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.
In a natural phenomenon known as margination, platelets and leukocytes (white blood cells) within the bloodstream move towards the sides of blood vessels and adhere to them. It occurs at wound sites, during the early stages of inflammation. Recently, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore have put that process to work in a microfluidic device that could be used to cleanse the blood, perhaps acting as a treatment for bacteria-related blood disorders such as sepsis.
The practice of surgically removing diseased or damaged tissue within the body is something of a trade-off – quite often, some of the surrounding healthy tissue will also end up being removed in the process. In highly-sensitive areas such as the brain or spinal cord, where a fraction of a millimeter either way can have huge consequences, sometimes surgery is deemed to be just too risky. A newly-developed endoscopic laser “scalpel,” however, looks like it could lower those risks considerably.
On September 27th of 2010, the world’s largest solar-powered boat – the TÛRANOR PlanetSolar – set out from Monaco on a quest to become the first boat to sail around the world using nothing put the power of the Sun. This afternoon it successfully completed that quest, arriving back in Monaco after 18 months spent circumnavigating the planet.
Although winged micro air vehicles (MAVs) are pretty impressive in free flight, one of the skills that has proven difficult for them to master is the bird-like perched landing. Aerospace engineers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, however, have now achieved it – they’ve developed an MAV that is capable of landing on an outstretched human hand.
When most people in the western world think of tuk tuks (if they even know what they are), they likely picture rather beat-up, primitive, noisy vehicles that zip around the crowded streets of exotic foreign lands. A Dutch company known as Tuk Tuk Factory, however, recently started building its own electric tuk tuks
for sale within Europe. Apparently the traditional gas-powered vehicles from Asia couldn’t meet European environmental, quality or safety requirements. While the company’s existing models have all been aimed at ferrying around passengers, last week it launched the e-Tuk Vendo – an all-electric three-wheeled mobile catering machine.
good came out of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill
, it was that it got people thinking about technologies for cleaning up future spills. While things like magnetic soap
, and autonomous robots
are all in the works, a group of scientists recently announced the results of their research into another possibility – oil droplet-gathering microsubmarines.
If you want your product to stand out while also looking classy, warm and organic, there’s one sure-fire way of doing in – make it out of wood. In recent years, we’ve seen things like wooden headphones
, MP3 players
, and bicycles
. Now, sports helmets can be added to that list.
Although the pixel count for consumer cameras continues to rise, they will all pale in comparison to the 3,200-megapixel Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) camera. Although the enormous astronomical camera has yet to be built, last week the U.S. Department of Energy gave its approval for the project to proceed to the next phase of development. This means that a detailed engineering design can begin, along with a production schedule and budget. If everything goes according to plan, construction on what will be the world’s largest digital camera should begin in 2014.
If you’ve ever watched a cephalopod such as a squid changing color, then you’ll know that it’s a pretty amazing process – they can instantly change the appearance of their skin from dark to light and back again, or even create pulsating bands of color that travel across it. They are able to do this thanks to muscles that manipulate the pigmentation of their skin. Now, scientists from the University of Bristol have succeeded in creating artificial muscles and cells, that might someday allow for the same sort of color changes in smart clothing that can camouflage itself against different backgrounds.
Doctors and scientists wishing to decode a human genome can now do so in a day for US$1,000 a pop using the recently-released Ion Proton
sequencer. With a price tag of $149,000, though, the machine isn’t cheap – nor is it the be-all and end-all of desktop gene sequencing. For one thing, the tiny $900 MinION
sequencer should be available soon. Also, a team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Yale University have now developed a concept of their own, which could end up providing an even less expensive high-speed sequencer.