on refining the performance of the HDLT, especially in terms of advancing future spaceflight systems.”
“For over a decade, the largest scientific uncertainty about how the planet will respond to warming temperatures hasn’t come from how much carbon dioxide will be soaked up by the ocean or absorbed by the trees. It’s come, instead, from clouds.”
“As Reiss explained, the presence of Early Dark Energy would have contributed about 10% of the total energy density of the universe before recombination occurred.”
An alloy of chromium, cobalt, and nickel has just given us the highest fracture toughness ever measured in a material on Earth: “Typically, it’s a compromise between these properties. But this material is both, and instead of becoming brittle at low temperatures, it gets tougher.”
“Until now, quantum microscopy has been limited in its spatial resolution and flexibility of application by the interfacing issues inherent in using a bulky three-dimensional sensor. By instead utilizing a van der Waals sensor, we hope to extend the utility of quantum microscopy into arenas that were previously inaccessible.”
New particle discovered: “In this work we discovered a novel exciton of unforeseen intralayer charge-transfer characteristics in a moiré superlattice formed by two atomically thin layers of transition metal dichalcogenide materials,” said Steven G. Louie, a distinguished professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), and a senior faculty scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
Chemists create quantum dots at room temperature using lab-designed protein: “In some ways we’re asking, are there alternatives to life as we know it? All life on earth arose from common ancestry. But if we make lifelike molecules that did not arise from common ancestry, can they do cool stuff? So here, we’re making novel proteins that never arose in life doing things that don’t exist in life.”
“Fuller and his colleagues tested their system using a 30-gram robot and found that it could successfully stabilize its flight, allowing it to replicate the flight dynamics of fruit flies. In the future, they hope that it will be applied and tested on many other flying robots, including lighter robots weighing 10 mg or less.”
What Is Time: 200 Years of Ravishing Reflections, from Borges to Nina Simone – The Marginalian
FUSION: They haven’t yet demonstrated that it works, but Callahan (at Focused Energy now) is confident that in a couple years their pilot project will achieve a 10x energy gain. That will be followed by a second plant reaching 30x gain, followed by what at the end of the 2030s would be their first commercial generator, hopefully achieving a 100x energy gain and blasting 10 fuel capsules every second.
Another take on fusion: “In this context, if we look at the NIF’s 3.15 MJ, it should be clear that we have not suddenly entered the age of commercial nuclear fusion reactors, nor that we’re on the verge of one. What it does mean, however, is that this particular ICF facility has achieved something of note, namely limited fusion ignition. In how far this will be helpful in getting us closer to commercial fusion reactors should become clear over the coming years.”
3D printed wood from flowers, the common zinnia: “We can now 3D print as much wood as we want without cutting a single tree: by changing the concentration of hormones, researchers can control the strength, density, and various other physical and mechanical properties of the lab-grown plant matter.” https://interestingengineering.com/innovation/lab-grown-3d-printed-wood?utm_source=tldrnewsletter
“Researchers at UC San Francisco (UCSF) have engineered molecules that act like “cellular glue,” allowing them to direct in precise fashion how cells bond with each other. The discovery represents a major step toward building tissues and organs, a long-sought goal of regenerative medicine.”
“For the first time ever, human male and female cells have been created with the same genetic code from the same person. The breakthrough, made at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Medical Center, is a unique model that could lead to new discoveries in the study of sex differences and in the speedier development of gender medicine.”
After getting Valley Fever earlier this year, I can attest to the enigma of the illness and the diagnostic odyssey: “The map of disease-causing fungi used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dates to 1969, per the study. As such, doctors in parts of the country with no history of these pathogens may focus their attention on other possible causes of illness.”
CRISPR’s quest to slay Donegal Amy: trial hints at treating, or even curing, a rare fatal disease. “When the Irish diaspora drifted across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries—forced to leave by the Great Famine or a lack of jobs—the genetic mutation seemingly drifted along with them. As the ancestors of the Appalachian family had emigrated to West Virginia in the early 1800s from Northern Ireland, scientists hypothesized the families shared a common ancestor.”
99 Good News Stories of 2022