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This undated photo made available in London Wednesday Feb. 16, 2005, was taken by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope of the planet Mars.


3-D pizzas on Mars

"How do you send space travellers off to Mars with enough food to last them the entire journey?" asks The Christian Science Monitor. "You don't. You print it instead. In a few short years, hungry [people], in space or otherwise, may be able to 'print' out pizza, cake and other entrées with the push of a button, thanks to the evolution of 3-D printing technology." NASA has awarded a $125,000 (U.S.) grant to develop a food synthesizer to engineer Anjan Contractor and his company, Systems & Materials Research Corp. "Long-distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life," Contractor said in an interview. "The way we are working on it is [that] all the carbs, proteins and macro- and micro-nutrients are in powder form. We take moisture out, and in that form it will last maybe 30 years." First up on the 3-D menu is pizza, which is an ideal candidate for 3-D printing because of its layers.

Your toenails are loved

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"Here's a scientific finding that may knock you off your feet: At least 80 types of fungi reside on a typical person's heel, along with 60 between the toes and 40 on the toenail," reports the Los Angeles Times. "Altogether, the feet are home to more than 100 types of fungus, more than any other area of the human body, according to a study published Wednesday by the journal Nature." Many of the fungi on our skin serve a very useful purpose, said Julie Segre, a geneticist and the study leader. "One of the major functions of healthy fungi is to prevent pathogenic fungi from adhering to our skin," where they can cause athlete's foot, plantar warts and stubborn toenail infections, she said. "There's something about toenails that fungi just love."

Avoiding a sunburn

"By the time most of us realize we've been out in the sun too long, it's too late," says "It can take up to 24 hours after exposure before you realize you have a sunburn. Now, a Michigan Technological University Senior Design team has devised a sensor that tells you when it's time to seek shelter long before your skin gets red and tender. The biomedical engineering seniors developed a skin patch imprinted with a graphic – in this case, a happy face design. The nickel-size patch gradually darkens under ultraviolet light. … When you can't see the happy face any more, it's time to get out of the sun."

Star Trek-like scanner

A U.S. firm says it has developed a device that can monitor vital signs just by holding it to the forehead for 10 seconds, reports United Press International. The device, called Scout, can monitor and track vital signs including temperature, heart rate and rhythm, blood oxygen levels and stress, said Scanadu, a company based at NASA's Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, Calif. Walter de Brouwer, Scanadu's founder, said he got the idea for the device while examining output from machines his son was connected to during a hospital stay after an accident.

Snail male

"A Chinese man has turned himself into a human snail by creating a house he can carry on his back," reports Orange Co. U.K. "Liu Lingchao, 38, from Liuzhou, Guangxi province, carries his home every day as he moves from place to place. … His simple but ingenious portable home consists of plastic sheets attached to a light bamboo frame. 'This is the third portable house I've made. They weigh only about 60 kilograms and last for about a year.' Along the way, Liu supports himself by collecting and recycling beverage bottles. 'I feel free. I can go wherever I want to go, and live on my own.'"

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Thought du jour

"Because I readily absorb ideas from every source – frequently starting where the last person left off – I am sometimes accurately described as more of a sponge than an inventor."

Thomas Edison, American inventor (1847-1931)

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