How to Cope with The First 90 Days of Addiction Recovery

The most critical and challenging period of addiction recovery, according to the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, is the first 90 days.

It is during this period that a newly recovering addict is overwhelmed with rebuilding his life from the ground up. This includes facing disregarded responsibilities, fears, and emotions from the past. The pressure and the anxiety from these overwhelming tasks often make the recovering patient susceptible to relapse, thus requires the most help.

The first few days of addiction recovery are also quite challenging because the individual is now far from the sympathetic and familiar environment of his alcohol rehab facility. This kind of situation breeds a misconception that by simply taking away drugs and alcohol from the recovering addict, sobriety can be maintained for a long time.

Though it is important to create a temptation-free environment, it is just one of the many steps toward sobriety. Substance abuse is actually one of the symptoms of a more complicated problem. Without treatment and support to resolve the root causes of the abuse, all efforts towards recovery will be in vain.

To ensure proper coping and remain 90 days sober, these proven and tested tips can be used as a guide.

Draft a schedule for yourself

In a drug or alcohol rehab facility, everything is scheduled and structured. From meal times, leisure activities to counseling sessions, everything is based on a specific schedule. It will be very easy to fall into your old patterns and routines if your day is not planned.

To stay sober, it is best to create a structure in your day. This task may be daunting at first but will prove very beneficial later on.

Keep your schedule simple. Never take the word “structured” to also mean “busy.” It simply means your day is planned. Also, in writing your to-do lists, make sure to set realistic ones. Unrealistic to-do lists only lead to stress, negative thoughts, and failure.

Never set yourself up for failure. Instead, prioritize by choosing the 3 most important tasks per day. By choosing a small number of daily tasks, you can focus your effort in accomplishing them.

Make sure to attend recovery meetings and to surround yourself with supportive people

According to Dr. Rudolf H. Moos, Ph.D. and Dr. Christine Timko, Ph. D., authors of the book Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment, it is through attending recovery meetings that you get to build yourself a supportive network. So, make sure to never miss one.

have fun with friends

Take note of that unwritten rule “90 in 90,” which means to attend 90 meetings in 90 days at the start of the recovery. The ratio behind this unwritten rule is that the first 90 days is the most challenging for every recovering addict. This is the time that he needs support to maintain his recovery.

If you can’t complete these 90 meetings in 90 days, don’t worry. The goal here is to attend as many meetings as you can. Also, remember that it will take some time before you can emotionally connect with others in the meeting. Take your time to feel comfortable with the group.

Apart from that, you can talk to family and friends who are supportive of your sobriety goal. The support that they can give you will greatly help you bear the burden of recovery.

Take care of yourself

According to a study conducted by the National Offender Management Service in 2011, self-care is the number one priority on your path toward recovery.

Start a healthy eating habit and also encourage yourself to sleep 8 to 9 hours a night. Remember that relapse is triggered by hunger and tiredness, so keep yourself nourished and well-rested.

A very good practice is to make a meal plan and prepare it ahead of time. Store healthy snacks and meals in your refrigerator so that you can just grab a bite when you’re famished.

Also, make sure to take care of your hygiene while making sure you are spiritually and emotionally well and away from abusive substances.

Set short-term and long-term goals

Though it is good to take one day at a time, it is also beneficial to set realistic short-term and long-term goals for yourself. These goals help create hope and also build excitement as to what good will happen next if you commit yourself to them.


You can start with a goal like staying sober for 30 days. Then, make it 60 days, and so on. These are simple yet worthwhile goals that will give you a sense of satisfaction every time you achieve it.

On the other hand, it is also good if you can set a goal for something that you have long been wanting to do but cannot because you were addicted. Save money for that holiday trip you have longed dreamed of. Save up for a dream vacation as a gift for yourself on your 1st sobriety anniversary.

Develop an attitude of gratitude

In all these, always count your blessings than your miseries. Each moment in the addiction recovery is something that you should be grateful for. It is helpful to keep a “Gratitude Journal” where you write all the things that you are thankful for every day.

