Science and Tech: Human genome and a robot that is faster than you

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Human Genome

When the Human Genome Project wrapped up its mapping project in 2003, there seemed to be some excess at the end of a person’s genetic code.

At least some of those sections are being looked at closer and a study released in the journal Science appears to have found a purpose for those extra bits. Instead of each gene being an on/off switch for different traits, it seems that sections of the code do this and each variation gene has a much more subtle affect on the overall organism.

This may help clarify an issue genetic disease researchers have been looking into for some time. Once the genome could be mapped, they started looking for common variations that would explain who got certain diseases. There had been little success in this. Now there is the possibility a section of code with a few different combinations can lead to disease instead of one gene having the variation.


Fast Robot

There is a robot that runs faster than you.

The United States Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has developed a machine capable of running on four legs, with the front two legs synchronized followed by the back two running together. It recently hit 45.5km/h (28.3 m.p.h.). Luckily for humans worried about a Terminator/Matrix future, the bot ran on a treadmill in a straight line, was contained in a lab and wasn’t completely wireless.

The project is working on the robot (called Cheetah) in an effort to create a robot not reliant on wheels. While in the ocean or air, drones and bots don’t have to worry about tricky situations like stairs, or rubble, but in most of the places humans live there’s usually debris or unusual surfaces we use our feet to navigate. Wheels and tracks used in the field are good, but can be limiting or thwarted by a short fence. While some robots have had the ability to walk for a while, the pace has never been very quick.

There is a video of Cheetah making the run. While it looks goofy in motion and more like it’s grasping with claws at the ground, it doesn’t take too much imagination to see it actually working.

Cheetah is still in the lab and not field-ready by a long shot, but this is a notable and symbolic landmark for an expanding field.