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 new gene-editing technique can edit a single letter of DNA, the James Webb Telescope is delayed again, astronauts on the ISS are getting their own automated assistant, Porsche might be building a passenger drone, and Toyota is investing in automated cars.
GENE EDITING SO PRECISE IT CAN CHANGE A SINGLE LETTER OF DNA
Gene editing has the power to completely reshape our world. It promises everything from fixing the genetic faults that lead to disease, to destroying disease-causing microbes, to improving the nutrition of the foods we eat and even resurrecting extinct species like the wooly mammoth — all largely thanks to the genetic editing tool CRISPR, which has both popularized this work and made it possible. Now, researchers in Japan have developed a new gene editing technique that uses CRISPR alongside a DNA repair system to modify a single DNA base in the human genome, with what the team’s press release calls “absolute precision.”
The new technique, described in the journal Nature Communications, is known as known as MhAX, or Microhomology-Assisted eXcision. This method came from a group of researchers working to better understand how single DNA mutations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) contribute to hereditary disease. To prove that a SNP causes disease, you need to compare genetically matched “twin” cells.
JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE LAUNCH DELAYED AGAIN BY TECHNICAL ISSUES
Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is facing further delays and difficulties. The highly anticipated telescope will succeed the Hubble Telescope and expand our view of the universe further than ever before. Yet despite this hype and excitement, the JWST has faced a seemingly endless stream of delays.
In September 2017, the JWST launch was delayed from October 2018 to June 2019. Now, because of issues in testing and integrating the telescope’s components, this date has been pushed to an as-yet-unknown data further in the future.
A ROBOTIC VIRTUAL ASSISTANT IS HEADING TO THE ISS
In recent years many of us have begun to relying on Alexa, Siri, and other virtual assistants to play our music, set our alarms, and schedule our appointments. Now, the Airbus company is designing a similar mission assistant to help astronauts complete everyday tasks on the International Space Station.
Airbus is developing the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN (nicknamed CIMON) in collaboration with Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center. It’s set to be the first time that artificial intelligence (AI) has been used on the ISS in this manner.
REPORT HINTS PORSCHE COULD BE DEVELOPING A PASSENGER DRONE
There are companies working on flying cars, and there are those developing flying cars that are autonomous. The latter are referred to as drones, though they’re capable of ferrying passengers. Many see flying passenger drones as the future of urban mobility, and rumor has it that Porsche has one in the works.
While the German automaker hasn’t confirmed or offered much by way of details, a German automotive industry news site Automobilwoche claims the company is close to releasing the first design sketches. Porsche has yet to comment on the report, but the company’s sales director, Detlev von Platen, supposedly hinted at the possibility.
Toyota has invested ¥300 billion ($2.8 billion) in a new Tokyo-based company that will build software for self-driving cars, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development (or TRI-AD) will set out with 300 employees but the Japanese automaker hopes that number will grow to about 1,000 as the company takes off.
Toyota has an ambitious deadline of 2020 for testing its autonomous, electric vehicles, which is part of the company’s larger goal of commercially expanding the availability and capabilities of self-driving cars.