See Also: Why You Should Keep Your Journal Positive

Keeping in mind and practicing these strategies will help you manage your recovery journey well. If you’re suffering from relapse or if you need help in searching for a drug or alcohol rehab facility, seek help from an addiction specialist immediately. Reclaim your life today!

The post How to Cope with The First 90 Days of Addiction Recovery appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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Author: Adam Durnham

4 Unexpected Ways Playing Board Games Can Improve Your Well-Being

Have you ever heard that you need to exercise your mind as well as your body?

Play is an important part of human development, but adults are notoriously bad at making time for it. Finding time to relax is important to our health and even our sanity.

Lucky for us, board games have been shown to reduce stress and have a myriad of unexpected benefits.

Some board games, like Nine Men’s Morris, are so old that experts aren’t even sure where or when people started playing them. From peasants to pharaohs, people have been playing board games for nearly 5,000 years.

Here’s why you should carry on the tradition:

Deepen relationships with family and friends

You might have some difficulty convincing your in-laws to play Rock Band with you, but what about a game of Smess?

Board games are a method of play that spans generations. In an age when face-to-face communication is increasingly rare, board games demand engagement and attentiveness.

People crave connection. There’s a reason that board game cafes are growing in popularity. Cooperation and competition, sometimes at the same time, are vital to forming relationships.

Coincidentally, cooperation and competition are also the founding principles of board games around the world.

Improve logic, memory, and creativity

The very best board games combine luck and skill in a way that demands creativity, logic, and attention to detail.

As Einstein once said, “You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”

And playing better than anyone else takes constant planning.

When should you cooperate with your opponents? Should you move 11 spaces or twelve? Should you give up one piece to gain two back later?

Your brain is just another part of your body. When you exercise it, it gets stronger.

Reduce the risk of cognitive decline

A mentally active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Stephen Hawking once went as far as attributing his survival to keeping an active mind.

Crosswords or Sudoku are mental exercises, but board games have the added benefit of being social. Loneliness is common among seniors and social isolation has been linked to cognitive decline and the development of long-term illnesses.

A game that blends fun and strategy, like Yahtzee or Catan, is a great way to keep your mind (and hands) nimble.

Learn to win—and lose—with grace

Board games allow us to deal with conflict in a controlled environment. They’re basically harmless, miniature power struggles. This is especially helpful for children (or the uber-competitive), as they often need to be taught that losing isn’t the end of the world.

Failure is unavoidable, so don’t just let your kids win. Incorporating games with a component of luck levels the playing field between players of different ages. Playing a completely luck-based game like Chutes and Ladders might even give parents the opportunity to demonstrate how to lose gracefully.

Another option is to play a cooperative game like 5 Minute Dungeon. In a cooperative game, everyone works together, so everyone can share in the high of victory.


Board games are a perfect way to show adults and children alike that failure is inevitable but also temporary. If you lose, there’s always another round to be played.

To some, idle play might seem like a waste of time, but board games are anything but that. They have many benefits, from reducing stress to teaching vital negotiation skills and much more. So, when you’re trying to convince your friends to come over for a wild night of board games, just tell them it’s for their own good.

See Also: 10 Tips to Develop Both Sides of Your Brain

The post 4 Unexpected Ways Playing Board Games Can Improve Your Well-Being appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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Author: Sara Sajwaj

6 Effective Tricks to Make Your Apartment Look Bigger and Spacious

Living in an apartment unit isn’t new to everyone, especially those people living in the heart of the city. It’s very convenient since it gives you easy access to shopping malls, department stores, restaurants, and most importantly, your workplace.

There are a lot of apartment providers that will give you many options. In fact, there are various mobile applications designed to help you find an apartment of your preference location-wise. Another important thing to consider when choosing an apartment, aside from safety and comfort, is its size.

Below are some really great tips on how to make your apartment look bigger.

Place Lightings in the Right Places

Shades make your apartment look small. Give proper illumination in every part of your apartment by installing light bulbs. If your apartment is sufficiently illuminated, it gives you an illusion that it is big and spacious.

There are different techniques to achieve this goal. You can position a bulb at the corner of the room evenly projecting its light to its front wall. Choice of color is also important not only because it makes the room spacious but it also sets how warm should you keep your apartment on a specific season, especially during winter.

