In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have developed a blood test for Alzheimer's disease that predicts with astonishing accuracy whether a healthy person will develop the disease. Though much work still needs to be done, it is hoped the test will someday be available in doctors' offices, since the only methods for predicting Alzheimer's right now, such as PET scans and spinal taps, are expensive, impractical, often unreliable and sometimes risky. "This is a potential game-changer," said Dr. Howard Federoff, senior author of the report and a neurologist at Georgetown University Medical Center. "My level of enthusiasm is very high." The study was published in Nature Medicine.The clip below is from Georgetown's channel.
We tend to dream of a future enabled by miraculous materials—nanoscale honeycomb lattices of strong, ultralight superconducting metals. Carbon nanotubes and graphene come to mind. Fishing line and sewing thread? Not so much.
But recent research out of the University of Texas and Australia’s University of Wollongong shows futuristic inventions can be rooted in the mundane. By twisting fishing line and thread like a rubber band, the scientists produced artificial muscle 100 times stronger than human muscle.
Geoff Spinks, the lead Australian researcher, said, “After nearly two decades developing exotic materials as artificial muscles, we have now discovered that the best performing systems can be made from ordinary, everyday fishing line.”
The team heat treated the coils of fishing line so they’d maintain their twist. When subjected to a temperature change, either by heating it directly or running an electric current through it, the “muscle” contracts 49% along its length (compared to some 20% for a human muscle), expands 67% and, to scale, can do work equivalent to a jet engine.
The scientists believe such artificial muscles might be used in exoskeletons and prosthetics, selectively breathable clothing, automated environmental control systems, and humanoid robots.
Current artificial muscles in robots tend to be hydraulically powered. Creations out of epic robotics firm, Boston Dynamics, move jerkily and are either tethered to a power source or run on noisy, gas-powered internal combustion engines. As an alternative to hydraulics, the University of Tokyo built an upper body exoskeleton whose muscles do work by expanding and contracting rubber bladders (pneumatic muscles) with air.
Neither solution is ideal—the former lacking flexibility and requiring significant power and the latter lacking durability.
The twisted polymer muscles, however, are flexible, tough, and naturally store potential energy like rubber bands. They can undergo millions of cycles before appreciably degrading. Further, because the finest filaments are only a little wider than a human hair, they can be scaled down to perform fine motor skills—in a humanoid robot’s facial expressions, for example—or combined for more powerful uses.
Beyond pure robotics, they might be used in exoskeletons for the disabled or soldiers and factory workers carrying heavy loads.
The team also wove textiles out of the material. Clothes made in this manner might respond to changes in temperature, to selectively keep heat in or optimize breathability. And temperature-sensitive windows might regulate a greenhouse environment, automatically opening or closing throughout the day.
All that said, we wonder whether the muscles’ prime strength, sensitivity to temperature changes, might be a weakness too. While automatic contraction and expansion might be useful in a greenhouse, it would be problematic in a robot where changes in temperature, inside and outside the robot’s body, might lead to unwanted movements.
Perhaps ambient temperature changes can be easily counteracted with a steady, base current through the muscle.
In any case, there’s very little holding back further experimentation—the ingredients are readily available, easily manufactured, and cheap. And there’s just something immensely satisfying about the fact materials one can find at home and hack together in a garage might be repurposed for such high-tech applications.
Image Credit: University of Texas at Dallas
[This post was originally published on SciStarter on February 3rd, 2014]
The non-profit Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) previously won a Knight News Challenge in 2011 and received $500,000 to fund a tool kit and online community for citizen-based, grassroots data gathering and research. The second Knight News Challenge the group won, a $350,000 Knight award focused on health data, will allow the group to build and deploy inexpensive technologies for monitoring.
Connections between the hacker culture of the 1970s and emerging DIY science continue with the funding of the Homebrew Sensing Project. Born of Public Lab, this project aims to create low-cost sensor technologies for environmental research and monitoring. Following its namesake’s (the homebrew computer club) lead, this project’s participant composition complicates distinctions between expert and hobbyist or amateur.
The three individuals leading up the project are Shannon Dosemagen, Jeffrey Warren, and Mathew Lippincott. I was able to chat with Dosemagen, also a co-Founder of Public Lab, via email. Situating the Homebrew Sensing Project within the Public Lab’s effort tells us a lot about the motivations behind the project. “Public lab,” Dosemagen writes, “isn’t just a nonprofit that creates tools, we’re interested in creating a community.” Connecting with community organizations, NGOs, and research institutions they have created an extensive network that helps connect with a community and connect communities.
Connecting communities and providing a space for them to interact, Public Lab provides what Dosemagen describes as “a space where people with different expertise can interact.” This is a particularly important interaction among different kinds of expertise, including specialized technical as well as local knowledge, and reflects the efforts of Public Lab, Dosemagen tells us, to “recognize that not only researchers linked to academic institutions bring value and expertise to projects such as this, but that everyone can bring something to the table through the experience and knowledge sets that they have.”
Engagement among experts is demonstrated through the “barn raising” activities, events where members of the community come together to create something (be it tool or tutorials), Public Lab undertakes. Winning a another Knight Challenge means that the group can continue such efforts with the Homebrew Sensing Project. This project aims to address growing concerns about exposure to various human-made hazards and the associated risks, including health risks. To do this, the group wants to create inexpensive tools that can be used with mobile devices, allowing community members to take readings and analyze the information without the high costs associated with traditional lab testing. The group will undertake these efforts by refining their hardware and software platforms and developing new ones. As well, Dosemagen writes that a “portion of this grant will go towards supporting an outreach role and community partners,” which means that further community building and crossing of boundaries between communities will be part of this important initiative. If you’re interested in learning more about Public Lab or following this project you can find more information about the project in their news release.
Public Lab’s Homebrew Sensing Project extends their work on a DIY spectrometry project. The initial project, Dosemagen noted, began a few years ago and publicly “launched in 2012 with a Kickstarter” and the results have been impressive. To date, she tells us, Public Lab has ”over 2,000 accounts on SpectralWorkbench.org, over 14,000 spectral samples uploaded, [and] 750 members in the spectrometry Google Group.” In addition to all of this work, the group has “shipped 3,500 spectrometers worldwide that range between a price point of $10 and $70,” with the price point being a particularly notable feature in how accessible that is when compared with traditional spectrometers that typically begin at several thousand dollars.
The post Homebrew Sensing Project: DIY Environmental Monitoring appeared first on CitizenSci.
Deleted scene from the critically acclaimed film, Gravity.
"I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna kill the human."
Louis Armstrong plays for his wife, Lucille, in front of the Sphinx and Great pyramids in Giza, Egypt, 1961.
Wild Concrete Romain Jacquet-Lagreze
"Wild Concrete is a photographic series focusing on a very singular phenomenon happening in Hong Kong. Usually wherever human beings are thriving, they always try to keep in control of their direct environment. But in this bustling city, trees can grow impressively on residential buildings. They are the proof that our control is not ever-lasting and they show us how this very loss of control can bring true beauty. Wild Concrete is about nature taking back, it is a demonstration of the tenacity of life in our urban environment."
In this fun series of painted objects titled “It’s not what it seems” by artist Hikaru Cho, common foods are transformed with deftly applied acrylic paints to look like other foods. A banana is turned into a near photo-realistic cucumber, a tomato becomes a tangerine, and even an egg is made into a glistening eggplant. These are actually some of Cho’s “tamer” artworks, as she’s used these same skills with a paintbrush to alter human faces and body parts by adding extra eyes, zippers and mouths. (via Visual News)
#irish #stpaddys #socks #green #friends #fun #socal