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Yale researchers work toward quantum computer

Vera Villanueva

A group of Yale researchers racing to build the world’s first quantum computer was recently profiled by The New York Times.

If the project is successful, the quantum computers could perform calculations at a much faster rate than current supercomputers. The new computers’ applications could range from advancing machine learning and data analysis to developing new medications for diseases. After six Yale researchers determined they had investigated enough quantum principles to build a practical computer, three of the researchers founded a company in 2015 dedicated to building and selling quantum computers. Their efforts were covered nationally after the company received over $18 million in venture funding from three different firms.

“Since the late ’90s, there was always hope that processing information in the quantum way would give new powers to computing, but there’s a large set of capabilities you need to do so. And, overtime, we’ve had more success with them,” said Robert Schoelkopf, one of the initial researchers and a co-founder of Quantum Circuits, Inc.

QCI is not the only company hoping to build a quantum computer; according to the New York Times article, Google, IBM and Intel are leaders in the quantum computing arms race.

Current computers store information as bits, with each piece of information processed as an electronic signal and recorded as either a one or a zero. While quantum computing systems are difficult to visualize due to the interactions of subatomic particles, such as electrons and photons, quantum bits can simultaneously store a one and a zero. This allows these qubits to hold more information at once, making quantum computers, in theory, exponentially more powerful.

In the past, qubits had a short lifespan, disappearing nearly instantaneously and making systems that used them prone to calculation errors. According to Kevin Chou GRD ’17, a researcher in the Schoelkopf lab, the lab has been developing techniques to perform reliable computations despite these errors, both by building qubits with longer lifespans and by performing quantum correction to detect and fix errors when they occur. In particular, Schoelkopf and his colleagues pioneered a solution to the frequent errors by using superconducting circuits — circuits with qubits that have been built with materials that exhibit quantum properties at extremely low temperatures, minimizing electrical resistance.

“With the implementation of [superconducting circuits], we take a modular approach — creating small circuits which can then be attached together, rather than trying to build one large one,” said Lev Krayzman GRD ’21, a researcher in the lab. “As far as I know, this is not done by any other superconducting quantum computing group.”

Although the modular approach is unique to the Yale quantum computing group, using superconducting circuits has become the primary subject of quantum research across the industry. According to Schoelkopf, many of his former students are working on quantum computing projects using superconductors at tech companies like IBM and Rigetti Computing.

Schoelkopf, who co-founded QCI in 2015 with Yale professor Michel Devoret and Senior Research Scientist Luigi Frunzio, said he and his colleagues decided to establish a separate entity that could focus on commercialization, which is outside the realm of a university research group’s study.

While the University lab studies the scientific principles behind quantum computing, QCI focuses on engineering and commercialization of the computers.

Schoelkopf noted the importance of collaboration between academia and the commercialization sector in translating research to product development.

“Because this is a new field, to build quantum computers, we need experts in the research labs to participate and advise the engineering part,” Schoelkopf said. “That’s the key thing. This isn’t an established industry yet.”

Although QCI has not yet created a functional quantum computer, the team recently received new funding totaling $18 million from Canaan and Sequoia Capital, Tribeca Venture Partners, Osage University Partners and Fitzgate Ventures. Schoelkopf said the funding is an indication of how close the team is to actualizing its product.

Even though Google, IBM and Intel are all working toward building the first quantum computer, researchers in the Schoelkopf Lab see the interplay less as a competition than as a comparison of ideas.

Schoelkopf said that large tech companies may not even have a leg up on smaller quantum computing companies like QCI.

“It isn’t clear how much of one’s expertise of conventional computing really translates into quantum computing,” he said.

Schoelkopf emphasized that close collaboration among Yale researchers led to his lab’s success in the field of quantum computing. While it is necessary to have a critical mass of scientists working together, his relatively small lab group is able to rival companies like Google and IBM because the professors teamed up and supported one another, he said.

Researchers in the lab told the News they also perceived a collaborative environment that helped persuade them to join the lab.

