New American Nuclear

white pill #17 // extremely promising cancer therapy, euclid delivers its first images, new american nuclear power, skeleton survey, and more
Brandon Gorrell

Hey reader, welcome back to the White Pill, Pirate Wires’ weekly roundup of the world’s most excellent developments in technology, physics, space, and medicine. This week, we’ve got some excellent news that is, put simply, off the charts. After that, news in space — we cover ESA satellite Euclid’s first test pics, a space startup working on a “dumb” payload launch system, etc etc etc. In our energy, engineering, and computing section, you’ll read about the first newly-constructed nuclear unit in the US in over 30 years, live and delivering power in Georgia, plus a bunch more items. In this issue’s section on medicine, a spooky skeletal survey (scroll down to find out), and then a Fun Stuff section at the end, as always. And of course we have another White Pill Investment Index, where we track all the most interesting projects that got funding over the past week.

Enjoy!!

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So first, the excellent news…

Cancer-killing pill. A drug called AOH1996 successfully eliminated all solid tumors derived from breast, prostate, brain, ovarian, cervical, skin and lung cancers in pre-clinical trials (!!), according to researchers at the City of Hope National Medical Center. The drug works by targeting a cancerous mutation of an important cellular protein called PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen), which is vital for the survival and spread of multiple types of cancer. AOH1996 doesn’t appear to have side effects on healthy cells either, with researchers describing it as “like a snowstorm that closes a key airline hub, shutting down all flights in and out only in planes carrying cancer cells.” Phase 1 clinical trials in humans are underway — we’ll keep you updated. Excellent news. (Medical Xpress)

Curing paralysis. A multidisciplinary New York team of researchers, engineers, and surgeons restored sensation and movement in parapalegic Keith Thomas’ arms and hands using a combination of AI, engineering, and surgical techniques, in a laboratory setting. In his 15-hour open-brain surgery, during which the 45 year old was awake some of the time, doctors probed parts of his brain so that he could tell them exactly where on the body that was causing sensation, which allowed the surgeons to know exactly where to place the brain implants (microchips).

Four months after the surgery, Keith hooks up to a computer through two ports in his head, and AI turns his thoughts into actions: when he “thinks about moving his arm or hand, we ‘supercharge’ his spinal cord and stimulate his brain and muscles to help rebuild connections, provide sensory feedback, and promote recovery,” said a researcher involved. Having been paralyzed from the chest down from a car accident during the pandemic, Keith can now move his arms at will when he’s hooked up to the machine, and thrillingly, “is already starting to see some natural recovery… which could reverse some of the damage for good. His arm strength has more than doubled since enrolling in the study and he is beginning to experience new sensations in his forearm and wrist, even when the system is off.”

"There was a time that I didn't know if I was even going to live, or if I wanted to, frankly. And now, I can feel the touch of someone holding my hand. It's overwhelming," Keith said. 🥹 (Medical Express)

BTW: the White Pill just got a X/Twitter account, where we’re sharing all the excellent developments in tech, science, space, and medicine that we come across. Please follow, like, and retweet!

Space

Twinkle, twinkle, giant star. Stars don’t literally twinkle — that’s an effect caused by starlight passing through air of different temperatures and densities, which shifts the incoming light slightly, resulting in a twinkling effect as it reaches our eyes. But new modeling, visualized above, recently showed that massive stars much larger than our Sun do actually twinkle. Seething material deep inside their cores can result in stretching and squeezing of plasma at the star’s surface, which causes its light to flicker, or twinkle. This new discovery doesn’t explain all brightness fluctuations in massive stars, some of which may be caused by activity closer to the stellar surface. It’s hoped that future telescopes will be able to observe these newly described twinkles, and so learn more about what happens in the cores of these stars. (SciTechDaily)

Euclid is go. The new ESA space telescope, Euclid, has just sent back its first test images (above), which cover an area of sky that’s just about “a quarter of the width and height of the full Moon.” “Because [they are] largely unprocessed, some unwanted artefacts remain — for example the cosmic rays that shoot straight across;” additionally, the fact that these are test images means they were “produced with minimum system tuning. The fully calibrated Euclid will ultimately observe billions of galaxies to create the biggest ever 3D map of the sky.” (European Space Agency)

More:

The 13.6 mile high (21.9 km) Olympus Mons on Mars

  • Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the Solar System, may have once been an island the size of France, say researchers who recently compared the geomorphology of Olympus Mons and other Martian volcanoes to volcanic islands on Earth (SciTechDaily)
  • A company called Longshot Space is building a really “dumb” kinetic launch system, basically a long concrete tube that can draw a vacuum, that goes harder as it scales; it’s “capable of Mach 5… around 80 feet long… Mach 10… the size of two or three football fields; and systems capable of getting to space, at Mach 25 to 30, on the order of multiple kilometers long” — they aim to get cost per kilogram to orbit down to 10 bucks (TechCrunch)
  • NASA successfully tested sensors printed directly onto panels at 108 miles up (174 km); the “uniqueness of this technology is being able to print a sensor actually where you need it,” e.g. temperature sensors could be printed all over the surface interiors of a vehicle that’s “analyzing the heating and cooling of a spacecraft as it travels close to the Sun” (Universe Today)
  • ESA is testing antimicrobial materials to line space suits (you can’t just do load of laundry in space) (Interesting Engineering)
  • The Europeans also want to 3D print human hearts and send them to the ISS by 2027 to more effectively study the impacts of space travel on our organs (Space.com)

The White Pill Investment Index tracks investments in companies developing interesting, exciting, forward-thinking products. For last week’s deals, check out last week’s White Pill. Deals are sourced from Pitchbook.

  • Solar-heated steam powerGlasspoint, a company that’s building solar reflectors for electricity generation from steam (they’re enclosed in a greenhouse structure so that they can survive in austere desert environments) raises a $8m Series A led by 300PPM
  • Bad guys as a serviceHorizon3.ai, a security startup led by former military cyber operators which offers continuously automated hacking of a company’s software (”red-teaming”) to surface vulnerabilities and propose fixes, raises a $38m round from undisclosed investors
  • Hyper-targeted drugs for cancerSolu Therapeutics, a startup developing a cancer molecule “chimera” which combines the target-cell-binding capabilites of an antibody with the cell-killing ability of a standard cancer drug, raises a $31m Seed led by Santé Ventures and Longwood Fund, with participation from DCVC Bio and others
  • Clean-sheet AI chipsEnfabrica, a startup developing new AI-first compute hardware that seamlessly integrate networking, compute, memory access, and acceleration functions on a single chip, raises $50m in a round led by Sutter Hill Ventures
  • Self-driving cars meets public transportationGlydways, a company developing self-driving vehicles that operate in designated lanes and carry up to 4 passengers, raises a $6.8m round from UpHonest Capital and other undisclosed investors
  • Battery charging down to a scienceIontra, a company that focuses specifically on battery charging tech (faster charging, longer battery life, cold weather charging) raises a $67m Series B led by Riverstone Holdings and Volta Energy Technologies
  • Wind turbine optimization down to a scienceWindESCo, operator of wind turbine optimization systems (better low-wind power generation, reduced aerodynamic interference from other windmills, protection against extreme conditions, longer asset life) raises $9m in venture funding from undisclosed investors
  • Storing data in DNAGenomika, a Lithuanian startup developing technology to store large amounts of data (financial data, for example) in DNA molecules, raises a $5.47m seed round from the European Innovation Council and other investors
  • Robot bartenderBeerMate, developer of the “automated self-service bar” that can tap and sell beer without staff at festivals and stadiums, raises $1.5m in seed funding from a man called Michiel Beers 🤔

Energy, engineering, computing

New American nuclear. Live and delivering power in Georgia is the first newly-constructed nuclear unit in the US in over 30 years. Providing nuclear energy to customers in Georgia, Vogtle Unit 3 can power an estimated 500,000 homes and businesses. Once all four planned units are online, it'll be the largest nuclear energy generator in America. LFG nuclear. (@GeorgiaPower)

Soft fusion glow | Image from SHINE Technologies

See fusion. SHINE Technologies, a private fusion company, just released photographs showing possibly the first visual demonstration of Cherenkov radiation produced by fusion. A common sight in nuclear power plants (fission), the characteristic blue glow results from high energy particles moving faster than the speed of light in water slowing down abruptly (light goes 75 percent slower in water, while other highly charged particles are capable of going faster there). “These particles disturb the equilibrium of atoms of the [water], which then release photons to regain it… [which] have high frequencies and low wavelengths and are perceived as blue by the human eye.” (Interesting Engineering) (Twitter)

