Scientists Are Annoyed by This Pretty Big Flaw in The New DNA Emoji

They had one job (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Unicode, the standards body that decides which emojis we all need on our phones and laptops, is finally adding a bunch of science emojis to the mix, including DNA – but there’s confusion over the style of the doodle that will eventually get used.

That’s because one of the samples shown by Unicode and Emojipedia shows DNA strands twisting to the left, as they do on the less common Z-DNA.

For the most common B-DNA structure, the one that is responsible for the origins of life, the twists should be right-handed.

The difference isn’t easy to spot at first, but it’s crucial in dictating the way the ladders of DNA are structured – it’s like going down a spiral staircase clockwise or anticlockwise, with one state the complete mirror image of the other.

dna emojis 2The new emoji, as imagined by Emojipedia.

Scientists love accuracy more than most, and so the new symbol sample has caused some frustrated reactions on Twitter, as Gizmodo reports.

Researchers have been quick to point out that Unicode and Emojipedia has gone for a spiral that twists in the wrong direction – or at least in the more obscure, less common direction.

However, the original draft of the new emojis for 2018 had the DNA emoji twisting in the correct way, so it seems there’s some confusion about which one will eventually get used.

dna emojis 3The original Unicode draft.

If you’re struggling to understand what we mean, point your index finger away from you, push out your hand and rotate your finger in a clockwise direction – you’re drawing DNA in the air. If you rotate your finger anticlockwise, you’re drawing Z-DNA.

All is not lost though: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and the rest all design their own emoji styles on top of whatever Unicode puts forward – that’s why emojis look different from device to device and app to app.

So there’s still hope these tech giants may not totally stuff up, and the final emoji designs on our devices will end up spiralling the right way.

In the meantime, scientists are busy pointing out the mistake. It may not matter too much in the grand scheme of things, but if you’re going to have a DNA emoji, you might as well make sure you get it right.

Other science-related emojis in the list of 157 new ones rolling out this year include a magnet, a test tube, and a petri dish (there’s a full list at Emojipedia). Before too long then, you should be able to have much more meaningful emoji-based science conversations with your friends.

DNA’s double-helical structure, which creates the twisting pattern, was discovered way back in 1953, with a right-handed spiral.

Since then scientists have wondered what caused that right-handed bias. One idea is that cosmic rays destroyed the left-handed ancestors of DNA on the early Earth, but at the moment we really don’t know for sure.

What we do know is that DNA should have a right-handed spiral, and flipping it over to show a mirror image is wrong – just as wrong as trying to exactly duplicate the actions of a right hand with a left hand.

This isn’t the first time this mistake has been made – the same error has appeared in textbooks and in graphics many times in the past – and we can’t get too angry when we’re getting skateboards and kangaroos added to our emoji vocabulary.

Now though, you should all know what to look out for. When the emojis eventually land on your phone, take a close look to see which way the DNA strand is twisted.

Mozilla announces an open gateway for the internet of things

Apple, Google, Amazon and Samsung have all been working hard to create their own standard to control all the connected devices around your home. Mozilla just announced that anybody can now create an open gateway to control the internet of things. The organization also confirmed that it is still working on a set of frameworks and open standards so that we don’t end up with an internet of things controlled by big tech companies.

Connected devices are great, until you realize that your connected thermostat only works with the Amazon Echo and your connected lightbulbs only work with Siri and the Home app.

Accessory makers also don’t necessarily want a handful of big tech companies to control the internet of things. Tech giants could end up charging expensive licensing fees to work with their ecosystem. And customers end up having to make tough decisions.

Mozilla is a big proponent of the open web. So it seems natural that the not-for-profit organization has plans for connected devices. Project Things encompasses multiple projects, so let’s look at Mozilla’s work.

First, Mozilla wants to create an open standard with the W3C around the Web of Things. The idea is that accessory makers and service providers should use the same standard to make devices talk to each other. The specifications rely on JSON, and a REST and WebSockets API. Those are standard data and API models on the web, and they should work perfectly fine for connected devices.

Second, Mozilla is working on a Web of Things Gateway so that you can replace your Amazon Echo, Philips Hue hub, Apple TV and Google Home with an open device. You can already create a gateway using a Raspberry Pi 3, and ZigBee and Z-Wave USB dongles.

Eventually, manufacturers could leverage this work to create their own gateways. Maybe Netgear could embed a Web of Things gateway into their next router — your router is connected to the internet and runs 24/7 after all. Developers could also create bridges between the HomeKit API or Amazon’s Smart Home Skill API so that all devices work with your Amazon Echo, Google Home or iPhone without too much effort. Web of Things could become the common language between those proprietary APIs.

Finally, Mozilla is creating the interface to control your connected devices. You can add Mozilla’s progressive web app to your smartphone home screen and control your home. For instance, you can use your voice to turn on the lights, create IFTTT-style rules to automate your house, add a floor-plan to lay out your devices and more.

Mozilla has designed an add-on system so that you can add support for new devices and protocols by installing plugins. It’s important to note that all of this runs on your own gateway in your house. Google or Amazon can’t see when you turn on the light using your voice.

