Soul to sole: Eye surgeon Anthony Vipin Das has developed shoes that see for the blind
Read an interview with Vilpin and watch his TED talk HERE
Adversity isn’t an obstacle that we need to get around in order to resume living our life. It’s part of our life. I think of it like my shadow — sometimes I see a lot of it, sometimes there’s very little, but it’s always with me.
— Aimee Mullins, “It’s not fair having 12 legs” (Ted Talks)
What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?
“By getting people to work harder, they got them to love what they were doing”
This was a really interesting TedTalk and it’s well worth the watch! It makes me think about my experience with drum corps but it applies to school and everything else too.
I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
— Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Kercheval (July 12, 1816) and inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial. (via superfluidity)
Brain organization, not overall size, may be the key evolutionary difference between primate brains, and the key to what gives humans their smarts, new research suggests.
In the study, researchers looked at 17 species that span 40 million years of evolutionary time, finding changes in the relative size of specific brain regions, rather than changes in brain size, accounted for three-quarters of brain evolution over that time. The study, published today (March 26) in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, also revealed that massive increases in the brain’s prefrontal cortex played a critical role in great ape evolution.
“For the first time, we can really identify what is so special about great ape brain organization,” said study co-author Jeroen Smaers, an evolutionary biologist at the University College London.
Is bigger better?
Traditionally, scientists have thought humans’ superior intelligence derived mostly from the fact that our brains are three times bigger than our nearest living relatives, chimpanzees.
But bigger isn’t always better. Bigger brains take much more energy to power, so scientists have hypothesized that brain reorganization could be a smarter strategy to evolve mental abilities.
To see how brain organization evolved throughout primates, Smaers and his colleague Christophe Soligo analyzed post-mortem slices of brains from 17 different primates, then mapped changes in brain size onto an evolutionary tree.
Over evolutionary time, several key brain regions increased in size relative to other regions. Great apes (especially humans) saw a rise in white matter in the prefrontal cortex, which contributes to social cognition, moral judgments, introspection and goal-directed planning.
“The prefrontal cortex is a little bit like the CEO of the brain,” Smaers told LiveScience. “It takes information from other brain areas and it synthesizes them.”
When great apes diverged from old-world monkeys about 20 million years ago, brain regions tied to motor planning also increased in relative size. That could have helped them orchestrate the complex movements needed to manipulate tools — possibly to get at different food sources, Smaers said.
Gibbons and howler monkeys showed a different pattern. Even though their bodies and their brains got smaller over time, the hippocampus, which plays a role in spatial tasks, tended to increase in size in relation to the rest of the brain. That may have allowed these monkeys to be spatially adept and inhabit a more diverse range of environments.
The study shows that specific parts of the brain can selectively scale up to meet the demands of new environments, said Chet Sherwood, an anthropologist at George Washington University, who was not involved in the study.
The finding also drives home the importance of the prefrontal cortex, he said.
“It’s very suggestive that connectivity of prefrontal cortex has been a particularly strong driving force in ape and human brains,” Sherwood told LiveScience.
Researchers in the field of materials science are using a new technique to create “paint-on” plastic electronics that can be used to make popular gadgets less expensive and better for the environment.
Scientists at the University of Michigan (U-M) recently announced that they’ve discovered a way to make unruly semiconducting polymers- like those used in computer processors and LED displays- more manageable.
Most semiconductors used in modern electronics are inorganic, or based on materials other than carbon, like silicon or copper. While inorganic semiconductors do an excellent job of spreading a charge through an electronic device, they’re costly and impossible to produce without specialized equipment.
Organic and plastic semiconductors like the ones used by the U-M researchers, on the other hand, can be prepared on a basic lab bench. However, scientists have found that they’re not as efficient at carrying a charge through an electronic device as their inorganic brethren. Or at least, such was the case until recently.
The new “paintable” semiconducting polymers can be brushed over a surface to create a thin-layer film capable of carrying an uninterrupted charge.
“It’s a big breakthrough,” Jinsang Kim, a professor of materials science and engineering at U-M, said in a statement. “This is for the first time a thin-layer, conducting, highly aligned film for high-performance, paintable, directly writeable plastic electronics.”