Nova’s Front Row Seat to Saturn

NOVA

Front Row Seat to Saturn

Clip: Special | 2m 39s

https://player.pbs.org/viralplayer/3000356654/

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Wild yeasts are brewing up batches of trendy beers

SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC

Wild yeasts are brewing up batches of trendy beers

Using scavenged microbes for fermentation brings out the funky and sour flavors

flasks of yeast

MICROBE BREWS  Scientists are looking for a few good yeasts to enhance beer brewing. Each flask (above) contains the same liquid ingredients and a different kind of yeast.

Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers  on the market are intentionally brewed to be sour and funky. One of the hottest new ingredients in the beverages: Yeast scavenged from nature.

Unlike today’s usual brewing, which typically relies on carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast and rejects outsider microbes, some brewers are returning to beer’s roots. Those beginnings go back thousands of years and for most of that time, the microbes fermenting grain into alcohol were probably wild yeast and bacteria that fell into the brew. Now local microbes — in some cases with the help of scientists — are being welcomed back into breweries.

Wild and sour beers are a niche, but growing segment of the craft brewing market, says Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association. Last year, more than 245,000 cases of wild and sour beers were sold and sales are up 9 percent so far this year.

For geneticist Maitreya Dunham, wild, funky and sour beers aren’t just a market trend; they are ecological microcosms. Dunham’s lab group at the University of Washington in Seattle uses yeast to study genetic variation and evolution. She got interested in beer when her husband took up home brewing.

FUNGI FERMENTATION A strain of Pichia kudriavzevii yeast forms a biofilm at the interface of liquid and air in a lab flask. Researcher Matthew Bochman is testing many strains and species of wild yeast for their beer-brewing properties.

M. BOCHMAN

In the bottom of his five-gallon fermentation bucket, the yeast formed a thick mat that bubbled rapidly. “That’s not how we grow yeast in the lab,” Dunham said. She wanted to test a new technique her lab had developed to identify wild yeast in their natural habitat. And what better habitat to explore than a barrel of beer?Dunham teamed up with a brewer who made a wild beer with microbes from a warehouse. “Whatever is living in the old warehouse ended up in the beer,” she says. On a lab outing to the brewery, Dunham and her team took samples from beer barrels, marveling at the thriving mass of microbes gurgling inside. “You could see it being alive in there.”

DNA tests revealed that four kinds of bacteria and four kinds of yeast, including a newly identified hybrid yeast, lived in the wild brew, Dunham and colleagues reported June 15 on bioRxiv.org. The hybrid doesn’t have a name yet, because Dunham is still trying to identify its parents. One is Pichia membranifaciens, but the other is an unknown fungus P. membranifaciens is a food spoiler, and no lightweight: It can handle up to 11 percent alcohol.The other parent’s identity and attributes aren’t known, and that ID can take time. People have known for a long time that lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus is a hybrid, but scientists didn’t identify both of its parents until 2011.

As excited as Dunham is to find a hybrid yeast, she’s not sure that it will take beer brewing by storm. Her lab brewed a small batch of “science beer” with the hybrid yeast. The yeast didn’t make much ethanol or other flavor compounds. “It didn’t do much on its own,” she laments. But she hasn’t given up hope. Sometimes a yeast needs bacteria or other fungi to really shine. Maybe, she says, “when it’s mixed in with all its friends, it may bring something interesting to the party.”

A Facebook group of home brewers called Milk the Funk is about to help her find out. People from the group saw Dunham’s study on bioRxiv.org and volunteered to ferment beers with and without the hybrid. “I’m about to have a couple dozen people doing experiments for me,” Dunham says. “In fact, they’re going to send me free beer, although it may be weird beer.” (“Funk is one of the flavors they go for in these weirdo beers,” Dunham explains. Descriptions of funk encompass barnyard tastes and smells such as goat, horse blanket, urine, sweat, cheese and manure, as well as spicy notes and complex flavors of clove, smoke, Band-Aid, bacon and bitter, says fellow scientist and yeast hunter Matthew Bochman. “Funk basically covers anything ‘weird’ in beer that might be interesting or pleasant in small amounts but off-putting at higher concentrations.”)

LOCAL SOURCING Old Warehouse beer was brewed from microbes found in an old warehouse, including a new hybrid yeast.

