SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Hi-tech human body of tomorrow
S.S. Verma
Science and technology is progressing with a great pace and thus revolutionising medical science in particular. We are entering a century in which medical science will go beyond treating disease to create enhancements that will make us “better than well”.

Know your cement
Jagvir Goyal
O
VER the last few years, the world has seen a remarkable development in cement production. Earlier, there used to be just cement in name of cement. Then industrial wastes were put to use and pozzolana cements were developed.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE
Prof Yash Pal

The radius of a grown-up man increases or decreases but the height remains the same. Why?
The height of a man and the length of his limbs depend on the dimensions of the bone structure he acquires by the time he is grown up.

 













Hi-tech human body of tomorrow
S.S. Verma

Science and technology is progressing with a great pace and thus revolutionising medical science in particular. We are entering a century in which medical science will go beyond treating disease to create enhancements that will make us “better than well”.

The advances in medical science like brain chips that enable us to control machines with our thoughts; design the child of your dreams, kidneys and lungs built to order in the lab; pills to make you smarter and more creative and an implant that gives you a tan and protects against skin cancer may well lead to more-than-human abilities.

Genetics, materials science, tissue engineering and nanotechnology are already yielding products to help the sick and injured, including a Band-Aid-like heart patch and the C-leg prosthesis for amputees.

All these innovations are in development; some are already being tested on human subjects. The next technological frontier will be our own bodies. Following this trend far enough, and we reach the augmented human.

Here are highlighted the breakthroughs that will make it possible to manipulate the body in novel (and sometimes disturbing) ways.

Stage I (0 - 5 years)

Heart of titanium: In today’s state-of-the-art for artificial heart, the device, unfortunately, fits just 50 per cent of the male population. It also quits working after a year or two. The next version of artificial heart, due out in 2008, will be 30 per cent smaller, fitting most men and 50 per cent of women, and will last up to five years.

Nonslip disc: Usually when rupturing or dislocation of a spinal disc takes place in a person, doctors have to fuse nearby vertebrae to prevent them from rubbing against each other. But now there’s a disc of polyethylene and cobalt-chromium alloy that shifts and slides to allow a full 21 degrees of motion.

Laser-scanned eyes: Researchers have made contact lenses that tell diabetics when their blood sugar is awry. Changes in tear sugars deform an insert in the lens, altering the refractions from imperceptible dots on the surface. Next development will be a lens that detects blood pressure.

Shock therapy to lose fat: A pacemaker created is helping test subjects lose 25 to 40 per cent of their body fat. Its mild shocks relax and expand the upper part of the stomach, and the brain interprets the distended stomach as feeling full.

Stage II (6 - 10 years)

Kidney in a tube: Kidney failures/malfunctioning are so common that many people across the world are waiting for a kidney. Traditional dialysis is a painful process that removes nutrients along with the toxins. To avoid this problem, researchers are putting live kidney cells to work in dialysis machines. As the apparatus filters the blood, the kidney cells grab essential nutrients from the filtrate and return them to the purified blood.

In the next decade, researchers hope to implant smaller versions directly into the body, in the femoral artery near the hip. As blood moves through the artery, it will filter through the artificial kidney.

High-fiber lung: Researchers are working on the world’s first implantable lung. The tube-shaped device will be made of gas-permeable microfibers. Carbon dioxide diffuses across the fibers and moves toward a compact pump at the hip. The pump expels the carbon dioxide and pulls in oxygen, which diffuses back through the fibers into the blood.

Nerve-zapping hearing aid: The Bionic Ear Institute in Australia is building an implant for the inner ear that will shock damaged nerves back to health. A small pump showers the nerves with stimulating chemicals while electrodes excite the cells to keep them alive.

Muscles shocked stiff: One-hundredth the size of a battery already used to strengthen muscles in arthritis sufferers and stroke victims, it could soon bring movement back to paralysed limbs. In clinical trials, doctors are injecting this 16-millimeter-long capsule of electrode-capped glass into lifeless muscle. The patient activates it to mimic nerve impulses, forcing the muscle to contract.

Drug pusher: Researchers are developing a system that automatically delivers the medication we need, when we need it.

