Light Friday: Superpowers, Now in T-Shirt Form

July 19, 2013

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When most of us think of the amazing Spider-Man, we picture the red costume, wall crawling, and swinging above Manhattan crowds to save innocent civilians from the dastardly Doc Ock. But one of Spidey’s secondary abilities is his Spider Sense, a tingling sensation in his head that warns him of danger, depicted in comic books as lightning lines jutting out of Spider-Man’s head. The Spider Sense mimics a natural spider’s ability to, um, sense something, but the utilitarian effects of minor psychic powers for a web-slinging superhero are obvious.

ThinkGeek is betting you want that same Spidey power in the form of the Tingling Electronic Spidey Sense Shirt, a black men’s tee depicting a very alarmed Spider-Man on the front and a clip-on proximity sensor on the back. The spidey proximity sensor, which runs on 2 AAA batteries (not included) can sense if anyone comes within five feet of you, at which point it vibrates to alert you of danger.

Danger or the fact that the line to have Stan Lee sign your comic is getting longer.

While the idea of a pager on the back of my shirt doesn’t set me swinging from buildings, I’m sure someone out there will love this shirt. The officially-licensed Marvel product will not be available until October, but San Diego Comic Con attendees can get a glimpse of it in action this weekend. (H/T Gizmodo)

The Smelling Screen: A TV That Truly “Stinks”

While 3D TVs have failed to bring a greater sense of verisimilitude to movies and shows, a team of researchers have found what they think is a better approach.

Tokyo University scientists Haruka Matsukura, Hiroshi Ishida, and Tatsuhiro Yoneda introduced what they called the Smelling Screen at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Virtual Reality Conference in March. The Smelling Screen is essentially an LCD TV screen with odor-releasing vents on either side. The screen uses hydrogel pellets that are melted into vapor and wafted toward viewers using small fans.

The concept of Smell-O-Vision goes back to the 1950s, in which aromas were piped through vents in movie theaters at strategic times during the films. But the technology never took off, with audiences complaining about the vents being loud and the smells being too faint or poorly distributed throughout the theater. Thus, movie-goers had to settle for watching a sweaty Charlton Heston in Ben Hur, but not smelling him.

The Smelling Screen, which is designed for home use, is mostly silent, can aim smells directly at viewers, and even present the illusion of odors emanating from a specific source on the screen. However, at present, the device can only emit one aroma at a time.

According to the IEEE, food retailers like Cinnabon have been using the power of aromas to their advantage for years, pumping certain smells into their stores to entice customers. Matsukura told IEEE that the Smelling Screen offers incredible potential for television advertisers.

The Making of a Tesla Model S

Back in 2010, Tesla Motors purchased a 5 million-sq-ft auto factory in Fremont, Calif., from Toyota, which now cranks out 400 sparkling-new Model S cars per week. Wired was recently granted access to see how the facility’s 3,000 workers and 160 robots make a Model S from start to finish.

New Breakthrough in Down Syndrome Research

Researchers have found a way to silence a key chromosome that causes trisonomy 21, better known as Down syndrome. The findings are the first evidence that the extra chromosome responsible for the genetic disorder can be suppressed in cells in culture (or in vitro), according to the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where scientists presented their research.

The research also opens the doors for future chromosome therapy research for trisonomy 21, which is linked to a range of disabilities—including cognitive impairment, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, an increased risk of childhood leukemia, heart problems, and immune an endocrine system dysfunction, the University explained in a release.

Individuals with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. The researchers, led by Dr. Jeanne Lawrence, a professor at the department of cell and developmental biology, found that the key in silencing the extra chromosome involved utilizing a gene called XIST, which has a silencing function. “RNA from the inserted XIST gene effectively repressed genes across the extra chromosome, returning gene expression levels to near normal levels and effectively silencing the chromosome,” the research found.

“Our hope is that for individuals living with Down syndrome, this proof-of-principal opens up multiple exciting new avenues for studying the disorder now, and brings into the realm of consideration research on the concept of ‘chromosome therapy’ in the future,” Lawrence said.

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