Innovation Friday

Tonight we have a special treat – the final entrant for Guest Post Week comes to us from my friend Get Yourself Connected (GYSC).  He is a scientist by day (molecular biology, gangsta) and writes the quirky blog Economic Disconnect by night.  I should mention that we both share an obsession with robots.  GYSC has agreed to talk about some of the more fascinating sciencey things he’s come across recently, enjoy! – JB

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Since I starting blogging back in 2007, I have always reserved the Friday Night spot for lighter topics as well as just plain fun stuff.  Since January I have been actively trading my own account and after a week of watching the tickers I think a weekend kick off type of post can be helpful in the unwind process.  I usually include all kinds of things, but for this Friday at TRB I think a focus on innovation would be a good way to start off the weekend.

Innovation can take many forms from low tech all the way to space-alien like technology beyond this author’s grasp.  The following are some ideas to roll around in reader heads.

Viagra and Paying Attention to Details

Drug maker Pfizer spent millions of dollars developing the drug Sildenafil for the treatment of hypertension (high blood pressure). After the initial clinical trials showed limited effects, the drug was shelved. A clinical data associate pouring over the results noticed a bulge in male test subjects reporting lasting erections as a side effect of taking the drug. The rest is history as Viagra went on to be the biggest erectile dysfunction breakthrough ever. The ultimate low tech, paying attention to small details paid off well.

What’s Old Can Be New Again

Obsidian has been used as a cutting tool since man started using things to get work done, you know, before Apple products came out. Because obsidian is technically glass, an edge on the material can be as fine as one molecule thick! Not only is obsidian cheap, but it seems the ultra fine edges actually have advantages in wound healing in a surgical procedure. You can scan an abstract of a relevant paper at this link.

Luke Skywalker Hand Arrives

I have this fear, rational in my mind, that robots are going to take over the world. In any case, robotics are really coming on strong in the past few years. Everyone remembers the scene in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Luke Skywalker has his robotic hand attached at the end. Science fiction? Not anymore.

The Shadow Robot Company has been able to take the next leap forward in robotics with their creation, The Shadow Hand:

Creepy. At some point we will have to come to terms with The Uncanny Valley:

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics and 3D computer animation, which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

Gold, DNA, Viral Particles and Optical Computing

Full disclosure; I am a molecular biologist and this sort of thing gets me excited.

What kind of thing can get gold bugs, computer geeks, and biologists all on the same party boat? How about an optical computer built using a mixed bag of items? A easy to read write up can be found at Io9:

A mix of all of these components – DNA, capsids, and gold spheres – self-assembles into a lattice. The structure of that lattice can, with certain materials, be made into a photonic crystal. No one would have to build a crystal to use in optical computing, mixing together the right ingredients could make it build itself.

You see, the thing will build itself! This is how it starts. If you want a more in depth look into this, check out this paper:

DNA-controlled assembly of a NaTl lattice structure from gold nanoparticles and protein nanoparticles

There are a few things to get your weekend started. Have a good 4th of July weekend.

Visit Economic Disconnect here.

 

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