Engineers Have Developed a Robot That Can Sweat

An image of a robot that looks like a man.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Robots are getting more human-like every day, which is scary if you’re really concerned about some Matrix or Terminator stuff happening. But if you’re actually looking forward to robots “living” among us in the future, then this is a good thing, since we’re getting closer and closer to that reality everyday.

One of the big problems that modern robots face is heat. All those gears and motors and other bits generate a ton of heat and if the robots don’t have a coolant system, then they break down.

In the design process, engineers have to take this into account, which isn’t much of a problem if they’re designing a more simplistic bot. But it’s incredibly difficult when they’re trying to make a humanoid robot (the obvious and much cooler end goal here).

A University of Tokyo robotics team took that to heart with their newest robot, Kengoro. Kengoro is a humanoid robot that, among other things, can do pushups… for like… 11 minutes straight. It’s capable of doing this because Kengoro can sweat.

You see, Kengoro is a chock full of motors and whatnot, which means it can reach scorching temperatures. But the robot doesn’t have any spare room to put in a radiator and coolant system. So the team came up with a solution to have his frame (or bones) transfer water around the robot.

The team found a way to make the frame porous so that water can seep out and evaporate (that’s how our bodies cool themselves, by the way). It’s not as good as having a radiator and coolant system, but it is a lot lighter and not to mention, more efficient. This type of technology is something we can expect to see more of in the future as engineers begin to develop robotics with human-like capabilities.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Huge Leap Forward Toward a Cure for HIV

A photo of a red ribbon wrapped around the dictionary definition of HIV/AIDS.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Upwards of 36 million people around the world have HIV, and while we have come quite a long way in our understanding of the virus, we’ve still only managed to subdue it rather than cure it. Many patients with HIV take antiretroviral treatments, which prevent the virus from duplicating. However, it doesn’t completely get rid of it.

People on these treatments have to stay on them permanently, otherwise the virus will quickly rebound and spread. But recent research might be able to change that.

SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus, is a closely related virus that infects a variety of other primates. It’s seen as the sort of “ancestor” of HIV. It is so similar to HIV, in fact, that it provides an excellent starting point for developing drugs and therapies to combat HIV. An international team of researchers have been looking into it for the past couple of years.

The team has developed a treatment that, when combined with antiretroviral treatments, all but eliminate SIV from rhesus macaques (monkeys) in a lab. Even though the virus was still technically present, it was at such low levels that it didn’t have an adverse effect on the monkeys’ immune systems. In other words, they were effectively cured.

After administering the treatment, the monkeys were tested again two years later. They remained healthy.

Naturally, the next step is to apply the same treatment to humans. This will likely take a very long time since there are a lot of loopholes to jump through when it comes to human testing. Phase-I clinical trials have already begun in the United States. If those go well, they’ll move on to larger groups of test subjects.

It’s entirely possible that, within the next decade or so, we could see an actual cure for HIV, something that we’ve been scrambling to find since the virus was first identified in 1981.

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Prehistoric Shark Identified

An image of a large shark trying to eat three seals.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Scientists have discovered a new species of large prehistoric shark, which they’re calling Megalolamna paradoxodon. It lived around the same time as the famous Megalodon, but wasn’t quite as big. While Megalodon could reach up to 33 feet, this species probably maxed out at about 13 feet or so, around the size of a great white shark. In fact, the great white and mako are both part of the same order, Lamniformes.

Megalolamna paradoxodon gets its name because of the similarity between its teeth and those of the modern salmon shark, or Lamna ditrpois, hence the first part of the name. The second part though, paradoxodon, is because scientists are confused about where exactly this species came from.

The teeth have been found on both coasts of the United States, in Peru, and in Japan, which indicates a pretty large range (and well south of the modern salmon shark). But it’s closest predecessor lived 45 million years earlier, so there’s a quite a large gap there that scientists would like to understand.

Furthermore, the period in which this shark lived, the Miocene, is known for offering up a lot of shark teeth, so it’s kind of weird that these teeth have only been discovered, or at least identified, recently. Of course, paleontology often goes that way; scientists identify a species from a handful of remains and then ask lots and lots of questions about that species, some of which are very hard to answer because the fossil record has a lot of blank spaces in it.

That’s because fossils are actually extremely rare. While it may seem like we find a lot of them, and we do, they only represent a very tiny number of individual animals, as most animals never fossilize when they die. Luckily, paleontologists have gotten very good at learning a ton of information from something as simple as a tooth.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Groundbreaking Mosquito Research Could Prevent Fatal Diseases

A close-up photo of a mosquito on human skin.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Researchers have found that mosquitoes in east Africa prefer to bite cattle rather than humans. This is good news, since those mosquitoes have a lower chance of transmitting malaria to humans. The latest research shows that there may be a genetic factor at play when it comes to mosquito preferences for hosts.

The mosquitoes that prefer cattle seem to have a genetic disposition toward cattle that marks them as different than those that prey on humans. They’re the same species, the most widespread in Africa, but they have a genetic pre-disposition that might prove useful to us. The idea of genetically engineering mosquitoes to avoid human hosts is something that actually seems like it could be possible.

Researchers have narrowed the preference down to a specific rearrangement of chromosomes, and now they need to scale the research up to look at larger areas and large populations of mosquitoes to see if these findings hold true. But if they do, there’s a lot of potential to do a lot of good in the world.

Mosquitoes in the United States are mostly just annoying, but throughout the world they act as vectors for a number of diseases and viruses including Zika, malaria, and the West Nile. If scientists can genetically engineer mosquitoes to prefer animal hosts, that could significantly cut down on the spread of those diseases. What’s more, the mosquitoes that bite cattle not only aren’t biting humans, but have a lower chance of carrying the malaria parasite in the first place. Of course, other diseases might not follow these same rules, but even if we could just cut down on malaria, that would be a huge victory.

The latest research, which was conducted by the University of California Davis, provides a groundbreaking new theory as to how to combat pandemics.

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Than 2 Million Americans Told to Evacuate as Hurricane Approaches

A photo of a hurricane shown from above.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Hurricane Matthew is expected to be a category 4 storm by the time it hits the U.S. Winds are projected to reach 140 mph and gusts are expected to get up to 165 mph. The tempest has already killed at least 113 people in the Caribbean islands, causing some analysts to speculate it could be the most expensive storm in U.S. history.

Hurricane Matthew is forecast to hit Florida late Thursday night or early Friday morning. While it’s possible that the storm could bypass the U.S. entirely, that’s not to say that residents shouldn’t err on the side of caution.

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott pleaded with residents to take the warnings seriously.

“This is serious. … If you need to evacuate and you haven’t, evacuate. This storm will kill you. Time is running out. We don’t have that much time left.”

But Florida residents aren’t the only people who should take heed. Those living in the coastal regions of Georgia and South Carolina have also been advised to evacuate. Daytona Beach, Florida Mayor Derrick Henry also urged residents to take the warnings seriously.

“Worry about your possessions later. Take care of your life now. You only have one life,” he said.

National Guard units have already been deployed to the coastal regions in order to help prepare for the natural disaster. Highways and roads leading away from the coast are already packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Experts are advising residents to keep cash on hand (in case there is a power outage and card-reader machines don’t work) and to stock up on plenty of food and water.

For those who want to help with disaster relief efforts, there are several nonprofit charities that will be providing aid in the wake of the storm. The following organizations have been carefully vetted and approved by Charity Navigator:

All Hands Volunteers
Catholic Medical Mission Board
Direct Relief
Global Giving
Haitian Health Foundation
Children of the Nations

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment