CRISPR-Cas guides the future of genetic engineering

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Science  31 Aug 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6405, pp. 866-869
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat5011


The diversity, modularity, and efficacy of CRISPR-Cas systems are driving a biotechnological revolution. RNA-guided Cas enzymes have been adopted as tools to manipulate the genomes of cultured cells, animals, and plants, accelerating the pace of fundamental research and enabling clinical and agricultural breakthroughs. We describe the basic mechanisms that set the CRISPR-Cas toolkit apart from other programmable gene-editing technologies, highlighting the diverse and naturally evolved systems now functionalized as biotechnologies. We discuss the rapidly evolving landscape of CRISPR-Cas applications, from gene editing to transcriptional regulation, imaging, and diagnostics. Continuing functional dissection and an expanding landscape of applications position CRISPR-Cas tools at the cutting edge of nucleic acid manipulation that is rewriting biology.

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Nest investigates Hello doorbell issue that delays notifications

Delayed notifications caused users to miss packages and people at the door

Weird time-jumbling quantum device defies “before” and “after”

In normal life, you open the car door before getting into the car. Operation A happens before operation B. That’s the causal order of things. But a new quantum switch weirdly enables two operations to happen simultaneously. From Science News:

The device, known as a quantum switch, works by putting particles of light through a series of two operations — labeled A and B — that alter the shape of the light. These photons can travel along two separate paths to A and B. Along one path, A happens before B, and on the other, B happens before A.

Which path the photon takes is determined by its polarization, the direction in which its electromagnetic waves wiggle — up and down or side to side. Photons that have horizontal polarization experience operation A first, and those with vertical polarization experience B first.

But, thanks to the counterintuitive quantum property of superposition, the photon can be both horizontally and vertically polarized at once. In that case, the light experiences both A before B, and B before A, Romero and colleagues report.

While this is deeply weird and amazing, it unfortunately doesn’t occur at the human scale but rather in the quantum realm where measurements are in the nanometers. Still, quantum switches do have clear applications in future communications and computation systems.

Indefinite Causal Order in a Quantum Switch” (Physical Review Letters)

Firefox will soon block ad-tracking software by default

Image: Mozilla

Mozilla is taking a bold stance against more insidious web advertising practices with an announcement today that its Firefox browser will soon block web trackers by default. The move, which will involve a series of updates over the course of the next few months, is among one of the most proactive approaches to protect consumer privacy that it’s ever employed.

“Anyone who isn’t an expert on the internet would be hard-pressed to explain how tracking on the internet actually works,” reads the announcement posted to Mozilla’s blog. “Some of the negative effects of unchecked tracking are easy to notice, namely eerily-specific targeted advertising and a loss of performance on the web. However, many of the harms of unchecked data collection are completely opaque to users and experts alike, only to be revealed piecemeal by major data breaches.”

Mozilla says that web trackers will be disabled by default in the future, and Firefox users will have a series of controls to choose which information to share with which websites. In addition to protecting consumer privacy, Mozilla describes the decision as a way to also improve performance, as many web trackers inflate page load times. The organization cites a Ghostery study from May of this year that found that more than 50 percent of all time spent loading webpages was dedicated to loading third-party trackers designed to follow users around the web, collect data, and hand that data over to advertisers.

Mozilla’s approach will be three-fold. It’s going to study the effects of blocking trackers that slow page times starting next month, and it will make that feature on by default in Firefox 63 if it proves successful in improving performance. It will also “strip cookies and block storage access from third-party tracking content,” a move it will also test in September with beta users before implementing in Firefox 65, which is due out sometime in the next few months. Both of those features are available today for users of Firefox Nightly, which is the browser’s public pre-release channel for new features.

The third approach Mozilla is taking is to block by default newer and harder-to-detect practices like fingerprinting, which detects the type of device a user is using without their knowledge or consent, and cryptomining scripts that make use of excess computing power on a device to secretly generate digital currency.

This isn’t the first time Mozilla has pushed back against the web advertising industry. The organization blocked pop-up ads in the very first public Firefox release in 2004. Over the years, Mozilla has implemented features designed to promote consumer privacy and cut down on practices it sees as harmful to the open web, most notably the wholesale blocking of ads and trackers in private browsing mode starting in 2015.

Earlier this year, Mozilla released a tool to stop Facebook from tracking your online behaviorin the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal. That same month, it also gave users control of annoying web pop-up notifications.

“Some sites will continue to want user data in exchange for content, but now they will have to ask for it, a positive change for people who up until now had no idea of the value exchange they were asked to make,” reads Mozilla’s most recent announcement. “Blocking pop-up ads in the original Firefox release was the right move in 2004, because it didn’t just make Firefox users happier, it gave the advertising platforms of the time a reason to care about their users’ experience. In 2018, we hope that our efforts to empower our users will have the same effect.”

After leaking the new ‘iPhone XS’ in what appears to been an early test of its livestream, 9to5Mac has captured what looks to be the next Apple Watch Series 4.

Apple watch series 4 9to5mac

What we see is an Apple Watch which appears thinner, plus with a larger edge-to-edge display, showing more details than ever before on its watch face with numerous complications, now totalling 8, according to the picture.

The new Apple Watch Series 4 looks to be able to fit existing watch bands, while below the Digital Crown (which now has a single red ring to indicate LTE?) there appears to be another microphone. This looks like the Apple Watch people have been waiting for.

UBC researchers seek participants for perfectionism study


The need to be perfect, or appear to be perfect may be seen as a positive trait by some, but it can take a toll on mental health and require psychological treatment.

University of British Columbia researchers are seeking participants to take part in a new study looking at the effectiveness of a treatment for perfectionism developed by UBC Psychology Professor Paul Hewitt.

In this Q&A, Hewitt explains what perfectionism is, why it can be problematic for mental health, and how those interested can take part in the study.

Paul Hewitt

Paul Hewitt

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism involves attempts to be perfect (i.e., perfect the self which is seen as flawed, defective, or not good enough) or to appear to others as perfect. It is not the same as being conscientious, achievement striving or striving for excellence, which are viewed as healthy traits. Rather, perfectionism is about correcting a perceived sense of being not good enough by being or appearing to be perfect.

Moreover, there are various mechanisms of perfectionism including traits, self-presentational facets (i.e., presenting oneself as perfect), and self-related cognitive and self-dialogue elements, meaning the inner dialogue one has with oneself that reflects the relationship one has with the self. These are all related to various kinds of psychological distress, dysfunction and disorders.

What are the possible treatment options for perfectionism?  

Over the past 25 years, we have been developing both individual and group treatments for perfectionism. This treatment focuses on the underlying mechanisms of perfectionism, as well as symptoms and problems. It is based on psychodynamic psychotherapy (which focuses on how a patient’s prior life experiences, particularly important relationships, influence their character and how they relate to others) as well as interpersonal psychotherapy (a common, in-person type of psychological treatment that centers on resolving interpersonal problems.)

What are you hoping to learn through this study?  

The current research is the second treatment study we have carried out to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficacy of the treatment. We are hoping to determine whether the treatment developed by our team is effective in comparison to another form of psychological treatment.

Individuals who are struggling with perfectionism and are interested in potentially participating in treatment can contact us to take part. They will be invited for a screening interview over the phone followed by an initial clinical assessment at the UBC Vancouver campus with one of the PhD clinical psychology students. During the assessment, participants will be asked to share the difficulties they are facing with perfectionism and related issues, and to complete some questionnaires. If eligible, individuals will participate in a 12-week group psychotherapy program.

Those interested in taking part in the study can contact the Hewitt Lab at 604-822-0932 or online at