“I joined the lab because I was blown away by the collaborative atmosphere in the lab and how everyone was genuinely excited about solving new areas of quantum physics,” said Yvonne Gao GRD ’18.

Schoelkopf and his colleagues noted that Yale has been very supportive of their research, updating their University-affiliated labs with the latest technologies, hiring world-class faculty and helping patent their new discoveries.

Schoelkopf will take a leave of absence to become CEO of QCI in January.

Serena Cho | serena.cho@yale.edu



Researchers turn to new technique for boosting coral growth in the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef's corals have long been dying off, but a new technique could help stem the problem.The Great Barrier Reef’s corals have long been dying off, but a new technique could help stem the problem.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The corals which adorn Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have long been dying off, but researchers have found a way to potentially ease the decline.

In the first project of its kind on the Reef, scientists have found a way to accelerate the growth of coral through a technique called larval reseeding. 

The method involves collecting large amounts of coral eggs and sperm during a mass spawning, then using that to produce more than a million larvae. 

This larvae is then reintroduced onto the reef in underwater mesh tents. 

Underwater mesh tents used to reintroduce coral spawn.

Underwater mesh tents used to reintroduce coral spawn.

Image: GARY CRANITCH, QUEENSLAND MUSEUM

A pilot project that began in November 2016 has garnered results one year later, with scientists discovering that the baby corals had indeed established themselves on the reef. 

“This pilot study carried out on Heron Island shows that our new techniques to give corals a helping hand to conceive and then settle, develop and grow in their natural environment can work on the Great Barrier Reef,” lead researcher Peter Harrison from Southern Cross University said in a statement online.

Birthing tanks with parent colonies.

Birthing tanks with parent colonies.

Image: GARYCRANITCH, QUEENSLANDMUSEUM

“The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef but has potential global significance — it shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.”

So far, larval reseeding shows more promise than other reef restoration techniques like coral gardening, which involves the breaking of healthy coral in the hope it’ll grow, or growing coral in nurseries before they’re replanted.

“Coral gardening is the most widely used technique in other reef regions but we know it is expensive and often doesn’t work very well and sometimes it fails completely,” Harrison added.

Coral spawn up close.

Coral spawn up close.

Image: GARY CRANITCH, QUEENSLANDMUSEUM

While the new technique offers hope, the fact of the matter is the reef could completely die off by 2100 if human-induced global warming isn’t kept in check. 

“It’s also important to keep in mind that restoration options like this don’t lessen the need for strong action to reduce the major drivers of reef decline being climate change, water quality and pest management,” Anna Marsden, managing director of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, said. 

As we’ve seen recently, global complacency on climate change has been significant and frustrating, to say the least. 

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Earthworms can reproduce in Mars-like environment

Earthworms are capable of reproducing in a Mars-like environment, according to a new study, a crucial discovery that aids research into growing crops on Mars. The discovery was made when biologist Wieger Wamelink found a pair of young worms in a simulated Mars soil sample from NASA; only adult worms had been placed in the soil, indicating they had successfully reproduced in the sample.

NASA has a set goal of getting humans to Mars, but the process is a tricky one. Getting astronauts to the Red Planet is only half the battle; once there, they’ll need a way to sustain themselves, and that includes eating. Growing crops on the planet is the best solution, but whether that will be possible isn’t yet determined.

Researchers around the world have worked on solving the problem, doing everything from simulated growth studies to developing concepts for sophisticated greenhouses. The work has been successful, though much remains to be done. For example, a study involving potatoes resulted in successfully sprouting a potato plant called “unique” in a simulated Mars environment.

Worms are an important part of growing plants, as they’re involved with breaking down organic matter; this makes them a key part of potential future crops systems on Mars. The worms weren’t able to reproduce in the Mars soil on their own, however; manure was added to the soil mixture, a variant of the manure that may one day be used as fertilizer for crops on Mars.

