Just For The Tech Of It: Disease-fighting mutants, quantum physics, & drone crashes

Earlier this week, there was a study published in the journal Nature Biotechnology that suggests there are legitimate mutants walking the Earth right now with genes that give them special abilities. Now before you get too excited, we must admit that this isn’t exactly like X-men.  These mutants don’t shoot lasers from their eyes or control the weather.

Instead, these people have mutations that are quietly helping their bodies fight deadly diseases that should’ve killed them years ago. Scientists think that if we could find these people and analyze their genomes, we could potentially find cures for disorders like Tay-Sachs or cystic fibrosis.

The only problem? The researchers have absolutely no idea who these mutants are or where they might be living. The study that pinpointed them was done with anonymous genetic data from nearly 600,000 people. After crunching the numbers, they found 13 people with these special mutations, but because the data was totally anonymous, we have absolutely no way of contacting them. Bummer!

Related: Just For The Tech Of It: Pig hearts, eating with electricity, and hiding Earth from aliens

In other news: physicists are developing a new quantum computer by studying how people play a newly-released puzzle game called Quantum Moves. You can seriously download this game right now, and by making your way through the levels, you’re actually helping scientists gather valuable data about very difficult quantum physics problems.

The game itself is a bit odd. In it, you have to bend and warp a flat line with your cursor, and use the bends to transfer a choppy liquid that destabilizes and spills if you move it too fast. Your job is to carry the liquid across the screen to a deposit point, but without moving it so quickly that you make a mess.

Sounds simple enough, but here’s the catch: the liquid doesn’t behave in accordance with the traditional laws of physics and gravity. But despite the game’s odd quantum physics, you’ll find that after a few rounds, you unwittingly and intuitively begin to understand how to manipulate the game.

That’s what scientists are after. They’re after the unconscious problem solving abilities that our brains have naturally, but even our most advanced supercomputers still struggle with. And by making it a game that’s available to millions of people, they’ve effectively created a way to crowdsource the problem and download humanity’s common intuition. Check out our full article here.

And finally, because more people are flying and crashing drones these days, a group of researchers from Denmark have developed a crash test system that’ll help examine what happens when drones crash into objects and humans.

To do this, they basically replicated the system scientists use to crash test cars, but they just made it a bit smaller. There’s a drone arm on a sled, a wall at the end of that sled that the drone smashes into, and a bunch of high-speed cameras rolling so we can watch the replay in slo-mo. The funny thing is that, to test what a drone impact might do to a human, they seriously just duct taped a pork roast to the end of the sled and slammed a spinning drone propeller into it at high speed. Surprising absolutely nobody, it gashed the meat like a samurai — so we highly recommend steering clear of drones careening out of control whenever possible

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