[16th June 2024] Interesting Things I Learnt This Week

1. Researchers plan to retract landmark Alzheimer’s paper containing doctored images : Researchers are planning to retract a landmark Alzheimer's paper due to manipulated data. The study investigated the impact of a specific protein on memory in mice. The findings suggested that the protein caused memory impairment. However, it was later revealed that the researchers had altered the data, leading to the retraction of the paper. While some scientists believe the amyloid beta hypothesis remains important for Alzheimer's research, others argue otherwise.

My Take: It is definitely a black mark on the peer review process for having been duped that long, but I definitely feel that though late it did find the faults and forced to get a retraction on the paper. Often there are researchers who are under undue pressure, no different than engineers working on startups to come up with something. But I guess we as a society fail to acknowledge that finding out that something does not work is none the less very important. In India we have bias on outcomes so much more than the effort itself. But as Edison famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." we need to find ways to support people who can continue to put that effort till they reach the success milestone. 

2. Quantum Navigational Tech Takes Flight in New Trial: This article discusses a new type of navigation system that uses Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs) to track location. BECs are extremely sensitive to acceleration, which can be beneficial for navigation. The article mentions a recent test of a BEC navigation system on a small plane. This technology is still under development, and it may take 10-15 years before it is widely available.

My Take: BEC navigation technology has the potential to revolutionize navigation by eliminating dependence on vulnerable satellite systems.  This independence is crucial for various users, from emergency responders to explorers.  Open research is essential to optimize BEC systems, making them more compact, cost-effective, and efficient.  Ideally, governments would recognize the significance of this technology and invest in its development to ensure widespread accessibility.

3. Atom-Thick Gold Coating Sparks Scientific ‘Goldene Rush’: Scientists have created freestanding sheets of gold just one atom thick. This is a major feat because metals usually clump together. These atomically thin layers could revolutionize fields like electronics and catalysis. Researchers are already in a "Goldene Rush" to explore the unique properties of this new material. This discovery has the potential to change the game for many technologies.

My Take: This has the potential to be a groundbreaking discovery, leading to unforeseen innovations.  However, the article rightly points out the concern of a "Goldene Rush" mentality leading to excessive patenting.  These patents might stifle further development by restricting access or driving up costs.  Overall, it's exciting to see progress on fundamental scientific questions, even with potential roadblocks to overcome.




4. Build Long-Range IoT Applications Fast With Meshtastic :  This IEEE Spectrum article explores Meshtastic, an open-source platform for building long-range IoT applications. Meshtastic leverages LoRa technology, enabling low-power, long-distance communication (up to 16km) between devices.  The system is particularly useful for creating private networks in remote locations without relying on cellular or internet infrastructure.  Think exchanging text messages, location data, or sensor readings off-the-grid. While not ideal for high-bandwidth tasks, Meshtastic offers a unique solution for building low-cost, long-range IoT projects.

My Take: I've been tinkering with Meshtastic - really impressive tech! A few friends in Bangalore are also using them.  We could potentially build a DIY weather station network, independent of commercial vendors.  Meshtastic would be valuable not just for enthusiasts but also for rural areas with limited internet access.  Imagine farmers receiving real-time weather updates, intrusion alerts, or even notifications about pests – where all they get is something like -1G network or in other words no mobile networks.


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