Choose bulbs in light colors. Make sure that they are enough to illuminate every room and to enlighten the mood of the entire apartment.

Install Sliding Doors

When you open one of your rooms, a typical door consumes a lot of space.

If your apartment is small, it’s not wise to use the flush or panel types of doors which are common to homeowners. The sliding door is a better choice for small apartments. It doesn’t consume that much space when you open it. Hence, it helps make your apartment look spacious and big.

Mirrors and Glass Furniture

Many interior designers and even engineers have used mirrors and glasses in building and renovating homes. These materials show reflections on the other parts of the room. Hence, it’s a good way of giving you the impression that your apartment has a lot of space.

Put big framed mirrors in the living and dining room as well as in the bedroom. Also, purchase some pieces of furniture that have glass designs to help you achieve this goal.

Choose Light Paint Colors for Your Wall

The paint color on your wall is an important factor when maximizing the space inside your apartment. Just like lightings, a dark shade will tighten the area even more. Choose light paint colors like white, dirty white, powder or sky blue, soft gray, and other similar shades.

Use Multi-Purpose Furniture

Keeping all your stuff in the living room or your bedroom gives you a snag sometimes. For a small apartment, sparing a space for a storage room is almost impossible to happen. You’re always maximizing the area to keep the order and cleanliness inside your apartment.

Multi-purpose furniture is a solution to your problem. You can purchase it in a furniture shop or ask the shop to have it customized according to your storage needs. You can choose a chair in the living room that has space under the cushion so you can store something there or a table that has shelves under it where you can save important stuff for safety.

Put Shelves and Cabinets Near the Ceiling to Maximize Space

Installing shelves and cabinets near the ceiling is an effective way of storing your stuff in the apartment. It doesn’t consume much space and it gives you easy access and retrieval. You can have it installed in the kitchen or dining area to store kitchen wares. You can also have it in the bedroom to store unused blankets, comforters, and the like.

You’ll surely save so much space if you have this at your apartment. You can contact an experienced carpenter to do the job for you. That way, you’ll be able to start organizing your apartment and putting anything in order.


As you work hard every day to defray your daily expenses and to save up for your future, you deserve an apartment that you can call your home. It might not be as big as your house in your hometown, but it’s your home now in the city and it deserves your care and attention.

Since apartments are not that big, you can apply some techniques discussed above to maximize the amount of space you have. Start renovating your apartment now and improve your stay every single day.

The post 6 Effective Tricks to Make Your Apartment Look Bigger and Spacious appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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Author: Zach McGavin

16 Great Reasons to Meditate That’ll Convince You to Start Now

Not only the monks or the devotees of Lord Shiva meditate. You don’t have to belong to a specific religion nor convert into an ascetic to meditate.

There are many definitions of meditation by distinct people, but I feel this is where we are wrong. We cannot define meditation because it’s a different experience for every individual. And so, we should not compare those experiences.

The general impression of meditation is attributed to early mornings, closed eyes, natural environment, cross folded legs, and focusing on one object or deep breaths.

yoga self worth

Yes, most of us think that way and that interpretation is not totally wrong. However, those things are not entirely about meditation but mindfulness.

Now, if you ask me the best techniques to meditate, I’m sorry but I don’t have an answer to that. It is because you are asking the wrong person.

You know who the ideal individual is?

To your surprise, it is none other than you.

I know my way of meditation, the phenomenon which makes me blissful. You need to find your own course!

You need to attain that state and you have to find the best way to do that.

But why is meditation important?

We know that the necessities of living for a physical body are food, clothes, and shelter. Similarly, the basic necessity for the soul’s healthy existence is meditation. It is not a want but a need.

Let me present to you some good reasons why you need to meditate and what its benefits are:

To become your mind’s controller

Over-thinking has turned into one of the biggest reasons for a person’s downfall. Meditation makes you the controller of your mind. It enables you to get rid of the unwanted and negative thoughts.

To increase the feel-quotient

how to find happiness within yourself

You can’t think of happiness; you can only feel it.  Meditation enables you to feel more aware of the present which is the key to happiness.

