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Science Fiction becomes RealityThe must-read summary of “The Body Builder: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human” by Adam Piore. This complete summary of Adam Piore’s book explores the science which can be used to reverse engineer, rebuild, augment, and enhance the human body and mind: The bionic man who builds bionic people The scientists who decode the genome and rewrite it People who have regrown parts of their finger and legs The blind woman who can see with her ears Soldiers with spidey sense Doctors trying to give mute patients the ability to communicate telepathically The race to create “Viagra for the brain” Neurosurgeons trying to fix the circuits in your brain Scientists trying to augment human brains with creativityThis guide includes: Book Summary—The summary helps you understand the key ideas and recommendations. Online Videos—On-demand replay of public lectures, and seminars on the topics covered in the chapter.Value-added of this guide: Save time Understand key concepts quickly Expand your knowledgeRead this summary and you’ll have a lot of talk about many of the topics in this book.
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Books by Lee Tang
Part I: Moving
1. The Bionic Man Who Builds Bionic People: Replicating the Way We Move
2. The Birth of Bamm-Bamm: Decoding the Genome and Rewriting It
3. The Man with the Pixie Dust: Regenerative Medicine and the Quest to Regrow Limbs
Part II: Sensing
4. The Woman Who Can See with Her Ears: Neuroplasticity and Learning Pills
5. Soldiers with Spidey Sense: Intuition and Implicit Learning
6. The Telepathy Technician: Decoding the Brain and Imagined Speech
Part III: Thinking
7. The Boy Who Remembers Everything: Viagra for the Brain
8. The Surgeon Conducting the Symphony: DBS and the Power of Electricity
9. Sudden Savants: Unleashing the Inner Muse
About the Author
Summary &Study Guide
Inside the Science of the Engineered Human
Title: Summary & Study Guide - The Body Builders
Subtitle: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human
Author: Lee Tang
Publisher: LMT Press (lmtpress.wordpress.com)
Copyright © 2017 by Lee Tang
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
First Edition: September 2017
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN 9780995943186 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781976076442 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 1976076447 (paperback)
Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these contents and disclaim all warranties such as warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The website addresses in the book were correct at the time going to print. However, the publisher and author are not responsible for the content of third-party websites, which are subject to change.
To my wife, Lillian, who is the source of energy and love for everything I do, and to Andrew and Amanda: watching you grow up has been a privilege.
For a complete list of books by Lee Tang and information about the author, visit https://lmtpress.wordpress.com.
“The Body Builder: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human” by Adam Piore
The book explores the science which can be used to reverse engineer, rebuild, augment, and enhance the human body and mind:
The bionic man who builds bionic people
The scientists who decode the genome and rewrite it
People who have regrown parts of their finger and legs
The blind woman who can see with her ears
Soldiers with spidey sense
Doctors trying to give mute patients the ability to communicate telepathically
The race to create “Viagra for the brain”
Neurosurgeons trying to fix the circuits in your brain
Scientists trying to augment human brains with creativity
Adam Piore is a former editor and correspondent for Newsweek Magazine and an award-winning journalist based in New York
Important Note About This Study Guide
This guide is a summary and not a critique or a review of the book. It does not offer judgment or opinion on the content of the book. This summary may not be organized chapter-wise but is an overview of the main ideas, viewpoints, and arguments from the book. It is NOT meant to be read as a replacement of the book which it summarizes but, instead, a supplement for review of the book's main premises and to provide commentary and additional resources.
THE BIONIC MAN WHO BUILDS BIONIC PEOPLE
Replicating the Way We Move
Biophysicist Hugh Herr was a climbing prodigy who started climbing when he was seven. He conquered Super Crack—the hardest climb in the Northeast—when he was seventeen. No wonder people called him “the Boy Wonder.”
In January 1982, Herr set out with his partner, Jeff Batzer, to ascend Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. They were 1,100 feet below the summit when the weather shifted. They became disoriented during a blizzard. A one-day excursion turned into a three-day ordeal. They both suffered hypothermia and frostbite when the rescuers found them. Doctors had to amputate both of Herr’s legs below the knee.
Herr’s first prosthetic legs were stiff and uncomfortable. He tweaked them for climbing walls. By the summer of 1982, he was rock climbing again with the new prostheses.
