Nanorobots are getting soft and squishy to better fit inside you

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU’s) Nanorobotics Laboratory has received US$787,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health, which will be matched by CMU, to develop a squishy robotic capsule that can be controlled while inside the body. The capsule could replace invasive endoscopes by performing camera imaging, drug injection, tissue sampling, and more.

FDA-approved pill cameras have been in use since 2001, but they can only perform imaging, and move through the body naturally. “If you miss something, you cannot go back. If you want to stay at one place longer, you can’t. If you want to do drug delivery or a biopsy, there is no way to do that because the capsule is not controlled.” said Metin Sitti, a professor in mechanical engineering who heads the Nanorobotics lab.

The capsule robot has two magnets on either end, which allows a doctor to move the robot using a magnet on the outside of the body. With careful manipulation, it is possible to twist and spin the robot inside the patient, and even cause it to change shape. “You can put a drug chamber in the middle, and by changing the formation of the capsule, you can inject a drug,” Sitti added. This is made possible by its soft body, which is made out of a flexible elastomer.

Currently the team is experimenting with different prototypes on animals. Future versions will examine how to add some friction to the capsule’s surface by adding tiny fibers similar to those developed for Stanford University’s gecko-inspired StickyBot, which are strong enough to stick a television to a wall. They’re also looking into microgrippers that can grab tissue samples – which could then be collected once the capsule exits the body naturally.

The more I think about it, the more I’d rather have a creepie-crawlie like this inside me instead of the garden hose-endoscope.

Better include a nano-GPS to keep it from getting lost.

Snapshot of a decade in China


Click to reach interactive infographic

Interesting stuff. If you know your history, China and India shared pretty much the same sort of economic power and social situation internally at the time of China’s revolution – 1949. Their economies have diverged.

One of the most significant parallels, the shared experience of corruption – if you’re a Westerner doing business in either country – is slowly beginning to turn. The international rating system for corruption now place China just above India – and we will learn over the next few years whether or not the call to clean that nation of corrupt officials and business people actually becomes a standard.

Still, the infographic says a lot about rising from the Dark Ages to, say, mid-20th Century levels in 60 years is impressive.

French President keeps his promise to fight for gay civil rights


BTW – President Hollande and Valerie Trierweile aren’t married – they’re partners

French ministers grappled Wednesday with the issue of same-sex marriage and adoption rights as the Cabinet approved a draft bill in the face of fierce resistance from the Roman Catholic Church and social conservatives.

Extending the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples was one of President Francois Hollande’s electoral pledges in campaigning this year.

The bill is expected to go before the National Assembly and Senate in January, and is likely to be voted on in February or March. If passed, it would mark the biggest step forward for French gay rights advocates in more than a decade…

An opinion poll released Wednesday by polling group Ifop and Le Monde newspaper found 65% of those surveyed support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples — a clear majority of the population…

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, voiced his opposition to the proposed legislation at a meeting of French bishops in Lourdes over the weekend…

Golly gee! There’s a surprise.

Other religious groups in France, including Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, have also expressed their concern over the draft bill, and more than 100 lawmakers are against the legislation…

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said the proposed changes are a matter of justice and equality that reflect the evolving nature of society…

A law legalizing civil unions was introduced in 1999 in France under a previous Socialist government.

Known in France as the PACS (pacte civil de solidarite), the civil union agreement can be entered into by gay or straight couples and confers many but not all of the rights of marriage.

Something the religious conservatives hate to admit is that civil unions are already more popular than marriage. Among other reasons, there is no need for religion to validate anything.

President Obama’s emotional thank-you to staff

President Obama choked up as he addressed his campaign staff, likening the team to “ripples of hope” whose accomplishments would far outlast his term in office.

Obama’s post-victory visit to his campaign headquarters in Chicago on Wednesday was closed to the media. But a new video posted on his YouTube channel shows the president’s emotional, off-the-cuff speech to the team that helped him secure another four years in the White House.

He began by recalling how he “grew up” during his time as a community organizer in Chicago, saying the work “changed me much more than I changed the communities.”

“I became a man during that process. And so when I come here and when I look at all of you, what comes to mind is not that you guys actually remind me of myself, it’s the fact that you are so much better than I was, in so many ways,” Obama said.

His voice cracked with emotion as he continued.

“I’m absolutely confident that all of you are going to do just amazing things in your lives,” he said. “What Bobby Kennedy called the ripples of hope that come out when you throw a stone in a lake — that’s going to be all of you.

“That’s why even before last night’s results, I felt that the work that I had done in running for office had come full circle, because what you guys have done means that the work that I’m doing is important. And I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of all of you.”

As the campaign team applauded and attempted to buck up the commander in chief, he wiped tears from his eyes…

“Whatever good we do over the next four years will pale in comparison to what you guys end up accomplishing for years and years to come,” he said. “And that’s been my source of hope. That’s why when people over the last four years, when people ask me about how do you put up with this or that and the frustration of Washington, I just think about you.”

Watch the video. It’s only about five-and-a-half minutes.

President Obama is nothing but a man. A man who sincerely believes in what he’s doing. Who sincerely believes that what he doing is going to help the people of America. All the people.

He understands that the people helping him believe the same. And he loves them for that.

Romney’s campaign staff reach the end of the trail


Don Emmert / AFP – Getty Images

From the moment Mitt Romney stepped off stage Tuesday night, having just delivered a brief concession speech he wrote only that evening, the massive infrastructure surrounding his campaign quickly began to disassemble itself.

Aides taking cabs home late that night got rude awakenings when they found the credit cards linked to the campaign no longer worked.

“Fiscally conservative,” sighed one aide the next day.

In conversations on Wednesday, aides were generally wistful, not angry, at how the campaign ended. Most, like their boss, truly believed the campaign’s now almost comically inaccurate models, and that a victory was well within their grasp…

Yesterday afternoon, campaign manager Matt Rhoades thanked the staff in one last meeting at the campaign’s Boston HQ, as did Romney and his wife, Ann…

After their speeches, Tagg Romney drove the former candidate and his wife home to Belmont.

The office at 585 Commercial St. was largely packed up by the close of business Wednesday (one aide said it looked like it had been sacked by Visigoths), but some staffers will return today to remove their things.

The Mitt Romney for President financial entity survives for as long as two more years, as bills are paid and FEC documents are filed.

In the meantime, lots of Marriott points will be cashed in.

He will not be missed. He wasn’t even as funny as George W.