Jim Lillie

Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

Wednesday, 06 February 2019 00:00

Most Valuable Scientific Artifacts of 2018

Every year, scientific instruments and manuscripts go up for sale -- some for extraordinary prices.

Here are a few of the more notable "deals" from 2018, courtesy of New Atlas:

  • A remote-controlled version of R2-D2, one of the robots that has thus far appeared in 9 out of 10 Star Wars films. Recently outfitted with a new battery, the device, which can generate 53 proprietary sounds from the movie series, sold for $161,200.
  • A complete Gemini G-2C-4 space suit, manufactured between 1963 and 1965, fetched $162,500 at auction. The gloves were fashioned to fit Pete Conrad, while the boots were intended for Frank Borman.
  • Yes, Steve Jobs once applied for a job, and this signed application of his, made about 3 years before he co-founded Apple Computer in 1976, brought in $174,757.
Monday, 04 February 2019 00:00

Shape-Shifting Medical Robots

The idea that a tiny robot could travel into various areas of the human body in order to deliver drugs to hard-to-access areas seems miraculous in and of itself. Until one considers that such a bot would likely run into myriad obstacles along the way, including twists and turns within groups of tissues, that might impede or prevent its movements, thereby rendering it all but useless.

Which is why it's all the more extraordinary to consider new developments by researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) and ETH Zurich: They've come up with elastic robots, designed after bacteria and entirely biocompatible, that are capable of changing their shapes in response to surroundings.

Since the flexible bots possess the capability of swimming amid fluids while modifying their shape, they can navigate narrow blood vessels and complicated systems without negatively impacting maneuverability or speed.

Saturday, 02 February 2019 00:00

Highest Capacity Transatlantic Cable Completed

As global communication channels handle more and more data, whether video uploads or internet searches, the subsea networks that span Earth play an increasingly vital role.

Perhaps no other time was that made more painfully obvious than when Hurricane Sandy slammed the East Coast of the United States during October 2012. As a result of the superstorm, internet, wireless, and phone services were shut down for several days. Flooding interrupted connectivity by disabling servers. Electronic trading and online media services were affected, as were transatlantic communications linking a number of the world's largest economies.

Frank Rey, director of global network strategy for Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure and Operations division, said in a press release, “It was a major disruption. The entire network between North America and Europe was isolated for a number of hours. For us, the storm brought to light a potential challenge in the consolidation of transatlantic cables that all landed in New York and New Jersey.”

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