Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Robocop one step nearer
Wired reports: [edited]
The lab is climate-controlled to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and 66 percent humidity. Sitting inside the cramped room, even for a few minutes, is an unpleasantly moist experience. I’ve spent the last 40 minutes on a treadmill angled at a 9 percent grade. My face is chili-red, my shirt soaked with sweat. My breath is coming in short, unsatisfactory gasps.
Then Dennis Grahn, a Stanford University biologist and former minor-league hockey player, walks into the room. He nods in my direction and smiles at a technician. “Looks like he’s ready,” Grahn says.
Grahn takes my hand and slips it into a clear, coffeepot-looking contraption he calls the Glove. Inside is a hemisphere of metal, cool to the touch. He tightens a seal around my wrist; a vacuum begins pulling blood to the surface of my hand, and the cold metal chills my blood before it travels through my veins back to my core. After five minutes, I feel rejuvenated. I keep going for another half hour.
[The glove challenges] conventional scientific wisdom on fatigue. Muscles don’t wear out because they use up stored sugars. Instead, muscles tire because they get too hot, and sweating is just a backup cooling system for the lattices of blood vessels in the hands and feet. The Glove, in other words, overclocks the heat exchange system.
Stanford are developing a new version of the Glove: one that fits less like a coffeepot and more like a glove. And it’ll have some added functionality. Those assemblies of radiator veins in our extremities don’t just release heat — they can collect it, too, and use it to warm the rest of the body.