Friday, September 4, 2009

Mankind's continual leaps forward...

Living with three physicists (and spending time with their equally science-y friends) definitely left a mark.

As outlined in a previous post, I am just not a left-brain person. I rely on gut feelings and intuition and have very little patience for having to examine every little fact before reaching a conclusion. Yes, occasionally this gets me into trouble (hello, my first apartment in Boston), but usually I make out okay.
Still, I suppose daily exposure to the squiggles and letters that make up physics has left with me a lingering attraction for the more technical side of life.

MSNBC reports on the MIT PhDs who created robotic fish, which can look for pollutants and inspect submerged things like pipelines by mimicking the swimming motions of real fish. These fake fish are sleek and easy to maneuver with just 10 parts and one motor; they are much more likely to be able to go places other, more bulky underwater vehicles can't.

Technological advances in healthcare are reported on both MSNBC and CNET; the US and Japan have created robot doctors and nurses, respectively. Last night, I saw a preview for a movie called "Surrogates" where robots take over and seem to basically replace humans in every day living. In the case of Robo-ER here, thankfully only the Japanese seem bent on professional domination.

The "Chungbot," named after Brooke Army Medical Center's Dr. Kevin Chung, has allowed the doctor to check on patients from as far away as Iraq. The doc-bot is a five-foot tall, motorized robot is controlled by a joystick and laptop and wirelessly transmits images between the screen mounted on its "body" and Chung's laptop. This technology allows Chung to be able to see his patients and instruct another medical staff member who is there with the patient to do the hands-on care.

The Japanese have created a robot nurse to lift elderly patients from wheelchairs and beds, and, as CNet's opening paragraph says best, "naturally, it looks like a teddy bear." The bear can lift up to 134 pounds and apparently has a cuddly face to make it look less scary to the patients. It was created to help combat the problem of the workforce shrinking in proportion to the population aging.

The story on makes me chuckle just at the premise - six mice boarding the international space station as invited guests. The tone of the Switched blog post is so perfect, I'm not even going to try to compete.

Lastly, Newsweek's website has a photo gallery nearly 100 years in the making. Court photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii traveled all over Mother Russia taking photographs at Czar Nicholas II's behest. Prokudin-Gorskii took three consecutive photos of every subject - one each with separate red, green and blue filters - and melded them through a process of his own devising in a specially fitted railway car. The result were a wide range of photos of Russia's people, architecture, technology and environment in living color. But it took the advent of digital imaging to be able to restore them.

(Photo courtesy of CNET)

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