796 posts tagged Science
The Chance To Dance Again
by Michael Keller
We highlighted the TED talk of Hugh Herr a couple of weeks ago. But his work is too important and beautiful to leave to just one post.
The MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences is making prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons that restore function in those who have lost legs from injury or disease. This set of gifs focuses on his team’s BiOM powered ankle and foot prosthesis.
"Bionics is not only about making people stronger and faster," he said during the talk. "Our expression, our humanity can be embedded into electromechanics."
To prove his point, Herr and fellow researchers studied dance movement to replace the lower leg that professional dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost after last year’s Boston marathon bombing. He concluded his talk by bringing Haslet-Davis on the stage to perform a bionic rumba.
How does alcohol consumption affect romantic life? Let me count the ways. If popular advertising is to be believed, the consumption of high-end spirits almost guarantees a steady variety of glamorous amour. I was always surprised that James Bond – before Daniel Craig – opted to take his vodka martinis shaken rather than stirred. Bond was never short of anyone to stir his martinis. From Dutch courage to a shared glass of champers to drunken would-rather-never-remember sex, alcohol’s tendency to reduce our inhibitions has changed the way drinkers meet and mate. But drinking is also a cause and a consequence of relationship breakdowns and considerable associated misery. Which is why I’m fascinated to see how the world’s media covers a paper out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the US (PNAS). It has an irresistible combination of clickbait-ready elements: a cute small mammal, booze and serious questions about monogamy. The first element, the cute mammal, is the prairie vole, poster-child for wishful thinking anthropomorphising about monogamy and the power of love. Male-female pairs form long-lasting bonds, sleeping together, grooming one another and raising pups together. The prairie vole looks even more virtuous alongside its shadier close relative, the montane vole, which tends to mate promiscuously and form no such pair bonds. Which means comparisons of the two species, from ecology to the molecular biology of receptors on the brain, can help resolve the mechanisms involved in prairie vole monogamy.
Off the shelf, on the skin: Stick-on electronic patches for health monitoring
Description: John A. Rogers, a University of Illinois professor, and Yonggang Huang, a Northwestern University professor, have created thin, soft stick-on patches that stretch and move with the skin and incorporate commercial, off-the-shelf chip-based electronics for sophisticated wireless health monitoring. Read about this technology at http://news.illinois.edu/news/14/0403….
New book explores ‘frontier’ metaphor in science
Leah Ceccarelli is a professor of communication and author of the book “On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation.”
She answered a few questions about the book for UW Today.
Q: What’s the concept behind this book? Why did you write it? A: I kept seeing appeals to the American frontier spirit in the public arguments of scientists. That rhetoric was often inspiring, giving scientists an exciting image of their work across the metaphorical “boundaries” of knowledge. But it was also troubling in the expectations it set out about the manifest destiny of scientists to push forward at all costs, and in the way it reinforced their separation from a public that funds their endeavors. (via New book explores ‘frontier’ metaphor in science | UW Today)
Drawing the line between philosophy and physics has never been easy. Perhaps it is time to stop trying. The interface is ripe for exploration. (via When science and philosophy collide in a ‘fine-tuned’ universe)
Bacteria brews biofuel with potential to replace high-energy rocket fuel
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered a bacterium that could yield a new source of high-energy hydrocarbon fuel for rocketry and other aerospace uses. High-energy, specific-use hydrocarbon fuels such as JP-10 can be extracted from oil, along with more commonly used petroleum fuels, but supplies are limited and prices are high – approaching US$7 per liter. That’s where the new bacterium, engineered by Georgia Tech scientists Stephen Sarria and Pamela Peralta-Yahya, could come in. By introducing enzymes into the strain of E. coli bacterium a reaction is developed that yields pinene, a cyclic hydrocarbon related to isoprene – a major ingredient of pine resin and a vital precursor to a biofuel that offers an energy density comparable to JP-10. The biofuel is then produced by “dimerising,” or linking together, two molecules of pinene via chemical catalysis. (via Bacteria brews biofuel with potential to replace high-energy rocket fuel)