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Positive results for ‘tumor-agnostic’ cancer drug

Ted Laetsch
UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Ted Laetsch is the lead author of a study focusing on how a drug called larotrectinib can be used to treat pediatric cancer patients. (UT Southwestern Photo)

Two clinical studies have provided evidence suggesting that an experimental precision-medicine drug called larotrectinib can fight soft-tissue tumors regardless of the patient’s age or the type of tumor.

Seattle Children’s Hospital participated in both studies.

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World View balloon venture gets a $26.5M lift

World View balloon
World View sends up a Z-Class stratospheric flight vehicle to conduct research on radiation level for NASA Ames Research Center and Space Environment Technologies. (World View Photo)

Arizona-based World View says it has closed a $26.5 million Series C financing round, led by Accel with participation from previous investors Canaan and Norwest Venture Partners. The funding will help World View accelerate work on its Stratollite system, a low-cost, balloon-borne platform that can provide satellite-type services.

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5 tech twists from ‘Ready Player One’

Ready Player One scene
Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan) wears a haptic suit in “Ready Player One.” (Warner Bros. Photo)

“Ready Player One,” the Steven Spielberg movie that blends memes from the 1980s with a virtual-reality vision of 2045, is getting mostly positive reviews from film critics and filmgoers, and from box-office trackers as well.

Some see the film as a metaphor for the yin-yang, love-hate, fanboy-hacker relationship we’ve developed with our hyperconnected world. But for techies, one of the biggest allures of “Ready Player One” may well be the way it amps up today’s frontier technologies to reveal tomorrow’s everyday realities.

During a Cinerama preview organized by Madrona Ventures Group, managing director Matt McIlwain told the audience that the movie reflected the VC firm’s interest in intuitive “multisense” interfaces that are on track to transform the way we use high-tech applications.

If you want to go into the theater knowing absolutely nothing about the movie other than what you’ve seen in the teasers, put this story on pause and come back later. But if you’re ready for a quick rundown on five real-world gadgets and tech trends that are amped up for “Ready Player One,” read on.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket puts 10 satellites in orbit

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. (SpaceX Photo)

Another 10 next-generation Iridium telecommunications satellites were sent into orbit today aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

This makes the fifth set of 10, out of a total of 75 that SpaceX is putting in orbit for the Iridium NEXT constellation.

The two-stage rocket lifted off at 7:13 a.m. PT into a clear California sky, sparking sightings by the likes of actress Bo Derek. “Congratulations @SpaceX #liftoff from my backyard,” the star of the movie “10” tweeted.

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Apple concept could turn cars into zombie-killers

Zombie Road Highway
How about playing a game like Zombie Road Highway in virtual reality while you’re riding in a self-driving car? Now there’s a patent application for that. (Dawn Studio Illustration)

Running over virtual zombies might seem like a strange way to fight motion sickness in a moving car, but that’s exactly what Apple is suggesting passengers do in patent applications published today.

The applications, filed last September, aren’t focused on zombies per se. They merely suggest how a virtual-reality or augmented-reality system, complete with headset, could help counter that queasy feeling some folks get when they’re riding.

“Vehicle motions may be integrated into the virtual experiences to help prevent motion sickness,” the inventors explain. They even suggest adding physical effects, ranging from surround-sound audio to the rush of hot or cold breezes through the car’s vents.

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SpaceX’s Starlink satellite plan wins FCC’s approval

SpaceX Starlink satellites
SpaceX’s two prototype Starlink satellites are seen on either side of their carrier in advance of February’s launch. (SpaceX via YouTube)

The Federal Communications Commission says it has approved SpaceX’s application to provide broadband internet access via thousands of Starlink satellites — a new breed of spacecraft that’s currently under development at the company’s Seattle-area facilities.

SpaceX launched its first test prototype satellites, known as Tintin A and B, as secondary payloads last month. The California-based company plans to put 4,425 spacecraft into low Earth orbit for the first phase of what’s intended to be a low-cost satellite internet service.

“This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” the FCC said today in a statement.

SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, said she appreciated “the FCC’s thorough review and approval of SpaceX’s constellation license.”

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Triassic fossils get their day in the sun

Triassic creatures
An artist’s conception shows Teleocrater, an early dinosaur relative, feeding on a Cynognathus carcass while hippo-like dicynodonts look on. All of these creatures lived in Tanzania during the mid-Triassic period, about 240 million years ago. (Mark Witton / Natural History Museum, London),

“Jurassic Park” may be all the rage this summer, but a research team led by the University of Washington’s Christian Sidor is kicking it up a notch with a batch of 13 studies focusing on fossils from the Triassic period (252 million to 199 million years ago), which came just before the Jurassic.

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Antarctic drone duty gets a successful start

Seaglider at work
Pierre Dutrieux, an oceanographer from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, works on one of the three Seaglider underwater drones deployed in West Antarctica. (Paul G. Allen Philanthropies Photo)

A scientific team supported by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is reporting the successful deployment of a trio of undersea drones to monitor how climate change affects Antarctica’s ice sheets.

Now it’s up to the drones.

“We are so pleased with both the initial data collection and the unprecedented operational success of the mission thus far,” Spencer Reeder, director of climate and energy for Paul G. Allen Philanthropies, said in a news release. “It is hard to fathom that we have already witnessed multiple fully autonomous Seaglider forays of up to 140 kilometers round-trip under the ice shelf.”

The project is being conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, with almost $2 million in funding from Allen.

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Neuralink brain-chip venture mulls tests on rodents

Optogenetic rat
An optical-fiber device shoots pulses of light into the brain of a transgenic rat to study its behavior when specific sets of neurons are stimulated. (Northern Michigan University Photo)

If Neuralink, the brain-chip company backed by billionaire Elon Musk, ever wants to hook up minds and machines, it’ll have to test the technology on animals first.

Today Gizmodo reports that the California-based venture is already looking into animal testing, and may have funded some experiments already.

That assessment is based on a permit for using lab animals that Neuralink received from California state officials, plus a letter sent to San Francisco city planners that referred to building “a small operating room for in vivo testing, and a small room to house rodents.”

Gizmodo says there’s no evidence that Neuralink has gone ahead with the building plans, let alone the animal tests. However, a representative of the University of California at Davis is quoted as confirming that Neuralink is sponsoring research there.

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Chinese space lab heads for a fall this weekend

Tiangong-1 space lab
An artist’s conception shows China’s Tiangong-1 space lab flying over the Gulf of Mexico. (The Aerospace Corp. via YouTube)china

After months of tracking China’s uncontrollable Tiangong-1 space lab, satellite watchers have narrowed down the time frame for its final, fiery plunge through the atmosphere — and it’s this weekend.

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