Human Reproduction

Scientists warn that the world might become infertile by 2045 if we continue at the current rate. The last decade has seen multiple warnings and threats being issued regarding the fertility of the youth by the researchers and experts who have blamed artificial products for the rapid decrease.

Right now, environmentalists have categorized the use of plastic as one of the most dangerous practices observed globally that is assisting the process of declining fertility.

The Guardian published research conducted in 2017 by Shanna Swan, a professor of environmental medicine and public health at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City about the fertility rate. The findings of the study focused on the sperm count among men in Western Countries and it was discovered that it had dropped by more than 50 percent over the last 40 years. 3 years later, Swan published a book titled Count Down that provides a detailed insight into how and why humans are not being able to procreate as efficiently as before.

“People are recognizing we have a reproductive health crisis, but they say it’s because of delayed childbearing, choice or lifestyle – it can’t be chemical,” Swan said to the Guardian. “I want people to recognize it can. I am not saying other factors aren’t involved. But I am saying chemicals play a major causal role.”

Furthermore, the Human Reproduction Update also released a study in 2017 that highlighted how the sperm concentration in men fell from 99 million per ml in 1973 to 47.1 million per ml in 2011. When you look at the statistics, you see a sharp decline of 53.4% in the sperm count in the western countries namely Australia, North America, Europe, New Zealand etc.

Swan, who has studied this issue profoundly says that one of the reasons for this steep fall is the chemicals that “interfere with or mimic the body’s sex hormones”.

“Phthalates, used to make plastic soft and flexible, are of paramount concern,” Swan said. “They are in everybody and we are probably primarily exposed through food as we use soft plastic in food manufacture, processing and packaging.” She further added that “They lower testosterone and so have the strongest influences on the male side, for example diminishing sperm count, though they are bad for women, too, shown to decrease libido and increase risk of early puberty, premature ovarian failure, miscarriage and premature birth.”

The solution to this problem is not quite simple. It has taken years and years of damage for the researchers to notice the significant decline in the fertility rate so it is not an issue you can get prescribed medicines for. Swan, along with other researchers considers it a threat to humanity because if the trend continues then the world would have fewer and fewer human beings by the end of 2045.

“The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” Swan writes in Count Down. She says that we need a complete overhaul of the chemical industry to reassess which products are actively harming the reproductive growth rate and people at least need to be warned about the consequences of the consumption of plastic.

Faster Than Light Travel

Are you fascinated by Star Trek’s famous superluminal spacecraft propulsion system, the Warp Drive? The one that would enable space crafts to travel faster than light? Guess what? Scientists have finally come up with theories grounded in conventional physics that might just make FTL travel through a warp drive possible!

In a new bombshell dropped by astrophysicist Dr. Erik Lentz of Germany’s Gottingen University, bending the fabric of space and time to the will of scientists is quite possible. Lentz introduced the first theoretical design of Warp Drive grounded in the concepts of conventional physics which will allow scientists to overcome the vast expanse between humans and stars and making Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel quite possible.

Lentz’s theory published in the peer-reviewed journal, Classical and Quantum Gravity, reimagined the shape of the warp space thus overcoming the dependence on exotic materials as suggested in models suggested by scientists previously.

“The suggested theory has opened up new dimensions for studies of FTL travel moving it a step away from theoretical physics and closer to engineering,” said Lentz in a statement.

The Warp drive concept is quite fascinating to scientists and researchers particularly because if the concept really comes to life, it will enable humans to travel to the Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system, in 3 years or less. If a usual modern rocket were to travel the same distance, it will take more than 50,000 years, and thus practically impossible.

While the fictional star trek model of FTL Warp Drive worked by the collision of matter and antimatter generating explosive energy which would be used to propel the space ship faster than the speed of light, the idea was no more than fiction.

In 1994, physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a Warp Drive model which is known as the Alcubierre Drive. In his research paper abstract, Miguel wrote, “by a purely local expansion of spacetime behind the spaceship and an opposite contraction in front of it, motion faster than the speed of light as seen by observers outside the disturbed region is possible.”

The idea of Alcubierre was based on expanding massive amounts of energy, however, particle physics knows of no such mechanism capable of creating this amount of negative energy.

Lentz’s paper suggests a new method of warp drive, one that isn’t dependent on exotic matter. In his research he discovered spacetime bubbles, taking the shape of solitons, which the scientists working previously had overlooked.

Applying the same Einstein’s equations of general relativity for various configurations of solitons, Lentz was able to finally find one equation that could work with conventional energy resources and didn’t need negative energy.

