A parallel Worlds

Monday August 1 2016 / Science & Technology

''The Six Million Dollar Man" is an American TV series that ran from 1974 to 1978. Steve Austin, the fictional hero of the series, became the world's first bionic man after having an eye, arm and both legs replaced by bionics offering more power and functionality than his lost flesh and blood limbs and organs.

But while computing power, sensors and technology have all evolved in leaps and bounds over the decades since the series aired, prosthetics − though they have certainly advanced − haven’t appeared to keep pace.

We have self-driving cars, but most robot arms still cannot hold a glass of water . . . or couldn't until the Luke.

The Luke is one of the world’s most advanced prosthetic arms. It was designed by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, the name comes from Luke Skywalker’s high-tech prosthetic arm from the Star Wars films. The Luke is largely operated by thought. It uses electrodes placed on a residual limb to pick up electrical signals from the user’s muscles. When the user tenses or flexes their arm, Luke changes its position and grip.

This is a much more intuitive bio-feedback system than basic prosthetics, which are usually adjusted manually by the wearer using switches.  <br> <br> Additional functionality is also available in the Luke using wireless sensors in the wearer’s shoe. Luke's hand has four independent motors allowing the wearer to hold anything from a raw egg to a glass of water.

Sensors in the fingers provide the user with feedback as to how hard they’re gripping.

And the Luke prosthetic is resistance to light rain and fine dust so can be worn fairly normally outside the home.

Mobius Bionics has announced that, after nearly 10 years of development, the Luke, which already has FDA approval, should be on the market later this year. Prices have not been revealed as yet, but don't expect much change from $100,000-. While that's not cheap by any standards, it's substantially less than six million dollars.

For more information, please visit www.mobiusbionics.com/the-luke-arm.html

Suggested by
Ian Skellern

Monday June 6 2016 / Art & Design

Nick Brandt has been photographing African wildlife since 2001 and during that time has observed that the animals' natural habitat was being destroyed at an ever-alarming rate.

To highlight this plight, Brandt conceived of a series of huge photographs called Inherit the Earth. To create them he erected larger-than-life-sized portraits of Africa's four-legged inhabitants in landscapes where they once may have roamed but no longer. Rubbish dumps, quarries and warehouses have replaced the wild plains.

Monday May 2 2016 / Science & Technology - A Little Levity

We've all been here, haven't we? Well, hopefully a few of you at least will have shared the following scenario with me in childhood: you have folded the perfect paper plane, which in your imagination soars effortlessly across the room to gasps of admiration (and a tinge of jealousy) from the rest of the room. But, in reality, when you release your plane (with just a little too much force) it flies straight down to the floor with a paper- and soul-crushing thwack, followed by a quickly rising volume of laughter and sniggers.

If only there was a better way.

Monday March 28 2016 / Science & Technology

Think about how we move in rough terrain for a movement: whether walking uphill, downhill, or across hills, we always try and stay vertical because that's how our bodies balance best.

However, we do tend to learn over when going around corners quickly because that keeps apparent forces vertical to our bodies. French company Swincar has now developed an off road buggy that operates in the same way on rough terrain and at speed as our bodies do.

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