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Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells

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Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out of Living Cells
Photo Credit: Science Alert

Michelle Stark, Science Alert

In another lifetime, if they had been allowed to follow their natural development, the stem cells taken from embryonic frogs would have turned into skin and heart tissue within living, breathing animals.

Instead, in configurations designed by algorithms and constructed by humans, those cells have been assembled into something new: the first-ever robots constructed entirely out of living cells.

The creators have called them xenobots; tiny, submillimeter-sized blobs containing between 500 and 1,000 cells that have been able to scoot across a petri dish, self-organise, and even transport minute payloads. These xenobots are unlike any living organism or organ we’ve encountered or created to date.

The possibilities for custom living machines designed for a variety of purposes, from targeted drug delivery to environmental remediation, are pretty mind-blowing.

These are novel living machines,” said computer scientist and roboticist Joshua Bongard of the University of Vermont.

“They’re neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It’s a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism.”

Designing the xenobots required the use of a supercomputer, and an algorithm that could virtually put together a few hundred frog heart and skin cells in different configurations (somewhat like LEGO bricks), and simulate the results.

The scientists would assign a desired outcome – such as locomotion – and the algorithm would create candidate designs aimed to produce that outcome. Thousands of configurations of cells were designed by the algorithm, with varying levels of success.

The least successful configurations of cells were tossed out, and the most successful were kept and refined, until they were about as good as they were going to get.

Then, the team selected the most promising designs to physically build out of cells harvested from embryonic African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). This was painstaking work, using microscopic forceps and an electrode.

When they were finally put together, the configurations were actually able to move around, as per the simulations. The skin cells act as a sort of scaffolding to hold everything together, while the contractions of the heart cell muscles are put to work to propel the xenobots.

These machines moved about an aqueous environment for up to a week without the need for additional nutrients, powered by their own ‘pre-loaded’ energy stores in the form of lipids and proteins.

One design had a hole through the middle in an attempt to reduce drag. This hole could be exapted into a pouch for transporting objects, the team found; as they evolved the design, they incorporated the pouch and transported an object in a simulation.

(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)
(Kriegman et al., PNAS, 2019)

The xenobots moved objects around in the real world, too. When their environment was scattered with particulates, the xenobots spontaneously worked together, moving in a circular motion to push the particulates into one spot.

It’s fascinating work. According to the researchers, their efforts can provide invaluable insight into how cells communicate and work together.

You look at the cells we’ve been building our xenobots with, and, genomically, they’re frogs. It’s 100% frog DNA – but these are not frogs. Then you ask, well, what else are these cells capable of building?” said biologist Michael Levin of Tufts University.

“As we’ve shown, these frog cells can be coaxed to make interesting living forms that are completely different from what their default anatomy would be.”

Although the team calls them ‘living’, which may well depend on how you define living creatures. These xenobots are not able to evolve on their own, there are no reproductive organs, and they are unable to multiply.

When the cells run out of nutrients, the xenobots simply become a small clump of dead cells. (This also means they are biodegradable, which gives them another advantage over metal and plastic robots.)

Although the current state of the xenobots is relatively harmless, there is the potential for future work to incorporate nervous system cells, or develop them into bioweapons. As this field of research grows, regulation and ethics guidelines will need to be written, applied and adhered to.

But there is plenty of potential good, too.

We can imagine many useful applications of these living robots that other machines can’t do,” Levin said, “like searching out nasty compounds or radioactive contamination, gathering micro-plastic in the oceans, travelling in arteries to scrape out plaque.”

The research has been published in PNAS, and the team has made their source code freely available on Github.

This article (Scientists Have Built The First-Ever Robots Constructed Entirely Out Of Living Cells) was originally created for Science Alert and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Kobe Bryant And His Daughter Gianna Maria Dead In A Helicopter Crash, Along With 7 Others

Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, was also killed in the crash, along with seven other unidentified people.

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Kobe Bryant And His Daughter Gianna Maria Dead In A Helicopter Crash, Along With 7 Others
Photo Credit: CNN

Update (6:35pm EST) — National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said at a press conference Sunday evening that the helicopter crash killed a total of nine people.

A team of investigators will look to see if there’s a black box that can reveal more about the tragic event.

