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98 comments

JUST WHAT I NEEDED !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058092)

A solar perplexer !!

No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058290)

I'll stick to a vasectomy if I have too.

is he naming it (2)

superwiz (655733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058130)

transparency? since sunshine is the best disinfectant?

Re:is he naming it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058296)

How about "rice cooker" - since all it really is, is a mirror - probably more expensive and easier to break than any other solution that could be devised, it has the added pun that it was clearly devised by "bakers" at rice "university"

Re:is he naming it (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058342)

Looks to me like a concave mirror focussed on a heat-pipe leading to a heat-transfer plate.

Re:is he naming it (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058826)

How about "rice cooker" - since all it really is, is a mirror

"All" it really is? I would guess that for most of the world, an inexpensive device that uses free energy to not only sterilize medical tools but also to cook a pot of rice is not at all trivial.

Especially considering the health hazards involved in burning wood or dried dung to accomplish the same thing.

I only recently figured out why so many people just scoff at any application of solar energy and get boners from the idea of using nuclear fission to light a bulb: It's because solar energy just doesn't seem high-techy enough and nuclear energy brings to mind guys in lab coats and geiger counters and mushroom clouds and all that cool stuff.

Re:is he naming it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36059432)

How about "rice cooker" - since all it really is, is a mirror

"All" it really is? I would guess that for most of the world, an inexpensive device that uses free energy to not only sterilize medical tools but also to cook a pot of rice is not at all trivial.

I'm talking out of my arse, but I'd bet that if one has access to medical equipment, rice and the water to cook it, also being able to make fire isn't a very far-fetched assumption.

Especially considering the health hazards involved in burning wood or dried dung to accomplish the same thing.

Such as? Perhaps this would be a good point to suggest that access to soap is more useful than another source of heat.

I only recently figured out why so many people just scoff at any application of solar energy and get boners from the idea of using nuclear fission to light a bulb: It's because solar energy just doesn't seem high-techy enough and nuclear energy brings to mind guys in lab coats and geiger counters and mushroom clouds and all that cool stuff.

It seems I'm not the only one to talk out of my arse.

Re:is he naming it (1)

arkenian (1560563) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060338)

I only recently figured out why so many people just scoff at any application of solar energy and get boners from the idea of using nuclear fission to light a bulb: It's because solar energy just doesn't seem high-techy enough and nuclear energy brings to mind guys in lab coats and geiger counters and mushroom clouds and all that cool stuff.

So ummm, really I've always assumed that this was because deep down we still think of electricity as primarily being used to light bulbs... and that's something we typically want to do when the sun isn't up.

Re:is he naming it (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36063442)

we still think of electricity as primarily being used to light bulbs... and that's something we typically want to do when the sun isn't up.

I wonder how true that is? I.e. what percentage of electricity used for lighting is during daylight hours? I can't think of anywhere that artificial lighting is *not* used during the day. The only time people don't use lights are when they are asleep, at night. Unfortunately I couldn't find any statistics either way, but I think it is conceivable the majority of lighting energy is consumed during daylight.

Re:is he naming it (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36064372)

The only time people don't use lights are when they are asleep, at night.

I always keep a light on when I'm asleep, at night, to keep the monster under my bed from killing and eating me.

Re:is he naming it (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058694)

Sunlight actually does kill a lot of bacteria, though it's usually because of the UV light. Bacteria generally are less tolerant of UV than we are for a variety of reasons (for one thing, they generally don't have backups of their genes like we do).

They have machinery to repair UV damage to their DNA, but a lot of that is triggered by visible light. I've heard that UV light only, without other wavelengths like visible light, is especially lethal to bacteria. I wonder if a better sterilization method might be a box that let in UV light, but blocked everything else, and mirrors that reflected UV light, concentrating the UV on the box.

Re:is he naming it (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058742)

The problem with a generic UV sterilizer is that every surface that you want to sterilize has to be exposed to the UV. The box joint inside a scissor, for example, would not be sterilized. The advantage of the device in TFA is that it presumeably would be easy to build in the field and would not need electricity. A potential issue would be clean water. Running dirty water, or even water with a large amount of dissolved solids (hard water) is rough on sterilizers.

Also, steam sterilization is very well understood and is pretty easy to track. Quality assurance for UV sterilization isn't easy in a low tech society.

Re:is he naming it (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059994)

Those are good reasons why my idea wouldn't work. So thanks for that :-P.

TFA made it sound like the water didn't need to run anywhere, it didn't require steam to be piped in. I was under the impression the samples sat above a pot of water basically, and the steam rose up. Maybe if solid buildup is a problem, one could just wash it with some CLR.

Re:is he naming it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36064180)

Seems easier then to 1) use tools that don't have joints that can't be sterilized or similarly don't have recesses and points of infection, 2) use chemical sterilization. The size of this equipment, producing it, shipping and importing, etc., makes me wonder if it is easier to simply ship a chemicals sterilizer where you merely have to soak the equipment for some period of time. And I thought the medical community had LOTS of liquid sterilizers where you submerge the tool or equipment in and even reuse the liquid a given number of times as long as it's circulated properly..

But hey, what do I know.

Re:is he naming it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36059498)

It's fortunate that the the agricultural processes in the developing countries don't produce as much mis-folded proteins as the English one did. Prions are left over during a normal sterilization of medical instruments in a dentist's office, for example. A solar based heating system could be beneficial in such a sterilization device for steel instruments.

Re:is he naming it (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059946)

It's fortunate that the the agricultural processes in the developing countries don't produce as much mis-folded proteins as the English one did

What are you talking about? All cells produce misfolded proteins from time to time. Has nothing to do with agriculture methods.

Prions are left over during a normal sterilization of medical instruments in a dentist's office, for example. A solar based heating system could be beneficial in such a sterilization device for steel instruments.

The heat in an autoclave denatures the proteins, killing whatever is in the autoclave. Prions may not be destroyed by autoclaves wiki tells me. However, this IS AN AUTOCLAVE. Just one that works with solar energy rather than plugging into a wall. This will not do anything to prions that other sterilization techniques don't.

Re:is he naming it (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 3 years ago | (#36063248)

Actually farming methods are to blame, they multiplied the prions a billion-fold by grinding infected animals into animal feed.

Re:is he naming it (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#36061630)

Bacteria generally are less tolerant of UV than we are for a variety of reasons (for one thing, they generally don't have backups of their genes like we do).

thru the magic of cubed-squared, my cardiac muscle tissue doesn't have to bother being UV resistant, and my skin doesn't have to bother doing much beyond being UV resistant (more or less) and keeping the outside out, and the inside in.

Cheap Sterilization! (0)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058134)

It's just that the cost of rocket and fuel to transport the instruments to and from the sun is a bit high :)

Help the world? Maybe... (0)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058156)

This invention could help prevent the spread of infection and illness in clinics around the world without access to proper sterilization tools.

Hold your horses. Is nothing in this invention patented by other parties (or the inventing party for that matter)?

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058244)

Apple's iphone is also known as iScorch and iPyro in certain parts of Africa. It earned that infamous reputation after burning down a local village when a tourist left his iphone in the sun over lunch. Apple will also be launching the new white iphone under the names iSheeshkebab, iTorch and iSterilize soon. Those poor RICE guys will get sued, their goose is cooked, fried, boiled etc., no more fun in the sun for them.