Eventually, I could also see app developers leveraging the Web of Things protocol to create native apps to control your house. But it’s clear that Mozilla wants to attack this issue from all angles. And developers can already start playing around with Project Things and contribute to development.

Mobile battery tech breakthrough from Samsung

Battery Technology

As advances continue in the realm of mobile devices and wearable gadgets, we always come back to the same handful of barriers that impede progress. Chief among them, of course, is battery technology. Component makers spend millions on research and development in an effort to make the most power-efficient parts possible, but the majority of smartphones still only last a day at most per charge. Where wearables are concerned, these tiny devices come in a wide range of flexible shapes that often severely limit vendors’ options when it comes to battery size and placement.

Battery technology has never been able to keep pace with other components, but a new breakthrough unveiled this week by Samsung could represent one of the most important advancements in mobile battery tech we’ve seen in quite some time.

Samsung is known most widely by consumers as a smartphone maker. The company’s Galaxy brand Android phones helped propel Samsung to the top of the industry where shipment volume is concerned, and Samsung is still the world’s No. 1 phone vendor despite recent struggles.

But the South Korean electronics giant is much more than just a phone maker. Samsung has a number of other high-profile businesses, and components may be chief among them. In fact, Samsung bucked a seven-quarter earnings slide in the third quarter this year thanks largely to its component business, which counts Apple among its largest customers.

Samsung makes a portion of the new A9 chipsets that power Apple’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and the company also manufactures a wide range of other components, including batteries. This past week at the annual InterBattery 2015 expo in Seoul, South Korea, Samsung showed off two new batteries that represent major steps forward in battery tech for mobile devices.

Dubbed “Stripe” and “Band,” these new Samsung batteries are thin and flexible, allowing them to fit into spaces and components that could otherwise not house a battery.

The new batteries are still in the prototype phase, but testing appears to be going quite well. According to Samsung, its new battery tech has the potential to increase battery life in some mobile devices by as much as 50%. Also of note, these new flexible batteries were able to withstand 50,000 bends during Samsung’s tests, suggesting durability will not be a concern.

Samsung’s Band battery is designed to be housed in the flexible band of a smartwatch or fitness tracker, though its applications could certainly extend beyond those categories. Meanwhile, the Stripe battery can “bend and conform freely as a fiber and is equipped with innovative energy density,” according to Samsung.

The company continued, “Since it is adaptable to various forms – such as a necklace, hairband, t-shirt accessories, and more – it will in result fuel the growth of battery application market including wearables.”

Samsung launches ‘eye-tracking mouse’ for people with disabilities

Washington: Samsung has unveiled an eye-tracking mouse, dubbed as EYECAN+, which allows people with disabilities to control their computers with a blink of an eye.

Samsung’s second-generation EYECAN+ doesn’t require the user to wear any equipment or be in any specific position, it works when users are positioned approximately 2 feet away from the monitor, ABC News reported.

It is a portable box that is positioned below a computer monitor and it allows users to surf the Internet, write and edit documents.

Samsung stated that they do not plan to sell the system and instead will donate the limited quantity to charity organizations. However, the technology and design will soon be made open source, allowing other groups and companies free rein to commercialize the eye mouse.

Dyson registers patent of plans for soundless model.

  • Dyson puts in patent for ‘hand-held blower with an insulating chamber’
  • New designs usually closely guarded
  • Dyson spends nearly £1.5 million a week on research and development

Hairdryers will be the next household gadget to be given the silent treatment by Sir James Dyson as he puts in a patent for a soundless model.

The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner has registered plans for the gadget which shows diagrams of the ‘hand-held blower with an insulating chamber’.

Sir James is widely known for his vacuum cleaners but he has more recently branched out into bladeless fans and the ‘airblade’ fast-drying hand dryer, The Guardian has reported.

Design: The 'hairblade' hairdryerDesign: The ‘hairblade’ hairdryer


Ballbarrow A wheelbarrow with a ball replacing the wheel

Trolleyball A trolley that launched boats

Bagless vacuum cleaner The Dyson cleaner was the first bagless vacuum

Dyson Ball Vacuum cleaner using the ball from the Ballbarrow

Dyson Airblade Fast-working hand dryer

Air Multiplier Bladeless fan

The blueprint for the new hairdryer goes into detail about how it will work. The patent application shows air will flow through two chambers and out the front of the handheld device.

The bladeless fan was another ‘noiseless’ device and hairdressers will surely be first in line as standard hairdryers can be as loud as 75 decibels.

Sir James usually keeps his new designs under wraps and his patents closely guarded. He recently begun a legal battle with Samsung, claiming that the electronics giant ‘ripped off’ one of its inventions.

Inventor: Sir James Dyson closely guards his patents and his company now holds 3,000 for 500 inventions Inventor: Sir James Dyson closely guards his patents and his company now holds 3,000 for 500 inventions

The 66-year-old engineer said the South Korean company’s new MotionSync range ‘directly copied’ the steering mechanics of Dyson’s DC37 and DC39 models.