IVAN LIACHKO

Bochman, a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington and a self-professed yeast whisperer, is also bagging new kinds of wild yeast. Bochman, who studies how cells keep their DNA intact, was a home brewer for years before moving to Indiana. He soon made friends with many local craft brewers there. In 2014, he met brewer Robert Caputo, who wanted to make an all-Indiana beer. There were farmers in the state growing hops and malt grains. Indiana water was plentiful. “The missing ingredient was the Indiana yeast,” Bochman says. Caputo asked Bochman to help him find the missing microbe. “So we went yeast hunting.”

That spring and summer, Bochman collected about 100 strains of yeast. “Whenever I was out and about I would grab something — a piece of a bark, a berry — bring it back to the lab and get yeast from it.” The microbes are everywhere, he says. “It’s hard not to find yeast.”

But not just any yeast will do. For beer brewing, he needed to find yeast that eat the sugar maltose in the wort — the liquid extracted from grain mash that will be fermented into beer. Yeasts used for brewing also have to be tolerant of hops, which make weak acids that might slow yeast growth. The yeast must be able to live in 4 to 5 percent alcohol. In addition, the microbes have “to smell and taste at least neutral, if not good,” Bochman said.

Not all yeast can pass the sniff test. For instance, eight strains of Saccharomyces paradoxus “all smelled and tasted heavily of adhesive bandages,” Bochman and colleagues reported August 7 on bioRxiv.org.

But in 2015, a batch of wild beer brewed in an open vat in a vacant lot in Indianapolis by Bochman’s friends at Black Acre Brewing Co., yielded a winner. Among the four species and six strains of yeast in the beer was a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain called YH166. S. cerevisiae is the species of yeast used to brew ales and wine and to make bread. YH166 lends beer an aroma that is “an amazing pineapple, guava something. Like an umbrella drink,” says Bochman.

He doesn’t yet know what chemicals the yeast makes to produce the tropical fruit scent. He puts his money on one of the sweet-smelling esters yeast use to attract the fruit flies that can give the fungi a lift — sort of a microbial version of a ride-hailing app.

HYBRID POWER A new hybrid yeast was found in a barrel of wild beer. Home brewers are testing the characteristics that the yeast, shown above growing in a lab dish, brings to beers.

IVAN LIACHKO

Sour beer brewers may also benefit from Bochman’s bio-prospecting. Sour beers generally contain lactic acid bacteria in addition to yeast. Brewers need separate equipment for brewing sour beers, because it’s difficult to get rid of all the bacteria in order to brew a nonsour beer.Among 54 species of yeasts Bochman and colleagues investigated, he found five strains that can make both alcohol and lactic acid to brew sour beers without troublesome bacteria. The researchers described the five sourpusses — Hanseniaspora vineaeLachancea fermentatiLachancea thermotoleransSchizosaccharomyces japonicus and Wickerhamomyces anomalus — July 28 on bioRxiv.org. Bochman and Caputo formed Wild Pitch Yeast, a company to sell the strains, in part, to fund his yeast research. The company supplied yeasts isolated from cobwebs, trees and other spots to brewers for making all-Indiana beers, dubbed “Bicentenni-ales” in honor of the state’s 200th anniversary.

Both Bochman and Dunham are relying on brewers to tell them how their newfound yeast perform in the real world. “The proof is in the brewing,” Bochman says. “You can do as many lab tests as you want, but you’re never going to know how something will act until you throw it into some wort and let it bubble away for a couple of weeks.”

The World’s First Album Composed and Produced by an AI Has Been Unveiled

A music album called IAMAI, which released on August 21st, is the first that’s entirely composed by an artificial intelligence.

A New Kind of Composer

“Break Free” is the first sone released in a new album by Taryn Southern. The song, indeed, the entire album, features an artist known as Amper—but what looks like a typical collaboration between artists is actually much more than that.

Taryn is no stranger to the music and entertainment industry. She is a singer and digital storyteller who has amassed more than 500 million views on YouTube, and she has over 450 thousand subscribers. On the other hand, Amper is making his debut…except he’s (it’s?) not a person.