The manure was able to alter the Mars soil substantially enough to allow for earthworm reproduction, and that’s an exciting turn of events. Other experiments have successfully grown various common and crucial crops in Mars-like soils, including tomatoes and beans. Researchers say the big exception to the expanding success is growing spinach, which has proven unsuccessful so far.

SOURCE: ScienceDaily

Fluorescent Dye May Help Detect 99 Percent Of Invisible Ocean Plastic Waste

A new research has found an effective way to detect very small pieces of plastic waste that float invisibly near the surface of the ocean, using fluorescent dye. The method could be used one day to identify 99 percent of lost tiny pollutants in the sea.  ( Pixabay )

Researchers have found a new way to detect tiny pieces of plastic waste in the ocean using fluorescent dye. They say the new method is less expensive but more effective at identifying invisible microplastics.

What Are Microplastics?

Plastic is the most prevalent kind of debris found in the open ocean and Great Lakes today. They come in different sizes and shapes, but those that are about the size of a sesame seed are known as microplastics.

Microplastics mainly break away from larger plastic materials and they are so small in size, most of them are lost and invisible. One study suggests that around 99 percent of plastic in the ocean remain hidden.

The New Method: Fluorescent Dye

In order to test the new technique, researchers at the University of Warwick had collected samples of tiny plastics from seawater around the coast of Plymouth in England.

They tried to apply the method to the samples they extracted and found the technique to be more effective at pinpointing microplastics than other conventional methods. They also found that the number of microplastics was much larger than they previously thought.

Gabriel Erni-Cassola, one of the authors of the study, said that this method allows scientists to view and analyze a huge series of samples much faster, and to get huge amounts of data on the number of microplastics in seawater.

Erni-Cassola added that in current methods, scientists have to pick samples of microplastics one by one in order to determine the amount.

How Fluorescent Dye Works?

Fluorescent dyes can attach to plastic particles and make them more visible under a fluorescence microscope. By using the dye, scientists were able to pinpoint microplastics from among other natural materials in the marine environment.

Most Microplastics Made Of Polypropylene

Researchers at the university have also found that the majority of microplastics were made of polypropylene, a common thermoplastic polymer that is used in packages and containers for food. This suggests the link between consumer habits and its effects on the ocean.

Dr. Joseph A. Christie-Oleza, a co-author of the study, said the method still needs to be carried out in scientific surveys in the future in order to confirm these results and also to understand how plastic waste behaves in the marine environment.

The study is called “Lost, but found with Nile red; a novel method to detect and quantify small microplastics (20 μm-1 mm) in environmental samples” and was published in the Environmental Science & Technology.

© 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Inspired by origami, scientists build artificial muscle that lifts 1000 times its own weight

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have developed a variety of origami-inspired artificial muscles that can lift up to a thousand times their own weight — and yet be dexterous enough to grip and raise a delicate flower.

The devices, described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a new way to give soft robots super-strength, which could be used everywhere from inside our bodies to outer space.

Historically, robots have been made of metal and other hard materials because it gives them strength. But robots also need to be made out of soft, pliant parts to deal with hard-to-reach places, navigate unpredictable environments and safely interact with people. (Consider, for example, the dangers of shaking hands with a robot with a steely grip.)

So scientists have increasingly tried to make robots with soft parts. In earlier times, those bits were relegated to a hard robot’s outsides, essentially as padding. But researchers are increasingly building robots whose other crucial parts are soft — recently going so far as to create an octopus-inspired robot.

“We’ve been interested in soft robots for a long time because they’re safe, because they are compliant and because they can deal with uncertainty,” said roboticist Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and one of the study’s senior authors. “They’re very robust and easy to control, relatively speaking.”

But there’s been one big drawback to soft-bodied bots: Unlike robots made out of hard materials, they’re not exactly power-lifters.

“What we want are soft, safe, compliant robots that have strength, that have the properties that are now achievable with hard-bodied systems,” Rus said. “This way we have the best of both worlds.”

