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《科学美国人》月刊评出2020年十大新兴技术

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《科学美国人》月刊网站近日刊发文章盘点了2020年十大新兴技术。一个国际专家指导小组评选出今年的十大新兴技术。获得认可的技术必须有推动社会和经济进步的潜力,还需要有新意且可能会在未来三到五年内产生重大影响。

1 Microneedles Could Enable Painless Injections and Blood Draws

微针可实现无痛注射和抽血

Barely visible needles, or “microneedles,” are poised to usher in an era of pain-free injections and blood testing. Whether attached to a syringe or a patch, microneedles prevent pain by avoiding contact with nerve endings. Typically 50 to 2,000 microns in length (about the depth of a sheet of paper) and one to 100 microns wide (about the width of human hair), they penetrate the dead, top layer of skin to reach into the epidermis. But most do not reach or only barely touch the underlying dermis, where the nerve endings lie.

几乎看不见的针头,即“微针”,将带来无痛注射和验血的时代。微针可连接注射器,也可连接贴片,它能避免与神经末梢接触,从而防止疼痛。微针一般长50微米至2000微米(大约相当于一张纸的厚度)、宽1微米至100微米(大约相当于人的头发粗细),它穿透细胞已死亡的皮肤最上层进入表皮。但大多数微针不会抵达或者只是稍稍接触到下面的真皮,也就是神经末梢所在的地方。

epidermis [ˌepɪˈdɜːmɪs]:n.上皮,表皮

dermis [ˈdɜːmɪs]:n.皮肤,真皮

2 Sun-Powered Chemistry Can Turn Carbon Dioxide into Common Materials

光催化将二氧化碳转化为普通材料

The manufacture of many chemicals important to human health and comfort consumes fossil fuels, thereby contributing to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. A new approach employs sunlight to convert waste carbon dioxide into these needed chemicals.

许多对人类健康和舒适十分重要的化学品在生产时要消耗矿物燃料,从而会增加二氧化碳排放和加剧气候变化。一种新的方法是利用阳光将废弃二氧化碳转化成我们需要的这些化学物质。

This process is becoming increasingly feasible thanks to advances in sunlight-activated catalysts, or photocatalysts. In recent years investigators have developed photocatalysts that break the resistant double bond between carbon and oxygen in carbon dioxide. This is a critical first step in creating “solar” refineries that produce useful compounds from the waste gas—including “platform” molecules that can serve as raw materials for the synthesis of such varied products as medicines, detergents, fertilizers and textiles.

得益于光催化技术的进步,这个工艺越来越可行。近年来,研究人员开发出了能够还原二氧化碳中碳和氧的光催化剂。在此基础上就能创建“太阳能”提炼厂,用废气生产有用的化合物,包括可用于合成药物、洗涤剂、肥料和纺织品等多种产品的“平台”分子。

photocatalyst[,fəʊtəʊ'kætəlɪst]:n.光催化剂

3 Virtual Patients Could Revolutionize Medicine

虚拟患者能彻底改变医学

What if computers could replace patients as well? If virtual humans could have replaced real people in some stages of a coronavirus vaccine trial, for instance, it could have sped development of a preventive tool and slowed down the pandemic. These are some of the benefits of “in silico medicine,” or the testing of drugs and treatments on virtual organs or body systems to predict how a real person will respond to the therapies. For the foreseeable future, real patients will be needed in late-stage studies, but in silico trials will make it possible to conduct quick and inexpensive first assessments of safety and efficacy, drastically reducing the number of live human subjects required for experimentation.

如果电脑能替代患者,那会怎样?比方说,如果在新冠疫苗试验的某些阶段能用虚拟人替代真人,那可能就会加快预防手段的研发而减缓疫情蔓延。这就是“电脑模拟医学”的一些好处,即:用虚拟器官或人体系统来测试药物和治疗方法,进而推断真人对这些疗法的反应。在可预见的未来,后期研究会需要真人患者,但有了电脑模拟试验,科研人员将能够对药物和治疗方法的安全性和有效性进行速度快、成本低的初步评估,从而大大减少试验所需活体人类受试者的数量。

4 Spatial Computing Could Be the Next Big Thing

空间计算或是下一个大热门

Imagine Martha, an octogenarian who lives independently and uses a wheelchair. As Martha moves from her bedroom to the kitchen, the lights switch on, and the ambient temperature adjusts. The chair will slow if her cat crosses her path. If she begins to fall when getting into bed, her furniture shifts to protect her, and an alert goes to her son and the local monitoring station.

设想80多岁的玛莎独居且需要坐轮椅。玛莎从卧室到厨房时,照明灯开启,周围温度适当调整。如果猫猫从前面经过,轮椅会减速。如果她上床的时候有摔倒迹象,家具会迅速挪过来保护她,同时她的儿子和当地监测站将接到警报。

octogenarian [ˌɒktədʒəˈneəriən]:n.八十岁到八十九岁的人

The “spatial computing” at the heart of this scene is the next step in the ongoing convergence of the physical and digital worlds. It does everything virtual-reality and augmented-reality apps do: digitize objects that connect via the cloud; allow sensors and motors to react to one another; and digitally represent the real world. Then it combines these capabilities with high-fidelity spatial mapping to enable a computer “coordinator” to track and control the movements and interactions of objects as a person navigates through the digital or physical world. Spatial computing will soon bring human-machine and machine-machine interactions to new levels of efficiency in many walks of life, among them industry, health care, transportation and the home.

这一场景的核心就是“空间计算”,它是现实世界与数字世界正在融合的下一步方向。虚拟现实和增强现实应用软件能做的,它全都能做到:把云连接的物体数字化,让传感器和马达彼此呼应,以数字化方式呈现真实世界。然后,它将这些能力与高保真的空间测绘结合起来,使计算机“协调员”能够在一个人穿行于数字或现实世界时追踪和控制物体的移动和相互感应。空间计算很快将在各行各业把人机互动和机器互动提升到新的高度,包括在工业、医疗、交通和家居领域。

5 Digital Medicine Can Diagnose and Treat What Ails You

数字医疗可诊断和治疗一切病痛

A raft of apps in use or under development can now detect or monitor mental and physical disorders autonomously or directly administer therapies. Collectively known as digital medicines, the software can both enhance traditional medical care and support patients when access to health care is limited—a need that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated.

投入使用或正在开发的大量应用程序现在能够自主检查或监测身心疾病或直接给予治疗。这种软件被统称为数字医疗,它可以加强传统医疗,也可以在医疗服务受限的情况下给予患者支持——这在新冠肺炎危机背景下格外需要。

6 Electric Aviation Could Be Closer Than You Think

电动航空的到来可能早于预期

In 2019 air travel accounted for 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions, a number that could triple by 2050. While some airlines have started offsetting their contributions to atmospheric carbon, significant cutbacks are still needed. Electric airplanes could provide the scale of transformation required, and many companies are racing to develop them. Not only would electric propulsion motors eliminate direct carbon emissions, they could reduce fuel costs by up to 90 percent, maintenance by up to 50 percent and noise by nearly 70 percent.

2019年,航空旅行的碳排放占全球总量的2.5%,这一数字到2050年可能会达到2019年的三倍。虽然有些航空公司已开始为其大气层碳排放进行补偿,但更大力度的减排措施势在必行。电动飞机可提供所需的改造规模,多家公司正在竞相开发。电动推进的马达不仅能消灭直接的碳排放,还能使燃料成本降低高达90%、维护成本降低高达50%、噪音降低近70%。

offset [ˈɒfset]:n.抵消,补偿

atmospheric [ˌætməsˈferɪk]:adj.大气的,大气层的

7 Low-Carbon Cement Can Help Combat Climate Change

低碳水泥可帮助应对气候变化

Concrete, the most widely used human-made material. The manufacture of one of its key components, cement, creates a substantial yet underappreciated amount of human-produced carbon dioxide: up to 8 percent of the global total, according to London-based think tank Chatham House.

混凝土是建筑业中使用最广泛的人造材料。据位于伦敦的智库英国皇家国际问题研究所说,其关键组成部分之一——水泥在生产中产生的二氧化碳数量惊人,占全球排放总量高达8%,但未得到充分重视。

In 2018 the Global Cement and Concrete Association, which represents about 30 percent of worldwide production, announced the industry's first Sustainability Guidelines, a set of key measurements such as emissions and water usage intended to track performance improvements and make them transparent.

