TIME magazine has just published its review of the 50 best inventions of the past year. It's worth taking the time to browse through their extensive reviews, and marvel at what human ingenuity can come up with. Here are just a few items that caught my eye.
How do you communicate when your brain is active but your body isn't? The EyeWriter, a collaboration from the Ebeling Group, the Not Impossible Foundation and Graffiti Research Lab, uses low-cost eye-tracking glasses and open-source software to allow people suffering from any kind of neuromuscular syndrome to write and draw by tracking their eye movement and translating it to lines on a screen. The device was created for Tony "Tempt" Quan, an L.A.-based graffiti artist who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2003. After trying the EyeWriter — the first time he'd drawn anything since he was fully paralyzed — Quan said, "It feels like taking a breath after being held underwater for five minutes."
Growing new body parts has always been more science fiction than science reality, but that balance may quickly be shifting, at least in the lab. Relying on more sophisticated biosimulators that can better mimic body conditions, researchers have re-created the delicate architecture of a rat lung accurately enough for it to assume 95% of a normal lung's inhaling and exhaling functions. The key to their respiratory success was starting with a skeletal rat-lung template, including a matrix of blood vessels and collagen and other connective tissue, then seeding it with stem cells and nutrients to generate lifelike tissue that exchanged oxygen and carbon dioxide just like normal lung tissue. The ultimate goal is to replicate the feat on a larger scale: to replace enough human lung tissue to aid patients with emphysema or lung cancer.
SUPER SUPER SOAKER:
The squirt gun has gone professional. Troops in Afghanistan are using a new "water disrupter" to disable roadside bombs. The clear plastic device is filled with water and a small explosive charge that, when set off, generates a thin blade of water that pulverizes the target.
There are many more at the link. Interesting and recommended reading.