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Elon Musk promises demo of a working Neuralink device on Friday – The Verge

Elon Musk has said that his secretive neurotech firm Neuralink will demonstrate a working “device,” presumably a brain-machine interface, at 6PM ET on Friday. Musk has spoken repeatedly about his belief that BMI devices are needed to help humans keep up with AI by supplementing our brainpower, but right now, his goal is much simpler: to create an implantable device that lets people control phones or computers with their mind.

Musk initially announced the August 28th “progress update” back in July, and has now offered more details on what will be shown. He says the update will include the unveiling of a second-generation robot designed to attach the company’s technology to the brain, and a demo of neurons “firing in real-time,” though it’s not clear exactly what is meant by this.

Even compared to Musk’s other ventures like Tesla and SpaceX, Neuralink is ambitious. The company wants to connect to the brain using flexible electrodes thinner than a human hair that it calls “threads.” Current BMI devices use stiff electrodes for this job, which can cause damage. But inserting flexible electrodes is a much more delicate and challenging task, hence the company’s focus on building a “sewing machine” like robot to do the job.

Eventually, Neuralink hopes to make the installation process for BMIs as non-invasive as Lasik eye surgery, even removing the need to use general anesthetic. Musk has previously spoken about the need for an automated Lasik-like process for BMIs to overcome the constraints and costs involved with needing to use highly trained neural surgeons. But this isn’t ready to be shown off yet, according to Musk. “Still far from LASIK, but could get pretty close in a few years,” Musk tweeted in response to a followup question about the event.

Many scientists have welcomed Musk’s involvement in this medical field, because of the huge potential of BMIs to help paralyzed individuals and those with neurological disorders. Others have cautioned that his claims for the future utility of these devices are far from proven, and his timescales for progress overly optimistic. Neuralink said last year it would start clinical trials by the end of 2020, but has not given any further updates on this goal.

Neuralink is yet to officially announce how you’ll be able to watch Friday’s event, but keeping an eye on the company’s YouTube channel seems like a safe bet.

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Astronauts working

Astronauts working hard to find air leak aboard the ISS – SlashGear

NASA astronauts aboard the ISS are currently working hard to find and repair a small, persistent air leak aboard the space station. While an air leak in a space station orbiting the Earth seems like a significant risk, NASA has stated that the leak is within segment specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station. Some air leakage from the station is normal, and NASA says that this particular leak has been on its radar for a while.

The first indications of the leak were seen in September 2019. An increase in the leak rate has triggered increased efforts to find the source so it can be repaired. The crew currently aboard the ISS includes NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. The trio began searching for the leak on Friday and will spend through Monday bunking in the Russian Zvezda service module.

NASA says that by staying in the segment of the station with the leak, the chances of the astronauts finding the source is improved. Staying in the segment also allows the crew to close station hatches so the air pressure can be monitored in each section.

NASA is clear that the test presents no safety challenges for the crew. However, shutting down the hatches can help mission controllers figure out where the leak is coming from. Initial results from the testing are expected next week.

Once the source of the leak is tracked down, the crew will determine if it can be repaired. It’s unclear exactly what repair methods will be employed, but NASA certainly has a plan.

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NASA working to hunt down pesky ISS air leak – CNET

International Space Station

The International Space Station in orbit.


NASA

Three space explorers zipping around over the Earth on the International Space Station have a mystery on their hands thanks to a small but persistent air leak. NASA is currently in sleuthing mode to find the source.

While an air leak in space sounds worrisome, NASA isn’t fretting it. “The leak is still within segment specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or the space station,” NASA said in a statement on Thursday.

From the lab to your inbox. Get the latest science stories from CNET every week.

A little bit of air leakage is normal, and this particular leak has been on the radar for a while. “In September 2019, NASA and its international partners first saw indications of a slight increase above the standard cabin air leak rate,” the agency said. A further increase in that rate has triggered new measures to hunt down the source so it can potentially be repaired. 

From left are, NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.


NASA

The current crew consists of NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin of Roscosmos. All three will spend Friday through Monday morning hanging out together in the Zvezda service module, a Russian segment of the ISS. 

Bunking in Zvezda gives the crew a chance to close down the station hatches so NASA can monitor the air pressure in each section. “The test presents no safety concern for the crew,” NASA said, and it should help mission controllers figure out where the small leak is coming from. 

Initial results are expected next week.

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Yale Is Working on a Cheap Coronavirus Saliva Test, and the NBA Is Giving It Spit – Gizmodo

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox (Getty Images)

The Yale School of Public Health on Saturday received emergency regulatory authorization for a new covid-19 diagnostic test that detects the novel coronavirus using saliva samples instead of samples from nasopharyngeal swabs. Next, it wants to find out if the test can be used to detect cases in asymptomatic individuals, and it has a surprising partner: the NBA. The association’s key contribution? Lots of spit.