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (3, Insightful)

nzac (1822298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058374)

Not in the developing countries themselves I would think. Getting it patented in developing world counties would be an order of magnitude more work than inventing it.
Almost all of the patient stories we see on /. are just for the US.

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (3, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058430)

There are several technologies that have been developed and distributed in the third world by humanitarians. The adjustable eye-glasses, shake-powered water sterilizer, and super-nutritious peanut butter all come to mind. In cases where there is patent protection (the peanut butter, for example) the aid workers simply ignore it.

Plumpynut (3, Interesting)

adam (1231) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058994)

The peanutbutter-like product nzac is referencing is most commonly known as Plumpynut. It's used the world over, and I can attest it really does make a huge and immediate difference in the near-term outcome for malnourished children (the root cause of malnutrition — poverty — is often not addressed). September of last year the NYT ran an article [nytimes.com] on Partners In Health [pih.org] and their Nourimamba version of the PB product. For readers who want to know more about what you alluded to, I thought I'd chime in with some links and such. Plumpynut is patented in several countries, but not Haiti. Partners In Health uses local farmers to grow peanuts and employs local personnel to manufacture Nourimamba.

Partners in Health harvests peanuts from a 30-acre farm or buys them from a cooperative of 200 smallholders. It’s planning to build a larger factory, but for now the nuts are taken to the main hospital in Cange, where women sort them in straw baskets, roast them over an outside gas burner, run them through a hand grinder and mix all the ingredients into a paste that is poured into reusable plastic canisters.

PIH has a slideshow of manufacturing Nourimamba on smugmug, here [smugmug.com] . The Times article [nytimes.com] does address some of the interesting (and sad) legal wrangling behind a simple peanut mix that has the power to save millions of lives. Also, for an interesting take on how famines can be "manufactured" by unscrupulous governments or warlords seeking to skim or redirect aid, see Linda Polman's work [amazon.com] . Here's an excerpt from a Guardian article,

All too frequently, according to Polman, the result is not what it says in the charity brochures. She cites a damning catalogue of examples from Biafra to Darfur, and including the Ethiopian famine, in which humanitarian aid has helped prolong wars, or rewarded the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing and genocide rather than the victims. Perhaps the most striking case in the book deals with the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda in which the Hutu killers fled en masse across the border to what was then Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). There, in Goma, huge refugee camps were assembled and served by an enormous array of international agencies, while back in Rwanda, where Tutsi corpses filled rivers and lakes, aid was not so focused. The world was looking for refugees, the symbol of human catastrophe, and the refugees were Hutus. This meant the militias that had committed the atrocities received food, shelter and support, courtesy of international appeals, while their surviving victims were left destitute. Worse still, Polman believes the aid enabled the Hutu extremists to continue their attempt to exterminate the Tutsis from the security of the UNHCR camps in Goma. "Without humanitarian aid," she writes, "the Hutus' war would almost certainly have ground to a halt fairly quickly."

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058636)

Why is it that slashdot goes so quickly to the patent side of things, yet so many people are not lawyers?

Anyway, I'm dubious. Why mess with a bulky, fragile, comparatively costly solar array? Is fire from wood not hot enough? Is it a matter of you'd have to supply a lot of wood?

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (1)

sodul (833177) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058656)

yes

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058798)

Why is it that slashdot goes so quickly to the patent side of things, yet so many people are not lawyers?

And since when has even the appearance of expertise in any given field been a criteria for posting? That's half the fun, chattering off about stuff that we know little about.

Anyway, I'm dubious. Why mess with a bulky, fragile, comparatively costly solar array? Is fire from wood not hot enough? Is it a matter of you'd have to supply a lot of wood?

The solar array, although bulky and fragile, is pretty low tech. Easy to copy with basically junk yard parts. Sterilization (especially of any quantity of stuff) is very energy intensive. Remember, you have to heat water to the vapor point under pressure - lots of calories involved in the phase change. And wood (or kerosene or charcoal or whatever) IS in short supply in many areas.

The idea behind this sort of device is to get people to do something they haven't been doing - sterilizing medical gear. There are many documented cases of transmission of AIDS, hepatitis and whatever infectious disease you want to mention by well intentioned but poorly trained and supported medical staff. Often the transmission comes from reuse of equipment. Much of the time, it's reuse of something designed to be thrown away (think plastic syringes). These are a real problem since they're cheap and can't be easily sterilized. Certainly you can't autoclave a plastic syringe (successfully). But even for reusable stuff, autoclaving often is a hangup. The sterilizers do use a fair amount of heat and they are often cranky of maintenance. I don't see the magic bullet in the TFA fixing this part of the equation, but it's a reasonable start to the power requirements.

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060016)

Why is it that slashdot goes so quickly to the patent side of things, yet so many people are not lawyers?

And since when has even the appearance of expertise in any given field been a criteria for posting? That's half the fun, chattering off about stuff that we know little about.

My issue was people who aren't lawyers, why is their first thought "OMG PATENTS!" instead of "wow, that's really interesting to me as a nerd." Talking outside your area of expertise is fine, I'd have been a hypocrite right there if that was my point.

Re:Help the world? Maybe... (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 3 years ago | (#36064396)

Because technical problems can be overcome but patents cannot, or not without inventing less efficient methods.

Why get involved in something if you aren't going to be able to use your work? Best to figure it out early.

hi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058166)

google [google.com]

Re:hi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058256)

Dead Nigger Storage Inc is a successful business founded in 1994 by Toluca Lake, Los Angeles resident Jimmie Dimmick, after a misunderstanding with two acquaintances from the local underworld. In an interview made in 2004 with Pulp Magazine, Dimmick stated that the idea for his business originally came from his dealings with a mysterious "Mr Wolfe" several years previously.

Dead Nigger Storage Inc is publicly traded on the Nasdaq stock market under the symbol DEDNIG.

Business Overview

The business focuses on a simple service provision as the basis for their corporate offering, namely the creation of storage facilities specially built to store dead and/or decaying afro-americans. With offices in Alabama; Elko, Nevada; Georgia; Louisiana; Palmdale, California; and South Carolina, Dead Nigger Storage Inc now has more branches throughout the Confederate States of America than both KFC and Big Kahuna Burgers combined.

Originally run from Jimmie and Bonnie Dimmick's garage, the business' growth rate within the first few months of operating forced them into a rethink. In 1998, the Dimmicks purchased Monster Joe's Truck and Tow in Downtown Los Angeles, which has remained their base of operations to this day.

With the catchy friendly slogan of "Storing Dead Niggers is our business" Dead Nigger Storage Inc remains a market leader at the forefront of ethnic minority storage, despite the recent upsurge in the market for companies such as Jews on Ice and the Cracker Barrel.

Very recently, Dead Nigger Storage Inc has expanded into a chain with several branches outside of the United States. Though each branch outside the USA are largely similar to their American counterparts, most customers note a handful of "little differences". For example, in America one can store a decapitated Nigerian. In the Paris branch, however, one stores un Nigirié guillotin. In general, dead niggers are still called dead niggers, but over there they're called les dead niggers and corpse sizes are measured differently because of the metric system.

In 1999 Detroit became the largest Dead Nigger Storage facility in the western hemisphere.