Rus and her colleagues solved this problem by drawing upon origami techniques, which have recently proved useful for making many kinds of robots. (One such bot, RoboBee, was pioneered by fellow senior author Robert Wood of Harvard.) Origami techniques have the potential to produce many complex designs at low cost because they use small amounts of material and surprisingly simple processes.

For this work, the scientists used origami techniques to create muscle-like structures that could give a limb flexibility but still allow it to move without needing any hard parts.

They designed folded structures specifically meant to shorten, curl, twist or bend into specific shapes when they were compressed. The researchers sealed those long folded structures in a bag of polymer “skin” and filled them with air or another fluid. When a vacuum sucked the fluid out, the origami structure squeezed together, contorting into the shape determined by its folding patterns.

Snake-like artificial muscle This is a snake-like robotic arm with a flower-like gripper driven by a single vacuum source. Shuguang Li Strength of artificial muscles The muscles may be artificial, but experiments demonstrate that they’re certainly strong. Shuguang Li

The researchers found that some origami muscles could squeeze down to a tenth of their original size, or lift up to a thousand times their own weight. They could produce roughly six times as much force per unit of area as mammalian muscle.

Each fold pattern can only move in one way, but Rus said many different patterns could be linked together for a multifunctional robot, like an origami Swiss Army knife.

Such robotic limbs could be used at tiny scales, perhaps to do repair work inside of our bodies. They could be useful at large scales, for building in outer space. They could enable wearable exoskeletons for lifting heavy objects, or be sent to probe deep-sea environments. They could even do the most deceptively mundane tasks — such as lifting a heavy carton of milk or a bunch of grapes without squashing them.

A more human-scale proof of concept could be next on the to-build list, the scientist said.

“I want to make an elephant,” Rus said with a laugh. “Or maybe a baby elephant.”

amina.khan@latimes.com

Follow @aminawrite on Twitter for more science news and “like” Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times

Dance By The Light Of The 2017 Supermoon: The How And When

The moon rises beyond the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Nov. 13, 2016. The 2017 supermoon will appear Dec. 3. Orlin Wagner/AP hide caption

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Orlin Wagner/AP

The moon rises beyond the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence, Kan., Nov. 13, 2016. The 2017 supermoon will appear Dec. 3.

Orlin Wagner/AP

Between last year’s historic November supermoon and August’s partial solar eclipse, a lunar event that’s coming on Dec. 3 has taken a bit of a back seat. But 2017’s first and only visible supermoon is nothing to sneeze at.

The term “supermoon” is popular vernacular. Its scientific name is perigee syzygy. Arizona University professor Gurtina Besla says the phrase means two specific things in reference to the moon’s placement and phase.

“Perigee refers to the moon being at its closest distance to the Earth, and syzygy refers to the alignment of multiple bodies — the moon, Earth and sun need to be aligned for us to see a full moon,” Besla told NPR. “So it translates to the closest separation between the moon and Earth when the Earth, moon and sun are aligned.”

Because the moon is closer to Earth, it can appear about 14 percent larger than a normal full moon. NPR’s Bill Chappell reported that last November’s supermoon was the closest Earth’s moon had been to the planet since 1948, and it’s not scheduled to get that close again until 2034.

Like any phase of Earth’s moon, a supermoon is safe to view with the naked eye. Besla says she is not personally that excited about the upcoming supermoon because the difference in the moon’s perceived size is negligible. She knows, however, that many will still try to see it at peak viewing time. According to Besla, the best time to see this year’s showing is at 3:45 a.m. ET on Monday, Dec. 4. If that’s a bit too early for a wake-up call, don’t worry. The moon will still appear larger than normal when it’s close to Earth’s horizon at sunset on Dec. 3 and sunrise on Dec. 4.

If you can’t make it outside to see it in person, the Virtual Telescope Project will share a video feed. Or, you could turn to photos online and on social media. NASA offered these recommendations from its staff photographer Bill Ingalls:

” ‘Don’t make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything,’ he said. ‘I’ve certainly done it myself, but everyone will get that shot. Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.’ “

He also recommends using the reactions on people’s faces in photos. While it’s difficult to get a quality shot with a smartphone, it’s not impossible.