2018年,代表全球产量约30%的全球水泥和混凝土协会宣布了该行业的首个可持续发展指导方针,这是一套设计碳排放和用水等领域的关键指标,旨在跟踪性能改善,并使其透明化。

8 Quantum Sensors Could Let Autonomous Cars ‘See’ around Corners

量子传感器让自动汽车“看清”弯道

Quantum computers get all the hype, but quantum sensors could be equally transformative, enabling autonomous vehicles that can “see” around corners, underwater navigation systems, early-warning systems for volcanic activity and earthquakes, and portable scanners that monitor a person's brain activity during daily life.

量子传感器与量子计算机一样具有变革性,可推动实现能“看清”弯道的自动驾驶汽车、水下导航系统、火山活动和地震预警系统,以及监测人的日常大脑活动的便携式扫描仪。

get all the hype:大肆宣传

Quantum sensors reach extreme levels of precision by exploiting the quantum nature of matter. Atomic clocks illustrate this principle. Other quantum sensors use atomic transitions to detect minuscule changes in motion and tiny differences in gravitational, electric and magnetic fields.

量子传感器利用物质的量子特性达到极高的精准度,原子钟就是一个例子。其他量子传感器则利用原子跃迁来探测动作的微小变化以及引力场、电场和磁场中的细微差异。

minuscule [ˈmɪnəskjuːl]:adj.极小的;微不足道的(非正式)

9 Green Hydrogen Could Fill Big Gaps in Renewable Energy

绿色氢可填补可再生能源的巨大空白

When hydrogen burns, the only by-product is water—which is why hydrogen has been an alluring zero-carbon energy source for decades. Yet the traditional process for producing hydrogen, in which fossil fuels are exposed to steam, is not even remotely zero-carbon.

氢燃烧的唯一副产品是水,这就是为什么氢几十年来一直是一种诱人的零碳能源来源。然而,传统的矿物燃料制氢法远远达不到零碳排放。

Green hydrogen is different. It is produced through electrolysis, in which machines split water into hydrogen and oxygen, with no other by-products. Historically, electrolysis required so much electricity that it made little sense to produce hydrogen that way. The situation is changing for two reasons. First, significant amounts of excess renewable electricity have become available at grid scale; the extra electricity can be used to drive the electrolysis of water, “storing” the electricity in the form of hydrogen. Second, electrolyzers are getting more efficient.

绿色氢有所不同,它是通过电解产生的,机器把水分解成氢和氧,没有其他副产品。从历史上看,电解需要的电力太多,用这种方式制氢根本不划算。但情况正在发生变化,原因有二。其一,如今有了大量富余的可再生能源电力,这些富余电力可以用来对水进行电解,把电力以氢的形式“储存”起来。其二,电解器的效率越来越高。

10 Whole-Genome Synthesis Will Transform Cell Engineering

全基因组合成将彻底改变细胞工程学

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists in China uploaded the virus's genetic sequence to genetic databases. A Swiss group then synthesized the entire genome and produced the virus from it—essentially teleporting the virus into their laboratory for study without having to wait for physical samples. Such speed is one example of how whole-genome printing is advancing medicine and other endeavors.

新冠肺炎疫情初期,中国的科学家将新冠病毒的基因序列上传到了基因数据库。然后,瑞士的一个研究小组用它合成了完整的基因组、制造出这种病毒——基本上就能将病毒传送到实验室进行研究,而无需等待实物样本。这样的速度充分说明了全基因组打印技术对医学和其他工作的促进作用。

Whole-genome synthesis is an extension of the booming field of synthetic biology. Researchers use software to design genetic sequences that they produce and introduce into a microbe, thereby reprogramming the microbe to do desired work—such as making a new medicine. So far genomes mainly get light edits. But improvements in synthesis technology and software are making it possible to print ever larger swaths of genetic material and to alter genomes more extensively.

全基因组合成是蓬勃发展的合成生物学的延伸。研究人员用软件设计出基因序列,将其制造出来植入微生物,从而对这个微生物进行重新编程使之按照人的意愿发挥作用,比如形成一种新药。到目前为止,基因组只能接受轻微的编辑。但随着合成技术和软件的改进,打印链条更长的遗传物质、更广泛地改变基因组成为可能。

来源:科学美国人、参考消息网

编辑:yaning

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