Dyson said it patented the central ball system – which allows a vacuum to move more easily around corners, table legs and over carpets – in 2009, and spent three years developing the design.

In 2009 a British judge ordered Samsung to pay Dyson about £600,000 after it tried to patent the UK firm’s ‘triple-cyclone’ suction technology.

A champion of British industry, Dyson spends nearly £1.5 million every week on research and development. The company now holds more than 3,000 patents for over 500 inventions.

He also supports up and coming inventors with The James Dyson Award that celebrates and encourages the next generation of design engineers.

It is run by the James Dyson Foundation, Sir James Dyson’s charitable trust, as part of its mission to inspire young people about design engineering.

Ultrasound offers gesture control.

The smartphone you control by gestures

Ultrasound technology that enables mobiles and tablets to be controlled by gesture could go into production as early as next year.

Norwegian start-up Elliptic Labs is in talks with Asian handset manufacturers to get the chip embedded in devices.

The technology works via an ultrasound chip that uses sound waves to interpret hand movements.

The move towards gesture control has gathered pace and there are now many such products on the market.

Big gestures

What sets Elliptic’s gesture-control system apart from others is its wide field of use, up to a metre away from the phone. It means it can identify mid-air gestures accurately.

Because it uses sound rather than sight, the sensor can recognise gestures from a 180-degree field. It also consumes less power and works in the dark.

By contrast Samsung’s Galaxy S4 uses an infrared sensor that can only interpret hand movements within a very small zone.

“The user needs to learn the exact spot to gesture to instead of having a large interactive space around the device,” said Erik Forsstrom, the user interface designer for Elliptic Labs.

The ultrasound system in action

Allowing users more freedom in how they gesture is vital if such products are to become mainstream, he thinks.

“With a small screen such as a phone or a tablet, the normal body language is not that precise. You need a large zone in which to gesture.”

If consumers can quickly see the effects their gestures have on screen, he thinks, “it is quite likely that this is the next step within mobile”.

The technology was recently shown off at Japanese tech show Ceatec.

In the demonstration, an Android smartphone was housed in a case containing the ultrasound transmitters.

But Elliptic Labs said it had formed partnerships with a number of Asian handset manufacturers who are looking at building the ultrasound chip into devices, as early as next year.

Mass market

“Start Quote

It is ideal if you have dirty or sweaty hands”

Ben Wood CCS Insight

Increasingly firms are experimenting with gesture control.

PrimeSense, the company that developed gesture control for Microsoft’s Kinect console, has also made strides towards bringing the technology to mobile.

By shrinking down the sensor used in the Kinect, the firm showed it working with a Nexus 10 at a Google developers‘ conference in May.

Meanwhile Disney is testing technology that allows users to “feel” the texture of objects on a flat touchscreen.

The technique involves sending tiny vibrations through the display that let people “feel” the shallow bumps, ridges and edges of an object.

Ben Wood, analyst with research firm CCS Insight thinks such devices could be ready for the mass market.

“Apple’s success has made gestures a part of everyday life. Now consumers understand they can manipulate a screen with a gesture or a swipe everyone is racing to find innovative ways to exploit this behaviour.

“Ultrasonic is particularly interesting as you don’t need to touch the screen which can be an almost magical experience.

“It is ideal if you have dirty or sweaty hands. A common example people use is flicking through a recipe when cooking. Other examples include transitioning through a slideshow of photos or flicking through music tracks or turning the page on an ebook,” he said.

“The big challenge that remains is how you make users aware of the capability.”

Terminator Eyes: Hi-tech contact lenses show texts and maps.

Iafp-photo-torsten-blackwoodmagine texting while driving, or placing a call while showering, without holding your phone in your hands. It’s not sci-fi any more – a new technology allows information like text messages and driving directions to be projected onto a contact lens.

The hardware behind this invention is a spherical curved LCD display that can fit into a contact lens, developed by Ghent University‘s Centre of Microsystems Technology in Belgium.

“This is not science fiction,” chief researcher for the project Jelle De Smet told the Telegraph. “This will never replace the cinema screen for films. But for specific applications it may be interesting to show images such as road directions or projecting text messages from our smart phones straight to our eye.”

These lenses may hit the market within the next few years. In an upgrade from previous models, a new LCD display allows the entire curved surface of the lens to be used.

Earlier versions were based on LEDs, where the display resolution would be limited to only a small number of pixels.

The University of Washington has also been developing new generation of contact lenses that would receive emails and would be able to project information from the Internet, much like in the movie ‘Terminator.’

Other uses of the lens include the concept of adaptable sunglasses – the contact lenses would darken on exposure to light. The lenses could also be used in the fields of medicine and cosmetics.

These advances mark the push for a much wider development of the technology, with the aim of creating a fully pixelated contact lens display as detailed as a television screen.

Tech giants such as Google and Apple have been working to develop similar technology. This past year, Google introduced Project Glass – frames for eyeglasses that project a small computer display into a person’s field of vision. Apple has reportedly patented similar innovations.


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