Stage III (11 - 15 years)

Telekinesis tech: Researchers are devising brain implants that will enable us to communicate with machines. A microchip implanted in the motor cortex just beneath our skull will intercept nerve signals and reroute them to a computer, which will then wirelessly send the command to any of various electronic devices, including computers, stereos and electric wheelchairs.

Microchip memory: Engineers are developing a way to enhance memory. A microchip will send signals from one healthy brain cell to another, bypassing damaged tissue that would otherwise block the message.

Beating Band-Aid: Researchers are devising a bandage made with living heart cells. After a heart attack, it will contract along with the rest of the heart, replacing damaged tissue.

Stem-cell sperm: Scientists have created human sperm from embryonic stem cells. If the procedure is commercially applied, infertile men will take DNA from their skin to clone the stem cells and then grow the cells into functioning sperm. The researchers predict that the first child born of stem-cell sperm is about a decade away.

Four-dimensional vision: Humans have three colour-producing cones in our eyes-red, green and blue. What if we had four? Scientists hope to give us genes for a fourth cone to enable us to see new hues that we can’t even imagine right now.

The writer is from Department of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal

Top

Know your cement
Jagvir Goyal

OVER the last few years, the world has seen a remarkable development in cement production. Earlier, there used to be just cement in name of cement. Then industrial wastes were put to use and pozzolana cements were developed. Then, use-specific cements such as low heat portland, high strength portland, blast furnace slag cement, rapid hardening portland, high alumina cement, super sulphate cement and many other varieties were developed.

Discovery of better quality limestone further led to various grades of Ordinary Portland Cement. Now these grades have become so popular that there are numerous queries from the layman asking which grade he should use for various components of his building.

All cement plants now use dry process for manufacture of cement. This is a better process and power consumption is lesser than in wet process. Availability of dry flyash from the thermal plants has attracted the cement manufacturers to produce more quantity of Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC) and curtail Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) production. Manufacture of PPC is much cheaper to that of OPC as substantial component of PPC is flyash which is freely available from the thermal plants while the market rate of OPC and PPC is the same.

Some manufacturers have altogether stopped production of OPC and are concentrating on PPC only. PPC being produced by the manufacturers is giving good strength, even better than OPC in some cases. Therefore the general consumer has no complaint if PPC is produced and made available.

Less heat of hydration in PPC is also enhancing its use in mass concreting and in water retaining structures. Less shrinkage in it is helping in reducing the commonly noticed hair cracks in roof slabs. Thus PPC is becoming popular day by day.

However, there are no grades specified by Bureau of Indian Standards for PPC. It has only one grade, manufactured as per IS 1489 and considered equal to OPC 33 Grade howsoever high strength it may be giving.

This deficiency is holding the engineers and users from economising on cement usage. In OPC, there are three grades, 33 Grade as per IS 269, 43 Grade as per IS 8112 and 53 Grade as per IS 12269.

Top

THIS UNIVERSE
Prof Yash Pal

The radius of a grown-up man increases or decreases but the height remains the same. Why?

The height of a man and the length of his limbs depend on the dimensions of the bone structure he acquires by the time he is grown up. Our genes have determined that this structure should remain fixed after maturity. This is the steel structure around which the architecture of the body is built.

Flesh, sinews and muscles are tied to and are draped over that frame. The draping of the basic structure can be smart and tight or loose and flabby, depending on our ways of living, eating and physical activity.

We are lucky that at least some aspects of architectural dimensions are well controlled.

You must know that our brain size also does not change with age. If the skull size also increased or decreased like our girth, life would become a bit hazardous.Lengthening or contraction of noses or jaws would make things unpleasant.

We are punished for the follies of our living but a limit has been placed on the severity of this punishment. You can, of course, ask me why our bone dimensions are not as susceptible to our ways of living. I do not know the answer except to say that while the dimensions may not be susceptible, their health is.

The process of evolution must have made this choice as best for survival.

The changing radius of the fat around our middle, as you call it, keeps reminding us of the style of our living Incidentally, some environmental conditions do have an impact on the height of a human.

When people spend long periods of time in weightless condition during space flight their height is seen to increase a little. This is believed to be due to expansion of the discs separating different vertebrae in our backbone.

These discs are not made of the same material as bone; they provide flexibility and shock absorbing capability to the backbone.

Top



HOME PAGE