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Karen Sprey

— Environment

Non-toxic, biodegradable plastic resin promises cleaner construction materials

By - January 25, 2011
Scientists from the University of Amsterdam have developed a process for making fully biodegradable, non-toxic and non-hazardous thermoset resins from readily available, low-cost plant materials. This new range of plastics could be used for panels such as MDF in the construction industry and replace polyurethane and polystyrene packaging ... all without increasing cost or production times. Read More
— Medical

Magnetic pill could boost body's absorption of drugs

By - January 18, 2011
Many people take pills to help manage or cure serious illness, and some of these life-saving drugs can only be absorbed in very specific parts of the intestine. The problem with oral administration is that pills often don’t dissolve at exactly the right site in the gastrointestinal tract where medicine can be absorbed into the bloodstream. A new drug delivery system developed by scientists at Brown University uses a magnetic gelatin capsule and an external magnet that can precisely sense the force between it and the pill and vary that force, as needed, to hold the pill in place. The team has successfully used the technology with rats and in future it could provide a new way to deliver many drugs to humans, including those with cancer or diabetes. Read More
— Architecture

World's first skyscraper design up for auction

By - January 16, 2011 2 Pictures
While the debate continues as to whether the world's first skyscraper was the the Home Insurance Building built in Chicago in 1885, or New York's seven floor Equitable Life Assurance Building built in 1870, it seems that the British pipped the Americans to the post in terms of a design. British architect Charles Burton designed a 1,000 foot (305 meter) high metal and glass building in response to a call to redesign The Crystal Palace, the famous London exhibition building, 30-odd years before the American buildings were erected. Burton's historic design sketch is headed for the auction block this week. Read More
— Inventors and Remarkable People

Happy 10th birthday to Wikipedia

By - January 14, 2011 2 Pictures
Like "Google", "Wikipedia" has entered the common lexicon. I haven't yet heard anyone say they're going to Wikipedia something but I'm sure that someone, somewhere, is already doing it. Many of us have Wikipedia bookmarked as our "go to" site, the first port of call to get an overview of a topic. The free, online encyclopedia features roughly 17 million articles in 270 languages, all created by a volunteer community. On 15 January this year Wikipedia celebrates its tenth birthday – what had the potential to become disastrously chaotic has become a valued icon, consulted by more than 400 million people every month. Read More
— Good Thinking

Noise-canceling device plugs into your MP3 player, removes sound of dental drill

By - January 14, 2011
Hands up, who doesn't get just the teensiest bit nervous about going to the dentist? Not many of you, I'll wager. Dentophobia – fear of dentists and dental care – is one of the most common phobias, and it's the high-pitched whine of the dentist's drill that causes most anxiety. If this applies to you, take heart. You may soon be able to relax (or at least tune out the sound of the drill) and listen to music on your own MP3 player, connected to a noise-canceling device developed by Kings College London in conjunction with Brunel University and London South Bank University. Read More
— Environment

Poo-Gloos treat sewage as quickly and effectively as mechanical plants, but cost less

By - January 12, 2011 6 Pictures
Poo isn't something generally talked about in polite company but like it or not, all of that human waste has to go somewhere. In smaller rural communities, it usually goes to wastewater lagoon systems; the alternative is mechanical treatment plants which process waste far more quickly but are expensive, labor intensive and often use chemicals. Enter the "Poo-Gloo," or Bio-Dome as it is officially known – an igloo-shaped device that can reportedly clean up sewage as effectively, but far more cheaply, than its mechanical counterparts. The Poo-Gloo, developed by Wastewater Compliance Systems, Inc., uses a combination of air, dark environment and large surface area to encourage the growth of a bacterial biofilm which consumes the wastewater pollutants. It is claimed that Poo-Gloos can treat pollutants just as quickly as mechanical plants while operating at a fraction of the cost – hundreds of dollars a month rather than thousands – and can be retrofitted to existing lagoon systems. Read More
— Architecture

Recycled plastic housing resists earthquakes, hurricanes, rot, insects and mould

By - January 10, 2011 8 Pictures
Each year natural disasters and civil unrest leave hundreds of thousands of people homeless throughout the world. Many of these crises occur in developing nations where traditional building materials are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive, and where the focus is often on staying alive, not maintenance of a home. The ECO:Shield system from Innovative Composites International Inc. (ICI) may present a welcome solution. The earthquake and hurricane resistant houses use recyclable materials and according to ICI, are cheaper than both conventional and other modular constructions. They are energy efficient and durable – resisting moisture, insects, rot and mould. And they can be constructed quickly using unskilled labor: an 8' x 16' (2.4 x 4.9 meters) ECO:Shield house can be assembled in less than 45 minutes with standard tools. Read More
— Health and Wellbeing

Human protein may help muscular dystrophy patients

By - December 30, 2010
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common and severe childhood form of muscular dystrophy (MD), affecting one in 3,500 boys. The disease progressively weakens muscles cells and tissues until muscle degradation is so severe that the patient dies, most often in their late teens or twenties. Scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and the University of Pennsylvania, hope their research into the human protein, biglycan, will ultimately improve the condition of muscular dystrophy sufferers. Their studies have shown that biglycan significantly slows muscle damage and improves function in mice with the Duchenne genetic mutation. Human clinical trials will be the next step. Read More
— Health and Wellbeing

Wearable wireless device monitors health of record-breaking transantarctic expedition team

By - December 28, 2010 5 Pictures
Wearable health monitors have been available for some time, providing feedback on functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. They represent the tip of a potentially huge health and fitness market, from athletes and emergency services personnel to patients both in and recently discharged from hospital, who could benefit from real-time, intelligent wireless body monitoring of vital signs. Telemetry technology provider Toumaz has developed an ultra-low power system to wirelessly monitor heart rate, ECG, temperature and physical activity. The Sensium Life Platform has just been used to monitor the health of team members during a record-breaking 4,000 kilometer transantarctic expedition that not only made the fastest vehicle crossing of the Antarctic, but was also the first expedition to use biofuels extensively in Antarctica, and featured the first bio-fuelled vehicle ever to reach the South Pole. Read More
— Medical

Acoustic rectifier improves quality of ultrasound images

By - December 27, 2010
Sonography, or ultrasound imaging, is commonly used for diagnostic and therapeutic applications – the best-known example being photos and videos of developing fetuses that expectant parents excitedly wave around. Because ultrasound relies on sound waves being sent into the body and then reflected back to create the image, the interference creating by these waves meeting causes some degradation of image brightness and resolution. In order to enable stronger, sharper medical imaging, scientists at Nanjing University in China have developed an "acoustic rectifier" that forces sound waves to travel in only one direction. Read More
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