Weekly News Bites: A melting robot, sensitive artificial skin, and when the Earth’s core stops spinning

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are a robot that can melt and reform, artificial skin that can sense objects before touching them, and the pause and reversal of the planet’s inner core’s spin.

The world keeps turning… until it doesn’t! The solid ball of the Earth’s inner core may have stopped rotating and might be changing direction observed scientists from Peking University. The researchers hypothesize that this reverse in direction may be part of a 70-year-long cycle and affects the length of days and the Earth’s magnetic field. 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be linked to the diversity of bacteria in our gut microbiome. A study by Korea University College of Medicine found that IBS patients had a less diverse gut microbiome than healthy people. Further studies are needed to find out if it is causal or just associated with IBS.

Scientists from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have built a robot that can melt from a solid state into a liquid one and be reshaped into its original form. The microbot is made out of liquid microparticles and is controlled by external magnetic fields. The team hope to use it to help humans, by using it to fetch swallowed objects for example, but the people are also playfully drawing comparisons to the robot in Terminator 2. 

To fully complete the Terminator 2 machine, it also needs to have skin to mimic humans. Nanyang Technological University may be able to help, as they have developed an artificial skin that can detect and identify things it hasn’t even touched yet. A sensitive capacitor can measure the distance between and changes in the electric fields around two electrodes to sense an object, whether it is directly touching it or if it is nearby.