Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cool inventions offer hope for solving world’s problems

Ever heard of an eLegs Exoskeleton?

Neither had we until this week. It's essentially motorized scaffolding for human bodies that have been paralyzed from the waist down.

The invention allows paraplegics to rise from their wheelchairs and take a few steps with the help of robotic legs. It looks awkward, but to stand again and to look others straight in the eye has been the unobtainable dream of the paralyzed. The eLegs Exoskeleton is just one of 50 remarkable inventions listed in this week's issue of Time magazine.

The list is inspiring in a time when the news is a steady torrent of one country fighting another, politicians jockeying for power and scoundrels raking in ill-gotten gains. The list is a relief from the mayhem that is the steady diet served up by the 24-hour news stream.

Outside the stream, life is not all doom and gloom People are going about their lives, solving problems and trying to make a positive difference in the world.

Locally, volunteers for many nonprofits improve the lives of others daily. Businesses of all kinds come up with better ways to serve their customers.

Nationally and internationally, the new inventions piling up will make life safer and more fulfilling as they spread throughout the world.

Driving could become safer when self-driving cars are perfected. Google has a Prius that uses radar sensors, video cameras and a laser range-finder that has traveled 140,000 miles without an accident.

Ocean swimmers will have a better chance of survival when lifeguard robots that can navigate riptides at 24 mph become commonplace at popular beaches.

Advances in biosciences eventually will give people who need replacement organs a better chance of getting them as researchers refine techniques that have allowed them to grow new lungs for rats that take over 95 percent of lung function. Other scientists are working on creating computer-driven "living architecture" for replacement organs.

Or how about the fuel cells in a box that are providing green power to offices and stores in California? Or the underwater kites that use wave energy to produce power and the small crystals that convert energy produced by the human body into electrical currents?

A new squirt gun on steroids called a water disrupter is already being used by troops in Afghanistan to disable roadside bombs by pulverizing them with a thin "blade" of water.

A malaria-proof mosquito may someday remove this scourge from tropical areas.

It's heartening to learn that smart people are finding inspired solutions for the world's long list of problems.

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