“The next step is to figure out how to bring down the astronomical amount of energy needed to within the range of today’s technologies, such as a large modern nuclear fission power plant. Then we can talk about building the first prototypes,” Lentz said.

Smart Fabrics Turning Your Clothes into a Walking Digital Display

Imagine walking around with your clothes lighting up like a digital display, allowing you to send messages and emails and turning into a keyboard. Even more shocking, imagine a direct communication with your clothes allowing them to adapt to varying temperatures or share crucial fitness information with your instructor while you are in the middle of a marathon run.

While it sounds like an ironman suit straight out of science fiction, smart fabric is quite real and scientists from the Fudan University in China have been able to create a fabric with embedded digital components that can conveniently be used as a digital display and communication tool while being folded, washed, and worn like your regular clothes.

The introduction of durable smart fabrics are set to revolutionize the world of wearable gadgets. According to experts the market size is expected to exponentially increase by 30.4% from 2019 to 2025.

The attempts at building conductive yarns that could be woven into fabrics had been going on for decades, but most attempts barely made it out of the research labs and onto people’s bodies since the resulting fabrics were extremely fragile and couldn’t withstand the abuse our clothes are usually put through.

Other smart fabrics which have been able to make it to market operate in predetermined ways such as the high-end beachwear manufactured by a French startup Spinali Design, with ultraviolet sensors which notify users when to apply sunscreen.

However, this new fabric developed by the researchers in China has been able to withstand over 100 washing and drying cycles and its display continues to work just fine, becoming a revolutionary leap forward in the field of electronic textiles that will have an insurmountable impact on industries worldwide, according to research published in the journal “Nature.”

The authors of the research journal suggest that the practical use for smart fabrics will not just be limited to fashion designer being able to integrate adaptive electronic displays into their outfits, but will have far more serious and life changing applications.

People with physical or cognitive impairments will be able to conveniently communicate with the smart fabrics. In addition, the speech-to-text display will allow communicating in foreign languages. The use of smart fabrics for the advertising industry will also evolve the concepts of marketing & advertising allowing people to turn into walking billboards.

Many tech giants around the world have been actively working on integrating the smart fabric technology to new applications. For instance, Google has been working with Levis for quite a few years to develop a smart denim jacket using Google’s Project Jacquard Smart Tech giving built in touch controls to the sleeves of the jacket. Similarly, Apple filed a patent to integrate health monitoring technology into clothing. 

There’s still some time until we see our local clothing outlets displaying digital clothing on their mannequins, but it may just happen in the very near future.

World’s First Home Hydrogen Battery

While most of Texas drowned in darkness and cold with the biggest power outage of recent times hitting the region, an Australian energy company might have found the perfect solution in the form of a renewable hydrogen-powered battery, which can store 3 times more power than Tesla’s famed Powerwall.

Lavo’s hydrogen battery can store enough energy to run an entire home for about 3 days becoming the world’s first home hydrogen battery.

Lavo’s Green Energy Vs Tesla’s Powerwall:

The Tesla Powerwall typically works on Lithium Battery Systems and until now served as the perfect alternative to generating and storing energy for when the sun went out.

The Lavo Green Energy Storage System weighing over 320 KGs offers a rather improved solution with a storing capacity of over 40Kilowatt-hours, roughly 3 times greater than Tesla’s Powerwall. The battery also has Wi-Fi Connectivity and a phone application allowing home owners to monitor and control the power storage capacity. You can even connect several Energy Storage Systems and create a mini power supply plant at your home.

How Does the Lavo Battery Function?

The Lavo Green Energy Storage System can be connected to a hybrid solar inverter and a water outlet through a purification unit. The battery uses excess energy to electrolyze the water running through it and releases oxygen simultaneously storing hydrogen in a metal hybrid sponge. When the energy is needed, the battery uses a fuel cell to deliver this energy directly to your home and power your appliances.

The hydrogen battery doesn’t use Earth’s rare metals and poses a lower risk for accidents. While the claims made by LAVO may seem too good to be true, there’s a price to pay, and trust us, that price is quite high. The battery costs approximately 3 times higher than the Tesla Powerwall and is currently available for $26,900. However, the manufacturers of the hydrogen battery believe that the price will go down making it the most viable energy solution for modern homes.

The unit also has a limited efficiency of 50 percent which is far below the average efficiency of Lithium-Ion battery systems. However, there’s a lot of margin for improvement in the product and if the Australian company continues to implement the latest tech advancements to the hydrogen-powered battery systems, it might give Tesla a run for their money.

