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High-Fives All Around — Five Year Old’s New Mechanical Hand Makes Him a Star

October 21, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

mechanical handFive year old Keith Harris was the most popular kid in his Houston elementary school last week when he showed up with his new space-age prosthetic hand. In yet another amazing development from 3-D printing, Keith, who was born with symbrachydactyly, was able to show off to his classmates the coolest hand in the school. Until now, Keith has had to deal with a deformity in his right hand setting him apart from his peers and greatly impacting his motor skills development. But all of this has changed, according to his mother. Keith is a new person, with self-confidence, joy and a new personality to go along with his new hand.

Symbrachydactyly is a very rare condition, affecting one in 32,000 births, and results in the fingers of the hand to be webbed, or some fingers to be extremely short or missing altogether. It usually impacts only one hand. The forearm is also shorter than normal. There are different theories as to what actually causes symbrachydactyly. In the womb, a baby’s hands are shaped liked a mitten. Then, fingers emerge and divide. But for the developing baby with symbrachydactyly, this does not happen due either to inadequate blood flow or problems with the tissue. The normal growth of finger bones does not happen. There is no evidence that the condition is genetic nor due to any external conditions of the pregnancy. Read the rest of this entry →

Vincent: A Miracle Baby, the First to be Born From an Implanted Womb

October 14, 2014 in Europe, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Robin Cook

A woman with a newborn baby after birtha

MRKH syndrome is emotionally devastating, since women face the prospects of not being able to deliver a baby

Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuester-Hauser Syndrome (MRKH) is a female congenital disorder that results in the absence of a womb, eliminating the ability to reproduce. Its name comes from the four researchers who discovered the disorder. The first sign of MRKH typically does not appear until a girl is 14-15 years of age, at the time when she normally would begin to menstruate. A trip to the doctor to ascertain why her menses is delayed results in ultrasound tests that reveal the condition. There are usually no outward signs. All aspects of the remaining reproductive organs are normal. The MRKH syndrome is present in approximately 1 in every 4,500 newborn girls, which in the United States translates to roughly 75,000 women. Its cause is unknown and there is no hard evidence that the condition is inherited. The syndrome is emotionally devastating, as a young girl faces the prospects of not being able to deliver a baby.

Until now, that is. For the first time in history, a woman with MRKH has become a biological mother. Through a miraculous series of events and stunning medical/technological developments, a Swedish woman with MRKH delivered a baby boy they have named Vincent. Vincent was born two months premature due to his mother developing pre-eclampsia, but other than his tiny size, he is normal and healthy.

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Good news for everyone waiting for the latest in cell phone technology

September 23, 2014 in Business, Good News, Internet, Technology by Meredith Ansell


The new AppleWatch

Last week in Cupertino, California, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, bringing us all a little closer to the techno-sci-fi world that used to be the stuff of novels and super-spy movies.

The smart-watch is one of the most innovative communication devices on the market. It is perfect for those moments when you need to be hands-free. The Apple Watch, Apple’s first foray into this futuristic market, doubles as a fitness device, has extremely accurate timing to within 50 milliseconds, and is a beautifully designed personal internet/communication device, as described by Apple’s CEO, Tom Cook. The interface differs from the iPhone, in that it uses a “digital crown” for scrolling and zooming in on text. It features a touch-screen face and has been designed in two sizes: one for men and one for women. Of course, there is no room on the smartwatch for a keyboard, so you must speak into the Apple Watch, and what you say will be transcribed. I see visions of Mr. Smart now. Who knew that those all TV spy-shows would one day become the normality of our existence?

The new iPhone 6 is designed with a pixel-rich, 1334×750 resolution black and gold, 4.7-inch screen (or the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5 inch screen), featuring the next generation of retina displays—Retina HD. It has an A8, 64-bit processor and is running on the new iOS8 software. The iPhone 6 includes also an 8 megapixel camera, with cutting edge photography technology—Focus Pixels—which dramatically speeds up the process of autofocusing on your favorite subjects, and also takes out those blurs from your shaking hands.

