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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

Public Health
Gates Foundation Funds At-Home Coronavirus Testing Project
coronavirus testing
Public Health
Gates Foundation Funds At-Home Coronavirus Testing Project
The Gates Foundation is funding an at-home coronavirus testing project in Seattle, with the goal of testing thousands of people for COVID-19 daily.

The Gates Foundation is funding an at-home coronavirus testing project in Seattle, with the goal of testing thousands of people for COVID-19 daily.

Bionics
Run Faster, Think Better: Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics
Run Faster, Think Better: Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics
Bionics
Run Faster, Think Better: Hugh Herr on the Future of Bionics
Hugh Herr, head of Biomechatronics research at MIT and hailed as a bionic pioneer, is working to close the gap between synthetic limbs and the brain.

Hugh Herr, head of Biomechatronics research at MIT and hailed as a bionic pioneer, is working to close the gap between synthetic limbs and the brain.

Dope Science
Psychedelic Mushrooms Explained
Psychedelic Mushrooms Explained
Dope Science
Psychedelic Mushrooms Explained
Psychedelic mushrooms, AKA magic mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms, are currently being researched as a treatment for depression, addiction, and more.

Psychedelic mushrooms, AKA magic mushrooms or psilocybin mushrooms, are currently being researched as a treatment for depression, addiction, and more.

Digital Detectives
Online Hackers Hunt Down Missing People
Online Hackers Hunt Down Missing People
Watch Now
Digital Detectives
Online Hackers Hunt Down Missing People
This search and rescue expert discovered that many missing people had nobody looking for them. Then he had an idea: what if hackers made a game out of finding missing people through the internet?
Watch Now

One unfortunate truth that anyone involved in a missing person case quickly learns is that there are more missing people in the world than there are available resources to find them. The first few days after a person goes missing are the most crucial for finding them safe and sound. However, since missing people tend to turn up on their own, these cases are initially given low priority. The exception is if there's a strong...

Dispatches
"Q" Probably Won't Make You Rich, but It's an Experiment Worth Watching
Dispatches
"Q" Probably Won't Make You Rich, but It's an Experiment Worth Watching
It's not the next Bitcoin (or a path to riches), but it's an intriguing idea.
By Brendan Markey-Towler

It's not the next Bitcoin (or a path to riches), but it's an intriguing idea.

Dispatches
What Happens If Scientists Lose Faith in Their Own Research?
What Happens If Scientists Lose Faith in Their Own Research?
Dispatches
What Happens If Scientists Lose Faith in Their Own Research?
Half of scientists have failed to replicate their own work — but they rarely come forward. A new project wants to...
By Dalmeet Singh Chawla

Half of scientists have failed to replicate their own work — but they rarely come forward. A new project wants to change that.

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.

This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting Zika, Re-Imagining Passwords
This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting Zika, Re-Imagining Passwords
This Week in Ideas: Using Drones for Medicine, Fighting Zika, Re-Imagining Passwords
Reimagining how we get medicine to people, using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika, and selfies as...
By Mike Riggs

Reimagining how we get medicine to people, using genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika, and selfies as passwords. These are the stories that got us talking.

The New Space Race
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
The New Space Race
What Happens When Stuff Breaks in Space?
Despite rigorous prep, astronauts often have to improvise when things go wrong in space. And a lot more duct tape...
By Mike Riggs

Despite rigorous prep, astronauts often have to improvise when things go wrong in space. And a lot more duct tape is involved than you may expect.