The Wonder, September 28 - Fiberglass-Spinning Robots, Heart Clips, and Mind-Controlled Implants

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Happy Friday!

The world runs on the internet. It’s how we communicate, whether by email, voice, video, or messaging. It’s where we store our documents, records, memories, and secrets. It’s where we meet, organize, plan, and carry forward those plans. Increasingly, it runs our houses, cars, and workplaces. So what happens if the internet splits into two?

That very notion was predicted by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt this week at a private event. He believes that the internet will bifurcate into Chinese-led and US-led versions. With more than twice as many internet users as the US, China’s internet could very well become THE internet.

Now on to the Wonder.

Fiberglass-Spinning Robots

A new kind of robot can spin strands of material around its body to create custom-shaped fiberglass structures.

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Andrew’s Take: The world is taking note of inventor Markus Kaysen. His work, which focuses on novel design and fabrication processes, has been exhibited at MoMA in New York, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Power Station of Art in Shanghai. He built an Apiary where bees and humans cohabitate, a solar-powered 3D printer that builds glass objects out of the sand beneath it, and now the fiberglass-spinning robot. With each new invention, he moves from conceptual exploration to groundbreaking utility.   

Darius’s Take: The key innovation here is that, unlike other construction bots, these don’t need to rely on premade building blocks, but can create their own materials. In theory, you could send a fleet of them into space or underwater to build a structure entirely on their own.

Heart Clips

A clip used to repair damaged heart valves sharply reduced deaths among patients with a grim prognosis.

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Andrew’s Take: Is there a better phrase in medicine than “sharply reduced deaths”? Especially when talking about heart disease, which is still the leading cause of deaths in the US. Even aside from saving lives, for the two million Americans who suffer from heart failure, their lives are extremely difficult. They can become out of breath walking across a room. They have to live with the anxiety that a ticking time bomb in the chest brings. It’s no wonder why the director of the heart valve program where part of the study ran called it a “game changer”.

Darius’s Take: The instrument itself is nothing more than a clip, strengthening the mitral valve (the weak point) of the heart. The most difficult part of the treatment is the amount of skill it requires to insert it. Combine this with the advances in robotic procedures and we should only see success stories going up.

Mind-Controlled Implants

A man paralyzed from the waist down made history by walking again using a mind-controlled implant to power his legs.

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Andrew’s Take: It’s absolutely amazing that doctors found a way to stimulate a severed spinal cord to restore voluntary movement. The problem is – they still don’t know how they did it. Now the process of understanding this potential breakthrough begins. Like the microwave and the x-ray, sometimes the greatest discoveries are unintended.

Darius’s Take: We talked before about mind-controlled robots and how they could augment the human body, but mind-controlling the human body is so much more complex. Still, the results are real and, even though we’re still early in the process, the progress is exciting.

A Single Atom...

A remarkable photo of a single atom trapped by electric fields was awarded the top prize in a well known science photography competition.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week.

-Andrew and Darius