Traditional Methods of Storing Dead Niggers

“You know what they preserve dead niggers with in Holland instead of synthetic petroleum based chemical preservatives? Mayonnaise.”
~ Vincent Vega on storing Dead Niggers

Many individuals have struggled with the issue of dead nigger storage, including Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun who favoured the time-attested methodology of dry suspension, a technique that preserved by hanging them in carefully controlled environments for up to 21 days.

Other techniques utilised include smoking, often over specially constructed firepits or pyres. Although this often provides a more pleasurable flavour and aroma, it often led to a complete burning of the subject.

Pulverization is often utilised, either through the use of sticks, or in more extreme case through "dragging", a technique thought to include a pick-up truck. Another practice designed to aid tenderization is referred to as "curbstomping".

Dead Nigger Storage in Popular Culture

Dead Nigger Storage is subtly referenced in 14 separate Quentin Tarantino movies including Reservoir Dogs and the two Kill Bill films. The company also has numerous placements with Tarantino's latin lover Robert Rodriguez' movies, including The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl.

English Murder Mystery Writer Agatha Christie, referenced the company in perhaps her most famous work, Ten Dead Negroes made into the 1957 film The Only Good Injun is a Dead Injun. Perhaps her most famous reference remains the Hercule Poirot "quote" "Sacre bleu! C'est un morte negro, non?" in The Murder of Michael Donald.

One of the main accusations of racism aimed at George Lucas over his Star Wars franchise was his portrayal of certain species along stereotypical lines. Famously, in the scene when Jar Jar Binks is fatally wounded in the head whilst riding in the back seat of Mace Windu's landspeeder, a small sign can be seen in the background stating "Dead Gungan Storage".

Re:hi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058588)

Watch out. This is some goatse-inspired shit.

Sterilize the sunlight!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058176)

And some how I thought this had to do with Vampires.

For sterilizing stars? (0)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058188)

Or just our own?

Not solved just yet (5, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058248)

students... have solved...

No, they haven't. They have made some nice progress, and apparently have small-scale usage in Haiti, but I certainly wouldn't classify the problem as "solved". They still need to get the devices to where they're needed, which means shipping, mass manufacturing, establishing supply lines, and convincing somebody (corporation, government, investor, or otherwise) that this is a worthwhile idea.

Re:Not solved just yet (3, Insightful)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058294)

Also need to convince people that this is better and cheaper than a pressure cooker, liquid-fuel camp stove, and jerry-can of gasoline.

Re:Not solved just yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058872)

my thoughts exactly. This is far more complex than a pressure cooker and that nice shiny metal surface etc is not cheap.

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060056)

But this is solar! It uses the sun, which is a renewable resource! Surely doctors care more about a pollution-free environment than about their scarce money and office space, right?

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#36063628)

It's Haiti... think hard... there was some sort of disruption to their electrical and gas supply lines not too long ago, which coincided with a spike in the demand for medical procedures, and a lot of unsanitary procedures such as amputations were performed. This is not hypothetical. There actually are places where people cannot simply assume reliable energy sources all the time (and that isn't just a jab at California).

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066882)

Of course, but sticking 50 cans of fuel on a plane is cheaper and easier than 50 of these things. On a cloudy day, I can't assume these are reliable, either.

Just minor details (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058316)

students... have solved...

No, they haven't. They have made some nice progress, and apparently have small-scale usage in Haiti, but I certainly wouldn't classify the problem as "solved". They still need to get the devices to where they're needed, which means shipping, mass manufacturing, establishing supply lines, and convincing somebody (corporation, government, investor, or otherwise) that this is a worthwhile idea.

If it was possible to do all of the above for something non-essential like a laptop computer [laptop.org] , I'm pretty sure it can be done with a something that actually saves lives.

The major hurdle has been solved and the tings you mention are just minor details.

Re:Just minor details (3, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060042)

They're minor details that kill off a staggering number of projects. I'm also not convinced the OLPC is a success yet, and it's been almost four years. Only 2 million laptops have been distributed, at double the intended price point, to only a few countries. OLPC is certainly ferther along the path to success, but I don't think they're there just yet.

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

Co0Ps (1539395) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058372)

Obligatory XKCD: http://xkcd.com/678/ [xkcd.com] See row "5 years".

Similar to fusion power generation (1)

chebucto (992517) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058726)

All the theoretical problems have been worked out, we're sure to all have fusion generators soon. All that's left are the engineering problems. Then the business problems.

Easy, right?

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059374)

They also need to get the target population to use and maintain the device.

Re:Not solved just yet (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059932)

Yes, and even without those problems you still have to get people to use it. A few years ago the CSIRO here in Oz had a wonderfull idea for purifying water in third world counties, simply mix crushed charcoal and clay and make it into a pot. The pot is pourous so when you put water in it, it seaps through and is collected in a traditional water tight pot below. The invention filters out parasites, solids, and even bacteria.

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36059982)

What planet are you on? solving means finding an answer - which they did. Hello??? McFly??? Anybody home???

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36061560)

Ah, I always read Slashdot for these kind of negative remarks, with a large part of Slashdot backing them up. In a technical sense, they did solve the problem. Is it eating you up that somebody else is better than you or something? Are you doing anything except spewing negative remarks?

Each and every article about a new invention has the same remark about the invention not being ready. Sure, there is always some level of truth in the comments that point it out. But if everybody is modding up those remarks because they sound true, *do we really need those remarks*?

New idea: create a program that finds an article about a new invention, scans the article pointed to for the date of release, and creates an automatic remark. Development time: some 5 years.

Re:Not solved just yet (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36066854)

If only it were that simple. Hypothetically, let's assume all such remarks went unseen and unheard. Then, in the public eye, our energy problems are "solved" because fusion works, pollution problems are "solved" because of solar cells, world hunger is "solved" because of GM food crops, and world peace should be "solved" really soon now that Bin Laden is dead. Given that all those problems are solved, the only reason we don't have such miracles is must be... a global conspiracy, perhaps? I jest, of course, but those flying cars and jetpacks are just so awesome that something must be holding them back.

I don't intend to disparage the progress made by this team, or the benefit this invention could bring to the world. I do feel it is important to note that reaching a milestone does not "solve" a problem. I'd have no problem if the summary said the students had "made progress toward eliminating a huge health concern" or "helped the fight against a huge health concern", but I would like to reserve the term "solved" for when the problem is completely solved, including those pesky business concerns.

Prior work exists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058332)

MIT was doing this last November.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SAaHRpbjyg

Fire? (1, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058368)

Doesn't fire sterilize just fine? They have fire.

And, for plastic items, fire can be used to boil water to sterilize those.

Re:Fire? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058488)

If boiling water sterilized well enough for this, the autoclave would never have been invented. And fire may sterilize the outside of something (a needle, for example) but actual surgical implements are a bit tricky to sterilize that way because they have hinges, springs and other things that fire may play havoc with.

The problem they are working on is a very genuine one.

Re:Fire? (5, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058516)

Meh, fire doesn't sterilize that well, and heat can do Bad Things to metal at temperatures high enough to guarantee sterilization.

As for water, it's not good for rough surfaces (where pockets of infection can easily remain at a lower temperature) and a temperature of 100'C is way too low to kill the really nasty viruses. It's not even hot enough to be that good against some bacteria.

