2 Ideas inspired from this week's new scientist

Ferrous whiskers.

One of the reader's questions at the end of the magazine mentioned a blind kitten which had developed extra long whiskers. Whilst you cannot draw conclusions from a sample size of one there has been a study showing that there is a strong link between visual ability and facial vibrissae length (whiskers) and I'll link the full study below.

Cats use their whiskers as an extension of their touch sensitivity and I think this study shows just how important the sense is to them.

Anyway, this gave me an idea. Our body and facial hair is extremely sensitive to touch as well so what if we simply coated these hairs with a ferrous spray or paint?

I'm not sure how sensitive it would be for weak fields but for strong fields I could imagine it giving us a far more detailed though less vibrant sense than a finger magnet. It would be like the difference between a pigment spot and an optic cup giving us full 360 degree magnetic vision!

2. Transdermal GPS.

A GPS belt has been developed which buzzes on the left or right indicating when and where to turn as well as sending coded buzzes to tell them how far they traveled etc. Researchers found that users were fare more attentive than those who used normal a screen GPS.

There is a lot of hardware space to play with around the waist and GPS devices these days can run on very low power. The whole device could probably run on an average of 50mw tops.



  • rdbrdb
    edited January 2013
    50 mW is an awful lot of power for subdermal implants, probably in the infeasible range.  Generally, expect to target a thousandth of that.  Generally, the tricky part about GPS is that it consumes so much power, the modules are rather large, and the skin likes to absorb the high frequency signals that are already so faint in the case of GPS.

    Transdermals are tricky to pull off.  Which part of that implant would be transdermal?

    I look forward to hearing your results on spraying your hair.
  • I was thinking something along the lines of a bio-proofed, modified and miniaturized version of this:

    It's a tracking device for birds. It takes a positional snapshot every 15 mins using 3.3 volts at 100ma for 30 milliseconds. This equates to 0.0099 Jules per snapshot. The rest of the time it's running at 2 micro amps which is barely worth calculating.  

    For a system giving directions you'd want a snapshot about once a second which would equate to about 855 Jules per day. 

    You'd then have a buzzer powered as well, say 0.1 watts for one second once per 100 seconds for 5 hours (tops). This would be another 25 Jules. This would give an average of about 10mW throughout the day, it could be reduced further by turning it off when not in use. The other 40mW is a high estimate for the power consumption of the chip containing the route information and software to give directions. 

    I was thinking the route programmed via bluetooth (which could be switched off using a magnetic switch activated via a finger magnet). 

    This would be about a day's worth of power on 5 gram lithium battery (0.72 MJ per Kilo).

    It's also worth considering that this paper is 8 years old. Weight and power consumption would no doubt be drastically reduced today.

    I'm no electrician though, I wouldn't have a clue how to construct this myself,
    I'm just throwing the idea out there to see if anyone can do anything with it.
  • Your ferrous whiskers idea is intriguing to me, especially since I now have a small quantity of extremely small magnets.  One problem that would need to be overcome is durability.  I'm sure that I would have no problem gluing one of these magnets to a whisker, or a hair on my arm. but I would imagine that it would get knocked off or the hair that it was attached to would come loose within a short time, necessitating a near-constant need to reapply the magnets.  The sensitivity to hair movement would be a plus though.

    Looks like yet another experiment is in order ...

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