en español: El Innovador de Texas
A formula for disaster
The future of health care in Texas faces serious challenges.
Compounding the health care problem is a shortage of nurses and other workers. By 2010, there could be as many as 58,000 vacant positions for registered nurses in Texas.
Texas’ growing health worker shortage affects every sector of health care—especially critical care! The lack of qualified health specialists in overcrowded emergency rooms literally means the difference in life or death.
I am concerned by continued rumblings that the state could shift the formula for funding some areas of higher education in a way that would penalize schools like Texas Woman’s University that have strong programs in nursing and other health professions. Whether this is a real threat or meddling bureaucratic noodling, I can’t say, but I will tell you this: This cannot be allowed to happen and it won’t while I have a voice to speak with and a platform to speak from.
The need for quality health professionals is, you would think, self-evident. But I learned a long time ago that nothing is self-evident to those who aren’t paying attention. Under one scenario of the proposed funding formula, Texas Woman’s University would lose about $6.2 million, Texas Southern University would lose $3.8 million and the University of Texas at Arlington would lose up to $3 million.
The recommended changes would cut back funding for nursing schools at the same time the state is going through a critical shortage of nurses. To penalize exemplary programs like the one at Texas Woman’s University at this moment in history would be shortsighted and wrong.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Normally, it’s a pretty bad thing when your plane doesn’t have a power source or any fuel. For a group of researchers from NASA and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, however, it’s considered a success.
The researchers conducted the first flights by a plane powered solely by a ground-based laser in November 2003 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, said Marshall News Chief Jerry Berg. The unmanned vehicle weighed 11 ounces, with a wingspan of five feet.
From the ground, the laser tracks the aircraft in flight, Berg said. The laser’s beam is directed at photovoltaic cells on the plane that power its propeller.
The test flights lasted 10 minutes, but the plane can be kept aloft as long as necessary, said David Bushman of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. With no need for fuel or an engine, a laser-powered plane could carry communications equipment or other cargo.
“Perhaps a single large aircraft for telecom could be in the future over or near a city,” Bushman said. “We anticipate continuing this effort to develop the technology and expect both military and commercial applications.”
For more information, contact Jerry Berg,
A new device may allow paralyzed people to use their thoughts to move objects around them. The device, developed by Duke University Medical Center researchers, is a system of electrodes implanted in the brain that transmit brain signals to a robotic arm.
Dr. Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues tested the system on monkeys, who eventually learned that they did not need to move their arms to play a computer game. The team reported that the monkeys’ brains appeared to be physically adjusting to the device. In November 2003, Nicolelis reported that preliminary experiments with human subjects were successful, but the team has not yet planned full clinical trials.
Nicolelis said the researchers’ eventual goal is to create a brain-machine interface that would allow paralyzed people to control the movement of prosthetic limbs. About 250,000 Americans live with at least some paralysis from spinal cord injuries, according to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and thousands more suffer from diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, which can cause paralysis.
For more information, contact Dr. Miguel Nicolelis,
A brain thermometer
A Yale University researcher has found an area of the brain he calls “the brain temperature tunnel,” which sends information to a small patch of skin near the eyes and nose. At this site, Dr. M. Marc Abreu found that it is possible to measure the human body’s core temperature with a modified eye patch or a pair of specially designed eye glasses.
This discovery will let healthy people monitor their temperatures so they can avoid heat stroke or hypothermia, according to Abreu. Athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, firefighters and members of the military also are likely to benefit from this new technology.
In addition, this new technology could monitor a person’s temperature continuously without the need of a nurse or attendant, Abreu said. If a patient’s fever should rise, physicians can deliver the proper medications without delay, preventing complications.
For more information, contact M. Marc Abreu, M.D.,
Video without TV
Imagine a video image that floats in the air. No picture tube, no projection screen. Just a picture, suspended in nothingness.
IO2 Technology, a company based in Lake Forest, Ill., is bringing this concept, called a Heliodisplay, to the market.
The Heliodisplay, which exists as a working prototype, can project full-motion, full-color video images up to 42 inches (diagonally measured) in thin air, so that they appear to float above the display unit. According to its makers, Heliodisplay is compatible with conventional televisions, computers and DVD players. The images of a 15-inch version can be manipulated without any special glove or other device, so that a hand or finger can be used as a virtual computer mouse. The images projected are two-dimensional but appear 3-D from a few feet away.
IO2 is not disclosing the specifics of the technology involved, but the company said that the Heliodisplay does not involve holography or the release of any harmful gases. IO2 is already offering handmade prototypes for $22,500, but expects the eventual manufactured product to be competitive with plasma screen televisions.
