November 5, 2011

ZOMG Science! October Roundup

It may be because of my adoration for science fiction (or because I’m just weird…) but I love reading about science. I’m not talking about the lackluster kind of science you learn about in high school chemistry class. I mean the ground-breaking, future-making, awesome science. The kind that brings science fiction closer to reality. While I am still waiting on my lightsaber and my time-travelling Delorean, here are a few of my favourite scientific discoveries/developments from the month of October.


Monkeys and Mind-Control (…kind of) 


Bi-directional link between brain and virtual body

The idea of functionally controlling an avatar with your mind may only seem like the brainchild of some author or screenwriter in Hollywood at the moment. But, researchers at Duke University in North Carolina have brought us one step closer with an incredible breakthrough.  Outfitting two rhesus monkeys with two sets of neural electrode implants, the researchers trained the monkeys to use their brain activity to control an arm in virtual reality. But that’s not the cool part. (And when I say the “cool” part, I mean the “OMG THAT’S SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!” part.) The cool part was that the monkeys experienced tactile feedback from the virtual arm. They could feel what they were doing! The potential for this technology is mind-boggling. Imagine a human with a prosthetic limb with all the capabilities and functionalities of an organic one. Or imagine a paralyzed person (in a robotic exoskeleton) finally being able to feel themselves hold their child. Or, if you really want, imagine monkeys taking over the world with armies of mind-controlled robots.

Read more about this paper here.


Real Frakking Cylons?!

Cylons are becoming a reality thanks to the engineering and robotics company Boston Dynamics. In a follow up to Big Dog, the roboticists at the company have designed a six-foot-tall, 180-pound, headless humanoid robot named PETMAN. The robot, developed as part of a $26.5 million program for the US Army, can walk, turn and twist like a person. They even made it capable of simulating human physiology by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating. Here’s hoping we learnt a little something about the treatment of robots from science fiction…

Read more about PETMAN here.


Meal Replacement for Those Pesky Vamps

Faux blood may be just around the corner

Blood is a vital part of life. Demand for it is high and the supply is not enough. Luckily for us, we have brilliant people on the case. Researchers from the Edinburgh University in Scotland have been working on a reliable source for blood that doesn’t require sticking people with needles. They have developed a type of artificial  blood through a technique involving the growth of bone marrow stem cells from healthy adults. Closely resembling the blood cells produced naturally in humans, the faux blood would be the rare type O-negative which can be used in 98% of the patients. The researchers are so confident in their process that clinical human trials could begin in as little as 2 years.


Invisibility Anyone?

You, like most people, have probably heard of the mirage effect. Often seen in deserts or on long roads during the summer, it is the optical event in which rays of light are bent producing a displaced image of the sky or a distant object. Researchers at the University of Texas in Dallas have exploited this phenomenon to create a device that makes objects invisible! After heating to high temperatures via electrical stimulation, carbon nanotubes transfer the heat to surrounding areas creating a very large temperature gradient. This steep gradient causes light rays to bend away from the object being concealed, making it appear to be invisible!

Need proof? Check out this video:

And if you are dying to read it, you can check out the research paper too.

About the Author

Recultured Team
Recultured Team
This is where you'll find the blog posts that the team has contributed to collectively! What team? Wildcats! -Nope, wrong team. Recultured!

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