I'll agree that it's much better than nothing at all. However, even your standard autoclave [wikipedia.org] is pretty naff at dealing with the full range of items used in medical facilities, which is why MRSA is so problematic.

There's also the issue of Strain 121 [wikipedia.org] . It's not listed (as far as I know) as harmful to humans, but the mere fact that a hyperthermophile exists at all is a concern. It means that we will run into harmful bacteria that autoclaves are incapable of stopping.

Re:Fire? (2)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058888)

Does Strain 121 survive outside of extreme heat?

Re:Fire? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065038)

It can survive the cold (as in room temp), but It does not GROW outside of that heat. It requires high heat to allow its thin membrane to be fluid.

Re:Fire? (1)

beckett (27524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059158)

Strain 121 is Archaea, not Bacteria.

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36060374)

Which viruses aren't killed by 100'C?

Re:Fire? (2)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060480)

It's doubtful any of them (barring a handful of very fragile viruses) are "killed" at 100'C (if, by "killed" you mean deactivated beyond any possibility of recovery, since viruses aren't actually alive to begin with). It's far too low a temperature to do much damage. The most you can hope for is to "denature" the protein coating. However, that's reversible (see all articles on how to unboil eggs for details). It also doesn't affect all proteins. Prions are misshapen proteins and the prions that cause vCJD can endure 134'C [google.com] (and reportedly even higher temperatures [rense.com] ). Clearly, any relatively stable RNA strand protected by a protein that will not denature isn't going to be easy to deactivate even temporarily.

Even when you can stun a virus when it's free-floating, you're out of luck if it's a retrovirus and the cell it had embedded itself into is a thermophile. Since there are cells that can survive 130'C, all retroviruses that infect such cells (including "fossil" viruses that are normally inactive in the cell but which can be reactivated under the right conditions) can also survive 130'C.

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36060644)

What you've written appears to contradict all of the research I've read on these issues(but I'm no expert on these matters.) Here are some peer-reviewed studies that seem to disagree with your claims:

"One dangerous pathogen, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be deactivated by heating sera at 56 degrees C for 30 minutes." - Effect of heating human sera at a temperature necessary to deactivate human immunodeficiency virus on measurement of free phenytoin, free valproic acid, and free carbamazepine concentrations. PMID: 10442696.

"A period of 15 min warming up to 65 degrees C had already completely inactivated representatives of nine virus families, ie, poxvirus (vaccinia), picornavirus (encephalomyocarditis virus), togavirus (sindbis virus), coronavirus (mouse hepatitis virus), orthomyxovirus (influenza virus), rhabdovirus (vesicular stomatitis virus), herpes virus (cytomegalovirus), lentivirus (human immunodeficiency virus), and retrovirus (murine leukemia virus)." - Inactivation of 12 viruses by heating steps applied during manufacture of a hepatitis B vaccine. PMID: 2828525.

Re:Fire? (1)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065268)

HIV is notoriously fragile. It's impressive it doesn't fall apart when a victim sneezes. This is a good thing, because if it could survive under a wider range of conditions we'd be in far worse trouble.

15 min warming at 65'C indicates that the researchers are talking about colagulation of the protein in at least some of the cases. Since colagulation is reversible, I would require firm evidence that decolagulation doesn't revive the virus. If it does, then the heating does not kill the virus, it merely puts it into a possibly temporary state where it is not harmful. If the conditions needed for decolagulation can arise in the production of a vaccine, in transit or in the human body, impermanent deactivation would give you live virus. The problem, of course, is that a vaccine is only useful if it can train the immune system into responding to an actual attack. If you damage the virus too much, the body will learn nothing.

Going back to the example of HIV, we can see that inactivation isn't all it is cracked up to be - HIV is notorious for re-activating itself after being deactivated, which is why vaccines have proven so very difficult to produce. Clearly, if HIV can reactivate itself, many existing deactivation techniques must be reversible by one mechanism or another. It makes no difference how HIV performs the reversal, what matters is that a biochemical process exists that would permit a supposedly inactive virus to become wholly active. And if it's reversible, even if the virus can't do it itself, then the virus isn't dead.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't get vaccines. Clearly, reactivation is sufficiently rare that the chances of harm from existing vaccines are not meaningful. My issue is not with the vaccines but with the claim that the virus is dead. In some cases, it will indeed be dead. The DNA or RNA may be damaged in some way that still permits the human immune system to learn but makes reactivation impossible. Corruption of the epigenome could have the same result. In cases where the protein coating has to have very specific qualities that can't be restored by unbinding water molecules or other trivial transforms, you again can treat the virus as dead.

Retroviruses are likely to be the big nasties, as they interact directly with cellular DNA rather than hijack other cell mechanisms. This means that deactivating the free virus form will only take you so far. If any cell infected by the virus survives, the virus won't be affected no matter how well the free-floating form has been stopped. Worse, the free-floating form won't need anything complicated outside of the DNA/RNA core to be able to infect a cell. Complicated mechanisms tend to be much easier to break than simple ones. We know from "fossil" viruses in the human genome being reactivated that once a cell has been contaminated, a virus can remain reactivatable so long as the cell survives. And, as shown, there are cells that can survive some amazing conditions.

Now, it is certainly true that there are exceedingly few retroviruses that can jump species and none that I know of that can attack both extremophiles and humans. Well, not naturally, though it's very likely some idiot of a geneticist will eventually figure out a way to embed a human retrovirus into an extremophile. That's not likely to happen in the near future, though. I'm much more concerned with the fact that there are a-priori assumptions being made about viruses where there is strong evidence that these assumptions are not only unfounded but definitively false except in special cases.

The virologists are likely far more aware than I am of all the nuances and implications, and have likely been designing experiments, tests and equipment accordingly. The did, after all, spot the reactivation of HIV rather than assume it wouldn't happen. It's the doctors who, quite frankly, have much less knowledge on such subjects and very high pressures on time and budgets, that are a concern. They're going to cut corners. We already know they do. Nurses have even greater pressures and cut even more corners as a result, which is why there are as many accidental deaths in even the best-run hospitals as there are.

It's unclear how many accidental deaths are the result of accidental virus contamination, be it viruses not properly deactivated or which are accidentally reactivated by one means or another. Of those, it's also unclear how many are due to the procedures and hardware being inadequate under the conditions they are being used versus corner-cutting resulting in improper use that would leave live viruses no matter what you used. Without actual numbers to crunch, it becomes guesswork. Hospitals don't release those kinds of numbers, but whether it's through reluctance (understandable, though not terribly professional), a failure to identify cases, or a failure to record those that are identified - well, that's anyone's guess.

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36068012)

You may know a lot more about some of these issues than I do; I'm just an interested layman. As far as "killing" a virus, I was referring to completely eradicating virus infectivity, since this is obviously the main aim of most autoclaving.

I've never heard of reactivation of viruses occurring following even low-temperature inactivating heat treatments(e.g. pasteurization.) Can you point me to any peer-reviewed information that shows that such reactivation is a real(rather theoretical) problem? I'd like to know if this is a real risk, because everything I've read so far makes no reference to it.

