The Puncture-Free Tyre Has Arrived

Michelin has teamed with General Motors to announce a 2024 production goal for airless tyres. The tyres, called Uptis, will have several benefits over radial tubeless tyres and will debut for testing on the Chevrolet Bolt electric car.

Michelin says that the Unique Puncture-proof Tire System (“Uptis”) prototype represents a major step toward realizing its Vision concept, first unveiled at the Movin’On Summit for sustainable mobility in 2017.

The end goal is to replace both tyre and wheel with a full assembly unit for passenger vehicle use. GM plans to begin real-world testing of the Uptis prototypes later this year on a Michigan-based fleet of Bolt EVs.

Airless tyre technology has several benefits both for the vehicle driver and for the planet. The tyres use less raw material and less energy in their production, reduce the number of scrapped tyres from puncture or damage, eliminate most irregular wear issues from over or under inflation, and reduce dangers on the road from blowouts and sudden flats.

AI Can Spot When Image Has Been Photoshopped

Researchers from Adobe and UC Berkeley have created a tool that uses machine learning to identify when photos of people’s faces have been altered.

The deep-learning tool was trained on thousands of images scraped from the internet. In a series of experiments, it was able to correctly identify edited faces 99% of the time, compared with a 53% success rate for humans

There’s growing concern over the spread of fake images and “deepfake” videos. However, machine learning could be a useful weapon in the detection (as well as the creation) of fakes.

It’s understandable that Adobe wants to be seen acting on this issue, given that its own products are used to alter pictures. The downside is that this tool works only on images that were made using Adobe Photoshop’s Face Aware Liquify feature.

It’s just a prototype, but the company says it plans to take this research further and provide tools to identify and discourage the misuse of its products across the board.

Stem Cell Patches Can Mend A Broken Heart

 Scientists have developed heart patches that could benefit hundreds of thousands of people who have a heart attack.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said the patches, which are grown in a lab and help repair damaged hearts, could one day provide an off-the-shelf treatment. They have shown promise in animals, and clinical trials in humans will begin in the next two years.

The thumb-sized (3cm x 2cm) patches of heart tissue contain up to 50m human stem cells programmed to turn into working heart muscle cells.

Experts say one or more patches could be implanted on to a patient’s heart to prevent or reverse damage to the organ.

During a heart attack, the heart is starved of vital nutrients and oxygen, killing off parts of the heart muscle. This weakens the heart and can eventually lead to heart failure, which affects an estimated 920,000 people in the UK.

The patches are intended to physically support the damaged heart muscle and help it pump more efficiently. Chemicals are also released that stimulate the heart cells to repair and regenerate.

EU Says Electric Cars Must Have Added Noise

From next month, any electric vehicle with four or more wheels that wants to be approved for road use in the European Union is going to have to have an “Acoustic Vehicle Alert System,” or AVAS, fitted, making a continuous noise of at least 56 decibels if the car’s travelling at 20 km/h (12 mph) or slower.

Pedestrians will have fewer reasons than ever to look up from their smartphone screens as they step out into European traffic, after Uniform Provisions Concerning the Approval of Quiet Road Transport Vehicles with Regard to their Reduced Audibility become EU law in a few weeks.

Designed to address the public’s fear of quiet electric vehicles, the new laws require cars – not motorcycles – to make some kind of noise at slower speeds. The noise, which isn’t prescribed to be any particular sound, must rise and fall in pitch to signal whether the vehicle is accelerating or decelerating.

Fifty-six decibels isn’t particularly loud, mercifully – it’s about the sound level of a running air con unit or electric toothbrush. A diesel truck, for example, will make about 85 decibels when it passes, and the rules state that the warning sounds can’t be any louder than 75 decibels, or about the noise level of a regular fossil fuel-burning car. As a result the AVAS systems will make no difference at all to people who walk around with earphones in.

Creating An Embryo Without An Egg Or Sperm.

 An incredible new study from researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has for the first time found a way to transform skin cells into all three of the stem cell types that make up an early-stage embryo. This extraordinary discovery points a way toward creating an embryo without the need for an egg or sperm.

Over a decade ago Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University made a radical breakthrough. He and his team found a way to take regular mouse skin cells and make them revert into embyronic-like stem cells. The ability to easily create these cells, called induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), was a true revolution in medical science, leading to a number of amazing innovations.

While iPSCs offered scientists spectacular new opportunities, from regrowing human hearts to repairing damaged spinal cords, the innovation had its limitations. If researchers wanted to build an entire human embryo other novel stem cells were necessary. iPSCs may constitute the bulk of a growing body, but they do not generate several fundamentally important extra-embryonic tissues.

