Turns out chitin is quite useful when you need a wrench.
- Researchers at the Singapore University of Technology and Design constructed Mars-ready tools in preparation for colonization.
- The team chose chitin as a cheap and abundant material to fashion a wrench and habitat.
- Chitin occurs naturally in arthropod exoskeletons, fungus, and fish scales.
In this handout released by NASA, a Mars landscape is seen in a picture taken by the panoramic camera on the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit January 8, 2003.
Credit:NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Cornell University via Getty Images<p>Then there's the matter of cost. You can't simply take Earth's wares and think they'll work on Mars. If you're looking for the most bang for your buck, they believe they've identified a winner.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Chitin is a paradigmatic example of an organic matrix of mineralized composites; it is the second most abundant organic polymer on Earth (after cellulose) and biology's recurrent solution to forming structural components."</p><p>Even better, no specialized equipment will need to be spun up. Chitin's ubiquity makes it easy to source. The team combined chitosan with minerals akin to Martian soil, designing a wrench as well as a full-scale habitat. </p><p>The team recognizes the challenges of building materials designed for an alien civilization, but feel it's better to start now than for those brave explorers to arrive with shoddy tents. They were able to rapidly and inexpensively produce these products, which they believe could aid in "our transformation into an interplanetary species." Fernandez <a href="https://phys.org/news/2020-09-chitin-bioinspired-material-tools-mars.html" target="_blank">continues</a>:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments, but due to its efficiency, it is also the most efficient and scalable method to produce materials in a closed artificial ecosystem in the extremely scarce environment of a lifeless planet or satellite."</p><p>The emphasis on sustainability and expense is important as we prepare to leave this planet. Hopefully, the martians will appreciate the effort. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
New research on ankle exoskeletons show promising results.
- New research from Stanford finds that motor-powered ankle exoskeletons conserve 15 percent of energy expenditure when running.
- Spring-powered exoskeletons without motors actually made running harder.
- The researchers hope to develop better spring-powered models moving forward.
Stanford researchers find ankle exoskeleton makes running easier<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5e8f155585a0bd7d072b36b8b6a96c39"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/NEIHLfPd4gI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Mindset matters. Running is a birthright and offers great cardiovascular conditioning. Yet there has to be some excitement around it. As McDougall writes, "if you thought [running] was only a means to an end—an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer—then why stick with it if you weren't getting enough quo for your quid?"</p><p>You have to <em>love</em> running to dedicate yourself to it. If you're in pain, that's a tall order. </p><p>The researchers tested two modes of running assistance: motor-powered and spring-based exoskeletons. An exoskeleton is an external skeleton that supports an animal's body, such as insects and mollusks. In human terms, they are <a href="https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/05/suitx-lowers-cost-of-full-body-medical-mobility-exoskeleton-to-40000.html" target="_blank">expensive devices</a> designed to slow down fatigue. In this study, ankle exoskeletons were tethered to motors as volunteers ran on a treadmill. </p><p>Eleven competitive runners were divided into three groups: an "optimized power" group, the motor-based cohort that boosted the runners' strides; "optimized spring-like," the group wearing the exoskeleton sans motor power; and the control group, "zero torque mode," runners wearing an exoskeleton with none of the features initiated. A final control element was runners wearing a neutral running shoe with no exoskeleton.</p><p><br></p>
Optimized spring-like and Optimized powered assistance resulted in metabolic reductions of 2.1 and 24.7%, respectively, compared with zero-torque mode, while running at 2.7 m s−1. Optimized powered assistance resulted in an improvement in running economy of 14.6% compared with running in normal shoes, whereas Optimized spring-like assistance resulted in an 11.1% increase in the energy cost of running. Error bars indicate SD. *P < 0.05.
