Scientific American presents four toys that inspired innovations in science and technology. For example, University of Pittsburgh physicist Jeremy Levy had an Etch A Sketch in mind when developing a new way to fabricate nanoscale transistors. And UC Irvine biomedical engineer Michelle Khine used Shrinky Dink technology to make microfluidic systems for "labs on a chip." (Images above.) From Scientific American:
Khine knew that when Shrinky Dinks condense, any ink lines on the plastic become raised--and that's precisely what she sought in a microfluidics mold. She bought Shrinky Dink plastic designed for computer printer use, printed a pattern, and baked it for several minutes in her toaster oven. The results exceeded her expectations. Instead of just making molds, Khine ultimately developed a technique to make microfluidics chips directly from Shrinky Dink plastic. "It actually worked really well," Khine says, well enough to found a company based on that basic premise. To create products such as stem cell research devices and solar cells, Shrink Nanotechnologies has developed a new material that trumps the toy's abilities. Says Khine: "Shrinky Dinks shrink by 60 percent, but our new polymer shrinks 95 percent. And the properties shrink more consistently."
The public bathroom at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park now has a toilet paper dispenser outfitted with a camera and facial recognition technology to prevent toilet paper theft. From the New York Times: Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a […]
Poking a golden tortoise beetle (“goldbug”) triggers the insect’s color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News: “In nature, networks of […]
MNTNT’s Albert Clock is a clock that presents the hours and minutes as simple math problems. Is it annoying or engaging? Or…. both! In standard mode, the queries change every minute. They are completely random, so even the query for the hours change, even if the result stays the same. You can speed up this […]
You know the drill. You go to the dentist and they ask you how often you floss. You lie through your teeth and say, “every day!” (Bonus points if you have some cilantro or chives stuck in your gums from lunch). You don’t want to keep up the charade any longer, but rubbing that tiny strand […]
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has done outstanding work packing a fully capable desktop computer into a package the size of a deck cards—especially one that only costs $35. But if you already have a working laptop, why should you care? Oh, how much you have to learn. Besides operating well as a compact digital media hub, […]
Custom coffee vessels are the perfect piece of office flair, but it’s just a matter of time before your VOTE FOR PEDRO mug will start to lose its relevant wit. Why not have a new one every day, with whatever silly nonsense you want sticking off the sides? You can save big on your novelty […]