What if we could solve the world’s energy needs from the tears of children? No, literally. OK, well, maybe not just children, but… Oh, read the whole thing. Excerpt:
The ability to generate electricity by applying pressure, known as direct piezoelectricity, is a property of materials such as quartz that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy and vice versa. Such materials are used in a variety of applications ranging from resonators and vibrators in mobile phones to deep ocean sonars and ultrasound imaging. Bone, tendon and wood are long known to possess piezoelectricity.
“While piezoelectricity is used all around us, the capacity to generate electricity from this particular protein had not been explored. The extent of the piezoelectricity in lysozyme crystals is significant. It is of the same order of magnitude found in quartz. However, because it is a biological material, it is non toxic so it could have many innovative applications such as electroactive anti-microbial coatings for medical implants,” explained Aimee Stapleton, the lead author and an Irish Research Council EMBARK Postgraduate Fellow in the Department of Physics and Bernal Institute of UL.
Crystals of lysozyme are easy to make from natural sources. “The high precision structure of lysozyme crystals has been known since 1965,” said structural biologist at UL and co-author Professor Tewfik Soulimane.
“In fact, it is the second protein structure and the first enzyme structure that was ever solved,” he added, “but we are the first to use these crystals to show the evidence of piezoelectricity”.
According to team leader Professor Tofail Syed of UL’s Department of Physics, “Crystals are the gold-standard for measuring piezoelectricity in non-biological materials. Our team has shown that the same approach can be taken in understanding this effect in biology. This is a new approach as scientists so far have tried to understand piezoelectricity in biology using complex hierarchical structures such as tissues, cells or polypeptides rather than investigating simpler fundamental building blocks”.
The discovery may have wide reaching applications and could lead to further research in the area of energy harvesting and flexible electronics for biomedical devices. Future applications of the discovery may include controlling the release of drugs in the body by using lysozyme as a physiologically mediated pump that scavenges energy from its surroundings. Being naturally biocompatible and piezoelectric, lysozyme may present an alternative to conventional piezoelectric energy harvesters, many of which contain toxic elements such as lead.
You can read the entire paper here.
I could spend some time making jokes about generating power from tears, but that would be in poor taste (not that that has ever stopped me before.)
It’s hard for me to find a practical application for this, but a few do come to mind, mostly having to do with charging personal electronics. And bear in mind, that’s not an insignificant thing, given the small constellation of personal electronics that are apparently indispensable for our modern lives. But as the article notes, it is in the world of implantable medical devices that this could really make a difference. Implantable devices like intrathecal drug pumps and electronic spinal cord stimulators can make a huge difference in the lives of people with chronic pain issues, but these days they are run by batteries. And those batteries have to be replaced periodically.
Having them run by some sort of biological process would be somewhere past awesome.
Readers of these virtual pages will know by now that I’m no wild-eyed conspiracy theorist. But some of the aftermath of the horrendous Las Vegas shootings are beginning to smell a bit off. Excerpt:
Jesus Campos, the security guard who was shot just prior to the massacre at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, has apparently vanished, the LA Times is reporting. According to the president of the Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America union, they have not had contact with Campos for the past four days. Campos was reportedly taken to a quick care facility, and has not been heard from since. (Note – he has since resurfaced.)
Campos also canceled interviews with a variety of news networks, and was supposed to appear on Hannity.
Mark Steyn has some thoughts on the matter as well:
Among the many emails I’ve received is this one, from a gentleman at a London think tank whose job is to focus on “the analysis of economic and political issues and outcomes”. Make of this what you will, but he writes:
Today we turned our collective minds to the the shooting in Las Vegas as a test case since the event is extraordinary in that thus far no one appears to have identified a cause behind the carnage. This is our reasoning: The fact pattern in this event is striking for not fitting any known profile. In particular:
The gentleman concerned had no known political or religious affiliations. The level of premeditation is unusual and crystal clear from his mass buying of guns and the cautious systematic smuggling operation to ferry them to his room together with the illegal modifications and the position of the room he chose and occupied for several days beforehand. This denotes a deeply serious commitment to his act. And one which leaves no doubt that act was conceived to generate the maximum possible publicity. The question then is: ‘publicity’ for what exactly? And the answer would appear to be ‘nothing that can be identified’.
The whole thing is a bit odd. Most mass murderers, at least those in recent history, seem to have some kind of agenda; religion, racism, politics, something. But the Las Vegas shooter appears to have been apolitical. He wasn’t particularly religious. He didn’t seem to have any particular passions other than gambling, and (perhaps strangest of all) he has no online presence at all.
