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Welcome back to our Cool Stuff Roundup, where we collect the best stories shared on Freethink’s internal Slack channel, and share them with you.

Virtual reality promises to change the way we experience everything from video games to live sports, but will it also change the way we dream? A new study suggests that VR users experience more lucid dreams than conventional computer users. Researchers think it’s because “engagement in dream-like environments—like many virtual-reality programs are—increases lucid dreaming frequency.”

vr
VR headset at SXSW. Photo via Flickr user Nan Palmero

Another incredible stem cell therapy case: Last week we told you about the experimental stem cell treatment that restored Vanna Belton’s vision, and the fight over whether patients should be able to receive that treatment at all. The case of Kris Boesen offers more super promising evidence that stem therapy works: Three months after receiving a stem infusion for a spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the neck down, Boesen was “able to feed himself, use his cell phone, write his name, operate a motorized wheelchair, and hug his friends and family.”

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Kris Boeson. Image via USC

Turns out DNA is a great way to store data, and not just the genetic kind: In a development you probably didn’t see coming, Microsoft transferred the entirety of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace by translating the 1s and 0s that make up digital data into nucleotides. Lead researcher Karen Strauss says “a shoebox worth of DNA could hold the equivalent of roughly 100 giant data centers.”

Can we cure every disease with $3 billion? Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, want to try. Over the next decade, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is investing $3 billion toward “helping cure, prevent, or manage all disease” within their children’s lifetime. Of that $3 billion, $600 million will go toward the creation of Biohub, a physical facility that will bring together software engineers and medical researchers from Stanford, Berkeley, and other elite Bay Area institutions. Tall order, long runway, best of luck.

The Back to the Future shoes are finally here: Sneaker heads have been fantasizing about the self-lacing shoes worn by Marty McFly for 30 years, and Nike finally made them. The Hyperadapt has a motor in the sole, a censor in the heel, and can lace itself up.

Up Next

Seachange
Coral Reefs Are Dying, but Here’s Why There’s Still Hope
How to Save the Coral Reefs
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Seachange
Coral Reefs Are Dying, but Here’s Why There’s Still Hope
Coral reefs are the foundation of ocean life, and yet 50% of them have been lost. Here’s why coral reefs are dying and what one group is doing to stop it.
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In the face of a changing climate, coral reefs are dying all over the world. Coral reefs make up the foundation of ocean life, and yet 50% of them have been lost in the last three decades. Are coral reefs in danger of disappearing forever? A group of innovative researchers and divers is racing against the clock to save them.

Dispatches
Hacking the Brain's Comms Network – without Surgery
Hacking the Brain's Comms Network – without Surgery
Dispatches
Hacking the Brain's Comms Network – without Surgery
When nerve cells in the brain communicate, they create tiny electric fields that can be sensed – and sometimes...
By Salvatore Domenic Morgera

When nerve cells in the brain communicate, they create tiny electric fields that can be sensed – and sometimes altered – from outside the skull.

Dispatches
Paige and the Virus Hunter
Paige and the Virus Hunter
Dispatches
Paige and the Virus Hunter
Drugs couldn’t stop her infection — so she asked Ben Chan to get her a virus, instead.
By Kaitlin Ugolik

Drugs couldn’t stop her infection — so she asked Ben Chan to get her a virus, instead.

Dispatches
Scientists Finally Get a Look at Enzyme that Protects DNA
protect DNA
Dispatches
Scientists Finally Get a Look at Enzyme that Protects DNA
We finally have a detailed picture of an enzyme that could play a key role in fighting both aging and cancer

We finally have a detailed picture of an enzyme that could play a key role in fighting both aging and cancer

DIY
Treating Diabetes with a DIY Pancreas
Treating Diabetes with a DIY Pancreas
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DIY
Treating Diabetes with a DIY Pancreas
A group of coders created an open source, DIY pancreas to help people with diabetes manage their condition.
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Diabetes is a high maintenance and high stakes disease requiring constant monitoring and precise decision-making. What if we could outsource that workload to a machine? That’s what one couple decided to do. They made a homemade pancreas that eases the burden of diabetes care… and then released the design to the public for free.

The New Space Race
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet Earth
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet Earth
The New Space Race
Preparing the First Space Colonizers for Life Off of Planet Earth
It’s only a matter of time until the average person can explore space. But, will the average person be ready?
By Mike Riggs

It’s only a matter of time until the average person can explore space. But, will the average person be ready?

How Do We Scale Bionic Technology?
Bionic technology and exoskeletons in the workplace
How Do We Scale Bionic Technology?
Right now, assistive bionic technology is really cool and really expensive. This is how it will get better and...
By Mike Riggs

Right now, assistive bionic technology is really cool and really expensive. This is how it will get better and cheaper.

Superhuman
The Real Bionic Man
The Real Bionic Man
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Superhuman
The Real Bionic Man
After losing part of his arm to cancer, Johnny now has one of the world's most advanced prosthetics.
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After losing part of his arm to cancer, doctors outfit Johnny, a self-described “hillbilly” from West Virginia, with one of the world’s most advanced robotic arms. Johnny is able to control his new arm with his mind, giving him a level of motor control impossible until now. Get More Stories of Innovation ...