June 27, 2013
Chimpanzees To Be Retired From Medical Research – The Daily Orbit
Who’s giving chimps special treatment?
Why do we throw faster than chimps?
A robot inspired by well, a cousin of a chimp.
Just a whole lot of chimping around on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
What does being closely related to humans get ya? Well for a chimp it’s a ticket out of the big house. NIH has announced it plans to majorly reduce the number of chimpanzees it uses in biomedical research saying that our hairy cousins “deserve special respect” due to their status as the closest human relative in the animal kingdom. The agency plans to retire about 310 chimps over the next few years. Another 50 will still be held just in case they are needed for future work. New methods and technology have made research use of the animals less necessary and the NIH says that releasing them is simply “the right thing to do.” Isn’t that nepotism?
Chimps may be our next of kin, but we can still throw a ball much faster than them! Take that chimp! So now if you throw a ball really, really fast it’s like hitting the lotto in the major leagues, but back in the day that million-dollar arm was for mere survival. Researchers say our ability to throw a fastball stems from our instinct to hunt and kill. Despite their strength, chimps can throw only 20 mph at the fastest, 1/3 the speed as the average 12 year old. Researchers say that we developed the tendons and ligaments to throw 2 million years ago to enable our ancestors to effectively and safely kill big game with more calories so we could grow larger brains and bodies. Well, chimps didn’t do that. So that’s why we can throw a fastball and a chimp cannot. And probably why most of our brains are larger. Notice I said “most.”
And with our cousin primates being so vital to past research, what better way to honor them than by what we seem do really well—make a primate inspired robot. Researchers in Germany have developed a robotic gorilla called “iStruct.” Sensors on its feet make for more natural and in-sync movements than seen in other bots. Instead of a solid steel bar as a spine, as seen in most robotic animals, iStruct has a spine that is capable of movement. “iStruct” walks with a heel-toe step close to a human gait. The bot’s heel sensors keep it balanced and upright. Why make iStruct? Researchers said their goal is to “improve locomotion and mobility characteristics” of future bots and that parts of this technology could one day wind up moving robots along in outer space.
Well, robots have already made their way into space, although they may not be as mobile as iStruct. KIROBO, a pint-sized Japanese robot, will be making its way to the ISS this summer. This humanoid will accompany Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata in August. Standing 13-inches tall, the robot speaks Japanese of course and records its conversations with Wakata and acts as sort of a control room messenger for the astronaut. KIROBO’s twin, MIRATA, will stay on Earth to monitor any problem’s its brother may have in space. The robots’ creator hopes to one day bring a KIROBO to a pocket near you, creating miniature pocket-sized robots that act like smartphones. I’ll take one!
I didn’t get enough sleep last night and that makes me anxious! Don’t look at me like “yeah right.” It’s scientifically proven. A new study shows that people who are anxious by nature suffer the greatest harm from sleep deprivation. Researchers found that sleep deprivation amplifies anxiety associated with anticipation by igniting the brain’s amygdala and insular cortex, which are associated with emotional processing. Researchers say that sleep therapy could be very useful in treating such disorders. So catch your ZZZZ’s Orbiters! I know I plan to!
And that’s it for the Daily Orbit.