The eyes have it: understanding your sight

Image result for The eyes have it: understanding your sightTwelve million Australians have a long term eye condition, with our ageing population expected to mean more and more cases of macular degeneration. The good news is that most vision loss is preventable or treatable. Eye experts Professor Greg Dusting and Doctor Peter Van Winjgaarden sit down with Phil Clark for a conversation about the complexities of our eyes, and treatments for eye disease.



The eyes have IT: TSB to roll out iris-scanning tech for mobile banking

Human iris. Photo by SHutterstock

TSB has announced plans to roll out iris-scanning technology for its mobile banking app from September.

The move will make the UK high street bank the first in Europe to debut iris-scanning tech.

TSB’s iris recognition tech [source: TSB]

Biometric authentication for banking, in general, has become commonplace over recent years with fingerprints among the preferred method, thanks in large part the inclusion of fingerprint reader technology in higher-end smartphones, particularly since the launch of Apple’s TouchID back in 2013. Voice recognition is used elsewhere in the banking industry, particularly in call centres.

The TSB tech is based on technology from Samsung and only customers with the latest Samsung Galaxy S8 will be able to use iris recognition to access their TSB accounts. The bank already supports fingerprint recognition-based logins.

TSB told us: “Customers with a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ smartphone will have the option, from September 2017, to unlock their TSB mobile banking app using the Samsung Pass iris scanner. TSB’s consumer customers will be able to access their banking using either the fingerprint (an existing feature) or the iris scanner, without any need to remember lengthy IDs or passwords.

TSB’s chief information officer, Carlos Abarca, said iris recognition was more secure than other forms of biometrics. “It takes advantage of 266 different characteristics, compared with 40 for fingerprints,” he said.

“Iris recognition allows you to unlock your TSB mobile app with a simple glance, meaning all of those IDs, passwords and memorable information become a thing of the past.”

The tech offers a blend of security and convenience, according to the bank. Once customers log in after going through an iris scan app, they will need to enter a password or secret number, a TSB spokesman explained. Use of the tech is optional and other account access options will continue to be offered.

German hackers from the Chaos Computer Club were recently able to trick a Samsung Galaxy S8’s iris scanner with a picture of the device owner’s eye and a contact lens. TSB said it was relying not only on biometrics but on a digital certificate pushed onto the phone during the enrolment process, so would-be hackers would need not only a high definition image of their target’s iris but their smartphone in any serious attempt to circumvent the bank’s authentication controls.

Security experts gave the move a cautious welcome, noting that biometrics are useful but far from invulnerable. Biometric security is no longer the stuff of spy or sci-fi films. The technology is more secure than password alone but by no means a panacea.

Etienne Greeff, CTO and co-founder of SecureData, commented: “It’s good to see businesses like TSB looking to replace passwords, which are flimsy and easily breached, but hackers are wise to biometrics and it won’t stop them from trying to get their hands on your data. Biometric security has been hacked in the past and there are countless examples of fingerprints being copied, voices being mimicked and iris-scanning software being tricked.”

Multiple attacks on fingerprint scanners have been recorded over the years. HSBC’s voice recognition security system was recently fooled by a BBC journalist and his brother.

“Biometric authentication is not entirely immune to potential attack and therefore should not be relied on as the sole means of verifying a user,” said Richard Parris, chief exec at Intercede. “Rather than use biometrics in isolation, instead businesses need to be looking at strong authentication that incorporates three distinct elements – possession (something you have, such as a smartphone), knowledge (something you know, such as a PIN) and inherence (something you are, an iris scan).

“This allows businesses to verify that the person accessing the service is who they say they are, in addition to limiting the amount of times an individual can attempt access if any of these elements are missing or incorrect.”

