Tech Universe: Tuesday 06 August

By Miraz Jordan

How big is the Baltika? Enough to break the ice! Photo / Thinkstock
How big is the Baltika? Enough to break the ice! Photo / Thinkstock

MORE SHIP THAN MOST CAN HANDLE: Icebreaker ships do their work by forcing a necessarily narrow passage through icebound waters. The channels they create are generally about 25 metres wide — too narrow for large container vessels. The Baltika is a new kind of ship with an asymmetric hull that will create a path up to 50 metres wide. The new icebreaker is 76 metres long by 20 metres wide and can swing around to a 30 degree angle to break up ice. Engine pods around the hull can deliver thrust in any direction, while fuel and bilge water can be pumped around to shift the vessel's centre of gravity for optimal ice-breaking. The asymmetric hull will cause problems for the pilot as it will pitch and roll irregularly at sea, but training on a simulator should sort that out. The first to benefit will be the icebound ports in Finland and Russia. It's brute force at its best.

THE TEETH ARE TELLING: Researchers in Taiwan have developed a sensor that fits inside a tooth.

This isn't a gadget for spies though. Rather its accelerometer and smartphone app together work out how much of the time the wearer is chewing, drinking, speaking, coughing or smoking. The device can be fitted into dentures or a dental brace and after further development, and the addition of a battery, may even fit inside a cavity or crown. The purpose is to help doctors and dentists work with patients to improve their health. You may also like to investigate tin foil hats.

TURNING RED: Those confined to bed need to turn regularly to avoid ulcers caused by pressure. The MAP System is a monitor that uses a special electronic sheet with thousands of sensors. The sheet is placed over the mattress to detect the pressure distribution of the patient's body over the bed. Monitoring takes place in real time and sends a coloured image to caregivers that shows the pressure points. A timer helps caregivers turn patients when they need it. Beep, you're done.

RIDE DRIVE: Imagine being able to mount an electric drive on your bicycle in less than a minute. That's what the Rubbee friction drive claims. It's a handheld unit that clips on to the seat post where a carrier might normally attach. Turn it on and a small polyurethane compound roller rubs against the tire like a dynamo, except instead of deriving power it provides it to push the wheel. A throttle on the handlebars allows the rider to control the power output. The drive claims 25 Kph for its top speed and a 25 Km range. It adds 6.5 Kg to the weight and can be recharged in 2 hours. Ingenious.

SOUNDS OF PROTEINS: Feeling depressed, anxious or in pain? Instead of using pharmaceuticals you may in future be able to change your mood or relieve the pain with sounds, or more precisely ultrasounds. Inside brain neurons are protein structures linked to mood and consciousness that resonate in megahertz frequencies — about the same frequencies as ultrasound in fact. In a double blind study people treated with ultrasound to the brain showed improvements in mood for up to 40 minutes following treatment. The researchers are helping develop a wearable unit that could target specific regions of the brain with ultrasound bursts. That seems almost too easy.

Miraz Jordan, knowit.co.nz

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