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Stress

As machines get more and more sophisticated, the mental capacity of their human overlords stays at a static (albeit seemingly impressive) level, and therefore slowly starts to pale in comparison. The bandwidth of the human brain is not limitless, and if an overloaded brain happens to be overseeing machines carrying out potentially dangerous tasks, you can expect trouble. But why had we built the machines in the first place, if not to save us from trouble? Brainput, a brain-computer interface built by researchers from MIT and Tufts University, is going to let your computer know if you’re mentally fit for the job at hand. If it decides your brain is overloaded with tasks, it will help you out by handling some of them for you. Read More
When things like bridges or stadium roofs are built, they’re designed to withstand not just the stress that they will experience on a frequent basis, but also the maximum stress loads that they’ll only be subjected to once in a while – these could take the form of things like snowfalls or wind storms. This means that much of the heavy, costly materials that the structures are made of will only occasionally prove necessary. Researchers from the University of Stuttgart, however, have come up with an alternative. They’ve designed a lightweight structure that actively adapts to increased loads via built-in hydraulics. Read More
Some day, perhaps soon, it's possible that your smartphone could stop you from shutting yourself off from the world, or turning to illicit substances to deal with the stresses of life. Two separate studies are currently under way, looking at how smartphone-enabled technologies could be used to monitor peoples' levels of stress or depression, and then take action to keep them from making the wrong choices. Read More
Concrete may be one of the toughest buildings materials in common use but it does develop cracks over time, and in the case of structures such as buildings or bridges, it is imperative that those cracks are noticed before they lead to a collapse. While visual inspections are useful, they are also time-consuming, and may miss tiny but structurally-significant cracks. Some technologies have been developed to automate the process, such as rust sensors for steel-reinforced concrete. Now, an international team of scientists is proposing a system of flexible crack-detecting skins, that could be applied to the surfaces of concrete surfaces. Read More
While it’s always disturbing to hear about the unexpected collapse of a bridge or building, technology is being developed to lessen the chances of such incidents occurring. Increasingly, this is taking the form of sensors that are implanted within structures, that measure and transmit data on the stresses that the surrounding material is experiencing. If the mechanical strain causes one of those sensors to break, however, it won’t be much good anymore – depending on its location, it also may be impossible to replace. Fortunately, researchers at North Carolina State University have created a self-healing structural stress sensor. Read More
If someone does a lot of arm curls at the gym, the typical result is that the bones and muscles in their arms will get stronger. Recently, researchers at Houston’s Rice University inadvertently created a nanocomposite that behaves in the same way. Although the material doesn’t respond to static stress, repeated mechanical stress will cause it to become stiffer. Read More
Chances are that if you're calling 9-1-1 (or 9-9-9, or whatever it is where you are), you're not likely to tell the operator that your case isn't all that urgent, and that it can wait. The problem is, sometimes emergency dispatch centers are so overloaded with callers – all of them stating that they need assistance right now – that some sort of system is required in order to determine who should get help first. Dutch researchers claim to have developed just such a system, which analyzes callers' voices to determine how stressed-out they are. Read More
If you’ve seen Avatar or Aliens, then you’ve seen futuristic versions of exoskeletons – mechanical systems that human users wear over their bodies, to augment their own physical abilities. While exoskeletons are already available and in use today, they’re sometimes a bit more machine than what is needed. After all, why put on an expensive full- or half-body contraption, when you’re performing a task that mostly just requires the use of one arm? That’s where the x-Ar exoskeletal arm support comes in. Users wear it on their dominant arm, and it moves with them, providing support as they do things such as holding tools out in front of themselves. Read More
While conducting research into brain-gut interactions, a team led by researchers from UCLA and the Veterans Administration may have inadvertently stumbled across a new treatment for hair loss. During an investigation into the affect of stress on gastrointestinal function, the researchers believe they may have found a chemical compound that induces hair growth by blocking a stress-related hormone associated with hair loss. Read More
Industrial Design PhD student Miguel Bruns Alonso from the Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology has created a prototype pen that he claims can identify short-term stress in its user, and that can then proceed to alleviate some of that stress. The “anti-stress pen” doesn’t measure a persons heart rate or their galvanic skin response – instead, it detects when it’s being fidgeted with, and gets the user to stop. Read More
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