First, let's have a quick anatomy review. There are two long bones in the forearm, the radius and ulna, which run from your elbow to your wrist. The radius can rotate around the ulna. (Bend your elbow and turn your palm to face the floor, and then the ceiling—if you had x-ray vision, you could see your bones rotating around one another.) Krukenberg developed a method for taking the radius and ulna of a handless patient and transforming these two bones into a giant pincer claw—like having a set of giant fleshy chopsticks attached to your elbow. When patients were healed, they could use their pincer to grasp objects with fairly good control; since the claw was an integral part of their own body, they still had sensation and could feel and manipulate objects—even with their eyes closed. The end result might look bizarre, even creepy—but many patients love the new independence they gain from a functional Krukenberg arm.
These days, you can read many articles about cutting-edge, high-performance prosthetics. Just recently, Oscar Pistorius, a bilateral below knee amputee from South Africa was almost banned from the Olympic trials because officials feared his artificial legs gave him too great of an advantage over able-bodied runners. Other prosthetic devices are geared those who are more aesthetically, and less athletically, inclined; one designer is working on anEames-inspired prosthetic leg, modeled after the famously graceful and stylish Eames chairs of the mid-twentieth century. Likewise, surgeons today in the twenty-first century are blessed with incredible technological resources, everything from the tiny fiber optic cameras of laparoscopy, to space-age super-strong, super-light metal hardware. Amidst this wealth of functional and visual appeal, it can be easy to forget about older, simpler, but still vital and elegant devices and surgical methods such as those of Drs Küntscher, Ilizarov and Krukenberg—three physicians who used a little ingenuity, some household odds and ends, and the bones of the human body itself, to develop techniques that gave surgery a major leg up and helping hand.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.