Paralyzed Patient Walks Again After Stem Cell Treatment?

The Korean Times is reporting that a patient has regained the ability to walk after 19 years of paralysis following the injection of stem cells into the damaged portion of her spine. The apparent success was reported at a press conference held by researchers from Chosun University, Seoul National University and the Seoul Cord Blood Bank.

The researchers plan to officially submit their research to the scientific community early next year. If the research is confirmed, South Korea will be widely recognized as the world’s foremost center for stem cell research. A team of scientists in South Korea was one of the first to successfully clone a human embryo (the embryo was not implanted into a womb) and the country is already considered to be the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

First Clones, Now Chimeras?

Over the past couple years, scientists around the world have successfully integrated human cells into animals, resulting in pigs with human blood, mice with human neurons, and lambs with human livers. These chimera are the blending of cells from two species into one creature. The work promises new organ sources for transplants and the observation of and experimentation on human cells in living systems (bypassing the strict regulations and ethical issues against using human subjects).

Like all new technologies, the development of chimeras opens up new possibilities and ethical consequences. How much human tissue in an animal makes it human enough to be protected by our laws and guidelines? Are animals better or worse off with human cells? Could this result in animals with human-level intelligence and how should they be treated? Could chimeras develop human embryos and could these embryos be brought to term in animal wombs? And none of these begin to address the genetic manipulation of humans with animal DNA.

While people are just now beginning to get their heads around the idea of cloning and human stem cell research, the existence of animal/human chimeras reminds us that progress is composed of a multitude of different technologies, most of which seem to pop up out of no where. The fabric of the future is composed of technology threads we know, threads we imagine that eventually come true, and threads that catch everyone by surprise.

Prometheus Feeds

The moon next to Saturn’s F-ring in the previous image turned out to be Prometheus, one of the ring shepherd moons. The tiny body moves close enough to the ring at times to start dragging some of the ring material away. This leaves a temporary radial gap in the ring.

[Header credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute – “Special Holiday Raw Preview #4]

Future Wants: Digital Distribution Over the Internet

The pirates won.

BitTorrent is a file distribution program used to share data files between computers. BitTorrent now makes up more than one third of all Internet bandwidth usage. This surprising find illustrates a major trend…everything, text, images, music, and video, is being digitized and shared on the Internet, and it is happening at the grassroots level. If you miss your favorite television show, someone has digitized their VCR or TiVo copy and put it on the net. If you don’t want to pay for the latest CD or DVD release, start looking online. It’s there. Robin Hood is looking out for you.

So is the world full of thieves? In a word, yes. Pirates are by definition thieves. Copyright laws exist to protect copyright owners for unauthorized copying and use of their work, work an artist has put his blood, sweat, and tears into. Guess what? Most individuals don’t consider pirating a crime and they don’t think much about the artist’s effort when the results are free. This is the Internet Age’s version of lending your friend a VCR tape, if your friend happens to be the global Internet population. People, young and old, poor and rich, of every color and from every background are sharing. Just like our kindergarten teachers taught us. Pirating saves you money and makes you feel good. How do you fight that?

If you are the RIAA and MPAA you combat pirating of your members’ music and movies, respectively, by suing individuals and developing digital rights management (DRM) software to encrypt data for legitimate (i.e., paying) customers. You try to force the consumer electronics companies to include preventative measures within their devices. You put together advertisements of favorite bands, movie actors, and the no-name film worker begging the public to stop pirating.

None of that will work. Like it or not, pirating is a competitor enabled by the most efficient and fastest media distribution network in history, far surpassing retail stores, warehouses, and postal services in scope. Internet users caught on to this early. When all is said and done, all content will be available legitimately via the Internet. Content providers can do very well in cyberspace with slick online interfaces, merchandising, high-quality copies, and value-added services like liner notes for CDs and extras on DVDs. People will pay, even if pirating continues.

Embracing new technology pays. Look at DVDs, now so successful that a movie might bomb at the box office but make back all its money and more through DVD sales. This holiday season Target is offering old movies and episodes of old television series on DVD for only US$1.00. Yes, just one dollar. Stuff that in your stocking. Look at Netflix, Blockbuster, and Wal-Mart, engaged in a price war over their next-day mail delivery DVD rental services. Amazon is going to jump into the fray soon.

These and other companies are looking into the eventual distribution of content via the Internet. Apple’s successful iTunes service and a plethora of competitors already offer digital music to the paying public. CinemaNow and Movielink offer studio movies for download or streaming, held back from success only because they have such limited selections.

Meanwhile, fan and independent content is exploding online, from:

We want this, whether we are pirates or not. We’ll have it all by 2010. Instant gratification.

By then, Internet connections will be as fast as 100 Mps and over one billion humans will have access to the Internet. Consumer electronics like televisions will connect over wireless home networks with computers, allowing this content to be played anywhere in or around the house. Wireless broadband will blanket large areas of the world, allowing the same content to be played in our vehicles, on portable devices, and in remote areas. There will be no need for physical media. In fact, look for HD DVD (coming next year) to be the last major physical media format released. Wherever you are, at any time you want, the Internet will be your library. Digital media will be everywhere.

We all win.

Raw Image Reveals Saturnian Moon?

Many of the images downloaded from Cassini are not processed right away. While the spacecraft was heading to and from Titan it snapped pictures of some of the objects in the Saturnian system. This image of the F-ring includes what appears to be a tiny moon floating serenely nearby. Since the image has not been processed and remains in its raw format, there is no NASA-prepared caption to accompany the image. Is the object a moon or is it just an artifact from the camera?

The sheer volume of images returned from space missions is rapidly increasing. Even though processing such images has also sped up, for any given mission there remains much work to be done long after the primary mission has concluded. The treasure trove of data since the dawn of human spaceflight remains largely unexplored. With the advent of the Internet, many amateur scientists have taken it upon themselves to start examining this data, with new discoveries yet to be uncovered.