Applied Physics

Skis equipped with an ingenious new self-waxing device that enables them to travel quicker could make a dramatic entry onto the skiing scene in the 2008/09 World Cup season.

The device continuously applies fresh wax to the bottom of the ski during a race. Its developers are now working with manufacturers, with the aim of incorporating it into skis used in top-class international competition as early as next year.

Validated test results from the Alps show that skiers using the revolutionary system can complete a course 1-2% quicker than using conventional skis, which gradually lose their pre-applied layer of wax as they descend a slope.

Computer models now under development could enhance the design of sports equipment to help people of all abilities realise their sporting potential.

The models, more sophisticated and more specialised than others previously used in sports equipment design, produce unprecedentedly realistic simulations of how potential ball designs, for instance, will actually behave when in use.

This data can then be harnessed by sports equipment design teams to ensure that the final products they develop behave (e.g. bounce and spin) as required and, above all, with more consistency than ever before. This is vital if sportsmen and women are to optimise their skills, apply them with confidence and maximise their achievement.

A revolutionary new sensor collects and immediately transmits data about posture, stride length, step frequency, acceleration, response to shock waves travelling through the body etc.

It's cufflink-sized and clipped behind the wearer’s ear, so it doesn't hinder performance and when worn by an athlete during training, it can transmit the information for immediate visual display on a handheld device or laptop used by their coach at the trackside. The coach can then harness the data to shape the on-the-spot advice and instruction they give the athlete regarding technique. By instantly adding to the value of every training session, the sensor can therefore deliver better sporting performance.

Scientists in Australia have found a way of identifying probable stem cells in the lining of women’s wombs. The finding opens up the possibility of using the stem cells for tissue engineering applications such as building up natural tissue to repair prolapsed pelvic floors. Pelvic floor prolapse is a common condition, affecting over 50% of women after childbirth; around one in ten women have surgery and a third of these women require repeated operations to correct the problem.

Last month, University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Katey Walter brought a National Public Radio crew to Alaska’s North Slope (actually, the NPR story is a lot better and has video, so you can probablly just go there and read it, but please come back when you are done - Editors ), hoping to show them examples of what happens when methane is released when permafrost thaws beneath lakes.

When they reached their destination, Walter and the crew found even more than they bargained for: a lake violently boiling with escaping methane.

In the September issue of the journal Stem Cells, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University write that moderate physical movement of embryonic stem cells in fluid environments, similar to shaking that occurs in the womb, improves their development and suggests that different types of movement could some day be used to control what type of cell they become.

“Embryonic stem cells develop under unique conditions in the womb, and no one has ever been able to study the effect that movement has on that development process,” said Todd McDevitt, assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University and head of the project.

Infants and children receiving artificial heart-valve replacements face several repeat operations as they grow, since the replacements become too small and must be traded for bigger ones.

Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston have now developed a solution: living, growing valves created in the lab from a patient's own cells.

Pulmonary valves, which provide one-way blood flow from the heart's right ventricle into the pulmonary artery, are often malformed in congenital heart disease, putting an extra burden on the heart.

Airline passengers and crews who gripe about poor cabin air quality could have a new culprit to blame: the oils on their skin, hair and clothing. A new study suggests interactions between body oils and ozone found in airplane cabins could lead to the formation of chemical byproducts that might worsen nasal irritation, headaches, dry eyes and lips, and other common air traveler complaints.

In simulated flights lasting four hours, American and Danish researchers placed two groups of 16 volunteers in a mockup of an airline cabin and then exposed them to varying levels of ozone and air flow, including levels typically experienced in real flights.

Scientists at MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology have for the first time recorded the entire genomic expression of both a host bacterium and an infecting virus over the eight-hour course of infection.

Rice University biomedical engineers have developed a new technique for growing cartilage from human embryonic stem cells, a method that could be used to grow replacement cartilage for the surgical repair of knee, jaw, hip, and other joints.

"Because native cartilage is unable to heal itself, researchers have long looked for ways to grow replacement cartilage in the lab that could be used to surgically repair injuries," said lead researcher Kyriacos A. Athanasiou, the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Bioengineering.