Technology Tuesday: June 13

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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: A first of its kind cancer drug, a new super collider that will dwarf the LHC, Texas is building a bullet train, fusion based rockets, and an 11-dimensional human brain.


FDA Fast Tracks a New Cancer Treatment

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One new drug has doctors and pharmaceutical companies in a tizzy. Pembrolizumab (branded Keytruda) has recently been approved, in a hurry, by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat multiple tumors that arise from cancer in individuals with the same genetic abnormality.

During a clinical trail, the drug was tested in 86 patients. Of those who took part in the study, 66 patients had their tumors both significantly shrink and stabilize — meaning the tumors did not start to grow again. In 18 of these 66 patients — which is 21 percent of all patients — the tumors actually completely disappeared and not grown back whatsoever.

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The Next Particle Collider Will Be 3X Bigger than the LHC

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The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) still has plenty of good work left to do in the field of particle acceleration, but scientists are already starting work on its replacement, set to be three times as big as the (already huge) original.

Development on the LHC’s replacement is expected to take decades, which is why experts are keen to get started now. The aim is to put together a machine that’s some seven times more powerful than the hardware we have today.

More than 500 scientists from across the world have been putting their heads together in Berlin, Germany this week to figure out what LHC 2.0 – or the Future Circular Collider (FCC) – might look like.

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A Proposed Texas Bullet Train Could Challenge Airlines

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Everyone knows that the US lags far behind most other countries in terms of rail travel offerings, and for many decades, the answer to increased travel demand has been to widen highways or increase flight frequencies. However, a privately funded rail company now aims to grab a piece of the pie when it comes to intra-Texas travel, which could affect the three US airlines that have a huge presence in the state.

Texas Central is planning to build a bullet train route that will cut between Dallas and Houston, trimming about 2 hours off the average driving time, and saving over an hour compared to air travel. The approximately 240-mile high-speed rail line will offer a total travel time of less than 90 minutes, with departures every 30 minutes during peak periods each day and every hour during off-peak periods — with 6 hours reserved each night for system maintenance and inspection. Texas Central plans to deploy Central Japan Railway Company’s (JRC) “N700-I Bullet” high-speed rail system based on the “Shinkansen” system.

 

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The Brain, in 11 Dimensions

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Neuroscientists have used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains. What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.

We’re used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this new study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain – the most complex structure we know of.

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NASA Is Funding a Company Planning to Build Fusion Rockets

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Princeton Satellite Systems, which is funded by NASA, has announced the possibility of fusion reactor rockets which could — according to the company’s president Michael Paluszek — “enable new and exciting science missions that are too expensive and difficult to do with today’s technology.” Such missions could include propelling spaceships towards planets and stars, exploring space deeper than we ever have before, and deflecting asteroids.

Fusion rockets are propelled by the same nuclear processes that power stars. They can produce more energy — and do so more efficiently — than traditional chemical propellant or ion drive designs. Princeton Satellite System’s design uses nuclear fusion by heating a mix of deuterium and helium-3 with low-frequency radio waves, then harnesses the energy produced with magnetic fields. This technique confines the resulting plasma in a ring. As the plasma spirals out of the ring, it can be directed towards the blasters.

 

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