What is it with this guy? Mr. Steyn thinks the whole event may have been a set-up to push a gun control agenda, and you have to admit, if you wanted to stage a horrible event to push a gun-grabbing agenda, you could hardly do a better job than this.
But I have a hard time believing it. Stephen Paddock seems an unlikely type to sacrifice himself in the service of an agenda that he didn’t seem to adhere to. And if there were other people involved, where are they? Who are they? Maybe the as-yet-unreleased casino surveillance tapes will show something.
It is perhaps belaboring the obvious to point out that the investigation is still ongoing. Still: Mass shooters are by definition barking nuts. But Paddock’s particular brand of nuts is as yet undetermined.
A Congressional candidate from Florida has been to space. In a UFO. No, I’m not kidding, although she is very likely delusional. Excerpt:
Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.
She described “going up” inside the spaceship — though whether it went into space or just hovered around town was left unclear.
“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.
In two separate videos posted to YouTube years ago, one by local Spanish-language station America TeVe and another by a political critic with the user name DoralGirl26, Rodriguez Aguilera spoke on television in detail about her extraterrestrial experiences. She said the alien beings reminded her of the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro, Christ the Redeemer, with arms outstretched.
Among the things she said she found out from the aliens:
▪ The world’s “energy center” is in Africa.
▪ The Coral Castle, a limestone tourist attraction South Miami-Dade, is actually an ancient Egyptian pyramid.
▪ “God is a universal energy.”
Am I alone here in thinking this kind of delusional horse squeeze should disqualify Ms. Aguilera from office? There are plenty of people who believe some odd things but are otherwise very functional within their field of work.
But this is something different. This is of a kind with flat-earthers and hollow-earth loonies. It’s of a kind with the lady I referenced last week that believed there was a city of superhuman aliens under a dormant volcano in California.
It’s of a kind with people who think socialism is a workable economic system.
Party registration be damned, this woman has no business holding office.
This makes a very good point: Social Justice is an Oxymoron. Excerpt:
Huge swaths of Americans still bow at the altar of social justice. They believe government-forced “charity” will advance us to an utopian paradise where everyone enjoys the same outcome, despite personal effort, upbringing, unique abilities and education.
Truth is, though, social justice is an oxymoron based on the false premise that the cure for injustice is leveling the playing field and redistributing wealth. As former Vice President Joe Biden once said, “You may call it redistribution of wealth – I just call it being fair.”
Karl Marx would be so proud.
Marx hated religion, private property and Judeo-Christian values as much as leftists do today. That’s why you should bolt out of any place of worship that combines Jesus, social justice and the government in the same sentence.
In his book, “The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism,” economist Friedrich Hayek nails what’s really at stake: “The aim of socialism is no less than to affect a complete redesigning of our traditional morals, law and language – and on this basis to stamp out the old order and the supposedly inexorable, unjustifiable conditions that prevent the institution of reason, fulfillment, true freedom and justice.”
Yesteryears’ creepy social justice warriors are now out of the closet and no longer hide their agenda. Instead, they give it a pink boa and parade their intentions to destroy capitalism, silence free speech and scrub Judeo-Christian values from the public square.
They harp about injustice and claim only they can fix it, which is one of the most arrogant, egotistical piles of hogwash you’ll ever hear.
I define “social justice” as the term is used by its advocates as “take someone else’s stuff away and give it to me, because reasons.” In fact, the term is nebulous; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
In fact, there can be no such thing as “social justice,” Like rights, justice can only apply to individuals. What advocates for “social justice” are calling for is not justice; it is theft.
But I differ with the author of this article, Susan Stamper Brown, in one respect, and that is the lateral arabesque they perform in making this a discussion of “Judeo-Christian values.” While it is true that most modern, Western civilizations are – today – based on a Judeo-Christian ethos in social matters, the issues discussed now are those of economics; a restrictive socialist system as set against an Enlightenment-style, free market system based on strong property rights. The two are not compatible; but no religious arguments are required here. For that matter, they aren’t particularly helpful.
Ms. Brown should stay focused.
Moving right along: Ever been frustrated by a left-lane vigilante driving exactly the speed limit in the left lane? It seems that those speed limits may be based on some pretty outmoded science. Excerpt:
In the US, our speed limits are derived from old studies, like this one from 1964 by traffic systems researcher David Solomon that looked only at rural roads in the 1950s. In line with conventional thinking, Solomon’s study fuels the premise that speed limits should be based on the speed at which 85 percent of the drivers on a road are maintaining. That means, if most cars on the highway are going 60 mph, that’s what determines the speed limit.
