3-D carving (rather than printing), for teeth

October 17th, 2014

The 3-D printing revolution gets most of the attention, but 3-D carving has already added a very real bite to modern healthcare. Dentists (and engineers) are leading the way.

A considerable number of people are strolling the streets, smiling, chewing the fat, and eating lunch — sporting dental crowns made through a process of 3-D scanning and then 3-D milling. The video above shows one dentist proudly showing off his tooth-milling machine.

Why milling (carving slowly, in a process that is literally grinding), rather than printing? Because teeth need to be hard, if they are to survive years of chomping….

So begins another Improbable Innovation nugget, which appears in its entirety on BetaBoston.

The Rheology of Ant Swarms

October 17th, 2014

Room 007 of the Love Building at Gatech, Atlanta, Georgia is the home of the Hoogle Lab. It’s run by David L. Hu  (Assistant Professor of Fluid Mechanics) who is the corresponding author for the robotic jumping-beans study which Improbable recently profiled. But the Hoogle Lab doesn’t exclusively focus on jumping beans, it also investigates the ‘rheology’ of ants – in other words the study of how large groups of ants might be compared to fluids. Full details can be found here, including this video showing how ants can be ‘poured’ through a funnel.

For (a few) more details see : Ants as Fluids: Physics-Inspired Biology

Fashionable photos of the Ig Nobel ceremony

October 16th, 2014

Of the many press reports about this year’s Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, perhaps the nicest photo spread was done by the magazine Paris Match.

The Mini-Cup Jelly Court Cases

October 16th, 2014

mini-sup-jelliesThe mini-cup jelly court cases are no longer quite so far beneath the world’s “attention radar” awareness level. A new study dares to look at, and speak of, them:

The Mini-Cup Jelly Court Cases: A Comparative Analysis from a Food Ethics Perspective,” Suk Shin Kim, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, October 2014, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 735-748. (Thanks to investigator Tom Gill for bringing this to our attention.) The author, at the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, The Catholic University of Korea,  explains:

“This study compares and analyzes separate court rulings in three countries on ‘mini-cup jelly’ (a firm jelly containing konjac and packaged in bite-sized plastic cups) from a food ethics perspective. While the Korean and US courts decided that the mini-cup jelly was defective, and that the manufacturers or importers were liable for damages in these cases, the Japanese court took an opposing stance in favor of the manufacturer. However, from an absolute and fundamental viewpoint, the jelly was unacceptable, ethically as well as legally, because it was unsafe, unwholesome, and unfit for children’s consumption. I argue that the ignoring or sidelining of fundamental principles of food ethics, especially “respect for life,” was at the core of these cases…. To conclude, it is very important to minimize risks by applying the principles of food ethics at the outset before any accidents can occur.”

Here’s further detail from the study:


A news headline ten years ago foreshadowed some of these developments: “EFSA risk opinion on jelly mini-cup additives could equate to full ban

Ig Nobel winner triumphs: “Italy lifts out of recession thanks to hookers, drugs”

October 15th, 2014

istatCongratulations to this year’s Ig Nobel economics prize winner — ISAT — both on its Ig Nobel Prize and on ISTAT’s influence on the Italian economy.

The AFP news agency reports, on October 15, 2014:

Italy lifts out of recession thanks to hookers, drugs

Italy learnt it was no longer in a recession on Wednesday thanks to a change in data calculations across the European Union which includes illegal economic activities such as prostitution and drugs in the GDP measure.

Adding illegal revenue from hookers, narcotics and black market cigarettes and alcohol to the eurozone’s third-biggest economy boosted gross domestic product figures.

GDP rose slightly from a 0.1 percent decline for the first quarter to a flat reading, the national institute of statistics said.

Although ISTAT confirmed a 0.2 percent decline for the second quarter, the revision of the first quarter data meant Italy had escaped its third recession in the last six years….

This comes just four weeks after this year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners were announced at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, at Harvard University. The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for economics was awarded to ISTAT — the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics, for proudly taking the lead in fulfilling the European Union mandate for each country to increase the official size of its national economy by including revenues from prostitution, illegal drug sales, smuggling, and all other unlawful financial transactions between willing participants.

The relevant documents, in the awarding of that prize, are “Cambia il Sistema europeo dei conti nazionali e regionali – Sec2010” (ISTAT, 2014) and “European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010)” (Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013).

BONUS: “Droghe e prostituzione nel Pil, all’Istat il premio IgNobel per l’Economia” [La Repubblica]