Amper is an artificially intelligent music composer, producer, and performer. The AI was developed by a team of professional musicians and technology experts, and it’s the the very first AI to compose and produced an entire music album. The album is called I AM AI, and the featured single is set to release on August 21, 2017.

Check out the song “Break Free” in the video below:

As film composer Drew Silverstein, one of Amper’s founders, explained to TechCrunchAmper isn’t meant to act totally on its own, but was designed specifically to work in collaboration with human musicians: “One of our core beliefs as a company is that the future of music is going to be created in the collaboration between humans and AI. We want that collaborative experience to propel the creative process forward.”

That said, the team notes that, contrary to the other songs that have been released by AI composers, the chord structures and instrumentation of “Break Free” are entirely the work of Amper’s AI.

Not Just Music Production

Ultimately, Amper breaks the model followed by today’s music-making AIs. Usually, the original work done by the AI is largely reinterpreted by humans. This means that humans are really doing most of the legwork. As the team notes in their press release, “the process of releasing AI music has involved humans making significant manual changes—including alteration to chords and melodies—to the AI notation.”

That’s not the case with Amper. As previously noted, the chord structures and instrumentation is purely Amper’s; it just works with manual inputs from the human artist when it comes to style and overall rhythm.

And most notably, Amper can make music through machine learning in just seconds. Here’s an example of a song made by Amper, and re-arranged by Taryn.

Yet, while IAMAI may be the first album that’s entirely composed and produced by an AI, it’s not the first time an AI has displayed creativity in music or in other arts.

For example, an AI called Aiva has been taught to compose classical music, like how DeepBach was designed to create music inspired by Baroque artist Johann Sebastian Bach. With this in mind, the album is likely just the first step into a new era…an era in which humans will share artistry (and perhaps even compete creatively) with AI.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify what songs were made by Amper and rearranged by Taryn. 

Source: The World’s First Album Composed and Produced by an AI Has Been Unveiled

by Dom Galeon on August 21, 2017 

 Amper Music

 

DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room | Science | AAAS

DNA could store all of the world’s data in one room

Humanity has a data storage problem: More data were created in the past 2 years than in all of preceding history. And that torrent of information may soon outstrip the ability of hard drives to capture it. Now, researchers report that they’ve come up with a new way to encode digital data in DNA to create the highest-density large-scale data storage scheme ever invented. Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks. But whether the technology takes off may depend on its cost.

DNA has many advantages for storing digital data. It’s ultracompact, and it can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. And as long as human societies are reading and writing DNA, they will be able to decode it. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” says Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University. And unlike other high-density approaches, such as manipulating individual atoms on a surface, new technologies can write and read large amounts of DNA at a time, allowing it to be scaled up.

Scientists have been storing digital data in DNA since 2012. That was when Harvard University geneticists George Church, Sri Kosuri, and colleagues encoded a 52,000-word book in thousands of snippets of DNA, using strands of DNA’s four-letter alphabet of A, G, T, and C to encode the 0s and 1s of the digitized file. Their particular encoding scheme was relatively inefficient, however, and could store only 1.28 petabytes per gram of DNA. Other approaches have done better. But none has been able to store more than half of what researchers think DNA can actually handle, about 1.8 bits of data per nucleotide of DNA. (The number isn’t 2 bits because of rare, but inevitable, DNA writing and reading errors.)

Erlich thought he could get closer to that limit. So he and Dina Zielinski, an associate scientist at the New York Genome Center, looked at the algorithms that were being used to encode and decode the data. They started with six files, including a full computer operating system, a computer virus, an 1895 French film called Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, and a 1948 study by information theorist Claude Shannon. They first converted the files into binary strings of 1s and 0s, compressed them into one master file, and then split the data into short strings of binary code. They devised an algorithm called a DNA fountain, which randomly packaged the strings into so-called droplets, to which they added extra tags to help reassemble them in the proper order later. In all, the researchers generated a digital list of 72,000 DNA strands, each 200 bases long.