But with around 40,000 people dying in car accidents on American roads every year, something isn’t working, John Lower, a transportation engineer in California, told me. That includes the 85 percent formula, which traffic advocates have called for to be repealed. They’re calling instead for a data-driven system that reflects the actual traffic using sensor technology. In many cases, this will force us to drive slower.
Lower has spent decades as a city transportation manager, and now works at Iteris, an analytics company. He believes it’s time to reinvent the way we implement speed limits. “The way it works now, there are higher-than-expected crash rates along the system,” he said.
Lower’s solution is in line with Vision Zero, a network of traffic safety advocates he is part of, who want to use more recent data and technology to inform our speed limits. (The network is funded by entities including Kaiser Permanente, a health insurance company.)
In an ideal scenario, Lower said, we would be using smart sensors to collect the information from vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians to understand traffic flows. (A quick spin around the internet reveals multiple sensors are already on the market like this, including this one from Urbiotica and another from SMATS.) This data would then be analyzed to set speed limits based on the traffic flow, and the presence of the most vulnerable vehicles (bicycles) and people on the roads.
“Every traffic signal has to have some form of detection,” Lower added.
I’m generally in favor of using technology to make our lives better, but in this case, no thanks. At present, our roads are publicly funded, and we don’t have the tax dollars to spare to be completely, totally revamping our system for determining speed limits. Besides, improvements in car design have made driving much, much safer than it was in the 1950s – or even the 1970s.
For now, I’d say we should just stick with our good old-fashioned way of figuring speed limits. And, on that note:
In the beginning was the 1911, and the 1911 was THE pistol, and it was good. And behold the Lord said, “Thou shalt not muck with my disciple John’s design for it is good and it workith. For John made the 1911, and lo all of his weapons, from the designs which I, the Lord, gave him upon the mountain.”
“And shouldst thou muck with it, and hang all manner of foul implements upon it, and profane its internal parts, thou shalt surely have malfunctions, and in the midst of battle thou shalt surely come to harm.”
And as the ages passed men in their ignorance and arrogance didst forget the word of the Lord and began to profane the 1911. The tribe of the gamesman did place recoil spring guides and extended slide releases upon the 1911 and their metal smiths didst tighten the tolerances and alter parts to their liking, their clearness of mind being clouded by lust.
Their artisans did hang all manner of foul implements upon the 1911 and did so alter it that it became impractical to purchase. For lo, the artisans didst charge a great tax upon the purchasers of the 1911 so that the lowly field worker could not afford one. And the profaning of the internal parts didst render it unworkable when the dust of the land fell upon it.
And lo, they didst install adjustable sights, which are an abomination unto the Lord. For they doth break and lose their zero when thou dost need true aim. And those who have done so will be slain in great numbers by their enemies in the great battle. And they didst chamber it for cartridges who’s calibers startith with numbers less than the Holy Number 4. And lo the Lord did cause great grief amongst these men when their enemies who were struck in battle with these lesser numbers didst not fall but did continue to cause great harm.
And it came to pass that the Lord didst see the abomination wrought by man and didst cause, as he had warned, fearful malfunctions to come upon the abominations and upon the artisans who thought they could do no wrong.
Seeing the malfunctions and the confusion of men, the lord of the underworld did see an opportunity to further ensnare man and didst bring forth pistols made of plastic, whose form was such that they looked and felt like a brick, yet the eyes of man being clouded, they were consumed by the plastic pistol and did buy vast quantities of them.
And being a deceitful spirit the lord of the underworld did make these plastic pistols unamenable to the artisans of earth and they were unable to muck much with the design, and lo these pistols did appear to function.
And the evil one also brought forth pistols in which the trigger didst both cock and fire them and which require a “dingus” to make them appear safe.
But man being stupid did not understand these new pistols and didst proceed to shoot themselves with the plastic pistol and with the trigger cocking pistols for lo their manual of arms required great intelligence which man had long since forsaken. Yet man continue to gloat over these new pistols blaming evil forces for the negligent discharges which they themselves had committed.
And when man had been totally ensnared with the plastic pistol, the lord of the underworld didst cause a plague of the terrible Ka-Boom to descend upon man and the plastic pistols delivered their retribution upon men. And there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth in the land.
