10 Great Beauty Habits to Try

We all want to look our best every day, but sometimes we take on bad habits that keep us from it. We know we should avoid smoking, staying in the sun too long, and eating junk food, but that isn’t enough. Here are 10 great beauty habits you should work into your daily life.

1. Keep Makeup Light
Unless you’re going to the Academy Awards, there’s no reason to cake on the makeup, especially during the day. Not only does heavy makeup look unnatural, it’s bad for your skin. If you’re constantly clogging your pores with thick foundation and concealer, your skin will look tired and greasy. Clogged pores look dull and cause breakouts. Putting too much eye makeup on can cause wrinkles because you’re constantly pulling on the delicate skin around your eyes. Reduce the amount of makeup you apply every day, and consider taking 1 or 2 days off from makeup each week to give your skin a break.

2. Pat On Concealer
Concealer is heavy makeup that won’t look right if too much is smeared on. Pat it lightly into your skin, and always use your pinky finger when applying concealer around your eyes. This way you will get maximum coverage with the least amount of product.

3. Never Overdo Lips and Eyes at the Same Time
Sometimes you might want to make a statement. A smokey eye or new bright eye shadow colors can look great if it’s done right. Bright red lipstick or bright pink color can be equally attractive, but if you do both at the same time, your entire look will be off balance. Stick with one or the other.

4. Clarify Hair Once and a While
You could be having a week full of great hair days only to end with a day of limp, scraggly hair. The perfect shampoo and conditioner just don’t seem to work anymore. Clarifying your hair once and a while with a difference clarifying shampoo might be exactly what you need. Hair products have built up on your hair weighing it down. However, don’t use a clarifying shampoo more than twice a month because it can strip your hair of its natural oils.

5. Switch Products Every so Often
Sometimes you don’t need to clarify your hair. Switching hair products give a similar result without the drying effects. Have 2 or three different shampoos and conditioners on hand to keep your hair looking fresh. Do the same with other products such as skin care products or makeup. Sometimes your body just needs a change to start looking its best again.

6. Wash Off all Makeup Every Night
At night after a long day, it can be tempting to just fall asleep without washing the layer of makeup on your face. Don’t do this. Leaving the makeup on will not only stain your pillow case, it will suffocate your skin as well. It could cause acne and other inflammation. Clean your face every night with a good makeup remover or wash your face with a cleansing oil. Makeup removing clothes also work well and are easy to use.

7. Test Out Makeup Before Buying
If you buy a makeup product that doesn’t work for you, it would be wasteful to throw it out or stick it in the back of your drawer and never use it. Even if you decide to wear it anyway, you won’t look as great as you could. Whenever possible, test out makeup at the store before you buy it. If you can’t test it in the store, find a friend, maybe the one who recommended it to you, who already has the makeup and try it out. Test out foundation and concealer on the back of your hand. You can see how it matches your skin and test coverage and durability.

8. Wear Sunscreen
Age spots can be covered up with makeup, but wrinkles are hard to mask. Both signs of visible aging can be prevented or at least postponed by wearing sunscreen. If you don’t like wearing sunscreen, look for makeup with sunscreen in it or always wear a large brimmed hat when you go outdoors. Sunglasses are also important to protect your eyes from UV rays.

9. Use Scrubs and Clay Masks
Dull skin is most often caused by dirt and dead skin cells sitting on top of your skin. Use a scrub at least twice a month to gently scrub off the gunk that a regular cleaner can’t clear off. Use a clay mask once or twice a month to shrink your pores and draw out toxins. Bentonite clay is great for facial masks.

10. Follow a Healthy Diet
The most important beauty habit you can develop to keep your hair, skin, nails, and face looking their best is to follow a healthy diet. Drink 64 ounces of water a day, get plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and proteins, and keep the junk out of your diet whenever possible. A healthy diet starts from the inside.

Instead of focusing on your bad habits, develop new, healthy habits. Looking beautiful everyday takes work, but it can be achieved with great results without taking on much more work.

10 Ways to Choose the Right Eyebrow Shape

Most eyebrows need a little help to look truly great. The problem many women face is choosing the right shape for their eyebrows. If you aren’t sure how to shape your eyebrows, there are a number of ways to find the perfect form for your face.

1. Know the rules
While a unibrow is obviously not a good look, just where should you draw the line? Great eyebrows start with the right proportions. Lay a pencil on your face, alongside your nose so that it runs straight up your face. This is where the eyebrow should start. If you move the pencil so that it runs from your nose to the outer corner of your eye, you can follow it up to the brow and see where the end of the brow should be. The peak of the arch should be directly above the outer edge of your iris, the colored part of the eye. By following these rules, you can instantly eliminate many of the problems faced when grooming this part of your face. How thick the hair is and how high the arch will determine the final look.

2. Look at celebrities
Stars pay big bucks to people who know what they are doing, so go ahead and copy them. Find a celebrity with a similar face and eye shape and copy their brows. This is a simple way to choose the best look for your face.

3. Go natural
If you don’t want to deal with the hassles of carefully plucking every few days, you may prefer to go natural. Just keep the look groomed, but go with your brow’s existing shape. You probably already have a natural arch, so defining it slightly should not be a problem. Remove any hairs above the bridge of your nose for a neater look.