They sent these as text files to Twist Bioscience, a San Francisco, California–based startup, which then synthesized the DNA strands. Two weeks later, Erlich and Zielinski received in the mail a vial with a speck of DNA encoding their files. To decode them, the pair used modern DNA sequencing technology. The sequences were fed into a computer, which translated the genetic code back into binary and used the tags to reassemble the six original files. The approach worked so well that the new files contained no errors, they report today in Science. They were also able to make a virtually unlimited number of error-free copies of their files through polymerase chain reaction, a standard DNA copying technique. What’s more, Erlich says, they were able to encode 1.6 bits of data per nucleotide, 60% better than any group had done before and 85% the theoretical limit.

“I love the work,” says Kosuri, who is now a biochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I think this is essentially the definitive study that shows you can [store data in DNA] at scale.”

However, Kosuri and Erlich note the new approach isn’t ready for large-scale use yet. It cost $7000 to synthesize the 2 megabytes of data in the files, and another $2000 to read it. The cost is likely to come down over time, but it still has a long ways to go, Erlich says. And compared with other forms of data storage, writing and reading to DNA is relatively slow. So the new approach isn’t likely to fly if data are needed instantly, but it would be better suited for archival applications. Then again, who knows? Perhaps those giant Facebook and Amazon data centers will one day be replaced by a couple of pickup trucks of DNA.

Posted in:

doi:10.1126/science.aal0852

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers is an Emmy-nominated web series and site from PBS’s NOVA. This is where you can learn about cutting-edge science and engineering, the amazing people who do that work, and the things they do when their lab coats come off – win beauty pageants, wrestle professionally, become rock stars and magicians, etc. Scroll down to explore the lives of some gifted and inspiring people who are changing our world… and having a great time while they’re doing it.      
A fun exploration of the multifaceted qualities of scientists. See more here!
Video Profiles

 

Biofashion in Colombia 

I found this photograph one day and vowed to find out more about its origins. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information to fill in the gaps, but I believe there is an annual Biofashion show in Cali, Colombia. Designers make exciting creations composed only from plants, natural and recycled materials. Quite stunning!

You may read more here.

Glimpses of Biofashion show 2016 in Cali, Colombia
Reuters

 

imgglimpses-biofashion-show-2016-cali-colombia
Reuters
imgglimpses-biofashion-show-2016-cali-colombia1
A model presents a creation during the Biofashion show, which features designs made from plants, recycled and natural materials, in Cali, Colombia, November 19, 2016. Reuters

A Science Haiku from Down Under

I was happily surprised to hear from Dr. Michael Leach in Australia when he came across The STEAM Hub and sent us his compliments about our site. We rely on the internet so much these days that occasionally we forget how remarkable the technology is and the gifts that it brings. Thank you Dr. Leach for reaching out and sharing your love of STEAM with us. We are glad to meet you!

Dr. Leach is a self-described health researcher, number cruncher, poet and all-around STEAM advocate. It was kind of him to provide one of his science haiku’s to share with our readers.

Dedicated to all those who have worked at or supported science centers, especially the Discovery Science & Technology Centre, in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, here is Michael’s poem together with photos of a science Lego display from the University of South Australia and the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria.

Enjoy!


chem demonstration
science words blend with light to give
illumination

Science Lego Displayed at the University of South Australia
La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria

Year Up!

The Year Up Program will be on the Glendale Community College campus next week on May 8th and May 9th inside the Student Union from 9 am – 1 pm.

Below are some highlights of the program:
  • The program is for students 18-24 years old and have a high school diploma or GED.
  • Of low to moderate income and US citizen, permanent resident, or have employment authorization card to participate in program
  • Must be available 5 days a week Mon-Fri for the full year of the program
  • Have not obtained a bachelor’s degree
  • Students can earn monthly stipend of up to $600 and up to 30 college credits.
  • They will learn Business Operations or Computer Programming, and Professional Skills
  • 6 month paid professional internship with career opportunities
  • Begin a career making $32,000 a year while completing a degree

YEAR UP STUDENTS ARE TRAINED FOR INTERN ROLES IN:

  • Cyber Security
  • SharePoint Administration
  • QA Testing
  • Customer Support/Service Desk
  • Network Administration Support
  • Desktop Support
  • Helpdesk
  • Business Operation roles requiring Microsoft Office skills
If you have any questions, please contact Gaspar Mata at GMata@yearup.org or 480-498-7396 x2154
 

A New Kind of March Madness Hits Schools

https://www.npr.org/player/embed/521148505/521884369