Claire Lomas was paralyzed from the chest down after a horse riding accident in 2007 but recently utilized a robotic exoskeleton to complete the London Marathon in 17 days. Now she gets to see how the technologically advanced suit works at home.
Lomas used a ReWalk suit created by Argo Medical Technologies (which you might have seen on Glee). According to their website, “As part of the clinical trials, the ReWalk was initially only available to those selected patients in PA, NJ , and Del. After completing successful trials and receiving FDA approval, the ReWalk-I is NOW being offered nationally to rehabilitation centers so that care givers can get their patients to stand and walk.”
The company backed a bid for the marathon and Lomas was able to raise around $317,900 for spinal damage research. The suit itself costs $71,000.
“The exoskeleton is activated by the wearer tilting their balance to indicate the desire to take a step. It supports the body’s weight and also allows the person to go up or down stairs, as well as sit or stand up independently,” writes Reuters. “The developers argue that savings on the treatment of ailments related to inactivity could offset the cost.”
They continue, “The company estimates that of the 6 million wheelchair users in the U.S. and Europe, around 250,000 could be suitable for using the ReWalk device. A report in 2010 by U.S. firm ABI Research forecast the market for this technology could be worth $320 million within 10 years.” They also remarked the U.S. and Israeli military are interested in the tech for injured soldiers but Lomas is happy with its every day advantages.
“One of the best experiences was standing at a bar,” she said.
Lomas had the job of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square this year but isn’t quite done with her accomplishments yet. Reuters writes, “Next year [she] plans a London-to-Paris bicycle ride using a so-called Functional Electrical Stimulation bike that artificially stimulates the paralyzed rider’s own muscles to propel it along.”
The New Bus for London, sometimes referred to as NB4L, and colloquially as the Borismaster, New Routemaster or Boris Bus, is a 21st century replacement of the iconic Routemaster as a bus built specifically for use in London. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, it is built by Wrightbus, and features the ‘hop-on hop-off’ rear open platform of the original Routemaster, but meets the requirements for modern buses to be fully accessible. The first bus entered service on 27 February 2012.
The original Routemaster was a standard London bus type with a rear open platform and crewed by both a driver and conductor. It was withdrawn from service (except for two Heritage Routes) at the end of 2005 by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, in favour of a fully accessible one person operated modern fleet, none of which feature a rear open platform. The withdrawal of the Routemaster became an issue of the 2008 London mayoral election, and Boris Johnson was subsequently elected Mayor, with one of his campaign pledges being to introduce a new Routemaster. Following an open design competition in 2008, Wrightbus was awarded the contract to build the bus at the end of 2009, and the final design was announced in May 2010.
The design for the new bus features three doors and two staircases to be able to use a rear platform and allow accessible boarding. Unlike the original standard RM Routemaster used in central London, the new bus has a conventional full front end and a rear platform that can be closed when not needed, rather than the protruding bonneted ‘half cab’ design and permanently open platform. The new bus’s layout allows it to be operated by one person at off-peak times.
BIG Ben is turning into our own Leaning Tower of Pisa, a worrying survey has confirmed.
The much-loved landmark’s tilt has become so pronounced it is noticed by passers-by and tourists.
The Palace of Westminster’s clock tower has not been perfectly vertical for years because of shifting ground conditions and tunnelling for Tube lines.
Now engineers say it will one day topple over if the lean is left unchecked. Big Ben is the nickname of the tower’s largest bell but the public generally use it as the name of the whole clock, built in 1853.
The peak of the 315ft tower is 18 inches off where it would be if vertical – a 0.26 degree tilt to the north west.
That is one sixteenth of the Pisa tower’s lean.
But a survey for London Underground and the Parliamentary Estates Department found the rate of movement accelerated in recent years.
It has caused cracks to appear in walls inside the House of Commons.
Prof John Burland, of Imperial College London, said: “I have heard tourists saying, ‘I don’t think it is really vertical’. They are quite right. The tilt is now just about visible. If it started greater acceleration we would have to do something in a few years.”
The clock moved an eighth of an inch from the perpendicular between November 2002 and August 2003. Since then the tilt has increased 0.04 of a degree each year. At that rate it would crash into Portcullis House, used as MPs’ offices – in 5,000 years.
