Neuralink

Neuralink is a company founded by the ever famous Elon Musk. Musk is famous for Tesla and SpaceX, all of which have made much advancement in the field of science and technology. He has now come up with another brilliant technological idea that may revolutionize medicine. His company Neuralink is a medical technology startup which aims to create a brain machine. He aims to create an ultra- bandwidth machine which interferes with the brain and connects humans and computers together. Neuralink recently held a conference where a few key details were revealed.

  1. It is a product

There are various ways to read or manipulate brain waves and neural connections within our brain. Some are non-invasive and use tools like helmets to read brain waves. A perfect example is an EEG. Yet, it is quite imprecise. However, there are invasive ways of interfering with the brain’s functioning. They are more precise, but can harm the individual too. For example, brain surgery. The probes used in it are big and cause destruction. Neuralink also has an invasive product, but it will not have huge probes, rather it will be a microchip inserted within the brain. It will read the brain with minuscule probes weaving through.

The chip is called N1 and contains 1024 electrodes. It is very small and will be inserted into the brain to read it and connect it to the machines.

  1. It can be viable soon

By next year, the company plans on having a human clinical study trial. They aim to focus on healthcare than any other advancement, so in their trial they have decided to include patients that have quadriplegia due to C1-C4 spinal cord injuries. This set up will be such that 4 chips will be used and the patients will be able to use their smart phones using their brain. They can also control a mouse and keyboard through a Bluetooth connection. The team currently is using animals for testing and Musk claims they made a monkey control a computer with his brain.

  1. The surgery for the product will be Lasik

As the probes are too small and fine to be inserted by human hands, Neuralink has created a robot alongside to perform the surgery. The surgery will generate an incision of no more than eight millimetres and will be performed under an hour.

  1. There’s an application

Neuralink has developed an application that is available on your iPhone. The chip will connect to your iPhone through an application and the person using it will be trained through that as well. There will be no big probes – it will all be through Bluetooth.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Elon Musk’s original goal has always been to merge with artificial intelligence so at the end of the day it does not turn on the human race. This is a concept he strongly believes in. Right now Neuralink is focusing on the healthcare aspect of the chip; however, the end goal for Musk is to create symbiosis with artificial intelligence.

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Graphene

Have you ever given a second thought to the lowly material inside your pencil? All you might remember is from 6th grade science that it is a part of carbon. Well, now scientists have developed Graphene to become a super material. Graphene really could be the future and include Graphene eye wear and Graphene armour, are all possibilities after this remarkable discovery by scientists. However, you must be wondering what it really is and how it can qualify as a super material that could revolutionize the world like lighter smart phones and bullet proof armour.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a single layer of graphite. Another example is that it’s the flaky and soft material used in the lead of your pencil that we use for our everyday use. Graphite is an allotrope of the element carbon which means both of them possess carbon atoms, but they are arranged in a different manner which is why they are so different from one another. Diamond is also an allotrope, but it’s the hardest material in the world and nothing can cut it while graphite is soft and flaky. Graphene’s atoms are arranged in a hexagonal manner.

What is interesting is that when a single layer of these molecules of graphite, are isolated, they show some miraculous properties. Despite the fact that it is only one thin layer, it is one of the strongest materials known to man. It has the strength of 130 GPa (gigapascals), which is a 100 times stronger than steel. This shows the immense power this material can hold and how beneficial it can be to us in the future. The fact that it is so powerful and has incredible strength should be enough, yet it is not. There are many other characteristics it holds such as being transparent, flexible, highly conductive and mostly impermeable to most gases and liquids. It seems there is no area that Graphene does not excel in.

Potential Applications:

The potential applications of Graphene are endless. It can be used in countless products due to its versatility and strength. However, a few of them are listed and explained below. Scientists have considered creating flexible electronics with this amazing material because it is so highly flexible and transparent, and has immense strength that makes it perfect for portable electronics. Our smartphones and tablets could become way more durable and could even be folded like a piece of paper with the help of Graphene. Also, another use could be wearable electronics. With Graphene, these could fit the skin perfectly and could fit any size or shape. Another use for Graphene could be solar cells. As it is highly conductive, it is the perfect material for conduction of solar energy. Its photovoltaic properties will also allow it to develop better sensors for cameras.

All of this however, is in research and theory at the moment, but we never know, we might be using a foldable phone in the very near future.

Neural Implants for the Blind

Due to various diseases including cancer, many people become blind. It really is a sad story, however, it is their eyes that cause the issue and not their visual cortex. In this way, their visual cortex which is part of the brain is completely fine and undamaged, but as there is no information coming in from the eyes, it holds no use for the person. This, however, is not the case anymore. Through an amazing medical trial, 6 people who were blind are now able to partially see. The device that helps achieve this is called Orion. It takes pictures from a camera and inputs them directly into the brain, acting as the eyes for the person.

Doctors believe that this is a ray of hope for those who are completely blind and have lost their eyesight due to a disease or accident. They believe that if the camera completely erases the purpose of the eyes, it could lead to many more opportunities for people who cannot see.

Orion is made up of 2 parts. It includes an implant within the person’s brain and a pair of glasses which contain the camera. The camera in the glasses takes pictures and sends information to 60 electrodes which are placed in the implant within the brain. These electrodes process information and present it to the visual cortex. This then shows the blind person a partial image of what is in front of them. Meaning the device removes the need for natural eyesight.

For testing the device, researchers used a computer. They first chose completely blind people and showed them a black screen on a computer with a white square, which moved within a random pattern. They would then ask them to point at the square at whatever position it was at. They pointed at the correct place, making scientists believe their invention truly worked.

