OUR INSPIRATION Category

  • Wish This Hoverboard Wasn’t Fake

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    On March 5, 2014 • By

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    In 1989 the director of Back to the Future II went on TV and declared that hoverboards were real. “They’ve been around for years, it’s just that parents’ groups have not let the toy manufacturers make them,” Robert Zemeckis insisted. “But we got our hands on some and we put them in the movie.”

    This, of course, was bullshit — much like video of the new HUVrTech brand hoverboard you may have seen floating around the internet today. It’s not clear what the people behind this celebrity-saturated video are actually promoting. But it certainly isn’t an actual, functioning hoverboard.

    The evidence for this being a viral marketing stunt is pretty substantial, even if you ignore the impossibly difficult physics behind the contraption.

    One of the supposed MIT-affiliated scientists pictured on the website is actually an actor named Nelson Cheng. Andy Baio uncovered his resume and you can watch Cheng’s reelhere.

    Also, HuvrTech.com was registered as a domain on November 25, 2013 — less than four months ago. If this were a company that had actually developed mind-blowing, world-shaking technology, you’d think they’d plan a little further than the average advertising budget cycle.

    So why are Mark Cuban, Christopher Lloyd, Tony Hawk, Billy Zane, Moby, Terrell Owens, and folks from the band Best Coast all shilling for this fake project? Only time will tell.

    I’ve reached out to the contact email listed on their website and will keep you posted if I hear anything. In the meantime, we welcome your guesses for what they’re actually promoting. If you were involved in this stunt and want to share photos or stories from the set, please email me: novak@gizmodo.com.

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    [PaleOFuture – Matt Novak]

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  • PIPE DREAMS

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    On March 5, 2014 • By

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    Since 2006, Andrew Emond has been exploring the underground systems of Montreal and Toronto, Canada. His interests lie in exploring urban areas less frequented by humans, and shedding light on their history, their value and their potential to spark our imagination. -ANDREW EMOND

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    All photos courtesy Andrew Emond.

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  • Surgeons Save Child’s Life by 3-D Printing a New Heart

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    On March 3, 2014 • By

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    The breakthrough: Heart surgery is an extremely difficult procedure. Even more so when the tiny anatomy of a small child is involved. When 14-month-old Roland Lian Cung Bawi’s heart was failing him, his surgeon Erle Austin knew that he had to prepare meticulously for an intricate operation. Initially he consulted other surgeons, but this yielded conflicting advice. So Austin turned to 3-D printing for help.

    Using the facilities at the University of Louisville’s engineering school, Austin and his medical team produced a three-dimensional model of little Roland’s heart. Pediatric operations are difficult because the interior structures of a child’s organs are small and hard to see clearly. This model allowed the surgical team to come up with a precise plan to limit the amount of exploratory incisions, reduce operating time and prevent the need for follow-up operations.

    The operation at Kosair Children’s Hospital was declared a success, and Roland is now looking forward to a normal life expectancy. “Once I had a model, I knew exactly what I needed to do and how I could do it,” Austin told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “It was a tremendous benefit.”

    How does it work? To create the physical model, Austin asked Roland’s radiologist to generate a computerized version of the boy’s heart. This involved taking thousands of cross-sections of hospital X-rays and assembling them into a digital three-dimensional map.

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    Image: The Courier-Journal

    Next, this digitized model of the heart was used as an instructional template to feed to the engineering department’s MakerBot Replicator 2X, a popular, commercially available 3-D printer model costing only $2,500. Reading a digital template, the printer produces a thin layer of plastic, which is then built upon sequentially with other thin layer to form the three-dimensional model. The 3-D printer assembles around 250 layers of plastic per inch of thickness. The model of Roland’s heart was built two times actual size for clarity, and took around 20 hours to print, costing $600 in materials.

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    Image: The Courier-Journal

    Although hobbyists normally use a hard plastic like ABS with their MakerBot Replicators, the University of Louisville’s Rapid Prototyping Center chose a flexible polymer known as “Ninja Flex.” This material is also normally used in a type of dexterous, but durable glove. This made the model’s material more similar in consistency to heart muscle, a crucial detail for planning surgical incisions.

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    Image: The Courier-Journal

    The heart was built in three separate pieces so that it could be taken apart to see the interior.  “Some people think when you do heart surgery, you go in and can see everything. Well, to see everything, you have to slice through vital structures,” said Austin. “Sometimes the surgeon has to guess at what’s the best operation.” Austin said the model made it clear that he could create a tunneled pathway between the aortic valve and a ventricle, avoiding more cuts and multiple surgeries.

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    Image: The Courier-Journal

    Is this the future of medicine? 3-D printing has hobbyists and Etsy DIY creatives excited everywhere because of its ability to fabricate precise three dimensional objects relatively quickly and cheaply. The very qualities that make the technology appealing to amateurs are poised to make it a revolutionary technique for use in medicine.

    Already, there have been extraordinary medical stories coming from the innovative use of 3-D printing such as a father creating a new prosthetic hand for his son for only $5 when the cost for the official product was prohibitive. Using a similar logic to Roland’s heart operation, recently surgeons at Stony Brook Medicine used 3-D printing to construct before-and-after models of the skull of a 6-month-old infant so doctors could accurately predict how the results of a cranial operation would look.

    These uses in prosthetics and for surgical planning are extremely exciting, and the next evolution of the technology could change the face of medicine forever — 3-D printing real human tissue. While there are many kinks to still iron out — unlike plastic, cells are extremely delicate so they easily die out before printing can be completed — experts are optimistic that “bio-printing” could become a reality as early as this year.

    3-D printing is a powerful gateway technology because of its flexibility. With enough imagination, it is set to transform our lives for the better in more ways than we can currently dare dream of.

    [PolicyMic –  Lucky Tran]

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  • Revolutionary membrane keeps heart beating forever

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    On March 3, 2014 • By

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    You’re looking at a rabbit’s heart beating outside the animal that once hosted it. It’s alive, pumping blood on its own thanks to a revolutionary electronic membrane that may save your life by keeping your heart beating at a perfect rate.

    The thin, circuit-lined stretchable membrane has been developed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis and may arrive to human hearts in 10 to 15 years.

    They custom made it to precisely fit the shape of the rabbit’s heart: First, while the rabbit was still alive, they scanned it and created a 3D model using computer aided tomography. They manufactured the model in a 3D printer, which they used as a mold to create the membrane. After that they took the heart out, applied the membrane, and kept it beating at a perfect pace.

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    But this device is not just a custom-made pacemaker. According to University of Illinois’ materials researcher John Rorgers, co-leader of the team who has developed this device, it’s like an artificial pericardium, the natural membrane that covers the heart:

    But this artificial pericardium is instrumented with high quality, man-made devices that can sense and interact with the heart in different ways that are relevant to clinical cardiology.

    Washington University’s biomedical engineer Igor Efimov says that it is a huge advancement. The circuits you’re seeing are a combination of sensors that constantly track the tissues’ behavior and electrodes that precisely regulate the heart muscles movement:

    When it senses such a catastrophic event as a heart attack or arrhythmia, it can also apply a high definition therapy. So it can apply stimuli, electrical stimuli, from different locations on the device in an optimal fashion to stop this arrhythmia and prevent sudden cardiac death.

    [Gizmodo – Jesus Diaz]

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  • Your Next Artisanal Salami Could Be Part Kanye

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    On March 2, 2014 • By

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    The line between celebrity worship and cannibalism thinned ever so slightly this week. Meet BiteLabs.org, a website purportedly dedicated to growing artisanal meat from celebrity tissue samples. Because we could all use a little more Vitamin Bieber.

     Set up more like an art project than a legitimate (and presumably delicious) commercial enterprise, the site seems to be poking fun at the recent trend of alternative food options (see Soylent) more than anything else. But they are, presumably, 100 percent serious. In describing the process, Bite Labs invites you to “Imagine meat like never before.”
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    The most interesting part of all this is the fact that, at least scientifically speaking, it is an entirely feasible feat to pull off. Talking to Motherboard, Kevin from BiteLabs attempted to assure them of BiteLabs’ sincerity:

    The product is indeed salami. Each salami will have roughly 30% celebrity meat and 40% lab-grown animal meats (we’re currently looking into ostrich and venison but it pork and beef are more popular in our early research). The rest will consist of fats and spices. This break-down comes from consultation with expert food designers and chefs.

    Of course, everything depends on courting buyers along with willing celebrities since the team is “in startup mode at the moment.” So if this is a prank/PR stunt, at least they’re doing a damn good job of keeping to the script.

    Right now, the group has highlighted James Franco, Jennifer Lawrence, Kanye West, and Ellen Degeneres as their ideal celeb salami lineup, even going so far as to give each prospective person-sausage a taste overview.

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    Of course, human-based food products are nothing new. We’ve already seen cheese born of armpit sweat and beer from vaginal yeast (a classic combination). This, however, takes things to a whole other level. It’s not just food created with help from the human body, it’s turning the human body into actual food. Or at least close enough to really make you think.

    Only time will tell what will become of BiteLabs—be it an impressive PR stunt (probably) or a culinary revolution (less likely but fingers crossed). But until then, BiteLabs encourages you to tweet at any celebrities you’d like to consume in the form of fine cured meats. There can be no higher compliment. [BiteLabs via Motherboard via Gizmodo]

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