To utilize your mental capabilities

When you meditate, you stay fresh and boosted. Your mind fatigues less, enabling you to extract its fullest potential.

To push the boundaries of your comfort zone

A meditated mind does not fear the new but welcomes the change. It keeps challenging the boundaries of your comfort zone, enhancing your personal and professional growth.

To create lifetime memories

Meditation helps you feel the awareness in the present moment. When your physical and your mental body are at the same place, you create a memory out of every moment.

To convert sympathy into compassion

helping others

Meditation enables you to act more so you convert your thoughts into action. Whenever you feel sympathetic towards a person, a meditated mind tries to convert that sympathy into compassion i.e. doing something for the same.

To become mindful of what you feed

The awareness of a meditated mind helps you observe what, when, and how much you eat. This way, you stay fit and healthy.

To feel blessed

Meditation teaches you the biggest lesson which is the ‘appreciation of the now’. There is no comparison and competition with others. You are content with who you are and what you have.

To stay away from intoxication

Meditation keeps you high on life by the buzz created by it. You don’t want to be high on alcohol or any other form of intoxication.

To get rid of suffering and sorrow

You love more and attach less via meditation. It enables you to see everything from a higher level. It reduces the let-go time in case of misery inflicted by loss and failures.

To maintain healthy personal relationships

When you meditate, there is a transparency between your physical and mental appearance. Not only are you true to yourself but also to others. Your friends may be fewer, but friendship lasts for a lifetime.

To stop judging others

Meditation enables you to love more and judge less. And when you don’t judge others, you break the illusion of getting judged by them.

To stay away from negativity

No wonder, the awareness in the present is a gateway to positivity. You stress less and you become less prone to negativity.

To express your feelings better

Meditation activates your conscious mind and awakens your righteous self. It enables you to convey your feelings better. Not only positivity is well-expressed but it also helps you to flush out the negativity via expressing.

To become self-aware

Meditation helps you to explore your inside world. It enhances your quality of living. You keep on improving as an individual. As a result, you ride high in your inner-self attributes.

To explore your passion

When you meditate, you explore your inner-self. You become self-aware. You discover your zeal, the thing which you love to do. Lucky are the ones who get to recognize their passion.

If you ask me in materialistic terms,

Why settle for a scooter when you have the means to buy yourself a Mercedes?
Why die like the majority when you belong to the few?
And why settle with extracting less when you can extract the full potential of the mind?

Let me tell you my way of meditating …

Everyone has their own way. My course of meditation is writing while yours might be different. It can be dancing, singing, praying, running, painting, reading or anything else. Whatever it is, it’s your very own way of enjoying solitude.

Let me just tell you, meditation is my mental body’s favorite meal! You can savor it, too.
But it is you who has to identify how to relish it.

You know why it is difficult to relish it?

We are living in a stressful environment where competition begins at home. Negativity surrounds us in the form of people and situations. The poor mind, always accompanied by thoughts, gets attracted to the outside negativity. Finally, a negative thought pops inside your mind, which lays the foundation to attract other negative energies.

But, always remember:

When positivity lives inside, we can cut the chord of the outside negativity. The tool used to cut that chord is nothing but meditation!!!

The Role of Meditation in Happiness

You don’t have to pass an entrance test to be happy. Blessed with the necessities of food, clothes, shelter, you become eligible for happiness.

I have seen people who were content working day-night for bread and butter.
I have met another set of people who are miles away from happiness sitting on a recliner by the beach-side.

The mind is the most powerful tool of a human being. It is full of thoughts and those thoughts take us to various places. We meet many characters and face various situations.

But the irony is that only our mental body is traveling while our physical body is right here. This imbalance is due to stress, negativity in our lives, and overthinking. So, let us meditate to slow down, restrict the flow of thoughts, savor the present, set up awareness, and activate the conscious mind to be happy.

Do you meditate?

If not, explore the experience. Good luck!

The post 16 Great Reasons to Meditate That’ll Convince You to Start Now appeared first on Dumb Little Man.

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Author: Amanpreet Singh

The Very Slow Movie Player shows a film over an entire year

It seems someone took Every Frame a Painting literally: The Very Slow Movie Player is a device that turns cinema into wallpaper, advancing the image by a single second every hour. The result is an interesting household object that makes something new of even the most familiar film.

