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Disco-ball inspired rear view mirror

The subtly curved side mirror in a car, which eliminates the dangerous “blind spot” for drivers and dramatically increases the field of view with minimal distortion, has now received a US patent. Traditional flat mirrors on the driver’s side of a vehicle give drivers an accurate sense of the distance of cars behind them but have a very narrow field of view.

As a result, there is a region of space behind the car, known as the blind spot that drivers can’t see via either the side or rear-view mirror.

It’s not hard to make a curved mirror that gives a wider field of view – no blind spot – but at the cost of visual distortion and making objects appear smaller and farther away. The subtly curved mirror was invented by Drexel University mathematics professor Dr R Andrew Hicks.

Hicks’ driver’s side mirror has a field of view of about 45 degrees, compared to 15 to 17 degrees of view in a flat driver’s side mirror.

Unlike in simple curved mirrors that can squash the perceived shape of objects and make straight lines appear curved, in Hicks’s mirror the visual distortions of shapes and straight lines are barely detectable.

Hicks designed his mirror using a mathematical algorithm that precisely controls the angle of light bouncing off of the curving mirror.

Hicks noted that, in reality, the mirror does not look like a disco ball up close. There are tens of thousands of such calculations to produce a mirror that has a smooth, nonuniform curve.

The mirror may be manufactured and sold as an aftermarket product that drivers and mechanics can install on cars after purchase.

New therapy motivates paralysed rats to walkEuropean researchers said Thursday they have found a way to motivate paralyzed rats to learn to walk again through a combination of spinal cord stimulation and robotic-aided therapy.

The key to the method's success was how it engaged the rats to participate in their own rehabilitation, said Gregoire Courtine, lead author of the study published in the US journal Science.

"In the beginning... the animal is struggling and it is really difficult," said Courtine, chair of the International Paraplegic Foundation in Spinal Cord Repair at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

"Then the first time it happens, the animal is surprised. It looks at you like, 'Wow. I walked!'"

The rats also showed a massive three-fold increase in the connections between the brain and spinal cord after training, according to the research. "The motor cortex developed new pathways to regain control of the area below the injury. This was really fascinating to see," Courtine told AFP. "What we observed was this extensive reorganisation of the central nervous system not only at the level of the injury but throughout the brain, brain stem and spinal cord."

The therapy combines an electrical-chemical stimulation of the spinal cord, mimicking the signals the brain would normally send to initiate movement in the limbs, and a rehabilitation device that helps the rats stay upright.

Mite helps virus destroy beehives

Parasitic mites linked to the deaths of millions of bee colonies worldwide may have destroyed them by incubating a potent virus and spreading it through the hives. The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, could help explain the mysterious collapse of bee colonies in recent years, a threat to plant life and agriculture, which depend on the honey-making insects for pollination. The research was carried out in Hawaii, where the Varroa mite arrived five years ago but has not yet spread to all the islands, allowing the scientists to investigate its impact on the spread of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).

The team, led by Stephen Martin of the University of Sheffield, England, found that the "spread of Varroa has selected DWV variants that... allow it to become one of the most widely distributed and contagious insect viruses on the planet."
The mites act as a "viral reservoir and incubator," and inject the virus directly into the bees when they feed on their blood, "bypassing conventional, established oral and sexual routes of transmission."

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