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The Chance To Dance Again

by Michael Keller

We highlighted the TED talk of Hugh Herr a couple of weeks ago. But his work is too important and beautiful to leave to just one post.

The MIT associate professor of media arts and sciences is making prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons that restore function in those who have lost legs from injury or disease. This set of gifs focuses on his team’s BiOM powered ankle and foot prosthesis

"Bionics is not only about making people stronger and faster," he said during the talk. "Our expression, our humanity can be embedded into electromechanics."

To prove his point, Herr and fellow researchers studied dance movement to replace the lower leg that professional dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost after last year’s Boston marathon bombing. He concluded his talk by bringing Haslet-Davis on the stage to perform a bionic rumba. 

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Poseidon’s Armor

MIT materials scientists have announced that an oyster’s shell could inspire a new type of lightweight armor that stops multiple bullet strikes and is clear enough to read through. 

Studying an edible bivalve called the windowpane oyster, researchers uncovered the shell’s amazing ability to dissipate energy and localize damage from a penetrating blow. Read more below.

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Cutting-Edge Science Helping Art Conservation

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by Michael Keller

New York City’s streets were drained of color by a recent cold and overcast March day. Their pallor—and that of the cars, trucks and people occupying them—mimicked that depicted by Childe Hassam in his Winter in Union Square, an oil painting on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Things couldn’t be more different in a lab down the street from the Met on Manhattan’s posh Upper East Side. Art conservation graduate students in chemist Hannelore Roemich’s instrumental analysis class were seeing in full color.

The topic for the day: how to make, measure and change color. The students were learning how wavelengths of reflected light dictate what we see in paints and other materials. But this wasn’t just a rehashing of a simple physics lesson; the class will arm another crop of future conservators with tools to analyze, stabilize, restore and preserve the world’s cultural history. 

“You really need to understand chromophores and auxochromes,” she tells them, referring to the constituents of molecules from which color emerges, “because they make colors colorful. Give a pigment a bit of auxochrome and you get the best color possible. These methods are the ways that you make dyes.”

Roemich is a professor of conservation science at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, the oldest graduate art conservation program in the U.S. She works and teaches in a discipline swelling with interest and tools to protect cultural heritage. 

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Txch This Week: Big Bang Discoveries And Startups In Space

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by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we looked at groundbreaking discoveries and innovations changing the world and what we understand of it. First, researchers documented the existence of gravitational waves. These waves, first theorized by Albert Einstein, show that the universe expanded at an exponential rate and provides direct evidence of the phenomenon know as inflation immediately after the Big Bang.

Next, we looked at a social enterprise helping Myanmar’s farmers by designing and manufacturing helpful tools. Proximity Designs then uses robots to test their prototypes.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Labs use a virtual reality CAVE that lets them interact with complex environments in 3-D, while engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder have designed a toilet system that uses sunlight and heat to turn sewage into a useful material for agriculture.

British scientists revived moss that has been frozen for as long as 1,700 years. The find is evidence that organisms can survive in suspended animation for extremely long periods of time.

Italian researchers have developed a radar powered by laser light. The significantly more precise technology has a wider bandwidth than current radars and can transmit much more information.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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