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Breakthrough Conference 2013

Just attended this conference Tuesday, October 22, 2013. It was like the Academy Awards with celebrity scientists form JPL and various academic and private institutions covering a variety of topics.

Download Summary of Panelists; Download my notes (typed on my iPad, so excuse typos)


Some notes:

Jet Propulsion Lab

-They are using Rover to collect samples from Mount Sharp on Mars
-They are also analyzing the terrain in layers, taking samples of deposit layers (e.g. clay layers)
-They are retroactively analyzing the terrain and found commonalities such as an ancient river bed and an old super volcano
-designing Rover to be a "roving laboratory" and created a Skycrane (would need to be able to transport 40 tons for a human habitat versus the current capacity of 4-5 tons)
-Next mission is called "2020" [http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mars2020/]



Oculus Rift (he wasn't able to be on the panel, but he created a VR system using Kickstarter that is being used to help people with post traumatic stress disorder using virtual-reality therapy:


Fabrication/Maker Startups

There were some other panelists substituted and covered "fabrication/makers/tinkering" and creating new economies for hardware design and process, and how to overcome larger competitors:
- Jim Newton, founder of TechShop in Silicon Valley [http://www.techshop.ws/founders.html]
- Sanjay [http://www.boostedboards.com/] - they were funded by Paul Graham's y-combinator
- Mike Este [http://otherfab.com/blog/other-machine-co/] - this company began as an education company (they have lowered their age barriers from 18yo to 8yo — kids can learn to solder). Initially they were tasked to improve high school shop classes because students did not have the skills to understand manufacturing, etc.
• Focus is on either 3D fabrication or 2D milling.


Autonomous Drivers

Highway Autopilot (semi-autonomous cars via General Motors) - this system is being integrated in "Cruise Control" features of cars:

Vijay Kumar (miniature robotic helicopters controlled by remote control that can lift heavy objects for construction or be used to sweep the environment after a disaster):


Nanotechnology and Small Sensors

Michael Goldfarb created mechanical exoskeletons to help people who have spinal cord damage:

Robotic touch that can detect texture better than humans using a special algorithm (looping and collecting data on different textures) and machine learning (for prosthetics):

Dr. Anita Goel - Biosym
Dr. Goel's product was a hand-held device that harnesses real-time processing and is a mobile DNA/RNA diagnostic system (comparable to a PCR machine). I think they are working on a system that detects HIV for developing countries because most of these tests take 6 weeks to see results, and by that time, people have migrated to other locations.

Addendum: Jason Wilde @nature referenced that this device might be parallel to the Star Trek Tricorder, and Mark Henry mentioned that perhaps the root comes from "triage" [(in medical use) the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties]. Yes, there are a bunch of Star Trek geeks here in science. For those, who don't know what a Tricorder is, I found one on this site using google images:

credit and contest: http://www.themarysue.com/star-trek-tricorder-contest/

Paul Bunje - Ocean Health X Prize, UCLA center for climate change solution;
worked with policy makers, carbon emissions impact on oceans -- specifically
acidification by using sensors. Collect actionable data in order to make
decisions. They want to award a winner to create a pH sensor for the ocean (cheap and accurate)

What was not apart of the conference, but still amazing – growing and printing organs:


Peter Diamandis, X Prize

- some ideas include being able to order a dress online from Bangladesh, and your closet prints the dress by next morning
- innovations in oil clean-up
-Singularity University [http://singularityu.org/]; [http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100915/full/467266a.html]
- Xprize focused on finding asteroids (because they are rich in water – 20%) for space vehicles
- he mentioned something about Optogenetics and Cortical implants (during the Q&A session)
- mining platinum elements when an asteroid hits the Earth [http://www.economist.com/node/21553419]
- check out the screenshot from Kevin Werbach's Gamification course at UPenn on investment yields from competitions like Xprize, Innocentive and Darpa Grand Challenges [Coursera/Upenn]:

More information on Peter Diamandis here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/news/10-innovators-who-changed-the-world-in-2013#slide-1


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