SciTech Briefs

Scientists aim to stop development of ‘superbugs’

According to a study conducted last month by the Centers for Disease Control, antibiotics continue to be overused and overprescribed. This has contributed to the development of “superbugs.” In fact, a recent epidemic at the National Institutes of Health took six months to control. Despite this, pharmaceutical companies have scaled down research into the production of new infection-fighting drugs due to the narrow profit margin. As a result, the Department of Health committed to provide the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline up to $200 million over the next five years for research.

Source: Smithsonian

Robots becoming more human-like and autonomous

Recent scientific efforts aim to enable robots to begin collaborating with humans and operating without direct human control. Current goals in the field of robotics include making robots more “human shaped” to enable them to more gracefully maneuver human environments, and developing algorithms to make robots more aware of their environments and less dependent on direct control.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a robot which can sense forces on its arm and ultimately may serve as an aid for physical therapy patients.

Source: The New York Times

Study shows video games improve various functions

According to a study conducted at Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus in Berlin, playing video games can enhance brain functions such as memory formation, strategic planning, spatial orientation, and fine motor skills. The study involved two groups: One played video games for 30 minutes a day for two months, and the control group did not play any games. An increase in brain matter — specifically in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum — was observed in those who played video games.

Source: Science Daily

Startup develops 3-D printer for consumer market

Pirate3D, a startup in Singapore, is developing an inexpensive 3-D printer for the consumer market that is scheduled to be sold starting in December. The printer will be available online and at certain retail outlets. It will be displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The printer is available in both black and white and color, but not much detail is available yet on how it works.
The company also hopes to profit by creating ways for independent developers to sell software and designs for 3-D printers. The company was able to raise $1.4 million on KickStarter in less than one month, which according to co-founder Roger Chang should last for the next year. The printers will sell for $700 in stores and $500 online.

Source: The New York Times

Antarctic reserve receives frigid reception

Negotiations held in Australia regarding the creation of a 500,000-square-mile marine reserve in the waters off Antarctica failed this week. The reserve was proposed by the United States and New Zealand, and was to be built in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. Though the area’s ecosystem helps sustain thousands of species, the construction of the reserve faced opposition by China, Ukraine, and Russia due to concern that it would cut off their fish stocks and undermine their fishing industries. Aquatic life in Antarctic waters account for 10 percent of the fish population, and a number of these scientists urge taking measures to protect them. China indicated that it may be open to a future agreement, while Russia and Ukraine still question justification for the reserve.

Source: The New York Times

Students develop device to stop school shootings

A group of students from Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. have attempted to address the prevention of school shootings. The 10-student team, led by math teacher John Mahoney, developed DeadStop, an inexpensive, lightweight device that clasps onto the hinges of classroom doors to stop intruders from breaking into classrooms. Due to school safety regulations, schools cannot have doors which lock from the inside. DeadStop would be stored in the teacher’s desk, and would be clasped onto the door as soon as a warning of an armed intruder was issued. The group hopes to patent the device and have it cost no more than $15.

Source: Smithsonian