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Biotech

New Letters Added To the Genetic Alphabet 74

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Quanta Magazine: [A]fter decades of work, [organic chemist Steven] Benner's team has synthesized artificially enhanced DNA that functions much like ordinary DNA, if not better. In two papers published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society last month, the researchers have shown that two synthetic nucleotides called P and Z fit seamlessly into DNA's helical structure, maintaining the natural shape of DNA. Moreover, DNA sequences incorporating these letters can evolve just like traditional DNA, a first for an expanded genetic alphabet. In fact, the article continues, these new nucleotides can actually outperform their natural counterparts: "When challenged to evolve a segment that selectively binds to cancer cells, DNA sequences using P and Z did better than those without."
Power

First Nuclear Power Plant Planned In Jordan 148

jones_supa writes Jordan has signed an agreement with Russia's state-owned nuclear power giant Rosatom, that sets the legal basis for building the kingdom's first nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2,000 MW. The agreement is worth $10 billion and it envisages the construction of a two-unit power plant at Amra in the north of the kingdom by 2022. The deal provides for a feasibility study, site evaluation process and an environmental impact assessment. Currently Jordan imports nearly 98% of its energy from oil products and crude and is struggling to meet electricity demand, which is growing by more than 7% annually due to a rising population and industrial expansion. The kingdom hopes that eventually nuclear power could provide almost 40% of its total electricity generating capacity.
Space

Crowd-Funded Radio Beacon Will Message Aliens 196

astroengine writes "In the hope of uniting people around the globe in a long-duration project to send a radio 'message in a bottle' METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) signal, a crowd-funded project utilizing a refurbished radio telescope in California has begun its work. Lone Signal is a project initiated by scientists, businessmen and entrepreneurs to set up a continuous radio beacon from Earth. To support the operations of the Jamesburg Earth Station radio dish in Carmel Valley, Calif. (a dish built to support the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969), a crowd-funding effort has been set up so that for a small fee, users can send images to the stars. If you're content with sending a text message, your first message is free. The radio dish's first target is Gliese 526, a red dwarf star 18 light-years from Earth, but the project will be considering other stellar targets believed to be harboring habitable worlds."
Biotech

Monsanto's 'Terminator' Seeds Set To Make a Comeback 284

ananyo writes "Monsanto and other biotechnology firms could be looking to bring back 'terminator' seed technology. The seeds are genetically engineered so that crops grown from them produce sterile seed. They prompted such an outcry that, as Slashdot noted, Monsanto's chief executive pledged not to commercialize them. But a case in the U.S. Supreme Court could allow farmers to plant the progeny of GM seeds rather than buying new seeds from Monsanto, making the technology attractive to biotech companies again. Some environmentalists also see 'terminator' seeds as a way of avoiding GM crops contaminating organic/non-GM crops." Reader 9gezegen adds that Monsanto is getting support, oddly, from parts of the software industry. From the NY Times: "BSA/The Software Alliance, which represents companies like Apple and Microsoft, said in a brief that a decision against Monsanto might 'facilitate software piracy on a broad scale' because software can be easily replicated. But it also said that a decision that goes too far the other way could make nuisance software patent infringement lawsuits too easy to file." The case was heard today; here is a transcript (PDF), and a clear explanation of what the case is about.
Biotech

Hidden Viral Gene Discovered In GMO Crops 391

Jeremiah Cornelius writes "Researchers with the European Food Safety Authority discovered variants of the Cauliflower mosaic virus 35S in the most widely harvested varieties of genetically-modified crops, including Monsanto's RoundupReady Soy and Maze. According to the researchers, Podevin and du Jardin, the particular 'Gene VI' is responsible for a number of possible consequences that could affect human health, including inhibition of RNA silencing and production of proteins with known toxicity. The EFSA is endorsing 'retrospective risk assessment' of CaMV promoter and its Gene VI sequences — in an attempt to give it a clean bill of health. It is unknown if the presence of the hidden viral genes were the result of laboratory contamination or a possible recombinant product of the resultant organism. There are serious implications for the production of GMO for foodstuffs, given either possibility."
Biotech

Scientist Seeks 'Adventurous Human Woman' For Neanderthal Baby 697

theodp writes "Harvard geneticist George Church recently told Der Spiegel he's close to developing the necessary technology to clone a Neanderthal, at which point all he'd need is an 'adventurous human woman' to be a surrogate mother for the first Neanderthal baby to be born in 30,000 years (article in German, translation to English). Church said, 'We have lots of Neanderthal parts around the lab. We are creating Neanderthal cells. Let's say someone has a healthy, normal Neanderthal baby. Well, then, everyone will want to have a Neanderthal kid. Were they superstrong or supersmart? Who knows? But there's one way to find out.'"
Censorship

Google Releases Software To Iran 286

eldavojohn writes "After working closely with US officials following the lifting of export restrictions, Google has announced that their Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome are now available for download in Iran. US sanctions once prevented this but now Google has created versions of its popular software that block all Iranian government IP addresses from utilizing them — thus satisfying the new restrictions."
Government

Obama Eyeing Internet ID For Americans 487

Pickens writes "CBS News reports that the Obama administration is currently drafting the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which will be released by the president in the next few months. 'We are not talking about a national ID card,' says Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose department will be in charge of the program. 'We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.' Although details have not been finalized, the 'trusted identity' may take the form of a smart card or digital certificate that would prove online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions. White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt says that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. 'I don't have to get a credential if I don't want to,' says Schmidt. There's no chance that 'a centralized database will emerge,' and 'we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this.'"
Biotech

Intel Says Brain Implants Could Control Computers By 2020 314

Lucas123 writes "Scientists at Intel are working on developing sensors that would be implanted in a person's head in order to harness brain waves that could then be used to control computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronic equipment. Intel has already used Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) machines to determine that blood flow changes in specific areas of the brain based on what word or image someone is thinking of. People tend to show the same brain patterns for similar thoughts. 'Eventually people may be willing to be more committed ... to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts.' said Intel research scientist Dean Pomerleau."

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