Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
'Home-brew' morphine from brewer's yeast now possible: study
Home-brewing could soon take on a more dangerous twist: Scientists have engineered brewer's yeast to synthesize opioids such as codeine and morphine from a common sugar, an international team reported on Monday. "It is going to be possible to 'home-brew' opiates in the near future," Christopher Voight of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the research, told reporters.
Why do men exist? Scientific study offers an explanation
Since in many species, sperm is males' only contribution to reproduction, biologists have long puzzled about why evolutionary selection, known for its ruthless efficiency, allows them to exist. Now British scientists have an explanation: Males are required for a process known as "sexual selection" which helps species to ward off disease and avoid extinction.
Eye-tracking tech makes virtual reality hands-free
An advanced virtual reality headset could be a game-changer for the entertainment industry and give people with certain disabilities new powers of communication and interaction, according to the developers. The FOVE headset uses eye-tracking technology to give the wearer an immersive and completely hands-free virtual reality, where all of their actions can be controlled by their eye movements. Virtual reality technology has been touted as the next social and communications platform, with companies like Oculus VR one of the market leaders with their "Oculus Rift" virtual-reality glasses. But FOVE's co-developer and chief technology officer Lochlainn Wilson says their unique technology offers an immersive experience like no other.
How to build the universe from Lego, over a pint of beer
In a central London pub, a young bearded physicist is demonstrating how to build a model of the universe from plastic Lego bricks. Clue: you need a lot of them. Across town, in different bars, other experts are probing the mysteries of cancer and dementia, life on other planets, and how to win a Nobel prize.
Amputees control bionic legs with their thoughts
Amputees can control their bionic prosthetic limbs with their minds, thanks to tiny implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) developed by Icelandic orthopedics company Ossur and surgically placed in a patient's residual muscle tissue. Ossur implanted tiny sensors in the residual muscle tissue of two amputees that they say trigger movement in the prosthesis via a receiver. Ossur President & CEO Jon Sigurdsson was due to announce in Copenhagen on Wednesday (May 20) that the two amputees are the first world-wide to be able to control their lower-limb prostheses subconsciously.
U.S. science leaders to tackle ethics of gene-editing technology
The leading U.S. scientific organization, responding to concerns expressed by scientists and ethicists, has launched an ambitious initiative to recommend guidelines for new genetic technology that has the potential to create "designer babies." The technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, allows scientists to edit virtually any gene they target. The technique is akin to a biological word-processing program that finds and replaces genetic defects.
Bullied kids have higher risk of adult obesity and heart disease
Victims of childhood bullying are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults and have a higher risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, according to a study by British psychiatrists. Researchers found that just over a quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied as children were obese at age 45, compared to 19 percent of those who had never been bullied.