Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's a small world after all - Miniature medical devices

The Phoenix Chip packs a lot in a
one cubic millimeter space.
Last week, it was reported that researchers out of the University of Michigan had created "the first true millimeter-scale complete computing system." The Phoenix Chip is designed to be used as a medical monitoring device that takes pressure readings from the eye of a glaucoma patient. The chip has a photovoltaic cell in it that will charge the device in as little as an hour and a half if outdoors. The Phoenix Chip enters an extreme sleep mode and only wakes up every 15 minutes to take a reading, using only about 5 nanowatts of energy per reading. That's pretty awesome. The researchers have been quick to point out the potential use of this device is broad and that it can be used to measure stresses in materials such as bridges or particulate levels in gases such as pollution. These applications could allow for larger devices, though the ideas used for power gating and frequency tuning can be used to produce a useful monitoring device. They also claim surveillance capabilities, but I'm having a harder time imagining that taking off as successfully.

This would be injected into a vein
in the leg and then carefully
maneuvered to the heart.
Another miniature medical device that is being developed and has medical-breakthrough potential is a tic-tac-sized pacemaker that would eliminate the need for invasive surgery. Medtronic is hoping to be able to inject the device via catheter. "You can almost shoot these things in like bullets," claims Stephen Oesterle, Medtronic's senior vice president for medicine and technology. Having a lead fail results in having to either populate the vessels with more leads, or remove old leads, which can be a risky business and end up tearing vessels, leading to a much bigger issue. Shrinking the device enough to place it exactly where the electricity is needed would eliminate the need for leads. This us why an end goal, and a major driving point for the whole project, is to eliminate the need for leads, as they are the most invasive component in current pacemakers.

It's pretty amazing how medical instruments are getting more accurate and efficient while at the same time being produced in sizes that better accommodate the needs they are addressing. Another benefit of this trend is more affordable and accessible medical attention since the materials would be reduced and the space required to operate can be also reduced without the need for bulky surgical instruments.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Last Discovery

This is dedicated to my friend Zach - ID# 4WZ6NRPMYY89.

Space shuttle Discovery lifted off earlier this afternoon on what is expected to be an 11-day final mission. Officially it lifted off at 4:53 p.m. EST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew that is making the 35th mission to the International Space Station is Commander Steven W. Lindsey, Pilot Eric A. Boe, and Mission Specialists Michael R. Barratt, Stephen G. Bowen, Nicole P. Scott, and Alvin Drew.

Mission Insignia
The NASA shuttle program has lasted for close to 30 years. The remaining three space shuttles are all scheduled to be decommissioned, with Discovery being the first one. Endeavor is scheduled to make its last mission the night of April 19th and last for 14 days. Atlantis will be the last and final space shuttle to be decommissioned after it completes its 12-day mission starting the afternoon of June 28th. The reasons for decommissioning the space shuttles includes safety concerns. Two of the five space shuttles, Challenger and Columbia, were unable to complete their missions, RIP.

Here's where it gets interesting. While Discovery is headed for the Smithsonian, United Space Alliance has proposed to launch both Endeavor and Atlantis once per year for an additional 7 years. While doing so as a commercial endeavor could eliminate the need for US astronauts to rely on Russian spacecraft, it seems to me that there is a glaring safety issue at hand. Not only has NASA been unable to convince the government that they are safe, but even this last liftoff there is foam that reportedly fell off the Discovery after liftoff. While I understand the idea from a business standpoint, offer a service that no one else can, I'm just hoping that someone has overlooked and downplayed the need for an extreme cautionary need when it comes to the safety of those flying the space shuttles.

(Prior to STS-133)
Total miles traveled: 142,917,535
Total time in orbit: 8,441 hours, 50 minutes, 41 seconds
Total orbits: 5,628
Total flights: 38
Total crew members: 246
Mir dockings: 1
International Space Station dockings: 12

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sad Days for Denver Sports

My initial reaction to the Avs and Nuggets recent trades is mixed.

While I'm glad to see Melo make it to NYC, dragging along Chauncey Billups with him is not something that pleases me.  I was looking to Billups to be the next face of the Nuggets, but now I have to reconsider who that will be.  I'm also wondering what this will do to our playoff hopes.  I'm not a stats guy, so I'm a little unsure what each player's worth is, but since we are getting money and picks in this deal, I'm thinking we lost out on the useful-impact-now part of the deal. The deal also includes a 2014 1st-round pick, which is sweet, but reinforces my previous thought.  Also, why 2014?  That seems so far away. 

As for the Avalanche, I've really fallen off in covering them, especially after this recent slump.  Losing Craig Anderson, after he was such a cornerstone last year, is disappointing.  At the same time though, he was only producing at a less-than-spectacular level for much of this year.  And to receive a goalie that I've heard be described as a "backup goalie at best" doesn't help matters at all.  Stewart is arguably one of the better power forwards that Denver has had in a few years, so his departure is crushing from a fans point-of-view.  Similar to the Nuggets though, the Avs will be receiving a 1st-round pick.  The Avs have lost it as of late, so I'm a little more okay with them selling off players.

Coming off such a disappointing Broncos season and adding these trades that'll probably make the Nuggets and Avalanche less competitive for the rest of this season, I can't wait for baseball to start.  I'm really excited about the potential of the Rockies this year.  Players to watch for their dominance: Ubaldo Jiminez, Jorge De La Rosa, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Huston Street, Carlos Gonzales, and Troy Tulowitzki.  Palyers to watch for a break-out performance: Jhoulys Chacin, Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, Chris Ianetta, and Ian Stewart.  More on these players another time though.

The more you comment, the better the site will be. Just Saying.

I'll probably be tweeking the layout of site; whether it'll be colors, fonts, backgrounds, etc.  As such, I'd appreciate all of the comments/suggestions that you want to provide.  Sometimes it's useful to hear it from another's lips (or in this case keyboard) before something actually clicks in the brain.

So please, comment away in as much of a critically-mannered  fashion as you feel appropriate.