Health

Poop-to-power projects pumped up

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: November 9, 2011   View Article

Innovators from around the world who see power in steaming piles of poop are getting serious money from Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates’ foundation to help the world’s 2.1 billion urban dwellers without access to sewers live safer, more sanitary and electrified lives.

Grantee Daniel Yeh, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of South Florida, for example, will use the funds to field test an advanced technology that harvests nutrients, energy, and water from wastewater.

Yeast adds vitamins to bread

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: October 24, 2011   View Article

Bread loaded with beta-carotene, the stuff that makes carrots orange and helps prevent blindness, could improve the health of millions of people, thanks to a strain of genetically enhanced yeast developed by undergraduate students.

“It looks exactly like normal bread,” Arjun Khakhar, a junior biomedical engineering student at Johns Hopkins University, told me Monday. “There’s no orange color or anything because the yeast only makes up a very small part of the bread.”

‘Unnatural’ bugs to enhance our lives?

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 22, 2011   View Article

Scientists have successfully added multiple “unnatural” amino acids to a strain of bacteria, a breakthrough on the path to genetically engineered microbes that create useful things for people such as life-saving medicines and biofuels.

“We are adding components to the bug so that the bug can do something that a natural bug usually can’t do,” Lei Wang at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies told me today. “We are trying to make it do new tricks.”

Wind turbines harness MRI tech

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: September 7, 2011   View Article

The high-tech magnets in modern MRI systems encountered at the doctor’s office may soon generate electricity from the wind, according to researchers at the General Electric Company.

MRI systems are the tube-like contraptions that make images of damaged hearts, torn ligaments, brains, and other body tissues. Instead of X-rays, the images are made with superconducting magnets, which are electromagnets made from coils of superconducting wire.

Computer software helps engineer organisms

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: July 21, 2011   View Article

A computer software program is outfitting biotechnology companies with the ability to determine the genetic plans they need to engineer microorganisms for the production of products such as building materials, drugs and biofuels.

Companies routinely use microorganisms such as E. coli to manufacture products such as insulin. This has primarily been done by cutting and pasting DNA found in nature into organisms that can be grown in the lab, explained Howard Salis, a synthetic biologist at Pennsylvania State University.

Grow a new language in your head

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 23, 2011   View Article

For adults, learning a new language is often a long, frustrating process that inevitably ends up in failure. A memory expert and a neuroscientist hope to change that with a new online software package designed to make learning the vocabulary of a foreign language fast, fun and rewarding.

“Really good successful learning needs to be vivid, imaginative and creative. It needs to be active. And if you can make it a bit social, that’s great,” Greg Detre, a neuroscientist and co-founder of Memrise, the online destination to learn foreign words quickly, told me today.

Materials wizard wins $500,000 prize

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: June 14, 2011   View Article

The man behind a stretchy heart monitor, an electronic eye camera, and a solar energy technology that is potentially price-competitive with coal has bagged a $500,000 prize for his creative, inventive mind.

John Rogers credits a fortunate upbringing by a physicist dad and poet mom, as well as a team of talented colleagues, for making him one of the most successful midcareer scientists in the country and recipient of this year’s Lemelson-MIT Prize.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach