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Tiny robots cure mice with deadly pneumonia

Microrobots have been created and used to treat the most common form of pneumonia that infects patients in ICU. In experiments, currently carried out in mice at the University of California San Diego, the tiny robots swam around the lungs and delivered antibiotics that killed the disease-causing bacteria. The amount of antibiotics needed is a tiny fraction of the amount currently used to treat this infection intravenously. The robots are made from algae cells (this allows them to move) covered in antibiotic-filled nanoparticles. These nanoparticles are made with tiny spheres that are coated with the cell membranes of neutrophils – a type of white blood cell that fights infection and inflammation - making the microrobots more effective at fighting the lung infection. We hear from lead author Professor Joseph Wang about the tech that’s allowed the team of nanoengineers to create these microrobots.

Internet shutdowns in India – on what grounds are they allowed?
Since 2012 there have been 683 full internet blackouts in India according to the internet shutdown tracker run by the Software Freedom Law Centre (SLFC). Many of these are done without following government rules. Now India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has only a week left to reveal the grounds on which it approves or imposes internet shutdowns in the country. The SFLC filed a lawsuit against the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal, after internet shutdowns were ordered to prevent cheating during state exams. This is a common occurrence around the time of public exams across the country as stolen exam papers often appear on the internet. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the protocols on which these decisions are made need to be made public. Tech reporter Emma Woollacott explains the massive impact of these shutdowns and lawyer Mishi Choudhary founder of the SFLC explains why they bought about the lawsuit.

National Robotarium opens in Edinburgh
Digital Planet’s Hannah Fisher has been given access to the UK’s first robotarium and reports on the eve of its opening for the programme. A big aim of the national robotarium at Heriot Watt University is to change public opinion about what robots actually are and how we can use them.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

Studio Manager: Andrew Garratt
Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

(Image: Illustration of microrobots entering the lungs to treat pneumonia. Credit: Wang lab/UC San Diego:)

Gamification – does making things fun work?

Do you track your physical activity on your phone, count your daily steps, or how many calories you’ve burnt? Perhaps you are learning a new language using an app or have performance-related leaderboards at work? All these things are part of gamification – making everyday tasks more fun. But is all this gameplay good for us and is there actually any evidence that it works? Digital Planet this week explores the phenomenon of gamification with guests Adrian Hon, the CEO and founder of the games developer Six to Start and co-creator of one of the world’s most popular gamified apps, Zombies, Run! and Gabe Zichermann founder of six high-tech companies and author of three books on Gamification, including “Gamification by Design”.

The programme is presented by Bill Thompson with expert commentary from Angelica Mari.

Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

(Image: Gamification. Credit: Getty Images)

Community Networks: connecting the unconnected

The Digital Divide in Tribal Communities
Across the North American continent, there is a stark difference in the availability of the internet to different communities. Tribal lands are typically remote, rural, and rugged landscapes, and often have very patchy, or non-existent internet connectivity. Dr. Traci Morris explains why such a digital divide exists and how tribes are working together, both within their communities and with each other, to create and gain access to communications networks.

Digital Deras connecting farmers in rural Pakistan
In rural Punjab in Pakistan, farmers and villagers gather in places called ‘Deras’ to socialise, drink tea and coffee and discuss their farms. But one project has created a community network to transform one of these Deras to have digital facilities – a ‘Digital Dera’. Farmers use this Digital Dera to access crucial weather forecasts and other information to help them manage their farms more efficiently. It also helps them battle the impact of climate change, as the crop cycles change due to shifting weather patterns. Founders of the project Fouad Bajwa and Aamer Hayat speak to Gareth about the impact of the Digital Dera project on the farming community.

Offline interview in Cuba
Cuba is one of the least digitally connected countries in the Western hemisphere. This is due to the US trade embargo but also poor internet infrastructure and tight control of its own government on the flow of information. Although accessing digital technologies is getting better, for ordinary Cubans going online is still a challenge. The internet connection is slow, unreliable, and prohibitively expensive. To combat this, they have created an offline underground internet called ‘El Paquete Semanal’ or ‘Weekly Package’ – it is a one-terabyte collection of eclectic material of movies, tv-series, sports, and music while turning a blind eye to copyright. Reporter Snezana Curcic visited to learn more about this Cuban alternative to broadband internet.

This programme was first transmitted on Tuesday 7th June 2022.

The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.

Studio Manager: Jackie Margerum
Producer: Hannah Fisher

(Photo: 5G data stream running through a rural village
Credit: Huber & Starke/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

3 episodes