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Marine scientists, Environmentalists and Lovers of the Sea are Ecstatic about the Return of the California Blue Whale

September 9, 2014 in Earth, Environment, Green, Nature by Robin Cook

Blue Whale tail

California Blue Whale has almost completely recovered from the harmful effects of previous fishing and hunting practices

The California Blue Whale weighs as much as 190 tons and grows to a length of 33 meters, making it the largest animal on earth. They live primarily along the California coast, but have been spotted as far north as the Gulf of Alaska and as far south as Costa Rica. They became an endangered species due to unregulated hunting practices in the early part of the century. 

Whaling nations, particularly Russia, freely hunted for whale in the Antarctic waters, killing approximately 346,000 of these beautiful animals before laws were implemented in 1966 to ban the practice. However the Soviets continued to hunt until 1971, cementing the impact on the blue whale population in the Antarctica which fell to 1% of their historical levels. The blue whales in the Pacific were somewhat less impacted, yet research reveals that between 1905 and 1971, at least 3,400 of these animals were killed. This also shows that their original population was much smaller than the Antarctic whales.

Aggressive educational and regulatory initiatives has enabled the blue whale populations to rebound, to roughly 97% of their historical levels, but to understand the true health of the California Blue Whale population took some creative doing. It was not so easy to separate out the two main groups: those that live near Russia/Japan and those that live near California. How to know which are which? Scientists turned to song. The two groups have their own song, and from the songs, scientists were able to draw the boundary between the two groups. Now, with access to previously closed records regarding whaling, and historic population numbers, researchers can say with confidence that the California Blue Whale has almost completely recovered from the harmful effects of previous fishing and hunting practices.  Read the rest of this entry →

Google continues its push to move Apple out of the Classroom

August 27, 2014 in Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Students using Google Class

The New Generation of Students

This school year teachers will have a new tool from Google—Google Classroom—which can be operated by any user who has a Google Apps for Education account.Introduced this spring as a new tool for classroom management, Google Classroom was tested in 45 countries around the world, by a total of more than 100,000 educators. Google’s developers sought to create a tool that would give teachers more time to spend educating students. Why, when there are certainly many other technology functions that Google could develop? Because Google’s developers, after spending a year interviewing educators, found that chief among time-absorbing tasks in the teacher’s day is managing the classroom, assigning, collecting and grading homework, and communicating with students. Among all the new education related technology apps available today, this was one area that had not been addressed. Google Classroom was developed to lighten the load for teachers to allow them to do what they do best—teach. The Classroom package includes: gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive.

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Smartphone: Coming to the Rescue of Those with Bipolar Disorder

August 18, 2014 in Good News, Social, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Bipolar Smartphone

A new smartphone app known as PRIORI will analyze the speaker’s voice and predict an approaching change in psychological state from manic to depressive

A University of Michigan psychiatrist has developed a smartphone app known as PRIORI which can analyze the speaker’s voice and predict an approaching change in psychological state from manic to depressive, or vice versa. PRIORI turns the smartphone into a diagnostic tool, potentially saving the lives of millions of bipolar sufferers.

Dr. Melvin McInnis worked with a team of computer scientists from the engineering department at his university to design the app which analyzes speech characteristics which are common to someone in a manic state, such as rapid, punctuated speech, inability to focus and form a cohesive sentence, or from the depressive side—low energy level in the voice, sluggish speech or irritability. He was inspired by family members of bipolar sufferers who reported that they could usually detect an imminent episode by the sound of their loved one’s voice.
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Going Green is Taking College Student Housing to a Whole New Level

July 30, 2014 in Environment, Good News, Green, Inspiration by Robin Cook

Man stretching jacket to reveal shirt with recycle symbol printe

Exciting new option to students needing affordable housing

Every wonder what happens with all of those old freight shipping containers? Certainly, after some period of time, they wear out and are no longer usable for the transportation of goods. Well, look at what happens when the need for affordable, funky housing meets passion to save the environment.