Called SalivaDirect, the test consists of a new low-cost, flexible protocol that can be used by many labs, even if they do not have the same equipment. Since SalivaDirect is a protocol, it is not a kit that you can buy. Per the Food and Drug Administration, designated laboratories could follow the methodology to obtain the required components and perform the test in their lab according to Yale’s instructions for use. Yale will offer the protocol to labs for free.

The FDA granted Yale an emergency use authorization for SalivaDirect this weekend. SalivaDirect is the fifth covid-19 test that uses saliva as a sample that the agency has authorized.

According to Yale, SalivaDirect is unique in three ways. First of all, as mentioned above, the test uses saliva samples to detect the virus, not samples from nasopharyngeal swabs. The swabs are the intimidating looking sticks you see being jammed up peoples’ noses. Yale states that getting these swabs can be uncomfortable, a factor that discourages people from getting tested frequently, and puts those performing the test at risk of getting sick. In comparison, SalivaDirect doesn’t require any special type of swab or collection device, and can be collected in any sterile container.

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Another key difference is the nucleic acid extraction step: It doesn’t have one. Yale affirms that nucleic acid extraction is time-consuming and expensive, and that the practice has been subject to worldwide shortages of supplies. Labs, scientists and public health officials have agonized over the availability of reagents, the chemicals needed to carry out coronavirus tests, at multiple times during the pandemic.

Thirdly, Yale maintains that its method is flexible given that it aims to work with as many different variations of equipment and reagents as possible. This will allow “labs to work with what they have and to prevent shortages.”

Nathan Grubaugh, a Yale School of Public Health assistant professor who was part of the team that spearheaded the development of SalivaDirect, said that researchers simplified the test so that it only costs a couple of dollars for reagents. He said the researchers expects labs will only charge $10 per sample.

“Wide-spread testing is critical for our control efforts,” Grubaugh said in a statement released by Yale. “If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine.”

After all that science, you may be thinking, where does the NBA come in? According to the Wall Street Journal, Yale needed validation studies in order to receive regulatory authorization to offer their protocol more widely, specifically for asymptomatic testing. Researchers aim to determine whether SalivaDirect can accurately detect asymptomatic cases, or cases with people who do not show symptoms of covid-19. Validation studies meant researchers needed spit, and the NBA, along with the National Basketball Players Association, just happened to offer the scientists some from players and staff.

NBA officials contacted Yale in May after reading news coverage of the team’s work on saliva testing for covid-19 and offered to collaborate. The NBA’s players are tested for covid-19 often and in many ways, per the Journal. Over the last two months, teams in their home markets and in the Walt Disney World bubble, where the NBA has restarted its season, have provided nose, mouth and saliva samples for testing.

The saliva samples are sent to Yale, while the nose and mouth samples are sent to Quest Diagnostics and BioReference Laboratories. The Yale research effort on asymptomatic testing is called Surveillance with Improved Screening and Health, or SWISH. The Journal reports that the results of the saliva tests are compared to the results of nasal and oral tests from the same players and team staffers, although no results are identifiable by name.

SWISH is ongoing and is currently testing samples from NBA staffers at Walt Disney World.

Discovering whether SalivaDirect can be used to detect asymptomatic cases may take longer than expected, however. As the Journal notes, there have been no positive covid-19 cases repor

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Morrisville firm working overtime to produce potential coronavirus vaccine – WRAL.com

By Keely Arthur, WRAL reporter

Morrisville, N.C. — The Triangle has joined the race to find a coronavirus vaccine, with a Morrisville company manufacturing one of the candidate drugs.

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is working with Novavax, a Maryland firm that recently won a $1.6 billion federal contract to develop a vaccine. While Novavax is the brains behind the effort, Diosynth, a contract manufacturer specializes in vaccine and gene therapy production, is the muscle.

“We’re the supporting act,” Diosynth Chief Business Officer Andy Fenny said Friday. “We don’t own the technology that is being used. We are enabling them to get to market as quickly as they possibly can.”

“Quickly” is the operative word for President Donald Trump, who will visit the Diosynth plant on Monday to tout his administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which is trying to compress the years-long process of vaccine development into a matter of months.

Novavax’s vaccine is in a Phase 1 clinical trial and is expected to move into Phase 2 in mid-August and Phase 3 in the fall.

“The team in North Carolina have basically dropped everything [and] worked overtime,” Fenny said. “They are killing themselves to ensure that we can get this product out into the clinic as soon as we possibly can.”

Trump’s visit only adds to the “little bit crazy” atmosphere at the Morrisville plant, he said.

“I think that our team are so pumped that they are being recognized for the work that they’ve done,” he said. “We’ve had a number of people from the advance team come to the site to walk down the routes that president will take as he moves around the site, just to make sure that he sees everything he wants to see while he’s here.”

