Wednesday, 5 September 2007


As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm doing a course in Communicating Science to the Media and Public, at the Australian National University.

Today, we gave a small presentation about the work we're doing, and I was astonished at the sheer talent of those around me. I should have realised, but I didn't.

Some of the projects others are working on:

* The study of Dragonfly wings. Now getting a real Dragonfly to co-operate has proven... tricky. So they have a test bench, with a robotic dragonfly. They can vary shape, angle of the wing, how hard and how fast it beats. Why study this? One day, it may lead to flying micro-robots less than the size of a finger, that can penetrate burning buildings, investigate hostage situations, even be used in mine rescue.

* The use of metal-fibre composites, and their behaviour when stamped by a machine. Such laminates of alternating layers of metal and carbon or glass fibre have traditionally been hand-assembled for air and spacecraft. But to mass-produce them, they must be easily constructed, shaped and formed by standard metal-presses. If successful, this research could lead to cars 70% lighter than those today, with a fuel saving of 57%. The environmental considerations alone make this very important.

* Stimulation of bone-healing by electro-magnetic (EM)fields. The healing of bone is accomplished by the intricate dance of two types of cell. One causes a "swiss cheese" effect, honeycombing existing bone. The other deposits bone material and makes bones denser. In a normal, healthy bone the two effects are balanced. In Osteopyrosis, the cavity-making cells are too dominant. It's already been shown that EM fields can stimulate the "bone-depositing" ones in animals, and this wok could lead to faster healing of fractures, as well as making osteopyrosis extinct.

* Automated recognition of emotions, initially anxiety, by recognition of body-language, voice stress, and facial expressions. This can be used to help those with Alzheimers, who may be unable to verbally express their concerns. Then again, it may also lead to an improved and true "lie detector", in conjunction with polygraph-measured skin conductivity, and body temperature.

* Research on Robotic vision. The applications here are obvious.

I LOVE this place!

1 comment:

Mark said...

re: "Automated recognition of emotions"... starting to sound like a Voight-Kampff test working (on Nexus-6 models) ;-). Thanks for the story