4. Ask a stylist
Many stylists offer eyebrow grooming services, but you definitely want to make sure you are dealing with an expert. Find out just how many brows they have done and ask to see photos, if possible. You will want someone with special training in brow shaping. A stylist with training will be able to give you advice on how to choose the best look.

5. Test a look carefully
While waxing forces you to commit completely to a look, tweezing can allow for a gradual change. Try tweezing a slightly different shape. Most people have eyebrows that grow back rather quickly, so you can easily change the shape over time and evolve your look.

6. Know when to skip the arch
Certain facial types work best with straight brows. If you have a squared jaw or a long face, a flat shape will work best. The straight line of the eyebrow will help shorten the face and help create a more balanced look. The squared jaw will also appear to be in proportion when you use barely arched or straight brows.

7. Use a template
Templates for assorted brow shapes can be purchased to help you create the ideal look. While these are meant to help with tweezing, the templates will give you an idea of just how you would look with different shaped brows. Hold them to your face to get a feel for the different styles.

8. Use a photo manipulation program
A more technically advanced method of finding the right look is to load a photo of yourself into a photo program and play around a little. Try copying and pasting celeb brows onto your own face or simply use a morphing tool to pull your eyebrows into different shapes. While it is not 100% accurate, this method can give you a better idea as to which shape you should use. For those who are unable to get hold of a program like this, you can check with beauty salons to see if they offer photo manipulation as a service.

9. Know when to arch
From the nearly pointed arch to the gently rounded one, eyebrows are usually in some sort of curved shape. The arched brow mimics the curves of the face, but just how high the arch is depends on your actual face shape. For a heart shaped face, a barely there arch is recommended. For round faces, higher arches are better for giving some height to the face. Oval faces do well with shorter curves.

10. Experiment
Eyebrows grow back, so why not pick a shape and go with it? If you hate it, you can change your look within a few weeks. Most brows require constant tweaking to keep them looking good. Skip the tweezing and you will have fresh options shortly.

Finally, once you find a shape that works for you, stick with it. It is relatively easy to maintain an eyebrow style once you know exactly what you want. You simply need to remove hair as it begins to grow back to keep your brows looking fresh.

Google built an entire fake city to test the AI of its driverless cars

Sydney, Australia – September 6, 2011: Close up of an Apple Ipad and on a desk showing the Google search engine home screen. There is also a keyboard and some documents on the desk, the documents show charts and graphs. This scene depicts ipad in a working environment.  (Courtney Keating)

As robot cars prowl the streets of Castle, a fake city built in the California desert, humans concoct elaborate scenarios to test the limits of the self-driven cars awareness and reactions. Google engineers use cones, signs, mannequins, and even other cars, to devise situations that challenge the driverless cars to respond as human drivers would.

The top tech companies are in a furious race to bring the first truly driverless cars to the mass market and, in doing so, change transportation forever. Self-driving cars have been tested in all sorts of conditions, but the complex algorithms behind the technology have yet to conquer one of the most baffling challenges — our urban infrastructure. Waymo, the project founded by Googles parent company Alphabet, is trying to take the lead.

Amazon Prime members will get special discounts at Whole…

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Its a big gamble though, with three out of four Americans doubting that fully autonomous cars are safe. One high-profile incident could quickly sour public opinion on the technology, setting it back years.

The normally secretive Google recently gave the Atlantic exclusive access to one of its testing facilities. The 100-acre fake town is named after the Castle Air Force base near the town of Merced. To call it a city is a bit misleading — all that matters is where the rubber meets the road, literally. There are no buildings in the testing area, just roads, driveways, and intersections.

The team tries to recreate situations the robot cars are likely to encounter in real-life environments, such as one-way traffic and a bike lane next to parallel parking spaces. I was really keen on installing something with parallel parking along it,” Steph Villegas, a program manager for Waymo, said. “Something like this happens in suburban downtowns. People are coming out of storefronts or a park. People are walking between cars, maybe crossing the street carrying stuff.

In addition to what Villegas calls props, some tests also involve humans, also known as professional pedestrians. Is it difficult to do your job while worrying about being run over by a robot? We just have to learn to trust, Cassandra Hernandez, one such pro, said.

How to Test Your Gut Microbiome (At Home Without a Doctor)

If you have been a Wellness Mama reader for very long then you know my story and how it took me over 7 years and 8 doctors to finally figure out I had Hashimoto’s and start to find answers. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get testing, even when you think you might know what is wrong.

That’s why I’m excited about emerging research and innovative new companies that are working to bring comprehensive testing to our homes. The best part? No doctor or blood test required!

Personalized Medicine: The Future of Health?

If you heard the recent 100th episode of The Healthy Moms podcast, you know that I strongly feel that there is not a single perfect diet that works for everyone or a supplement that will fix all your problems. We all need sleep and community and sunshine, but the rest is very personalized based upon each individual’s needs.

What works wonderfully for one person may make someone else feel worse. I feel great when I take a lot of magnesium. Some people experience low blood pressure from taking it. I don’t feel good if I eat a lot of carbs. Some people feel amazing on a relatively high carb diet.

At the end of the day, we each have to figure out the foods, supplements, and lifestyle factors that are best for us.

But how?

We can do testing like 23 and Me, which shows our genes. This is helpful, but most of us aren’t geneticists and don’t know what the results mean. I know I have MAO-A and an MTHFR mutation, and thanks to research I’m able to make some dietary changes based on this, but the research is still new. They also only show half of the picture.

Gut Metatranscriptome & Microbiome Analysis

I’m super excited about a new kind of testing that allows us to have a deeper picture of what is happening inside the gut. We’ve all heard the studies about the importance of the gut and how it impacts every single aspect of our lives, and now we can actually get a glimpse of what is happening inside the gut and know how to impact our own gut environment.

Microorganisms Rule Our Body

There are trillions of microorganisms in your gut. About 40 trillion to be exact. We have more bacterial cells than human cells and these bacteria drastically affect our lives on a daily basis.

These organisms help us digest food, produce beneficial or harmful chemicals, control infections by pathogens, regulate the immune system, and even control emotions (ever have a gut feeling?).

Studies consistently link these microorganisms—which make up your gut microbiome—to many chronic conditions, including diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, coronary artery disease, psoriasis, lupus, and even autism. Basically, if we want to be healthy and happy … our gut bacteria needs to be healthy and happy too!

The Science of Microbiome Composition

Every living organism produces RNA molecules from their DNA.

Tests like this one sequence all of the RNA in the stool (poop) to identify and quantify all of the living microorganisms in the gut (bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites, and more) at the species and strain level.

The end result?

A more in-depth view of your gut microbiome than has ever been available before. Instead of just looking at bacteria and parasites, we can now sequence RNA in the gut. The nerd in me is so excited about this technology, but even if you aren’t interested in the science, I think you’ll be excited about how technology like this can improve all of our lives!

The Function of Metabolites in the Gut

Identifying the microorganisms in your gut is important, but understanding their function is what lets us use them to our advantage.

This is because the microbes in your gut produce thousands of chemicals, called metabolites, that affect your overall wellness. Some of these metabolites are beneficial to health, such as B-vitamins and short chain fatty acids. Others can be harmful, such as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is linked to coronary artery disease.

Gut Microbiome Testing to Improve Health

Analyzing the genes that microbes express lets us identify which metabolites they produce. This helps determine their role in your body’s ecosystem. But all of that isn’t helpful if it is just data. When we understand metabolites, we can also understand how to affect them with food, lifestyle, and supplements to change the gut bacteria.

This is the first time we have the ability to fine-tune the function of gut microbiome. This helps minimize production of harmful metabolites and maximize the production of beneficial ones.

The metabolites in our gut give us a shortcut to know what to eat and what to take to improve wellness in the fastest way possible.

How to Test Gut Microbiome at Home

Now for why I’m so excited… about testing poop!

Until recently, most gut testing cost thousands of dollars and had to be ordered through a doctor. Testing also provided an incomplete picture of gut health and used the old 16S method of sequencing.

The 16S method analyzes the bacteria in the gut, but as I showed above, this is an incomplete picture. To fully analyze the bacteria, viruses, bacteriophages, archaea, fungi, yeast, parasites and other organisms, a more complete testing is needed.

Viome: Gut Testing in Your Own Bathroom

That is until a company that recently emerged changed all that. Viome is a new company that uses an advanced form of testing to analyze gut health and provide personalized recommendations of supplements, diet and lifestyle factors.

Viome does a specialized form of testing called metatranscriptome sequencing. It looks at the RNA, metabolites, and the deeper picture of the gut.

Here’s how it differs from the old 16S method:

What Viome Gut Tests Reveal

Viome looks at the gut in all the ways I just explained. It also does a metabolic intelligence test (that you can do from home). This helps you gauge your blood sugar, insulin levels, stress responses, and more by looking at urine pH, saliva pH, blood sugar, heart rate, and other metrics.

I just completed the Viome test and will now be doing the test on all of my kids.

Here’s How the Test Works:

Order the test kit from Viome here.
Viome sends a test kit to your home.
You complete the test at home (don’t worry… it’s easy!).
Then you mail your poop to Viome (yes, really) and record your metabolic results in their app.
A few weeks later, Viome provides personalized analysis of your gut and recommendations to help you improve chronic conditions, feel better, and keep your gut microorganisms happy.
Become a Citizen Scientist …

I’m so excited about this and other emerging technology that helps us all do our own research. With every chronic disease on the rise, these are problems we need to address right away. Companies and tests like Viome help us understand our own personalized needs in a way that helps us improve our lives in a drastic way.

How to Avoid the Waiting List

Viome is a new technology, using advanced testing developed at Los Alamos Lab (that was originally part of national security). It has become so popular so quickly that they have a long waiting list. I met their founder, Naveen Jain, at a recent health event and he agreed to let Wellness Mama readers skip the wait list.

Learn more about Viome and skip the waiting list at this link.

I’ll be sharing my own personal results in a follow-up post soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts … what do you think?

More Research & Why I Care:

Gut health is intricately tied to all aspects of health. If you’re interested in the science and emerging connection between gut health to overall health, here are a few recent studies for further reading:

The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Gastrointestinal Disease
The link between the Microbiome and Autoimmunity
Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome
Microbiota associated with type 2 diabetes and its related complications
From gut dysbiosis to altered brain function and mental illness: mechanisms and pathways
Gut microbiota are related to Parkinson’s disease and clinical phenotype
Symptomatic atherosclerosis is associated with an altered gut metagenome
Reduction of Abeta amyloid pathology in APPPS1 transgenic mice in the absence of gut microbiota
Microbiota-based model improves the sensitivity of fecal immunochemical test for detecting colonic lesions
Indoles from commensal bacteria extend healthspan
No guts no glory: Harvesting the microbiome of athletes
Are you as excited about this new technology as I am? Ever tried any at-home tests like this before? Weigh in below!


Ah, Bangkok. The Royal capital of Thailand where you don’t need a whole lot of cash to live like a King or Queen.

Luxury stays can be had for a bargain price, offering easy comfort to lay your weary head after a day of sightseeing, shopping and soaking up the poolside sunshine.

But there’s a way to enjoy all the trappings for even less. Online package deals through the discount sites like Groupon and Scoopon can make your dollars work hard in Asia’s most-visited city.

We put three such deals to the test, and the result was a range of hotel experiences — fantastic, far-flung and too-tight-to-mention!

Olive Residence in Bangkok. Picture: John Burfitt

Deal: Groupon

Price: $145 for three nights (average: $48/night)

“Are we there yet?” was the question running through my mind as the taxi driver drove on — and on — to what seemed the outskirts of the city.

Finally pulling up at the smart six-storey apartment hotel was a nice surprise, and first impressions were exceeded once inside.

The apartment-sized studio room had plenty of space for a bed, desk and a spotlessly clean bathroom. It was all very plush, slick, quiet and comfortable — and obviously still new.

Looks pretty swanky. Picture: John Burfitt
A self-serve laundry within the building, a 7/11 next door and a front desk team that were always helpful just kept adding to the good impressions. The Punnawithi BTS station was just a few minutes’ walk.

Dining options were limited, but there are a few good cafes along the street and a superb food hall at the mall only a few stops away at the On Nut BTS station.

For all the great aspects about this apartment, the fact it was a long way out couldn’t be ignored. From the central district of Siam Square, the Olive was at least a half-hour drive or 11 stops on the Skytrain. Not a deal breaker, but travel time was a factor.

The room was nice, but it was an effort to get there. Picture: John Burfitt
Verdict: This smart hotel delivered far more than the deal cost, creating so many good impressions. The catch, however, was the long journey there and back.


Deal: Groupon / $169 for Three Nights (Average: $56 / night)

The thought of waking up underneath Mary Poppins and her chimneysweep pals or Aladdin and his magic carpet was a special attraction for this boutique hotel in the Thonglor area.

This is a sliver-sized hotel where the movie theme runs throughout its five storeys — from the foyer Backstage Bar, through to the fully styled movie-themed rooms.

The Aladdin-themed room is great for some but isn’t for everyone. Picture: John Burfitt
Yet the Aladdin room proved too much — not because of the decorations, but due to the traffic warden out the front, blowing a piercing whistle in front of the nearby vet clinic all day. Even through closed windows, it was deafening.

A move to a room at the back was a revelation — much quieter, but tiny. So small, all the room contained was a bed and a bathroom, with the only space for a bag in the doorway.

Spotlessly clean, but far too tiny.

Playhaus Hotel’s decor was definitely very cool. Picture: John Burfitt
The staff were very nice, apologetic and accommodating, and the location was just okay — a 15-minute walk to the BTS Skytrain and the Sukhumvit strip, with a few good cafes along the way, which was necessary as there’s no dining service in the hotel.

Verdict: Did I get what I paid for? Yes, indeed. But for all the fun of the theme and the hotel’s neat and tidiness, the reality was the room was just too tight.


Deal: Scoopon / $299 for three nights (Ave: $99/ night)

This incredible-value deal appeared too good to pass up. Four-star luxury in a downtown area, with daily breakfast, welcome drink, 30-minute massage, a rooftop pool, late check out and return airport transfer.

It looks great on the outside. Picture: John Burfitt
Stepping into the foyer brought a sense of relief, as it was all smart style, and then the high-floored room with the views over the Bangkok skyline was elegant comfort. The Rembrandt

delivered close to an ideal luxury hotel stay.

True, the room was not the biggest and some aspects of the decor were straight out of the 1990s, but what made this a winner was a clean, well-maintained hotel with a great pool drenched in sunshine most of the day.

The eye-catching lobby. Picture: John Burfitt
Breakfast was lavish, with hot food made to order. The staff was slick and professional and when an even-later check-out was requested, it was approved with a minimum of fuss. The transfer to the airport made the final impression and proved the icing on the cake.

The Asoke area was superb for shopping, dining and getting around — there’s both a BTS and a subway station minutes away. And the nearby Terminal 21 mall had everything from discount to high end shopping, as well as a cinema complex.

The Rembrandt Hotel was a winner. Picture: John Burfitt
Verdict: A fantastic winner! Other luxury hotels might be newer, bigger and more up to

date, but this was amazing value without ever feeling like a cheap holiday.

