AFMs are expensive pieces of kit however –way beyond the means of most private individuals.
Another technology that fascinates me is the 3-D printer, which is used for rapid design prototyping in three dimensions. 3-D printers are really coming into their own in recent years with the cheapest models starting to become affordable for private buyers and the concept of desktop manufacturing starting to take off.
So, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across this tutorial that shows how to build a cheap AFM head using a 3-D printer.
As the author explains:
As the acquisition cost for commercially available AFMs is in the order of some hundred thousand dollars, this is an approach to make these instruments available to more research groups. Most of the structure can be made with rapid prototyping mehods, all that is left to do is to screw together the pieces. Nevertheless the user is supposed to have some experience with the matter as he doesn’t get the support that comes with a commercial instrument.
While I won’t be making an AFM anytime soon –I lack the time and expertise to do all but dream– it’s great to see the DIY spirit entering the world of high-tech microscopy.
BTW, check out the fabbaloocious Fabbaloo blog for regularly updated news about the world of 3-D printing. Is it inconceiveable that in the future we will be able to print out new limbs for people using their personal genetic code?
Another recent story for Wired:
Robots of the future will be capable of learning more complex behaviours than ever before if a new, pan-European research project succeeds in its goal of developing the world’s first architecture for advanced robotic motor skills.
If successful, the four-year AMARSi (Adaptive Modular Architecture for Rich Motor Skills) project (which started this month) could see a manufacturing world filled with autonomous, intelligent humanoid worker bots that can learn new skills by interacting with their co-workers. It could also see a society with personal carer bots capable of quickly adapting to complex environments and changing human needs.
If the researchers are successful, the 7 million euro, EU-funded project will enable humanoid (and quadruped) bots to autonomously learn and develop motor skills in open-ended environments in the same way humans do — by learning from the data provided by movement and essentially rewiring their circuits to process and store the new knowledge they’ve acquired.
It’s all a far cry from the limited learning and motor skills capabilities of existing bots and it will rely on a suitably advanced range of technologies to make it happen: dynamic neural networks built on reservoir computing principles, new robotics hardware designs, and sophisticated software algorithms are all involved.
AMARSi relies on a “more-or-less unusual,” biologically inspired view of motor skills that goes beyond traditional robotic designs and is better suited to truly autonomous robots, says Project Coordinator, Jochen Steil, Director of The Cognitive Robotics and Learning Laboratory (CoR-Lab), at Bielefield University, in Germany.
Read more about the AMARSi project here.
iPhone users can change their mental state thanks to a new iPhone application released today, according to its creators, Dubeytunes Studios.
Billed as a ‘mind spa,’ BrainBaths is a 3D sound application that relies on controversial binaural beats, which, advocates claim, can alter listener’s mood, concentration levels, and sleeping patterns.
Binaural beats are apparent sounds that arise in the brain independent of physical stimuli –an effect discovered in 1839 by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.
When two tones at slightly different frequencies are presented separately, one to each of a subject’s ears, using stereo headphones, a beating tone is perceived.
The frequency of the tones must be below about 1,000 to 1,500 hertz for the beating to be heard. The difference between the two frequencies must be small (below about 30 Hz) for the effect to occur, otherwise, the two tones will be heard separately and no beat will be heard.
Binaural beats are of interest to neurophysiologists investigating the sense of hearing.
Controversially, advocates claim that binaural beats influence the brain in more subtle ways through the entrainment of brainwaves and can be used to produce relaxation and other health benefits, including improved focus and pain relief.
A 2007 study of the effectiveness of binaural beats published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found no evidence of brainwave entrainment through binaural beats.
But that’s not preventing Dubneytunes from claiming that their iPhone binaural application has a uniquely powerful effect on the area of the brain that perceives dimension through sound, while gently shifting the brainwave activity.
“This creates an exquisite experience of being transported out of normal space-time into a virtual reality of mind-body attunement. The results include deeper relaxation, peaceful sleep, enhanced concentration for study and tests and motivating inspiration for athletes or performers,” according to Dubneytunes.
Despite being debunked in the 2007 study, controversy still surrounds binaural beats both in terms of their effectiveness and possible negative outcomes of their use, as a recent Korea Times article shows:
Prof. Bae Myung-jin of Soongsil University raised concerns of possible addiction to the tracks.
“The tracks repeatedly play similar rhythms or beats. Basically, humans are vulnerable to such frequencies, meaning it’s possible for users to get addicted,” he said. “Once addicted, they cannot feel comfortable without listening to the sounds.”
But perhaps more seriously, in the same article, Nam Jun-wook, president of the Korea Neurofeedback Research Institute, a brainwave-specialized lab, expressed the view that “consistent exposure to the tracks may problematically deter teenagers’ brains from developing correctly.”
And, the article concludes, the Korean authorities are currently investigating whether legal controls are needed:
The Korea Communications Commission plans to inspect the files to decide whether setting a rule to control them is necessary.
You can try some binaural beats for free here.
A woman using a gadget. Prepare to see more of this sort of thing over the coming years.
Girls are more likely to have new technologies at home than boys and it is mothers rather than fathers who assist them, according to a new report due to be launched on Thursday. (You can download a copy here.)
The Learning in the Family report found that 94 per cent of the girls said that they used a computer or laptop compared with only 88 per cent of boys.
And 50 per cent of children chose their mothers to help them to use new technologies, versus 22 per cent, which chose their fathers.
The report is based on two online surveys with a sample of 4,606 children aged six to fourteen, going into more depth with a further 2,535 children and interviews with twelve families.
The aim was to assess how parents engage with children learning new technology and how parents could better support their children’s learning.
Learning in the Family was funded by Becta, commissioned by Intuitive Media Research Services and co-authored by Robert Hart of Intuitive Media and Professor Karen Pine, at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Psychology.
“What is clear from these results is that mothers are taking the lead,” said Professor Pine. “Overall, mothers are more likely to engage with their children using new technologies especially when it comes to formal learning or research. The mothers were also the most experienced and capable computer and Internet users.”
Another key finding was that 40% of children surveyed wanted to see an improvement in parental involvement and many of the parents interviewed said that they would like to learn more through online courses, through the television or through their local school or college.
3. Use that information to track every type of atom (and pigment type) in the canvas (e.g. mercury or lead, common ingredients in paint in Van Gogh’s time). And…
4. Presto! You can reveal older works that have been painted over. (In this case, the portrait of a woman that looks like a rough sketch for the artist’s (more) famous Potato Eaters painting.)