The White Pill: Moon Memo
white pill #7 // melting moon dust, saturn space snakes, a new vertical farm project, and the hands of celebrated gougers
It’s the seventh edition of The White Pill, our weekly round up of inspiring news from tech, medicine, space, energy, and engineering.
A ton of space news in this issue: we discuss a robotic snake that will explore geysers on a Saturnian moon, a LOT of Earth-moon news (planning for dust-free areas of operation, moon roads, melted regolith, lunar bricks, 3D printed habitats… i.e., your standard lunar fare), and the six super sci-fi projects NASA just granted funding to (one of them is described as developing “nearly silent electroaerodynamic thrusters for vertical takeoff and landing aircraft”).
Also included in this issue: details on some interesting engineering projects, such as a city-block-size vertical farming operation in Compton; news in medicine, like the fact that dementia may be caused by a virus, and as always, Fun Stuff at the end. Also: don’t miss the White Pill Investment Index (see last week’s here), where we track the big deals and interesting projects that got funded this week.
But first, some excellent news…
Man “unparalyzed” with brain and spine implants. Paralyzed from the waist down by a motorcycle accident in his late twenties, Gert-Jan Oksam had tried unsuccessfully for years to recover his ability to walk. Then a team of Swiss scientists used AI-powered implants to translate his thoughts into spinal stimulations, re-establishing his capacity for voluntary movement. He’s now able to walk up stairs, get in and out of his car without help, and stand at a bar for a drink with friends. How many parents of kids with mobility issues will have a realistic chance to walk their children to the park and push them on the swings after this tech hits the market? Excellent news. (NYT)
Researchers use AI to discover potent, superbug-killing antibiotic. Over a million people die every year from infectious diseases caused by agents resistant to normal antibiotics. Acinetobacter baumannii is a particularly notorious superbug (one of three the WHO has categorized as a “critical” threat), often exhibits resistance to essentially every extant antibiotic. A Canadian research team recently used AI to determine the common chemical traits between known antibiotics, and then to whittle down a list of nearly 7,000 potential antibiotics with unknown effects. On that shortlist was a drug called abaucin, which effectively treated mouse wounds infected with A. baumannii. “The next step is to perfect the drug in the laboratory and then perform clinical trials.” Excellent news. (BBC)