Companies storing authentication data have a greater responsibility to safeguard it because it’s harder to recover from breaches. Fingerprint or iris patterns can’t be revoked and changed, unlike password or credit cards. “With board directors to soon be responsible for complying with GDPR, more consideration needs to be had for security techniques deployed today and how we can better protect consumers,” SecureData’s Greeff concluded. ®


‘Our business just exploded’: All eyes on thriving store

VISION: Diana Ward, from the Optical Superstore in Riverlink, has  considerable experience in the industry.

ACCORDING to a recent Roy Morgan Research report, 58%of Australians wear prescription glasses and on average replace them every two and half years.

It seems the older we get, the more we need to wear glasses.

One local business, Optical Superstore Ipswich, assists locals with all of their optical needs.

Diana and David Ward have been in business since 2002, moving from the Ipswich City Mall to Riverlink and in their third move are now located opposite Coles in the Riverlink Shopping Centre. “Coming into Riverlink was our best move we ever did, a lot more foot traffic and our business just exploded,” co-owner/operator David Ward said.

The husband and wife duo has considerable experience in the industry. Mr Ward worked in Melbourne, the home of the Optical Superstore.

“I am an optical mechanic, I did my apprenticeship in this and I am trained to make lenses and fitting them into frames.

“This particular role is now gone, replaced by computers. I went on to become an optical dispenser,” he said.

Diana is a qualified optical dispenser studying for the position during a four-year course. Starting out as a receptionist in a laboratory, where the two worked together, she moved to selling frames to retailers.

The complementary skills of the pair means customers are the beneficiary of their considerable knowledge and skill.

Optical Superstore is an Australian-owned and operated business.

“When I worked for them they only franchised to people known to the owner,” he said. “I had a young family and wanted to move back to Ipswich and I asked if he would support me opening a store here. He was happy to do that.”

In this highly competitive business, Optical Superstore Ipswich prides itself on offering the latest in technology for eye examination.

“We try to buy Australian-made frames and stock other international brands. In fact, we have well over 600 frames on display in our store.”

Two optometrists, Alison and Emma, are instore six days a week. Bookings can be made from Monday to Saturday, with appointments until 5pm on Saturday and 7pm on Thursday.

“I will go out of my way to assist our customers – that’s what others will not do. For example, I will do prescription diving masks, people don’t think of that.

“I also do a lot of individual safety glasses that are prescription and certified,” Mr Ward said.

While consumers are more aware of their eye health, it seems there is an increase in young people needing prescription glasses due to constantly being on smart devices without taking breaks.

Optical Superstore Ipswich are providers for Veteran Affairs clients and work with all major health funds for hi-caps claims. Mr and Mrs Ward operate a very successful and customer-oriented business, dedicated to continue to support the local community.



Shield Eyes From Infection During Monsoon

Image result for Shield Eyes From Infection During MonsoonImage for representation purpose only

While enjoying the rainy season, don’t forget to take care of your eyes as the climate also encourages infective microorganisms to thrive. Avoid infections like conjunctivitis, sties, dry eyes and corneal ulcers by using clean towels and more, say experts.

Uma Singh, Medical Consultant at Ozone Group, Gowri Kulkarni, Head of Medical Operations, DocsApp and Shailja Mittal, Creative Head at Zapyle, have listed ways to avoid eye problems:

* Most eye diseases are transmitted by hand-to-eye contact. Therefore, wash your hands before touching your eyes in order to reduce or prevent infection.

* Avoid rubbing your eyes as that only increases the chances of spreading the infection. Instead, use disposable tissues to wipe off the overflowing discharge or tears.

* Avoid getting wet in the rain. Always wear adequately protective rain gear.

* Be careful of dirty water, muck and dampness during the monsoon season.

* Do not use contact lenses if you have eye-irritation, red eye or any form of abnormal discharge.

* Be careful about using expired make-up around your eyes, and if using contact lenses, make sure you never share your solution or container with someone else.

* Don’t share personal products with others. Items like handkerchiefs, sunglasses and contact lenses should not be shared with others because they can carry highly contagious infections.




What is the best way to banish under-eye bags? / Getty/iStockphoto

A build-up of late nights, early mornings and constant use of smartphones has left many of us with burdened by the appearance of dark under-eye circles but just how do you get rid of them?

Something we all struggle with, you’ve no doubt Googled the best way to banish your bags but a regular routine of seven to eight hours sleep and not drinking any alcohol before bed just isn’t always feasible.

Alas, it’s time hit refresh on tired peepers with a little help from some well-versed beauty heroes.

Aside from getting more kip, staying hydrated is key because when the body is starved of water, it responds by retaining as much as it can, thus causing puffy under-eye circles. As such, opt for a hydrating, gentle cleanser or make-up remover so not to cause any trauma or irritation which could cause inflammation.

Alternatively, there are a slew of topical treatments that can help you on your way. The first of which is retinoids which help to stimulate the production of collagen, making the skin less thin while recovering volume and firmness.

A word of warning here though, this ingredient when used in its purest form is rather potent and as such, can irritate the sensitive skin around the eye area. Instead, opt for a cream that contains a lower dose of retinol and work from there.

When it comes to applying said eye creams, other key ingredients to look out for include hyaluronic acid and glycerin. For best results, apply at night so the skin around your eyes doesn’t become irritated or inflamed and again in the morning.

If you feel like your moisturiser could do with a boost, using an eye massager like Foreo’s IRIS will do the trick. Known to promote blood flow to the area, regular use of a beauty tool like this will prevent blood from pooling in the capillaries under the eyes and increase product absorption.

When all else fails, remember you’ve still got makeup and a hardworking concealer will work wonders while you’re attempting to improve your eye bags.

Here, look to the beauty world’s obsession with colour correcting and opt for a cover-up that will counteract dark circles. If yours err towards a bluish purple tone then a yellow concealer is best while any redness should be tackled with a green-tones product to help camouflage it.


Magnetic Eye Implant Stops Dancing Eyes Syndrome

Illustration: Magnetic Eye Prosthetic

A 49-year-old man finally got relief from a rare, maddening eye disorder after researchers, in an experimental procedure, implanted specialized magnets beneath his eyeballs. The disorder, called nystagmus, or dancing eyes, causes the eyes to oscillate rhythmically, making the visual scene constantly shake. Scientists from University College London steadied the man’s gaze by surgically implanting in each eye a pair of titanium-encased rare-earth magnets. The researchers reported the case study Saturday in the journal Ophthalmology.

Researchers have come up with all sorts of clever bioengineering solutions that involve magnets and the human body, but never one quite like this, says Parashkev Nachev, a neurologist at University College London who led the experiment. For example, engineers have designed small robots guided by magnetic fields that move through the body to do various jobs, such as perform surgery, navigate blood vessels, deliver drugs, palpate tissue, and take biopsies. And doctors have attached prostheses such as artificial noses to the body using magnets.

Nachev’s implant moves magnets into a new biomedical domain—one his team dubbed “oculomotor prosthetics.” The magnets he and his team used are made of samarium-cobalt and neodymium-iron-boron, which are rare-earth materials that are fairly common in the magnet world. They’re encased in titanium to make them biocompatible. And they’re small, of course—about three millimeters in diameter and one-to-two millimeters long.

The device is simple and the surgery is quick. In each eye, a surgeon sutures the samarium-cobalt magnet to the tendon of the muscle on the underside of the eye and superglues—yes, superglues—the neodymium-iron-boron magnet to the eye socket. “Ophthalmologists love superglue and they use it a lot,” says Nachev. When the 30-minute procedure is completed, the magnets attract with enough pull to steady the dancing eye, but not so much that voluntary eye movement is hindered, the researchers report.

Nachev’s team also built a machine to test the force of the magnets before implanting them. They wanted to make sure the magnets were strong enough to stop oscillation but not strong enough to impede voluntary eye movement.

Nystagmus can be maddening for patients, says Nachev. When the condition pops up later in life, it often accompanies other problems of the central nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis or degenerative conditions. Because the cause of nystagmus is broad and complex, no single drug seems to work for most patients. Among drugs that do work “the effects are not usually dramatic,” says Nachev.

