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Biotech

Personal Genomics Firm 23andMe Patents Designer Baby System 171

An anonymous reader writes "Consumer genomics company 23andMe has developed a system for helping prospective parents choose the traits of their offspring, from disease risk to hair color. The patent — number 8543339, "Gamete donor selection based on genetic calculations" — describes a technology that would take a customer's preferences for a child's traits, compute the likely genomic outcomes of combinations between a customer's sperm or egg and other people's sex cells, and describe which potential reproductive matches would most likely produce the desired baby."
Science

Berkeley Scientists Plan To 'Jurassic Park' Some Extinct Pigeons Back To Life 209

phenopticon writes "Researchers at Berkeley are attempting to revive the extinct passenger pigeon in order to set up a remote island theme park full of resurrected semi-modern extinct animals. (Well, maybe not that last part.) Quoting: 'About 1,500 passenger pigeons inhabit museum collections. They are all that's left of a species once perceived as a limitless resource. The birds were shipped in boxcars by the tons, sold as meat for 31 cents per dozen, and plucked for mattress feathers. But in a mere 25 years, the population shrank from billions to thousands as commercial hunters decimated nesting flocks. Martha, the last living bird, took her place under museum glass in 1914. ... Ben Novak doesn't believe the story should end there. The 26-year-old genetics student is convinced that new technology can bring the passenger pigeon back to life. "This whole idea that extinction is forever is just nonsense," he says. Novak spent the last five years working to decipher the bird's genes, and now he has put his graduate studies on hold to pursue a goal he'd once described in a junior high school fair presentation: de-extinction. ... Using next-generation sequencing, scientists identified the passenger pigeon's closest living relative: Patagioenas fasciata, the ubiquitous band-tailed pigeon of the American west. This was an important step. The short, mangled DNA fragments from the museums' passenger pigeons don't overlap enough for a computer to reassemble them, but the modern band-tailed pigeon genome could serve as a scaffold. Mapping passenger pigeon fragments onto the band-tailed sequence would suggest their original order."
Government

Multi-Target Photo-Radar System To Make Speeding Riskier 506

mrquagmire writes with this excerpt from Engadget: "Go easy on the gas, Speed Racer, because Cordon is on its way. Developed by Simicon, this new speed sensor promises to take highway surveillance to new heights of precision. Unlike most photo radar systems, which track only one violator at a time, Simicon's device can simultaneously identify and follow up to 32 vehicles across four lanes. Whenever a car enters its range, the Cordon will automatically generate two images: one from wide-angle view and one closeup shot of the vehicle's license plate. It's also capable of instantly measuring a car's speed and mapping its position, and can easily be synced with other databases via WiFi, 3G or WiMAX."
NASA

How To Deflect an Asteroid With Today's Technology 264

Matt_dk writes "Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart is among an international group of people championing the need for the human race to prepare for what will certainly happen one day: an asteroid threat to Earth. Schweickart said the technology is available today to send a mission to an asteroid in an attempt to move it, or change its orbit so that an asteroid that threatens to hit Earth will pass by harmlessly. But what would such a mission entail?"
Medicine

Ultrasound As a Male Contraceptive 599

TeslaBoy writes "The BBC has an article about using ultrasound aimed at the testicles as a reversible male contraceptive. This can last for six months. With a grant of $100,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, researchers at the University of North Carolina will push ahead with more clinical trials, fine tuning, and safety tests."
Image

Oil Leak Could Be Stopped With a Nuke Screenshot-sm 799

An anonymous reader writes "The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be stopped with an underground nuclear blast, a Russian newspaper reports. Komsomoloskaya Pravda, the best-selling Russian daily, reports that in Soviet times such leaks were plugged with controlled nuclear blasts underground. The idea is simple, KP writes: 'The underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well's channel.' It's so simple, in fact, that the Soviet Union used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities, and it only didn't work once."
Science

DARPA Aims for Synthetic Life With a Kill Switch 295

jkinney3 writes to mention that DARPA's mad scientists have undertaken a new program designed to create synthetic organisms, complete with a "kill switch." The project, dubbed BioDesign, is dumping $6 million into "removing the randomness of evolutionary advancement" by creating genetically engineered masterpieces. "Of course, Darpa's got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they'll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create 'tamper proof' cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, 'similar to a serial number on a handgun.' And if that doesn't work, don't worry. In case Darpa's plan somehow goes horribly awry, they're also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch."

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