The goal is to create new electronics that are as tough as they are eco-friendly. Spider silk is supposedly as strong as steel and as "impenetrable as Kevlar" — but now it can also conduct electricity. To give the spider silk this effect, the scientists coated each silk thread with carbon nanotubes.
The results are super strong conductors that are also fully biodegradable.
ewolfson writes: Researchers say that they may have come up with a mosquito repellent that works better than DEET: an "invisibility cloak" made up of naturally occurring compounds that blocks mosquitos' ability to sniff you out. Good timing; scientists also say that mosquitos are starting to develop a resistance to many widely-used repellents.
ewolfson writes: Researchers in London discovered that iron beads crafted and strung together in Ancient Egypt over 5,000 years ago, contain traces of iron from meteors. The meteorites were set into a necklace with gold and gemstones, highlighting the high value of these otherworldly rocks.
ewolfson writes: Determining whether a coma victim is conscious has been a difficult, and troubling, challenge for medical professionals for years. But that may change soon. A team of researchers from Italy, Belgium, Brazil, and the U.S. have proposed a new, presumably objective, way to measure and judge a coma patient’s awareness. It’s based on the brain’s response to magnetic stimulation, and the scientists are calling it the world's first "consciousness meter."
ewolfson writes: Is that apple in your hand still alive? For researchers at Rice University, it's less of an existential debate, and more of a scientific quandary whose answer may change the way we store our fruits and vegetables.
In a study published in Current Biology, researchers demonstrate that harvested food crops still respond to daylight, which affects their ability to produce natural defenses to insect pests, and antioxidants to protect against cancer. Read more.
ewolfson writes: "Patient TN" lost his sight when he suffered two strokes back in 2003 — his primary visual cortex was almost completely destroyed. But he's not blind in the normal way. Think of it like this: his eyes are still transmitting visual information to his brain, but "nobody is home" to collect the message.
What's the point? Even though he can't see, Patient TN could accurately distinguish between happy and angry faces 60 percent of the time --a success rate that could not be attributed to mere chance.
ewolfson writes: Artificial retinal implants aren't new, but combining solar-power and bionic eye technologies is pretty innovative:
Stanford scientists built their model after an older, already FDA-approved eye prosthetic. This earlier bionic eye is wired to video camera eyeglasses and translates visual images into electrical signals that can be understood by the neurons in the eye . However, 30 percent of patients with that eye report complications with the implant.
In addition, the microchip's sensors are placed on the surface of the retina, instead of inside the tissue where it can directly interact with neurons. The scientists claim that this can lead to unwanted, spontaneous nerve signals. To address these shortcomings of bionic implants, ophthalmologist and physicist Daniel Palanker and his colleagues developed a solar-powered microchip that could be inserted into the sub-retinal layers of eye.
ewolfson writes: Apple on Monday revealed an updated operating system for its mobile platform that many car manufacturers intend to integrate into the dashboard by next year, offering a panoply of technology services to the driver by voice command. And by 2018, voice-activated computer dashboard systems will become standards, with a five-fold increase in the proportion of new cars with such systems.
However, scientific research since 2006 — including a new major study funded by the AAA — has shown that hands-free technology is just as distracting as handheld cell phones while driving a motor vehicle, and the distractions from cellular technology become increasingly worse with improved applications.
ewolfson writes: April and Bryan Gionfriddo had run out of options. During dinner at a restaurant, their 2-month-old son Kaiba suddenly stopped breathing, turned blue, and was rushed to the hospital.
Two weeks earlier, Kaiba had begun to have mild issues with feeding and breathing, but when he arrived at the hospital, doctors discovered he had partially collapsed airways in his chest, a condition called tracheobronchomalacia.
lso known as "softness of the windpipes," tracheobronchomalacia is a rare pediatric disease that impairs a newborn's ability to respire. About one in 2,200 babies develops the condition, but most grow out of it by age two or three. Severe examples like Kaiba's only account for 10 percent of all cases, "and they are frightening," said Dr. Glenn Green, a pediatric specialist at the University of Michigan. He and his colleague Dr. Scott Hollister, an engineering professor at University of Michigan, devised an innovative solution that saved Kaiba's life.
They used 3-D printers to build a cylindrical splint to support and expand Kaiba's narrow airways.
The scaffold was made of a bioresorbable material, polycaprolactone, so it would dissolve and be absorbed by the body after about three years. At this point, his airways should be fully developed and no longer need the stent. The doctors used high-resolution X-ray scans of one of Kaiba's healthy windpipes to design a computer model for the life-saving brace.
