Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dinosaur Eel Inspires Bullet-Proof Armor

MIT researchers are investigating how a primitive fish uses its scaly exoskeleton to protect itself from the sharp teeth of its predators. The scientists' goal is to develop a better kind of armor for soldiers to similarly protect them from bullets, shrapnel, and bombs.

The 16-inch-long Polypterus senegalus - which is commonly called the gray bichir or "dinosaur eel" although it's not technically an eel - has been around for at least 96 million years. Like many fish of that era, the dinosaur eel is cloaked in light-weight full-body armor. Few modern fish possess such a protective suit, making the old fish a living relic of dinosaur times.

The researchers studied how the dinosaur eel protects itself while swimming in its native habitat of muddy, freshwater pools in West Africa. The dinosaur eel's scales are a mere 10^-8 meters thick, but the MIT team discovered how the layers of the scales combine to protect the fish's soft body.

The scientists found that the four layers of scales are made of different materials, with specific geometries, thicknesses, and inter-layer junctions that contribute to the extremely efficient design that helps it survive attacks and bites.

In their study, the scientists mimicked a biting attack on a piece of scale that had been surgically removed from a living fish. When bitten, the scales could dissipate the energy of the strike. By forcing the crack to make a circle around the site of penetration, the scales kept the damage localized, rather than spreading throughout the entire armor, which is what happens in many ceramic materials.

The researchers hope that some of these design characteristics could be used in the development of armor for soldiers, military vehicles, and other protective gear.

The study appears in a recent issue of Nature Materials.

via: MIT

Innovative Bike Has Parents Riding High

Active parents love convenient outdoor gadgets, and thanks to Zigo, you can stay fit while hanging out with your little ones at the same time.

We’ve all seen those flimsy bike trailers, with toddlers swaying precariously back and forth on open trails or busy street sidewalks. While some parents hold their breath and hope the safety ratings are accurate, others are investing in a Zigo with its four different traveling modes.

Active Exercise With Your Favorite Riding CompanionActive Exercise With Your Favorite Riding Companion

Taking its cue from the traditional bike trailer, Zigo allows you to attach your child’s riding compartment onto the front of your bike, allowing you the chance to see how safe your child is riding. You can also use the compartment (known as a “child pod) on its own as either a standard or jogging stroller. Lastly, a 4th mode allows you to use the bike independently, for when you just need a little time for yourself away from the kids.

Modern Travel With Little OnesModern Travel With Little Ones

Available on both their official website and through various cycling shops through the U.S., Zigo continues to impress parents all over the nation.