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Sat, 16 Feb 2019
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Robot

World's first dexterous and sentient hand prosthesis implanted

Hand prosthesis being tested
© Dr. Max Ortiz Catalan​​​​​​​​​​
First person with below-elbow amputation implanted with an osseo-neuromuscular prosthesis.
A female Swedish patient with hand amputation has become the first recipient of an osseo-neuromuscular implant to control a dexterous hand prosthesis. In a pioneering surgery, titanium implants were placed in the two forearm bones (radius and ulnar), from which electrodes to nerves and muscle were extended to extract signals to control a robotic hand and to provide tactile sensations. This makes it the first clinically viable, dexterous and sentient prosthetic hand usable in real life. The breakthrough is part of the European project DeTOP.

​The new implant technology was developed in Sweden by a team lead by Dr. Max Ortiz Catalan at Integrum AB - the company behind the first bone-anchored limb prosthesis using osseointegration - and Chalmers University of Technology. This first-of-its-kind surgery, led by Prof. Rickard Brånemark and Dr. Paolo Sassu, took place at Sahlgrenska University Hospital as part of a larger project funded by the European Commission under Horizon 2020 called DeTOP.

The DeTOP project is coordinated by Prof. Christian Cipriani at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, and also includes Prensilia, the University of Gothenburg, Lund University, University of Essex, the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, INAIL Prosthetic Center, Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, and the Instituto Ortopedico Rizzoli.

Implanted electrodes provide sensory and motoric control

Conventional prosthetic hands rely on electrodes placed over the skin to extract control signals from the underlying stump muscles. These superficial electrodes deliver limited and unreliable signals that only allow control of a couple of gross movements (opening and closing the hand). Richer and more reliable information can be obtained by implanting electrodes in all remaining muscle in the stump instead. Sixteen electrodes were implanted in this first patient in order to achieve more dexterous control of a novel prosthetic hand developed in Italy by the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna and Prensilia.

Current prosthetic hands have also limited sensory feedback. They do not provide tactile or kinesthetic sensation, so the user can only rely on vision while using the prosthesis. Users cannot tell how strongly an object is grasped, or even when contact has been made. By implanting electrodes in the nerves that used to be connected to the lost biological sensors of the hand, researchers can electrically stimulate these nerves in a similar manner as information conveyed by the biological hand. This results in the patient perceiving sensations originating in the new prosthetic hand, as it is equipped with sensors that drive the stimulation of the nerve to deliver such sensations.

Sun

Evidence for a new fundamental constant of the sun

The corona of the sun
© Dr. Richard Morton, Northumbria University, Newcastle
The corona of the sun – its utmost atmosphere.
New studies at Northumbria University, Newcastle, show that the sun's magnetic waves behave differently than previously thought.

Their results were reported in Nature Astronomy,

After examining the data collected over a 10-year period, Northumbria's team from the Department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering found that magnetic waves in the Sun's corona - the outermost layer of the atmosphere - react to sound waves escaping from the inside of the Sun.

These magnetic waves, known as Alfvenic waves, play a crucial role in transporting energy around the Sun and solar system. It was assumed that the waves were created on the solar surface, where boiling hydrogen reaches temperatures of 6,000 degrees and churns the sun's magnetic field.

However, the researchers have found evidence that the magnetic waves also react - or are excited - higher in the atmosphere by sound waves leaking out from the inside of the sun.

The team discovered that the sound waves leave a distinctive marker on the magnetic waves. The presence of this marker means that the sun's entire corona is shaking in a collective manner in response to the sound waves. This is causing it to vibrate over a very clear range of frequencies.

Beaker

Two proteins shown to partially regrow mouse toes after amputation

laboratory mouse
© Pexels / Pixabay
Two proteins appear to be linked to regeneration

A pair of proteins could help regenerate amputated limbs. When applied to amputated toes, the proteins encouraged both bone and joint growth in mice.

Joints are structurally complex, so even for animals that can regrow their lost limbs, rarely can they regenerate their joints as well.

Ken Muneoka at Texas A&M University and his colleagues had previously regenerated bones in mice after they were amputated by treating the stump with a bone-growing protein, BMP2. But joint structures never formed.