The idea occurred to designer and engineer Bryan Boyer during one of those times we all have where we are sitting at home thinking of ways to celebrate slowness.

“Can a film be consumed at the speed of reading a book?” he asked himself, slowly. “Slowing things down to an extreme measure creates room for appreciation of the object… but the prolonged duration also starts to shift the relationship between object, viewer, and context. A film watched at 1/3,600th of the original speed is not a very slow movie, it’s a hazy timepiece. A Very Slow Movie Player (VSMP) doesn’t tell you the time; it helps you see yourself against the smear of time.”

The Very Slow Movie Player is an e-paper display attached to a Raspberry Pi board; you load a movie onto the latter, and it processes and displays a single frame at a time, updating the screen with a new one every two and a half minutes.

That adds up to 24 frames per hour, as opposed to the usual 24 frames per second — 3,600 times slower than normal viewing, and producing a (perhaps) 7-or-8,000-hour tableau you view over the course of a year or so.

“It is impossible to ‘watch’ in a traditional way because it’s too slow. In a staring contest with VSMP you will always lose,” writes Boyer in a post explaining the project. “It can be noticed, glanced at, or even inspected, but not watched.”

He compares it to the work of Bill Viola, whose super-slow-motion portraits are similarly impossible to watch from start to finish (unless you’re very, very patient) and therefore exist in a sort of limbo between motion picture and still image.

The image itself leaves something to be desired, of course: e-paper is essentially 1-bit color depth — black and white. So the subtleties of color you might see in any film, color or no, will be lost to dithering.

The way it’s done helps highlight the contrasts and zones of a scene, though if you really want to appreciate Rear Window as cinema, you can watch it any time you like. But if you want to appreciate it as a process, as a relationship with time, as an object and image that exists in the context of the rest of the world and your life… for that, you have the Very Slow Movie Player.

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Author: Devin Coldewey

Put down your phone if you want to innovate

We are living in an interstitial period. In the early 1980s we entered an era of desktop computing that culminated in the dot-com crash — a financial bubble that we bolstered with Y2K consulting fees and hardware expenditures alongside irrational exuberance over . That last interstitial era, an era during which computers got smaller, weirder, thinner and more powerful, ushered us, after a long period of boredom, into the mobile era in which we now exist. If you want to help innovate in the next decade, it’s time to admit that phones, like desktop PCs before them, are a dead-end.

We create and then brush up against the edges of our creation every decade. The speed at which we improve — but not innovate — is increasing, and so the difference between a 2007 iPhone and a modern Pixel 3 is incredible. But what can the Pixel do that the original iPhone or Android phones can’t? Not much.

We are limited by the use cases afforded by our current technology. In 1903, a bike was a bike and could not fly. Until the Wright Brothers and others turned forward mechanical motion into lift were we able to lift off. In 2019 a phone is a phone and cannot truly interact with us as long as it remains a separate part of our bodies. Until someone looks beyond these limitations will we be able to take flight.

While I won’t posit on the future of mobile tech, I will note that until we put our phones away and look at the world anew we will do nothing of note. We can take better photos and FaceTime each other, but until we see the limitations of these technologies we will be unable to see a world outside of them.

We’re heading into a new year (and a new CES) and we can expect more of the same. It is safe and comfortable to remain in the screen-hand-eye nexus, creating VR devices that are essentially phones slapped to our faces and big computers that now masquerade as TVs. What, however, is the next step? Where do these devices go? How do they change? How do user interfaces compress and morph? Until we actively think about this we will remain stuck.

Perhaps you are. You’d better hurry. If this period ends as swiftly and decisively as the other ones before it, the opportunity available will be limited at best. Why hasn’t VR taken off? Because it is still on the fringes, being explored by people stuck in mobile thinking. Why is machine learning and AI so slow? Because the use cases are aimed at chatbots and better customer interaction. Until we start looking beyond the black mirror (see what I did?) of our phones, innovation will fail.