***

Update (3:51 pm EST) — Social media has been inundated with rumours that all four of Bryant’s daughters were on board the helicopter at the time of the crash after an ABC anchor reported the news on live TV. However, TMZ has now confirmed that one of Bryant’s daughters was in fact on board the helicopter.

13-year-old Gianna Maria Onore was traveling with her father to Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks for basketball practice at the time of the crash, according to Bryant’s reps who spoke with TMZ Sports.

****

A Sunday afternoon report from TMZ confirmed that former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.

Five deaths have been confirmed by authorities after the Sunday morning crash. It is unknown how many passengers were on the helicopter at the time of the crash and it remains unclear who was traveling with Bryant. TMZ has reported that Kobe’s wife Vanessa Bryant was not among those on board the helicopter.

There is still no indication as to what caused the crash, but reports have indicated that it caught fire when it hit the ground. Bryant is known to travel by helicopter frequently.

According to Sports Illustrated, “The 18–time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA first Team led the Lakers to five NBA championships and scored 33,643 points in his 20-year NBA career. He retired from the Lakers after the 2015-16 season after spending his entire career with the franchise.

Just last night, LeBron James passed Kobe Bryant for the third spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and three of their daughters—Natalia, Bianca, and Capri.

By John Vibes | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Snakes In Suits: Are Psychopaths Running The World?

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Snakes In Suits: Are Psychopaths Running The World?
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Often when we think of the word psychopath, we think of deranged serial killers that are hopefully locked up in prison for life. While there are many psychopaths who kill for reasons that are unfathomable to most of us and who are indeed in prison, there is an even greater numbers roaming free in our society and often using their condition to their advantage in any way possible. In fact, it is very likely that you know some–they might even be your colleagues.

Most of us do not know or work with any serial killers, at least not that we are aware of. So, what exactly is a psychopath and how can we define them? The dictionary definition is as follows:

“A person suffering from a chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior.”

As you can probably tell, a lot more than just serial killers will fit into this broad definition. In fact, according to Canadian psychologist Dr. Robert Hare, a world-renowned expert on psychopathy, an estimated 1% of the Earth’s population is psychopathic and around 25% of the population of male inmates at federal correctional facilities are psychopathic.

Psychopathic Traits

It is important to note that, in contrast with the popular image of the ‘deranged psycho,’ psychopaths tend to be very well composed, take good care of their appearance and are very charming (think of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho). Because of this you may have a difficult time spotting them out, as they are masters of deception and are able to fake a lot of the qualities that define regular people. Some other psychopathic traits, according to Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist, are as follows:

  • Manipulative and cunning
  • Complete lack of remorse or guilt
  • Pathological lying
  • Have a parasitic lifestyle, often latching onto and taking from others
  • Glib and superficial charm
  • Grandiose estimation of self
  • Have a history of early behavioural problems
  • Need for stimulation
  • Overly impulsive
  • Are very irresponsible
  • Unable to accept responsibility for actions
  • Unable to commit to long-term relationships
  • History of juvenile delinquency
  • Display criminal versatility
  • Experienced a “revocation of conditional release”
  • Lacks realistic long term goals
  • History of promiscuous sexual behavior
  • Have poor behavioural controls
  • Are callous and lack empathy
  • Have a “shallow affect” (psychopaths show a lack of emotion when an emotional reaction is appropriate.)

You can actually rate yourself to find out if you are psychopath. On each criterion, the subject is ranked on a 3-point scale: (0 = item does not apply, 1 = item appliesomewhat2 = item definitely applies). The scores are summed to create a rank of zero to 40. Anyone who scores 30 and above is most likely a psychopath. Hare has used this test and checklist to detect which inmates are psychopaths.

Snakes In Suits

What many of us don’t realize is that psychopaths actually thrive in the corporate world. Hare has actually co-authored a book with Dr. Paul Babiak on this topic entitled, Snakes In Suits: Understanding and Surviving the Psychopaths in Your Office. Psychopaths manipulate others to accrue power, sometimes pitting them against each other in an attempt to divide and conquer. They are often attracted to bigger, dynamic corporations with very little structure or supervision. They generally don’t work well in teams because they don’t like to share information or skills and it brings them joy to watch others fail. They are addicted to power, status and money. Sound familiar?

Sadly, the corporate world is set up to favour psychopathic traits such as fearlessness, dominant behavior and immunity to stress. Because of this, psychopaths often find themselves in these types of positions, and then have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder and obtaining positions of great power. This is where they can do real damage to society.

Are Psychopaths Running The World?

Not only as corporate heads do psychopaths find success in our modern-day society, but also within our governments and political system — often as front-line politicians. This may come as a shock to you, but when you really look at some of the atrocities that are taking place on our planet, and if you’ve ever wondered how things that are so inhumane could actually be happening, well, therein lies your answer.

When you consider the war, genocide, senseless murder of civilians, treatment of the indigenous cultures of the world, chemicals in our food, air and water supply, acts of “terrorism”, war crimes and so many other unjust and cruel actions which are often instigated by our political leaders, it becomes easy to see how psychopaths actually fit the requirements for these types of roles quite well. As mentioned before they are masters of deception, pathological liars and often quite charming.

Many soldiers go to war and because they are conditioned to believe that they are fighting an enemy in the name of peace. They do as they are told and commit these heinous acts against other human beings. The reason why so many soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder is because it is not within human nature to murder other humans, and especially innocent civilians.

We already know how many politicians are crooked, but perhaps its time to start looking at them with the psychopath checklist in mind so that we can be better equipped to protect not only ourselves but our society from their malicious acts.

But Can’t We Help Them?

It is natural for anyone who is an empath or those involved in spiritual work to have compassion for these individuals and feel compelled to help them overcome their psychopathic behavior. However, most research has pointed towards the understanding that psychopaths are born, not made and therefore cannot be cured. This is one of the main differences that separates sociopaths from psychopaths. Another is that sociopaths have a conscience, albeit a weak one, and will often justify something they know to be wrong. By contrast, psychopaths will believe that their actions are justified and feel no remorse for any harm done. Sociopaths are made, and have a higher likelihood of overcoming their condition. However, many of those with sociopathic behavior will find themselves in similar corporate positions.

Hare’s research discovered that by attempting to heal or help a psychopath, you might actually be strengthening their cunning abilities, as they will find a way to manipulate you into believing that they are remorseful and understand how their actions were wrong.

The best we can do is learn to recognize the traits of psychopaths and be sure to stay clear of their actions and behaviours to protect ourselves from the wake of their inevitable destruction.

This article (Snakes In Suits: Are Psychopaths Running The World?) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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Pharma Founder Gets 66 Months For Bribing Doctors To Overprescribe Deadly Opioids

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Photo Credit: Forbes

Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

Millions of Americans who lived through the financial crisis probably recall that not a single executive of a major investment bank was jailed in the aftermath, despite running organizations seemingly dedicated to perpetuating a criminal fraud on nearly every counterparty and client.

But when Americans look back at the opioid crisis, they’ll remember that at least one executive of a major opioid manufacturer and distributor was sentenced to a fairly weighty sentence – five-and-a-half years (66 months) in federal prison – for an illegal kickback scheme that effectively involved bribing doctors to prescribe potentially lethal doses of fentanyl. That’s right: Packaged under the name brand Subsys, Insys sold a painkiller made from the same ultra-powerful synthetic opioid responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across America.

According to the FT, which, in partnership with PBS’s Frontline, is producing a documentary on the opioid crisis, John Kapoor, the founder of Insys, was sentenced to prison time on Thursday after being prosecuted under the RICO act – a law adopted decades ago to help the DoJ prosecute the mafia.

Kapoor joins seven other Insys executives who have already received jail time for their role in the company’s illegal shenanigans, which included uses “ruthless” sales tactics to encourage doctors to prescribe more of their drug. Several doctors who took money from the company in exchange for kickbacks transparently disguised as speaking fees are also either being prosecuted, or have already been sentenced to jail time.

Earlier on Thursday, Alec Burlakoff, Insys’s former head of sales and one of the government’s key cooperating witnesses accepted a sentence of 26 months in prison. The jail sentences were handed down despite a long tradition of allowing big pharma to skate by with fines that often amounted to a slap on the wrist.