Dr. Barton Haynes, an immunology expert at Duke University, said research into and development of vaccines for HIV and other diseases are allowing companies to work at break-neck speed on a coronavirus vaccine without sacrificing safety.

“All of that technology was developed in the HIV vaccines field,” Haynes said. “All of these companies and all of these investigators – now there are 150 groups around the world who are working on this problem – they’re using all this technology. So, we love it that there are a lot of people working on this problem so that a solution to this problem can be found very quickly. So, we want a lot of shots on goal.”

Haynes said he’s confident there will be a vaccine for the public no later than next summer and possibly as early as January.

Fenny said that, if another of the vaccine candidates is eventually approved for distribution, Diosynth will work with that developer to produce doses to distribute to the public.

“We have taken the essence of Operation Warp Speed and really demonstrated it,” he said. “Our team … has taken all their technical expertise, and we are applying all the capacity that we have on the ground in North Carolina to do work in a couple of weeks that would normally take months.”

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Google Is Working on Tattoos That Turn Your Body Into a Touchpad – Futurism

New Ink

Undeterred by its historic Google Glass flop, Google is still investing heavily in various oddball forms of wearable technology.

Recent projects, according to CNET, include new mixed reality glasses, virtual reality controllers that let you feel the weight of virtual objects, and new smartwatches. But perhaps the most unusual is a high-tech temporary tattoo that basically turns your flesh into a giant touchpad.

Flesh Look

CNET reports that the idea behind the tattoo project, dubbed SkinMarks, is to make interacting with technology feel more natural. The SkinMarks can be applied to fingers or parts of the hand that we control with instinctive fine motor skills, so using the sensors through a bend of the finger or a squeeze of the fist could become like second nature.

“Through a vastly reduced tattoo thickness and increased stretchability, a SkinMark is sufficiently thin and flexible to conform to irregular geometry, like flexure lines and protruding bones,” The Saarland University researchers who were funded by Google to develop the tech wrote in a white paper about the project.

I, Product

Aside from the market value of beating other tech giants like Facebook or Apple at the wearable game, CNET reports that Google is particularly incentivized to get more people to use wearable devices — or literally imprint them on their skin — in order to collect even more of that sweet, sweet user data.

Targeted advertising brings Google over $160 billion every year. And the brand new categories of data that devices like these tattoos would generate stands to be even more valuable

READ MORE: Google is quietly experimenting with holographic glasses and hybrid smartwatches [CNET]

More on wearables: Mark Zuckerberg: Wearables Will Soon Read Your Mind

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SpaceX working

What is SpaceX and why is it working with Nasa? – BBC News

What is SpaceX? How does it make money?

The company is set to make history as, alongside Nasa, it sends two astronauts to the International Space Station – the first time a private company has done this.

The launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for 16:33 local time (20:33 GMT / 21:33 BST).

Science correspondent Laura Foster takes a closer look at the company’s aims.

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NASA working with Tom Cruise to film movie on the International Space Station – Spaceflight Now


If you would like to see more articles like this please support our coverage of the space program by becoming a Spaceflight Now Member. If everyone who enjoys our website helps fund it, we can expand and improve our coverage further.


Tom Cruise in “Top Gun: Maverick.” Credit: Paramount Pictures

NASA said Tuesday it is working with Tom Cruise to film a movie on the International Space Station, but details on the arrangements are scarce.

The news that Cruise was in talks with to shoot an action-adventure film on the space station was first reported Monday by Deadline, which said the actor is working with SpaceX on the project.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted Tuesday that the agency is “excited to work Tom Cruise on a film aboard the space station. We need popular media to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to make NASA’s ambitious plans a reality.”

Cruise, the 57-year-old star of Top Gun and the Mission: Impossible film franchise, has performed daring stunts before. NASA did not confirm Tuesday whether Cruise would himself fly to the space station as part of the film.

SpaceX has not confirmed its role in the film project, but Cruise could fly to the space station on the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship. The Crew Dragon is designed to carry up to four people to and from low Earth orbit, potentially room enough for Cruise, a small film crew and a professional astronaut in command.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted Tuesday: “Should be a lot of fun!”

NASA last year said it would enable private astronauts to spend up to 30 days on the International Space Station. The paying passengers would fly to the station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft or Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, the two human-rated spaceships developed by U.S. industry in partnership with NASA.

Private companies would pay for access to the orbiting research outpost, and the commercial companies would be responsible for funding the flight’s launch and trip to the space station.

The International Space Station viewed in 2018 from a departing Soyuz spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos

Earlier this year, the space tourism company Space Adventures — which arranged the flight of Garriott and other wealthy passengers to the station on Russian spacecraft — announced an agreement with SpaceX to fly paying passengers on a Crew Dragon spacecraft without going to the space station. Instead, the Crew Dragon contracted by Space Adventures will fly on its own in Earth orbit, reaching altitudes hundreds of miles above the space station to provide passengers a more expansive view of Earth.

