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The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

A Patch Capable of Melting Fat...from Rodents

Posted October 14, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: FAT obesity patch

Good news for zaftig mice everywhere!

Researchers from Columbia University and the University of North Carolina have joined forces to develop an adhesive patch capable of melting fat…from mice.

By applying the patch, which contains a number of microneedles, researchers were able to deliver a combination of medications to locations on the mice, reducing fat in those treated areas by 20 percent.

"Many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles," said pathologist Li Qiang from Columbia University.

Likewise, researchers believe the patch will also have implications for those suffering with diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Although successfully tested on mice, the patch will require additional testing to determine its safety for human subjects and…maybe additional time to answer some lingering questions that might cross the minds of particularly imaginative consumers.

For instance, a future client might wonder about, say, the chances of developing a lopsided behind if they are only able to access one patch at a time or worse still, they end up putting the patch on the wrong body part.

Until then, it seems we can look forward to a colony of svelte mice.

5 comments; last comment on 10/18/2017
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The 19th-Century Roots of LOLspeak and Spam

Posted October 12, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: Internet language LOL spam

Peculiar language has long been a dividing line between the old and young, and today’s generation is no exception. Specifically, young people who grew up accustomed to online messaging and texting are probably more likely to use acronyms like LOL, ROFL, LMAO, YOLO, lolwut and the like.

While it might seem like LOLspeak is unique to the internet, it was actually preceded by a nearly two-century old trend. A peculiar political and journalistic climate in Boston, Mass. during the 1830s led to the creation of several humorously named clubs, most of which had no members and never met. These included the Anti-Bell Ringing Society (supposedly formed as a reaction to a Boston ordinance that no citizen could ring bells publicly without a bell-ringing license), the Association of Presidents of Bankrupt Insurance Companies, and the Mammoth Cod Association. The “clubs” were made up of young, educated jokesters who used their associations to announce non-existent meetings in local newspapers.

A major part of these inside jokes was the use of overblown acronyms understood only by club “members.” For example, the Boston Morning Post ran this short news item in 1838:

Eliot Brown, Esq., Secretary of the Boston Young Men's Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Indians, F.A.H. [fell at Hoboken] on Saturday last at 4 o'clock, p.m. in a duel W.O.O.O.F.C. [with one of our first citizens]. What measures will be taken by the Society in consequence of this heart rending event, R.T.B.S. [remains to be seen].

Of course, there was no duel—simply a young Bostonian screwing with the press. Sometimes, the editor got the joke and responded back with a column incorporating his own made-up acronyms. Interestingly, this led to the first printed use of the acronym “O.K.” in 1839. There’s still fierce debate over the true meaning of that term, but many believe it arose humorously to stand for “oll korrect,” since some humorists used purposefully misspelled phrases to come up with wacky acronyms, like N.C. for “nuff ced” or K.G. for “know go.” The O.K. acronym got a major boost during the 1840 Presidential election, when Martin Van Buren’s campaign manager took to calling him “Old Kinderhook” and urged citizens to “vote for O.K.” So while most of these ridiculous acronyms faded away from common use, as LOLspeak might in the future, O.K. stuck.

E-mail spam—another annoying trend seen as unique to the internet—also has its roots in 19th-century history. In 1864, an unlicensed London dentist mass-sent a telegram advertising his services to hundreds of wealthy Londoners at once. At that point telegrams were used only for urgent matters or emergencies, so many recipients panicked before opening the envelope and finding an ad. This single message—the first electronic spam—caused a small uproar, as evidenced here by the letter to The Times.

Hey, at least now we have one-click deleting and spam filters—luxuries far from available in the 1860s.

4 comments; last comment on 10/17/2017
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A Robotic Foot-Smelling Dog

Posted October 07, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: robotics

We have companion bots to keep us warm at night; we have robotic bartenders addressing our cocktail needs; and now we have robots that help us drop not-so-subtle hints to our friends concerning their body odor.

Let the robot uprising begin!

Inspired by a story about a woman refusing to embarrass her father by letting him know his feet smelled bad, Japanese start-up Next Technology LLC designed a robot, called Hanachan, to react to odors (both subtle and strong) coming from bare feet.

Using a built-in odor sensor, the robotic dog draws attention to the unpleasant odor by simply barking. However, in the presence of an especially smelly pair of feet, the dog will mimic “keeling over” and may discharge a few sprays of an air freshener to cover the scent.

Very subtle.

