06 Feb

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.
04 Feb

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.

02 Feb

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.”

31 Jan

Billed as "the first wearable airbag vest that protects cyclists in their daily ride", B'safe provides protection to a rider's back, neck, and thorax.

That's particularly important, given that 40% of cyclists who receive serious injuries were affected in the thorax, while 25% suffered injuries affecting the spinal area. Since there's little protection available to cyclists looking to guard those areas, the inflatable B'safe should especially appeal to regular cyclists, like those who commute for work. This group is estimated at just under a million persons in the U.S. In Europe, it's believed that 7% of active citizens arrive at work everyday by bicycle.

None of those folks want to ride their bikes to work looking like a top-heavy version of the Michelin Man. The B'safe works by staying deflated -- essentially the same as an ordinary reflective vest -- until and unless a smart algorithm senses the prospect of an accident.

27 Jan

Tomatoes are used in some of our favorite spicy foods. Yet one bite into a tomato makes it clear that the fruit is far from spicy. That means if you want to make a flavorful tomato dish, you’ll need to add plenty of other spices to give your meal the desired taste.

But scientists may have a better way. Through gene editing, researchers are looking at ways to merge the tomato with a much more nutritional fruit: the chili pepper. The goal of the merger is to incorporate more capsaicinoids into tomatoes, since they’re more commonly eaten than chili peppers. Capsaicinoids are the molecules that give red chili peppers their spiciness, but they also have health benefits.

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