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10 Amazing Discoveries You Missed This Week

From medical devices straight out of Star Wars to birds that give Martha Stewart a run for her money, here are 10 fascinating new discoveries.

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The Dundee team has invented a device that uses ultrasound waves to rotate objects rather than just push them. 

But, "Like Doctor Who's own device, our sonic screwdriver is capable of much more than just spinning things around," MacDonald said.

That’s pretty cool, but what really makes us feel all skwirly is hearing scientists talk about sci-fi. Tell us the culture of dreaming, fiction and fantasy doesn’t inspire innovation that improves real life. More about that later.

Being able to steer ultrasound waves more precisely can help make the noninvasive technique of ultrasound surgery more effective and, “The ultrasound waves could also be used to guide a drug capsule through the body and activate it, for instance right inside a tumour,” the BBC says. Read more about how the device works on Phys.org.

Today a Sonic Screwdriver; tomorrow a  TARDIS in every driveway. 

4) Let There Be Lightsabers

Sci-fi fans can be competitive. Almost as if Star Wars was subconsciously aware (by the use of some force or other) that it might be upstaged by Dr. Who, news of the sonic screwdriver was shortly followed by  this headline on Science Daily: “Medical Lightsabers: Laser Scalpels get Ultra-Fast, Ultra-Accurate and Ultra-Compact Makeover.” 

These lightsabers are so tiny they might only be used by either your Lego Luke Skywalker…or better yet, a surgeon of the future who will be able to remove cancer cells without “collateral damage,” cutting into surrounding healthy cells which can happen with traditional scalpels or surgical lasers. 

Researchers at the University of Austin, Texas developed an endoscope probe package “thiner than a pencil and less than half an inch long,” from “off-the-shelf parts” whose remarkable speed -- it generates light pulses at 200 quadrillionths of a second -- helps it more effectively target cells: “These bursts are powerful, but are so fleeting that they spare surrounding tissue.” 

Coupled with a mini-microscope, surgeons can penetrate “up to one millimeter into living tissue,” making them able to target even smaller parts cells. 

Ben Yakar, the project’s principal investigator, says the new system is ready to move into commercialization but “the first viable laser scalpel based on the team's device will still need at least five years of clinical testing before it receives FDA approval for human use.”

So it’s a wait but we’re excited about that pinpoint lightsaber. The ones they have now will take off your whole freaking hand.

5) Restoring Mobility via Mind Control

Speaking of Jedi, some Swiss scientists have taken a big step toward harnessing the power of moving things with your mind…and you don’t have to worry about all that tedious swamp-based training with little green gurus who their words transpose. Confusing that gets.

RedOrbit, using staff and wire reports, says a Swiss team’s mind-controlled robot is potentially beneficial in giving paraplegics back some of their mobility.

To test the device Mark-Andrew Duc, a partial quadriplegic, wore an electrode cap and “used his thoughts to send a mental command to a computer in his room, which transmitted the thoughts to another computer that moved a small robot 60 miles away in the city of Lausanne.” The technique isn’t entirely new, RedOrbit says, but other experiments have involved the use of “invasive brain implants,” whereas when Duc thought of moving his paralyzed fingers those signals in his brain were interpreted by that hospital laptop and the command was sent to the distant robot. The technology is the brainchild of brain-machine interfacing specialist Jose Millan from Switzerland’s Federal Polytechnic School.

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