Then seeing that the eyes of man were slowly being opened and that man was truly sorrowful for his sinful misdeeds, the Lord did send his messengers in the form of artisans who did hear and obey the teachings of the prophet and who didst restore the profaned 1911s to their proper configuration, and lo, to the amazement of men they didst begin to work as the prophet had intended.
And the men of the land didst drive out the charlatans and profaners from the land, and there was joy and peace in the land, except for the evil sprits which tried occasionally to prey on the men and women of the land and who were sent to the place of eternal damnation or hell by the followers of John.
I’m inclined to agree with this: If you can pay for aspirin, you can pay for birth control. Excerpt:
Religious concerns aside, the new White House rule leaves the birth-control mandate in place. Trump’s “tweak won’t affect 99.9 percent of women,” observes the Wall Street Journal, “and that number could probably have a few more 9s at the end.” Washington will continue to compel virtually every employer and insurer in America to supply birth control to any woman who wants one at no out-of-pocket cost.
Yet there is no legitimate rationale for such a mandate. Americans don’t expect to get aspirin, bandages, or cold medicine — or condoms — for free; by what logic should birth control pills or diaphragms be handed over at no cost? It is true that a woman’s unwanted pregnancy can lead to serious costs, but the same is also true of a diabetic’s hyperglycemia. Should insulin be free?
By and large, birth control is inexpensive; as little as $20 a month without insurance. For low-income women who find that too onerous, the federal government’s Title X program provides subsidized contraception to the tune of nearly $290 million per year. American women are not forced to choose between the Pill or the rent. And access to birth control, as the Centers for Disease Control reported in 2010, was virtually universal before Obamacare.
The White House is right to end the burden on religious objectors. But it is the birth-control mandate itself that should be scrapped. Contraception is legal, cheap, and available everywhere. Why are the feds meddling where they aren’t needed?
Why the hell does anyone think it is the proper role of the Imperial government to subsidize people’s sex lives? Our poor – and mind you, we have little or no abject poverty in the U.S., only relative poverty – have cell phones, game consoles, laptop computers and microwave ovens. But for some reason, they expect the taxpayers to subsidize an elective medical product that costs less than a weekly cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Lunacy. Sheer lunacy.
It’s sad and stupid, but apparently people thinking the Earth is flat is still a thing. Excerpt:
The Flat Earth Society’s site — which posits that the idea of a round Earth is somehow related to the faking of the Moon landing — is remarkably well-designed and professional-looking, eliminating some of the old hallmarks of disinformation on the internet. The ease of creating a website as clean as this one is a problem that has been well-documented by information scientists. As recently as five years ago, high schools were teaching that you could identify a disreputable source by its cheap-looking site, bad design, and messy URL. That no longer holds.
Digital newsrooms churn out coverage of flat Earth truthers using tools that make it easy to find stories bubbling up from the depths of Reddit. Here’s how it works: conspiracy theories get people fired up enough to comment promiscuously, bringing them to the front of Reddit where journalists see them, says The Verge’s editorial director Helen Havlak. When a reporter writes an explainer of a new oddball conspiracy theory, the sharing and hate commenting that drove the theory to the top of Reddit reoccurs on Facebook. And, if the post is coming from a generally reputable outlet or involves a celebrity (e.g., B.o.B. or Kyrie Irving) or a major news event (e.g., a presidential election), it can also get a boost into the Top Stories slot on Google News. “Newsrooms watch each other’s highest-performing stories,” Havlak says. It’s common practice to use a tool that lets newsrooms make lists of their competitors and monitor the popularity of their posts (on services like CrowdTangle, for example) to see what’s doing well for other outlets, and what might be a sure traffic bet if they could find a fresh angle or a reason to weigh in. “People see all the traffic to be had, and look for the next thing trickling up from Reddit,” she says. “Cycle repeats.”
It is perhaps belaboring the obvious to note that counting visitors to a loony-tunes web doesn’t necessarily translate to those people believing in whatever brand of nutballery the site espouses. However – the fact that a site exists is a pretty good indicator that the people who put the site up believe in that nutballery (parody and satire sites like the Landover Baptist Church aside).
Seriously, folks – Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculated the circumference of the planet thirty-four freakin’ centuries ago. This is hardly new stuff. Still – there are people about who believe all manner of stupid shit. When I was writing Misplaced Compassion, I was frequenting all sorts of Usenet (remember Usenet?) animal rights forums, and once encountered a nutbar who claimed to believe that there was a city of superhuman aliens hidden inside a dormant volcano in (where else?) California.
This is precisely as stupid as believing the Earth is flat. It’s funny and sad all at the same time.