It is believed that the square which was shown to the patients may just be the beginning. If they were to introduce many more electrodes within the brain, they would be able to create a proper image, which would show the blind person everything around them. What they aim to do is use the reference of a style of painting. When you paint tiny thousands of spots, they come together and represent a full picture – this could be done in the brain too. When electrodes are stimulating thousands of places in the brain while the camera is feeding the information, there is potential that a proper image may be created in the same way as a painting.

Even the way the device is at the moment, it really has the potential of changing lives.

Under the Moon’s Surface

Most of us have not studied the moon in great detail because we consider it as just a shiny white sphere that appears every night. However, we need to know that the moon is much more than that. It holds a lot under its surface. Recently, scientists discovered an enormous, metallic anomaly under the moon’s largest crater.

Interestingly, the pile of metal is considered to be five times larger than the Island of Hawaii. It weighs around 2.18 billion kilos and spreads across 300 kilometres. It is also considered to be millions of years old. Researchers identify two main reasons behind the existence of this huge pile of metal under the moon. Firstly, they assume that the metal that formed this crater is still set in the moon’s mantle. Secondly, they believe that the moon’s liquid magma surface turned into a solid which left heavy oxides of nickel and iron. However, both these reasons have not been confirmed yet.

Another study suggests that there is presence of water under the moon’s surface. Scientists say that there’s plenty of water beneath the moon, but it is slowly drying out. It was discovered that the existence of water is not new. It could have been there since the formation of the moon. However, it’s still uncertain how such large amounts of water ended up under the moon’s surface. According to researchers, the presence of water could be quite beneficial during future explorations. Transporting water from earth is a complex and expensive procedure which also requires a lot of time.

Both of these discoveries are quite impressive and have changed people’s perceptions about something as simple as the moon. Who would have thought that the moon could have so much going on beneath its surface, and who knows what else is yet to be uncovered?

Spy Robots

Imagine a drone which can stick to the walls, fly, and proper itself out from the water and can also securely land when required. A drone which can easily fit in the palm of your hand – sounds amazing right? People have this fear that robots are now becoming similar to humans, however, they’re actually becoming more bug-like each and every day. A group of researchers from Harvard University proved that the robot flight is basically copying small bugs that were there on the ceilings and walls.

There’s a wide range of applications for similar robots, ranging from tiny spying devices which can be used to conduct surveillance missions, to scientists using them to go where no sensors can reach. Till the time when robots will be in the air, hovering can take as much energy as flying can. Additionally, a new study published that considerable energy can be saved if we plan on using tiny robots which can simply land and rest between jaunts. It’s similar to how a bee might land somewhere after taking off again.

When we use the word robot, we’re not talking about some terrifying robots from the movies or directly from the future. Instead, we’re talking about creations like RoboBee. This drone was made by Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Due to the advancements in technology, this device can stabilise on the surface of water before an internal combustion engine will ignite to let it fly and bring it back in the air.

RoboBee was launched in Southern California in Los Angeles and weighs around 75 grams.

The major concern that was faced was the unknown weight of the actuators and how to make them flap. Scientists then came up with a new and improved design called ‘unimorph’ which depended on a single strip of piezoelectric material which would contract and expand while a current is passed through it.

This approach offered various advantages in terms of the dimensions, weight, control, aerodynamics and construction.

There is only one downside to the RoboBee – it’s basically not a drone because it depends on a tether as a source of energy. However, once the battery tech comes in line with the nano-scale robotics, the drone could work on its own perfectly.

Space Mining

Gold mining, coal mining, salt mining, etc. are common terms which a layman can understand, but the concept of ‘space mining’ is not in the knowledge of many people. It basically involves the extraction of iron and other raw materials from the asteroid belt and other minor planets. These raw materials mainly include hard rock metal and precious metals.  It has a lot of advantages and disadvantages attached to it.

The asteroid belt is rich in assets. There are certain metals and other natural resources that are rare on earth, but not on the asteroids. These metals can be used in the production of many products. For example, electric vehicles, turbines, and many other types of electronics.

Extraction of raw materials from space could widen the resource bank within earth. Moreover, space mining opens up opportunities for space exploration. This eventually brings ideas for innovative creations beyond Earth like space colonies for humans. Moreover, it could relieve the environmental destruction currently caused by conventional mining industries on our planet.

On the flip side, it is believed that the process exploits all the resources mentioned above. For this reason, scientists do not consider the concept of space mining healthy at all. According to scientists, space mining is ruining the solar system and it needs to stop. Otherwise, it will force future generations to face an extreme crisis.

In addition to this, space mining has a huge potential for causing pollution. The preparation required for exploring outer space can be lethal for our planet. It requires the manufacturing of huge robots, machines and other mining-related equipment, as well as the rockets to launch these robots to outer space and bring them back too. This opens multiple doors for pollution which we already have enough on the planet.

Other than the environmental effects, the success of space mining can drastically affect the world’s economy. It may lead to huge job losses in the conventional mining industry. Obviously, who would consider mining on earth when they can find abundant resources in space? However, this could create jobs in the technology sector, but it may take time for people to adjust to the new changes.

Space mining seems to become easier with the advances in technology and research. Several companies have now started focusing on this version of mining. They are investing in technology and research to come up with workable ways to mine in space. However, things need to be done to consider the long term effect. Space mining does not seem like the best idea in the distant future. It can ruin the areas beyond Earth while trying to make survival easier on earth. Alternatively, it could turn out to be very beneficial for companies and the general public on Earth.