Behavioral economics has a plan to fight poverty—and it’s all about redesigning the “cockpit”

Nicolas Collignon Science 0 Comments

Dr. Bryan Bledsoe was just trying to keep up. The ER at the small rural hospital was always packed and the top brass had urged him to move patients through more quickly, so when a woman in her sixties came in complaining of head and neck pain, he briskly examined her, hustled her off for an x-ray, gave her some pain medication for a pulled muscle, and dispatched her home.

The next morning, though, she was back—this time in an ambulance. Bledsoe had missed the signs of an impending stroke. The woman died in the hospital that day.

Dr. Bledsoe didn’t lack training or a desire to help; the doctor, who today serves as a faculty member and physician in the trauma center at the University Medical Center of South Nevada in Las Vegas, was as eager then to see his patients get better as he is now. But in the moment, strapped for time and overwhelmed with the varied needs of so many patients, he missed a diagnosis. It would haunt him for years.

Whether we’re doctors, or teachers, or anything e..

Neutron stars collide, solve major astronomical mysteries

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Enlarge (credit: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet)

We've been extremely lucky. The LIGO and VIRGO detectors only operated simultaneously for a few weeks, but they were a remarkably busy few weeks. Today, those behind the joint collaboration announced that they've observed the merger of two neutron stars. And, because neutron stars don't swallow everything they encounter, the gravitational waves were accompanied by photons, including an extended afterglow. So dozens of telescopes, and many in space, had representatives involved in the announcement.

The number of major astrophysical issues cleared up by this collision is impressive. The collision was simultaneously detected with the Fermi space telescope, confirming that neutron star mergers produce a phenomenon known as a short gamma-ray burst. The gravitational waves were detected nearly simultaneously with the gamma ray burst, confirming that they move at the speed of light. And heavy elements like gold we..

Puerto Rico Is Considering Bringing Power Back Through Renewable Microgrids

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Rebuilding the Grid
The devastating effect of Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico without power—but even before the storm, the territory’s electric grid was somewhat outdated. Outages were common, and prices were high. While the current situation is bleak, there are hopes that it could foster a much-needed renovation of the US territory’s infrastructure.

On Friday, Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosselló proposed the idea of switching the island over to a microgrid system. This would localize the production of electricity to smaller regions, each of which would be powered by a small-scale power plant, such as a compact solar array or a few wind turbines. Some microgrids are connected to one another by transmission lines, but this is not necessary.

“We can start dividing Puerto Rico into different regions…and then start developing microgrids,” said the governor, according to a report from Yahoo News. “That’s not going to solve the problem, but it’s certainly going to start lighting u..

Scientists have built a new soft robot that can heal itself

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Researchers from Vrije University in Brussels, Belgium are building robots that can heal themselves. They’re using a new, soft material called elastomer, which is a type of plastic that has thermoreversible bonds. When you apply heat to elastomer, its bonds reform to 98-99% of their original state. Testing elastomer is still in its early stages, but it has huge implications for soft robotics.

Soft robots have many advantages, but unfortunately durability is not one of them. Robots with soft exoskeletons might more easily grip terrain or objects, but they are also easily punctured or torn. For a soft robot made of elastomer, that type of damage can be repaired with the simple application of heat. Watch the video above to learn more.

LIGO’s gravitational wave detection takes home a Nobel

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A 4km arm of the LIGO interferometer stretches into the foggy distance. (credit: Eric Berger)

From almost the moment their discovery was announced, everyone agreed that the first sighting of gravitational waves was going to win a Nobel Prize. The only questions were when and who would receive the honor. Both of those questions have now been answered. When is now, and who turned out to be three individuals who contributed to the project in very different ways.

Caltech's Kip Thorne, a theoretician who made sure we knew what a gravitational wave would look like when we saw it, was one honoree. He was joined by Rainer Weiss, an MIT scientist who helped build some of the first prototype detectors that would eventually inspire the LIGO design, and Barry Barish, another Caltech physicist who was put in charge of the LIGO collaboration and became instrumental in ensuring that the hardware was built and that a large international collaboration was present to operate it and analyze the re..