March 28, 2018

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using the ancient Asian folk art of paper cutting, called kirigami, to make a better bandage, MIT News reports. This will be good news for anyone who has ever struggled to put a Band-Aid on a knuckle, knee, or elbow, only to have it pop off after the tiniest movement. By strategically slitting the bandage, researchers have developed a pad that can be applied to parts of the body that are "highly deformable" (that's a fancy way of saying "very bendy").

"The researchers attached the 'kirigami film' to a volunteer's knee and found that each time she bent her knee, the film's slits opened at the center, in the region of the knee with the most pronounced bending, while the slits at the edges remained closed, allowing the film to remain bonded to the skin," MIT News writes. "The kirigami cuts give the film not only stretch, but also better grip: The cuts that open release tension that would otherwise cause the entire film to peel away from the skin."

It looks something like this, in practice:

The technology could also be used for heating pads; the scientists had success putting wires through a kirigami-cut device, and found it maintained an even 100-degree temperature.

"You can always design other patterns, just like folk art," said Ruike Zhao, the lead author on a paper about the bandage advancements. "There are so many solutions that we can think of. Just follow the mechanical guidance for an optimized design, and you can achieve a lot of things." Visit MIT News to see GIFs of the bandage in action here. Jeva Lange

March 22, 2018

Instagram's universally despised algorithm has been so widely criticized that the company announced Thursday that it is going to make significant changes to appease users. In a statement, Instagram said it will at last "ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed," which will hopefully mean you will no longer miss, well, everything. As Gizmodo puts it: "Instagram apparently no longer wants you to see Christmas Day photos on New Year’s Eve."

While that might seem like common sense, Instagram first started experimenting with a non-chronological feed in the spring of 2016. By 2018, the app was apparently rewarding posts with higher engagement, users who interacted with followers, and making tweaks based on how long other users spent viewing your post or engaging in the content, Later reports.

Other changes are coming too, like a "new posts" button "that lets you choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically." Finally! Jeva Lange

October 14, 2016

The Obama administration announced Friday an end to restrictions on Cuban rum and cigars, USA Today reports. The highly coveted products benefit from executive action that is aimed at boosting trade and travel between Cuba and the United States. In exchange, it will also be easier for American companies to sell their products to Cubans, including through online purchases.

Cuban rum and cigars were banned from entering the U.S. for five decades; recently, the Obama administration allowed for Americans to bring back just $100 worth of the products. The removal Friday of the monetary restrictions will allow travelers to bring back as many cigars or bottles of rum as they like.

Salud! Jeva Lange

June 18, 2015

Air force reservists and active-duty forces exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War are finally getting disability benefits, the Associated Press reports. The expected cost over the next 10 years is $47.5 million, approved Thursday morning by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Exposure to Agent Orange, which was used as an herbicide during the war, formerly only allowed benefits for troops who were on the ground or served in inland waterways. The new federal rule still will not cover 200,000 "Blue Water" vets who were exposed to the chemical on board deep-water naval vessels, due to the Department of Veterans Affairs' citation of weaker scientific evidence.

In order to receive benefits, an individual must prove that they worked on a contaminated plane and later developed one of 14 conditions, including prostate cancer, diabetes, and leukemia. The VA reviewed military records to determine that pilots, mechanics, and medical personnel who served in Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Taiwan, Panama, South Korea, and the Philippines were potentially affected.

Agent Orange-related cases already make up 1 in every 6 disability checks issued by the VA. Jeva Lange

August 10, 2014

Albert Pujols' stats may be in decline, but the Cardinals' former king came through for the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night — big time.

The team was more than six-and-a-half hours and 19 innings into a game against the Boston Red Sox when Pujols stepped to the plate and delivered a leadoff home run to end the marathon with a 5-4 Angels' win. Watch the shot, along with a very happy — and relieved — celebration on the Angels' side (the Red Sox aren't quite so thrilled) in the video, below. --Sarah Eberspacher

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