Here's a further example, studying the effectiveness of pasteurizing HIV-infected human breastmilk with the aim of making it safe for feeding to babies:

"The inoculated milk was pasteurized at 62.5 degrees C for 30 minutes in a water bath, i.e., conditions currently in use or proposed for human milk pasteurization. The process of HIV-1 inoculation and pasteurization effectively inactivated the infectivity of both cell-free HIV-1 and HIV-1-infected cells. No virus was recovered after the process, even after repeated subculturing in attempts to rescue the virus." -
Inactivation of human immunodeficiency virus type I in human milk: effects of intrinsic factors in human milk and of pasteurization. PMID: 8489717

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36061844)

What you've written appears to contradict all of the research I've read on these issues(but I'm no expert on these matters.) Here are some peer-reviewed studies that seem to disagree with your claims:

"One dangerous pathogen, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), can be deactivated by heating sera at 56 degrees C for 30 minutes." - Effect of heating human sera at a temperature necessary to deactivate human immunodeficiency virus on measurement of free phenytoin, free valproic acid, and free carbamazepine concentrations. PMID: 10442696

"A period of 15 min warming up to 65 degrees C had already completely inactivated representatives of nine virus families, ie, poxvirus (vaccinia), picornavirus (encephalomyocarditis virus), togavirus (sindbis virus), coronavirus (mouse hepatitis virus), orthomyxovirus (influenza virus), rhabdovirus (vesicular stomatitis virus), herpes virus (cytomegalovirus), lentivirus (human immunodeficiency virus), and retrovirus (murine leukemia virus)." - Inactivation of 12 viruses by heating steps applied during manufacture of a hepatitis B vaccine. PMID: 2828525

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36062290)

From the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), part of the FDA:

"Viruses are not heat resistant, with most having resistance similar to non-spore forming bacteria. Hepatitis A virus is somewhat more resistant, but is still inactivated at 185F (85C)." - Microbiology of Commercially Sterile and Shelf-Stable Products

Re:Fire? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36063086)

121 is a red herring. It can only grow in high temps. It dies in room temp. Had to be grown in a autoclave.

Re:Fire? (3, Insightful)

Jessified (1150003) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058642)

I think fire would leave carbon on the instruments. Boiling at atmospheric pressure is insufficient (100 C is insufficient for sterilization).

From Wikipedia: "To achieve sterility, a holding time of at least 15 minutes at 121 C (250 F) or 3 minutes at 134 C (273 F) is required."
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Sterilization_(microbiology) [wikimedia.org]

The numbers vary by method, but I think the principle remains. Many pathogens have spore forms which are incredibly heat resistant.

Re:Fire? (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058686)

Doesn't fire sterilize just fine? They have fire.

And, for plastic items, fire can be used to boil water to sterilize those.

We're not removing slivers. We're talking about internal medicine.

Re:Fire? (1, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059242)

Doesn't fire sterilize just fine? They have fire.

And, for plastic items, fire can be used to boil water to sterilize those.

That's probably a better starting point than this idea.

My complaint about this (and a number of other 'developing world' technologies) is that they try to solve the entire puzzle all at once. And that usually requires a degree of cleverness. That cleverness usually requires either custom components or a particular environment in which to work. Which makes it effectively useless.

The problem here is that people seems to be conflating 'hot' with 'sunny'. It's a common misconception that, because the poorest nations in the world tend to cluster around the equator, they mus all be sunny. They're not.

If I had a single piece of advice to offer well-intended people trying to develop tech for the developing world, I'd say this: Focus on reducing power consumption. Don't get clever, just make it run on 12V DC. Don't worry about where the power is going to come from. If we have to, we'll buy batteries. And please, above all, try to avoid making life-saving equipment that doesn't work during hurricane season!

No Access? (0)

stms (1132653) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058396)

You mean there are places in the world that haven't figured out how to boil water?

Re:No Access? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058682)

As others have pointed out in other threads, boiling water is largely ineffective for sterilization of surgical tools. It isn't hot enough to kill the really dangerous stuff.

Remember the clockwork radio (3, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058450)

Yes, the invention that UK and US companies scoffed at, the SA government funded, and has now made the inventor a multi-millionaire.

Why mention that? Because this invention - if it is to succeed - will have to follow a similar path. There's no way on Earth that companies selling highly expensive sterilization systems will want to add a cheap alternative to their sales brochure. And the only way this invention will get refined to the point of being practical and widely distributed is with serious cash - which means a large corporation (see above) or a government providing the seed money.

Having said that, they have to battle inertia. UV lamps can sterilize hospital rooms that have MRSA contamination quickly and easily, but much more expensive and dramatic methods are typically used (largely because they're expensive, dramatic and involve machines that go bing). Inertia is a serious problem in the medical profession. There's good reason for being conservative - you don't want to do more harm than good - but there's plenty of cases where that's merely a pretext for delaying change.

Re:Remember the clockwork radio (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058690)

There's no way on Earth that companies selling highly expensive sterilization systems will want to add a cheap alternative to their sales brochure.

This sort of attitude misses the actual problem.

Companies could add this to their catalog precisely because it *isn't* a cheap alternative. If it were, someone could make some money selling it. But the problem is the developed world-market for current sterilization systems would never migrate to this--why replace a system that works consistently with one that can't run overnight, is slow on cloudy days, and (since it needs direct access to sunlight) would require re-engineering physical facilities? Can you seriously see this at a hospital? Or even a standard GP's office?

No, the problem is that this solution only helps people without money. If it helped everyone, they could benefit from us wealthier people paying the fixed costs to get this going.

Re:Remember the clockwork radio (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058802)

I only wish I could buy the ruggedized one with the detachable solar panel :(

Re:Remember the clockwork radio (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059080)

Agreed. Another example is the portable Ultrasound and MRI units. Hospitals have spent millions upon millions for the large systems and will avoid them like the plague because they still want to recoup their investments and pass that onto the patient. Instead of reducing the cost of medical services, for-profit health care is for exploiting the system.

Solar steam hotplate powers autoclave (5, Informative)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058502)

It's a solar powered hotplate that uses steam. It has a commercial autoclave sitting on the hotplate.

They didn't invent a sterilizer, they invented a way to power existing ones.

Re:Solar steam hotplate powers autoclave (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058582)

How is this better than a pot over a fire?

I saw some years back another disinfection method, using a plastic bottle on a black or reflective surface, let it in the sun half a day and the UV's kill off all bacteria.

Re:Solar steam hotplate powers autoclave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058708)

Wood (or other fuel for fire) is problematical in many places.

Re:Solar steam hotplate powers autoclave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058952)

harder to come by than it is to maintain a perfect finish on a large, curved, reflective surface?

Another one that never learned to wipe (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059382)

Yes. Perfection is incredibly easy in some cases. It's not an optical instrument so it's still perfect with fingerprints, specks of dust etc.

Re:Solar steam hotplate powers autoclave (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058976)

Basically it's the same thing I made out of cardboard and aluminum foil when I was 8 to cook hotdogs, based on plans out of Odyssey magazine.

solar stterilizer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36058660)

I didn't know that the sun needed to be sterilized

This is new... how??? (5, Insightful)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36058786)

I am sorry but I am getting really sick of reading about all these students at prestigious universities who do nothing more than re-purpose existing technology, give it a fancy name, say it will solve some problem for the underdeveloped world, and get international accolades for doing the technological equivalent of buying a paper off the internet and putting their name on it.