Kirby A. Witte, et al.<p>The motors are an important component. Wearing an exoskeleton with the motor switched off actually increased physical demand by 13 percent. With the motors purring, the demand was 15 percent less than when running without an exoskeleton.</p><p>Spring-based exoskeletons did not fare nearly as well, as it increased energy output by 11 percent than running without the gear. Stanford's Steve Collins, lead author of the paper, was surprised by this result, <a href="https://techxplore.com/news/2020-03-ankle-exoskeleton-aids.html" target="_blank">noting</a>,</p><p>"When people run, their legs behave a lot like a spring, so we were very surprised that spring-like assistance was not effective. We all have an intuition about how we run or walk but even leading scientists are still discovering how the human body allows us to move efficiently."</p>
(A) Exoskeleton emulator testbed. A participant runs on a treadmill while wearing bilateral ankle exoskeletons actuated by motors located off-board with mechanical power transmitted through flexible Bowden cables. (B) Ankle exoskeleton. The ankle exoskeleton attaches to the user by a strap above the calf, a rope through the heel of the shoe, and a carbon fiber plate embedded in the toe of the shoe. The inner Bowden cable terminates on a 3D printed titanium heel spur that is instrumented with strain gauges for direct measurement of applied torque. A magnetic encoder measures ankle angle. (C) Participant running on the treadmill with bilateral ankle exoskeletons. Metabolic data are collected through a respiratory system by measuring the oxygen and carbon dioxide content of the participant's expired gasses.
Kirby A. Witte, et al.<p>On the plus side, spring-based exoskeletons are much cheaper than motor-based models. The researchers are hoping to design a more energy-efficient model. Motor-powered models work great when tethered to treadmills but are unrealistic for road and trail runners, so an affordable spring-based version would be a boon for outdoor runners. </p><p>Spring-based exoskeletons mimic the natural spring of running. As with our normal running pattern, it stores energy only to unleash it when pushing off from the toes. With the help of a motor, the foot is able to extend at the ankle at the end of the step. Not quite Iron Man, but as Stanford graduate student <a href="https://techxplore.com/news/2020-03-ankle-exoskeleton-aids.html" target="_blank">Delaney Miller says</a> of these trials, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Powered assistance took off a lot of the energy burden of the calf muscles. It was very springy and very bouncy compared to normal running. Speaking from experience, that feels really good. When the device is providing that assistance, you feel like you could run forever."</p><p>Collins says this is one of the biggest improvements in energy economy ever made in running. It will likely not affect pro marathoners that much, but for novice runners or those susceptible to injury, it could ease the pain and remove a few seconds from your mile time. </p><p>Yes, humans were born to run. As it turns out, some of us just do it a little better with assistance. If consumer-priced exoskeletons hit the market, the statistics on running enthusiasts might swing in an upward direction. If the result is decreased energy expenditure, which by extension lowers the risk of injury, it's a win for all of us bipeds.</p><p>--<br></p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>. His next book is</em> "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</p>
The "holy grail" of relationships with your customer can be tricky to achieve, and even more complex to uphold.
- How can you build a subscription model that continues to satisfy your consumer while avoiding fatigue and potential ethical downfalls?
- According to business consultant and speaker Robbie Kellman Baxter, you must first determine whether your service really requires a subscription in the first place. And if it does, be careful not to overwhelm the customer, which can lead to subscription guilt.
- Trust is just as important. Hiding the cancel button from your customers might keep them around in the short term, but this ultimately eats into your brand equity.
The membership economy is upending how businesses are structured and how they deliver value to customers.
- "I think that the membership economy is having as big an impact on business as the industrial revolution," says Silicon Valley consultant Robbie Kellman Baxter.
- Memberships or subscriptions fundamentally change the relationship between the consumer and the brand by delivering what Baxter calls a "forever promise." The famous example of Blockbuster vs. Netflix illustrates this perfectly.
- Subscriptions are not a new idea. Charles Dickens released his books to subscribers one chapter at a time, as he wrote them. What's different today is technology and the speed at which even a one-person business can reach a huge number of customers.
To stay on top in the business world, you have to make sure your business model matches the times.
- Digital has rendered many older business models less relevant. Because of this, many established companies are undergoing fundamental restructuring so that they are better "pivoted" for the future.
- The higher-ups at companies are constantly looking for ways to take advantage of trapped value — where there's something you can do that adds more value for your customers or that allows you to respond in a way that your competitors can't match.
- When it comes to effective restructuring, it's important to stay attuned to the changing behaviors of your customers.