Science Round-Up: Virtual Monkey Limbs, Quadruple Rainbows, and the Cloak of Invisibility

Every week, science gives us new and interesting things to talk about. Here are some recent notable stories:

Monkeys Move and Feel Virtual Objects with Their Minds

Two monkeys trained at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering learned to feel and manipulate virtual objects using only their brains, thanks to an implant that allows the monkeys to “feel” the difference in encoded texture of three visually identical objects.

Advances in research of this type could potentially lead to renewed mobility and freedom for people with spinal cord injuries, said study leader Miguel Nicolelis, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center and co-director of the Duke Center for Neuroengineering. Read more from Duke Medicine News and Communications.

“Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton.”

I’ll See Your Double-Rainbow and Raise You Two

Just as Double-Rainbow Guy has recovered from news of the first-ever-recorded third-order (or tertiary, or triple) rainbow,  German photographer Michael Theusner goes and ups the ante by photographing the mythical fourth-order rainbow–that is, the quadruple rainbow. This is the first time the phenomenon has been observed outside of a laboratory. (Higher order rainbows are easily achieved but difficult to see against the brightness of our sky.)

The image shows two distinct rainbows–faint, but visible. How do we know these are third- and fourth-order rainbows? By the location of the sun. To understand how multiple rainbows are created, you can check out chapter seven of The Magic of Reality, or you can read about it on New Scientist.

Carbon Nanotubes Create Underwater Invisibility Cloak

It’s official, Geeks: Carbon nanotubes are the stuff of weirdness. After using the material to create the blackest substance ever seen, instant batteries and a host of bizarre advances in tech too massive to list here, researchers have now discovered a way to render them not only transparent, but also capable of cloaking an object underwater. Check out the video of the sheet in action:

Layers of carbon nanotubes a single atom thick are wrapped into cylinders and then pressed into a transparent sheet. The effect is achieved by flipping a  switch–the current runs through the sheet, heating the water and causing a mirage effect (essentially, a bending of light due to variation in temperature), which conceals any object on the other side. Download the paper here.

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5 Responses to Science Round-Up: Virtual Monkey Limbs, Quadruple Rainbows, and the Cloak of Invisibility

  1. "This is the first time the [double rainbow of the 3rd and 4th order] phenomenon has been observed outside of a laboratory."

    That's an absurd statement. Billions of people over tens of thousands of years have never observed this until a lucky German photographer snapped a picture of it?

    • arlier phenomenas, if they had existed, were not recorded. As such, we cannot say whether that your statement is true or not. Therefore, being the first recorded instance, it is treated as the first observed instance.

      • My only statement was that it was an absurd statement, but I'm willing to double-down and say that even if we expand it to say "recorded" = "observed" I bet among the billions of photos of rainbows that have been recorded in the last 100 years- this is not the first. I'd go even one further and assert that 30 minutes of searching would produce one.

        • Rainbows, yes. I believe they were specifically referring to the number of and visibilty of this particular phenomenon.

        • I can amend to say "recorded" here, that's fair. As for the assertion that it's the first, that's not mine; it belongs to people who know more about the history of recorded and observed rainbows on Earth (which I'm assuming is anyone with more than a passing interest). Until evidence arises for a previously recorded fourth-order rainbow, this is the first.