Tagged: Discovery News

Science Tuesday: FINDER

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer

When there's this much damage, it's good to have an app on your hands to conquer the rubble./PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

When there’s this much damage, it’s good to have an app on your hands to conquer the rubble./PHOTO VIA Wikimedia Commons

When you feel like you’re completely lost and trapped under all your problems, there’s an app for that (and also a psychologist). But what happens if you’re actually in a crisis with say, a natural disaster, a collapsed building or a storm? One moment you’re consumed by all the work you have to do, and the next, you’re being consumed by a tornado (which isn’t likely, especially in Boston), but let’s just pretend. There is now a new tool to get you out of the gutter.

This new tool, created by U.S. space agency experts who collaborated with the Department of Homeland Security, created a portable radar device that can actually detect live victims who are as far down as 30 feet under collapsed material. So, for the zombie fans out there, this device would be an essential one during a zombie apocalypse.

But in all seriousness, the technology that detect objects in space from a distance inspired the FINDER app, which is short for Finding Individuals Disaster and Emergency Response. It’s some pretty intense stuff, but the possibilities of using this machine during dire circumstances is unbelievable and, well, dare I say it, a life saver.

“The ultimate goal of FINDER is to help emergency responders efficiently rescue victims of disasters,” said John Price, the program manager for the First Responders Group in Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate in an interview with Discovery News.

So how does it work? Well, it’s much more complex than the average metal detector. And just to be clear, I’m not ragging on metal detectors—it’s just one way I can find change for laundry, duh. FINDER however uses advanced algorithms to identify the tiny signals that are given off by a moving chest.

NASA’s Deep Space Network uses the same technique that created FINDER to track spacecrafts that orbit Saturn. Through this method, they can detect the victim’s heartbeat and breathing from a distance through signal processing.

If you think about how much impact this device could have been in situations like the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans or the September 11 tragedy, many lives could have been saved, but looking to the future, FINDER can identify if there is a surviving victim and is a tool for rescue workers. Looks like those adorable rescue pooches will soon be out of a job because where they falter, FINDER picks up the slack. It can detect a survivor in open spaces for up to 100 feet and under solid concrete, it can locate a living survivor up to 20 feet.

In preparation for the unknowns of tomorrow, devices like FINDER is not only heaven sent, but insanely beneficial. You never know what’ll happen tomorrow, so always eat like it’s the Last Supper, live like you have 9 lives and if you get stuck in a rut, just know that technology is moving as fast as you are and devices, like FINDER, are here to the rescue.


Science Tuesday: A soundtrack to your life

By Christina Janansky

Neurowear's new headphones determine what songs to play based on your emotions, making soundtracks to your life a very real possibility/ PHOTO VIA http://static.ddmcdn.com

Neurowear’s new headphones determine what songs to play based on your emotions, making soundtracks to your life a very real possibility./ PHOTO VIA static.ddmcdn.com

Before we all had iPods and iPhones, we had MP3 players, Walkmans and CD players.

Music has definitely become an integral part to everyone’s everyday life and we often use it to convey our emotions and life events.

We use songs, artists and playlists to, more or less, create the “soundtracks of our lives.”

And now, thanks to Tokyo based company Neurowear, we can access these “soundtracks” just by feeling a certain emotion or thinking a particular thought, according to a recent Discovery News article.

The company’s newest invention—a pair of headphones more fondly known as “Mico”—cues feelings from your subconscious and appropriately matches songs to them.

The bulky white prototype had its world premier at this year’s SXSW—a conference that converges original music, independent films and emerging technology—in Austin, Texas between March 8 and 13. And, while the headphones are still in the prototype phase, Neurowear told Discovery that they plan to put pairs on the market sometime in the near future.

The current model looks like a normal pair of headphones—except for the awkward electroencephalograph (EEG) sensor that comes out and around the wearer’s forehead. This sensor is used to scan the wearer’s brain patterns.

Once the headphones—which are plugged into a smart device with an accompanying app—detect the wearer’s emotions, the software selects an appropriate “neuro-tagged” song from a large Neurowear database.

After the app has detected the mood and signaled a corresponding song, its earpieces light up during song play and even illuminate certain images. According to the Discovery New report, they might even light up with “ZZZ” when the wearer is fatigued. 

The new invention is definitely strange (though totally cool), but Neurowear is notorious for such unusual products. A couple years ago, the project team created Necomimi a brain-scanning headband that uses moving motorized cat-shaped ears to reflect the wearer’s emotions.

And if the motorized cat ears can become a successful product, I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Mico on the market sometime soon.

Science Tuesday: Is ‘air-writing’ an alternative to texting?

By Christina Janansky, Staff Writer

A new, special glove system will allow users to write in the air. The method is appropriately named "air-writing"/PHOTO VIA discoverynews.com

A new, special glove system will allow users to write in the air. The method is appropriately named “air-writing”/PHOTO VIA discoverynews.com

As college students of the 21st century, we’re constantly typing, texting and tapping on the 15 different technological devices we all now own.

Screens are getting bigger, buttons are getting smaller and nearly every device utilizes sensitive touch-screen technology.