“Tap the screen and hold your finger on the object (in this case, the moon) to lock the focus,” Ingalls told NASA. “Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.”

A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter flies through NASA photographer Bill Ingalls’ supermoon composition in 2012. Bill Ingalls/NASA hide caption

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Bill Ingalls/NASA

A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter flies through NASA photographer Bill Ingalls’ supermoon composition in 2012.

Bill Ingalls/NASA

For those using digital cameras, he suggested the daylight setting to get the proper white balance.

According to National Geographic, this is the fourth supermoon of 2017, but the only one visible to the casual observer. The previous three “coincided with new moons, when the lunar disk shows a totally darkened face.”

Scientists: life on Earth exists today, by happy coincidence

Ученые: жизнь на Земле существует сегодня по счастливой случайности

Life on the Earth exists thanks to a happy coincidence, a series of super volcanic eruptions, melt about 570 million years ago a giant ice sheet that covered the entire planet, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

“In order to reconstruct the full history of the Earth at that time, we had to perform a huge number of crystals of zircon, formed in different geological epochs. This allowed us to find the most powerful greenhouse gases in Earth’s history, which occurred just before the Cambrian explosion, the most important event in the evolution of life on Earth,” said Chad Deering (Chad Deering) from the University of Michigan in Houghton (USA).

The Earth’s atmosphere before the first plants and microbes is almost entirely composed of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases. Oxygen it began to appear only about 2.2 billion years ago, after the so-called “great oxygen catastrophe”, when the first photosynthetic microbes began to absorb atmospheric CO2 and saturate it with oxygen.

As a result, the strength of the greenhouse effect weakened, and, as scientists believe today, approximately 850-600 million years ago the Earth turned into a kind of “snowball” – the temperature on earth has declined so much that its oceans began to freeze to the equator. How the Earth got out of this glaciation, scientists still argue.

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Mars destroys tires — so NASA reinvented the wheel by giving it a memory

spring tire shape memory alloy colin creager nasa glenn research centerColin Creager works on the latest version of the shape-memory alloy spring tire designed for roving on Mars.NASA Glenn Research Center

  • The rough terrain of Mars is breaking the wheels of NASA’s Curiosity rover.
  • In response, NASA is trying to reinvent the wheel for space exploration.
  • Metals that can “remember” their form, called shape-memory alloys, are key to the new design.
  • The wheel won’t be used on the follow-on mission to Curiosity, but it could aid future Martian exploration — and vehicles on Earth.

Mars chews up our wheels and spits them out.

Take NASA’s one-ton, car-size, nuclear-powered Mars Curiosity robot: After just a year of cautious 0.09-mile-per-hour roving, small rocks began ripping large holes in its tires.

However, NASA engineers have reinvented the wheel into a form that may one day conquer Mars.

They’ve created a nearly invincible tire made of woven-mesh metal that “remembers” its ideal shape and immediately springs back into form after taking a beating.

mars curiosity rover self portrait nasa jplNASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Each of its six wheels stands about knee-high.NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The design, highlighted in a recent feature by the space agency, is rooted at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Engineer Colin Creager and his colleagues initially built a woven-mesh wheel made out of spring steel. It gripped soft sand well and supported a lot of weight, yet kept hitting a major snag.

“We always came across this one problem of where the tires would … get dents in them,” Creager said in a NASA video.

Then Creager bumped into materials scientist Santo Padula, who suggested using a shape-memory alloy — a super-elastic metal that pops back into place after intense strain.

“Since then, we’ve been collaborating … to come up with this new tire that we think is really going to revolutionize planetary rover tires and potentially even tires for Earth, too,” Creager said.

