science, technology, twist

ICYMI: A handful of science and technology updates from December 16 to December 22, 2018.

Gov’t agencies unveil startup support initiatives at Technology Business Incubation Summit

A big thank you to all who joined us in the 2nd National TBI Summit.

Posted by Russell Pili on Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) recently signed a five-year initiative to support technology startups in the Philippines. The Memorandum of Understanding, which involves the three agencies utilizing their programs and projects to create a “conducive business environment” for local startups, was signed at the 2nd National Technology Business Incubation (TBI) Summit, held at the Manila Hotel last December 19. DOST is currently providing financial assistance to TBIs via the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD).

The TBI Summit also featured panel discussions tackling the government’s role in growing the local startup ecosystem, what startups need from incubators and accelerators in terms of support and guidance, and the ways in which incubators and accelerators can provide assistance to struggling startups.

Blind, legless, and burrowing amphibian named after Donald Trump

Dermophis donaldtrumpi. (Image: EnviroBuild)

Slippery, slimy, sightless, and prone to digging holes for itself — these are the primary traits of Dermophis donaldtrumpi, a new amphibian from Panama set to be named after US President Donald Trump. A sustainable building materials company, EnviroBuild, won the naming rights for USD 25,000 at an auction. The company chose the name based on their belief that the blind, worm-like creature reflected the controversial politician’s policies and approach to global warming. “It is the perfect name,” said EnviroBuild’s Aidan Bell. “Caecilian is taken from the Latin caecus, meaning ‘blind’, perfectly mirroring the strategic vision President Trump has consistently shown towards climate change.” Read the full story.

Pteranodon fossil reveals brutal struggle with prehistoric shark

Artist’s rendition of a prehistoric shark hunting Pteranodon. (Image: Mark Witton)

A shark tooth lodged in the fossilized neck bone of a Pteranodon suggests an interesting tidbit about the marine predators: That 80 million years ago, they were already hunting flying creatures. Researchers from the University of Southern California examined the bones of the extinct flying reptile, which were discovered in the 1960s and kept at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. According to the researchers, this offers a rare glimpse of wildlife interactions during the Mesozoic era, especially since only seven out of over 1,100 specimens of the pterosaur hinted at any form of predator-prey interaction. Read the full story.

NASA: Saturn is losing its rings at an alarming rate

According to new NASA research, Saturn is losing its signature rings at the highest rate possible. Scientists believe that the rings, comprised of dust and ice particles pulled together by the planet’s magnetic field, will start to fade away 100 million years into the future, and may be completely gone in 300 million years. The study authors note that considering Saturn’s age (4 billion years), this is a “relatively short” period of time. Read the full story.

Human ancestor was partially “monkey-brained”

The skull of “Little Foot.” (Image: University of the Witwatersrand)

After scanning a rare specimen of an almost complete Australopithecus skull, researchers have concluded that this ancient human had a brain that was essentially a cross between an ape’s and a man’s. Taken from a specimen nicknamed “Litte Foot,” the 3.67-million-year-old fossil showed evidence of an asymmetrical brain with varied protrusions. Using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) technology, the scientists determined that Autralopithecus likely had a lateralized brain — meaning one side performed a different function from the other — meaning that this trait popped up early in man’s evolutionary history. Read the full story.

Your houseplants could someday detoxify your air at home

Scientists at the University of Washington are working on a genetically modified plant that could suck carcinogens (such as benzene and chloroform) out of the air in a room. The researchers used golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), a common species of ivy typically hung from pots as household ornaments. The team used it as a “blank genetic canvas,” imbuing it with the detoxifying protein cytochrome P450 to create what is essentially a self-sustaining air purifier. At present, the research is too small and underdeveloped for widespread adoption and use. However, the researchers are already working on how to maximize the effect on the plants to create a “mini-greenhouse in the home.” Read the full story.

This plant hallucinogen offers sweet possibilities for treating diabetes

Ayahuasca cooking. Credit: Lisa Johnson Getty Images

A new study reveals that the key to effective Type-1 diabetes treatment may actually be hidden in a centuries-old South American hallucinogenic tea. Indigenous tribes have been brewing ayahuasca, a drink comprised of a local vine and a shrub, for ages due to the visions that came with imbibing it. Harmine is a psychoactive drug partially responsible for the drink’s strange effects — a compound that, according to researchers, could be combined with a synthetic compound to create a substance that speeds up insulin production in the pancreas’ beta cells. Read the full story.

Cover photo: Pexels

Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.