Light Friday: Beware of Your Friends’ Fitness Habits

Plus:
Perpetual Wave Created in Laboratory
A Working Microscope Made from Legos
Your Next Phone Could Be Powered by Pee


In case you don’t worry about your own fitness routine enough, research suggests that your friends’ bad fitness patterns are contagious. Study findings published in the Journal of Public Economics reveal that subjects that were randomly assigned to peer groups over several years were most affected by the people who were the least physically fit.

For the study, researchers selected 3,487 college students at the United States Air Force Academy and randomly assigned them with squadrons of about 30 students. They spent most of their time with the squadron throughout the duration of the experiment. The random pairings helped eliminate any bias — preventing the students from self-selecting peers that were most like them. The study also included the fitness measures of the subjects before they were randomly matched.

“Evidence suggests that the effects are caused primarily by friends who were the least fit, thus supporting the provocative notion that poor physical fitness spreads on a person-to-person basis.” And perhaps not too surprisingly, the report notes: “The individuals most at risk from exposure to unfit friends are those who themselves struggle with fitness.”

Maybe, then, it’s a good idea then to pair up with that one friend (or even colleague) who is always running off to the gym.

Perpetual Wave Created in Laboratory

When waves occur in the ocean and other bodies of water, the water itself doesn’t technically move; instead, the energy flows through the water to create the wave effect.

However, scientists at the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid (UC3M) and the University of California – San Diego (UC San Diego), have created what they call a “static pipeline wave.” This is the exact inverse of a normal ocean wave. “The water moves very rapidly (at several meters per second), but the wave moves at a speed of zero,” said Javier Rodriguez, one of the researchers, in a news release. “That is, it remains still, ‘frozen’ in time for any observer who sees it from outside the water.”

The discovery could lead to new designs in boats and seaports. To see the perpetual wave in action, check out the video below. And if you understand Spanish, you can learn a little more about the project as well.

A Working Microscope Made from Legos

Legos have evolved quite a bit since their debut in 1949. Many sets of the infamous interlocking bricks include moveable and mechanical parts. But one man has taken Lego to a new height by using them to create a fully functional microscope.

Carl Merriam spent two years designing and building his Lego microscope. He used 750 parts, including many non-standard and uncommon parts, such as a Light Brick and fiber optic cable.

Merriam, who has always loved science, was inspired when we he saw a set of Lego X-Pods, which reminded him of a Petri dish. The microscope is now listed on Lego Cuusoo, a site developed by the company that encourages hobbyists to submit ideas for new sets. If a project gets 10,000 supporters or more, the company will review it to decide if it will become an official set.

Merriam believes his microscope project could help foster kids’ interest in science. He told TechHive, “I think that Lego is a very powerful educational tool, and this microscope is no exception. There is a lot to learn while constructing it: gear ratios and planetary gearing, lenses, structural integrity, [etc].”

Your Next Phone Could Be Powered by Pee

Researchers are often on the lookout for new renewable sources of energy in order to more efficiently power our every day devices. And you’ll be relieved to know they have found a truly unlimited source of energy — urine.

Two years ago, a team at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in the United Kingdom developed a method for generating power from microbial fuel cells (MFC). Microbes in these electrochemical systems actually consume protein and other particles in urine, generating electricity as a byproduct. The wiz team at BRL, lead by Dr. Ioannis Ieropoulos, pushed their use of urine-devouring MFCs to generate enough power to charge a mobile device battery.

The energy produced by the hungry MFCs is clean, much like that produced by other renewable energy sources. But MFCs don’t need to rely on favorable weather conditions like solar and wind sources — they go after ureic proteins constantly.

“Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets,” Ieropoulos told The Daily Mail, presumably drinking a huge glass of water. “One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine.”

But, seriously, a pee-powered phone? Would urine be the #1 choice of renewable energy? BRL researchers are confident in the viability of public “smart toilets” that can collect waste products and convert them into electricity, already bidding to work with other research teams in the U.S. and South Africa.

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