FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Remote-Controlled Pigeons

Chinese scientists have reportedly been able to control a pigeon's flight remotely through electrodes that stimulated different parts of the bird's brain. Scientists at the Robot Engineering Technology Research Center at Shandong University were able to send the pigeon commands to fly left, right, up and down. It is reportedly the first such successful experiment in the world, and could have important implications for neurology and even remote mind control.

Source: MSNBC

Sutures from Bacteria

Sounds icky, but it's true -- the FDA has approved a polymer suture made from modified bacteria using recombinant DNA technology.

The material in Tepha Medical Devices' TephaFLEX Absorbable Suture breaks down in the body as a deep wound or surgical incision heals, improving the healing process and preventing infection. Recombinant DNA allows the manufacture of materials from organisms that would be difficult if not impossible to produce otherwise.

Lights out for incandescent lights?

The incandescent electric light was one of the paradigm-shifting inventions of the last 125 years, transforming the way people live, work and play. But the era of the incandescent light bulb may be drawing to a close.

Though more expensive up front, compact flourescent light bulbs are far more efficient -- and environmentally friendly -- than incandescent bulbs, using less electricity and lasting longer while providing the same amount of light. For that reason, local and state governments have been encouraging the adoption of compact flourescent bulbs, largely through subsidizing their cost. However, Australia is moving toward banning incandescent bulbs altogether by 2010. By enforcing minimum energy performance standards, selling incandescent bulbs would effectively be illegal. In the US, California is considering a similar measure that would outlaw sales of incandescent lights by 2012. The measure is significant because, as the nation's most populous state, California is a trendsetter in environmental and health legislation. Indeed, state governments in Connecticut and New Jersey (ironically, where Edison developed his light) are considering similar bans on incandescent lights.

The private sector is also jumping on the compact flourescent bandwagon. Retailers plan to increase shares of the bulbs substantially, and light bulb manufacturer Philips will stop manufacturing incandescent bulbs by 2016.

By switching to compact flourescent bulbs on a national level, Australia could cut its greenhouse gas emissions by four tons per year.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kodak Patents Edible RFID Tag

A tasty treat it's not, but Kodak has developed and patented an ingestible RFID tag that could be used by healthcare professionals to explore a patient's digestive system, or monitor food and medicine intake.

The tags are designed to disintegrate in the body, allowing them to be used in other parts of the body for diagnostic purposes. For patients with artificial joints, an RFID tag could degenerate with the joint, providing an early warning system for a joint that might be failing.

Source: NewScientist.com

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Orbiting Junkyard Poses Danger to Space Flight

Fifty years ago, not a single man-made object orbited the earth. Now, approximately 10,000 pieces of "space junk" remain in orbit -- everything from spent rockets to dead satellites to a camera. With more nations getting into space for business and military purposes, the orbiting junk pile will grow exponentially -- especially as nations test antisatellite weapons and explode satellites the way that China did recently.

Scientists worry that the number of junk objects could grow into the billions, threatening active satellites and spacecraft and making space flight increasingly dangerous. They also worry that collisions could create even more space "shrapnel" that simply adds to the risk. The ultimate fear is that, to remain safe, spacecraft will need so much protective shielding as to make them cost-prohibitive.

Source: New York Times