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The Gene Machine and Me

Ion Torrent’s chip-based genome sequencer is cheap, fast, and poised to revolutionize medicine

19 min read
Photo of the author with a text overlay of the headline for this article.
Photo: David Yellen

It’s a fresh April morning in 2012 when I head to Connecticut to see a man about a genome. Not just any genome, but my own.

I want to learn my own biological secrets. I want to get a look at the unique DNA sequence that defines my physical quirks, characteristics, and traits, including my nearsighted blue eyes, my freckles, my type O-positive blood, and possibly some lurking predisposition to disease that will kill me in the end. So I’m not going to see just any man, but the mad scientist of genomics himself, the arrogant upstart of biotechnology, an inventor and entrepreneur who has upended the business of genetic sequencing once before—and now appears to be doing it again.

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New Filter Doubles Nuclear Fuel Extractable from Seawater

It pulls uranium out at record rates—but real-world tests are still to come

3 min read
illustration of a blue stream of water traveling diagonally to the lower left, intersecting with a white filter membrane substance with yellow and red atomic stick models floating around in the upper half of the image
Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences/Nature Sustainability

The International Atomic Energy Agency expects nuclear power to grow significantly in the coming decades, by up to 82 percent by the year 2050. That would create an increase in demand for uranium that reserves on land may not be able to meet.

But the world’s oceans, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, contain at least 500 times more uranium than in all known terrestrial reserves. That equates to more than 4.5 billion metric tons of the element in seawater, albeit present at an extremely dilute concentration of 3.3 parts per billion, and scientists have been trying to find efficient ways to extract it.

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Video Friday: Guitar Bot

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
Closeup of a robotic arm strumming an acoustic guitar

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

ICRA 2022: 23–27 May 2022, Philadelphia
ERF 2022: 28–30 June 2022, Rotterdam, Germany
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, Açores, Portugal

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

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COMSOL News Special Edition Biomedical

How simulation and apps have enabled engineers and scientists to develop biomedical design

1 min read
COMSOL News Special Edition Biomedical features 12 stories of how simulation and apps have enabled design engineers, researchers, and scientists to develop biomedical designs.
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