Technology Tuesday: April 19

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Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Visiting a distant star, using a brain chip to regain control of a hand after being paralyzed, eradicating polio, ocean waves could provide one third of the U.S.’s energy needs, and a microscope that uses AI to detect cancer.


Stephen Hawking and Russian Billionaire Announce Plan for Interstellar Spacecraft

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Last year, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence got a major boost when Russian billionaire Yuri Milner unveiled a $100 million effort to scan the skies for radio and light signals emitted by aliens. Not content to simply sit tight and wait for ET to hail us, Milner now plans to build interstellar spacecraft. Yes, you heard that correctly.

In a joint announcement at the One World Observatory in New York City today, Milner and Stephen Hawking unveiled Breakthrough Starshot, a $100 million research and engineering program seeking to lay the foundations for an eventual interstellar voyage. The first step of the program involves building light-propelled “nanocrafts” that can travel at relativistic speeds—up to 20 percent the speed of light. At such high velocities, the robotic spacecraft would pass Pluto in three days and reach our nearest neighboring star system, Alpha Centauri, just over 20 years after launch.

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Paralyzed Man Regains Control of His Hand

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Five years ago, a college freshman named Ian Burkhart dived into a wave at a beach off the Outer Banks in North Carolina and, in a freakish accident, broke his neck on the sandy floor, permanently losing the feeling in his hands and legs.

On Wednesday, doctors reported that Mr. Burkhart, 24, had regained control over his right hand and fingers, using technology that transmits his thoughts directly to his hand muscles and bypasses his spinal injury. The doctors’ study, published by the journal Nature, is the first account of limb reanimation, as it is known, in a person with quadriplegia.

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WHO Announces Polio Nearly Eradicated Globally

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So far this year, only nine polio cases have been reported in the entire world. By this time next year, the World Health Organisation predicts that number will finally reach zero.

“We absolutely need to keep the pressure up, but we think we could reach the point where we have truly interrupted the transmission at the end of the year or the end of the low season [winter] next year,” the WHO’s polio eradication director Michel Zaffran told The Guardian.

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“Triton” Harnesses the Kinetic Power of the Ocean’s Waves

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Humanity is obsessed with the sea. Maybe it’s because it’s an environment that we’re simply not meant to survive in, like space. Or, maybe it’s because we feel small when we look at it from the coastline. But the one undeniable thing about the ocean is that it’s powerful – much more powerful than any one person.

That all sounds pretty poetic, but humanity might soon benefit from the vast power of the ocean by harnessing it with a new device called the Triton, and with over 332,519,000 cubic miles (that’s 1,385,999,652.41 cubic kilometres) of ocean water, you can bet there’s a lot of energy moving around out there in the form of waves.

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Artificial Intelligence Helps Find Cancer Cells

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A microscope, invented by a professor at the University of California, uses artificial intelligence in order to locate cancer cells more efficiently than ever before. The device uses photonic time stretch and deep learning to analyze 36 million images every second without damaging the blood samples. This new technique for identifying problematic cells is faster and more accurate than standard methods currently in practice.

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Know any interesting stories we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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