The first shipping container apartment project is soon to hit Washington, D.C. The residential project is four floors of shipping container living, using 18 recycled and renovated cargo containers. It will accommodate 24 residents. Built in one of the city’s university neighborhoods, the project is designed for the college student crowd who needs cheap housing and an interesting alternative to dorm living. Each floor has six bedrooms and bathrooms, with shared dining and living room, kitchen and laundry facilities. The project’s developers, Catholic University alumni Sean Joiner and Matt Grace are looking forward to an August completion date, which is good timing, as the university fall semester will begin and the project’s new tenants will be ready to move in. That’s right, all units are rented. Joiner and Grace envision tremendous success from container apartment projects, but acknowledge that they have some work to do with the neighbors who prefer more traditional, and in some cases, stately residences. “Cargotecture” has yet to take hold in the eyes of established residents. Read the rest of this entry →

The FingerReader: Opening New Worlds for the Visually Impaired

July 21, 2014 in Change, Good News, Inspiration, Technology by Meredith Ansell

FingerReader - Visually Impaired Innovations

A new solution for the visually impaired

Hot out of the labs at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a prototype audio reading device, called the “FingerReader.” The FingerReader fits on the index finger of a visually impaired individual and “reads” to him books or other written material. The FingerReader is equipped with a small camera which scans the text, and then a computerized voice “reads” it. For the visually impaired, the FingerReader will open up an entirely new world of texts: restaurant menus, newspapers and magazines, office materials, and millions of books. It also translates text so the user is free to “read” text written in a foreign language. The FingerReader is the latest invention to come out of 3-D printing, a technology that is dramatically changing the face of the world.

The FingerReader has many advantages: It is portable. No matter where the visually impaired person may find himself, he will be able to read. It is empowering. With the FingerReader a visually impaired person will be able to immediately read and understand important documents, such as a permission form at a doctor’s office, or applications at a government agency. It is a vast improvement over the optical character recognition devices that are already available to the visually impaired, because it works in real time.
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Harnessing the Ocean Winds—Floating Windmills

June 25, 2014 in Earth, Environment, Europe, Good News, Green, Technology by Meredith Ansell

Harnessing the Ocean Winds—Floating Windmills

Floating Windmills (photo by

Windmills have been around for thousands of years. They served a variety of functions, such as creating power to run mills and pump water. In the 1970s, due to the increasing expense of fossil fuels combined with more aggressive advocacy by environmentalists, the windmill took on new life. Wind farms began to pop up across the world. Many farmers began to lease out their land for wind farms, benefiting from another source of income. But, this approach had its limits, so wind energy scientists and developers turned to the ocean, where the winds are constant and extremely vigorous. But, grounded wind turbine platforms in the oceans also have limitations.

Now, there is a new development in the challenge to harness the wind—floating windmills or turbines. Five kilometers from the coast of Portugal is a new prototype—a turbine floating on the water. Known as the Windfloat turbine this is the latest product to come from efforts to create a wind turbine that can withstand the surge of the ocean waters, and grab the awesome winds that are constantly above it.

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Can Something as Simple as Fasting Help Diabetics?

June 16, 2014 in Change, Good News, Technology by Robin Cook

As a general rule, nutritionists and other medical professionals will tell you that fasting—not eating for an extended number of hours—is detrimental to your health. Many people turn to fasting as a tool for weight loss, but typically what happens is the reverse—metabolism is negatively impacted resulting in fat gain.

Fasting for Diabetics

“A new study indicates that fasting may be an important intervention tool for pre-diabetics”

But, a new study from the Intermountain Heart Institute in Utah indicates that fasting may be an important intervention tool for pre-diabetics, saving them from becoming diabetic. The study examined the impact of fasting on a group of pre-diabetic patients and found that there was a significant drop in cholesterol levels, particularly if they fasted for periods of 10-12 hours at a time. Dr. Benjamon Horne, one of the study’s authors and the Director of Cardiovascular and Genetic Epidemiology at the Intermountain Heart Institute said that fasting has the potential to be an important tool for diabetes intervention. During fasting, the body uses LDL cholesterol from fat cells to provide itself with energy. The LDL cholesterol is known to contribute to insulin resistance.
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