December 26, 2013

A new robotic muscle is 1000 stronger than a human muscle.     Photo: Ian Carroll/Flickr

Artificial Muscle Promises Super Strength

Robotic muscle 1,000 times stronger than human muscle

Tony Stark’s suit might still be science fiction fantasy, but developing the awesome strength of the Hulk is now a distinct possibility.

Earlier this month, researchers at the University of California, Berkley, announced the development of a micro-sized robotic muscle that’s 1,000 times stronger than a human muscle.

Imagine chucking a 7,500-pound elephant over your head in the blink of an eye, and you’ll get some idea of the power of this new muscle, which can catapult objects 50 times heavier than itself in less than a second.

Scientists used a material called vanadium dioxide to create this super sinew that, when heated to 67 degrees Celsius, turns into a conducive metal, yielding huge amounts of strength in the process.

Granted, since the research is all focused on the micro-scale (much smaller than a millimeter), we won’t be seeing any green giants from the Marvel universe anytime soon.   

“With its combination of power and multi-functionality, our micro-muscle shows great potential for applications that require a high level of functionality integration in a small space,” team leader Junqiao Wu said in a press release.

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    Photo: Getty Images

Cranberries May Be the Fountain of Youth

New study says cranberries increase life at any stage

If you start eating cranberries at any point (teenaged or middle-aged, young or old) you can extend the length of your life significantly, a new study to be published in the February 2014 issue of Experimental Gerontology says.

The study was conducted on groups of 100 to 200 Drosophila, a type of fruit fly often used for experimentation. Scientists fed the flies sugar supplemented by two percent cranberry extract during three biological stages of their buggy lives that correspond in humans with young adulthood, middle and old age, the Wall Street Journal reports.

What it found: "Young adult" flies fed cranberry extract lived 25 percent longer than the control flies only fed sugar, while the middle and old aged flies extended their lifespan by 30 percent. Boom. Eating cranberries reduces accumulated oxidative damage, therefore cranberries make you live forever! Well, longer, at least.  

The catch: This hasn't been tested on humans yet, though, historically, cranberries have health benefits given their antioxidant properties. Another thing researchers found—lifespan extension induced by cranberries partially requires SOD2, an enzyme that encodes mitochondrial proteins.

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Kim Allan (left) and Sally Law (right).     Photo: Steve Knowles/Facebook

Woman Runs for Three Days Straight

Kim Allen, 47 years old, covers 310 miles

New Zealand ultramarathoner Kim Allan set a world record for the longest continuous run without sleep on Sunday. In 86 hours, 11 minutes, and 9 seconds, she completed 310 miles (500 kilometers) in Auckland, New Zealand. The 47-year-old completed 332 laps around the Auckland Domain, a park that offers only slightly less than a mile (1.5 kilometers) per lap.

Allan reportedly overcame severe blisters and digestive problem 117 miles into her run. Co-manager Mark Gray cut off the top part of her shoes to alleviate the friction.

When Allan eclipsed the previous record held by American Pam Reed, who ran 301 miles (486 km) in 2005 in about 80 hours, supporters remained silent out of concern that Allan would stop short of 310 miles if she knew she had already set the record.

"We didn't want her to give her an excuse to stop," supporter Michael Rodliffe told The New Zealand Herald during Allan's run. "In two hours time when she's finished the 500 [kilometers], we'll celebrate."

In 2005, Dean Karnazes ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep.

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

70 Injured in Christmas Piranha Attack

20 children among the wounded

The Grinch might be out of a job soon. 70 holiday revelers in the Argentine town of Rosario learned why they should always read the signs at the beach when they were attacked by a shoal of piranhas during a Christmas Day swim.

The attack occurred along the Parana River, where Rosario beachgoers were trying to escape scorching 100-degree temperatures. More than 20 children were wounded by the hyper-aggressive fish, with one 7-year-old reportedly losing a piece of her finger.

The attack is the worst of its kind in Rosario since 2008, when 40 swimmers were hurt. Local government spokesman Ricardo Biasatti maintains that piranha attacks remain a rarity at the city's beaches:

"This sort of event in this area is absolutely sporadic," Biasatti said. "It was the conjunction of two factors, a shoal that passed very briefly through an area full of people."

The fish were reportedly drawn to the coast by debris left by fisherman.

UPDATE: The AP is reporting that 70 people were injured. This article originally listed the number at 60 and has been updated.

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What's Santa's Carbon Footprint?

Saint Nick's carbon emissions match Qatar

Between the methane produced by his reindeer, the lumps of coal he deals to naughty children, and a factory that rivals Nike, Santa releases almost 69.4 million metric tons of carbon emissions, roughly the country of Qatar produces annually. However, that's still a fraction of what the U.S. produced in 2011—6,702 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ethical Ocean, an online marketplace for ethical products and services in North America, "investigated" the source of Santa's emissions, and proposed solutions to make the big guy in the red suit more green. See below:

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