February 13, 2014

Haptic Feedback Clues From Juggling – On Science

How is juggling helping in the development of prosthetics?

What new constellation can be found in the sky?

The downside of technology fads.

And did you get your flu vaccine? Coming up today.. On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Scientists are juggling different data to learn more about how humans and animals move. A researcher at Johns Hopkins University brought his love of juggling into the lab. An amateur juggler himself, he had participants juggle paddles attached to a computer to learn how the sense of touch contributes to rhythmic movements such as running. The repetitive movement of juggling is similar to walking or running but simpler to observe in a lab setting. Through his juggling experiments, he found that participants made half as many errors when they were given a touch sensation or haptic feedback, a vibration on the paddle, than when they relied on visual stimulation alone. The research concluded that vision provides excellent spatial and positioning information and haptic feedback provides important timing information. This information could be helpful in treating patients of neurological disorders or in creating better prosthetics. Maybe I need some haptic feedback.

There’s a new constellation the sky, but not of stars. NASA deployed the largest ever constellation of cube satellites recently. Called Flock 1 satellites, the fleet launched from the International Space Station. Each individual unit is called a “Dove.” They will work autonomously taking pictures of various locations from a much lower orbit than typical satellites. They will store the images and then transmit them back to Earth to the manufacturing company, Planet Labs, where the images will be uploaded and accessible to anyone who wishes to use the data. NASA explained this data could help in times of disaster to aid in relief or to supplement commercial industries like realty and construction. The idea is to image everywhere all the time. Does that mean we’re on camera now? Say cheese!

Remember when the two-way messenger was cool and then it just wasn’t anymore? A new study from Penn State looked at the cool factor of technological gadgets and how their popularity can fade quickly…and I must say I have to agree. When an edgy new tech device comes out, it gains “coolness” among a subculture that stays a step ahead of the mainstream crowd a.k.a. the “cool kids.” When it becomes mainstream, it’s good for sales for the company but it becomes less cool because everyone has it. It’s like a wave. So the conundrum for tech companies is how to stay cool. Researchers said to succeed, companies must change with the times to remain being seen as cool. Stay cool cats…okay that wasn’t cool.

Ants are known for their uncanny strength despite their small size. But how is such strength possible? Researchers at Ohio State University revealed that an ant’s strength may come from its tiny neck joint. They wanted to see how the mechanics of the ant could be applied to robotic technology so robots can carry heavier payloads in space and on Earth. In their study they were shocked to find that the ant is even stronger than previously thought, able to withstand pressures up to 5,000 times its weight. They think it’s the graded and gradual transition between the hard head and the soft-tissue neck that provides enhanced performance. I’ll spare you the details on how exactly they came to this conclusion, but this is what one researcher had to say, “If you want to understand something you take it apart, that might sound kind of cruel, but we did anesthetize them first.”

Did you catch the flu and want to know who to blame? Healthy young men and women. Duke University reports that out of the first 55 patients hospitalized at its University Hospital this flu season, twenty-two required intensive care and only two of those had received the flu vaccine. Those hospitalized were, on average, 28.5 year old healthy young men and women. Out of the 33 who didn’t require ICU, only 11 had received vaccines. And the 2009, H1N1 strain seemed to be the most common culprit in ICU patients. So, doctors basically said, “Come on folks a $30 would save a lot of dough in costly hospitalizations and a whole lot of hassle.”

And that’s the latest On Science. Stay healthy, On Scientists!

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