The patient in Nachev’s case study, who asked to remain anonymous, had tried every drug in the book, with no relief. His vision and stability got so bad he lost his job as a truck driver and became unemployed.

So, he asked his doctors about experimental treatments. Nachev’s team had heard about an oral presentation from a Brazilian ophthalmologist named Harley Bicas who, a decade ago, had proposed the concept of using magnets to steady dancing eyes. Nachev’s team took up the concept and designed a prototype with help from Quentin Pankhurst, a professor of physics and biomedical engineering at University College London.

After the surgery, Nachev’s patient saw an immediate and obvious improvement. “His world doesn’t shake as badly as it used to,” Nachev says. The man was able to get a job—although not as a driver—and has had the implants for nearly five years now.

Though the experiment was a success, it has yet to be conducted in any other patients. Nachev’s team is planning to test the magnets in another 6 to 12 people in an upcoming study. They also hope to explore other applications, such as modifying the functioning of the eyelids or changing the movement of the eyes in response to other oculomotor disorders. One could even add an electromagnetic component with an externally powered unit, enabling the force of the magnets to be varied on the fly depending on what the patient is doing.

But there’s one big drawback. Anyone sporting magnets in their bodies runs into a major obstacle: They can’t get an MRI. That could be a significant problem for people with nystagmus who often have other neurological issues that require monitoring by MRI. The machine images the body using strong magnetic fields and could, to put it in the least grotesque way, “displace” the magnets in a patient’s body. “I hate to even think about it,” says Nachev.


Eyes In the Sky

james-webb-nasatechnicians lift the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane and moved it inside a clean room at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Desiree Stover—NASA

One of America’s least known National Historic Landmarks may also be its ugliest. It’s kept hidden inside Building 32 on the grounds of the Johnson Space Center in Houston and is identified simply as Chamber A. The “landmark” resembles nothing so much as a bank vault, albeit one with a 40-ton, 40-ft.-wide door.

When the door is shut, however, and the right machinery is turned on, Chamber A becomes, effectively, a giant pocket of outer space. Pumps create a vacuum, and a liquid helium and nitrogen cooling system drives the temperature down to –440°F, not far from absolute zero, the thermal floor at which most molecular motion stops.

NASA's Johnson Space Center’s "Chamber A" in Houston is an enormous thermal vacuum testing chamber and now appears to be opening it's "mouth" to take in NASA's James Webb Space Telescope for testing. The telescope and the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) are two of the three major elements that comprise the Webb telescope Observatory flight system and are being lifted into the chamber in this photo. The other is the Spacecraft Element (spacecraft bus and sunshield), which is currently under construction at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems (NGAS) in Redondo Beach, California. The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.
The James Webb Space Telescope for testing being placed in a thermal vacuum chamber. NASA

The chamber was built in 1965 and earned its landmark status both for its innovative design and for its work stress-testing the Apollo lunar spacecraft. Now, it’s preparing to inflict its punishment on the next great space machine to come its way: the James Webb Space Telescope.

On a recent afternoon, the main mirror and instrument package of the Webb–named after the NASA administrator who ran the agency in the early part of the Apollo era–sat in the filtered-air clean room outside the chamber, being prepped for a 93-day stay in simulated space. That test, which will begin in July, will be a very high-stakes exercise. The mirror is the heart of the telescope, measuring 21.3 ft. across. It’s made of 18 smaller hexagonal mirrors arranged in a honeycomb configuration. Altogether, the assembly has seven times more light-collecting space than the main mirror of the celebrated but aging Hubble Space Telescope. So big an eye will give the Webb the power to look much farther into space–and much further back in time–than Hubble can. That might reveal something spectacular–possibly the very moment in cosmic history when the first stars switched on.

For a limited time, TIME is giving all readers special access to subscriber-only stories. For complete access, we encourage you to become a subscriber. Click here.

