Science Briefs: Smartphone could be used to diagnose ear infections

Low-cost custom-made video-otoscope that can be connected to a smartphone in diagnosing middle ear infections.
Low-cost custom-made video-otoscope that can be connected to a smartphone in diagnosing middle ear infections.

Diagnosis of ear infection with smartphone

Researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have developed a method that simplifies the diagnosis of ear infections, which annually affects half a billion children worldwide.

The method, described in the journal EBioMedicine, uses images taken by an otoscope – an instrument normally used in medical examinations of ears – connected to a smartphone that relays the images for cloud-based computer analysis.

Tests showed that the automatically generated diagnoses based on images taken with a commercial video-otoscope had an accuracy of 80.6 percent; an accuracy of 78.7 percent when images were captured on-site with a low-cost custom-made video-otoscope. This compares with the 64 to 80 percent accuracy of general practitioners and pediatricians using traditional otoscopes for diagnosis.

See Richard III’s remains as discovered

British archaeologists at the University of Leicester who discovered and helped to identify the remains of King Richard III have created a 3D interactive representation of the grave and the skeleton of the king as he was found, buried under a parking lot in Leicester.

The interactive model, which can be explored via the 3D sharing platform Sketchfab – – graphically reveals in a new and immersive way the minimal reverence with which the discredited monarch’s body was buried following dited monarch following his defeat and death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth.

The discovery and identification of his body in 2012 was was an international scientific and media sensation.

Open call for Cube connoisseurs

In 1980, Hungarian sculptor and academic Emo Rubik invented a 3D combination puzzle that became one of the world’s best-selling toys. If you’re a speed sensation when it comes to solving Rubik’s Cube, Discovery Place wants to hear from you: Just complete the form posted at

What’s this all about? The hands-on museum in uptown Charlotte will be featuring a special touring exhibition – “Beyond Rubik’s Cube” – June 11 through Sept. 5.

Staff reports

Metal foam better for handling high heat

A study at N.C. State has found that novel lightweight composite metal foams (CMFs) are significantly more effective at insulating against high heat than the conventional base metals and alloys that they’re made of, such as steel. This makes CMFs especially promising for use in storing and transporting nuclear material, hazardous materials, explosives and other heat-sensitive materials, as well as for space exploration.

In one test, researchers exposed samples of 2.5 inch by 2.5 inch steel-steel CMF that were 0.75 inches thick to a fire with an average flame temperature of 800 degrees Celsius for a period of 30 minutes on one side, and monitored the material to see how long it would take for the heat to reach the opposite side of the sample. For a piece of bulk stainless steel with the same dimensions as the CMF sample, it took only four minutes to reach 800 degrees Celsius through the entire thickness of the sample. It took eight minutes for the steel-steel CMF to reach the same temperature.

A paper on the N.C. State research, published in the International Journal of Thermal Sciences, was prepared by former Ph.D student Shuo Chen (lead author), Ph.D. student Jacob Marx (co-author) and engineering professor Afsaneh Rabiei (corresponding author).