Xenobots – Organic Robots

Xenobots are the first living machines assembled from cells from African clawed Frogs. They’ve turned them clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam. Err….Skynet anyone?

Researchers in the US have one of the most successful creations that have two stumpy legs that propel it along it’s own ‘chest’. While another one has a hole n the middle. The US researchers turned it into a pouch so it can move around with miniature payloads.

“These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth….They are living, programmable organisms.” Michael Levin, the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts

While many robots are made out of metal and plastic traditionally, Levin and his colleagues are looking to making robots from biological tissues and see many benefits from doing so. However this sounds very scary. As when damaged living robots can heal their wounds. But when their task is done they fall apart, just as natural organisms which decay when they die.

These types of bots could be used to clean oceans, deliver drugs to the body or even remove plaque from artery walls.

“It’s impossible to know what the applications will be for any new technology, so we can really only guess,” Joshua Bongard, a senior researcher on the team at the University of Vermont.


The robots are also very very small, less than 1mm long in fact! They are designed by an evolutionary algorithm which runs on a supercomputer. It will generate random 3d configurations of 500 to 1,000 skin and heart cells. Each one is tested in a virtual environment too! The best ones are used to breed more designs, which they are too put to the test. One of the tests could be to see how far it moves when the heart cells are beating. Therefore as heart cells spontaneously contract and relax, they behave like miniature engines. Which will drive the robots along until the energy runs out. The cells/robots that have been created have enough energy in them to survive for 1 week to 10 days.

Eventually 100 generations of the cells were created before they picked the best of the best to build in the lab. The scientists even used tweezers and caustering tools to sculpt skin and heart cells from the embryos of African clawed frogs. An African Clawed frog is called Xenopus Laevis. Hence the term “Xenobots”

Researchers describe how they set the robots loose. Inside dishes of water to keep frog cells alive. The Xenobots crept along in straight lines. While other Xenobots would loop in circles or even team up! Levin said that the plan is to ultimately make them to scale. They can build blood vessels, nervous systems and sensory cells to form rudimentary eyes! Furthermore, what’s even more surprising is that if they built the Xenobot out of mammalian cells they could eventually live on dry land!

Future Generations

Future generations of the Xenobots could be given nervous systems and cognitive capabilities, which could raise ethical issues in the future.

Levin also said that the research is to achieve more than just little robots. It could help solve things like birth defects and age-related diseases. As they can start to learn more about biological structures, which could lead to ultimate control over growth and form. Thomas Douglas, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said:

“There are interesting ethical questions about the moral status of these xenobots. At what point would they become beings with interests that ought to be protected? I think they’d acquire moral significance only if they included neural tissue that enabled some kind of mental life, such as the ability to experience pain….But some are more liberal about moral status. They think that all living creatures have interests that should be given some moral consideration. For these people, difficult questions could arise about whether these xenobots should be classified as living creatures or machines.”


The research is funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s lifelong learning machines programme. The programme said that the research’s aim is to recreate biological learning processes in machines.

Keep up to date with everything How To Kill An Hour by signing up to our newsletter by clicking here!

Let us know what you think of the show by clicking here!

Click here to subscribe to our YouTube Channel to see more amazing ways to kill time!

Follow us on Twitch by clicking here!

UK Email Hacker Trolls US Officials

A British prankster (@SINON_REBORN) has amazingly pranked a number of high level US officials writing to Tom Bossert (Homeland Security Officer) posing as Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner:

Tom, we are arranging a bit of a soirée towards the end of August. It would be great if you could make it, I promise food of at least comparible [sic] quality to that which we ate in Iraq. Should be a great evening.


Thanks, Jared. With a promise like that, I can’t refuse. Also, if you ever need it, my personal email is [redacted]

Scaramucci, was a victim as well with the prankster posing as Priebus.

Fake Priebus:

I had promised myself I would leave my hands mud free, but after reading your tweet today which stated how; “soon we will learn who in the media who has class, and who hasn’t”, has pushed me to this. That tweet was breathtakingly hypocritical, even for you. At no stage have you acted in a way that’s even remotely classy, yet you believe that’s the standard by which everyone should behave towards you? General Kelly will do a fine job. I’ll even admit he will do a better job than me. But the way in which that transition has come about has been diabolical. And hurtful. I don’t expect a reply.


You know what you did. We all do. Even today. But rest assured we were prepared. A Man would apologize.

Fake Preibus:

I can’t believe you are questioning my ethics! The so called “Mooch”, who can’t even manage his first week in the White House without leaving upset in his wake. I have nothing to apologize for.

Scaramucci replied:

Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello. You are right there. My family is fine by the way and will thrive. I know what you did. No more replies from me.
In a follow-up message @SINON_REBORN tweeted but which was not included in the CNN report, the fake Priebus taunted Scaramucci about his “zero dollar pay scale,” adding, “Keep spell checking your press releases, Anthony. It’s me that will be thriving.”

Scaramucci also fell for it again with Sinon this time posing as Jon Huntsman Jr Ambassador to Russia-designate:

Who’s [sic] head should roll first? Maybe I can help things along somewhat


Both of them,”

We can only assume he’s referring to Steve Bannon.

SINON_REBORN also posed as Trump’s son Eric in emails to Huntsman:

Thanks for the thoughtful note. Russia will be a challenging but no doubt rewarding assignment.

Fake Eric:

Maybe we could have Dad sat (sic) on a horse, top off, giving the full Putin! He’s in better shape than his suits suggest.

Eric Trump, the real one, was the only one who caught on to the prank and told the prankster  @SINON_REBORN that law enforcement were aware.


WannaCry Hacker Arrested

Marcus Hutchins a British Cyber-Security researcher will appear in court in Vegas, whilst attending the Black Hat and Def Con cyber security conferences, charged with his involvement with Kronos – malware which steals banking logins from infected computers.

Hutchins stopped the WannaCry Cyber-Attack which hit the NHS in May and the FBI arrested him on Wednesday, with the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre were surprised at his arrest.

The US Department of Justice released a statement on his arrest stating that:

“Marcus Hutchins… a citizen and resident of the United Kingdom, was arrested in the United States on 2 August, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a grand jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin returned a six-count indictment against Hutchins for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan….The charges against Hutchins, and for which he was arrested, relate to alleged conduct that occurred between in or around July 2014 and July 2015.”

It is alleged that Hitchins created and sold Kronos on the dark web, Jane Hutchins, Marcus’ mother said that it was ‘highly unlikely’ that her son was involved saying that he spent his time preventing attacks from occurring. With those who work with Hutchins coming to the defence feeling that the US justice system have made a “huge mistake” Digital rights groups have said they are “deeply concerned” by his arrest.

Cyber-attorney Tor Ekeland has said that Mr Hutchins could face “40 years in jail” if found guilty, even though the case states no victims. But is worried about the outcome of this case for legitimate programmes, speaking on Radio 4’s Today:

“I can think of a number of examples of legitimate software that would potentially be a felony under this theory of prosecution.”

Hutchins has been granted £23,000 bail and at the time of writing it is unknown if he was able to pay this. He left court unshackled but ordered to leave his hands behind his back.

His defence lawyer Ms Lobo told the BBC that he has pled not guilty and the federal indictment against him is “pretty flimsy, pretty slim compared to what we normally see in a US indictment”

It is claimed that he software was sold for $2,000 in digital currency in June 2015 and Dan Cowhig, prosecuting, told court room that Hutchins confessed during a police interview that he was the “author of Kronos malware and indicated that he sold it”

To listen to the guys chatting about this please click here!

US and UK ban cabin laptops on some inbound flights

According to Sky News, the UK have followed the US in banning users from using electronic devices on in-bound flights from Muslim majority countries.

The details of the UK ban is unknown but it is said to be like the US restriction that bans all electronic devices larger than a smartphone.

The ban which impacts 9 airlines (Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.) from 8 countries (Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.) across 10 different airports. The reason for this ban is unknown.

To listen to the guys chatting about this please click here!

EP 75 Greasy Spoon Gang w/ Nick Bright

Kill A Bit: Facebook’s Lifestage App

Currently only available in the US the Lifestage, a standalone iOS app for people 21 and under, to get school goers get to know each other better within their community, from within their own school and surrounding schools. Having a similar feel to snapchat, users can make their Facebook bio exempt from a wall of text and instead fill your bio with short videos and images based around things that you like. The app asks for various different emojis to add to the things that you like that you have captured with your camera based on whether or not you like them. Putting your life – on a stage!

While anyone can download the app, anyone over the age of 22 will only be able to see their own profile and no-one else’s. While the app is owned and created by Facebook you don’t actually need a Facebook for it to work, just download it, open it up, create an account and select your high school.

You’ll immediately be presented with accounts from people that are nearby, only if you jump through some hoops first. You have got to do some leg work and convince your buddies to download and use it. 20 to be exact. Then and only then will you be able to see others around you.

It’s no surprise that this is similar to how the original Facebook was created – via school to school accounts. Will this be as popular as Facebook/Snapchat. Only time will tell!

Hear the guys talking about it episode 55 by clicking here!