I had a short conversation today with NYUAD (Abu Dhabi) undergraduate Jeffrey Mei about some work he has been doing with me to infer the extinction law from the standard stars in the SDSS spectroscopy. This is one of my ideas and seems to be working extremely well. He has built a generative model for the spectroscopy and it produces results that look plausibly like a dust attenuation law with some tantalizing features that could be interstellar bands (but probably aren't). I outlined a possible paper which he is going to start writing.
Late in the day, Paul Chaikin (NYU) gave a talk about the astounding experiments he has been doing with people in physics, chemistry, and biology to make artificial systems that act like life. He has systems that show motility, metabolism, self-reproducibility, and evolution, although he doesn't have it all in one system (yet). The systems make beautiful and very clever use of DNA, specific binding, enzymes, and techniques for preventing non-specific or wrong binding. Absolutely incredible results, and they are close to making extremely life-like nano-scale or microscopic systems.