This week: California continues to sink, a magnetic wormhole created in a lab could lead to invisibility, understanding the flu virus’ proteins brings us closer to a universal vaccine, low cost 3D printed robotic prosthetic limbs, and a big step forward for 3D printing from MIT.
California Drought Causing Central Valley to Sink
California farmers have been forced to pump large amounts of groundwater in response to the historic drought, causing the land to sink and putting nearby infrastructure at risk.
The California Department of Water Resources today released a new NASA report showing land in the San Joaquin Valley is sinking faster than ever before, nearly 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month in some locations.
Magnetic Invisibility via Wormholes
Ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel, physicists have crafted a wormhole that tunnels a magnetic field through space.
“This device can transmit the magnetic field from one point in space to another point, through a path that is magnetically invisible,” said study co-author Jordi Prat-Camps, a doctoral candidate in physics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain. “From a magnetic point of view, this device acts like a wormhole, as if the magnetic field was transferred through an extra special dimension.”
One Step Closer to a Universal Flu Vaccine
Flu viruses are scam artists: they fool people’s immune systems so we never become fully immune to flu, no matter how many times we catch it. But virologists have been searching for a way to beat the scammers – a vaccine that will work against all kinds of flu. This week, two research groups got a lot closer.
Flu carries big, globular proteins on its surface that grab the immune system’s attention. Then it subtly changes them, so after a few winters your immune system doesn’t quite recognise the virus enough to keep you immune and stop you getting sick. Worse, occasionally a new family of flu will circulate carrying a novel surface protein that few or no people have antibodies for, causing a lethal pandemic. That would happen if H5N1 bird flu started spreading in people.
New Cheaper Customized Robotic Prosthetics via 3D Printing
A prototype 3D-printed robotic hand that can be made faster and more cheaply than current alternatives is this year’s UK winner of the James Dyson Award.
The Bristol-raised creator of the Open Bionics project says he can 3D-scan an amputee and build them a custom-fitted socket and hand in less than two days.
It typically takes weeks or months to obtain existing products.
MIT Presents New Multi-Material 3D Printer
Right now, the typical 3D printer is a tool for making plastic objects. Assembling them in layers according to a pre-programmed plan, the printers can quickly make weirdly shaped parts, but they’re often limited to working with just one material at a time. Additive manufacturing, as 3D printing is also known, offers so much more. A new printer, created by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), can print up to 10 materials into a single object —and incorporate other, finished parts directly into the design— all at a fraction of the cost of complex industrial 3D printers
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