Could Porcupines Save Us All?

Grind for April 13th, 2019
“I admire people who dare to take the language, English, and understand it and understand the melody.”

– Maya Angelou

Think Before You Tweet

The Headline

Elon Musk attends SEC hearing, could face additional fines

The Grind

Like President Trump, Tesla CEO Elon Musk often uses Twitter to share inappropriate and sometimes false information.

Last August, Musk incorrectly claimed he had secured funding to take Tesla private. The tweet mislead investors (a crime) and the SEC filed a lawsuit.

The two sides settled in October, and Musk agreed to pay a fine of $40 million. The SEC also asked Musk to step down as chairman for three years and ordered Tesla to implement a mandatory pre-approval process for all of Musk’s communications.

The Details

Musk broke that agreement this February when he claimed on Twitter (without asking his lawyers for permission) that Tesla would produce 500,000 cars in 2019. Real estimates were closer to 400,000.

“[Elon Musk] recklessly tweeted out information that has no basis in fact,” said SEC attorney Cheryl Crumpton during the hearing. “It’s become pretty clear over the course of the last few weeks” that he doesn’t plan to comply with the terms of the agreement.

The SEC said Musk should be held in contempt of court for violating the 2018 agreement; the case was heard on April 4th before Manhattan federal judge Alison Nathan.

After hearing from both sides, the judge gave Tesla and the SEC two weeks to negotiate a new agreement. If they fail to do so, Musk will likely be forced to pay “a series of escalating fines” for his bad behavior.

At the close of the hearing, Nathan told the courtroom she had “serious concerns that…the issue will not be finally resolved.”

Say What??

The Headline

How porcupines could give us safer surgeries

The Grind

Researchers working to improve surgical staples are taking notes from the porcupine.

The average North American porcupine has 30,000 quills. Each quill is sharper than a hypodermic needle and is equipped with microscopic barbs that make it nearly impossible to remove.

Insertion is painful but causes little harm to the skin. Even better, the quills are coated in an unique grease which fights infection.

The Details

Surgical staples, on the other hand, tear the skin when inserted and cause further damage when bent to stay in place. Staples create painful gaps in the skin that are susceptible to infection.

“We’ve been using sutures and staples for decades, and they’ve been incredibly useful,” says bioengineer Jeff Karp. “But there are challenges in terms of placing them for minimally invasive procedures.”

Researchers are hoping to use the porcupine quill as a model to design a safer, less invasive staple that would naturally dissolve inside the human body.

The final product “could be an enabler for smaller incisions to be made in a large number of surgeries,” says Karp, who hopes to start testing porcupine-inspired tools sometime within the next five years.

Did you know… In 1911, pigtails were banned in China because they were seen as a link with its feudal past.