Top Stories for the Week of February 28, 2018

  • Episode 545
  • February 28, 2018
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Here are the stories we're following for the week of Wednesday February 28, 2018

A startup in the UK is making huge waves by lowering the cost of robotic prostheses; using 3D printing technology.

A UK startup is changing the way we see prostheses. Open Bionics is working hard to create affordable 3D printed bionic hands that actually work—but are about 30 times cheaper than other prostheses on the market.

They operate using sensors attached to the skin to detect muscle movements. The muscle movements control the hand and open and close fingers.

Open Bionics teamed up with the National Health Service in the UK and has been trialing their bionic hands with children as young as eight. Right now, the NHS spends approximately $75 million per year on prosthetic services.

Young children often don't have access to these devices because they're not small enough, or they're just too expensive (so for example, their parents can't afford to supply them, or the NHS cannot afford to supply the patient with it).

The co-founder of the company says, "seeing a young child being able to move fingers individually for the first time is really cool."

Open Bionics is currently working on arms that are straight out of the science fiction universe. Themes from Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars franchises are available. The goal is to make kids feel proud of their prostheses. This changes the image of prostheses from medical devices to bionic arms inspired by famous characters.

Currently the arms take roughly 40 hours to 3D print. The person's limb is scanned with a tablet. The design of the prosthetic is then planned out. Finally, the prosthetic is 3D printed. A royalty-free agreement has been formed between Disney and Open Bionics. This means themed designs have even more potential. The company sees a future of making prostheses fashionable and accessible to all.


Sent to us by: Robbie Ferguson

A California electronics recycler is fighting to stay out of jail after he admitted to copying thousands of Windows reinstallation discs, to use with refurbished PCs.

A California electronics recycler is fighting to stay out of jail after he admitted to copying thousands of Windows reinstallation discs, to use with refurbished PCs.

As an e-waste warrior, Eric Lundgren wished to see discarded computers fixed up and reused rather than crammed into holes in the ground. To encourage people to refurbish and continue using unwanted Dell PCs, he burned and distributed 28,000 copies of the IT giant's Windows XP and 7 restore discs. These discs can be used to wipe clean a machine's storage and reinstall a fresh copy of Microsoft's operating system.

Well, US prosecutors weren't impressed by this caper. Lundgren was taken to court, and in May of last year he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods, and criminal copyright infringement.

At the time, the 33-year-old Reseda, California resident,was sentenced to 15 months in jail, and fined $50,000. His co-conspirator (Robert J. Wolff, of Boca Raton, Florida, at the time 54), was placed under six months of house arrest and given four years of probation. But the district court granted Lundgren a stay of sentence, allowing him to challenge the punishment without a trip to the clink.

Is this fair though?

The computers he created the discs for had valid Windows license keys. The discs were, in one sense, cleaning tools for wiping a machine and preparing it for reuse, rather than depriving Microsoft of a Windows sale.

It was the value of those discs, however, that were used as the basis for the 15-month term. After all, Dell offers its reinstallation media for free from its website, while Microsoft typically charges for copies of its operating system.

Arguing that a copy of Windows is essentially useless without a product key, and that all of the recycled machines had their own valid keys, Lundgren's lawyers suggested that what he did was merely make it easier for the owners to get something that they were already entitled to for free.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

AI researchers at Google have developed algorithms that can assess the risk of heart attacks by analyzing retinal scans.

Artificial Intelligence researchers at Google have developed algorithms that can assess the risk of heart attacks by analyzing retinal scans.

By looking for common patterns in images of retinal scans and matching them up with the data in the patients’ medical records, one algorithm could determine if someone was a smoker or non-smoker to an accuracy of 71 per cent. Another algorithm that was focused on the blood vessels in the eye, could tell if someone had severe high blood pressure or not; a sign associated with increased chances of stroke.

Their models can also predict other factors such as age, gender, and the chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Lily Peng, a product manager at Google Brain explained, "Given the retinal image of one patient who (up to 5 years) later experienced a major [cardiovascular] event (such as a heart attack) and the image of another patient who did not, our algorithm could pick out the patient who had the cardiovascular event 70% of the time."

While 70% may not seem as accurate as you'd want, according to the researchers the level of accuracy is actually very similar to the more traditional method of drawing blood to measure cholesterol levels.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

A clock designed to run for 10,000 years is under construction.

A clock designed to run for ten millennia without human intervention is now under construction.

The 10,000 Year Clock is a project of the Long Now Foundation, a non-profit organisation that wants to make "long-term thinking more common."

It is being built on property owned by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, beneath a mountain in the middle of a desert in Texas.

There is currently no completion date scheduled for the project.

The clock's creator, American inventor Danny Hillis, first publicly shared the concept in an essay for Wired in 1995. In it, he describes his vision of a timepiece that ticks once every year, with a century hand that moves just once every 100 years and a cuckoo that emerges every 1,000.

The clock is designed to capture energy from changes in temperature to power its timekeeping apparatus; according to the Long Now Foundation. But it will not be able to store enough energy to display the time unless visitors "wind" it with a hand-turned wheel.

The project has attracted the support of influential artists and thinkers in addition to Bezos, whose contribution of $42 million makes him its largest financial backer.

British musician, Brian Eno, famous for his ambient compositions, has built a mechanical melody generator that will produce a different chime sequence every day for 10,000 years. Like the clock hands, the chimes will only work if visitors power the clock.

The first prototype of the clock, which was completed back in 1999, is now on display at the Science Museum in London.

According to the Long Now Foundation, visitors will be able to hike to the site to see the finished product.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash


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