Although an embarrassing affliction, foot odor can be particularly noticeable in countries like Japan where people regularly remove their shoes before setting foot in any home and less noticeable in the U.S. where shoes are commonly worn inside the home.

Although no one wants to believe that their feet smell like an aging wheel of Gouda, that there is such an invention begs the question: do we want an overly-dramatic robotic dog “dying” at our feet or will a simple “Your feet stink!” suffice?

With a price tag of nearly $9,000, you can be humiliated by your dog as soon as June 2018 when the robot hits the market.

Any takers?

Source: Next Technology, LLC

6 comments; last comment on 10/09/2017
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Death By Robot

Posted September 30, 2017 12:00 AM by M-ReeD
Pathfinder Tags: cybersecurity robots

Every day some advance in technology brings robots one step closer to becoming more life-like. Whether it is in movement or behavior, the rate at which this is happening is dizzying. Take for instance the companion robot. Better known as sex bots, these robots can be, according to recent developments, hacked to kill their human significant others.

What’s more human than wanting to kill your significant other?

Researcher and cybersecurity lecturer Dr. Nick Patterson recently cautioned that the sex robots could be dangerous if hacked by someone with murderous intentions.

“Hackers can hack into a robot or a robotic device and have full control of the connections, arms, legs, and other attached tools like in some cases knives or welding devices," said Patterson. "Often these robots can be upwards of 200 pounds, and very strong. Once a robot is hacked, the hacker has full control and can issue instructions to the robot."

Other experts in the field expand on this warning and believe this concern shouldn’t be limited to a particular kind of robot, suggesting that any robot that interacts with humans is vulnerable to hacking.

Likewise, Elon Musk has warned that robots pose a real threat to humanity:

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal.”

Other cybersecurity experts believe that the fear of being murdered by sex robots is being exaggerated and the likelier scenario is that users will actually die from this byproduct of human-robot relations.

Are you concerned about a robot-uprising? Did you know that there is such a thing as a sex bot (because I didn’t), never mind one bent on murder?

11 comments; last comment on 10/09/2017
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Engineering a Safer Bike Lane

Posted September 29, 2017 8:54 AM by Hannes

I’ve always admired cyclists with enough guts to regularly ride alongside heavy car traffic. Pedaling at 15 miles an hour alongside more or less armored drivers who are probably distracted by their radio or phone doesn’t seem like my idea of a good time.

Many cities and towns protect cyclists by designating bike lanes, but many motorists illegally cross into the lane or park in it, defeating the purpose. So, the question arises: how does one engineer a better bike lane?

Several West Coast cities have experimented with different bike lane designs in the past year, making for an interesting case study. San Francisco first tested a raised bike lane in 2015, using a two-block section of Market Street. Raised bike lanes are common in international cities with heavy foot and bike traffic, but the lane was a first for SF. Almost immediately, though, motorists began taking advantage of the bike lane as a parking lane, quickly defeating its purpose.

The city responded by building a “protected” lane on the south end of Valencia Street. This is similar to the Market Street one—it’s a raised lane separated from traffic by a curb—but it adds a few buffer areas to further protect cyclists. As the image here pretty well illustrates, the design features a load lane to facilitate entering or exiting the cycling area, and also a designated parking area between the curb and roadway. Several of these “parking-protected” bike lanes already exist elsewhere in San Francisco.

Across the bay, Oakland redesigned the traffic flow on Telegraph Avenue—a major thoroughfare connecting Oakland with Berkeley—in 2016 to include non-raised bike lanes “protected” by a line of parked cars. Unfortunately, motorists immediately treated the bike lanes as valet parking lanes, again defeating their purpose. The city responded by erecting soft-hit posts, which are plastic barriers designed to protect the bike lane without causing damage to vehicles that happen to hit them. As an article from this month notes, though, illegally parked cars are now mowing down these posts, sometimes snapping them off at the base.

While many soft-hit post manufacturers claim their products can bounce back after a 100-mph hit, clearly Oakland’s posts aren’t doing the job. Urban cyclists are fond of these posts, and some renegade bikers have taken to installing their own posts in the form of toilet plungers when they feel their safety demands have fallen on deaf ears. I’m sure many cyclists would much rather see solid concrete bollards—which are not so easily destroyed by vehicles—in place instead.

It’s healthy to see cities making efforts to protect motorists as well as cyclists, but if the clip below is anywhere near accurate, the motorist-cyclist war will likely continue to rage in some form regardless.

Image credit: San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority

37 comments; last comment on 10/13/2017
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