Subsys was approved by the FDA to target so-called “breakthrough pain”, something experienced by many patients with advanced cancer. But most of the doctors Insys targeted weren’t oncologists. The company encouraged them to prescribe the drug “off label” – meaning not for its approved purpose – to treat normal chronic pain.

Kapoor is a serial entrepreneur who immigrated to the US from India in his early 20s. The fentanyl spray that was the company’s main product was approved in 2012.

Under the company’s kick-back scheme, doctors who prescribed large quantities of the drug could earn up to $125,000 a year in speaking fees.

The company depended on sales associates whom Kapoor described as “PHD” – “poor, hungry and desperate” or “poor, hungry and dumb.” One of the sales reps who got mixed up in the prosecution was a former stripper, a detail from the investigation that was widely covered in the press.

Kapoor’s insistence that the company meticulously track the ROI from its illegal kickback scheme is what eventually did him in. Prosecutors managed to get their hands on a spread sheet calculating the return on investment for every dollar spent on doctor “honorariums”. Kapoor insisted that, for every dollar a doctor received, they must bring in at least $2 in sales for Insys.

Kapoor’s legal team insisted that their client was unfairly portrayed as a “caricature of a mob boss” by the prosecution. But the firm’s “callous culture” was exemplified by sales video featuring a “rapping bottle of Subsys” encouraging doctors to raise the dose for their patient’s – effectively encouraging them to accidentally overdose and kill their own patients.

Burlakoff, who played the rapping Subsys bottle in the video, told the press that the video was a big part of the incriminating evidence against him. He now regrets participating in it, even though he thought it was ‘cool’ at the time.

Fred Wyshak, the prosecutor who handled the Insys case, gained notoriety for prosecuting the mob, and having a hand in the conviction of Whitey Bulger, the former Boston crime boss who was murdered while serving a life sentence last year.

By Tyler Durden | ZeroHedge.com | Republished with permission

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8 Things To Consider Before Panicking About The Coronavirus

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Photo Credit: Fox

Phillip SchneiderWaking Times

If you read the news, you’ve likely heard about the “deadly” coronavirus in China. You’ve probably seen videos of sick people and heard about the impending doom that our great nation faces if we don’t do something about this grave threat coming from China.

But have you ever thought about why we’re hearing so much about this virus, despite it affecting only a relatively small number of people in another country? Who benefits from mass media hype around the Coronavirus?

1. This Story is Getting Massive Hype

No one can deny the incredible hype that this story is getting. But, why?

Nearly every major news outlet is front-paging the news about the virus. NBC warns of the rising death toll, CNN frightens us with “diving” stocks due to coronavirus fears (the DOW dropped by 0.6% while other stocks like Bowing grew by 1.7%), the Drudge Report sounds the alarm on the spreading outbreak triggering the quarantine of 56 million people, but China’s state run communist newspaper, the People’s Daily, reports only 41 total deaths from coronavirus and 34 cured and released, with the total number of confirmed cases to date at 1287.

Yet, every new development is serious front page news. CNBC released an updating map of those affected by the virus. In China, it looks like they are absolutely swamped with illness, however, to say that the true number of cases is minuscule compared with China’s population of 1.4 billion would be the world’s greatest understatement of the century.

Is the media simply reporting justifiably on a virus that could potentially affect millions of people, or do they have ulterior motives?

2. Nobody Knows Where the Virus Came From

So, where did the virus come from anyway? Some speculate it originated in snakes, or previously from bats or contact with other animals in an open-air food market in Wuham, but if that’s true, is there no connection to the fact that the Chinese government opened up a new biolab in the same city, allegedly tasked with studying the “world’s most dangerous pathogens”? Even the science journal Nature was concerned with the facility prior to its operation in 2017.

So, did the Chinese government accidentally or intentionally release the virus? Did it end up in bats, then snakes, then humans? Why were they working on studying this virus in the first place, and who benefits from its release?