Two other novel types of stem cells are vital to the development of a healthy embryo: trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) and extraembryonic endoderm stem cells (XENs). These are the stem cells that generate the placenta and other important embryo-surrounding tissues, including the umbilical cord and the yolk sac.

US Cyberattack: A Very Dangerous Precedent

 The US has deployed code inside Russia’s power grid and other targets as part of its work to push back against hacking and disinformation from Moscow. The revelation comes just days after the news that a Russia-linked group called Xenotime has started laying the early groundwork for potential attacks on US power companies.

Inevitably, there are few specifics given the sensitivity of the topic. However, the work is being led by the US Cyber Command, an arm of the Pentagon. It’s permitted by a new law passed last summer, which approves “clandestine military activity” in cyberspace to “deter, safeguard or defend” against attacks.

The US hopes that these revelations will act as a deterrent against any future attacks by Russia on its systems. But there’s always the risk that it could fuel an escalation instead.

Lilium Electric Plane Is Now Flying

Lilium first emerged in 2016 as an aviation start-up with some very lofty ambitions, revealing plans to develop a five-seat electric aircraft that can take off vertically, switch to horizontal flight in mid-air and cover some sizable distances on each charge. The company has now taken a significant step toward achieving this goal,completing a flight of a full-scale prototype of its Lilium Jet for the very first time.

Germany-based Lilium sprung out of a business incubator at the European Space Agency (ESA) with the aim of developing a clean and quiet answer to the prickly problem of urban congestion. While there is obviously no one single solution to this, Lilium’s approach was to chip away at the problem with an all-electric, hydrogen-powered flying taxi that can be hailed through a smartphone app.

The aircraft would come down and land on pads stationed around cities and regions, and whisk passengers away to their destination, or close to it, without adding to a city’s pollution, noise and traffic on the ground. Rather than the 55 minutes it takes to travel from JFK Airport to Manhattan by car, the Lilium Jet could theoretically deliver passengers in five minutes. Or traveling from New York to Boston in one hour, is another possibility

Low-Cost Robotic Arm Can Be Programmed In 15 Minutes

Automata, a London robotics firm, has launched a robot arm that costs just $7,500 and is sold under the name Eva (yes, it is named after the robot in WALL-E).

The company hopes to widen access to robots by focusing only on the more basic functions that small firms actually need. It is backed by $9.5 million from several investors, including robotics giant ABB.

Eva was designed with small-scale production in mind. It’s light enough to carry in a backpack, and compact enough to sit on a desk. More important, it’s designed to be easy to use. Its software can run on any device and includes drag-and-drop functions. Automata says that anyone can learn to program it in just 15 minutes with minimal or no training.

Why You Can No Longer Believe Your Eyes

It is now possible to take a talking-head style video, and add, delete or edit the speaker’s words as simply as you’d edit text in a word processor. A new deepfake algorithm can process the audio and video into a new file in which the speaker says more or less whatever you want them to.

It’s the work of a collaborative team from Stanford University, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University and Adobe Research, who say that in a perfect world the technology would be used to cut down on expensive re-shoots when an actor gets something wrong, or a script needs to be changed.

In order to learn the face movements of a speaker, the algorithm requires about 40 minutes of training video, and a transcript of what’s being said, so it’s not something that can be thrown onto a short video snippet and run if you want good results. That 40 minutes of video gives the algorithm the chance to work out exactly what face shapes the subject is making for each phonetic syllable in the original script.

Russian Biologist Plans More CRISPR-edited Babies

 A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them.

Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last Novemberthat he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls.

The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public.

Rebrikov plans to disable the gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, in embryos that will be implanted into HIV-positive mothers, reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to the baby in utero. By contrast, He modified the gene in embryos created from fathers with HIV, which many geneticists said provided little clinical benefit because the risk of a father passing on HIV to his children is minimal.

At Last! A Plastic That’s Fully Recyclable

Plastics are useful and ubiquitous – but that’s not always a good combination. The vast majority of plastic waste can’t be recycled, meaning it ends up in landfills at best or the ocean at worst. To help curb the problem, researchers at Berkeley Lab have now designed a new type of plastic that can apparently be reduced right back to its molecular parts, before being remade over and over.

According to the United Nations, about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced every year. It’s not surprising then that this garbage has found its way to the deepest parts of the oceans, is moving up the food chain and may even leave an indelible imprint on the Earth’s geological record.

With awareness of the issue increasing, we’re seeing bans on single-use plastics, huge ocean cleanup projects setting sail, and creative uses for recovered plastic waste, such as turning them into things as varied as bike pathsshoesart installations and diesel fuel.