Would I Do It Again: In a minute! None of these were a disaster, but all came with conditions that had to be factored when paying a bargain price.

Just be sure to follow the rules of checking the fine print and doing your online homework through sites like TripAdvisor first.

There are new deals all the time, and by snapping up a bargain, you have more to spend on shopping!

Elon Musk’s Boring Company wins approval to dig a two-mile test tunnel in California

The City Council in Hawthorne, California voted four to one last night in favor of a plan from Elon Musk’s Boring Company to dig a two-mile-long underground test tunnel. The Boring Company, which operates from SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne outside Los Angeles, had until now only dug into and under its own private property. But the newly-approved extension will stretch beyond the company’s property line, with the tunnel running 44 feet below the public roads and utilities that surround SpaceX headquarters.

This test tunnel is just that — a dry run that will make sure the most basic parts of the Boring Company’s plans actually work. The planned route doesn’t go under any privately-owned residential or commercial property aside from what SpaceX already owns, according to the company. When the test tunnel is finished, the city can request that the Boring Company either fill it with concrete slurry or soil.

People who find themselves in the area won’t even notice that anything is happening, according to Brett Horton, the senior director of facilities and construction for SpaceX. He assured the Council and the members of the public that they won’t see, hear, or feel any of the digging. “They won’t even know we’re there,” he said, even though the giant boring machine will be right below the ground.

The test tunnel route.
Photo: Hawthorne City Council

It’s a far cry from a network of underground hyperloops that spans the eastern seaboard, but it’s an important step for Musk’s project. It’s also a more concrete accomplishment than “verbal govt approval,” as he put it in a tweet back in July.

“This is groundbreaking, this is establishing a precedent, and I think we all agree that we want to make sure that this goes off without a hitch,” Hawthorne’s Mayor Alex Vargas said at the end of the City Council meeting.

The Boring Company still needs to acquire an “encroachment permit” before it can dig the test tunnel. And despite the assurances made, at least one person was still wary of the idea. During the period of the meeting open for questions from the public, a citizen referenced the problems with collapsing soil that plagued the efforts to build a subway extension in North Hollywood in the 1990s. “What guarantees [do we have] that this doesn’t happen in Hawthorne?” he asked of the council, and of Horton.

Horton explained that the company thoroughly tests the soil and will provide the results to the city on a daily basis. If the ground moves so much as a half-inch in either direction, work will stop until a solution is found. Otherwise, if the public has any concerns, Horton said they can contact the city — or just come to SpaceX headquarters. “Our operations team is on site at the entrance shaft, so we’re easy to reach,” he said.

Stanford Engineers Develop The ‘Potalyzer,’ A Roadside Saliva Test For Marijuana Intoxication

This November, several states will vote whether to legalize marijuana use, joining more than 20 states that already allow some form of cannabis use. This has prompted a need for effective tools for police to determine on the spot whether people are driving under the influence.

Stanford researchers have devised a potential solution, applying magnetic nanotechnology, previously used as a cancer screen, to create what could be the first practical roadside test for marijuana intoxication.

While police are trying out potential tools, no device currently on the market has been shown to quickly provide a precise measurement of a driver’s marijuana intoxication as effectively as a breathalyzer gauges alcohol intoxication. THC, the drug’s most potent psychoactive agent, is commonly screened for in laboratory blood or urine tests – not very helpful for an officer in the field.

The Stanford device might function as a practical “potalyzer” because it can quickly detect not just the presence of THC in a person’s saliva, but also measure its concentration.

Led by Shan Wang, a professor of materials science and engineering and of electrical engineering, the Stanford team created a mobile device that uses magnetic biosensors to detect tiny THC molecules in saliva. Officers could collect a spit sample with a cotton swab and read the results on a smartphone or laptop in as little as three minutes.

Researchers tackling the “potalyzer” problem have zeroed in on saliva because testing it is less invasive and because THC in saliva may correlate with impairment better than THC in urine or blood. The big challenge is that these spit tests may be called upon to detect superlatively tiny concentrations of THC. Some states have no set limit of THC in the body for drivers, while others set a limit of 0 or 5 nanograms (a billionth of a gram) per milliliter of blood.

Wang’s device can detect concentrations of THC in the range of 0 to 50 nanograms per milliliter of saliva. While there’s still no consensus on how much THC in a driver’s system is too much, previous studies have suggested a cutoff between 2 and 25 ng/mL, well within the capability of Wang’s device.

Repurposing biomedical tools

The researchers achieved such precision by harnessing the behavior of magnetism in nanoparticles, which measure just a few tens of billionths of a meter.

The Wang Group has been exploring magnetic nanotechnology for years, using it to attack such diverse problems as in vitro cancer diagnostics and magnetic information storage. In this case, they’re combining magnetic nanotechnology with the time-tested biochemical technique of the immunoassay. Immunoassays detect a certain molecule in a solution by introducing an antibody that will bind only to that molecule.

In the test, saliva is mixed with THC antibodies, which bind to any THC molecules in the sample. Then the sample is placed on a disposable chip cartridge, which contains magnetoresistive (GMR) sensors pre-coated with THC, and inserted into the handheld reader.

This sets in motion a “competition” between the THC pre-coated on the sensor and THC in the saliva to bind with the antibodies; the more THC in the saliva, the fewer antibodies will be available to bind to the THC on the sensor surface.

The number of antibodies bound to THC molecules on the sensor tells the device how many antibodies the THC in the sample used up, and therefore how many THC molecules were present in the sample.

Next, magnetic nanoparticles, specially made to bind only to the antibodies, are introduced to the sample. Each nanoparticle binds onto a THC-antibody pair like a sticky beacon, but only the molecules on the sensor surface will be close enough to trip the GMR biosensors in the reader. The device then uses Bluetooth to communicate results to the screen of a smartphone or laptop.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that GMR biosensors are capable of detecting small molecules,” Wang wrote in a paper describing the device, published in Analytical Chemistry.

Beyond marijuana

The platform has potential usefulness beyond THC. Just as they do with THC, the GMR biosensors in the device could detect any small molecule, meaning that the platform could also test for morphine, heroin, cocaine or other drugs.

In fact, with 80 sensors built into it, the GMR biosensor chip could screen a single sample for multiple substances. The team has already tried screening for morphine with promising results.

Students are currently working on creating a user-friendly form factor for the device, which would need to go through field tests and be approved by regulators before it can be deployed by police.

Another thing that would have to happen before the device would be useful to law enforcement: State laws must set limits for the concentration of THC allowed in a driver’s saliva.

Here too, the Wang Group’s device could be helpful. For example, the next generation of the device could screen both the blood and saliva of a subject to establish an understanding of the correlation between blood THC level and saliva THC level at the same degree of intoxication.

The co-authors of the Analytical Chemistry paper are Jung-Rok Lee (ME PhD’15), Joohong Choi (EE PhD’15), and Tyler O. Shultz (Biology BS’13).

Virginia Tech To Build On-Campus Hyperloop Test Track

Virginia Tech’s Hyperloop team won’t have to travel far to test the pod that it unveiled at a campus event this week.

Before the on-campus presentation began, Stefan Duma, interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science at Virginia Tech, announced that the university would build a test track on the Blacksburg campus, the first of its kind on the East Coast.

Hyperloop is a high-speed transportation system using a passenger-carrying pod in a near-vacuum tube that is envisioned to reach speeds in excess of 700 mph. The brainchild of Tesla founder Elon Musk, Hyperloop took a step closer to reality in 2016 when more than 120 teams participated in an international design competition at Texas A&M University. The Virginia Tech team placed fourth and received an invitation to build its pod and test it at a 1-mile testing track at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California.

Duma said the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the College of Engineering, and the institute would partner to fund the test track’s construction, which will be located in the Plantation Road research facility. The initiative is part of the university’s broader effort to emphasize intelligent infrastructure through a series of learning opportunities for students and occasions for the university to collaborate with industry partners.

“With the hands-on experience this test track will provide, our students will make technological breakthroughs the world has never seen before,” said Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering. “It’s a physical manifestation of the university’s commitment to creating intelligent infrastructure for the 21st century, and it will give Virginia Tech students the tools to solve complex global problems.”

Duma further credited the team of 33 undergraduate students for combining deep knowledge in a discipline with crosscutting skills in communications and project management.

While details of the track design, length, and timeline for completion have yet to be determined, Duma and G. Don Taylor, interim dean of the College of Engineering, have said they see the track as a positive development not only for Virginia Tech, but also for Southwest Virginia.

“With the provost’s office and ICTAS, the College of Engineering is excited to enhance the university’s intelligent infrastructure plan in providing our Hyperloop student team with the resources to be successful on a global stage,” said Taylor, who is also the Charles O. Gordon Professor of Engineering. “Through purpose-driven education, applied research capabilities, and world-class facilities, our students are poised to impact the future of transportation.”

England claim 19 wickets in single day to crush woeful West Indies and claim first Test victory

It was a historic day for Stuart Broad who surpassed Sir Ian Botham to take second place behind James Anderson in the national all-time list of Test wicket-takers Getty
The cliché of choice for England cricketers is that Test cricket is titled as such because it is a test. Well, this innings and 209-run demolition of a feeble West Indies inside three days was anything but.

Joe Root’s team will take the plaudits – and the 1-0 lead in this three-match series – for finishing off their opponents in ruthless fashion.

However, the fact 19 West Indian wickets fell on this third and final day is a damning indictment on a once proud cricketing nation.

Sport is all about the thrill of competition, the uncertainty of results in closely-fought encounters. This mismatch, though, was about as competitive as a Formula One car racing a horse and trap.

Amid the carnage, there was a slice of history for Stuart Broad, whose five wickets in this match saw him overtake Sir Ian Botham to move into second place on England’s all-time list of Test wicket-takers.

Only James Anderson, whose overall tally now stands at 492 after he also picked up five in this match, is ahead of Broad.

England appeal successfully for the wicket of Shane Dowrich (Getty)
The Nottinghamshire bowler, who now has 384 wickets in the oldest form of the game, took three for four in 11 balls under the Edgbaston floodlights to hasten his team to victory.

But in terms of drama, this first day-night Test in the UK was a huge disappointment.