3. The Media Makes Top Dollar from Your Fear

Along with America’s other biggest go-nowhere news story of the week, Trump’s impeachment process, the media rakes in huge sums of money from reporting on medical fear stories. Media executives know that people will tune in to watch a deadly virus sweep the globe. The fear that you experience from thinking about the potential for mass quarantine and death, paralyzes and keeps most people locked into consuming more fear-inducing coverage. Hence, more moola for the fat cats at CNN, NBC, etc. Bad news is good for business, and while statistically speaking you should be far more concerned for your safety every time you get into an automobile, nothing gets clicks like fear and panic.

4. Governments Always Seek More Control from Virus Scares

What is the logical conclusion for a population of fearful and paralyzed individuals with no experience combatting a new and deadly virus? Giving the authorities more power, of course.. Let the government forcefully inoculate you and your family, allow the medical-industrial complex to take more of your hard-earned money, and watch silently with the fear that standing up for your rights might lead to the destruction of the human race.

5. This Happens Every Few Years and Pushes Important Issues to the Back Page

It isn’t hard to find examples of medical hysteria in the past, either. Think back to Ebola, the Swine flu, the regular flu, measles, SARS, or even the plague. Every few years, the media ramps up its coverage of a new virus that often harms a very insignificant number of people. The medical establishment calls for more control, governments call for more control, and important stories get vigorously back-paged. As a nation, we end up wasting valuable time on a non-issue that was never going to matter to begin with, the only net-result being a marked increase in fear and stress.

6. The Coronavirus Doesn’t Affect You

Chances are pretty solid that you won’t even meet someone who was affected in any way by the coronavirus. Statistically, it makes no sense to worry about the virus when you likely know someone personally who was or will be affected by poverty, the drug warjunk food-induced diabetes, opiate addiction, cancer, heart-disease, the looming national debt, war, a lack of clean food or water, stress, taxation, unconstitutional no-knock SWAT raidspollution, depression, etc. Focusing all of your attention on this new fear is illogical when you consider that we live in a world of daily threats and dangers anyhow. And by the way, spoiler alert… none of us make it out of here alive.

Furthermore, those who are dying from the virus are not actually dying from the virus, but rather from health complications resulting from having the virus and a compromised immune system, like pneumonia. If the national media genuinely wanted you to be safe, they would be running wall-to-wall coverage of how to naturally boost your immune system and get your body into a state of maximum health, but they rarely mention this fact.

7. The Institutions Who Benefit from Coronavirus Hype are Incompetent and Dangerous

The institutions, including the CDC, vaccine companies, and media who benefit from coronavirus hype, are incredibly incompetent and dangerous. One might even go so far as to call them diabolical. We all know about the infamous and highly-publicized syphilis experiments that began in the 1930’s, and CDC director Dr. Branda Fitzgerald who was forced to resign in early 2018 after she was caught buying shares of Merck, a major vaccine company that the CDC is supposed to oversee. There’s no shortage of medical corruption in the U.S., both historically and contemporarily, if you look hard enough. Already the pharmaceutical industry is ‘racing to develop a vaccine,’ which when coupled with government mandates equals insane revenue.

8. Grainy Videos of Dead and Sick-Looking People Are Being Used to Scare You

To top it all off, much of the evidence we’re getting from the media is sketchy at best. Earlier, the Daily Star ran a photograph of two men in lab coats, one of which was lying on the ground. The photo is extremely grainy and out of focus. Meanwhile, what are we supposed to make of it? There’s no context here or proof that the photo is really what they say it is. Yet, it was featured in all caps on the drudge report. “DOCTORS COLLAPSE”, it says along with a plethora of other headlines.

Experts fear too late for China
Everyone will get infected
Simulation Predicts 65 Million Could Die

Anyone who’s been paying attention could have predicted the rise of the coronavirus and know what the outcome will be. Mass hysteria and collective fear will be used to further erode individual liberties and stoke allegiance to the medical industrial complex. By simply being aware, however, that fearing all the news is illogical, while continuing to focus on your health and wellness, you automatically subvert this attempt at mass control.

About the Author

Phillip Schneider is a student as well as a staff writer and assistant editor for Waking Times. If you would like to see more of his work, you can visit his website, or follow him on the free speech social network Minds.

This article (8 Things to Consider Before Panicking About the Coronavirus) as originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Phillip Schneider and WakingTimes.com.

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