AI-led night vision breakthrough. A new AI assisted “night vision” called HADAR (heat-assisted detection and ranging) overcomes the limitations of thermal imaging, and allows machine vision to see colors and fine textures such as “water ripples, bark wrinkles and culverts in addition to details about the grassy land” as clearly as if it were broad daylight. “Our work builds the information theoretic foundations of thermal perception to show that pitch darkness carries the same amount of information as broad daylight. Evolution has made human beings biased toward the daytime. Machine perception of the future will overcome this long-standing dichotomy between day and night,” Purdue researcher Zubin Jacob said. The initial application for this new technology is the autonomous vehicle, though the “current sensor takes around one second to create one image, but for autonomous cars we need around 30 to 60 hertz frame rate, or frames per second.” (Phys.org)

Images by Tarmac Linemarkings

  • As of Friday afternoon, no one’s confirmed the superconductor; I suggest this piece of NYT reporting on the LK-99 incessant hype and deflation cycles characterizing the discourse around the issue (@kchangnyt)
  • Glow-in-the-dark road lines (pictured above) are being piloted in rural Australia; the test went live in September of last year but the images went viral on X/Twitter as recently as this week (@SawyerMerritt)
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Commission accepted a standard design approval application from NuScale Power’s for its small modular reactor (SMR) design VOYGR-6; this sets up the SMR to be safety evaluated and approved by end of July 2025 (Power)
  • iOS 17’s NameDrop animation is pretty cool, watch it (@theapplehub)
  • Stunning video of a climbing F22 Raptor filmed at 1000fps makes the rounds on X/Twitter (@webflite)
  • Check out this excellent, (mostly) non-technical primer on how large language models like ChatGPT work (Ars Technica)
  • Enjoy this fascinating thread on the sorcery that fracking operators use to communicate with their four-mile-deep drill bits \

Want to write for the Pill? Know someone doing something cool we should interview? Email brandon at pirate wires dot com

Medicine

Skeletal survey. Using AI to compare x-rays and gene sequences has allowed researchers to figure out the genes responsible for controlling our skeletons. Not building them per se, but what sets skeletal proportions; everything “from the width of our shoulders to the length of our legs.” The team identified the genes by leveraging “deep learning models to perform automatic quantification on 39,000 medical images to measure distances between shoulders, knees, ankles, and other points in the body. By comparing these measurements to each person’s genetic sequence, they found 145 points in the genome that control skeletal proportions.” Spooky. (SciTechDaily)

  • CAR-T therapy takes a patient’s T-cells, modifies them to aggressively go after cancer, grows millions of these new and improved immune cells, and then infuses them back into the patient; previously it’s been successful targeting blood cancers, but now has been shown to work on solid ovarian cancer tumors in mice — next step is human trials (Medical Xpress)
  • Scientists were recently able to trigger insulin production in human cells by sending electrical currents through an interface they call “the direct current (DC)-actuated regulation technology,” or DART, by activating targeted genes — they say this represents “the missing link that will enable wearables to control genes in the not-so-distant future” (Motherboard)

Fun stuff

  • An arrowhead from 3,000 years ago in what is now Switzerland has been identified as being made from iron mined from a meteor that crashed into Earth 3,500 years ago. Famously, a dagger owned by King Tut was made from meteoric iron; before “the development of high-temperature-furnaces, meteorites were the only source of native iron accessible to early civilizations. Unable to fuse or melt the metal, the ancient blacksmiths hammered the pieces of meteoritic iron into shape” (Live Science)
  • Nematodes (a type of roundworm pictured above), were thawed out of the Siberian permafrost and brought back to life after having been frozen there for 46,000 years, breaking the record for longest known cryptobiosis — a dormant state nematodes and a few other animals can enter to survive harsh conditions — by several tens of thousands of years (SciTechDaily)
  • We’ll definitely be grabbing a few of these cyberpunk water guns for White Pill HQ (@nickfloats)

Now get outside, text your friends, have a picnic, take a hike, and touch grass this weekend reader. But, please, not before throwing us a follow on Twitter — tysm.

-Brandon Gorrell

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