Not much was expected of West Indies given they had lost their past five series in this country.

You do have to wonder, though, how suitable this kind of non-event is for England in terms of preparation for this winter’s Ashes.

Starting the day on 44-1 in their first innings, West Indies begun their second barely a session later after being skittled out for 168. In all their final nine first-innings wickets fell for 124 in 31 overs. Only Jermaine Blackwood, left stranded on 79 not out, showed any fight.

With a lead of 346, there was no doubt Root would enforce the follow-on.

And the faith in his bowlers was fully justified as they ran through their opponents again, dismissing them for 137 in just 45.4 overs.

By the time England had made their opponents bat again, the fans inside a packed-out Edgbaston had already seemingly lost interest in this match as a contest.

Kemar Roach is bowled by Stuart Broad (Getty)
Indeed, as the West Indies openers sought to see off the new ball in their second innings, those inside the boisterous Hollies Stand were more enthralled by a contest of their own – getting their inflatable ball back from the stewards. One by one the punters ran to the corner of the stand – a group of sheep was followed by scores of chickens, some Mexican banditos and whatever the collective noun for Fred Flintstones is.

They got it back, too, after a few minutes of chanting their demands, the rest of the 6,000-capacity Stand joining in to offer their support.

However, as the floodlights kicked in, Anderson soon diverted their attentions back to the field as he dismissed Kieran Powell with a delivery that nipped away, took the edge and flew into Alastair Cook’s hands at first slip.

West Indies were now 15 for one in their second innings, still needing to see off another 60 overs to take this match into a fourth day. By tea, with the tourists 76 for four, those chances looked remote.

Toby Roland-Jones, weighing in with his third wicket of the day, dismissed Kyle Hope lbw before Ben Stokes extinguished West Indies’ last Hope – Shai – thanks to a smart catch from Root that left the tourists on 60-3.

Toby Roland-Jones celebrates after bowling Shai Hope (Getty)
Moeen Ali removed Brathwaite lbw on review for 40 with the final ball before tea. He then ensured Blackwood would only add 12 second-innings runs to his fine effort in the first dig, having the Jamaican stumped by Jonny Bairstow shortly after the interval, West Indies now 102 for five.

Just two more runs were added to that total before Broad struck in successive deliveries, Roston Chase trapped lbw and Jason Holder caught superbly by Cook, to draw level with Botham on the all-time list.

Those wickets also gave Broad the chance to register his third Test hat-trick, a feat no bowler has ever achieved. However, Kemar Roach’s solid forward defensive put paid to those hopes.

Yet Broad, now in one of those irresistible spells, soon overtook Botham by bowling Shane Dowrich, West Indies now 115 for eight.

Anderson pushed the tourists further towards the brink with a fine delivery that bowled Roach.

And victory was sealed in the very next over, Roland-Jones having Alzarri Joseph caught by Stokes to put the West Indies out of their misery.

Anderson had set the tone in the first over of the day when his short ball had Kyle Hope caught at gully in the very first over.

West Indies captain Jason Holder leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad (Getty)
He then ran out Powell and bowled Chase via an inside edge for an 11-ball duck to reduce West Indies to 47 for four in their first innings.

There was to prove little respite for the tourists even if Blackwood and Shai Hope put on a spirited stand of 42 to temporarily stem the flow of wickets.

That resistance was ended, though, by Roland-Jones, who first bowled Hope and then trapped Dowrich lbw to reduce West Indies to 101 for six.

Blackwood was still showing fight and the Jamaican reached his tenth Test half-century in 49 balls.

He was running out of partners, though, and lost two more before lunch, his captain Holder falling for 11 on review after edging Moeen behind and Roach bowled by Broad.

The tourists went into the interval on 145 for eight and were all out for 168 half an hour into the second session, Broad dismissing Joseph lbw and Tom Westley running out last man Miguel Cummins to leave Blackwood stranded 21 runs short of a second Test century

England can’t ignore the role English authorities played in killing Test cricket’s competitiveness

West Indies captain Jason Holder leaves the field after being dismissed by Stuart Broad Getty
And so it begins, again: the existential fears for Test cricket so beloved of its fans. The West Indies’ desultory performance at Edgbaston, losing 19 wickets in a single day, combined with Sri Lanka being eviscerated 3-0 by India at home, has provoked a new bout of angst about the state of the Test game.

In a format so small – only 10 nations have ever played, though that will soon increase to 12 when Afghanistan and Ireland play their first Tests – Test cricket cannot afford to lose teams. This century, it has effectively lost both Zimbabwe – who once beat Pakistan and India in consecutive Test series – and the West Indies, who have won 16 and lost 89 of their 146 matches against other top eight teams since June 2000, as competitive sides.

The West Indies’ complicity in their own downfall – the endless petty politicking, the stubbornness, the squabbling between islands – is well-known. Yet England should not feel entitled to any sanctimony. The West Indies are also the victims of a broken structure in international cricket – one that England, the second wealthiest cricket nation, did a great deal to build.

If countries like the West Indies get the message that they aren’t cared for in Test cricket, they could hardly be blamed. From 2011-15, four of England’s five major home series were against Australia or India – not because of the quality of the contests, but because those matches were the most lucrative.

