Tool

The point is, porcupines inspired improved surgical tape

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 10, 2012   View Article

Porcupine quills penetrate the mouths of their would-be attackers with ease and prove extremely difficult to remove. Those qualities are inspiration for a futuristic tape that could help surgeons work faster and ease their patients’ post-operation pain.

“We like to turn to nature for inspiration because evolution is really the best problem solver,” Jeffrey Karp, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the adhesive’s development told NBC News.

‘Mechanical protein’ robot will fold itself into any shape

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 4, 2012   View Article

Imagine a string that can assemble itself into just about anything wherever and whenever you need it — a wrench to adjust your child’s bike seat or a hammer to pound a nail into the wall, for example. That future may be distant, but researchers have built a robot that already hints at the possibility.

“The robot is just a continuous strip, it is a one-dimensional thing,” Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told NBC News, speaking of the concept behind the device.

Helicopter parenting? Dad’s homemade drone follows kid to bus stop

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 30, 2012   View Article

Paul Wallich, like any loving dad, dutifully walks his grade-schooler son to the bus stop each morning. He does find the quarter-mile hike to be a drag, occasionally. His solution? He built a camera-equipped drone that helps him fulfill his parental obligation.

It’s those Vermont winters that provided motivation for the project. “If I am walking my kid to the bus stop in December and January, I would really rather not be doing that,” Wallich told NBC News.

3-D printer and moon rocks join up to make repairs in space

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 28, 2012   View Article

When lunar colonists need a new tool or replacement part to fix a broken spacecraft leg, all they’ll need to do is scoop up some moon rocks and feed them into a 3-D printer, suggests a new proof-of-concept study.

The ability to use material already on the moon to build things and fix equipment could save earthlings a bundle of money in fuel costs since they won’t have to haul everything they need to their lunar outposts.

Giant inflatable plug could protect subways from floodwaters

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 5, 2012   View Article

A giant inflatable plug that can be filled with 35,000 gallons of water at a moment’s notice could have prevented some of the flooding that crippled New York City’s transit in the wake of Sandy, according to an expert working on the technology.

This isn’t a case of Monday-morning quarterbacking. The technology is still in the lab. But the impact of this month’s superstorm on transit and the possibility that it’s a harbinger of things to come has focused attention on adding the plugs to the disaster-response toolbox.

Robo-cops may fight crime in the future – but it’s not what you think

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 2, 2012   View Article

A robot with a badge may soon patrol city streets, write parking tickets and Taser criminals, but don’t worry: these robo-cops will have the smarts, eyes and ears of trained police officers at the controls.

“This will be operated remotely by another person. The robot is not going to go and randomly shoot and make the mistake of hitting the wrong person,” Nagarajan Prabakar, a computer scientist at Florida International University, told NBC News on Tuesday.

Scotch tape may stick quantum computing to the masses

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 12, 2012   View Article

Even in the out-there world of quantum computing, there’s a use for Scotch tape, according to researchers who used the adhesive to give a semiconductor the properties of a so-called high-temperature superconductor.

The breakthrough is a step toward building the quantum computers of the future and “shows that the standard approach of doing more and more complicated things is not always the best solution,” Kenneth Burch, a physicist at the University of Toronto, told me Wednesday.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach