Published on December 5th, 2014 | by Frances Vaughan


Not (yet) on the High Street: Five Scientific Stocking Fillers for the Future

Is it the end of chocolate coins and oranges? Frances Vaughan takes a look at stocking-fillers of a different kind.

1. ‘Spider man’ gloves

Image from BBC.Researchers at the University of Stanford have designed a pair of hand-sized silicone pads which could allow humans to scale walls and buildings using just their hands and feet. Modelled on the climbing ability of geckos, these ‘Spider man’ gloves were developed in collaboration with America’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, and are intended for American soldiers. Here’s hoping it won’t be long until we can all climb like Peter Parker. [More…]

2. A miniature Mars Rover

Lego is joining forces with the European Space Agency (ESA) to design robotic vehicles intended for the next mission to Mars. The ESA’s ExoMars mission is scheduled to land a rover on the planet in 2019, but in the meantime, a miniature version made from Lego bricks will be built for the education of students and schoolchildren across the EU.

Lego has been developing “intelligent bricks” for over a decade. These bricks can be combined with motors, wheels and sensors to generate programmable robots, which have proven popular with university students studying computing and engineering, as well as with primary and secondary school children. Apparently one is never too old for a bit of Lego. [More…]

Nobel Prize Medal inscribed to F. G. Banting.

Nobel Prize Medal inscribed to F. G. Banting, similar to the one awarded to Watson up for auction. Image by Thomas Fisher Library (CC BY 2.0) at Flickr.

3. A Nobel Prize

Professor James Watson is to become the first living Nobel Laureate to auction off his medal. The prize, awarded to Prof. Watson in 1962 for his role in the discovery of the structure of DNA, is expected to be sold for between £1.6 million and £2.2 million. Previously, only medals belonging to Laureates who have died have been auctioned. It is not clear whether Prof. Watson will inspire a new trend of medal-selling by other living Laureates, but perhaps we should put ‘a Nobel Prize’ on our Christmas lists, in the off-chance that the market is flooded. [More…]

4. A driverless car

Across the UK, 17 year-olds will be asking for driving lessons this Christmas — but perhaps not for much longer. On 1 January 2015, ‘driverless car’ trials will commence in four English cities. Greenwich, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes have been announced as the test pads for three schemes trialling a new range of automated cars, including passenger shuttle vehicles, and ‘self-driving’ pods designed for pedestrian areas. The schemes are supported by numerous groups, including the AA, General Motors, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover, and will run for between 18 months and three years. So new drivers may have just a few months left to perfect their parallel parking before their car will do it for them. [More…]

5. A new perspective

A team of Lithuanian inventors have designed a low-tech periscope, made from just cardboard and a couple of mirrors, allowing a ‘hands-free’ way to see the world from a new angle. The EyeTeleporter can the assembled in different configurations to give a variety of perspectives, offering new heights, new depths, or the proverbial ‘eyes on the back of your head’. Just be warned that your new look might attract some attention. [More…]

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is a PhD student in Human Nutrition at the Rowett Institute.

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