the pixels are leaking again

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Festo has technically mastered the highly complex flight characteristics of the dragonfly. Just like its model in nature, this ultralight flying object can fly in all directions, hover in mid-air and glide without beating its wings.

In addition to control of the shared flapping frequency and twisting of the individual wings, each of the four wings also features an amplitude controller. The tilt of the wings determines the direction of thrust. Amplitude control allows the intensity of the thrust to be regulated. When combined, the remote-controlled dragonfly can assume almost any position in space.

This unique way of flying is made possible by the lightweight construction and the integration of functions: components such as sensors, actuators and mechanical components as well as open- and closed-loop control systems are installed in a very tight space and adapted to one another.

With the remote-controlled dragonfly, Festo demonstrates wireless real-time communication, a continuous exchange of information, as well as the ability to combine different sensor evaluations and identify complex events and critical states.

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Santeria Snail Mucus Invades Florida

Experts gathered for a Giant African Land Snail Science Symposium to discuss Florida's latest panic-inducing invasive species.

The land snail, Achatina fulica, is one of the most destructive invasive species in a state home to dozens of destructive invasive species: it's massive, up to 10 inches long, eats just about any plant product it can find, devours stucco on houses, sometimes eats car tires, and can carry a parasite that's dangerous to humans.

It's difficult for the researchers to get across how awful these snails are; people seem to kind of like them, with their big eyes waving around on their eye-stalks. But they're significantly more damaging to the natural ecosystem than, say, the Burmese python, which also took hold in the swamps and cypress forests of South Florida. The snails breed wildly, producing 1,200 eggs per year, and have few natural enemies in Florida.

The scientists are attempting to figure out how the snails, native to East Africa, arrived in Florida. A previous infestation came from a boy who brought three of them in his pocket from Hawaii. His grandmother released them into her garden, where, seven years later, those three snails had turned into 17,000 snails.

One theory traces the snails back to one Charles L. Stewart, an African immigrant who was arrested for importing the snails back in 2010. He says he is a practitioner of Orisha, a sort of predecessor to the more familiar Santería, and that the snails are traditionally part of Orisha rituals. A witness said that Stewart would "hold [the snail] over the devotee, then cuts the [snail] and pours the raw fluid directly from the still live [snail] into the mouth of the devotee." This did not seem to have its intended effect of curing medical ills; devotees instead became violently ill as a result of drinking the snail mucus. Stewart claimed this was very traditional, though experts in East African religion claim to have never seen the snails used in this way before.

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Today in decellularization news: good news for rats.

Bioengineered Rat Kidney

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital have built a functional engineered rat kidney, washed clean of its former cells and re-seeded with fresh ones, and transplanted it into a live rat. The engineered kidney can produce urine and expel it through a ureter, and it didn't produce any blood clots.

The fact that it actually worked -- it produced urine -- is a major breakthrough for tissue engineering, which faces probably its greatest challenge with the all-important kidney. The team also washed out a human and a pig kidney, although those weren't transplanted.

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