Axiom Space said in March that it signed a contract with SpaceX to ferry a professional astronaut and three paying passengers to the International Space Station as soon as next year.

Deadline reported Monday that the film project is “real” but in the “early stages” of development. No studio is attached yet to the film, Deadline reported.

Cruise narrated the 2002 IMAX documentary film Space Station 3D, which was filmed by astronauts during the assembly of the International Space Station. A short science fiction film named Apogee of Fear was filmed on the space station in 2008 by Richard Garriott, who paid for his trip to orbit on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

But celebrity spaceflights and past plans for filmmaking projects in orbit have faltered before reaching the launch pad.

Singer Lance Bass of NSYNC began training to fly on a Soyuz mission to the space station in 2002, but his sponsorships fell through. A Russian actor hoped to fly to the Russian space station Mir in 2000, but the project collapsed due to lack of funds.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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Palestinians working in Israel face coronavirus dilemma – BBC News

Palestinian security forces search a car near the West Bank town of Hebron to prevent workers crossing illegally into Israel

Image caption

Palestinian security forces are trying to prevent workers crossing illegally into Israel

Before dawn, Palestinian security officers put on protective masks and gloves as they set up a hidden roadblock by the start of a dirt track through fields west of Hebron.

Their task is to stop labourers from crossing illegally to Israel through gaps in its separation barrier. They would not normally do this, but these are unusual times.

“We’ll prevent workers from sneaking into Israel until this pandemic is over,” says intelligence officer Raed Zghayar. “We must protect our mothers, wives and children.”

Of the 326 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, most have been traced to workers in Israel and its settlements, which have been dealing with a much larger outbreak.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) tells those returning from their jobs to spend two weeks in self-isolation, but some try to go back and forth.

After a tip-off, the Hebron patrol stops a van with five men inside. They claim they are doing nothing wrong, but an inspection turns up Israeli work permits.

The officers confiscate their belongings and tell them to collect them later. This happens dozens of times a day.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

The income of Palestinians with Israeli work permits is vital to the West Bank economy

Usually, more than 100,000 Palestinians with permits work in Israel and Israeli settlements, earning far better wages than they could at home. Many others have informal jobs.

Their income is vital to the West Bank economy, weakened by decades of military occupation.

Despite the tight lockdowns imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19, last month some 50,000 workers were allowed to cross, mainly for jobs in agriculture, construction and healthcare.

Under a deal struck between the PA and the Israeli government, their employers were supposed to arrange accommodation for them to stay for at least a month.

Some workers have also been sleeping in settlements to protect their jobs.

“I want to keep my family, friends and my town safe,” says Muath Balasmeh, who is temporarily living in a tent at his workplace, a factory in Ariel, in the northern West Bank.

“If I don’t work, nobody will help me with even the basics. I can’t express how hard this is. God help us. God help the workers.”

Image caption

Palestinians passing through a checkpoint near Hebron are having their temperatures checked

The United Nations has praised Israeli-Palestinian co-operation on dealing with the coronavirus, which has included joint training of health staff and Israeli provision of protective gear for Palestinian medical and security personnel.

But a political row broke out after reports that some Palestinian workers in Israel had no decent accommodation and the circulation of social media footage showing a sick man, who later tested negative for Covid-19, being dumped at a checkpoint by Israeli forces.

The PA government spokesman accused the Israeli authorities of “racist and inhumane” behaviour.

Amid fears of a crisis that would overwhelm the local health system, Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh called on workers to come home.

“The economy of Israel is not as precious as the lives of our children,” he said.

Israeli officials say the harsh criticism was unfair amid ongoing support.

“These remarks, they’re just misleading and even encouraging incitement, I’d say, in the Palestinian people,” says Major Yotam Shefer from the Co-ordination of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat). “We’ve been doing really a joint effort to combat this virus and it’s a common enemy.”

Image caption

Zahid Soleiman (R) was told by Palestinian medical workers to self-isolate at home

Some Palestinians have stayed in Israel for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but others are heading home.

At the Tarqumiya checkpoint, near Hebron, long lines of workers are checked for signs of Covid-19 by PA medics wearing protective equipment.

Zahid Soleiman, who works as an ironmonger, has a fever, so he is tested for the disease on the spot. He says he is worried about infection but that 10 members of his family rely on his salary.

“What can I do? My financial situation is really bad. I hadn’t worked for three weeks before I went to Israel. I needed to earn money.”

He has now been told to isolate at home for 14 days.

The desperation of workers to return to their jobs, even during a pandemic, has underlined the economic reliance of the Palestinians on Israel – a sensitive issue in their decades-old conflict.

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