This week’s stories range from Amazon’s new drone to the results of the International Summit on Human Gene Editing to a whole lot of pretty that hit the web this week, so let’s get started!
Amazon Prime Air
Early this week, Amazon released a feature commercial for their upcoming service Amazon Prime Air, which promises aerial drone delivery of packages up to five pounds in under thirty minutes. The commercial, featuring ex-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson, shows a scenario in which someone who desperately needs a new pair of a very specific kind of shoe orders online and has the package dropped in their backyard by a drone. The footage is fairly revealing, showing the vertical takeoff and landing of a typical quadcopter (or, in this case, octocopter) being combined with a forward-thrust propeller to drive the craft up in excess of fifty miles an hour. The company claims it’s only one of a number of models they’re testing, and in all likelihood the actual regulatory approval is a decade away in the US, but it’s still really cool to see the progress they’re making. The Washington Post has a breakdown of what we can take away from the commercial, and you can watch the commercial itself right here:
Human Gene Editing
The International Summit of Human Gene Editing took place this week (I wrote about it, and the “designer babies” angle earlier), and now that it has concluded, they’ve released a statement summing up their recommendations. In brief, the scientists concluded that research into methods of human genome editing should continue, but carefully, because first and foremost, the technology to do it safely isn’t there yet. They were the most conservative about germ line editing, but the language used suggests that they believe in the future it should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and that these evaluations should take place often:
It would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing unless and until (i) the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved, based on appropriate understanding and balancing of risks, potential benefits, and alternatives, and (ii) there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application. Moreover, any clinical use should proceed only under appropriate regulatory oversight. At present, these criteria have not been met for any proposed clinical use: the safety issues have not yet been adequately explored; the cases of most compelling benefit are limited; and many nations have legislative or regulatory bans on germline modification. However, as scientific knowledge advances and societal views evolve, the clinical use of germline editing should be revisited on a regular basis.
You can read the full statement at this link.
Q-Carbon and Diamonds
While the DeBeers corporation may have sold us all on the idea that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, they’re also very useful for technological and industrial applications because of their hardness, which is why people are always on the lookout for new ways to make diamonds artificially. This week, a team of researchers announced that they’ve come up with what appears to be a cheaper and easier way to make industrial diamonds at the nanoscale — in films, spikes, and microdots — and that they’ve created a new carbon allotrope in the process. The new, denser, harder form of carbon has been dubbed Q-Carbon by the team of researchers, who feel its novel properties — for instance its tendency to release electrons easily, which could be useful in new display screen technologies — could make a big difference in industry. What’s more, their process allows for the creation of about a carat of diamond in fifteen minutes at room temperature and pressure, and the team feel the only limiting factor is the size of the laser they’re using in the process. You can learn more about the story over at Discover Magazine’s D-Brief blog, and at Smithsonian.com.
So much eye candy hit the web this week that I just had to dedicate a little time to it. First there was the release of the stunning closest-approach photo mosaic from the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which makes a strip fifty miles wide across the planet. Next, there’s Flickr’s top 25 photos of 2015, with SpaceX taking the “literal” top spot. Then there’s the beautiful photos popping up of Mount Etna’s latest eruption, including this stunning one by photographer Marco Restivo. There’s a fantastic photograph of a kingfisher diving into the water that only took six years and 700,000 shots to get. Finally, just because I stumbled across it while browsing reddit, a photo of heat shield material testing by /u/zeitzeph that’s just shockingly cool.
Here’s how the week shaped up at This Week In Tomorrow:
- On Monday, I showed you some angry-making conspiracy theorists
- On Tuesday, I talked about the pseudoscientific crap that is “Facilitated Communication”
- On Wednesday, I talked about how so-called “designer babies” really aren’t the issue with genome editing
- On Thursday, I wrote about the Planned Parenthood shooting, and
- On Friday, Lindsey brought us a little good news about birth control availability
If you missed any, go check them out!
Best of the Rest
And of course there was more to get to than I could cover, so here’s your weekly linkspam:
- Robots are setting up London’s new subway line
- Western Digital’s made a helium-filled 10TB hard drive
- Adobe has renamed Flash to Animator
- Goolge’s hired Tesla’s old “Autopilot” project head
- Architecture firm AMBS has proposed to build the world’s tallest building in Basra
- Google’s filed a patent for a needle-less blood-drawing device, and
- As Mythbusters’ final season filming wrapped, Adam Savage took photos and presented his last day