This Nigerian school is set to rise. The floating structure was built by Dutch and Nigerian architecture, design and urbanism firm NLÉ to serve the slum neighborhood of Makoko, much of which exists on stilts above a lagoon in the port city of Lagos. Looking to mitigate the compounding problem of massive population movements to urban areas and the realities of climate change, NLÉ built the school as a prototype for a broader urban planning initiative called Lagos Water Communities Project.
Their design conforms to the local necessity of building houses on stilts above the lagoon with flotation platforms crafted from 256 common plastic barrels. This will allow the three-story primary school to rise along with sea level due to climate change or rainfall. The architects also designed it to provide natural ventilation, water from a rain collection system and power from rooftop solar panels to occupants. The almost 2,400 square-foot bamboo and wood building can safely hold up to 100 students.
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ES from SCNT: Another Human Stem Cell Milestone
Human embryonic stem cells have been created using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) for the first time. Interestingly, SCNT might be the oldest genetic reprogramming technology in our biological arsenal, but its use in creating human ES cells has proven elusive.
We’ll get to the news in a moment, but first some history. In 1958, John Gurdon made a frog from a tadpole.
“Congratulations, John, that’s how frogs are usually made. Big whoop.”
Except that he did it by inserting the nucleus from a tadpole cell into a frog egg that had its own nucleus removed. It should have been immediately clear to everyone how cool this was, but it took 54 years for him to get the Nobel Prize, which he shared in 2012 with some other stem cell reprogramming pioneers.
Why did that work? It makes perfect sense when you think about the job of an egg. Compared to sperm cells, eggs are huge. They are Death Stars and sperm are X-wings, each looking for an exhaust port into which they can shove their half of the genetic material. The egg is stuffed full of the proteins, mRNAs and other biological machinery that it will need to hit the ground running and begin the process of development. In other words the sperm just brings genes to the party (there’s a joke in there somewhere). The egg is the pilot, engineer and tech support. (For the genetics fans out there, this is also why maternal effects exist)
In a sense, the egg is a big bag of stuff that will define what the embryo is, at least for the first several cell divisions. Somewhere in all that eggy cytoplasm is a set of factors that are primed and ready to lead the way to embryoville.
Wait … where were we again? Oh yeah: Human stem cells.
So while SCNT technology has been around for a while (and has been used to create some very famous sheep), it never worked in humans (despite a faked claim in 2005). The process of removing and replacing the nucleus of donated human eggs was too disruptive. Until the new report in Cell last week.
Using donated eggs (obtained by consenting women from certfied IVF clinics) robbed of their own nucleus, a whole skin cell was injected and given an electric shock to stimulate cell division. That that even works is amazing. But the harvested stem cells acted like normal ES cells, and appear to be just as useful. They can be used to create patient-matched cells to study specific diseases in the petri dish, or engineered into neurons and other tissues to implant into a donor’s own body. All without destroying embryos.
Of course, we can already make near-embryonic stem cells by directly reprogramming skin cells with a simple genetic cocktail. So does it make sense to seek out egg donations for a technology like this? The ethics of making an economy out of egg donation are murky. And of course, there’s the worry that instead of just being used for making stem cells, it could be used to clone an entire human. That’s completely illegal, but it’s worth considering, at least.
It’s a new step forward in our ability to understand and manipulate human biology, and the advancement of knowledge like this is always worthy of excitement. Look at what power we hold! But we are men and women, not gods … and that’s what makes this all the more remarkable.
Did Microsoft just invent the Telescreen from ‘1984?’
Yahoo has officially announced that it will acquire Tumblr in a $1.1 billion cash deal expected to close in the second half of the year, and will keep Tumblr’s David Karp on as CEO. “Per the agreement and our promise not to screw it up,” Yahoo says in its press release, “Tumblr will be independently operated as a separate business.” In one of its first acts of business, Yahoo has moved its official blog to yahoo.tumblr.com.
Last week, someone announced that they had 3D printed a gun. Why don’t we remind ourselves how they can also inspire young inventors?
The heartwarming story of an 11-year-old and his 3D printer, via On The Media.
“If everyone becomes a suspect, then nobody is a suspect.”
If you need yet another reason to ensure your Facebook privacy settings are adequately locked down, Raytheon’s “Riot” software should do the trick. Developed by the Massachusetts-based security firm, Riot — short for Rapid Information Overlay Technology — can quickly mine various social networks for an individual user’s data, using previous posts to predict your future behavior and / or your location at any given time.
Flying hovercraft bike by Californian company Aerofex (inspired on Star Wars flying speeder!).
More pics and video following the link through the image.