13 / JULY / 2020

The Good News Monday

It's easy to get knocked down with everything going on around us. That's why The Good News Monday is here to pick you right up. The law of duality doesn't accept darkness without light, so here are five beaming pieces of news. This week we have our favorite ingredients for hope, you can read three medical and scientific advancements, an sustainable Indian architect using CO2 emission to produce unique building materials and a search engine that just managed to plant 100 million trees.

Translating glove for Sign Language

Bioengineers at UCLA have designed a high-tech glove that can translate sign language into speech in real time through a smartphone app.

The glove contains sensors that run along the five fingers to identify each word, phrase or letter as it is made in American Sign Language.

The device then turns the finger movements into electrical signals, which are sent to a small circuit board worn on the wrist. The board transmits those signals wirelessly to a smartphone that translates them into spoken words at the rate of about one word per second.

“Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said Jun Chen, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering and the principal investigator on the research. “In addition, we hope it can help more people learn sign language themselves.”

Indian architect develops method to reuse CO2 emissions from the air


An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Scientists invent a device that can help repair bones

A group of biomedical engineers from the University of Connecticut have invented a scaffold of non-toxic polymer that also generates a controllable electrical field to encourage bone growth. The researchers published a paper in Nano Energy after using their device to cure skull fractures in mice.

The scaffold mimics the natural electric field produced by our bodies, a characteristic called piezoelectric, meaning to generate electricity from vibrations, and can be affixed over the damaged bone without significant surgery.

The patient can wave an ultrasound wand over the area to stimulate the generation of electricity and, unlike similar existing machines that are bulky and require electricity from a power outlet or batteries, the device is lightweight and generates the field via ultrasound. The polymer from which the device is made is non-toxic and gradually dissolves in the body over time, disappearing as the new bone grows.

The device’s proof of efficacy is a case of leaping before looking, as scientists aren’t exactly sure why electrical fields stimulate bone growth at all.

The search engine that planted 100 million trees

For eleven years, the search engine Ecosia has used most of the revenue from advertising on its website and app towards planting trees—and this month they planted their 100-millionth tree.

The phenomenon of mass tree planting began in the early 2000s when scientists began hypothesizing that the increase in CO2 emissions could be countered by replenishing the world’s forests.

Following the devastating fires in the Amazon, the number of people who had installed the Ecosia app doubled, allowing them to fund a 3 million tree-planting project in Brazil. In the wake of the Australian bushfires, Ecosia began restoring native forests there.

“100 million trees tackle the climate crisis by removing 1771 tonnes of CO2 every day, but it means so much more than that,” wrote Ecosia in their blog. “100 million trees means habitats for endangered animals. It means healthy rivers, more biodiversity, and fertile soil, and more fruits, nuts, and oils for local communities.”

Ecosia is a dream company for any environmentalist. Besides planting over 100 million trees, they have built their own solar power station—to energize 200% of all the power required to run their servers. They have also added little notes to their search results to let you see whether a company is tree/planet friendly, or whether they utilize a lot of fossil fuels.

The first cartilage-mimicking gel

Duke University researchers say they’ve created an experimental gel that’s the first to match the strength and durability of cartilage.

The material may look like a distant cousin of Jell-O—which it is—but it’s incredibly strong. Although 60% water, a single quarter-sized disc can bear the weight of a 100-pound kettle bell without tearing or losing its shape.

Developers say it’s the first hydrogel—materials made of water-absorbing polymers—capable of withstanding tugging and heavy loads equally as well as human cartilage, without wearing out over time.

The new hydrogel consists of two intertwined polymer networks: one made of stretchy spaghetti-like strands and the other more rigid and basket-like, with negative charges along their length. These are reinforced with a third ingredient, a mesh work of cellulose fibers.

When the gel is stretched, the cellulose fibers resist pulling and help hold the material together. And when it is squeezed, the negative charges along the rigid polymer chains repel each other and stick to water, helping it spring back to its original shape.

When the researchers compared the resulting material to other hydrogels, theirs was the only one that was as strong as cartilage under both squishing and stretching.