“We will be watching the universe light up after the Big Bang,” says NASA’s Eric Smith, Webb’s program director.

The Webb has been in development for more than 20 years at a cost of $8.7 billion and is at last set to launch in October 2018. In addition to witnessing first light, it may also see the first primal galaxies taking shape, the first planetary systems forming around stars, even signs of early biology–if it exists–emerging on alien worlds. Though Webb is the biggest news in the telescope community, it’s not the only news. NASA is betting big on cosmic observatories. Even before Webb flies, the space agency will launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will conduct a study of the entire 360-degree bowl of the sky, looking for planets orbiting the half-million brightest, closest stars in the galaxy.

After that may come the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which, among other things, will study dark energy–the still-mysterious force that is forever pulling the universe outward. At least two more spacecraft observatories are also being developed–to study the universe in the X-ray wavelengths and to look more closely at habitable planets. In all, NASA has earmarked about $9.2 billion for Webb and TESS alone. The other telescopes, which are still in early development, would cost what a NASA spokesperson estimates simply as “several billion dollars” each. But that may be a price worth paying.

Engineers Clean Mirror with Carbon Dioxide SnowTwo Exelis Inc. engineers are practicing “snow cleaning'” on a test telescope mirror for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.  NASA/eyevine

“Humankind has always wondered about the universe, and now our telescope technology has caught up with our questions,” says Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of astrophysics. “This is a great time to be a scientist.”

For the Webb telescope, surviving in space may be easy compared to the fight it faced to survive here on Earth–a fight it almost lost. The telescope was proposed in the mid-1990s at a cost of $500 million and was projected to be ready to fly in 2007. But inventing new technology has a way of defying deadlines and confounding cost projections. By 2011, Webb had already burned through $6.2 billion, with no firm launch date in sight.

Congress responded the way Congress often does in these situations, which was to threaten to cancel the whole project. If throwing away billions in sunk costs seemed hard to justify, there was at least some precedent. Familiar with the work of the great American particle accelerator in Waxahachie, Texas? No, you’re not, because it’s nothing but a giant, unused tunnel, one that cost more than $2 billion before Congress lost patience with the similarly behind-schedule, overbudget project and shut it down in 1993.

For the Webb, however, Washington agreed to hold its fire. When the mirror was finally delivered in 2012, the funding spigot was turned back on. “There was strong support from the science community for the mission,” says Smith, “though it was certainly a tense time.”

After that near-death experience, the Webb’s next big challenges will be the ones it will face when it at last gets to work. Unlike Hubble, which flies in Earth’s orbit at an altitude of just 353 miles, Webb will park itself in space about 1 million miles away. There, it will circle a spot known as L2, one of five so-called Lagrange points, where the gravities of Earth and the sun achieve a balance that can hold objects in more or less the same position. That’s a good, safe place for a ship like Webb.

The telescope will do much of its observing not in the optical wavelengths the human eye can see, but in the infrared. The primary source of infrared radiation is heat, and the wavelength can stream straight through the cosmic dust that prevents Hubble from seeing some of the oldest and most remote provinces of space. The problem is, that makes Webb extremely temperature-sensitive; stray heat on its mirror would be like stray light on Hubble’s, washing out images.

Webb will thus turn its back to the sun, Earth and moon, facing out to space with a solar shield protecting it. About the size of a tennis court and roughly diamond-shaped, the shield–which is too large even for Chamber A–is made of five layers of a foil-like material known as kapton. Each layer is as thin as a human hair and is separated from the layers on either side of it by up to 12 in. The temperature on the bottom layer–the most sunward side–will reach about 185°F, not far from the boiling point of water. Each successive layer will get colder and colder–with the vacuum gap between them acting as further insulation–ultimately reaching a low of -370°F on the side of the mirror.