Brain

Laughter may be the best medicine - if you're in the middle of brain surgery

electrode in brain
© From Bijanki et al, J. Clin. Invest. (2019); Courtesy of American Society for Clinical Investigation
Illustration showing how an electrode was inserted into the cingulum bundle.
Neuroscientists at Emory University School of Medicine have discovered a focal pathway in the brain that when electrically stimulated causes immediate laughter, followed by a sense of calm and happiness, even during awake brain surgery. The effects of stimulation were observed in an epilepsy patient undergoing diagnostic monitoring for seizure diagnosis. These effects were then harnessed to help her complete a separate awake brain surgery two days later.

The behavioral effects of direct electrical stimulation of the cingulum bundle, a white matter tract in the brain, were confirmed in two other epilepsy patients undergoing diagnostic monitoring. The findings are scheduled for publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Videos of the effects of cingulum bundle stimulation are available, with the patient's identity obscured.

Emory neurosurgeons see the technique as a "potentially transformative" way to calm some patients during awake brain surgery, even for people who are not especially anxious. For optimal protection of critical brain functions during surgery, patients may need to be awake and not sedated, so that doctors can talk with them, assess their language skills, and detect impairments that may arise from resection.

Comment: See also:


Compass

'Earth's magnetic North Pole has shifted so much we've had to update GPS' - scientists scrambling to update models

icebreaker
© SteveAllenPhoto/iStock
Magnetic north is not where it used to be.

Since 2015, the place to which a compass points has been sprinting toward Siberia at a pace of more than 30 miles (48 kilometres) a year. And this week, after a delay caused by the month-long partial government shutdown in the United States, humans have finally caught up.

Scientists on Monday released an emergency update to the World Magnetic Model, which cellphone GPS systems and military navigators use to orient themselves.

It's a minor change for most of us - noticeable only to people who are attempting to navigate very precisely very close to the Arctic.

But the north magnetic pole's inexorable drift suggests that something strange - and potentially powerful - is taking place deep within Earth. Only by tracking it, said University of Leeds geophysicist Phil Livermore, can scientists hope to understand what's going on.

Comment: Perhaps another pole shift is not as slow in coming as the article would suggest?


Info

What could go wrong? - NASA and ESA team to knock asteroid out of orbit to test Earth defense system

Asteroid Break up
© News Bangla
You know what? We're going to spare you the "Armageddon" reference that we had planned and just jump straight to the lede on this one.

NASA has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to in what many are calling the first planetary defense test: an attempt to alter the orbit of an asteroid. The much-beleaguered Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which we first reported on in 2015, involves a visit to a double asteroid system consisting of the relatively tiny asteroid Didymos and its even tinier moon, informally called "Didymoon." Rather than bringing a nice bottle of wine and an asteroid rover, however, DART will be attempting to crash an impactor spacecraft into Didymoon to knock the asteroid out of orbit, assuming, of course, that Elon Musk's Tesla doesn't get there first.

Once the space rocks are sent hurtling out of control to become some other planet's problem, ESA's part of the project, dubbed Hera, will follow-up with a visit to the Didymoon to survey the effects of the DART spacecraft's impact and assess the feasibility and efficacy of redirection.

Mars

Scientists share view of ancient river delta that carried water on Mars

Eberswalde crater delta
© ESA/Roscosmos/CaSSIS
This intricate structure of an ancient river delta once carried liquid water across the surface of Mars.

To best enjoy this image, produced with infrared and visible filters on the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, view through red/green 3-D glasses. To create a stereo view like this, the orbiter's camera uses a motor to rotate its telescope and take photos from different angles. The two views can be put together to make a three-dimensional view. Click here to see one of the pair of images that comprise the 'stereo pair'.

The distinctive form of a delta arises from sediments that are deposited by a river as it enters slower-moving water, like a lake or a sea, for example. The Nile River delta is a classic example on Earth, and uncannily similar features have been spotted on Saturn's moon Titan and - closer to home - Mars. While liquid water is no longer present on the surface of Mars, features in the left portion of this image provide strong evidence of it having played an important role in the history of the Red Planet. Furthermore, water-ice is still stable on the surface today, and a recent discovery from Mars Express detected a pocket of liquid water below the surface.

The 100-metre-thick fan-shaped deposit seen in this image is found in Eberswalde crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars (326.33ºE/23.55ºS). The image covers an area of 31 x 7.5 km and was taken on 16 November 2018.