Beneath the Royal Mint Court, diagonally across the street from the Tower of London, lie 1,800 mute witnesses to the foresight of the city fathers in the year 1348. Recognizing that the Black Death then scourging Europe would inevitably reach London, the authorities prepared a special cemetery in East Smithfield, outside the city walls, to receive the bodies of the stricken.
By autumn, the plague arrived. Within two years, a third or so of London’s citizens had died, a proportion similar to that elsewhere in Europe. The East Smithfield cemetery held 2,400 of the victims, whose bodies were stacked five deep.
The agent of the Black Death is assumed to be Yersinia pestis, the microbe that causes bubonic plague today. But the epidemiology was strikingly different from that of modern outbreaks. Modern plague is carried by fleas and spreads no faster than the rats that carry them can travel. The Black Death seems to have spread directly from one person to another.
Victims sometimes emitted a deathly stench, which is not true of plague victims today. And the Black Death felled at least 30 percent of those it inflicted, whereas a modern plague in India that struck Bombay in 1904, before the advent of antibiotics, killed only 3 percent of its victims.
These differences, as well as the fear that the Black Death might re-emerge, have prompted several attempts to retrieve DNA from Black Death cemeteries. The latest of these attempts is reported Tuesday in of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team led by Hendrik N. Poinar of McMaster University in Ontario and Johannes Krause of the University of Tübingen in Germany.
They looked for surviving fragments of DNA in bones and teeth that archaeologists had excavated from the East Smithfield site in the 1980s. The DNA matched that of the modern-day microbe, confirming, as have several other studies, that Yersinia pestis was indeed the agent of the Black Death. Sharon DeWitte, a member of Dr. Poinar’s team, was one of several skeptics who had doubted the microbe’s role. “I’m very happy to find out I was wrong,” said Dr. DeWitte, a paleodemographer at the University of South Carolina. “In science, if you’re open to alternative possibilities, you can change your mind.”
Dr. Poinar’s team also looked for the microbe’s DNA in another medieval London cemetery, that of St. Nicholas Shambles, which was closed before the Black Death struck. They found no sign of it there, indicating that Yersinia pestis was not already present in the English population before the Black Death, so it must have arrived from elsewhere.
If Yersinia pestis was indeed the cause of the Black Death, why were the microbe’s effects so different in medieval times? Its DNA sequence may hold the answer. Dr. Poinar’s team has managed to reconstruct a part of the microbe’s genetic endowment. Yersinia pestis has a single chromosome, containing the bulk of its genes, and three small circles of DNA known as plasmids.
The team has determined the full DNA sequence of the plasmid known as pPCP1 from the East Smithfield cemetery. But, disappointingly, it turns out to be identical to the modern-day plasmid, so it explains none of the differences in the microbe’s effects.
“It was probably a naïve approach to assume we’d get the smoking gun on first attempt,” Dr. Poinar said.
Mark Achtman, an expert on plague who works at University College Cork in Ireland, said that the new study was “technologically interesting” but that a great deal more of the microbe’s DNA needed to be sequenced to obtain scientifically important results.
This is indeed Dr. Poinar’s plan. The challenge in reconstructing the microbe’s DNA from the East Smithfield cemetery is that it is highly fragmented. The Yersinia pestis chromosome is 4,653,728 units of DNA in length, but the bits of DNA from the cemetery are no more than 50 to 60 units long.
Determining the order of the chemical units in such fragments has become possible only in the last few years with the development of new DNA sequencing machines that work with short fragments.
Another technical challenge is to separate the plague DNA from that of the human and other microbial DNA in the ancient bones. One technique that Dr. Poinar’s team has used is to tether plasmid DNA from the modern plague microbe to plastic beads. DNA is quick to bind to strands of DNA of the complementary sequence, as in the DNA double helix. So the beads act as fishing rods to pull out the DNA of interest.
“It’s probably exceptionally important to find out what made this bug so deadly in the past,” Dr. Poinar said.
A version of this article appeared in print on August 30, 2011, on page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: Hunting for a Mass Killer in Medieval Graveyards.
