Moths have a bad rep. They chew holes in winter garments or leave brown staining behind. They can be annoying when fluttering around your home at night, attracted to every lightbulb that’s burning. In the Dakota fields in the U.S., they can be so numerous at night that you think you’re driving in a summer snowstorm (I experienced this while driving cross-country – believe me, I’ve never needed my car washed so badly!)
There’s some new tech that is hoping to give moths a “new mission” in life. Research is ongoing at North Carolina State University to create drones – not mechanical, but living. Dr. Alper Bozkurt is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the university and developed the technique with Dr. Amit Lal from Cornell University. It involves attaching electrodes to a moth while it’s changing from a caterpillar, a methodology named Early Metamorphosis Insertion Technology (EMIT).
The goal: remotely-controlled moths, or “biobots,” for use in emergency response, such as search and rescue operations.
Read an op-ed piece by Diane Shipley featured on the shinyshiny site that speaks up for the ‘rights of the moths’: Might bionic moths be the future of disaster relief?
And another article on the Kurzweil site with some keen observations by readers giving their thoughts on the tech: Remote-controlled cyborg moth ‘biobots’ to monitor emergency-response operations
Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk. Is there work that you are engaged in that could help mitigate the effects of our world turning ‘upside down’???
Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere. The Swarm satellites not only pick up signals coming from the Earth’s magnetic field, but also from its core, mantle, crust and oceans.
Here is some additional information on the topic from the British Geological Survey site that you may find helpful: Reversals: Magnetic Flip
And some amazing detail from NASA: Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All The (Geologic) Time
People are usually given a breathalyser test to determine whether they are over the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Here’s a more pleasant application of this testing – - -
Students at UC Davis are working on helping dolphins and other marine life. It looks like wet but happy work…
And honestly, how could you not smile back for this face? [Dolphin encounter image by Ste Elmore, CC BY 2.0]
Perhaps current human breathalyzer testing will expand to being a diagnostic tool for people, too! There are ideas in the works – check out this article: Sports concussion ‘breathalyser’ proposed Scientists at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. are developing a “breathalyser” to detect concussions, which will be used to prevent brain injuries among athletes, especially children.
And, should you manage to pick up the April 2014 issue of Journal of Medical Engineering & Technology, there’s an interesting research article on this topic [Designing breathalyser technology for the developing world: how a single breath can fight the double disease burden (Authors: Sarah Krisher, Alison Riley, and Khanjan Mehta, Vol. 38, No. 3 , Pages 156-163(doi:10.3109/03091902.2014.890678)] Abstract: The meteoric rise in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, alongside already high rates of infectious diseases, is exacerbating the ‘double disease burden’ in the developing world. There is a desperate need for affordable, accessible and ruggedized diagnostic tools that detect diseases early and direct patients to the correct channels. Breath analysis, the science of utilizing biomarkers in the breath for diagnostic measures, is growing rapidly, especially for use in clinical diagnostic settings. Breathalyser technologies are improving scientifically, but are not yet ready for productization and dissemination to address healthcare challenges. How does one ensure that these new biomedical devices will be suitable for use in developing communities? This article presents a comprehensive review of breath analysis technologies followed by a discussion on how such devices can be designed to conform with WHO’s ASSURED criteria so as to reach and sustain in developing countries where they are needed the most.
Take a look around you right now. You may be sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. There have been plenty of conversations about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions. The United States Office of Naval Research announced a five year, $7.5 million grant to study the possibilities for creating moral robots. The five year program includes researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Tufts, Brown, Georgetown, and Yale Universities.
Besides all of the many technological challenges, the prospect of creating robots with morals raises an intriguing question: whose morals?
The basic idea is to create an infantile robot capable of acquiring moral sensibilities. That might result in a more human-like morality, but engineers have less control over the end result and there are risks in that, as well.
There are many questions about the ethicality of building moral robots, moral dilemmas which we have yet to work out. What’s your take?