Glimpses Of The Future – July 2016

Promising Trials of Blood Test To Detect Alzheimer’s

Ideally, everyone over 50 should have access to a routine blood test to check for early indications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

That possibility has now come one step closer with the successful trial of just such a test which recorded results of “unparalleled accuracy.”

“It is now generally believed that Alzheimer’s-related changes begin in the brain at least a decade before the emergence of telltale symptoms,” says Dr. Robert Nagele, from Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first blood test using autoantibody biomarkers that can accurately detect Alzheimer’s at an early point in the course of the disease when treatments are more likely to be beneficial – that is, before too much brain devastation has occurred.”

The researchers are now setting their sights on reproducing these promising results in a larger study. And if they are successful, it raises the possibility of a reliable way to pick up the disease early on, which could help preserve the quality of life for sufferers through less drastic treatment regimes.

Lowest Artic Ice Mass Ever Recorded In May: Warming Increasing

 The 2016 race downward in Arctic sea ice continued in May with a dramatic new record.

The average area of sea ice atop the Arctic Ocean last month was just 12 million square kilometers (4.63 million square miles), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). That beats the prior May record (from 2004) by more than half a million square kilometers, and is well over a million square kilometers, or 500,000 square miles, below the average for the month.

Another way to put it is this: The Arctic Ocean this May had more than three Californias less sea ice cover than it did during an average May between 1981 and 2010. And it broke the prior record low for May by a region larger than California, although not quite as large as Texas.

This matters because 2016 could be marching toward a new record for the lowest amount of ice ever observed on top of the world at the height of melt season — September. The previous record September low was set in 2012.

Will Full Body Transplants Become Viable?

 We’ve all heard of work being done to make a full head transplant possible, but now Chinese surgeons are considering doing it the other way round – transplanting a donor body to an existing head.

The idea for a body transplant is the kind of thinking that has experts around the world alarmed at how far China is pushing the ethical and practical limits of science.

Such a transplant is impossible, at least for now, according to leading doctors and experts, including some in China, who point to the difficulty of connecting nerves in the spinal cord. Failure would mean the death of the patient.

The orthopedic surgeon proposing the operation, Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University, who assisted in the first hand transplant in the United States in 1999, said he would not be deterred. In an interview, Dr. Ren said that he was building a team, that research was underway and that the operation would take place “when we are ready.”

British MPs Warn That The UK Is Facing A Digital Skills Shortage

 Urgent action is needed to deal with the UK’s digital skills crisis, British MPs have warned, or it risks damaging the country’s productivity and competitiveness.

It is thought 12.6 million British adults lack basic digital skills, while 5.8 million have never used the internet at all.

“Stubborn digital exclusion and systemic problems” with education and training need to be urgently addressed, the report said.

It urged the British government’s digital strategy to be published without delay.

Elon Musk Now Thinks He Can Send A Manned Mission To Mars by 2025

I understand that manned space travel captures human imagination, but I can’t understand why anyone would seriously contemplate a manned mission to Mars in the near future.  It would be spectacularly dangerous and it would yield little benefit.

Yet master publicist Elon Musk now says he plans to do so by 2025. The SpaceX founder and CEO has never made a secret that he wants to go to Mars, and soon. Plans for an unmanned landing in 2018 using a Red Dragon capsule were announced earlier this year, and now in an interview with the Washington Post the tech entrepreneur has given a broad outline of a proposal that could see a manned mission touching down on the Red Planet in 2025.

I met and listened to the director of NASA’s Mars mission project recently and even he says that many of the technologies that would be required for such an expedition don’t yet exist.

And I still think that the robots of the future can do everything we need on Mars – and without the risk to human life, and at far less cost.

Facebook Will Soon Track All The Shops You Enter

Facebook wants to show advertisers that their ads make you visit their bricks-and-mortar stores and buy their stuff. To do this, they’ll use phones’ location services to track whether people actually walk into the stores after seeing an ad.

The company’s new Local Awareness ad features will be fascinating for businesses and depressing for the rest of us. Businesses can now include a map with their ad to show users where the closest store is in case they want that £/$12 dress right now.

Then, Facebook’s Offline Conversions API will match in-store visit data (tracked using the phone’s location services) with Facebook advertising data. So, H&M won’t be able to see if you individually visited after its “store locator” sent you strong subliminal messages, but it will be able to match visits with the number of people who saw that ad in their feed and felt compelled to walk in.

According to Adweek, early results from these features (which roll out in the next few months) are already good. French retailer E.Leclerc says it’s reached 1.5 million people within 10 kilometers. Of those, 12 percent of clicks (or about 180,000) led to visits within a week.

The Combination of CRISPr Gene Therapy And Stem Cells Promises Real Miracles

Scientists in the United States are trying to grow human organs inside pigs. They have injected human stem cells into pig embryos to produce human-pig embryos known as chimeras.

The embryos are part of research aimed at overcoming the worldwide shortage of transplant organs. The team from University of California, Davis says they should look and behave like normal pigs except that one organ will be composed of human cells.

The human-pig chimeric embryos are being allowed to develop in the sows for 28 days before the pregnancies are terminated and the tissue removed for analysis.

Stem-cell research (growing spare organs) and gene editing might sound like “Brave New World” but millions of lives will be saved and improved.

Smart Clothing Which Sends Alert If Your Heart Is In Trouble

A start-up called Sensoria has announced a crowdfunding campaign to launch a new line of its heart-rate monitoring t-shirts and sports bras. A new app will also be launched which uses information from the smart clothing to identify if you might be about to suffer a cardiac arrest, and can even alert your nearest and dearest urging them to seek help.

The upcoming sportswear from Sensoria works in much the same way as its previous garments, by featuring built-in electrodes and a clip-on Bluetooth heart rate monitor. The main differences are the design, colours, and materials used. The t-shirt now features short sleeves rather than being sleeveless, and the bra will be available in medium support rather than low. Both will come in blue and red options, and be made using Emana yarn, which is said to improve skin elasticity and help prevent muscle fatigue.

However, the more interesting aspect of the launch is a new Sensoria Fitness app, which will make use of the heart rate monitoring data in other ways than simply helping you to train harder. The Sensoria Fitness V2.0 app is also designed to check your ticker is working properly by monitoring heart rate variability in addition to heart rate, and using a cardiologist-created algorithm called Heart Sentinel.

Electric Harley-Davidsons Defeat The Point

Surely Harley-Davidson motorcycles are all about the noise?  But now the company seems to be drumming up interest for a silent electric version.  But what’s the point?

Iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has been touting the “LiveWire” electric bike concept around for years. But only recently has the company committed to a timeline on production of anything like it.

“Harley-Davidson will produce an electric motorcycle for customer within the next five years,” writes Asphalt And Rubber citing Harley Senior Vice President of Global Demand Sean Cummings as quoted in the Milwaukee Business Journal.

A&R calls the comment “superfluous” explaining that “lead times on new models – motorcycles that actually require engineering and design, not just a different fuel tank and extra letters – take roughly three to five years, from concept to completion.”