Every single piece of this "revolutionary" "invention" can be bought off the shelf and is in current use. The main difference between an autoclave and a standard pressure cooker is that the autoclave is guaranteed to get up to the proper temperature and pressure and then stay there for the specified period of time. Considering that this contraption must be hand adjusted, and it requires at least an hour just to get up to temp, and then it has to stay at that temp for around an hour - being constantly adjusted all the time - there is no guarantee whatsoever that the instruments will actually be sterilized. If the operator gets distracted for a while then all you get is a bunch of hot - but still infectious - instruments.

Sure, if these students built every single piece of their solar steam generator by hand, it would be a good exercise - akin to an art student copying an old master - but that is all. If I was their professor and they tried to pass this off as their own creation I would have failed them and turned them in for plagiarism.

Re:This is new... how??? (2, Insightful)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059164)

If these things are such no-brainers, then why haven't they been developed previously? The 'obviousness' AFTER THE FACT of these solutions has no bearing on either the creativity, ingenuity, and skill that went into them, nor on their value.

Technology builds upon itself. Most of our technological advancements today come from people who "re-purpose existing technology". I design hardware for a living; I re-purpose existing electronic components in useful, and often novel, ways to create devices that meet a client's needs. A programmer 're-purposes' an existing language, and a set of existing libraries, to create a new and useful application. Mark Shuttleworth takes Linux and Gnome, and re-purposes them to make Ubuntu. (No 'Unity' comments please...). ALL of these, including "these students at prestigious universities who do nothing more than re-purpose existing technology" constitute acts of transformation, not of 'plagiarism'.

Re:This is new... how??? (2, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059308)

If these things are such no-brainers, then why haven't they been developed previously? The 'obviousness' AFTER THE FACT of these solutions has no bearing on either the creativity, ingenuity, and skill that went into them, nor on their value.

Without taking away from your argument - it's perfectly valid - I'd suggest to you that the main reason for lack of development in what's often called Appropriate Technology is that, for the most part, most of the people involved are against new technological approaches, especially those that challenge their own ability to draw a salary.

I've experienced first-hand situations where donors would rather spend a half million dollars on a project that's fraught with predictable, inevitable problems than spend twenty thousand on something new. In every case, it's because there's no Advisor salary attached to the latter. Rhetoric aside, most development agencies have a neo-colonial bias that simply assumes that aid workers are better suited to solving problems than the people who are living them. The real answer is usually somewhere in the middle, but the structures of development aid are such that it's nigh on impossible to actually do good.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36064816)

jenningsthecat,

I'll take your argument one piece at a time:

I did not say "These things" are "no-brainers" - with the implication that a solution to the problem of sterilization was obvious or easy. Naturally, if that were the case then, as you say, there wouldn't be a problem to be solved.

What I said was that the solution being passed off as "revolutionary" is nothing more than plunking an existing piece of equipment down on a source of heat. Exactly what the existing piece of equipment was designed for in the first place. This does not meet the definition of an "invention" by any means. An invention - when made of existing components - must produce a new and unexpected result. Placing an existing device, designed to be heated, down on a hot-plate and having that device get hot, is not a new or unexpected result. Your argument about the obviousness of this "invention" being apparent only "after the fact" is misguided at best. But it is definitely moot.

Next you engage in the "fallacy of equivocation." You use two different definitions for the term "re-purpose." The first definition - the one I used - is to take an existing piece of equipment with an existing function and simply make a claim that it can be used in a different environment - the cause de jour - and stake a claim to a "revolutionary" "invention." Your definition - stretched at best - is the use of existing components to make a new device that does, in fact, produce a new and unexpected result. This definition more correctly fits the term "invention" (as defined by the USPTO) than the term "re-purpose," (as I used it) which patent law specifically says is not an invention.

The fallacy in your equivocation is even more evident in your claim that programmers "re-purpose" computer languages. In fact, programmers use computer languages for exactly what they were designed for: to write programs. The language is a tool not a component. Just because a saw is used to cut a board for a different house does not mean the saw has been "re-purposed." Anyone who claims so is confused at best and disingenuous at worst.

Your claim that Ubuntu is nothing more than slapping Gnome on top of Linux in the same manner that these students just slapped an existing autoclave on top of a different - yet currently existing - source of heat is either an insult to the Ubuntu team or exhibits a complete lack of understanding of what makes a Linux distribution successful. The Ubuntu team put years into writing and re-writing installers along with other custom code and modifications to layer on top of Gnome and Linux. These customizations made Ubuntu relatively unique among Linux distributions in that it was easy to install and use for a much larger segment of the regular populace than previous Linux distributions. If all they had done was slap Gnome on top of Linux then you would never have heard about it - that is, unless it was done at a prestigious university with a good PR department.

So, perhaps I should have been less concise and more precise in my choice of words. Perhaps I should have defined my use of the term "re-purpose" to mean "taking something that already exists in its entirety and claiming it can be used in a slightly different situation." But my point still stands. What these Rice students did is not new or novel in any way.

In addition, these students did not even solve the stated problem. The problem with sterilization in underdeveloped countries is not that they do not have a source of heat. The problem is that functioning autoclaves are A) Too expensive for distribution in all the places where they are needed; B) May not be durable enough to withstand the rigors of use in remote areas; and C) Require special tools, skills, and parts to maintain and repair which are not likely to be available in remote areas of underdeveloped countries. Simply plopping an off-the-shelf autoclave down onto a different source of heat does not solve any of these problems. In fact, it exacerbates them. This contraption now is even more expensive, has more to break, and requires more care to ensure the correct temperatures are maintained throughout the cycle to guarantee proper sterilization.

Oh yeah, as TFA (The Flimsy Article) states, the Capteur Soleil was invented decades ago, as were steam tables for heating food. Simply connecting one to another is not a revolutionary invention either.

Finally, I did not claim that all inventions by all students at all prestigious universities are worthless. Just that I have been seeing a rash of overreaching claims of "revolutionary" and "will solve a dire problem for the cause de jour" occurring lately, and that it seems to be perpetrated primarily by prestigious universities. This is Rice University for crying out loud, not the Special Olympics. Not everyone can be a winner and they should have higher expectations for those who are called such.

Re:This is new... how??? (1, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065246)

jenningsthecat,

In addition, these students did not even solve the stated problem.

Fellow Rice senior MechE student here. And actually, they exactly solved the stated problem. Here are some quotes from the document explaining the project we were given when picking senior projects at the beginning of last semester:

"Problem: To come up with an appropriate design that can link a simple autoclave (shown below) to the a solarthermal device called the capteur soleil"

...

"The capteur soleil can provide thermal power but has not been coupled with an autoclave. The goal of this project is to achieve such a coupling. To do this, they will have to experiment with pressurized lines (like the tube which goes from the capteur to the device... in this case the autoclave). They will have to work with some sort of coil (we have several prototypes for inspection) to transfer thermal energy to the autoclave. They also may need to consider some sort of containment system for the autoclave (for cooking, another of our applications, we use the plastic drum with towels as the insulation)."