Laser-equipped 3-D printers crafted the device in a few hours, and the university obtained emergency clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implant it on February 9, 2012 at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.
ewolfson writes: We all hear about how 3D printing lends itself to countless applications, from creating fossils to engineering human tissue. But now 3D printing is coming to the aid of global food shortage.
3D printed food may not sound appetizing, but NASA is funding mechanical engineer Anjan Contractor with $125,000 to create a prototype printer that could spit out food with long shelf life for astronauts during long-distance voyages, to Mars for instance, Quartz reported.
Contractor, however, has his heart set out on doing an even tougher task — cutting today's food waste in order to solve the world's alarming food shortages. The engineer sees a future where every home has a 3D printer, surviving on customized, yet nutritious foods that could be created a layer at a time, the same way a printer's cartridge carries ink and ejects images onto paper. The ultimate upside is that these cartridges would limit food waste. Contractor wants to provide the cartridge powders and oils with a shelf-life of 30 years, meaning they'd use up all the required sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins before being returned to local grocers for refills.
So what food is being tested first for the menu? Pizza.
While it's nothing compared to a New York pizza, Contractor said the way we perceive food has to change if this means overhauling the current food system.
ewolfson writes: A blind man has received the gift of sight, thanks to an innovative stem-cell treatment. The treatment, which was part of a trial examining the safety of using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), has restored the man's vision enough for him to pass any standard vision test for a driver's license.
"There's a guy walking around who was blind, but now can see," said Gary Rabin of Advance Cell Technology (ACT) . "With that sort of vision, you can get a driver's license."
This news comes on the heels of the announcement last week that U.S. scientists have successfully cloned human embryos to make stem cells, a development that has reignited the debate surrounding human cloning and the morality of experimentation with stem-cells.
ewolfson writes: Scientists have used nanotechnology to recreate the panoramic vision of a fly in an artificial eye. The invention could yield "smart clothes" that detect motion or better flight radar for small aircraft, according to a study in PNAS.
Small flying drones will soon become a part of everyday life. They can already fight fires and deliver beer at a rock festival, but navigation systems must be improved before drones are used in large numbers.
The newest drones are being designed to function like dragonflies, so that they can hover or quickly switch directions. This versatility of motion, however, requires panoramic vision or sensors that can see danger from all directions.
Scientists in Italy created a small robotic eye yhat mimics fly vision that could keep drones from colliding with each other in the future. The artificial eye is a curved bulb about the size of nickel and weighs less than two paperclips.
ewolfson writes: Of all the apps on your iPhone or Android, how many are truly useful and how many are completely outrageous?
When it comes to scientists and apps, they don't play around. Researchers have developed an inexpensive and experimental iPhone app to transmit heart images for diagnostic purposes. The images can be sent more quickly and more reliably than an e-mail.
Researchers designed the app to take photos of the electrocardiogram (ECG) image, a test that involves recording the heart's electrical impulses by applying probes on the chest. The image can be sent from an emergency medical personnel with the patient to the destined hospital physician within four to six seconds, while the same image would take 38 to 114 seconds in actual size or 17 to 48 seconds in a larger size via email.
The app was even tested more than 1,500 times on Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon plans within urban areas. Currently, the researchers are testing the app in rural locations with limited reception.
ewolfson writes: Dinner is over, and the waiter is handing over the bills to everyone when the collective tension sets in... how much do we tip? Math can trigger anxiety in adults and kids, but now scientists at Oxford University have developed a way to flip a switch and turn a normal person's brain into a math machine. They found painless, electrical brain stimulation in combination with easy number exercises can significantly improve math ability.
ewolfson writes: Much speculation about the mind-state of Tamerlan Tsarnaev follows the death of one of the two brothers implicated in the April 15 terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon.
As federal investigators probe possible sources of radicalization, some wonder less about the mind and more about the brain function underlying the apparently angry — some might say "sick" — motives propelling the Chechen immigrant to explode bombs near the race's finish line, killing three and wounding more than 130.
Tsarnaev won the New England Golden Gloves championship in 2009 and 2010, as a highly disciplined amateur boxer before dying April 19 in an epic shootout with police, improvised explosives strapped to his body. Given the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE, among boxers, might the terrorism suspect have experienced brain damage leading to such destructive, and self-destructive, carnage?