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Ben Coxworth

Ben Coxworth

An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.

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— Science

Forensic scientists gather steam in creating an alternative to luminol

If you've watched any of the various CSI TV shows, then you'll already be familiar with luminol. It's a chemical that, when sprayed onto trace amounts of blood that aren't visible to the naked eye, causes that blood to glow a pale blue. Unfortunately, however, the application of luminol and its reagent chemically compromises the crime scene, plus the glow can't be seen outdoors in sunlight. That's why scientists at the University of South Carolina are exploring the use of an innocuous alternative substance … steam.

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— Robotics

Talking-Ally robot works to keep your attention

If you were talking to someone and they blatantly shifted their attention to something else, chances are you'd have something to say about it. Most interactive robots, however, wouldn't even notice. That's why scientists at Japan's Toyohashi University of Technology have developed Talking-Ally, a robot that knows when it's being ignored.

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Home haptic feedback system could help stroke victims rebuild motor skills

Although stroke victims do receive some rehabilitative therapy while at the hospital, it's difficult for physiotherapists to track their progress once they've gone home. As a result, according to Prof. Thenkurussi Kesavadas at the University of Illinois, many of them end up declining in fine-motor abilities. That's why he's leading an effort to create a system that would allow them to continue supervised therapy, via their home computer.

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— Robotics

Aptly-named DucTT robot crawls through ducts – and could one day clean them

Despite what various spy movies may have us believe, sending people into buildings' ductwork isn't a good idea. That said, those ducts do need to be cleaned periodically, otherwise the human inhabitants of the buildings can develop serious respiratory problems. Robots have been designed to do the job, although they've generally been wheeled or tracked devices that can only move horizontally. Now, however, scientists at UC San Diego's Jacob's School of Engineering have created DucTT – a highly-efficient robot that can climb up ducts, and run for up to six hours on one charge of its battery pack.

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— Robotics

Electronic skin could give prostheses and robots a sense of touch

Our sense of touch is made possible thanks to thousands of "mechanoreceptors," which are distributed throughout our skin. The more pressure that's applied to one of these sensors, the more electrical pulses it sends to the brain, thus increasing the tactile sensation that we experience. Led by Prof. Zhenan Bao, scientists at Stanford University have now created synthetic skin that contains electronic mechanoreceptors, which could give prosthetic limbs or robots a sense of touch.

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— Materials

Slick coating keeps steel clean and tough

When liquids stick to steel for long enough, the steel corrodes or becomes contaminated. Unfortunately, however, porous surface coatings that repel liquids also tend to make steel weaker … until now, that is. Scientists at Harvard University have recently discovered that their existing SLIPS (Slippery Liquid Porous Surfaces) technology not only causes liquids to roll right off, but it actually makes steel stronger.

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— Science

New fingerprinting tech is more than skin-deep

Most fingerprint scanners work the same way – the pad of the finger is pressed against the scanner’s glass surface, light is shone through the glass onto it, and the light that’s reflected back by the minuscule valleys between the print’s ridges is used to create an image of the print. It’s a system that’s usually effective, although it can fail to read prints that have been flattened by age or damaged, plus it can be fooled by gelatine casts of fingerprints. That’s why scientists from the Paris-based Langevin Institute have developed a more reliable scanner, that looks below the skin's surface.

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— Bicycles Review

Review: StaFast revisits the suspension handlebar stem

Various bicycle components companies have been attempting to market suspension handlebar stems since at least the 90s, mostly to little success. Indeed, many of those stems are now mocked, with their overbuilt construction, pogo-like springs or stiff elastomer dampers. But now Michigan-based manufacturer Aeroforge is taking another crack at it, using modern technology to create its StaFast stem. We took it out for a few rides to see how much difference a couple of decades make.

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