Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Public safety

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


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Infant mortality was a serious concern in almost every country during centuries and decades gone by.  While medical technology in developed countries has radically reduced the rate of infant deaths in a great many places, in developing countries, it remains a serious problem.  Take a look at a proposed affordable medical technology, developed by seniors at Rice University (in Houston, TX in the United States), which they have designed to address the situation…

Prepare to be impressed by this group of college seniors and their



(Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Learn more about the team behind the invention here:  2014-2015 Team

Neonatal hypothermia, a condition in which an infant’s core body temperature is less than 35C, is a dangerous health condition that often compounds illnesses and may lead to death. In the developing world, access to affordable, effective incubators is limited. Our project is to develop an innovative, low-cost neonatal incubator for the developing world that focuses specifically on temperature feedback and safety.


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South Korea’s Team KAIST wins 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge

 blog DARPA winner

For those waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the DARPA Robotics challenge – read all about it here

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June 9th, 2015

If you’ve ever traveled on a plane over several time zones, the resulting disorientation and loss of sleep can do rotten things to your physiology.  Trying to get back into balance can be challenging, if not downright impossible.  This technology introduced by Valkee, a Finnish company, just might present an answer – they’ve developed a new gadget that beams light through a user’s ears.  (Now if they could figure out a way to zap you right to your destination, that would really be a mighty leap forward…  but, this is a good start for the present!)


The Human Charger


Valkee Human Charger


Read a review in this piece published by Smithsonian:  Has a Finnish Company Found a Cure for Jet Lag?

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June 5th, 2015

For those of us who are pet lovers, the idea of anything that ‘resembles’ your real, live friend is perhaps scary (“Pet Semetary” anyone?) or maybe cartoonish (“ruh, roh, George“) or possibly just too far-fetched (pardon the pun!) to be entertained as a thought.  But, if we can envision Artificial Intelligence in ‘humanoid’ form, why not animals?  Get ready to snuggle with a ROBO-PET as you read the article…


Pets in the digital age:


live, robot, or virtual?


Robo-pet Pleo_robot

PLEO was engineered by a group of robotics specialists, animators, technologists and scientists to create a lifelike appearance with organic movement and adaptable behaviors.

Click on the picture above for a little history on the genesis of robo-pets…


As reported by Charles Osgood on CBS Radio:

     Dr. Jean-Loup Rault is an animal welfare researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia. He says as more and more of us squeeze into urban areas, we’re going to see the rise of Robo-Pets.

     Dr. Rault says the idea may sound odd now, but it’s already happening.People are forming strong bonds with robot animals in Japan, where they’re sometimes used as therapy companions for older folks. Research suggests that they see their Robo-Dog as a genuine friend. Never mind that he’s battery-powered.

     By the way, Dr. Rault has been thinking mostly about Robo-Dogs in his work. He says Robo-Cats are a lot harder to make.  For one thing, he says, you have to make them unpredictable – the way real cats are.  That’s a tough engineering challenge…

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