What happens to the human immune system in outer space


The great view of the Iberian Peninsula and more comes at a price. (Reuters/NASA)

Here’s a look at five ideas that impact the way we live, work and play.

1. Space, not great for the human immune system. Here’s something to consider before getting your heart set on a trip to Mars. From NASA:

Spaceflight may temporarily alter the immune system of crew members flying long duration missions aboard the International Space Station. This is of concern as NASA looks ahead to six-month and multiple-year missions to asteroids, the moon and Mars because something as simple as a cold or the flu can be risky business in space. …

Some cell function is significantly lower than normal, or depressed, and some cell activity is heightened. In a sense, the immune systems of crew members are confused. When cell activity is depressed, the immune system is not generating appropriate responses to threats. This may also lead to the asymptomatic viral shedding observed in some crew members, which means latent, or dormant, viruses in the body reawaken, but without symptoms of illness. When activity heightens, the immune system reacts excessively, resulting in things like increased allergy symptoms and persistent rashes, which have been reported by some crew members.

Rachel Feltman has more on the topic here.


A comparison between a traditional bat and the Axe Bat. (Axe)

2. A baseball bat with a handle like an axe. From Wired: 

The Axe Bat is more than a Frankenstein-style meshing of an axe handle and a baseball bat barrel. The key lies in the bat’s final few inches near the handle. That’s where the design gracefully curves from the standard round shape to a asymmetrical oval before tapering to an angled knob at the end.

The results, as reported in a recent study (PDF) by UCLA engineering professor Dr. Vijay Gupta, show that the Axe Bat is more comfortable, delivers more power and speed, and reduces injuries when compared with traditional bats.

3. The benefits of cars communicating with each other. Via the Associated Press:

A research report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the technology could eventually prevent as many as 592,000 left-turn and intersection crashes a year, saving 1,083 lives. The agency said it will begin drafting rules to require the technology in new vehicles. … The technology uses a radio signal to continually transmit a vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information. Similarly equipped cars and trucks would receive the same information, and their computers would alert drivers to an impending collision.

4. How patent trolls hurt innovation. From Vox:

The researchers find that firms that are forced to pay [nonpracticing entities] (either because they lost a lawsuit or settled out of court) dramatically reduce R&D spending: losing firms spent $211 million less on R&D, on average, than firms that won a lawsuit against a troll. … The study also finds evidence that trolls discourage innovation even before they file lawsuits. One sign of this: trolls are less likely to sue firms with a lot of lawyers on staff, presumably because they fear prolonged litigation. That encourages firms to bulk up on legal representation, leaving less money left over for developing new technology.

5. A typewriter iPad app from Tom Hanks. Via TechCrunch:

His recently launched, hipster-ish typewriter app for iPad, Hanx Writer, has now shot to the top of the iTunes App Store, ranking No. 1 in both the productivity section, as well as overall. … Launched last week, Hanx Writer turns your iPad into an old-fashioned typewriter, offering a pseudo-analog typing experience. The bangs of key presses, hard returns and the chimes that sound when you reach the end of a new line now sit alongside modern conveniences like the ability to correct without white tape or whiteout, and options to print, email or share your documents when complete.

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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