Every app launched, every pictured scrolled, every tap, every hunched-over moment davening to some dumb Facebook improvement is a brick in the bulwark against an unexpected and better future. So put your phone down this year and build something. Soon it might be too late.

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Author: John Biggs

This wristband detects an opiate overdose

A project by students at Carnegie Mellon could save lives. Called the HopeBand, the wristband senses low blood oxygen levels and sends a text message and sounds an alarm if danger is imminent.

“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” student Rashmi Kalkunte told IEEE. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”

The team won third place in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge at the Health 2.0 conference in September and they are planning to send the band to a needle exchange program in Pittsburgh. They hope to sell it for less than $20.

Given the more than 72,000 overdose deaths in America this year, a device like this could definitely keep folks a little safer.

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Author: John Biggs

Watch the ANYmal quadrupedal robot go for an adventure in the sewers of Zurich

There’s a lot of talk about the many potential uses of multi-legged robots like Cheetahbot and Spot — but in order for those to come to fruition, the robots actually have to go out and do stuff. And to train for a glorious future of sewer inspection (and helping rescue people, probably), this Swiss quadrupedal bot is going deep underground.

ETH Zurich / Daniel Winkler

The robot is called ANYmal, and it’s a long-term collaboration between the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, abbreviated there as ETH Zurich, and a spin-off from the university called ANYbotics. Its latest escapade was a trip to the sewers below that city, where it could eventually aid or replace the manual inspection process.

ANYmal isn’t brand new — like most robot platforms, it’s been under constant revision for years. But it’s only recently that cameras and sensors like lidar have gotten good enough and small enough that real-world testing in a dark, slimy place like sewer pipes could be considered.

Most cities have miles and miles of underground infrastructure that can only be checked by expert inspectors. This is dangerous and tedious work — perfect for automation. Imagine instead of yearly inspections by people, if robots were swinging by once a week. If anything looks off, it calls in the humans. It could also enter areas rendered inaccessible by disasters or simply too small for people to navigate safely.

But of course, before an army of robots can inhabit our sewers (where have I encountered this concept before? Oh yeah…) the robot needs to experience and learn about that environment. First outings will be only minimally autonomous, with more independence added as the robot and team gain confidence.

“Just because something works in the lab doesn’t always mean it will in the real world,” explained ANYbotics co-founder Péter Fankhauser in the ETHZ story.

Testing the robot’s sensors and skills in a real-world scenario provides new insights and tons of data for the engineers to work with. For instance, when the environment is completely dark, laser-based imaging may work, but what if there’s a lot of water, steam or smoke? ANYmal should also be able to feel its surroundings, its creators decided.

ETH Zurich / Daniel Winkler

So they tested both sensor-equipped feet (with mixed success) and the possibility of ANYmal raising its “paw” to touch a wall, to find a button or determine temperature or texture. This latter action had to be manually improvised by the pilots, but clearly it’s something it should be able to do on its own. Add it to the list!

You can watch “Inspector ANYmal’s” trip below Zurich in the video below.

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Author: Devin Coldewey

Iota Biosciences raises $15M to produce in-body sensors smaller than a grain of rice

Fitness trackers and heart-rate monitors are all well and good, but if you want to track activity inside the body, the solutions aren’t nearly as convenient. Iota Biosciences wants to change that with millimeter-wide sensors that can live more or less permanently in your body and transmit wirelessly what they detect, and a $15 million Series A should put them well on their way.

The team emerged from research at UC Berkeley, where co-founders Jose Carmena and Michel Maharbiz were working on improving the state of microelectrodes. These devices are used all over medical and experimental science to monitor and stimulate nerves and muscle tissues. For instance, a microelectrode array in the brain might be able to help detect early signs of a seizure, and around the heart one could precisely test the rhythms of cardiac tissues.

But despite their name, microelectrodes aren’t really small. The tips, sure, but they’re often connected to larger machines, or battery-powered packs, and they can rarely stay in the body for more than a few weeks or months due to various complications associated with them.

Considering how far we’ve come in other sectors when it comes to miniaturization, manufacturing techniques and power efficiency, Carmena and Maharbiz thought, why don’t we have something better?

