Harvard professors are working on it. The idea of tanks of microbes making things isn't new - remember the giant tanks of Chinese hamster ovary cells along the Charles in Allston - but the Harvard boffins say they've figured out how to up the production of whatever 30fold:
A Twitter-enabled Christmas tree in the lobby of Boston City Hall lets anybody around the world change its colors just by tweeting at it.
MIT reports some of its researchers have developed a method to produce cheap NFC-based sensors that could tell if a box contains spoiled food - or explosives.
These inexpensive sensors could be widely deployed, making it easier to monitor public spaces or detect food spoilage in warehouses. Using this system, the researchers have demonstrated that they can detect gaseous ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and cyclohexanone, among other gases.
â€śThe beauty of these sensors is that they are really cheap. You put them up, they sit there, and then you come around and read them. Thereâ€™s no wiring involved. Thereâ€™s no power,â€ť says Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at MIT. â€śYou can get quite imaginative as to what you might want to do with a technology like this.â€ť
The Harvard Gazette reports on an effort to scan in old ornithology journals using crowdsourcing to convert the hand-written journals into text and then gaming software to verify the accuracy of that transcription - critical when you're talking about possibly obscure scientific names:
First versions of the video games should be ready by early next year, Flanagan said. One is aimed at the more altruistic volunteer, who will want a minimum of gameplay features. The second will have more of those features, such as the ability to track progress, gain points for correct transcriptions, and lose them for incorrect ones.
The challenge, according to Flanagan and TiltFactor game designer Max Seidman, is to create gameplay that is interesting enough to stand by itself and even attract players who might not be interested in natural history, birds, or the broader societal benefit of their high scores.
ZipCar founder and current MassDOT board member Robin Chase has started a new company that aims to equip vehicles - such as buses and garbage trucks - with WiFi gear. Business Insider reports on her new company's ideas for "a network of moving things," which in addition to providing roving WiFi service would also allow creation of citywide sensor networks to, well, sense things for the coming Internet of Things.
Via The Transit Wire.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, Traffic Hackers has gone live with both live data and predictions for when you should head out - if your plans include the turnpike, I-93 north of the city or Rte. 3 south of it.
The site uses real-time data from MassDOT and historical data to try to show you how the roads are doing - without a single helicopter - and when you might want to leave.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court today tossed a lawsuit by Skyhook Wireless of South Boston against Google, saying the company failed to prove Google maliciously tried to keep its location services off Android phones in 2009 and 2010.
If anything, the court ruled, the fault was entirely Skyhook's, for failing to ensure its software would work properly with the application programming interfaces Google wrote for determining the location of an Android phone.
Acquia, which currently provides content-management applications and services plans to move from Burlington to 53 State St. next year, BostInno reports, adding the company will be doubling its space with the move.
Acquia's core offerings focus on an enterprise version of Drupal, a system originally written by Acquia founder Dries Buytaert. The software powers a number of large corporate Web sites, and also this one.
Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan says his detectives got the case on Friday. In a statement, he says:
We will use all tools and assets at our disposal to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.
Alex Howell asks:
Anyone know of any places where I can donate a nice iMac to? Donâ€™t really want to deal with the wilds of Craigslist.
Avid Technology of Burlington, which makes tools for managing movies, audio tracks and other media files, says a California file-sharing company not only poached some of its employees, it's illegally using its proprietary software.
In a lawsuit filed this week in US District Court in Boston, Avid accuses Gobbler of copyright and trademark violations and of violating the non-compete agreements four former Avid employees signed. Non-compete clauses are legal in Massachusetts, but not California.
Boston and a local startup called Mapdwell have released a mapping system that lets residents look up their home's roof size and then figure out how much installation of solar panels would cost them.
The city hopes the map will help it reach a goal of having 25 MW of solar energy capacity by 2020 - it's currently at about 12 MW.
In a victory for the manufacturer of electric cars, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled today dealers of other types of cars have no grounds to block the company's efforts to sell vehicles directly to consumers.
Massachusetts car dealers had sued Tesla Motors under a state law designed to protect dealers from predatory actions by manufacturers.
But the state's highest court said the law only applies to the manufacturers selling to the dealerships that felt they were injured. Tesla isn't selling cars to specific dealerships - it wants to sell cars from its own showrooms, starting with one in Natick - the court noted.
Street Fight reports that Everyblock, which used to be a handy place to look up building permits and the like, is coming back to Boston and will add a Medford version (Medford? Yes, Medford).
The City Council today voted to ban a phone app that lets users notify other users of impending open parking spaces in Boston - and to back it up with fines of up to $250 per instance.
City Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), who proposed the ordinance, admitted that he doesn't understand "all apps," but he understands this one just fine. "They were trying to buy and sell city property, which isn't there's to buy and sell," he said.
This is this month's cover of Cell, which covers advances in microbiology:
The cover depicts an adaptation the Boston subway system map in which subway lines represent pathways of differentiation from pluripotent stem cells. Bus routes, shown as dashed lines, are the various ways that cells can be experimentally interconverted via directed differentiation, direct conversion, and reprogramming. Cover image by Samantha Morris.
The team started with a flat sheet, to which it added two motors, two batteries, and a microcontroller, which acts like the robotâ€™s brain, Felton said. The sheet was a composite of paper and Shrinky Dinks, also called polystyrene, and a flexible circuit board in the middle. It also included hinges that were programmed to fold at specific angles. Each hinge contained embedded circuits that produce heat on command from the microcontroller. The heat triggers the composite to fold itself in a series of steps.
AsymmetRx Medical, an Acton company that holds a patent on an antibody used to diagnose prostate cancer, is suing Santa Cruz Biotechnology of Dallas on charges the Texas company offers a product that uses the same basic idea.
In its lawsuit, filed this week in US District Court in Boston, AsymmetRx, founded on the work of a Harvard researcher, says Santa Cruz started selling its product after it had agreed in 2007 not to do so - to settle a similar lawsuit AsymmetRx filed over the same exact patent.