Russia’s Next-Gen Military Armor

For decades, the US and Russian military have competed excessively in body armor technology, to give their soldier superhuman capabilities. For over a decade now, the Russian Sotnik or Centurion is leading the race by multiple paces. The third generation body armor can survive 7.62 mm rounds and is equipped with other high-end gear include night vision goggles and internal communication systems.

In a recent announcement that has met mixed reactions from warfare analysts, the Russian state-owned military manufacturer Rostec claimed that they have begun working on the 4th generation Sotnik which will be strong enough to withstand a direct shot of .50 caliber bullet, making it even more powerful than bulletproof vehicles.

A .50 caliber bullet is larger than your fist and approximately 3 times larger than the 7.62mm bullets, and anyone who is hit directly by the .50 caliber almost immediately dies. If in an extremely fortunate case the person survives, they are most likely to end up with irreparable physical damage.

However, whether the armor would allow soldiers to move along the front lines during battles is another story altogether.

How Real is the Claim?

Russian military warfare development experts believe that the 4th generation Sotnik made of lightweight polyethylene fiber and armor will be able to withstand the brunt of .50 caliber bullets with ease and will also be lighter in weight and easier for the soldier to wear and move around thus literally giving Russian soldiers superhuman capabilities during combat.

The armor is also said to be equipped with other robotic equipment and communication exchange systems integrated within making it a literal embodiment of the ironman. In a press release issued by Rostec, it was claimed that this new armor will surpass the outgoing Ratnik Suit that includes features of thermal vision, internal heaters, gas kit, med kit, and integrated communications. In the last 8 years, over 300,000 units of the Ratnik have been delivered to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The Arms Race Between Russia & USA:

Even though the US army has excessively worked for decades to developed armors that will enhance the capabilities of the soldiers on the front line, they haven’t been able to achieve even half of what the Russian manufacturers have built.

Russian military experts and analysts have said Rostec is very serious about keeping up its bold promises and believes they will be able to further lead the high-tech battle armored race for centuries to come.

Looking Back in History:

In the 1990s, US Helicopter crews were issued with the SARVIP (Survival Armor Recovery Vest Inserts and Packets) including huge pockets for ceramic plates to withstand the 0.50 caliber bullets. However, the weight of the armor was so much that they were hardly ever worn by the crew.

Earlier in WW1, the Germans also introduced Sappenpanzer, a heavy body armor made of segmented steel plates. Even though the armor was successful in terms of protecting the soldiers but it was so heavy that it could only be worn by machine gunners or sentries.

Whether the new Russian Sotnik will be able to break the barriers of the past and provide superhuman capabilities without restricting movement is yet to be seen.

Popcorn Powered Robots

Robots have always been a futuristic phenomenon, and their production is conventionally viewed as technological and scientific advancements. There are many popular applications where Robots have proven their efficiency and productivity, like in healthcare, manufacturing, military and more. However, traditionally the importance has been placed on what tasks robots can do for us; like drive our cars, clean our floors or even give us extra limbs. But what can power their abilities.

Remember when we were engrossed in devouring popcorns while enjoying the theatrical experience at the movies? Steve Ceron came up with a genius idea of using the same popcorns we eat for a much bigger purpose at Cornell’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab.

With his team of researchers, Ceron drafted a paper explaining how simple robots can be powered by Popcorn without electricity or hydraulics, at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. Yes, it’s true! In this ultra-modern era, it has become commonplace that we come across strange yet astounding developments in the sci-fi field and a popcorn robot is exactly that. The engineers from Cornell University demonstrated their hypothesis. Inside a silicon beam that was fastened with toasted wire, they put 36 kernels. An electrical current was dispersed through the metal chord, warming up the kernels which eventually started popping due to the heat, moving the silicon.

Popcorn has distinct features that include being readily available, cheap, and having the ability to expand in terms of the shape and size when heated. This invention could potentially be a stepping stone towards overall soft robots, but could also be utilized for a wider use. Ceron suggests that this invention’s long-term benefits are manifold; ranging from its ability to complete basic transportation, to serving as an inexpensive building block through which biodegradable structures can be made. He asserts that it can even function as a viable alternative to spray foam.

To claim popcorn robots will take over the world is not a coherent argument to make at this point. While they can hold objects and lift relatively lighter weights by expanding, there are certain limitations to achieving tasks beyond their ability. The engineers accomplished this by creating a claw where its “fingers” or insides were lined with raw kernels and a heating wire. As soon as the kernels burst open, they wield tension on the sleeve, holding them in a process that is similar to tense muscles. Given that the production is exceptionally cheap, deploying many of these robots will pave the way for a wide range of applications across various fields.

One can claim that the future looks bright, fluffy and delightful as researchers are now integrating food into Science and increasing the scope for similar innovations.