“The idea at first was to have free-floating motes in the brain with RF [radio frequency] powering them,” Carmena said. But they ran into a fundamental problem: RF radiation, because of its long wavelength, requires rather a large antenna to receive them. Much larger than was practical for devices meant to swim in the bloodstream.

“There was a meeting at which everything died, because we were like two orders of magnitude away from what we needed. The physics just weren’t there,” he recalled. “So were like, ‘I guess that’s it!’ ”

But some time after, Maharbiz had a “eureka” moment — “as weird as it sounds, it occurred to me in a parking lot. You just think about it and all these things align.”

His revelation: ultrasound.

Power at the speed of sound

You’re probably familiar with ultrasound as a diagnostic tool, for imaging inside the body during pregnancy and the like — or possibly as a range-finding tool that “pings” nearby objects. There’s been a lot of focus on the venerable technology recently as technologists have found new applications for it.

In fact, a portable ultrasound company just won TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield in Lagos:

Iota’s approach, however, has little to do with these traditional uses of the technology. Remember the principle that you have to have an antenna that’s a reasonable fraction of an emission’s wavelength in order to capture it? Well, ultrasound has a wavelength measured in microns — millionths of a meter.

So it can be captured — and captured very efficiently. That means an ultrasound antenna can easily catch enough waves to power a connected device.

Not only that, but as you might guess from its use in imaging, ultrasound goes right through us. Lots of radiation, including RF, gets absorbed by the charged, salty water that makes up much of the human body.

“Ultrasound doesn’t do that,” Maharbiz said. “You’re just Jell-O — it goes right through you.”

The device they put together to take advantage of this is remarkably simple, and incredibly tiny. On one side is what’s called a piezoelectric crystal, something that transforms force — in this case, ultrasound — into electricity. In the middle is a tiny chip, and around the edge runs a set of electrodes.

It’s so small that it can be attached to a single nerve or muscle fiber. When the device is activated by a beam of ultrasound, voltage runs between the electrodes, and this minute current is affected by the electrical activity of the tissue. These slight changes are literally reflected in how the ultrasonic pulses bounce back, and the reader can derive electrophysiological voltage from those changes.

Basically the waves they send power the device and bounce back slightly changed, depending on what the nerve or muscle is doing. By sending a steady stream of pulses, the system collects a constant stream of precise monitoring data simply and non-invasively. (And yes, this has been demonstrated in vivo.)

Contained inside non-reactive, implant-safe containers, these microscopic “motes” could be installed singly or by the dozen, doing everything from monitoring heart tissue to controlling a prosthesis. And because they can also deliver a voltage, they could conceivably be used for therapeutic purposes, as well.

And to be clear, those purposes won’t be inside the brain. Although there’s no particular reason this tech wouldn’t work in the central nervous system, it would have to be smaller and testing would be much more complicated. The initial applications will all be in the peripheral nervous system.

At any rate, before any of that happens, they have to be approved by the FDA.

The long medtech road

As you might guess, this isn’t the kind of thing you can just invent and then start implanting all over the place. Implants, especially electronic ones, must undergo extreme scrutiny before being allowed to be used in even experimental treatment.

Fortunately for Iota, their devices have a lot of advantages over, say, a pacemaker with a radio-based data connection and five-year battery. The only transmission involved is ultrasound, for one thing, and there are decades of studies showing the safety of using it.

“The FDA has well-defined limits for average and peak powers for the human body with ultrasound, and we’re nowhere near those frequencies or powers. This is very different,” explained Maharbiz. “There’s no exotic materials or techniques. As far as constant low-level ultrasound goes, the notion really is that it does nothing.”

And unlike a major device like a medication port, pump, stint, pacemaker or even a long-term electrode, “installation” is straightforward and easily reversible.

It would be done laparoscopically, or through a tiny incision. said Carmena. “If it has to be taken out, it can be taken out, but it’s so minimally invasive and small and safe that we keep it,” he said.

These are all marks in Iota’s favor, but testing can’t be rushed. Although the groundwork for their devices was laid in 2013, the team has taken a great deal of time to advance the science to the point where it can be taken out of the lab to begin with.