You, as some sort of software developer I'm guessing, felt quite insulted when someone insinuated that Gnome + Linux = Ubuntu was child's play. You felt it trivialized the work of a team who spent countless hours modifying code to create a simple, easily-replicated system that nearly anyone could use.

Likewise, as an engineer, your ignorance of the difficulties of coupling and interface design insult me. If it were so easy, the entire discipline of systems engineering wouldn't exist. This wasn't just putting an autoclave on a hotplate. It was a year of tireless work to create a coupling system that would be easy to install, would transfer heat effectively enough to provide sterilization even under thick cloud cover, and wouldn't fall to pieces the first time someone kicked it.

You know, this is the second post I've made here on Slashdot. The previous one was defending another Rice senior design project against people claiming it was nothing new, a trivial redesign, etc. So I hope you'll forgive me if I seem a bit annoyed when I say this: seriously, guys, we know what we're doing. If you spot something in an article that looks like a glaring hole in an engineering design, it's probably because the reporter doesn't know enough to include it, and not because we're retarded.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065726)

The problem is not what the students did. Nor the exercise the prof assigned them. Both were good.

It's the hype that was applied to it by the university media types.

It's a fine job of fullfilling a design project. It could be useful in some situations. But saying it's "solved" the third world medical sterilization problem is a bit of a reach.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36065958)

Antipater,

So, the students solved the problem stated in their assignment. I was not commenting on their ability to do their assigned engineering task. I was commenting on the article - linked to in this Slashdot post - claiming that the combination was revolutionary in some way or that it actually solved the problem of sterilizing instruments in remote areas of underdeveloped countries.

Actually, I am not a software developer. I am a former network manager. And I did not feel insulted that someone "insinuated that Gnome + Linux = Ubuntu was child's play." My claim was that Gnome + Linux does not equal Ubuntu at all. My complaint was about comparing something that takes a great deal of integration skill with something that requires nothing more than setting thing A down on top of thing B. Remember, software, by its nature is "easily replicable" in that one can easily and cheaply make copies. In the case of Ubuntu, it is also actually legal to do so. However, it is not "easily replicable" in terms of creating a new piece of software from scratch that does the same thing. Especially if one has not seen the code for the previously existing software. Ask Linus Torvolds.

This project, on the other hand, seems to be exactly the opposite. It would be easy for anyone else to take an autoclave and set it down on to a stovetop which got it's heat from some other source. However, building the device from scratch - even from existing plans - is relatively difficult. Keep in mind, I did not have access to the original assignment given to the students. Nor would anyone else had you not posted them here. My comments were based on what was written in TFA, to whit: "the Rice team's big idea was to use the steam to heat a custom-designed conductive hotplate" and "It basically becomes a stovetop, and you can heat anything you need to," thus indicating that the autoclave was simply sat down on top of said hotplate.

I should be insulted by your assumption of my ignorance as to the "difficulties of coupling and interface design" but I am not, because I know you are young and do not know better. I know full well the mathematical and mechanical difficulties involved with connecting high pressure steam pipes and achieving efficient heat transfer without leaking any of the possibly-toxin-contaminated steam into the sterile environment of an autoclave. Not to mention the craftsmanship required to actually execute such designs by hand. It is just that none of these problems were discussed in the article. The difficulties you expressed are exactly why I don't think it is a good idea to expect people in remote areas of underdeveloped countries to be able to affect repairs when necessary. Not because they are ignorant, but because they are not likely to have the necessary resources readily available. Besides, achieving an efficient heat transfer, while it may be a difficult engineering task for students, is still not the equivalent of a "revolutionary invention" that will solve a "a long-standing health issue for developing countries."

So it seems we all have a common "frenemy" as it were: the PR department at Rice. Not only are they assigning credit where credit is not due, but they are also making students look bad while doing so. Perhaps you need to talk to them about that.

Finally, I want to apologize to these students once again for assuming they were the ones making these overblown claims. In the future I will remember to turn first to the author of said overblown claims when expressing my frustration with the frequency of same.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

beckett (27524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059252)

It's a hack, so it's interesting to someone. It might spark inspiration to rethink both solar conversion and sterilization technology. In larger context, the announcement also raises awareness of the problem of obtaining aseptic conditions in developing countries. Since the hack involves some off-the-shelf stuff, it's easy to start looking at practical applications or to scale-up immediately.

I like thinking like this, and not just from students. I wouldn't have failed them if i was their professor, i would have given kudos for a first try, but see if they could do better.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059272)

Every single piece of this "revolutionary" "invention" can be bought off the shelf and is in current use.

Sure, but that's actually one of the few positive aspects to this story. Using generic parts of a kind you can find in the local hardware store is a Good Thing.

I just wish they'd thought about it long enough to realise that in the Caribbean (and the South Pacific, where I live) the most likely disaster scenario is hurricane- or volcano-related. There's not usually a lot of sunlight during such times.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36064876)

Using generic parts of a kind you can find in the local hardware store is a Good Thing.

Pardon me, but an autoclave is not a generic part that can be picked up at the local hardware store. Besides, remote areas of underdeveloped countries do not have hardware stores. So claiming anything that requires parts from YOUR local hardware store is suitable for people who have never seen a hardware store shows a complete lack of empathy for the problems of the people who make up a large part of the world's population.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

grcumb (781340) | more than 3 years ago | (#36068394)

Using generic parts of a kind you can find in the local hardware store is a Good Thing.

Pardon me, but an autoclave is not a generic part that can be picked up at the local hardware store. Besides, remote areas of underdeveloped countries do not have hardware stores. So claiming anything that requires parts from YOUR local hardware store is suitable for people who have never seen a hardware store shows a complete lack of empathy for the problems of the people who make up a large part of the world's population.

Dude, chill. The problems we're discussing affect about 85% of the population of the country I live in right now.

To your points: First, that 'people who have never seen a hardware store' line is a little disingenuous. We're obviously using shorthand for generic consumer-grade materials that are readily available via standard distribution channels. Yes, there is no hardware store in the village to which these parts are destined, but it's a damn sight easier to get generic parts shipped from the nearest city (no matter how far away that might be) than it is to get a medical supply company to ship to the same place.

Second, the whole point about making an autoclave (or any other needful thing) out of generic, readily-available materials is that they are otherwise extremely difficult to source, operate, maintain and replace.

Sometimes, holding out for optimal conditions or equipment is just plain wrong. In many cases, just having something -anything at all- is often better than nothing. A friend of mine has had to perform emergency surgical procedures by the light of a Coleman lamp, so I suspect that having a quick and dirty (sorry) way of sterilising surgical materials when there's no diesel for the generator would be seen as a Good Thing, provided it worked.

The problem I have with a solar-powered version is that, in my part of the world at least, the sun is not around much at precisely the time of year when disaster is most likely to happen (i.e hurricane season). Also, it's night about half the time. If someone could find a way, for example, to heat an autoclave with a truck battery, I'd be a lot more sanguine about the prospect.

I may be mistaken or just plain wrong about how an autoclave should function, but please don't make assumptions about my experience with this kind of thing. The repercussions of a non-functioning health system is something I and my family deal with [imagicity.com] all the time.

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36068924)

Using generic parts of a kind you can find in the local hardware store is a Good Thing.