Sunshield for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope expanded at Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo BeachThe Sunshield test unit to be used on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is stacked and expanded at a cleanroom in the Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, Calif. on July 25, 2014.  Chris Gunn—Reuters

“Five layers gives you enough cooling so that you don’t need an active refrigeration system,” says Smith.

The 18 segments of the mirror are made of beryllium, a metal whose molecular structure can be manipulated into one that functions like glass but that can be polished more predictably and consistently. A thin layer of gold is applied for reflectivity. The gold covers 269 sq. ft. of the mirror, but is so thin that if it were peeled off and tamped down, it would form a mass roughly the size of a golf ball. The beryllium surface, meanwhile, is polished so smoothly that if it were expanded to the size of the U.S., its biggest imperfection would be just 3 in. tall.

The fact that the mirror does not have to be protected from ambient starlight means that it doesn’t have to be enclosed in a cylindrical housing like Hubble’s. Instead, it sits directly atop the sun screen, completely exposed to space. That saves weight, but also exposes the mirror to intermittent micrometeoroid bombardment. “Hubble gets beat by stuff all the time,” says Webb’s lead systems engineer Doug McGuffey.

What works in Webb’s favor is the micro part of micrometeoroid: even at high speed, the particles don’t have the mass to do catastrophic damage. And if mirror segments do get dinged over time, actuators–or tiny motors–behind them can adjust their position to refocus them. “Damage to one mirror,” says McGuffey, “can be compensated for by the others.”

NASA workers look up at the James Webb Space Telescope Mirror during it's media reveal at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center at GreenbeltNASA workers look up at the James Webb Space Telescope Mirror during it’s media reveal at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Maryland on Nov. 2, 2016.  Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

Such flexibility will help the Webb avoid the kind of problem Hubble faced, when no sooner did it arrive in space in 1990 than NASA discovered that its primary mirror was warped, leaving it nearsighted. It took a servicing mission by space-shuttle astronauts to fix the problem–something that would not be possible at Webb’s million-mile distance.

All of that engineering care will pay off when Webb begins making its observations. An expanding universe like ours presents complexities a static universe wouldn’t. The most remote regions of space retreat the fastest, and the light that speeds toward us from those areas thus gets stretched like a Slinky, with its wavelength shifting toward the red end of the spectrum–the very end Webb is built to see.

The farthest infrared signatures are also the oldest in the approximately 13.8 billion-year-old universe. Webb will get very close to seeing back to the very beginning, picking up signals that have been traveling to us since just 200 million years after the Big Bang, and converting that information to pictures. An image it delivers of, say, a brand-new galaxy won’t be the galaxy as it looks today, but as it looked 13.6 billion years ago–the cosmic equivalent of live-streaming videos of your newborn across a network that takes, say, 80 years to complete the transmission. The baby in the video will be an octogenarian by the time your receiver watches the stream. That time-capsule quality will be true of all of the observations Webb makes of stars and nebulae and other structures at the most distant removes of space.

The sheer ambition of the Webb mission has caused a lot of people to overlook what the telescope’s little sister TESS will do. But that less expensive ($378 million) observatory could make news. TESS will actually get off the pad first, launching from Cape Canaveral in the early part of 2018, and will go into an ordinary Earth orbit, where it will spend two years conducting its whole-sky survey.

The goal is to study the half-million stars closest to Earth, looking for flickering in their light that suggest they are being orbited by planets. The Kepler Space Telescope, launched in 2009, has already led researchers to conclude that virtually every star in the sky has at least one planet, but Kepler trains its gaze up to 3,000 light-years into space. A planet so far away is hard to study, given that a single light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles. TESS will limit its search to 200 light-years or less.

“Kepler’s great achievement was that it gave us the exoplanet population,” says Hertz. “But the exoplanets that are the closest are obviously the ones best suited for follow-up studies.”

The WFIRST mission is not as far along as TESS, merely in preliminary development. The telescope will observe the cosmos in more or less the same wavelengths as Hubble does, but it will take in 100 times more sky in a single viewing–the difference between peering through a straw and peering through a window.