West Indies, it is true, have hardly made a compelling case for more fixtures. But consider the case of New Zealand. In 2013-15, they went seven series undefeated, toppling India at home and being thrilling tourists to England in their two-Test drawn series in 2015. At the time, Mike Hesson, New Zealand’s coach, said his side had “earned the right” to play longer Test series.

But to get bilateral fixtures what matters is not the quality of cricket. Instead fixtures are determined by a combination of short-term alliances and politicking – Sri Lanka are touring India for another three Tests later this year, and it may or may not be coincidence that they joined India in opposing ICC reforms earlier this year – and the size of a country’s GDP, which is where New Zealand fall short. Although they are still competitive, they have trimmed their forthcoming summer to just four Tests, with a gaping three months in the middle of the summer with no Tests at all. Senior players are frustrated, but the board can hardly be blamed: unless it is against England or India, hosting a Test typically loses the home board around $500,000.

Unlike most sports leagues, there is no central dividing up of TV rights. But then Test cricket has never really been a league at all; instead, its quaint structure of bilateral matches, meandering on without any final, is out of kilter with all other sports.

That bodes ill for the West Indies who, as a small and relatively penurious nation, will never – even with the best administration in the world – be able to generate anything like enough to prevent leading talents from playing in T20 leagues instead. The West Indies earn around £12m a year for their domestic TV rights; England’s new broadcasting deal is worth £220m a year. Given this disparity, it is curious how England, even after agreeing to a substantial reduction in their ICC funding in June, can justify receiving over £1m more than the West Indies from the ICC a year. In England that money will do little more than swell the ECB’s £35m reserves; in the West Indies it could improve facilities in the region – most territories lack decent indoor training centres – and salaries for playing regional and international cricket.

Root and Cook dominated against a weak bowling line-up (Getty Images)

Enriching the English game – through the ICC, and through not pooling TV rights – has actually helped deprive Test fans at home of competitive cricket. A lack of cash for their board means that leading West Indies players in all three formats can earn $225,000 a year, according to a FICA report last year – or they can earn in the region of $1m playing in T20 leagues. England’s clout is even hollowing out South Africa who, after losing Kyle Abbott to a Kolpak deal, as well as a raft of fringe players, now face Morne Morkel retiring too.

Ironically, the largest nations do recognise the need for financial equality. That’s why, both the Big Bash, Indian Premier League have salary caps designed to ensure competitive balance on the pitch; the new English T20 competition will do the same. Yet this logic does not apply to international cricket itself.

And then there is the structure of Test cricket: there is none. When England lost the 2013/14 Ashes 5-0, it had no impact on their their fixtures or future. Even the players barely feign to care about the world rankings, which, with no semblance of equity in the fixture list, are scarcely valid anyway. Test matches have no more consequences for success or failure than friendlies in other sports.

It was the first international day-night Test played in England (Getty Images)

There were issues with the ICC’s plans for two divisions, which was abandoned last year after the Full Member boards refused to endorse it, fearing the consequences of relegation. Yet the meritocracy and context beloved of English sports could, if implemented sensibly, have improved the spectacle of Test cricket. “It will make people look at their high-performance programmes and their systems, so the product of Test cricket will improve as well,” David White, New Zealand’s chief executive, said at the time. The nine-team league structure that the ICC hopes will be passed in October is also imperfect – series would be of different length, though count for the same number of overall points; and it remains unlikely that India would be sanctioned to play Pakistan.

But any genuine context would be better than the status quo which is, essentially, the worst of all worlds. For smaller countries, there are no real incentives to improve. Without any semblance of meritocracy, success is not rewarded; nor is failure punished. The fixture list is unfathomable. Fans have no incentive to follow games involving other nations. The empty platitudes about ‘protecting the primacy of Test cricket’ continue, along with the format’s inadequate structure. Where dynamic T20 leagues produce a clear champion, Test cricket just bumbles on.

The best that can be said is that it always has done so – and, after 140 years, Test cricket is still here. But never has it faced so many challenges – from other sports and cricket’s own shorter formats, which are not only engaging fans but also incentivising players from smaller nations to quit Tests prematurely.

Together with ensuring context, Test cricket would also do well to learn from the world’s most lucrative sports league. In 1962, the NFL’s club owners met to discuss their network television revenue. By dint of being in a far larger market, the New York Giants received five times more than the Green Bay Packers. Yet the Giants argued that “the NFL was only as strong as its weakest link, that Green Bay should receive as much money as any of the other teams,” as the NFL commissioner at the time later said. With a little of such thinking in cricket, it would be possible for the ICC to guarantee a minimum sum for each Test cricketer from the 12 nations, perhaps funded by the proceeds of a Test league, to ensure that teams from smaller economies would be able to actually pick their strongest possible side.

The alternative to radical reform, both to the fixture list and economic structure, threatens to be a further erosion of competitive balance, and an accelerating hollowing out of Test talent in smaller countries. All accompanied by more tedious laments for how the West Indies’ maroon cap has been devalued.

The sport of cricket is far richer than it’s ever been. When it’s not in players’ economic interests to play Tests, administrators have failed abjectly.