For more information, contact IO2 Technology LLC,
Running on water
Scientists in Edmonton, Canada have discovered a new way to harness electricity—from tap water.
Dr. Larry Kostiuk and Dr. Daniel Kwok, engineering professors at the University of Alberta, led a team of researchers and students in an experiment in early 2003 that created a new source of clean, non-polluting electric power. Their study, published in the October issue of the scientific journal, Micromechanics and Microengineering, detailed a new way to generate electric power that uses the natural electrokinetic properties of ordinary tap water by pumping the water through tiny channels. The team built a prototype that illuminated a light bulb.
The electric power generated could have a variety of potential uses, from powering cell phones to contributing to a national power grid, according to the researchers.
“This technology could provide a new power source for devices such as mobile phones or calculators, which could be charged up by pumping water to high pressure,” said Kostiuk. “It’s possible that it could be a new alternative energy source to rival wind and solar power, but this would need huge bodies of water to work on a commercial scale.”
Although the power generated from the researchers’ prototype was low, the researchers said they could use millions of parallel channels to increase the power output.
For more information, contact Dr. Larry Kostiuk,
Mini-battery keeps going
Researchers at Quallion, a California-based company specializing in developing battery products, have produced a new, miniature battery that could have promising medical uses.
Together with researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research center, Quallion developed a mini-battery that powers implantable devices called bionic neurons, which emit an electrical micropulse to stimulate nerves and muscles, said Chalil Amine, manager of the battery group at Argonne National Laboratory, in Argonne, Ill.
When combined, the battery and the bionic neuron are only one-thirty-fifth the size of a standard AA battery. This small size lets doctors implant the devices using minimally invasive techniques, according to Argonne National Laboratory.
“The battery has a polymer system that is very stable,” Amine said. “It can last for a long time, 10 to 20 years.”
The battery also can be recharged by a magnet without being removed from the body, Amine said.
The device has a number of potential uses, but Quallion is conducting feasibility trials on patients with urinary urge incontinence, Amine said.
“There are over 3 million people that suffer from urge incontinence alone in the United States,” Amine said. “It is working well for a large number of people in the trial.”
Outsmarted by clothes
Clothes that can change temperature and colors, repel bugs and allergens and keep the wearer smelling nice are just a few types of “smart” clothing in development around the world.
Some designs are just for fun. Elise Co, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Media Laboratory, has invented the “Puddlejumper,” a jacket wired with sensors and electroluminescent lamps that displays a flickering pattern in response to raindrops. The Burton Amp, a waterproof jacket created by Apple Computers and Burton Snowboards, offers a built-in music system capable of storing 4,000 songs, operated from controls in the sleeve.
Other smart clothing will serve more serious purposes. MIT’s Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies is working with the U.S. Army on a $50 million project to develop technology that could, for instance, let soldiers activate light but tough, dynamic armor built into their uniforms in response to threats. These supersuits also may supply on-the-spot medical aid in case of injury.
And a team at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt University School of Textiles and Design is developing a vest that can monitor its wearers’ vital signs and alert them—and their physicians—to changes in their medical condition.
To free up class space, a new Florida law lets some students skip their senior year of high school. As long as they double up on English classes and study a foreign language for two years, students can graduate with six fewer credits. Under this option, students may skip one history credit and several elective credits such as physical education and art.
For more information, contact Chancellor James Warford,
Florida Department of Education, 850-245-0509
New speed limit signs going up on certain roads in Burlington County, N.J., are a little different than traditional signs.
They post messages like “Free Speeding Tickets Ahead” and “Smile, You Could Be On Radar.”
The Burlington County Engineer’s Office unveiled the new signs in October 2003 to remind drivers to obey speed limits along county roads in areas where law enforcement has reported problems with speeding drivers.
County officials made five different signs, each 24 inches wide and 30 inches tall. The Engineer’s Office placed the signs in four locations, determined as a result of requests by municipal officials and complaints of speeding by residents.
For more information, contact Vincent R. Faria,
Burlington County, 609-265-5020
American Environmental Products Inc. has developed a light bulb that glows for up to 24 hours after the electricity has been turned off. The invention, called Glow-Lux, must be charged for 15 minutes and is designed to provide light in emergencies when power is disrupted, according to the Fort Collins, Colo. company. The bulb will glow if it is removed from its fixture, so it can be used as a portable light source. If the bulb breaks, the glass pieces will continue to give off light. The patent is pending, and the U.S. military is evaluating the technology.
For more information, contact Charles Bolta,
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, Pam Wagner and Bruce Wright