"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
Material scientists at Stanford may have created synthetic skin better than the original. The plastic skin is conductive, sensitive to touch, and capable of repeatedly self-healing at room temperature. ExtremeTech reported on the details of the new discovery, which promises to revolutionize prosthetic limbs:
In testing, the researchers cut the skin in half with a scalpel, then pushed it back together. Within a few seconds, the skin had regained 75% of its mechanical strength and conductivity — within 30 minutes, the skin was fully restored. As far as its electrical properties go, the skin is fairly conductive, and its electrical resistance changes depending on pressure and tension. For example, if you had a prosthetic hand covered in this skin, it would theoretically be possible to convert an incoming handshake into electrical signals that are then wired into your nervous system.
Prior to this discovery, self-healing polymers had fallen short as successful conductors. However, the Stanford team led by chemical engineer Zhenan Bao increased the conductivity by incorporating nickel atoms, allowing electrons to “jump” between the metal atoms — thus improving the synthetic skin’s sensitivity.
The plastic skin has cyborg potential beyond its application in prosthetics. As ExtremeTech noted, “in the long term, the plastic might be used to make self-healing electronic devices, or you might even elect to replace your fingertips (or other piece of skin) with the synthetic, bionic equivalent.”
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com.More Natasha Lennard.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)