Apr 29, 2014

Scientists Have Reconnected Severed Nerves with Liquid Metal

To test the alloy, the engineers applied an electric pulse to nerves in a frog leg so that the calf muscle would contract. They then severed the sciatic nerve and connected the two ends with either the liquid metal alloy or Ringer's solution, a mix of electrolytes that mimic body fluids. Sure enough, the Ringer's solution only carried the charge so far, while the liquid metal alloy transmitted the electrical signals about as well as the nerve before it had been severed. This means it could be used to protect muscles and nerves after an injury, and since it's metal, it can be easily removed with the help of an x-ray.

his is obviously the early stages of what could be an exciting new treatment for nerve injuries. It's also, arguably, the first step towards truly wired creature. Of course, we're probably closer to building a cyborg than you might think. More here.

A Waffle Made from ice Cream Means you get to eat Dessert for Breakfast

Dominique Ansel, the Willy Wonka of desserts and creator of the Cronut, has announced his latest imagination busting, tastebud oozing creation: The Waffogato. It takes the delicious affogato, which is basically ice cream topped with espresso, but remixes it by making the ice cream a waffle made from ice cream and mixed with Belgium waffle bits, tapioca balls and a bit of salt.

As you pour the espresso over the ice cream waffle, tapioca balls are released and you get a tasty treat that's drink and dessert and chewthing and breakfast in one. More here.

Apr 22, 2014

Your Internet Connection Is Almost Certainly Slower Than Advertised

Does your internet always seem too slow? Chances are, it is: a study by the Wall Street Journal suggests that the majority of ISPs deliver slower speeds than they advertise.

The research, put together using data from Ookla and its online speed test, shows that the majority of 800 cities studied suffer far slower internet speeds than providers claim. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with faster connections only achieve a percentage point or two above the claimed offering; in contrast, those that are slower can be up to 50 percent behind the claims.

The charts below, put together by the Journal, show how each ISP fairs in general across the U.S. and maps the 20 cities with median Internet speeds highest above and lowest below those that are advertised. It sure sucks to live in Idaho. More here.

Apr 21, 2014

The Game Boy Turns 25 Today

You've almost certainly played a game on your phone today. Some beautiful, high-res game with a rainbow of colors and fluid animation. You've got a lot of power in your pocket these days, but portable gaming owes a lot to the chunky old Game Boy, which is 25 years old today.

Released in Japan on April 21st 1989—it made its way to the States that August—the original Game Boy was the first in a long line of smaller, slimmer models one of which you've almost certainly owned. Still, that original was well worth its bulk and appetite for AA batteries for the magical ability to play Tetris on the school bus.

In light of today's cellular pocket monsters, the original Game Boy's specs are adorably meager.
  • An 8-bit, 4.19 MHz CPU
  • 8 kB of video RAM
  • 2-bit color pallette with four (magnificent) shades of gray
  • A wonderful 160 × 144 pixel LCD display
All that said, you're bound to have fonder memories of your very first Game Boy than any of the touchscreen beasts that followed in its wake. There's just something about a gray monolith with purple buttons that can really work its way into your heart.

Happy birthday, little dude.

A $15 USB Adapter That Fixes an Annoying iMac Design Flaw

The J-shaped Jimi extender makes one of the USB ports on the back of a latest-gen iMac easily accessible from the front as it just peeks out from under the computer. At $15 (officially available tomorrow) it's a simple solution to an annoying problem, and should help prevent the back of your lovely machine from getting all scratched up as you try to blindly plug in a cable or a flash drive. More here.

Apr 14, 2014

This Side Table Gobbles Up Your Clutter Like a Hungry Animal

We all have a surface somewhere in our home which is covered in clutter: phones, wallets, coins, keys, pens, cables, tickets and all other kinds of crap. But this neat console table gobbles it all up to keep it out of sight.

The Balka Console, brainchild of Gregoire de Lafforest, combines a beautiful oak top with a crazy yellow bag to hold your junk. Carved into that beautiful table top is a chute which allows it to swallow everything—from keys to credit cards—wholesale. A bit like a well-designed pelican turned into furniture. The designer explains:
"The oak top of the console, pierced with a drain, allows objects to slide in and disappear in a flexible bag drawer. Stored, the user can keep them there indefinitely or unearth them at any time."
It might not keep your life organized, but it will at least keep it free of clutter. The table was unveiled just this month, but pricing and availability are as yet unknown. More here.

