'Living' Micro-Robot Will Detect Human Disease

A robot designed to mimic the biology of a lamprey may soon be swimming through your body, with the capacity to detect the presence of diseases better than your immune system.

What's the Latest Development?

British and American scientists are working to build a tiny robot that mimics the biology of a sea lamprey, found mainly in the Atlantic Ocean. Dubbed 'Cyberplasm', scientist want the machine to "have an electronic nervous system and 'eye' and 'nose' sensors derived from mammalian cells, as well as artificial muscles that use glucose as an energy source to propel it." Initially, the size of the robot will be less than 1cm in length but scientists want to reduce the size to less than 1mm, perhaps making it  nano-sized as technology advances. 

What's the Big Idea?

Biomimicry, though complex, would produce machines as well suited to their environment as animalsno small achievement when it comes to understanding our world. "Nothing matches a living creature’s natural ability to see and smell its environment and therefore to collect data on what’s going on around it," said bioengineer Dr. Daniel Frankel of Newcastle University, who is leading the UK-based work. Applications for the technology include swimming through the body to detect disease or advancing prostheses by developing artificial muscle tissue which responds realistically to its environment.  

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

Study: 50% of people pursuing science careers in academia will drop out after 5 years

That's a sharp increase from the 1960s when it took the same share of scientists an average of 35 years to drop out of academia.

Surprising Science
  • The study tracked the careers of more than 100,000 scientists over 50 years.
  • The results showed career lifespans are shrinking, and fewer scientists are getting credited as the lead author on scientific papers.
  • Scientists are still pursuing careers in the private sector, however there are key differences between research conducted in academia and industry.
Keep reading Show less

The silent Chinese propaganda in Hollywood films

China's rise has necessitated a global PR push. It includes influencing how the movies you watch depict China.

President Xi Jinping and Brad Pitt in World War Z. (Image: Big Think/Getty)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • China will soon overtake the U.S. as the world's largest market for films, and it is using that fact to influence how it is depicted by Hollywood.
  • While Chinese investors have been interested in buying shares of studios for a while, the real power lies in deciding which movies get into China at all.
  • The influence is often subtle, but may have already derailed a few careers in the name of politics.
Keep reading Show less

New ‘microneedle patch’ could help heart attack patients regrow tissue

The bold technique involves surgically implanting a so-called microneedle patch directly onto the heart.

Red human heart against a yellow background (Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • Heart attacks leave scar tissue on the heart, which can reduce the organ's ability to pump blood throughout the body.
  • The microneedle patch aims to deliver therapeutic cells directly to the damaged tissue.
  • It hasn't been tested on humans yet, but the method has shown promising signs in research on animals.
Keep reading Show less