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.

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.

Supersonic Plane

Hermeus, an American aerospace organisation has introduced the idea of a supersonic plane that would be capable of breezing over the Atlantic at a speed of 4,000 mph in only 90 minutes. What is a supersonic aircraft? A supersonic aircraft is a plane that can travel quicker than the speed of sound.

This speed is greater (almost twice) than that of the iconic Concorde. As per Ars Technica, seeing a working prototype any time soon is unlikely, but, the initial round of funding has been completed. This would make it possible for the organisation to bring in a propulsion demonstrator. Interestingly, Hermeus is not the only organisation working on this, a competitor ‘Boom Supersonic’ is also working on something similar. Boom Supersonic is another start-up just like Hermeus.

Boom Supersonic is working on a Mach 2.2 supersonic jet that will have space for around 55 passengers and will be a little faster than Concorde. As per the announcement of 2017, Boom Supersonic is planning on bringing in this innovation by the mid-2020s. They are being successfully backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and have already received orders for around 76 planes. This is huge. However, it is important to note that going up from Mach 2 to Mach 5 can be a daunting task. It is not simple. In order to make this extremely fast plane a success, Hermeus is looking to utilise whatever technology they can to make this happen. This includes looking for cutting edge rocketry and titanium materials.

Supersonic aircrafts were previously used in the twentieth century for the purpose of research and military. Boom Supersonic is trying to work on creating a faster future. Supersonic planes are an amazing discovery that could change the future of air travel. Today, a flight from San Francisco to Tokyo takes around 11 hours. Boom Supersonic and Hermeus aim to considerably reduce this time.

The American Bell X-1 was the very first plane to fly supersonically. It was an experimental aircraft that used 6000-lb thrust rocket powered by ethyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. The majority of such aircrafts have been either for military use or as an experiment. There is no example of a supersonic plane that has been used for regular passenger flights. In the 1960s and 70s, there were many designs initiated for supersonic planes. Two of the well-known names that entered service include the Russian Tupolev Tu-144 and the Anglo-French Concorde. However, there were many restrictions that prevented them being used at their full capacity.

Florida Drones

In South Florida, rainy seasons can also be called mosquito season. For this purpose, Florida has come up with a new weapon to combat against insects and diseases. As per the latest updates, Florida is to battle mosquitoes through the Federal Drone’s Program. Federal approval has been granted to the Lee County Mosquito Control District to use the drone program for the purpose of managing pests by spending the summer spreading larvicide over salt marshes that are usually used as breeding grounds by infectious mosquitoes. This can be a high-tech and efficient attempt to control the pest population along with saving a huge deal of the state’s money. Drones are already being used by the mosquito control company for the purpose of searching for pools of standing water that are at distant places.

Interestingly, now these drones will be able to carry around enough larvicide that can be sprayed across more than 2 acres. This is a task that would normally be handled by helicopters that are very expensive. However, this technology will make it less costly and efficient to treat the remote pools and eradicate mosquitoes. Florida Keys Mosquito Control District wants to start with a precise location to test first.

Dealing with pests and finding a way to combat them can be a daunting task in some places. If not controlled, they could lead to the spread of various dangerous diseases. Therefore, this technology will be a good option to deal with such situations and controlling the spread of diseases, especially in remote areas.

A few days ago, residents in Key West woke up from the noise of a mosquito control helicopter that was there to spray larvicide to the Aedes aegypti mosquito after heavy rainfall. The Aedes aegypti mosquito carries diseases like dengue and Zika virus. These helicopters and drones will become a common sight during the summer as the plans are to spray larvicides on the saltmarsh mosquitoes in remote areas. The idea of using drones is a cost-effective and an efficient alternative compared to helicopters.

If everything goes as per the plan, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District will consider expanding the program next year. The exact details of when and how the unmanned drone will be used to spread larvicide and combat pests in Florida is unknown. The idea of this program is to expand and not be limited to the present regulations to see how this can be used to control other diseases. If it works, it could become a huge success for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.