Apr 13, 2014

44% Of All Twitter Accounts Have Yet To Send A Tweet

A new report from Twopcharts has found that 44% of the world's Twitter accounts have yet to send a Tweet. With approximately 974 million Twitter accounts, that's an awful lot of dead air. As the Wall Street Journal points out, however, this could mean that people, scammers, or bots simply signed up for an account and never came back—or that there are hordes of shy people out there waiting for the moment to strike. Do you have a Twitter account you have never used? If not, why not? More here.

Apr 8, 2014

This Clever Newspaper Ad Hides a 3D Kitchen in the Classifieds

As far as newspaper ads go, the classifieds are an especially boring section of tiny text and identically spaced columns. But it doesn't always have to be so! This ingenious little ad for Corona's kitchens by Colombia-based designer Felipe Salazar plays with the geometry of classified ads. An entire kitchen, complete with gas hood and stove, pops right out at you. You can't do that with Craigslist.

If there were more clever ads like this, I might actually read classified ads again. More here.

Apr 6, 2014

Tomorrow's Cancer-Blasting Wonder Drug Could Come From a Tobacco Plant

Australian researchers published findings this week on a newly-discovered plant compound that destroys cancer cells, but leaves healthy cells unharmed. They found it in possibly the last place you'd look for a cancer cure: the family of plants that brings us cancer's number-one culprit, tobacco.

The research team at Australia's La Trobe University discovered the cancer-blasting protein in the flowers of Nicotiana alata, a relative of cigarette tobacco that's usually planted as an ornamental (though it's sometimes smoked in hookah pipes). A protein called NaD1 helps the plant fight off fungi and bacteria—and, it turns out, that same protein is like a sniper for cancerous cells.

On the cellular level, NaD1 works by plunging sharp pincers into fat molecules present in the outer membranes of cancerous cells. This action rips the cells open, spilling their guts and destroying them before they can spread their cancerous mutations to other cells.

"There is some irony in the fact that a powerful defense mechanism against cancer is found in the flower of a species of ornamental tobacco plant, but this is a welcome discovery, whatever the origin," said Dr. Mark Hulett, lead investigator in the study.

The most promising aspect of NaD1 is how it specifically targets cancerous cells. Many of the most vicious, lifestyle-limiting side effects of current chemotherapy stems from the fact that the drugs tend to kill healthy cells as well as cancerous cells.

Now that the researchers have an idea how the mechanism works, they're laboring to see how it can be put to use. Preclinical trials are underway at a Melbourne biotech company, though Dr. Hulett predicts it will take a decade before the substance finds its way to hospitals.

In the meantime, stay away from those tobacco products. The good cousin in the family may work out to be very good, but the bad cousin is still undeniably bad. More here.

Apr 3, 2014

Scientists Cured Paralysis in Mice with Stem Cells and Lasers

This is wild. Chasing the elusive dream of curing paralysis, a team of scientists used stem cells and optogenetics to circumvent the central motor system of lab mice whose nerves had been cut. This enabled them to blast individual motor neurons with a laser, triggering movement in the legs of the mice.
Okay, so it's a little bit complicated, if you're not familiar with how optogenetics work (and honestly, why would you be?). The cutting-edge technique enables neuroscientists to modify specific neurons so that they're light sensitive. Shining light on the neuron then makes it fire, telling the brain to move a muscle or stop feeling pain.

In the case of the paralyzed mice, researchers modified the animals' stem cells so they'd produce a light-sensitive protein. The stem cells were then programmed to turn into motor neurons and engrafted onto the sciatic nerves of the mice. All the reserachers had to do then was shine a light on the light sensitive motor neurons and—boom—the mice weren't paralyzed any more. To be specific, the neurons fired and caused the once-paralyzed leg muscles to move. "We were surprised at how well this worked," says Linda Greensmith of University College London who led the team.

There's obviously a lot of work to be done before we start implanting stem cells and lasers into human legs, but this is an encouraging start. At the very least, it will help researchers better understand crippling neurological conditions like epilepsy. It's also a perfect entry in the annals of mad science. More here.

Apr 2, 2014

The Windows Start Menu Is Coming Back

Miss the Start Menu? Well it is coming back. Yes it still has live tiles, but it is back in a way you can recognize, and it roll out to users as an update. Oh and those universal apps Microsoft is going to start peddling? They'll be available in windows.