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Gene editing could bring an end to all inherited disease and cancer, expert says – The Independent

Posted: February 19, 2017 at 10:47 am

All inherited diseases and cancers could be cured in the coming decades, according to a leading British expert.

Gene editing techniques that have been developed in recent years could be put to work to effectively end cancer and inherited diseases, according to DrEdze Westra

MrWestra believes that the ability to splice DNA into cells precisely a technology which is on the horizon, but is rejected on moral grounds by many will become super importantover the next 20 years.

It could completely transform the human race, he says so thatpeople are not affected by cancer, failing vision or the diseases of old age.

The bioscientist from the University of Exeter said: There is always a risk with this kind of technology and fears about designer babies and we have started having discussions about that so we can understand the consequences and long-term risks.

I think in the coming decades gene editing will become super important, and I think we will see it being used to cure all inherited diseases, to cure cancers, to restore sight to people by transplanting genes.

I think it will definitely have massive importance.

On Tuesday, two highly influential academic bodies in the US shook up the scientific world with a report that, for the first time, acknowledged the medical potential of editing inherited genes.

The National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine ruled that gene editing of the human germlineeggs, sperm and embryos should not be seen as a red line in medical research.

Many critics insist that powerful new gene editing techniques should never be used to alter inherited DNA.

They argue that such a move would be the start of a slippery slope leading to designerbabies with selected features such as blue eyes, high intelligence or sporting prowess.

But the two pillars of the American scientific establishment said that with necessary safeguards, future use of germline gene editing to treat or prevent disease and disability was a realistic possibility that deserves serious consideration.

Mr Westra is taking part in a discussion on gene editing and its potential implications for society at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

He said gene editing technology not only held out the promise of fixing genetic faults, but could be used to turn cells into miniature factories that churned out therapeutic chemicals or antibodies.

One application was the use of gene drivesthat increase the prevalence of a certain trait in a population.

For instance, gene editing machinery placed inside the cells of large numbers of malaria transmitting mosquitoes could prevent them spreading the organism that carriesthe disease to humans.

It could be a fantastic strategy to deal with some of the worlds biggest problems,said Mr Westra.

In terms of ethics we need to work out what happens if a genetically engineered insect flies out of the window of the lab. Trials into gene drives are already happening in labs for malaria.

The most promising form of gene editing, known as CRISPR/Cas9, was first demonstrated in 2012.

It employs a defence system bacteria useto protect themselves against viruses.

A carefully targeted enzyme is used as chemical scissorsthat cut through specific sections of double stranded DNA. Then the cells own DNA repair machinery can be exploited to insert the pastedgenetic material.

Mr Westra said: Gene editing… is causing a true revolution in science and medicine, because it allows for very precise DNA surgery.

A mutation in a gene that causes disease can now be repaired using CRISPR.

PA

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Gene editing could bring an end to all inherited disease and cancer, expert says – The Independent

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Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal – The Guardian

Posted: February 18, 2017 at 3:50 am

Woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius), a model of an extinct Ice Age mammoth. Photograph: Andrew Nelmerm/Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley

The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.

Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the de-extinction effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.

Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo, said Prof George Church. Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. Were not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.

The creature, sometimes referred to as a mammophant, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.

Until now, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

Were working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab, said Church.

Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of edits where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45.

We already know about ones to do with small ears, subcutaneous fat, hair and blood, but there are others that seem to be positively selected, he said.

Church said that these modifications could help preserve the Asian elephant, which is endangered, in an altered form. However, others have raised ethical concerns about the project.

Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, said: The proposed de-extinction of mammoths raises a massive ethical issue the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant. What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by elephants?

Church also outlined plans to grow the hybrid animal within an artificial womb rather than recruit a female elephant as a surrogate mother – a plan which some believe will not be achievable within the next decade.

We hope to do the entire procedure ex-vivo (outside a living body), he said. It would be unreasonable to put female reproduction at risk in an endangered species.

He added that his lab is already capable of growing a mouse embryo in an artificial womb for 10 days – halfway through its gestation period.

Were testing the growth of mice ex-vivo. There are experiments in the literature from the 1980s but there hasnt been much interest for a while, he said. Today weve got a whole new set of technology and were taking a fresh look at it.

Churchs team is proposing to rear the embryo in an artificial womb which seems ambitious to say the least the resultant animal would have been deprived of all the pre-birth interactions with its mother, said Cobb.

The woolly mammoth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished about 4,000 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and hunting by humans.

Their closest living relative is the Asian, not the African, elephant.

De-extincting the mammoth has become a realistic prospect because of revolutionary gene editing techniques that allow the precise selection and insertion of DNA from specimens frozen over millennia in Siberian ice.

Church helped develop the most widely used technique, known as Crispr/Cas9, that has transformed genetic engineering since it was first demonstrated in 2012. Derived from a defence system bacteria use to fend off viruses, it allows the cut and paste manipulation of strands of DNA with a precision not seen before.

Gene editing and its ethical implications is one of the key topics under discussion at the Boston conference.

Church, a guest speaker at the meeting, said the mammoth project had two goals: securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant and helping to combat global warming. Woolly mammoths could help prevent tundra permafrost from melting and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in, said Church. In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.

The scientists intend to engineer elephant skin cells to produce the embryo, or multiple embryos, using cloning techniques. Nuclei from the reprogrammed cells would be placed into elephant egg cells whose own genetic material has been removed. The eggs would then be artificially stimulated to develop into embryos.

Church predicts that age-reversal will become a reality within 10 years as a result of the new developments in genetic engineering.

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Woolly mammoth on verge of resurrection, scientists reveal – The Guardian

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Suspect in high-seas homicides hospitalized, putting case on hold – Sacramento Bee

Posted: February 15, 2017 at 12:32 am


Sacramento Bee
Suspect in highseas homicides hospitalized, putting case on hold
Sacramento Bee
Former Sacramento resident Silas Duane Boston, charged in the 1978 murder of two British tourists and suspected in the 1968 disappearance of his wife, has been hospitalized due to apparent complications from heart and liver disease, defense attorneys …

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California officials lift evacuation order for 200000 threatened by damaged dam – CBS News

Posted: at 12:06 am

OROVILLE, Calif. –Authorities have lifted an evacuation order for nearly 200,000 California residents who live below a dam with a damaged spillway that threatened to collapse and cause catastrophic flooding.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Tuesday that residents should stay prepared in case the situation changes. He says the water level at the lake behind Oroville Dam, the nations tallest, is low enough to accommodate expected storm.

Crews have working around the clock atop the crippled Oroville Dam, making progress on repairs ro the damaged spillway. The work led to the lake level reducing by at least 8 feet overnight at a Northern California reservoir that has been central to the life of the towns around it for a half century.

Workers hoisted giant white bags filled with rocks, and at least two helicopters planned to fly in rocks Tuesday then release them into the eroded area of the spillway. Dump trucks full of boulders also were dumping cargo on the damaged spillway.

Backhoes load boulders into dump trucks as emergency personnel work to fix the damage below the emergency spillway at Oroville Lake

Getty

The first test of these fixes will come as early as Wednesday, when a series of storms this area, CBS News John Blackstone reports.

The lake that for five decades has brought residents holiday fireworks and salmon festivals could have brought disaster.

Never in our lives did we think anything like this would have happened, said Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville, a town of about 16,000 people, for about five years.

Recent reports indicate that environmental activists and local government officials warned more than a decade ago about the risk of catastrophic flooding below a major Northern California dam, the very scenario that threatened to unfold in Oroville over the weekend.

State and federal regulators dismissed those fears at the time, saying they were confident the hillside that helps hold back hundreds of billions of gallons of water was stable and did not need to be reinforced with concrete.

In this Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, aerial photo released by California Department of Water Resources shows the damaged spillway with eroded hillside in Oroville, Calif.

William Croyle/California Department of Water Resources via AP

That decision has come under scrutiny now that the hillside, which acts as an emergency spillway for the reservoir, was put to its first test in the dams nearly 50-year history.

The acting head of the states Department of Water Resources said he was unaware of the 2005 report that recommended reinforcing with concrete an earthen spillway that is now eroding.

Im not sure anything went wrong, Bill Croyle said. This was a new, never-having-happened-before event.

Evacuee Crystal Roberts-Lynch didnt buy the explanations.

I know that somebody did not pay attention to the warning signs, she said. Someone in charge was not paying attention. It was their job to pay attention to what was going on with the dam.

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Nearly 200,000 people evacuated from their homes in Northern California are still unable to go home. If an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam…

Oroville is a Gold Rush town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, some 70 miles northeast of Sacramento, nestled near the foot of the dam. The dam was completed in 1968 and is the nations tallest, at 770 feet. Houses and churches are perched on tree-lined streets near the Feather River. Old, ornate Victorian homes sit alongside smaller bungalows.

Everybody knows to go there for the Fourth of July, Roberts-Lynch said of the lake. Then theres festivals wrapped around the salmon run. The mother of three, who has lived in Oroville for 10 years, was staying at a Red Cross evacuation center in Chico.

Local businesses, including one that sells supplies for gold-panning, dominate a downtown area that spans several blocks. A wide range of chain stores sit a short distance away along the main highway.

The lake brings in an enormous part of the economy for the town. It definitely is a people-catcher, said Brannan Ramirez, who has lived in Oroville for about five years. We get people from all over the country.

Cities and towns farther down the Feather River also are in danger.

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More heavy rain and widespread flooding is expected in the western U.S. Chief meteorologist Eric Fisher from our Boston affiliate station WBZ is …

Yuba City, population 65,000, is the biggest city evacuated. The city has the largest dried-fruit processing plant in the world and one of the largest populations of Sikhs outside of India.

The region is largely rural and its politics dominated by rice growers and other agricultural interests, including orchard operators. The region is dogged by the high unemployment rates endemic to farming communities. There are large pockets of poverty and swaths of sparsely populated forests, popular with anglers, campers and backpackers.

For now, its all at the mercy of the reservoir that usually sustains it, and provides water for much of the state.

If anything, we would have thought that the dam would have been constructed better, Ramirez said.

Over the weekend, the swollen lake spilled down the unpaved, emergency spillway, which had never been used before, for nearly 40 hours, leaving it badly eroded.

Officials defended the decision to suddenly call for mass evacuations late Sunday afternoon, just a few hours after saying the situation was stable, forcing families to rush to pack up and get out.

There was a lot of traffic. It was chaos, said Robert Brabant, an Oroville resident who evacuated with his wife, son, dogs and cats. It was a lot of accidents. It was like people werent paying attention to other people.

California Gov. Jerry Brown

AP/Nick Ut, File

Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that he sent a letter to the White House requesting direct federal assistance in the emergency, though some federal agencies have been helping already.

Brown has had harsh words for President Donald Trump, and the state has vowed to resist many of his administrations efforts.

But the governor said at a news conference that hes sure that California and Washington will work in a constructive way. Thats my attitude. There will be different points of view, but were all one America.

The governor said he doesnt plan to go to Oroville and distract from efforts, but he tried to reassure evacuees.

My message is that were doing everything we can to get this dam in shape and they can return and they can live safely without fear, Brown said.

But evacuee Kelly Remocal said she believed the public officials working on the problem are downplaying everything so people dont freak out.

I honestly dont think theyre going to be able to do it, fix the problem, she said. This requires a little more than a Band-Aid. At this point they have no choice but to give it a Band-Aid fix.

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Deconstructing the ‘Liberal Campus’ Cliche – The Atlantic

Posted: February 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

Are American universities now spaces where democratic free expression is in decline, where insecurity, fear, and an obsessive, self-preening political correctness make open dialogue impossible? This was a view voiced by many at the start of the month, after the University of California, Berkeley, canceled a speech by the right-wing provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, when a demonstration against his appearance spun out of control. Yiannopoulos had been invited to speak by campus Republicans, but headlines the next morning were dominated by images of 100 to 150 protesters wearing black masks, hurling rocks, fireworks, and Molotov cocktails en route to doing $100,000 dollars of damage to a student center named after the great icon of pacifist civil disobedience, Martin Luther King, Jr.

The university itself quickly rejected the rioting group of protesters, issuing a statement that read: We deeply regret that the violence unleashed by this group undermined the First Amendment rights of the speaker, as well as those who came to lawfully assemble and protest his presence. But official disavowals were not enough to spare Berkeleywhich consistently ranks as the top public university in the countryfrom headlines depicting it as yet another college campus succumbing to anti-democratic sentiments. These headlines were followed by high-profile denouncements, from Donald Trump calling for defunding the university to the Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams announcing he was ceasing his alumni giving.

Berkeley is only one of a growing number of universities that have been highlighted as waning in their commitment to free speech. A little over a year ago, Yale came under scrutiny for a notorious case involving a debate about censoring Halloween costumes on campus. And last spring The New Yorker published an in-depth investigation of how a new activism at Oberlin College had weakened a sense of open dialogue. A few months before that The Atlantic also ran a big cover story highlighting how in the name of emotional well-being college students across the country were now increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they didnt like.

Such reports have in turn reinforced a longstanding political narrative, which seeks to demean Americas universities as ideologically narrow, morally slack, hypersensitive, and out of touch. For example, commentators like the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat have argued that Americas university system is genuinely corrupt in relying on rote appeals to left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.

But does this widespread portrait of universities as morally weak and anti-democraticcirculating at least since the time of Allan Bloomreally hold true? This vision of American universities is largely inadequate in at least two ways. First, it incorrectly blames increased fragility exclusively on the university system itself and, second, it relies on a reductive caricature of Americas institutions of higher learning.

Undoubtedly a threatened sense of identity has led to a rise of some left-wing students making unreasonable demands in terms of censoring or excluding certain material. For example, at Oberlin College there was increased pressure on administration and admissions to expunge the institution of imperialism, white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and a cissexist heteropatriarchy. As part of this one student prominently called for trigger warnings so that students could prepare themselves for emotionally-challenging texts like Sophocless Antigone. This call in turn vexed faculty, other students, parents, and administration, generating divisions on campus. Yet a closer look reveals that the fragility of identity politics is far from limited to the left on college campuses.

Identity politics places individual and group notions of selfhood at the center of politics. As the philosopher Charles Taylor has argued at length, the main goal of identity politics is recognition or validation of a given identity by others in society. I have written elsewhere about how identity politics (normally associated with American liberalism) is actually a major engine fueling the rise of Trump. The categories of left and right often distort the ways in which cultural trends, like those associated with identity politics, are far more widely shared across American life. While some left-wing groups on campus are guilty of retreating from open dialogue, a conservative-identity movement has likewise tried to buffer students from having to hear ideas that upset them.

One of the more troubling examples of this is the attempt to stigmatize certain professors through the website ProfessorWatchList.org, which compiles lists of professors that purportedly need to be monitored due to their radical agenda. This website professes to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish but at the same time it publicly isolates professors whose perspective is seen as offensive or shocking to conservative students. Through the use of this website students can now know before they ever walk into their college classrooms if their professor is too radical to take seriously (or perhaps even too radical to take the class). At best the website serves as a massive trigger warning for conservative-leaning students; at worst it is a modern Scarlet Letter.

Because both the left and the right more generally are struggling to muster the confidence to be routinely exposed to dissenting points of view, it is neither fair nor constructive to lay the problem of hypersensitivity at the feet of Americas liberal universities. Rather, America as a whole is experiencing an extraordinary sense of fragility around identityuniversities, like the rest of America, find themselves immersed in these tensions.

Reducing American universities to inaccurate clichs about the collegiate left does serve a hard-nosed political function: It marginalizes, excludes, discredits, and diminishes these institutions and intellectuals more broadly from public debate and office. This is part of a much longer tradition of anti-intellectualism in America, first tracked by Richard Hofstadter and more recently chronicled by Susan Jacoby. This culture of anti-intellectualism is likely an important factor in why the number of American professors who serve in Congress is dwarfed by politically dominant professions like lawyers and businessmen.

It has been a standard trope since at least the 1960s to dismiss the liberal academy and its intellectuals out of handas when William F. Buckley famously quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard. More recently the American right has routinely celebrated books by authors like Roger Scruton and Michael Walsh who rest the responsibility for what they see as an apocalyptic civilizational collapse squarely on the shoulders of professors in college classrooms.

But these attempts by other elite groups within society to gain popular political power by attacking universities and intellectuals has only been possible through distortions of reality. The ideological reality of American universities is in fact much more complex than the readymade bromides of the culture war. As of 2016, the United States is home to more than 4,000 institutions of higher education. Among them exists tremendous heterogeneity when it comes to educational missions, specialty and focus, civic and spiritual goals. A total picture of Americas academy would include everything from bustling state schools like the University of Alabama to small Catholic colleges like Thomas Aquinas College; it would span elite Ivies like Harvard and Princeton and highly affordable community colleges like Santa Monica College; it would include places specializing in sciences and engineering like Colorado School of Mines and art institutes like Rhode Island School of Design. American higher education has in part excelled due to a willingness to generously fund and support a wide diversity of institutions.

Even the internal life of universities is far more complex and diverse than the standard anti-intellectual story about them is able to capture. There is, for example, a great variety of ideological and political sensibilities found across the faculties of American universities. At the philosophical level, law schools unsurprisingly tend to presuppose a certain basic deference toward American ideological and legal norms; departments of economics are often (though not always) heavily shaped by classical economics and theories that incline toward advocacy of markets; a similar point could be made of business schools. Humanities and social-science faculties in the United States for their part have scholars of great books, humanists, and, yes, radicals.

Berkeley itselfperhaps the American university with the strongest reputation for liberal activismis far more complex a place than the standard caricatures allow. (I know because I completed my graduate education there and yet now teach at a private Christian university.) For example, Berkeley hosts a wide range of political clubs, including the largest College Republicans group in the state of California. It is also home to more than 50 student religious organizationsincluding everything from evangelical and Catholic to Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist groups. This diversity of spiritual options is hardly the same as the lack of higher purpose held together by a few empty left-wing pieties described by Douthat. A pluralism of spiritual traditions housed by the same university is not the same as a vacuum, much less a single monolithic liberal voice. Indeed, how many people know that in addition to seven Nobel Laureates, Berkeley also has John Yoo, one of the countrys most prominent conservative legal scholars on the law faculty (who zealously defended some of George W. Bushs most controversial policies)?

Ultimately, the deep philosophical problem with the standard political narrative about Americas universities is that it is far too essentialist and reductive. The criticisms are essentialist because they hold that American universities can be fairly described in terms of a few core features (liberal, hypersensitive, intolerant); theyre reductive because they assume that other complex aspects of university life can be simplified to these elements. But is the professor who holds unorthodox or even radical political views really unable to shed light on the poetry of T. S. Eliot, the paradoxes of behavioral economics, or the history of religion? America impoverishes itself when it determines beforehand whom it can and cannot learn from in this way.

Any society that routinely attacks and undermines the institutions that support its greatest minds is caught up in an act of either extravagantly nave or profoundly sinister self-sabotage. Americas college campuses remain places of astounding diversity in which democratic exchange of the highest kind still routinely takes place. The countrys university system remains, with all its imperfections, the best school for American democracy.

If the United States is to flourish in the coming generation in the way it did in the prior century, it will need to embrace and even learn from the diversity and dialogue of its universitiesnot destroy them through simplistic grabs for popular power.

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Deconstructing the ‘Liberal Campus’ Cliche – The Atlantic

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U-CF School Board adds new member and approves preliminary budget – Chester County Press

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The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine …

Pottery for Beginners ONE-DAY POTTERY: Handbuilding Ages: 16+ years Level: Beginner, Limit 8…

Ages: 16+ years Level: Beginner, Limit 8 Students Sun., Jan. 29, 1-4pm, inst. Susan Bankert …

Ages: 16+ years Level: Beginner, Limit 8 Students Sun., Jan. 29, 1-4pm, inst. Susan Bankert …

Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie…

By Thornton Wilder Directed by Abigail Adams February 15-March 12, 2017 Leonard C. Haas Stage …

The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine …

Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie…

In D.A., our purpose is threefold: to stop incurring unsecured debt, to share our experience wit…

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Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, September 15th thru Thursday…

Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie…

Pottery for Beginners ONE-DAY POTTERY: Handbuilding Ages: 16+ years Level: Beginner, Limit 8…

By Thornton Wilder Directed by Abigail Adams February 15-March 12, 2017 Leonard C. Haas Stage …

The Galer Estate family invites you to join our Wine Club, a community of members who enjoy fine …

Uncover facts and fossils about dinosaurs in Dinosaur Revolution, an interactive learning experie…

By Thornton Wilder Directed by Abigail Adams February 15-March 12, 2017 Leonard C. Haas Stage …

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, September 15th thru Thursday…

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U-CF School Board adds new member and approves preliminary budget – Chester County Press

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Human-powered flying crafts sail into this year’s Regatta | Pittsburgh … – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Posted: at 10:41 am

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta will partner with Red Bull to bring a human-powered flying craft competition to the lineup of water, land and air events on the weekend of Aug. 4-6.

The contest on Aug. 5 Red Bull Flugtag (which means flying day in German) involves teams of five pairing together to create homemade flying machines. The teams then send them off a 22-foot-high flight deck to see which craft sails farthest before hitting the water.

In Boston last year, winning team Flite-Riot flew its craft 69 feet. The current record stands at 258 feet, set by a team calledChicken Whisperers from Long Beach, Calif.

Prospective pilots must submit their designs to http://www.RedBullFlugTag.comby May 1.Judges will review applications and select 40 teams to compete in a follow-up announcement on May 8.Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

Courtney Linder: clinder@post-gazette.comor 412-263-1707. Twitter @LinderPG.

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Utah Jazz: Brad Stevens Praises Gordon Hayward’s All-Star Ascension – Purple & Blues

Posted: February 13, 2017 at 9:35 am

Feb 11, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens reacts during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Boston won 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz Continue To Struggle Without Rodney Hood by Hayden Van de Maat

Ever since he was announced as an All-Star reserve last month, Utah Jazz wing Gordon Hayward has noted that opposing players and coaches have gone out of their way to congratulate him for the achievement. However, none have had the same perspective on his career trajectory as Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens.

Long before Hayward was the muscle-bound baller(sporting the Associations answer to the hipster haircut) and elite talent he is today, he was the skinny kid from Brownsburg, Indiana that nearly brought anNCAA title to the Butler Bulldogs on a halfcourt heave.At the time, Stevens was his coach.

Before the Jazz and Celtics did battle on Saturday, Stevens was asked abouthis former players path to stardom. Perhaps more than anyone, he understands Haywards evolution. He also understands that Hayward hada little bit of help from the Jazz

When asked about Haywards physical growth, Stevens spoke at length about how the added strength has aided him not only defensively, but on offense with his ability to drive the basketball

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In the end, it was Stevens Celtics squad that got the win on Saturday. Nevertheless, Hayward served up another All-Star effort, scoring 31 points and nailing four three-pointers.

With Hayward set to enter the free agent market this summer, Stevens and the Celtics will undoubtedly look to sell him on Boston as a potential destination. For now, though, Hayward will represent the Jazz and the Western Conference in the All-Star Game on February 19 in New Orleans.

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Agility Robotics Introduces Cassie, a Dynamic and Talented Robot … – IEEE Spectrum

Posted: February 10, 2017 at 3:16 am

Image: Agility Robotics via YouTube Cassie is a dynamic bipedal robot developed by Agility Robotics, which says it could be used for research, disaster relief, and, long term, delivery of packages.

Today, Agility Robotics, a spin-off of Oregon State University, is officially announcing a shiny new bipedal robot named Cassie. Cassie is a dynamic walker, meaning that it walks much more like humans do than most of the carefully plodding bipedal robots were used to seeing. This makes it better at handling the kind of diverse and complex terrain that we walk over all the time without even thinking, a talent thats going to be mandatory for robots that want to tackle the different environments and situations that theyll need to master to be actually useful around people.

In addition to search-and-rescue and disaster relief, Agility Robotics has one particular environment and situation in mind: They want Cassie to be scampering up your steps to deliver packages to your front door.

Cassie is just three months old in this video, which, if you consider the typical pace for teaching a bipedal robot that you designed from the ground up from scratch to walk without constantly falling over, is quite frankly astonishing. As you can see in the video, theyre not being shy with what they ask Cassie to do: Its on dirt, its on grass, its balancing on a wobbly dock surrounded by an alarming amount of water, its even standing outside in the rain, which is an important feature for any robot that spends much time in Oregon.

And if Cassie looks a bit more like an ostrich than a human, it wasnt because Agility Robotics was specifically trying for an ostrich-like robot: They dont want to necessarily mimic the morphology of animals, although they do study animal behavior and dynamicsfor inspiration and insights. So while ground-running birds may have had the idea first, Agility Robotics intelligently designed Cassie to be agile, efficient, and robust, and this is the leg that they came up with.

Agility Robotics may be a new company, but its made up of the folks behind the ATRIAS robots, including MARLO at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Cassie is the next-generation robot thats intended to take everything that was learned from the ATRIAS project and build it into a platform thats both more capableand more practical, as Agility Robotics co-founder (and OSU professor) Jonathan Hurst tells us:

There were many, many unknowns in the design of ATRIAS. ATRIAS was the first machine to demonstrate human-like gait dynamics and implement spring-mass walking [reproducingthe ground reaction forces and center-of-mass motion of human walking], but it wasnot a practical machine for any use other than science demonstration.

We learned a few key things with ATRIAS: First, the legs on ATRIAS are configured as a 4-bar linkage, in part to create minimum inertia for the spring-mass model embodiment. However, the configuration results in one motor acting as a brake on the other, with a lot of power cycling internally between motors rather than doing work on the world. After some analysis, we developed the specific leg configuration of Cassie. This allows the motors to be smaller, and the robot to be far more efficient than even ATRIAS was.

In addition to increased efficiency, Cassie has all kinds of other practical improvements over ATRIAS. It has a 3-degrees-of-freedom hip like humans do, allowing the robot to move its legs forward and backward, side to side, and also rotate them at the same time. This makes Cassie steerable in a way that ATRIAS wasnt. It also has powered ankles, which it uses to stand in place without having to constantly move its feet the way ATRIAS does, and it has enough battery power to run some beefy on-board computers, meaning that integrated perception is now an option.

University of Michigan engineering professorJessyGrizzle, who wrangles the ATRIAS robot named MARLO at the Dynamic Legged Locomotion Lab, is getting one of the first Cassie robots, and both he (and his students, who have the thankless job of making sure that MARLO doesnt faceplant during their outdoor tests) are particularly excited about how durable Cassie is. Cassie is tough, Grizzle tells us. Its designed for the rough and tumble life of an experimental robot. In principle, we should not have to use a safety gantry of any kind. This will allow us to take the robot into wild places.

Meanwhile, Agility Robotics is already looking beyond research towards commercial applications for Cassie, Hurst tells us:

If we really understood how to implement dynamically capable legs, there would be so many applications for them, including search-and-rescue, exoskeletons, powered prosthetic limbs, and package delivery.

I believe legged locomotion is going to be analogous to the automotive industry, in terms of size and how it transforms our society. We all want telepresence robots; we all want robots that can help us in our homes. We all want groceries and other goods delivered to our homes on a moments notice and for insignificant cost. We all want the cost of manufactured goods to be significantly reduced through more efficient logistics throughout the manufacturing process. Cassie is a step in this direction: it is a first product that will initially be sold to research institutions to support a community of researchers solving the problem of locomotion in the human environment, and Cassie will continue to improve and evolve, as Agility Robotics focuses on products and commercial customers.

Hurst tells us that arms and sensors are coming soon, which will enable Cassie to get up by itself after a fall, and theyre also working on VR-style telepresence. In terms of cost, Agility Robotics wouldnt disclose specific numbers, saying only that theirgoal is to end up with sub-$100k robots.

The company says the initial Cassie production run is already completely sold out, but if you want one to play with, more will be available later in the summer. As far as using Cassie to deliver packages, its a compelling idea, and we can see the benefits: In a world where so much of our spacesare designed around bipedal mobility, a bipedal robot could become the easiest and most reliable platform to do anything practical. Cassie has some work to do before its ready to be hauling groceries up stairs for you, but were very much looking forward to watching this robot taking more steps toward robust and dynamic legged locomotion.

[ Agility Robotics ]

IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, featuring news, articles, and videos on robots, humanoids, drones, automation, artificial intelligence, and more. Contact us:e.guizzo@ieee.org

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Agility Robotics Introduces Cassie, a Dynamic and Talented Robot … – IEEE Spectrum

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CyPhy, Mitsubishi, and Soft Robotics Join Robo Madness on March 28 – Xconomy

Posted: at 3:16 am

While Boston suffers through its first real snow day of the year, I wanted to update you on Robo Madness: A.I. Gets Real.

Were mapping out the program for our March 28 conference at Google in Kendall Square (looking forward to that spring weather). This will be our annual convention of robotics and artificial intelligence experts, startups and investors, and other business and tech leaders. Im pleased to say weve confirmed some new speakers:

Helen Greiner, founder and CTO of CyPhy Works, a prominent drone company. (Greiner is also a co-founder of iRobot.)

Richard Waters, CEO of Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories. They are working on self-driving technology, computer vision, and other A.I.-related projects.

Carl Vause, CEO of Soft Robotics. This is an intriguing startup that makes new kinds of grippers and control systems (demo alert).

Carmichael Roberts, general partner from North Bridge Venture Partners. Hes a materials and hardware expert whos plugged into robotics.

Rudina Seseri, managing partner at Glasswing Ventures. Shes diving deep into the market opportunities for A.I.-related companies and products.

They join our all-star cast, which includes Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram Research; Jeremy Wertheimer from Google; Semyon Dukach from Techstars; Tom Ryden from MassRobotics; Max Versace of Neurala; Joshua Feast from Cogito; Slater Victoroff from Indico; and many more.

Well have much more about the program soonget ready for some outstanding demos and hot-button discussions. Tickets have been flying out the door, but you can still grab one here while supplies last. See you all on March 28.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy’s Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com.

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CyPhy, Mitsubishi, and Soft Robotics Join Robo Madness on March 28 – Xconomy

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