The torture of driving in space

lunar rover apollo nasaAstronaut and Apollo 17 commander Eugene Cernan drives a lunar roving vehicle across the moon on December 11, 1972.NASA

NASA has been developing space-grade tires since the 1960s, starting with its moon-landing program.

Those efforts led to mesh wheels on the Lunar Roving Vehicles, which astronauts drove during the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions. Stiff metal strips in and on the tires helped keep the LRVs moving on soft moon dust, yet also stood up to the punishment of small rocks.

The space agency later set its sites on Mars, spurring development in off-planet wheels. Yet the list of requirements for roving the red planet is daunting:

  • All-terrain: Mars is covered in sand, gravel, and boulders yet also littered with jagged rocks.
  • Lightweight: It costs roughly $30,000 per pound to land something on Mars, so every ounce counts.
  • Durable: Solar or nuclear energy can help missions last more than a decade on the red planet.
  • Able to survive wild temperature swings: Inflated rubber tires wouldn’t last on a nearly airless world with temperatures that can shift from nearly -200 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in some locations.

To handle scaling a veritable mountain, Curiosity’s designers made 20-inch-high aluminum wheels. They are toughened by stiff internal rings and outer rims, can grip the soil with V-shaped treads, and absorb bumps and shocks using flexible internal spokes.

Yet mission controllers began noticing worrisome dents, holes, and tears in those tires in 2013 — about a year into the mission. Today Curiosity is instructed to avoid small pointy rocks, limiting damage, but the wheels continue to degrade.

mars curiosity rover aluminum wheel tire damage holes tears rips punctures nasa jplSeveral of the holes, tears, and rips in the aluminum wheels of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover as of April 18, 2016.NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS; Business Insider

“When the current rover wheel damage occurred, we thought it was worth taking a look at that wheel and adapting it for the future,” Creager told Business Insider.

Tires with great memory

After years of research, the team settled on a nickel-titanium (NiTi) alloy and figured out the best process to form and treat it.

spring tire shape memory alloy woven wires nasa glenn research centerA close-up of nickel-titanium shape-memory alloy wires. They’re woven into a mesh for NASA Glenn’s new Martian spring tire.NASA Glenn Research Center

Spring steel can only withstand 0.3% of strain (the distance the atoms in the metal shift) before it gets dented and the metal crystals permanently rearrange. The NiTi alloy in question, however, can suffer up to 10% strain — about 30 times better elasticity.

As a result, the new wheels boast some impressive stats: They can bear nearly 10 times the weight of Curiosity’s wheels, function between -202 and 194 degrees Fahrenheit, have better grip over rocks and sand, and can climb slopes about 23% steeper.

“We [can] actually deform this all the way down to the axle and have it return to shape, which we could never even contemplate in a conventional-metal system,” Padula said of the new spring tire in another NASA video.

Phillip Abel, a mechanical systems expert at NASA Glenn, said the key to the tire’s performance are the stretchy bonds of the crystal structure in shape-memory alloys.

“With super-elastic materials, what you’re doing is … storing the energy of deformation in the [crystal structure]. All of the atoms are more or less where they are, but the bonds stretch,” Abel told Business Insider. “The alloy, at the temperatures we’re seeing, is always in its ‘return to my original shape’ mode. So after you deform it, it pops back to its original crystal structure.”

In the toughest test to date, the wheels aced 10 kilometers of driving — more than half the total mileage of Curiosity on Mars — on punishing simulated terrain.

“The rim was a little dinged up, but the spring mesh tire was like brand-new,” Creager said, adding the caveat that the test did not occur at blistering Martian conditions.

“In theory, they should work, but NASA JPL is building a cryogenic test chamber to verify operation at cold temperatures,” he said.

The long road ahead

mars 2020 rover head illustration nasaAn illustration of the Mars 2020 rover’s main camera.NASA

Future and heavier Mars rover missions are in the works, putting pressure on NASA to redevelop its tires.

A rover that’s nearly identical to Curiosity yet heavier, called Mars 2020, is scheduled to launch in just a few years. That mission could be a boon in the search for alien life, since it may drill samples that another, similarly built rover can later help launch to Earth.