Pardon me, but an autoclave is not a generic part that can be picked up at the local hardware store. Besides, remote areas of underdeveloped countries do not have hardware stores. So claiming anything that requires parts from YOUR local hardware store is suitable for people who have never seen a hardware store shows a complete lack of empathy for the problems of the people who make up a large part of the world's population.

Dude, chill. The problems we're discussing affect about 85% of the population of the country I live in right now.

Which is exactly why you should be paying more attention to what is actually claimed in some of these arguments. I say thing A and people keep arguing about thing B, which distracts from the actual facts of this issue. Rice University's PR claimed their students had "invented" a "revolutionary" solution to the problem of sterilization of medical instruments when they had, in fact done nothing of the sort. While it may be a good thing to design useful devices such that they can be made out of commonly available parts, this is not, repeat NOT, what these students did. Based on the article which triggered my complaint, the students simply sat an existing autoclave - likely normally only available from a medical supply house - down onto a steam powered hot-plate. As it turns out this is not what they did. Instead they created a custom designed and manufactured coupling along with some heat transfer coils to apply high-temp, high-pressure steam to an existing autoclave - again, likely normally only available from a medical supply house. A tough student engineering project, but still not a revolutionary invention.

What has me completely flummoxed is why every time I reiterate this point someone chimes in and says that some other thing that has no bearing on this issue is a good thing and therefore I am wrong to state that the students did not invent anything new. I say "Thing A is not a new invention" and people respond with "But Thing B is good" even when Thing B has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. I agree, Thing B is a good thing. But neither I nor the Rice students said or did anything remotely near Thing B and that is one of the reasons why Thing A is not such a great thing after all.

To your points: First, that 'people who have never seen a hardware store' line is a little disingenuous.

While I may have been generalizing some and some in these areas may have reason to feel insulted - to which I apologize - I can't see how you could claim I am being "disingenuous." The word means to intentionally mislead in a subtle manner, not to simply be wrong.

We're obviously using shorthand for generic consumer-grade materials that are readily available via standard distribution channels. Yes, there is no hardware store in the village to which these parts are destined, but it's a damn sight easier to get generic parts shipped from the nearest city (no matter how far away that might be) than it is to get a medical supply company to ship to the same place.

Actually, I was responding to a single individual. He/she spoke of a local hardware store. I was trying to get him/her to see that it is more difficult to get repair parts than he/she may think. In addition, the parts designed by the Rice students cannot be obtained anywhere. They were custom machined. And, from other comments, it seems it took quite a long time to make them. So, while it is important that parts for any solution to the sterilization problem should be readily available - just as you said - neither the article under discussion, nor the actual project inaccurately described in that article, did much of anything to make said parts less expensive or more readily available.

Second, the whole point about making an autoclave (or any other needful thing) out of generic, readily-available materials is that they are otherwise extremely difficult to source, operate, maintain and replace.

At what point did I argue against making needful things out of generic, readily available materials? My whole point here is that the Rice students DID NOT make the autoclave out of anything. They just took a standard, off-the-shelf, "FDA approved" autoclave and modified it. And for crying out loud, people, an off-the-shelf autoclave is not the same thing as some off-the-shelf components from a hardware store - local or mail order. An autoclave costs a lot of money - anywhere from $500 for a cheap unit to thousands of dollars for better ones - all of which are electric. If the Rice students had, in fact, designed an autoclave that could be made inexpensively, from readily-available parts, and was reliable, then that really would have been something. That would truly have been a "revolutionary invention." But they didn't do that.

Sometimes, holding out for optimal conditions or equipment is just plain wrong. In many cases, just having something -anything at all- is often better than nothing. A friend of mine has had to perform emergency surgical procedures by the light of a Coleman lamp, so I suspect that having a quick and dirty (sorry) way of sterilising surgical materials when there's no diesel for the generator would be seen as a Good Thing, provided it worked.

At what point did I argue that we should hold out for optimal conditions or any conditions at all? I know I am going way off the deep end of the pedantic pool by now, but this is ridiculous. Are you sure you are replying to the correct message? Every single one of your points are arguing against something I did not say or even allude to. And, for some reason, you seem to be supporting the very people who have shown that they do not understand the true nature of your problem. It boggles the mind.

If you are truly in search of "something -anything at all" which can be used to sterilize instruments and is readily-available, then look for a used pressure cooker. They aren't FDA approved for sterilization of medical instruments but they have been used for decades to sterilize food in jars well enough to last years without any bacteria growing at all. They can be heated using any source of heat that reaches the required temperature. If your instruments aren't plastic then go ahead and heat them to a much higher temperature for a longer time just to be extra sure. Heck, if you want, I can probably pick one up at the local thrift store for around $5 (US) and ship it to you for nothing. In fact, what might be a better and cheaper - though less hype worthy - solution might be to start a campaign where people in developed countries go searching through their local thrift stores for pressure cookers and ship them to areas that need them. Since you obviously have access to the internet, why don't you get started on that right away. I will be your first donor.

P.S. Just because I am careful and thorough in my statements and am rather intolerant of those who make bogus arguments against things that weren't said or done, does not mean I need to chill. As you said, this is an important issue. It deserves better than to have some lame PR person at some high-falutin' university claim that the problem is all solved just so they can get some more grant money or applicants for their school. Chilling and just sitting by while people make a hatchet-job of the whole issue isn't going to help anything.

Probably not very hard to automate (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059416)

There's one guy that made a sun tracking device for his solar reflector using the electronics and motor of a floppy disk drive. A control system for this autoclave probably wouldn't be very difficult and isn't likely to draw much power even if you have a stepping motor moving a small dish. That complicates things but still doesn't move it beyond the realm of student projects.

Re:This is new... how??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36063842)

That is the Rice media department doing that. I know the kids who made this and they have no misconceptions. It is a mechanical engineering senior design project, and they spent a lot of time designing and machining heat transfer components. It wasn't trivial work and its also not as revolutionary as Rice media makes you think it is (also the guy who invented the Capteur Solei is full of himself).

Re:This is new... how??? (1)

GrantRobertson (973370) | more than 3 years ago | (#36064926)

So it was an engineering task? Well, then I apologize to the students for asserting that they were making this claim. But the claim is baseless, none-the-less.

"Developing" countries... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36059060)

...sure... and how LONG will they be "developing" for? i.e. how long will it take them to reach European (white) standards? Why can't Africans produce these sorts of things themselves? 'Poverty'. 'Racism'. 'The legacy of slavery'. 'Colonialism'. yadda yadda yadda.

Looks awful big and clumsy (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36059514)

I bet you that a fresnel lens [youtube.com] would work a lot better and is more durable, portable, etc, and probably cheaper

Re:Looks awful big and clumsy (1)

maxwells_deamon (221474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36060450)

Unless you need to autoclave something large, a solar funnel cooker will do the trick. http://www.outdoorcook.com/article1051.php [outdoorcook.com] This will melt HDPE (375 F melting point) plastic to the metal jar top if it touches it.

Or use a Cookit solar cooker and an oven themometer. Put your stuff in a cast iron skillet and come back in an hour and check the temperature. Use pot holders unless you want 2nd degree burns.

Both of these cookers can be carried in a back pack. It is fun to watch the face of someone when you pour water on parts of these solar cookers and the water boils off with a loud noise. The solar cooker they make in highschool are toys and take a lot more work and skill than these.

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