This DIY toy is fun and simple — and could help tackle malaria and other diseases.

If you're, say, researching a new drug or vaccine, this lab might be perfect.

Image via iStock.

But not everyone is lucky enough to have access to such resources. If you're not in a big city, for example, or if you're one of the world's many remote health care workers, in which case you might be going someplace where you can bring only what fits in your Jeep.


Which means that lab is just not coming along.

One of the tools we'd really like to make "back-of-Jeep" friendly is the centrifuge.

Centrifuges are one of the most common scientific tools and work by spinning samples at ridiculously high speeds. In medicine they're used to prep blood samples for analysis. Unfortunately, typical centrifuges are bulky, heavy, expensive, and electronic, which led designers to search for alternative solutions.

Designers often look for inspiration in everyday objects. Some have tried salad spinners as a centrifuge replacement. Others tried egg beaters. Both of those were too slow and awkward, but now researchers at Stanford might have found something awesome.

This simple toy is known as a whirligig.

Image from Nature/YouTube.

You may have played with one before, and if you haven't, they're dead simple to make. Researchers spotted it and were curious: Could this thing work as a centrifuge? It certainly spun, but how fast? The researchers decided to build their own prototype and test it out.

Using a high-speed camera and some seriously impressive physics calculations, they found that a whirligig could get up to a blisteringly fast 125,000 revolutions per minute. That's not just fast, that's centrifuge fast.

Since the first test, researchers have come up with a new whirligig design that could hold small amounts of blood or other scientific samples. They're calling it the "paperfuge" and are working with health care workers in Madagascar to learn how to improve and distribute it.

Image from Nature/YouTube.

Initial results seem good. They can get blood samples to separate in just 90 seconds. After 15 minutes, results were fine enough to even identify malaria parasites. This means the paperfuge might be able to bring a ton of new tests — from basic health checkups to serious diagnostics — to the millions of people who live outside the range of typical labs.

A lot of science is, unfortunately, out of reach for normal people. Clever design like this could remove some of the barriers.

Image from Nature/YouTube.

Creating more accessible equipment could help democratize science, says Dr. Manu Prakash, one of the researchers who worked on the paperfuge. There are a ton of smart, knowledgable people out there, but living in a place where you can easily get and use thousand-dollar centrifuges is a privilege many do not get. New tools like the paperfuge could change that.

Science is one of the best ways we have to learn about and change our world. Imagine what we can do once everyone has access to it.

Heroes
via Twitter / Soraya

There is a strange right-wing logic that suggests when minorities fight for equal rights it's somehow a threat to the rights already held by those in the majority or who hold power.

Like when the Black Lives Matter movement started, many on the right claimed that fighting for black people to be treated equally somehow meant that other people's lives were not as valuable, leading to the short-lived All Lives Matter movement.

This same "oppressed majority" logic is behind the new Straight Pride movement which made headlines in August after its march through the streets of Boston.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

For most of us, the hypothetical question of whether we would stick with a boyfriend or girlfriend through the trials of cancer and the treatments is just that – a hypothetical question. We would like to think we would do the right thing, but when Max Allegretti got the chance to put his money where mouth is, he didn't hesitate for a second.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular