Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

In our world of seemingly endless acronyms, I stumbled upon this one – and once you see the tongue-twister it represents, you’ll understand why a shorter name was called for…

CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences.  [Prokaryotic DNA are single-celled organisms that lack a membrane-bound nucleus (karyon), mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelles]   Researchers hope to use CRISPR to adjust human genes to eliminate diseases, create hardier plants, wipe out pathogens and much more besides.

DNA research making use of CRISPR has been ongoing since the late 1980′s. Please note: while I have NO training in micro-biology or anything approaching a minimal understanding of the subtleties of this field, I am a strong believer that in order for technology to be well used to benefit humankind, those who categorize themselves as experts should be mindful of the potential harmful consequences of their work…  I encourage you to form your own opinion based on the article I’ve linked below [it's a very long piece, but worth more than a skim given the seriousness of the topic].

There are links to a variety of materials within the article that give several points of view – as well as some kickin’ charts.  Give those some attention as well.  They’ll appeal to those who prefer a graphical representation of the growth of CRISPR research.

Once you’ve digested all the material, THEN ask yourself what your role might be in the pursuit of genetic modification…are you pro or con?


Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

CRISPR, the disruptor


Bookmark and Share
June, 27th 2015

…red fish, blue fish”.  If you’re not familiar with this cant, it’s lifted from the children’s book of the same name written by Dr. Seuss.

1fish etc

While we’ve managed to eradicate any number of our finny friends, the oceans, lakes and streams still abound with amazing life.  And there’s a new app, created by students at the University of Minnesota, that’s designed to help catalog their local ‘denizens of the deep’.  The aim: to provide valuable data for managing fisheries’ resources.

Sharing your fish tales


And visit their website iFishForever, to learn more about this joint effort bringing together the talents at University of Minnesota, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The App Door!

iFish Forever


Bookmark and Share
June, 26th 2015

Usually when we hear about the properties of geckos being applied to human technology, it’s the reptiles’ sticky feet that are in discussion. Now, however, scientists in Australia are looking at the manner in which a particular type of gecko is able to stay clean. Their findings could pave the way for things like water-repelling electronics, or clothes that never need washing.

blog gecko

Australia’s James Cook University, University of the Sunshine Coast, The University of Queensland, and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, along with the University of Oxford in the UK are studying the box-patterned gecko, which typically lives in semi-arid environments. While you might expect the creature to be dusty much of the time, it’s virtually always quite clean.

Take a look at this fascinating video that shows how the box-patterned gecko’s skin actually repels liquid:

YouTube Preview Image

Hundreds of thousands of tiny hair-like spines cover the gecko’s body. Air pockets are trapped underneath these, keeping water droplets from adhering to the skin. Instead, those droplets bead up and roll away, grabbing particles of dirt, microbes or other contaminants as they go. What’s more, when two of the droplets merge and release energy, they actually jump off of the spines like popcorn.

The new findings could lead to benefits for people. The scientific team is now working with materials that mimic the gecko skin to study its properties. The science of inventing new technologies based on materials in nature is called biomimicry. Copying the non-wetting, dirt-resistant, antibacterial properties might lead to safer surfaces in hospitals. Or engineers might develop materials that protect the electronics on boats. And who wouldn’t want self-cleaning clothes?

Check out this article to see all of the details surrounding this latest discovery.


Bookmark and Share
June, 25th 2015

I like to eat and I’m sure you do too. I enjoy exploring different cultures through food. After visiting restaurants close to home or traveling the world I attempt to replicate delicious dishes in my home kitchen. Based on what I taste in dishes I continue to experiment until I get close to the food notes I experienced in the original dishes. Often I use what I have available in my refrigerator and pantry to attempt to get close to the dishes I’ve enjoyed. Last year I joined a Beta for Chef Watson. Remember Watson, the super computer who played Jeopardy champions in 2011, and won? Yes, that Watson. Watson can now help you discover dishes to create based on ingredients you have available or based on things you want to try. I’ve been inspired! I discovered ginger pancakes, that’s right, ginger pancakes; thanks to a Chef Watson pairing. Let me tell you, ginger pancakes are delicious. I entered a salsa competition using a Chef Watson inspired, Black Bean Salsa recipe and last week I made Banana Risotto. All because I’m able to interact with a super computer, doing something I love to do. Cook, then Eat!
Chef Watson is now available to everyone. What will you come up with?

YouTube Preview Image

Bookmark and Share
June, 25th 2015

Origami is an ancient art form of paper folding.  Maybe when you were a kid, you folded up bits of paper in art class to make a crane (mine always looked like a smooshed diaper).  Traditional Japanese origami has been practiced since the Edo period (1603–1867).  Designs range from simple to extraordinarily complex – and it takes a lot of practice.


Technology is seeking to transmute this art form and take it to a new level – by creating an Origami Robot.

Read about it here:

Tiny, Origami Robots Can


Climb, Swim and Burrow


The tiny robot is made of pre-cut polystyrene or paper panels which, when heated, fold themselves into a very specific and asymmetrical shape.  The research is being conducted at MIT and TU Munich and was unveiled at ICRA 2015 in Seattle.

One potential application is to someday deploy the ‘bot inside the human body, where — guided by magnetic fields — it could be used to scout around and deliver medicines to specific locations.  The researchers intend to miniaturize their creation even further, and eventually attach integrated sensors and communication devices.

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to this blog Subscribe to this blog

ChatClick here to chat!+