Even after all of these observatories take flight, NASA is roughing out plans for still more–pending budgetary buy-in. Particularly promising are LYNX–an X-ray-frequency telescope that would be especially good at studying black holes–and HabEx, which would analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets looking for signs of gases associated with life, such as methane and carbon dioxide.

This rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope is current to 2015. Upon request we can provide a high-resolution image without a background. Image credit: Northrop GrummanAn artist rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop Grumman

It says something both odd and exceptional about our species that while we could rightly be preoccupied with the simple business of surviving on the one world we’ve got–keeping the people in our own small tribe fed and healthy and safe from the perceived menace of the tribes across the valley–we always have one eye trained outward. We can’t say exactly what we’re looking for–deliverance, company, answers to eternal questions–but we look out all the same.

Building the instruments that make that wondering gaze possible isn’t easy or cheap, and none of it pays the kinds of earthly dividends that pick-and-shovel programs like fixing roads or building airports do. But there are other kinds of dividends as well, and if uncovering the universe’s most ancient secrets doesn’t qualify, what would? Washington could certainly spend its money more frugally, but it’s hard to see how it could spend it more imaginatively.


Your eyes will fry under normal sunglasses during 2017 eclipse, here’s why

A solar eclipse seen from space.

The nation is preparing for the Aug. 21 “Great American” total solar eclipse, which is the first in 99 years to cross coast-to-coast.

That means buying special eclipse glasses because normal sun glasses – even those with the darkest lenses – aren’t enough to protect eyes from damaging rays.

It’s not that the sun is any stronger during an eclipse, but where you would squint, blink and turn away from the full sun, it can be more comfortable to look at the sun as the moon moves over the bright disk.

That doesn’t mean it’s safe. You can damage your eyes without immediately realizing it if you don’t wear eclipse glasses or look through a special eclipse viewer.

Related: Best places to see the 2017 solar eclipse.

Credit: NASA

Rick Fienberg, the press officer for the American Astronomical Society, said ordinary sun glasses transmit 10 to 20 percent of the light that falls on them.

This makes the landscape on a bright sunny day easier to look at without squinting, and cuts down on glare.

Eclipse glasses allow just 0.0001 percent of the light that falls on them through.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“That’s at least 100,000 times darker than ordinary sunglasses,” Fienberg said. “Nothing can get through such glasses except the sun itself – just enough to be comfortable for viewing.”

The only time it’s safe to look at the eclipse is if you are in the path of totality and the fleeting moments when the sun is completely covered by the moon.

Related: Check your eclipse forecast.

About 12 million people live in the path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse. Millions more will travel to get into the path.

“The sun can be viewed safely with the naked eye only during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse,” NASA says on its eclipse website. “Do not attempt to observe the partial or annular phases of any eclipse with the naked eye.”

It is only safe to view a solar eclipse with the naked eye when you are in the path of totality and the moon completely covers the sun. Credits: © 2005 Miloslav Druckmüller (used by NASA with permission)

Proper eclipse glasses are marked with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and 12312-2.

Some older solar-viewing glasses may meet previous standards for eye protection, but not the new international standard, Fienberg said.

NASA recommends glasses from Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

Ralph Chou, professor emeritus at the School of Optometry & Vision Science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, told that he has seen patients with crescents burned into the back of their eyes after watching an eclipse without protection.

“Lifetime exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation is an established contributor to accelerated aging of the outer layers of the eye and skin and the development of cataracts,” Chou wrote in a Sky and Telescope article. “But more immediate damage takes place from directly observing the Sun with inadequate eye protection.”


Moth Eyes Inspire Glare-Resistant Coating For Cellphone Screens

Deilephila elpenor, commonly called the elephant hawk-moth, has specialized eyes that don’t reflect light. Such moths inspired scientists to invent an anti-glare coating for smart screens.

Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

If you’re standing in the blazing sun struggling to read this on your cellphone, there may be some relief in sight.

And you’ll have a moth to thank.

