<%-- Page Title--%> Sci-tech <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 158 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

June 11, 2004

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Scientists give man a 'new' hand

Matthew Scott wiggled a finger on his left hand a few days ago. The feat isn't one that would usually make headlines, but Scott is the world's second person to get a successful - at least so far - hand transplant from a cadaver. The 37-year-old New Jersey resident underwent a 14 ½-hour operation to receive a new left hand. He lost his in 1985 to a firecracker accident and has been using a prosthesis until his marathon operation.

Although the new hand would never work like a normal one - Scott will probably never be able to button his shirt or pick up a penny with the new hand - doctors at the Louisville Medical Centre say he will be able to pick up a tennis ball or open a door. Such benefits however, come with a price. Scott will have to take powerful anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life, which have potentially widespread side effects that include high blood pressure, increased risk of infection, diabetes, damage to the liver and kidneys, increased risk of cancer, and hand tremors. With such substantial risks, many have criticised the operation, questioning whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Warren Breidenbach, who led the Louisville surgical team, says the hand transplant is an "investigational" procedure with a 30 to 50 per cent chance of rejection over the next year. Last September, a team of international scientists transplanted a donor hand to a 48-year-old Australian in a 13-hour surgery. Clint Hallam has gained some movement in the hand. At least one attempt at a hand transplant occurred in South America in 1964, but the patient's body rejected the hand within two weeks.

Mobiles that display your messages in the air

Next time you receive a message, you might not have to look at the screen of your cell phone, as Swedish telecom giant Nokia has launched a new phone that can display the message in air. According to the BBC, Nokia recently unveiled it's 3220 model which has a motion sensor that makes the lights blink and spell out letters sequentially when the handset is waved in the air. The messages which are written using a row of LEDs fitted on the rear cover of Nokia's forthcoming 3220 phone appear to float in mid-air, thanks to a quirk of human vision which means we see the image as a whole rather than in pieces. The messages which can be seen from a distance of six-meters in broad daylight, can be seen from a longer distance at night. However, the text will have to be limited to 15 characters. Nokia said the 3220's air messaging system could be used by friends to talk to each other across crowded rooms or open-air concerts. The sensor in the phone can also be used to play games in the phone.

New Blu-Ray video disk is made of paper

A new type of Blu-Ray digital video-disk made largely from paper has been developed by Sony and Toppan Printing in Japan. The two companies say such paper-based disks will be cheaper to make and less environmentally harmful. Blu-Ray disks, considered a successor to conventional DVDs, store data using a blue laser rather than a regular red one. Because the wavelength of the blue laser is smaller, more information can be read from this type of disk. Data is stored on Blu-Ray disks in the form of tiny ridges on the surface of an opaque 1.1-millimetre-thick substrate. This lies beneath a transparent 0.1mm protective layer. The substrate is normally made from a polycarbonate plastic, which is ultimately derived from crude oil. But Sony and Toppan Printing have replaced this with a mixture of paper and another polymer.

The resulting prototype consists of 51 per cent paper but is still capable of storing up to 25 gigabytes of data. Regular DVDs have less than half this capacity. "Oil is a limited resource but paper can be recycled," said Sony spokesman Taro Takamine. "One of the initial advantages of the paper disk will be a decrease in the amount of raw material needed to produce a disk."

Another benefit of the paper-based disks is ease of disposal, according to Hideaki Kawai, head of Toppan's R&D division "Since a paper disk can be cut by scissors easily, it's simple to preserve data security when disposing of the disk," Kawai says.

Source: Discovery Channel





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