Science Fiction Comes to Life

October 21, 2008 at 10:34 am

October was a great month for Japanese innovation. On the 7th, the Japanese company Cyberdyne gave a demonstration of its new battery-powered robot suit, dubbed HAL. No, it’s not the scary computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey come to calmly destroy us all. Quite the contrary, in fact; this HAL (which stands for “hybrid assistive limb”) was created to help people who are paralyzed or have decreased mobility.

The suit consists of leg braces and weighs about 25 pounds, and you wear it belted at the waist. The computer anticipates the movement you wish to make and helps you move your muscles automatically. For now, HAL can be rented in 5-year blocks and he ain’t cheap: $2,200 per month.

Other big news: On October 8th, Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Masukawa won the Nobel Prize in physics. Nambu’s research helps scientists understand how the universe was created after the Big Bang. He’s been developing his theory on broken symmetry since the 1960s, and currently teaches at the University of Chicago. Not to nerd out too much, but Nambu is also considered one of the founders of String Theory, which has become a popular way sci-fi plot twist used in Star Trek: Voyager and even CSI.

Kobayashi seems a bit embarrassed by all the publicity, but I think it’s safe to say all three men deserve to be proud of their accomplishments.

Sarah S.

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