The creator of the Segway is one of the most successful and admired inventors in the world. He leads a team of 300 scientists and engineers devoted to making things that better mankind. But he's not done
By Rena Marie PacellaPosted 06.05.2009 at 10:18 am 20 Comments
"Let's run it through from the top. This is going downhill."
Dean Kamen is standing on a six-inch riser in an almost empty room in the basement of Westwind, his 32,000-square-foot house in Bedford, New Hampshire, trying to get this thing right. It's crunch time for FIRST, the high-school robotics competition Kamen founded two decades ago in an effort to get kids jazzed about engineering, to make science as sexy as sports. (FIRST = For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.)
In less than a month, 42,000 students on 1,700 teams will gather at 43 regional championships to showcase the ball-throwing 'bots that each team has spent six weeks assembling in novel ways from nearly identical boxes of parts. At stake -- besides glory -- is $9 million in scholarships.
What you consider solid, liquid or gas depends entirely on where you live. For example, men from cold, cold Mars might build their houses out of ice. Women from Venus, where the average temperature is about 870°F, could bathe in liquid zinc.
We think mercury is a liquid metal, but it's all relative. At one temperature, the mercury atoms arrange themselves into a solid crystal; at another, they flow freely around each other as a liquid. Children from Pluto (like mine, for example) could happily cast their toy soldiers out of mercury, because on that frigid planet it is a solid, malleable metal a lot like tin. Here on temperate Earth, you need a stove to cast tin, but a tank of liquid nitrogen to make mercury figurines.
It's not that they can't. They just don't need to, says Mike Murray, a veterinarian at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. Birds have the anatomical and physical ability to pass gas, he explains, "but if I saw gas in a bird's gastrointestinal tract on an x-ray, I'd suspect that something abnormal was going on in there."
Surgical solutions for restoring lush locks have always involved a painful trade-off — transplanting hairs from the rear of your head to the top could leave you thin in the back. But Bessam Farjo, a hair-loss specialist at the British company Intercytex, has devised a less barbaric fix: cloning patients' hair cells. "The concept is to create a limitless supply of donor hair," Farjo says.
Trapped on a high floor? Reach for today's featured Invention Award winner.
As the 9/11 inferno unfolded on television, one question kept dogging Kevin Stone: Why weren't the people trapped in the World Trade Center able to make their way to safety? "I said to myself, This is crazy," recalls Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and seasoned inventor in San Francisco. "There should be a better way to exit a skyscraper when something like this happens."
By Chris ChiarellaPosted 06.02.2009 at 11:16 am 6 Comments
Yes indeed. The sticker shock you're experiencing usually does translate to better performance. The priciest TVs are full-HD 1080p (the highest resolution). Less-expensive 720p sets still deliver an outstanding picture, and most high-def TV service is 720p or 1080i, but 1080p is your best bet for watching Blu-ray movies and for smoother up-close viewing. Telltale measurements such as contrast ratio (the range of bright to dark colors — look for at least 3,000:1) and the refresh rate (which reduces motion blur) can also improve demonstrably as the price increases. A 60-hertz refresh rate is common, but 120 hertz provides smoother fast-action rendering for sports.
Today's featured Invention Award winner: ReWalk, the lightweight, affordable, powered smart exoskeleton.
After breaking his neck in a 1997 fall, Israeli engineer Amit Goffer learned that he would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He soon concluded that this mode of transportation was outdated and began work on the ReWalk, the only wearable exoskeleton that allows paraplegics to stand, amble, and even climb stairs.
For more than a decade, researchers have touted stem cells as the most promising advance in medicine since antibiotics. And this winter, when President Obama lifted the Bush administration's ban on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, talking heads buzzed that his decision could bring scientists that much closer to cures — not just treatments — for conditions like heart failure, spinal-cord injuries and Alzheimer's disease. Biologists around the world toasted their new prospects with champagne. "Lifting the ban will free us up to use additional cell lines," says Jack Kessler, director of the Feinberg Neuroscience Institute at Northwestern University. "It's very important for science."
Today's featured Invention Award winner kills two birds with one stone: providing a simple and cheap alternative energy source while widening the market for delicious fried foods. Everybody wins!
The nondescript six-foot-tall box behind Finz restaurant in Dedham, Massachusetts, looks like a tool shed, but actually it's a self-contained grease refinery and five-kilowatt generator. Engineer James Peret's Vegawatt is the first all-in-one device that processes grease to continuously provide a building with electricity and hot water, heralding a significant change in alternative-fuel applications. "It's a brilliant idea," says Josh Tickell, author of Biodiesel America. "A waste stream to an energy source, with no intermediary."
Remember that awesome scene in Minority Report when Tom Cruise just wiggles his hands in the air to sift through information? Today's featured Invention Award winner brings it to life.
When he's wearing the SixthSense, a combination miniature projector, webcam and notebook computer, Pranav Mistry can snap photos just by making the shape of a frame with his fingers.