Comment:


Seismograph

Deadly Indonesian earthquake was rare ultra-powerful supershear event

Indonesian earthquake in 2018
© Dita Alangkara/AP/REX/Shutterstock
A seismic boom contributed to the devastation of the Indonesian earthquake in 2018.
The Indonesian earthquake that impacted Sulawesi island in September 2018 was a rare ultra-powerful, superfast supershear event, according to new research out of NASA, UCLA, and more. The 7.5-magnitude earthquake caused an unexpected tsunami, the disaster ultimately claiming more than 1,500 lives and causing extreme damage. Using satellite images, researchers determined that the 7.5 Palu quake was one of fewer than 15 known supershear events.

The earthquake struck on September 28, 2018, with a steady rupture speed of 9,171MPH, according to NASA, which says the primary shock lasted for nearly one minute. This was an unusually fast speed compared to the typical 5600 to 6700MPH speeds most earthquakes present. In addition, and thanks to satellite images, the researchers found that the earthquake resulted in the fault - measuring 93 miles in length - had slipped by around 16ft.

The supershear event's rapid speed caused stronger shaking on the ground than would have resulted from a slower earthquake. Helping put this into perspective, the study's co-author Lingsen Meng explained via NASA, "The intense shaking is similar to the sonic boom associated with a supersonic jet."

Pi

The growing list of world scientists who dissent from Darwinism is only the tip of the iceberg

darwin statue
With Darwin Day, February 12, approaching, it's good to report that the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list currently tops a thousand names of PhD scientists who publicly declare their skepticism in the face of absolutist claims for evolutionary theory. The key word there is "publicly."

February 12 is Charles Darwin's birthday. (Look here that day, incidentally, for a special birthday gift.) The Dissent statement represents a splash of cold water on the great man. It reads, "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." The signers hold professorships or doctorates from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, UCLA, the University of Pennsylvania, and many other prominent institutions.

They are also an increasingly international group. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Brazilian Academy of Sciences are represented. Discovery Institute began taking names of signatories in 2001 in response to frequently heard assertions that there is no dissent, or "virtually" none.

Comment: At last many scientists are willing to come out and say what they've been afraid to: the main tenets of Darwinism make no sense in light of decades of rigorous scientific study:
Over 1,000 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at dissentfromdarwin.org, reads: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

"Because no scientist can show how Darwin's mechanism can produce the complexity of life, every scientist should be skeptical," said biologist Douglas Axe, director of Biologic Institute. "The fact that most won't admit to this exposes the unhealthy effect of peer pressure on scientific discourse."

False Statements About Darwinian Evolution

Discovery Institute first published its Scientific Dissent from Darwinism list in in The New York Review of Books in 2001 to challenge false statements about Darwinian evolution made in PBS's series Evolution. Promoters of the series, among others, claimed that "virtually every scientist in the world believes the theory to be true."

Bruce Chapman, Discovery Institute's Chairman of the Board, found 100 PhD scientists to sign the initial dissent statement. Realizing that there were likely more scientists worldwide who shared some skepticism of Darwinian evolution and were willing to go on record, the Institute has maintained the list and added to it continually since its inception.

The list of signatories now includes 15 scientists from the National Academies of Science in countries including Russia, Czech Republic, Brazil, and the United States, as well as from the Royal Society. Many of the signers are professors or researchers at major universities and international research institutions such as the University of Cambridge, London's Natural History Museum, Moscow State University, Hong Kong University, University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, Institut de Paléontologie Humaine in France, Ben-Gurion University in Israel, MIT, the Smithsonian, Yale, and Princeton.

"As a biochemist I became skeptical about Darwinism when I was confronted with the extreme intricacy of the genetic code and its many most intelligent strategies to code, decode, and protect its information," said Dr. Marcos Eberlin, founder of the Thomson Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in Brazil.
See also:


Galaxy

The Milky Way shown to be torqued into s-shape

milky way galaxy torqued
© CHEN Xiaodian
An illustration of the true shape of the Milky Way, with an S-like warp in the outer reaches of the disk.
The Milky Way's shape is a disk ... with a twist.

New research finds that at the edges of the galaxy, where the pull of gravity weakens, the shape of the Milky Way warps. Instead of lying in a flat plane, the galaxy takes on a bit of a twisted "S" shape.

"This new morphology provides a crucial updated map for studies of our galaxy's stellar motions and the origins of the Milky Way's disk," study co-author Licai Deng, a senior researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.