In order to get it now to the point where they can propose human trials, Iota has raised $15 million in funding; the round was led by Horizons Ventures, Astellas, Bold Capital Partners, Ironfire and Shanda. (The round was in May but only just announced.)

The A round should get the company from its current prototype phase to a point, perhaps some 18 months distant, when they have a production-ready version ready to present to the FDA — at which point more funding will probably be required to get through the subsequent years of testing.

But that’s the game in medtech, and all the investors know it. This could be a hugely disruptive technology in a number of fields, although at first the devices need to be approved for a single medical purpose (one Iota has decided on but can’t disclose yet).

It’s a long road, all right, but at the end of it is the fulfillment of a promise straight out of sci-fi. It may be years before you have microscopic, ultrasound-powered doodads swimming around inside you, but that future is well on its way.

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Author: Devin Coldewey

SpaceX’s Starship goes sci-fi shiny with stainless steel skin

SpaceX’s futuristic Starship interplanetary craft may embody the golden age of sci-fi in more ways than one: in addition to (theoretically) taking passengers from planet to planet, it may sport a shiny stainless steel skin that makes it look like the pulp covers of old.

Founder and CEO Elon Musk teased the possibility in a picture posted to Twitter, captioned simply “Stainless Steel Starship.” To be clear, this isn’t a full-on spacecraft, just part of a test vehicle that the company plans to use during the short “hopper” flights in 2019 to evaluate various systems.

As with most Musk tweets, this kicked off a storm of speculation and argument in the Twitterverse.

The choice surprised many because for years, modern spaceflight has been dependent on advanced composite materials like carbon fiber, which combine desirable physical properties with low weight. When metal has been required, aluminum or titanium are much more common. While some launch components, like the upper stage of the Atlas 5 rocket, have liberally used steel, it’s definitely not an obvious choice for a craft like the Starship, which will have to deal with both deep space and repeated reentry.

As Musk pointed out in subsequent comments, however, stainless steel has some advantages versus other materials when at extremely hot or cold temperatures.

This is a special full-hardness steel alloy mentioned as being among the 300 series of high-strength, heat-resistant alloys — not the plentiful, pliable stuff we all have in our kitchens and buildings. Musk also mentioned another “superalloy” called SX500 that SpaceX’s metallurgists have developed for use in the Raptor engines that will power the vehicle.

So why stainless? It’s likely all about reentry.

Many craft and reusable stages that have to face the heat of entering the atmosphere at high speed use “ablative” heat shielding that disintegrates or breaks away in a controlled fashion, carrying heat away from the vehicle.

It’s unlikely this is a possibility for Starship, however, as replacing and repairing this material would necessitate downtime and crews wherever and whenever it lands, and the craft is meant to be (eventually) a quick-turnaround ship with maximum reusability. Heat shielding that reflects and survives is a better bet for that — but an enormous engineering problem.

Scott Manley put together a nice video illustrating some of these ideas and speculations in detail:

Musk said before of the Starship (then still called BFR) that “almost the entire time it is reentering, it’s just trying to brake, while distributing that force over the most area possible.” Reentry will probably look more like a Space Shuttle-esque glide than a Falcon 9 first stage’s ballistic descent and engine braking.

The switch to stainless steel has the pleasant side effect of making the craft look really cool — more in line with sci-fi books and comics than their readers perhaps ever thought to hope. Paint jobs would burn right off, Musk said:

You can’t expect it to stay shiny for long, though; it may be stainless, but like a pan you left on the stove, stainless steel can still scorch, and the bottom of the Starship will likely look pretty rough after a while. It’s all right — spacecraft developing a patina is a charming evolution.

Details are still few, and for all we know SpaceX could redesign the craft again based on how tests go. Next year will see the earliest hopper flights for Starship hardware and possibly the Super Heavy lower stage that will lift its great shiny bulk out of the lower atmosphere.

The technical documentation promised by Musk should arrive in March or April, but whether it will pertain solely to the test vehicle or give a glimpse at the craft SpaceX intends to send around the moon is anyone’s guess. At any rate you should expect more information to be spontaneously revealed before then at Musk’s discretion — or lack thereof.

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Author: Devin Coldewey