December 3, 2010
Hands….where would we be without them?
At november 26 the Wellcome Collection in Lond presented their ‘hands’-event. Tabitha Langton-Lockton was one of the participants in the event and she wrote an impressive review:
Can you imagine a society without hands? Frankly, no. For this would mean a world without Twitter, Facebook and YouTube; heavens forbid a world without art and literature, for how would we paint, write and type?
The Wellcome Collection plays host to an event, ‘Hands’, celebrating these odd looking appendages with an evening of music, magic and science. In the foyer visitors play the piano and pinball machine whilst waiting for the main event to open. Gigantic cardboard hands loom by the entrance and people animatedly express themselves with their hands as they queued for the ticketed events. Hands are everywhere.
A talk by Chris McManus takes place in the auditorium. Accompanied by a British Sign Language interpreter, McManus explains the science that differs between the left and right-handed. As a right-handed individual, I was disappointed to find out that all ‘lefties’ were not in fact evil as I had previously been led to believe. A later talk by the evolution expert Christophe Soligo explains how hands have developed and changed over time. Both talks are educational and thought-provoking.
The wonder of hands continues to be celebrated on all floors. Climbing the stairs, white-gloved men greet visitors with a shake of the hand and subtly (but unsuccessfully) try to place a sticker on their arms without them noticing.
On the first floor, areas dedicated to the event could be found whilst wandering around the current exhibitions. The Nail Bar proves popular with the ladies (although I did spy a suited man waiting patiently for his turn) whilst the prosthetics and medical tools appeal more to the gruesome individuals.
A neuroscientist asks me to place my right hand inside a black box and look at a rubber hand. He then proceeded to poke and stroke me resulting in my questioning my senses and walking away feeling distinctly confused. Had he been poking my hand or the rubbery hand?
Turning a corner I found what I was looking for – the palmistry section. After having my palms read by an amateur reader from the Collection library I plucked up the courage to ask if he could see children in my future. “I think that you might have two”. “Damn” I muttered, “I was hoping for at least three”.
The second floor becomes a surgery for the evening. Here, surgeons from Imperial College perform the art of stitching a wound, whilst showing the crowd how hands save lives. Visitors were able to try their hands at surgery and to see for themselves just how steady the hand must be to perform operations.
‘Hands’ shows the visitor just how essential they are in everyday life. The evening appealed to all ages and amused and educated its audience.
• Famous stories about strang hands: Charles Darwin
• The Wellcome Collection presents their HANDS-event (official announcement)
Take a look at the world’s oldest handprint!
The Chauvet cave in the south-east of France contains the oldest known cave paintings in the world. The most common themes in cave paintings are large wild animals, such as bison, horses, aurochs, and deer… and tracings of human hands!
Interestingly, the Chauvet cave is also known for containing the world’s oldest handprint: see the picture above. Looking at the details: the short pointer finger and the very long ring finger + pinky indicate that like this is the handprint of a male person.
The largest collection of cave handprints is found in another French cave: the ‘Gargas cave‘ in the French Pyrenees – which has become know as the ‘cave with the missing fingers’. For, many of the 231 handprints in this cave have one or more missing fingers (see the picture below) – likely this was the result of some sort of ‘sign language’ of hand gestures.
“The handprint to the right is a cave painting drawn 32,000 years ago and is the oldest portrait of man. On the walls of Chauvet Cave in southern France, the artist used the technology of his day, tinted charcoal dust blown through a straw, to create a simple, yet powerful icon of human-ness. This image captures the essence of human-centered computing. Much like the Paleolithic beings, we still use technology to relate to, understand and depict the world around us, still trying to say “I am here. I am human.”
In 2007 a ‘wall of celebrity handprints‘ was created in the US – the hand prints were sold afterwards for charity; and in the same year the book ‘celebrity handprints‘ was published – including the hand prints of a few dozens of UK celebrities.
The new ‘bionic hand‘ was created by the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, and was named: ‘RAPHaEL’ – Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments. The students who designed the man-killing machinery will be splitting a $10,500 prize for winning first place in an innovative-design competition sponsored by the Cleveland-based Compressed Air and Gas Institute.
The new ‘bionic’ robotic hand that can firmly hold objects as heavy as a can of food or as delicate as a raw egg, while dexterous enough to make hand gestures for sign language.
RAPHaEL is just part of a larger RoMeLa project: The humanoid robot known as CHARLI (Cognitive Humanoid Robot with Learning Intelligence). The hand already is on its second prototype design, with the newer model to be used by CHARLI. Once the newer model hand is connected to the larger body, it will be able to pick up – not just grasp and hold – objects as would a person.
Professor Dennis Hong (Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engeneering) says:
“This air-powered design is what makes the hand unique, as it does not require the use of any motors or other actuators, the grasping force and compliance can be easily adjusted by simply changing the air pressure.”
Source: National Geographic
ABOUT THE HISTORY OF ‘BIONIC HAND’ PROSTHETICS:
Take a look at RAPHaEL at Youtube: