Technology Tuesday: June 28

Gene

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: Computers solving moral dilemmas, the world’s first electric highway, “Martian” crops, CRISPR gene modification approved for first human trial, and Japan to approve human trials for science based anti-aging drug.


Structure Mapping Engine Allows Computers To Solve Moral Dilemmas

Structure

Northwestern University’s Ken Forbus is closing the gap between humans and machines

Using cognitive science theories, Forbus and his collaborators have developed a model that could give computers the ability to reason more like humans and even make moral decisions. Called the structure-mapping engine (SME), the new model is capable of analogical problem solving, including capturing the way humans spontaneously use analogies between situations to solve .

“In terms of thinking like humans, analogies are where it’s at,” said Forbus, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “Humans use relational statements fluidly to describe things, solve problems, indicate causality, and weigh moral dilemmas.”

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Sweden Debuts the World’s First “Electric Highway”

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Fossil fuels are bad for the planet, and freight haulage is one of the more carbon-intensive activities that operate today. That’s why Siemens and Scania have teamed up to trial what’s being called the world’s first “electric highway.” Much like an electrified railroad, the 1.2 mile stretch has a series of wires hanging overhead that a pantograph-equipped truck can connect to. Then, the vehicle can deactivate its fuel-burning engine and coast along on that delicious, dirt-cheap electricity, switching back when the wires stop.

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Dutch Scientists Grow Safe to Eat Crops in “Martian” Soil

mars

Dutch scientists said Thursday crops of four vegetables and cereals grown on soil similar to that on Mars have been found safe to eat, amid plans for the first manned mission to the planet.

Abundant harvests of radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes all grown on the soil were found to contain “no dangerous levels” of heavy metals, said the team from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

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Cancer Fighting Gene-Modification Trial Approved for Humans

CRISPR

In the spring of 2015, a group of Chinese scientists modified the DNA of 54 embryos using CRISPR/Cas 9 technology. Twenty-eight of those embryos were successful, but 26 — nearly half of them — failed, setting off a heated debate throughout the scientific community on the ethics of altering human genes.

Regulators don’t currently allow the use of CRISPR on human DNA in the United States, but researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have proposed the first human study using the technology. The proposal would allow these researchers to make T cells with the ability to attack three inherited types of cancer.

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Promising Anti-Aging Drug Approved for Human Testing

Oldhand

Can we really hope to slow down the ageing process? The compound nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) has shown plenty of promise at increasing the lifespans of mice, and is about to be put to the test in human clinical trials for the first time.

Next month, 10 healthy volunteers will be given NMN to see if it can slow down ageing without any harmful side-effects. If the results are positive and the drug is given the all-clear for public use, it’ll be the first genuine anti-ageing product on the market.

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