Technology Tuesday: June 5th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Bulletproof batteries, artificial limbs you forget are there, the FDA approves Golden Rice, smart roads, and 3D printed corneas.


THE MILITARY REQUESTS BULLETPROOF RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES

Who knew foot soldiers hauled around so many batteries? The average GI carries 18 pounds of the little power cells every day, which is just two pounds shy of how much protective gear they’re wearing. But if the batteries became the protective gear, that would be a literal weight off soldiers’ backs. Gabriel Veith at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory is looking into how to make protective batteries for men and women in fatigues, according to New Scientist.

His prototypes so far are just normal battery packs, but with a little silica injected into them. The additional nanoparticles don’t impact the battery’s fluid electrolytes until the battery is mechanically shocked — you know, the kind of disturbance a bullet might make. On impact, the silica and electrolytes become solid, which should stop the bullet from going any farther.

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ARTIFICIAL LIMBS WE FORGET ARE ARTIFICIAL

Improved amputation techniques are giving amputees with advanced prosthetic limbs a feeling of control comparable to that of their original arms and legs, according to new research out of MIT.

A team of biophysicists and engineers was able to create a natural-feeling prosthetic by taking a smarter approach to amputation. In this new approach, the scientists carefully rebuilt the relationship between opposing muscles (like how your bicep and tricep pull your forearm in opposite directions) and integrated a prosthetic limb with that muscular relationship. When they did so, patients felt a restored sense of proprioception – the ability to discern the location and movement of your limbs without looking at them.

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GOLDEN RICE IS NOW ALLOWED IN THE US FOOD SUPPLY

20 years ago, Time Magazine put a goateed man and some plants on its cover, declaring a breed of rice would save the world’s children.

The claim didn’t age well. In the years since, that crop, named golden rice, hasn’t saved any lives. No farmers grow it, so no one eats it.

But now, that might change — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the crop and deemed it safe to eat. This makes us the fourth nation to give the rice a thumbs up. And maybe, after three decades of debate, the tide of public opinion is turning in favor of genetically modified crops.

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SMART ROADS ARE ABOUT TO BECOME A THING

Smart phones, smart fridges, smart cities — everything is increasingly connected to everything else. The internet-of-things revolution has brought new (and often frivolous) features to the most mundane of everyday objects. But you know one thing it might actually help us to have synced up? our road system.

You may have noticed, roads are really dumb right now. They’re expensive to maintain, and generally can’t do much besides allowing above-ground transportation (credit where credit is due, though). But Kansas City tech startup Integrated Roadways is trying to change that.

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MILLIONS OF PEOPLE NEED NEW CORNEAS AND NOW WE CAN 3D PRINT THEM

Custom pizzas, coral reefsspace fabric — all are possible thanks to 3D printing. Next, the technique could give some people the gift of sight.

Scientists from Newcastle University have developed a “bio-ink” that allowed them to successfully 3D print human corneas. On Wednesday, they published their proof-of-concept research in the journal Experimental Eye Research.

The cornea is the outermost layer at the front of the eye. If it’s damaged by either disease or injury, a person can suffer vision problems or even lose their sight. The only treatment for a non-functioning cornea is a cornea transplant. But even though more than 15 million people need donor corneas, just 44,000 transplants are done every year — the demand far outweighs the supply.

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