THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- APRIL 30, 2022
Well kidlings, it's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. This time, as a twist, items with a futuristic theme will be the focus. As usual, we begin with an item from Rob's stomping grounds of Flint.
Like many cities, Flint has a shortage of affordable housing. To solve this problem, an interesting project is about to get underway. “Flint may soon be home to a unique, potential solution for Michigan’s dearth of affordable housing: a 3D-printed home. Maybe 3D houses can be that gap between what it takes to create and build a house and what it can sell for.”
According to developers, there are advantages to this method. “The materials used in 3D printing construction methods mean homes start air-tight in a way that cannot be achieved with a stick-built method. Fewer materials are needed for construction.”
This home building method is already being used. Habitat for Humanity has built a 3D home in Virginia and an entire 3D community is being constructed near Austin, Texas. (https://flintbeat.com/can-3d-printed-homes-help-solve-flints-affordable-housing-shortage/)
If 3D houses seem like “pie in the sky,” how about whole buildings floating above cities? “Framlab is proposing actual floating buildings that would hover, zeppelin-like, in the empty space above municipal roadways. The firm is proposing rigid frames of carbon fiber that would create strong, light-weight enclosures for cells of helium lift-gas.” The science behind the proposal is called nanophotonic engineering.” (https://futurism.com/the-byte/architects-propose-hovering-buildings)
Electric vehicles will no doubt be zipping between 3D houses and under those floating buildings and they will all need to be recharged at some point. A new startup business from Detroit could be a big player in that arena because they have a better idea. “Plug Zen platforms can charge up to ten vehicles simultaneously. Most EV charging stations have single or double units currently. Plug Zen separates itself from the pack with its scalability to have additional units plugged into each other.”
Testing starts in Detroit next month. Company officials note: “Detroit has the greatest automotive background. If it’s automotive, you’re going to find the support you need.” (https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2022/04/teslas-next-competitor-detroit-entrepreneur-enters-the-ev-charging-arena.html)
When someone pulls up to an EV charging station they may be using a unique way to pay for their purchase – a microchip implant in their hand. “A firm, Walletmor, is the first company to offer them for sale. It can be used wherever contactless payments are accepted."
Walletmor's chip weighs less than a gram and is little bigger than a grain of rice. The company says: “ The chip works immediately after being implanted, and will stay firmly in place. It also does not require a battery, or other power source.” I may wait to try this. I have not managed to figure out how to balance an old school checkbook, so buying things with the wave of a hand might lead to bankruptcy. (https://www.bbc.com/news/business-61008730)
An advance in medical technology by Boston University researchers might prove to be a bit more important than implanting microchips. “An interdisciplinary team of engineers, biologists, and geneticists has developed a new way of studying the heart: they’ve built a miniature replica of a heart chamber from a combination of nanoengineered parts and human heart tissue. The device could give researchers a more accurate view of how the organ works, allowing them to track how the heart grows in the embryo, study the impact of disease, and test the potential effectiveness and side effects of new treatments—all at zero risk to patients and without leaving a lab.”
That's not all. “Nicknamed miniPUMP, and officially known as the cardiac miniaturized Precision-enabled Unidirectional Microfluidic Pump— the technology could also pave the way for building lab-based versions of other organs, from lungs to kidneys.” (https://www.bu.edu/articles/2022/new-miniature-heart-could-help-test-heart-disease-cures/)
All of these futuristic things are amazing. However, the most significant scientific finding has been revealed by the brilliant minds at MIT. They have solved a problem that has been vexing humankind for eons. “A team of mechanical engineers at MIT recently developed an 'Oreometer' to test the optimal way of separating the two halves of an Oreo cookie, so that the wafers and the creme filling inside remained unbroken.”(https://gizmodo.com/oreometer-oreo-cookie-device-1848811412)
The team left no Oreo untwisted. “They tested regular Oreos as well as the Double and Mega Stuf varieties, which have more creme filling, and didn’t report any apparent correlation between the amount of creme and how cleanly the cookie separated. See the Oreometer in action at: https://youtu.be/fXP1iIq2Z_A.
There's more. “The team made the Oreometer design open source at: https://aip.scitation.org/doi/suppl/10.1063/5.0085362. This means anyone can build their own device at home. At MIT: “They call this particular experiment Oreology.”
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.