The reason you have to find shade to read your phone is the way the light reflects off the screen. The reflection reduces contrast, washing out images.

And so “the lower the surface reflection, the better,” says Shin-Tson Wu, a professor of optics and photonics at the University of Central Florida.

Wu’s team of researchers has developed a film that coats cellphone screens to cut down the glare. Their inspiration? The eyes of a moth.

Most moths are nocturnal. Their eyes are covered in anti-reflective nanostructures that prevent light from reflecting off them when they fly at night and giving away their location — helping them to avoid predators.

Think of all the terrible photos of people with glowing red eyes. It’s like that, but a bit worse. Because instead of being embarrassed, you’d be eaten.

The researchers copied those light-trapping structures on the moth eyes for their film.

Current cellphone displays use a sensor to detect bright light, and then boost the screen brightness to improve readability. But that drains battery power. There are some anti-reflective screens on the market now, but they trap only certain wavelengths of light.

Adding the insect-inspired film to a cellphone made it four times easier to read the screen in sunlight, according to research published in the journal Optica. The new film is helpful even when you aren’t in the sun — screens also were 10 times easier to read in the shade.

It can also help keep your screen cleaner. “Some commercial anti-reflection films can be contaminated by fingerprints or dust,” Wu says. “In our film, we have a special treatment that has a self-cleaning effect,” owing to the film’s ability to repel moisture left behind by fingerprints. That moisture often traps dust and dirt on your screen.

Films that mimic moth eyes have already been used to increase the efficiency of solar cells.

Wu’s group wanted to find a way to use similar technology to develop anti-reflective film for phones. But the structures in the moth eyes are really small. The researchers had to come up with a way to quickly assemble the tiny structures to cover large screens, so they used self-assembling nanoparticles that mimic moth-eye structures to build a template that they could apply to any display surface, like a smartphone screen.

The tiny structures are also flexible. That means that the moth-inspired film could be used to coat foldable displays in the future.

But don’t expect to see these special films on your phone or tablet just yet. The authors still have to tweak the flexible film so that it is tough enough to withstand prolonged use. After all, moth eyes weren’t built to take the abuse that some cellphones get.

The moth-eye technology is far from the first invention inspired by nature. Velcro was inspired by burs from the burdock plant that stuck to a dog’s fur after a hunt. And sticky gecko feet inspired NASA scientists to start designing a robot that can walk around in open space on the International Space Station.


Ways to de-stress your eyes at work

Do your eyes feel tired, irritated or dry after spending too much time on your computer? Many people who use computers complain of eye strain. Your eyes bear the maximum stress of your day-to-day lives. Eye strain is caused due to lack of movement when we stare at screens for a long time. Much the same as the body needs unwinding and work out, so do our eyes. Here are a few tips to keep your eyes relaxed and healthy.

Shut your eyes every now and then:
The best eye relaxation method is to rub your palms till they get warm and then placing them on your eyes for sometime. Another practice is to periodically shut your eyes and open them after every 5-10 seconds. This helps release the pressure on eyes. Blinking can also help moisten the eyes.

Take your eyes off the computer:
Take few breaks from looking continuously at your computer screen. This can be done every 20-30 minutes. This will help prevent dry eyes, headaches and blurry vision. Make sure you keep a distance of at least 50-60 cms between your eyes and the computer screen and there is adequate light in the room.

Move your eyeballs:
Rotate your eyeballs in clockwise and anti-clockwise direction at least 7-10 times a day.

Keep taking regular breaks:
Spending longer hours in an air-conditioned room tend to dry up your eyes. To avoid this, you can step out and take in as much fresh air as possible. Drinking plenty of water also hydrates the eyes and keeps them moist.

Play focus your gaze games:
When you get a little time off, fix your gaze on one spot on the wall and then shift your gaze beyond it and finally stare at the same spot again. You could also take a pen from your desk, hold it far and gradually move it toward you, all the while keeping your gaze fixed on the pen.