It’s no wonder why websites like “Damn You Auto Correct” and “F You, Auto Correct” have a plethora of new, hilarious conversations daily.

This is just one reason why computer scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany have created an alternative to texting. They hope this new method—which was reported in Discovery News on March 4—will minimize typing errors and make communication more convenient.

The new method is called “air-writing” and it is exactly what it sounds like— writing letters in the air.

Computer scientist Christoph Amma and his colleagues designed a special glove system for air-writing that contains accelerometers and gyroscopes. These sensors can recognize hand movements and detect the letters the wearer is drawing in the air.

Once the glove is done interpreting the “air-drawn” letters, it transcribes them into digital letters and wirelessly enters them into an email, text, or other app.

According to the original report, Amma’s model currently has an 11 percent error rate. However, once the system learns to recognize the user’s personal writing style, that number drops to 3 percent.

The glove system currently interprets gestures and recognizes nearly 8,000 words (and, if it’s not as inconvenient as it sounds, it could prevent a whole lot of premature arthritis).

For now though, the model is fairly large and inconvenient. But Amma is hopeful: he told Discovery News that he’s looking for more compact sensors to insert in a wristband or a smartphone.

Land yourself a condo on the moon

By Christina Janansky


Looks like an inviting place to spend your spring break, right?/PHOTO VIA flickr-user jervetson

If the groundhog’s prediction is right, spring will be here before you know it. And, luckily for BU students, spring break is even sooner.

Perhaps you have plans for a relaxing, beachside getaway in Cancun. Or maybe you’ve arranged an action-packed ski trip to the Colorado slopes.

Perhaps, however, you desire a more exotic vacation. If that’s the case, sit tight: in a few years, you may spend spring break at your printed condominium on the moon.

Yes, the moon.

According to a recent Discovery News article, the European Space Agency has partnered up with architectural firm Foster + Partners in an attempt to “print” lunar bases. Using newly developed 3D printer technology, space engineers hope to create condominiums on the moon.

The idea of creating lunar bases existed long before the emergence of Star Wars and Star Trek. However, up until this point, space engineers struggled with logistics of such a massive and complex project.

They worried about the transportation of large and heavy materials; the shortcomings of traditional construction techniques in an extraterrestrial setting; the costs.

Though heavily researched, the potential project didn’t seem plausible, or possible. Until now.

ESA and the architecture firm are jointly exploring the concept of 3D printers. “Terrestrial” 3D printers, according to the article, have already been used in industry projects and the arts. However, the new partnership is testing the possibility of an “extraterrestrial” 3D printer using lunar materials.

The “ink” and “paper” materials have not yet been established. However, UK-based company, Monolite, has already developed a potential idea.

Monolite has created a demonstration printer that layers a sand-like material and combines it with a special type of salt. The combination of these two materials creates a solid stone-like structure.

Sounds simple enough, right?

However, the Monolite founder, Enrico Dini, told Discovery News that creating the “paper” and “ink” for a lunar printer is trickier. So Monolite developed lunar paper by combining a simulated lunar material with magnesium oxide. And, for the ink, the company applied a special binding salt to create a solid, sound structure.

But there are other concerns with condominium construction on the moon.

Architects are concerned about the structural design, its weight-carrying capabilities and its efficiency in protecting future astronauts from space radiation and micrometeorites. Luckily, they’ve already developed a design—the pressurized “catenary” dome design. Architects believe this design will adequately support large weight and protect future astronauts.

So while there might not be life on the moon now, scientists predict there will be and hopefully soon.

And who knows? Perhaps reality television’s next big hit will be a moon-based variant of Lost in Space.

Getting sick for science

By Christina Janansky, Staff Writer


Have you ever watched someone sneeze? In a split second, thousands of tiny particles are floating everywhere, (and I mean everywhere).

Unfortunately, the same thing happens when someone vomits, which explains how the nasty norovirus wreaks havoc in BU’s dorms nearly every semester.

With a heightened breakout of the norovirus this year, scientists are now looking for ways to understand and control it.

And that’s where Larry comes in.

Larry’s not your average guy—he’s a robotic head that projectile vomits fluorescent fluids for several consecutive hours a day.

Scientists created Larry—an open-mouthed dummy at the United Kingdom Health and Safety Laboratory—in an attempt to better understand and control the norovirus, according to Discovery News.

Scientists hope that by understanding the virus better, they might minimize its spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, the norovirus is highly contagious and can infect anyone. It causes vomiting, diarrhea and severe stomach and abdominal pains.

There are many strains of the norovirus, with new ones emerging constantly. According to a recent USA Today article, a calculated 21 million Americans suffer from the norovirus and other stomach bugs annually.

Larry’s esophagus is attached to a cylindrical compartment filled with water and fluorescent liquid. This fluorescent concoction allows scientists to observe Larry’s puke’s trajectory with an ultraviolet light after he’s finished.

To make Larry spew, scientists use a special pump that shoots the imitation vomit out through his mouth and across the room —sometimes it extends farther than 10 feet.

But Larry’s accomplishments could go farther than that. It is suspected that nearly 800 of the 21 million Americans with norovirus die each year. If Larry’s experiments prove successful, he could be a world hero.

And yes, ladies…He’s single.

Larry in action.