Tech universe: Wednesday 24 November

By Miraz Jordan

Visual reconstruction (from array-tomography data) of synapses in the mouse somatosensory cortex. Photo / Supplied
Visual reconstruction (from array-tomography data) of synapses in the mouse somatosensory cortex. Photo / Supplied

THE UNIVERSE IN OUR HEADS: Billions of neurons, trillions of synapses: that's what our brains are made of. Just try pinning down the spot that reacts to or controls an individual sensation or movement. Each synapse is less than 1,000th of a millimeter in diameter. Array
tomography is a new technique for imaging individual synapses, using
antibodies and molecules that respond to light by glowing in different colours. The technique worked well on mouse brains, with photos stitched together into a 3D movie. Inner space and outer - they have a lot in common. More at Kurzweilai and video on YouTube.

SCORE: The New Jersey Institute of Technology has been getting people who've had a stroke to play video or music games with the aid of a robotic glove. The glove helps users control their hand and finger movements, so they can focus on specific actions.

Immediate feedback comes through the video game. Tests showed players could move better with the training. Scans also showed their brains to be more active in areas affected by the stroke. That's encouraging news for all who've had a stroke. More at NewScientist.

SPINAL BOOK: Those who are paralysed can't easily exercise their limbs. British researchers though are working with a tiny new microchip muscle stimulator implant. The device is implanted into the spinal canal where tiny electrodes of platinum foil weld to the nerve roots. A silicon chip in the device controls its activity. It's known as the Active Book, because of the shape of the electrodes, which resemble pages of a book. A tiny device with huge benefits. More at ScienceDaily.

HEAVY METAL: It's kind of a secret, but recently the US Delta-4 Heavy rocket launched a new NROL-32 satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. The satellite will apparently eavesdrop on enemy communications. The Delta-4 is the largest uncrewed American launch vehicle. Each of 3 core boosters burns a tonne of propellant every second and produces 2,900 kiloNewtons of thrust at lift-off. The world is truly now a village with no secrets. Details at the BBC and video on YouTube.

RING AROUND THE MOONBASE: Contestants in SHIFTboston's Moon Capital 2010 competition put forward their architecture and engineering ideas for a moonbase in 2069. The winning entry would put a moonbase in a ring around a massive satellite dish that collects energy from the sun and beams it back to Earth. The idea includes creating artificial gravity for the colony. Ah yes, artificial gravity: no problem. More at CNN and the winning entry at SHIFTBoston.

- Miraz Jordan

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