Curiosity wasn’t outfitted with the newer wheels, since they weren’t developed before its launch, and Creager said it’s probably too late to put them on NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover. (It takes a grueling number of tests to prove the viability of a wheel for use on a space mission.)

“You can buy nickel-titanium alloy off the shelf, but you can’t just use it on Mars. There’s a treatment process,” Creager said. Even with years of work, he added, “there’s still a lot we need to understand.”

However, they could be ready to roll for the Mars-sample-return mission in 2024.

The wheel’s applications aren’t limited only to the red planet, though; Creager, Abel, and Padula are working with Goodyear to put them on Earth-based vehicles. So far, one they attached to a Jeep hugged around rocks without inflicting any damage to the spring tire.

“I could definitely see it being used for any application where you’re driving off-road, and the risk of a puncture and a flat is a big deal, like with a military vehicle,” Creager said. “But I would love to see this technology branching off to passenger vehicles.”

NASA’s new titanium, elastic tire could help rovers travel further on Moon, Mars

U.S. & World News from MLive.com

Posted November 27, 2017 at 04:38 PM | Updated November 27, 2017 at 04:37 PM

Here’s Why Scientists Cloned the First Cloned Dog

Snuppy’s clones (Image: Kim et al, Sci. Rep (2017))

Ever since the first cloned mammal, Dolly the Sheep, died abnormally young, there’s been plenty of talk about clone aging. Now, scientists have cloned the world’s first cloned dog in order to study these “re-clones” to determine whether they die sooner and age quicker than their non-cloned counterparts.

“Scientifically, this is very exciting,” study author CheMyong J. Ko from the University of Illinois, told Gizmodo. Ko pointed out that he’s not the one cloning the dogs but offers consulting advice for the team in South Korea.

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The specifics of dog reproduction make them particularly difficult animals to clone. It wasn’t until 2005 that scientists at Seoul National University announced they’d cloned a dog named Tai to create “Snuppy.” Snuppy died shortly after his tenth birthday—two years younger than Tai, and around two years younger than the average healthy Afghan Hound.

Snuppy’s lifespan wasn’t markedly short, but you still might remember Dolly, the first cloned sheep, who did die abnormally quickly. Many assumed Dolly’s death had something to do with her clone identity. New research has demonstrated that probably wasn’t the case. But others are still wondering if being a clone has an impact on lifespan. So the South Korean team cloned Snuppy to create the re-clones.

The researchers don’t get into the specifics of what vitals they’ll study in the dogs, but Ko suggested they might compare the immune systems, genetics, and behaviors between the three re-cloned animals and non-clones.

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“Clinical and molecular follow-up of these reclones over their lives will provide us with a unique opportunity to study the health and longevity of cloned animals compared with their cell donors,” according to the paper published recently in Scientific Reports.

The team began by taking 120 donor dog egg cells, then replacing the genetic material with Snuppy’s. They implanted 13, 13, and 14 cells into three mothers, which bred four clones—but one died from severe diarrhea a few days after birth. Three different families have adopted or will adopt the other three, said Ko, one of the study’s authors. Sending the dogs to three different homes will allow the team to see how other environmental factors might influence how the clones age.

I asked Ko about the response to the study—he said he’s received both positive and negative comments. “People think that the cloning will eventually be used for supplying organs or tissue grafting,” he said. “They think it’s a bad thing to provide clones for those things because they might kill the clones.” This is science fiction, of course, and scientists are working on other still sci-fi-sounding alternatives like growing organs from stem cells.

It’s important to note that the researcher behind Snuppy, Woo Suk Hwang, was a controversial figure. The Seoul National University dismissed him after investigations found he had potentially falsified results in other experiments. This cast doubt on Snuppy’s authenticity—but further investigations found that Snuppy, at least, really was a clone.

And now, further research on Snuppy’s reclones could shed light on what being a clone really means.

[Scientific Reports]