But even with his new design, Herr’s prostheses caused painful chafing as he walked, because the prostheses lacked the natural cushioning provided by the tendons of the ankles and feet. So Herr decided to make a leg that wouldn’t hurt so much. Batzer introduced him to a prosthetist named Barry Gosthnian, who agreed to help. That fall, Herr enrolled at Millersville University. By the time he graduated, Herr shared a patent with Gosthnian for a cushioned socket with inflatable bladders to cut down on the painful chafing caused by the prostheses. After graduation, Herr pursued a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
YOU CAN LOOK at the human body as a simple pulley system, like the system we used to move a marionette. The bones give the body shape while the muscles and tendons are the pulleys and strings that move the bones. The ligaments and tendons hold it all together. The bones, joints, tendons, and muscles move in concert to generate, store and release the energy we need to move, walk, run, and carry heavy objects.
For centuries, the Romans had used tendons from the necks of oxen as springs to power catapults. Others had used braided ropes made from Achilles’ tendons. But it was not until the 1950s that people understood the crucial roles tendons play in the biomechanics of animal locomotion.
In the 1950s, Giovanni Cavagna, a physiologist at the University of Milan, suggested that the leg behaves like a spring. The “elastic recoil energy” within the leg provides an extra bounce, offering half the energy for each stride. But he didn’t know how these springs work. The mystery was solved by the British zoologist McNeill Alexander, who found that two tendons—the Achilles’ tendon, and the tendon in the arch of the foot—are acting as springs that account for half the energy used in each stride when we walk and run.
These findings were crucial to Herr and others to revolutionize the field of prosthetic design. In a normal leg, the tendons and muscles can juggle energy back and forth, storing it, and releasing it. Walking with a lifeless prosthesis is inefficient and tiring because there are no tendons or muscles to capture and recycle the energy.
TWO YEARS INTO his graduate studies at MIT, Herr experimented with the energy storage and release aspects of elastic rubber springs by building himself a “Spider-Man suit” to climb the wall. Next, he designed a running shoe by connecting two springs—one in the heel and one in the toe—with a strip of carbon. He experimented until he had identified the optimal spring placement for energy amplification. Not only could it increase speed and reduce the metabolic cost of running, it also softens the force exerted on the joints. Herr offered the shoe to Nike, which hired Harvard’s Thomas McMahon, one of the leading experts in biomechanics, to evaluate it. Nike ended up passing on the product, but McMahon was impressed. He encouraged Herr to enroll in his class at Harvard, and eventually became Herr’s Ph.D. thesis advisor.
After earning his Ph.D., Herr became a professor at MIT, heading up the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab. He began designing bionic limbs using motion capture and computer analytics.
IN THE 1990S, a student of McMahon named Claire Farley showed that the human ankle is the primary joint modulating the stiffness of the entire leg. The ankle controls the power and speed we walked or run by changing the stiffness and bounce. After setting up a mathematical model of how the different components of the lower leg interact, Herr designed a robotic prosthesis that translates this math back into movement. Each robotic leg has three tiny computers the size of a fingernail. The computers take in sensory information and then run an algorithm that controls a system of motors and mechanical tendon actuators to enable the user to walk, stand and run. The biggest obstacle was to power the robots autonomously. Herr’s original prototypes needed heavy electronics to amplify power coming from a wall socket.
Eventually, Herr found a solution by mimicking how a flea stores and releases energy. A flea can accelerate at a velocity hundred times greater than a muscle can generate by gradually feeding energy into a fibrous structure of its muscle and then releases the stored energy all at once to create its explosive liftoff. By slowly feeding energy into a system of springs, a battery could power the small motors in the prostheses autonomously.
The most challenging bottleneck for devices that augment the body is to build one that is energy efficient and lightweight enough to be practical. For now, most robotic arms don’t match the energy efficiency of the human body. To engineer a bionic arm to the size and weight specifications of a natural human arm, engineers must sacrifice other features, including strength.
HERR HAS REVERSE-ENGINEERED the way the body moves and harnessed that technology to emulate the legs he lost. The results have changed not only his life but the lives of countless other people. In 2014, his team at MIT has developed an exoskeleton—a robot that wraps around a limb—that can be worn outside of clothing and enables the user to run or walk with less energy. It can restore or increase endurance, strength, or speed by reducing the energy expended to walk, carry a heavy load, or run.
Today, Herr is one of the world’s leading prosthetic designers, creating devices that both restore functions to the disabled and augment the abilities of non-disabled people. He believes in a future where people will wear bionic systems that enable them to run faster, jump higher, and carry heavy loads.
Meet the Double Amputee Building the New Bionic Man
New bionics let us run, climb and dance | Hugh Herr
Can Prosthetics Outperform Real Limbs? | Cyborg Nation
'Terminator' arm is world's most advanced prosthetic limb
14 Newest Developments in Bionic Technology
The Real Bionic Man
Fastest Man in the World!
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