Laugh Riot of the Day: The UK’s Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson says the riots aren’t “some new, emerging security threat” as far as the 2012 Olympics are concerned, but this clearly unshopped image from Pure Evil begs to differ. Below: It seems David Cameron’s fightin’ words don’t seem to have had much of an effect on looters, as evinced in this raw footage from yesterday’s speech outside Number 10 (courtesy of London-based sketch comedians Mother’s Best Child). [twbe / thanks david!]
Laugh Riot of the Day: The UK’s Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson says the riots aren’t “some new, emerging security threat” as far as the 2012 Olympics are concerned, but this clearly unshopped image from Pure Evil begs to differ.
Below: It seems David Cameron’s fightin’ words don’t seem to have had much of an effect on looters, as evinced in this raw footage from yesterday’s speech outside Number 10 (courtesy of London-based sketch comedians Mother’s Best Child).
[twbe / thanks david!]
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@almostaladyEleanor Orebi GannWaterstones staff member to me last night: “We’ll probably stay open. If they steal some books, they might actually learn something.” via web
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During a state of emergency it is not unusual to hear about looting, so why have there been very few reports of this in Japan?
Why is there no looting in Japan after the earthquake?
Continue reading the main story
During a state of emergency it is not unusual to hear about looting, so why have there been very few reports of this in Japan?
A new Google Group called “London Riots Facial Recognition” has appeared online, in the wake of the riots that rocked the U.K. capital over the weekend. The group’s goal is to use facial recognition technologies to identify the looters who appear in online photos.
The group appears to be thoughtfully considering its actions, in threads titled “Ethical Issues,” and “Keeping Things Legal,” for example. They’ve also stated that “it’s important we only use legal sources for images.”
However, there’s a major “creepy” factor to this undertaking, too. The idea that a group of people would team up online to use (misuse?) facial recognition technologies in this way, notably outside professional law enforcement channels, seems like a modern take on vigilante style justice, where the torches of the angry villagers have turned into APIs and algorithms.
In one newer thread, started just this morning, a commenter offers their assistance in building a tool using the Face.API, which could help identify people in photos posted on Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. There is even talk of using the Facebook Graph API and the Twitter API in conjunction with the Face.com one to help better identify the criminals.
While clearly, we have nothing against criminals being brought to justice, there still may be some concerns involved with this type of online behavior. As argued here on Hacker News, this method could incriminate people who were not participating, but were bystanders, or simply trying to get home. Whether their actions here are legal, whether or not they involve public photos, the question is – do we want to crowdsource justice in this way?
Scenes From A Riot of the Day: Above: A bloodied victim of the London riots is ostensibly helped up by a passerby — only to be robbed by the same “Good Samaritan” and a crowd of passing thugs.
Below: An unidentified Hackney woman stands amid debris left behind by ransacking rioters and delivers a stirring (NSFW) excoriation of the senseless looting.
This is Britain?!
To stop honeybees—some of the planet’s most important food pollinators—from continuing to disappear at an alarming rate, London has launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign to raise awareness about the problem.
It’s hard to say exactly why honeybees the world over are disappearing. Evidence points to viruses, fungi, cell phone use, pesticides, and climate change as potential causes (or parts of a larger cause). But much of the population still remains unaware of the problem and how dangerous it could be to our food system. London’s solution: a marketing blitz.
The city recently launched a major marketing campaign with the LIDA Agency and M&C Saatchi to encourage community beekeeping and “bee-friendly behavior” like growing bee-pollinated foods (i.e. fruit trees, tomatoes, and soft fruits), buying locally sourced honey, and minimizing pesticide use in gardening.
The Capital Bee campaign, part of a larger push to create 2012 community food growing spaces in the city by the 2012 Olympics, is also training 50 community beekeepers. The city already has 2,500 registered hives, but lost a third of its bee colonies in the winter of 2009—‘10 because of Colony Collapse Disorder.
The city has decided to take a darkly humorous approach to the whole thing, retooling work from artist Magnus Muhr—he’s known for his images of dead flies—to show stretcher-bound bees, bees in hospital beds, and bees on medicinal drips on London Underground billboards starting this week.
While a series of billboards and YouTube videos may not be enough to galvanize the public into saving the bees (especially since no one knows how to do that), it’s a start—and hopefully, just the beginning of more widespread knowledge about how important the bees are.