New X-ray technology produces striking 3D images in full color

A new medical imaging device uses technology developed by particle physicists to produce full-color, 3D images of the human body.

Credit: MARS Bioimaging
Credit: MARS Bioimaging


A new medical imaging device uses technology developed by particle physicists to produce full-color, 3D images of the human body.

Phil and Anthony Butler, a father and son team in New Zealand who teach physics and bioengineering, respectively, have been developing the technology for a decade through their company MARS Bioimaging. The scanner uses hybrid-pixel technology called Medipix3, which was initially developed for the Large Hadron Collider.

“The original concept of Medipix is that it works like a camera, detecting and counting each individual particle hitting the pixels when its electronic shutter is open,” reads a statement from CERN “This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field.


Credit: MARS Bioimaging

Traditional X-rays produce a black image when passing through soft tissue and a white image when absorbed by denser bone material. The Medipix3 detector, however, “is able to measure how specific energies of X-rays are being attenuated” and can differentiate between bone, muscle, metal, fats and liquid. This level of sensitivity enables the technology to produce a strikingly realistic representation of the internal body.

“This technology sets the machine apart diagnostically because its small pixels and accurate energy resolution mean that this new imaging tool is able to get images that no other imaging tool can achieve,” Phil Butler said in a CERN news release.

Butler said the scanner could help doctors provide better treatment.

“In all of these studies, promising early results suggest that when spectral imaging is routinely used in clinics it will enable more accurate diagnosis and personalization of treatment.”

The technology could also expand the scope of conditions that imaging procedures are able to diagnose, including cancer and joint health. For now, the father-son team plans to test their scanner in a trial focused on orthopedic and rheumatology patients in New Zealand, though it will likely be years before the technology is approved for widespread use.

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

Keep reading Show less

New brain scan analysis tool can detect early signs of dementia

Researchers develop the first objective tool for assessing the onset of cognitive decline through the measurement of white spots in the brain.

Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • MRI brain scans may show white spots that scientists believe are linked to cognitive decline.
  • Experts have had no objective means of counting and measuring these lesions.
  • A new tool counts white spots and also cleverly measures their volumes.
Keep reading Show less
Strange Maps

End gerrymandering? Here’s a radical solution

Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast