4 Awesome Discoveries You Probably Didn’t Hear About This Week – Episode 23

We’re back with four awesome discoveries
you probably didn’t hear about this week. One of the key metals used to light up smartphones
and TV screens – iridium — is the rarest metal on Earth. In fact, scientists say the only reason we
have iridium is because it traveled here on a meteor 64 million years ago, sooooo not
likely to get more of that metal any time soon. Now, chemists have found a way to light up
our lives using non-rare copper. Their new copper compound matches the performance
of iridium but would cost a lot less. So, no need to wait for another asteroid to strike. Didn’t work out so well for the dinosaurs anyway. Ever wonder why deer eat tulips and not daffodils? Using a computer model based on ones marketers
use to target online ads, researchers have combined plant biology and machine learning to sort through thirty-thousand genes of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana – to pick out
the genes that make specialized metabolites. Some plants use metabolites to attract pollinators
or fend off hungry critters. The model can now be applied to other plants…
to more quickly discover the genes that medicinal or industrially useful compounds. Researchers have engineered a system to help
regenerate cartilage tissue, a tricky and difficult procedure. It’s a new way to deliver therapeutic growth factors — proteins that help tissue repair and regeneration. The nanoclay-based platform delivers the growth
factors in a sustained and prolonged way, with fewer negative side-effects and at less cost. The researchers say this new system might
help in treating osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease affecting
nearly 27 million Americans. Engineers have invented an American Sign Language,
or ASL, translator that’s as portable as Chapstick and glove-free. It can translate full sentences without the
need to pause. The technology, known as DeepASL, functions
through a three-inch sensory device – Leap Motion – that converts hand and finger motions
into skeleton-like joints. A deep-learning algorithm, meant to work much
like the brain, picks up the data and matches it to sign language. Next steps? Bring it to market, make it compatible with
smart phones and teach it different sign languages. Aaaaaaaand there you go. See you next week with four more awesome discoveries
with funding from NSF.

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