eLEGS: Revolutionary Exoskeleton Helps the Paralyzed Walk
Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress archive of culturally valuable materials. She has also written for The New York Times, Wired UK, and The Atlantic, among others, and is an MIT Fellow. She is on Twitter @brainpicker.
Disability is one of the areas where design can make the most meaningful difference in quality of life. This was certainly true of Amanda Boxtel, who has been confined to a wheelchair since a skiing accident 18 years ago. But this week, Boxtel took her first steps in 18 years.
eLEGS is a revolutionary exoskeleton enabling people with spinal injuries to walk with a near-natural gait. Developed by California-based Berkeley Bionics, the rehabilitation device consists of a backpack controller wired to robotic legs and is driven by four motors, one for each hip and knee. Passive springs at the ankle joint keep the foot angled so it can make proper contact with the ground with each step, rolling heel to toe. Sensor communicate position information to the backpack controller, which commands the joints into bending, turning and walking.
I'm not meant to be in a wheelchair, sitting down and rolling. I'm meant to be tall in my body, to walk on sidewalks, to go into a restaurant and, most importantly, to hike in nature." ~ Amanda Boxtel
I heard from so many people that the first thing that they encounter after an injury or an amputation is the word 'no.' And I think that we're demonstrating here that there is no such word." ~ Eythor Bender, founder, Berkeley Bionics
eLEGS are set to enter medical trials in 2011, with an estimated market cost of $100,000 – certainly high, but comparable to a high-end wheelchair yet life-changingly more empowering.
Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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