How Tattoos Interact With The Immune System Could Have Impacts For Vaccines

Tattoos are an interesting technology. They’re a way of marking patterns and designs on the skin that can last for years or decades. All this, despite the fact that our skin sloughs off on a regular basis!

As it turns out, tattoos actually have a deep and complex interaction with our immune system, which hold some of the secrets regarding their longevity. New research has unveiled more insight into how the body responds when we get inked up.

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Hackaday Links: March 12, 2023

With a long history of nearly universal hate for their products, you’d think printer manufacturers would by now have found ways to back off from the policies that only seem to keep aggravating customers. But rather than make it a financially wiser decision to throw out a printer and buy a new one than to buy new ink cartridges or toners, manufacturers keep coming up with new and devious ways to piss customers off. Case in point: Hewlett-Packard now seems to be bricking printers with third-party ink cartridges. Reports from users say that a new error message has popped up on screens of printers with non-HP cartridges installed warning that further use of the printer has been blocked. Previously, printers just warned about potential quality issues from non-HP consumables, but now they’re essentially bricked until you cough up the money for legit HP cartridges. Users who have contacted HP support say that they were told the change occurred because of a recent firmware update sent to the printer, so that’s comforting.

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Replace An AA Battery With Paper

Paper is an ubiquitous part of society; so much so that the incredible engineering behind it often goes unnoticed. That isn’t the case for [Robert], though, who has a deep appreciation for the material and all its many uses far beyond recording information. In this particular video, he recreates a method found by researchers to turn a piece of paper into a battery with equivalent performance to a AA-sized alkaline battery. (Video, embedded below the break.)

The process involves the creation of a few different types of ink, each of which can be made with relatively common materials such as shellac, ethanol, polyethylene glycol, and graphite. Each of these materials are mixed in different proportions to create the inks. Once the cathode ink and anode ink are made, a third ink is needed called a current collector ink which functions essentially as a wire. The paper is dipped into a salt solution and then allowed to dry, given a partial waterproof coating, and when it is needed it can be activated by wetting it which allows the ion flow of the battery to happen.

The chemistry of this battery makes a lot of sense once you see it in action, and the battery production method also has a perk of having a long shelf life as long as the batteries stay dry. They also don’t damage the environment as much as non-rechargable alkaline cells do, at least unless you want to go to some extreme measures to reuse them.

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Performing Magic With A Little High-Tech Help

Doing magic with cards involves a lot of precise dexterity to know which card is where. For plenty of tricks, this is often knowledge and control of a single card or a small number of cards. But knowing the exact position of every single card in the deck could certainly be helpful, so the Nettle Magic Project was created to allow magicians to easily identify the location of cards in the deck.

The system works through the use of computer vision to identify a series of marks on the short edge of a stack of cards. The marks can be printed in IR- or UV-sensitive ink to make them virtually invisible, but for demonstration these use regular black ink. Each card has landmarks printed on either side of a set of bit markers which identify the cards. A computer is able to quickly read the marks and identify each card in order while the deck is still stacked, aiding the magician in whichever trick they need to perform.

The software only runs on various Apple devices right now, including iPhones and iPads, but the software is readily available fore experimentation if you are a magician looking to try something like this out. Honestly, we don’t see too many builds focusing on magic, sleight-of-hand or otherwise, and we had to go back over a decade to find a couple of custom magical builds from a magician named [Mario].

Thanks to [Tim] for the tip!

It’s Printable, It’s Programmable, It’s E. Coli

Well, whaddya know? It seems that E. coli, the bane of Romaine and spinach everywhere, has at least one practical use. Researchers at Harvard have created a kind of 3D-printable ink that is alive and made entirely of microbes produced by E. coli. Although this is not the first so-called living ink, it does hold the title of the first living ink that doesn’t need any additional polymers to provide structure.

Passing the pillar test up to 16mm. Image via Nature

Because the ink is alive, it is technically programmable in the sense that it can self-assemble proteins into nanofibers, and further assemble those into nanofiber networks that comprise hydrogels.

One of the researchers compared the ink to a seed, which has everything it needs to eventually grow into a glorious tree. In this way, the ink could be used as a renewable building material both on Earth and in space. Though the ink does not continue to grow after being printed, the resulting structure would be a living system that could theoretically heal itself.

The ink creation process begins when the researchers induce genetically-engineered bacteria cultures to grow the ink, which is also made of living cells. The ink is then harvested and becomes gelatin-like, holding its shape well enough to go through a 3D printer. It even passes the bridging test, supporting its own weight between pillars placed up to 16 mm apart. (We’d like to see a Benchie.)

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Handwriting Robots Are Sending Snail Mail

As a kid, you might remember taking a whole fistful of markers or crayons, gently lining them all up for maximum contact, mashing them into the paper, and marveling at the colorful multitude of lines. It seemed like an easy way to write many times more things with less effort. While not quite the same idea but in a similar vein, [Aaron Francis] shared an experience of creating handwriting robots to write thousands of letters.

Why did [Aaron] need to write thousands of letters? Direct mailing, of course! If you were sending someone a letter, if it looked handwritten they’re much more likely to open it. What better way to make it look handwritten than to use a pen rather than a printer? They started off with Axidraw, a simple plotter made by EMSL. Old laptops controlled a few plotters and they started to make progress. As with most things, scale became tricky. Adding more plotters just means more paper to replace and machines to restart. An automated system of replacing paper is fiendishly difficult so they went for a batching system. A sheet of plywood that can hold dozens of sheets of paper became the basis of a new mega-plotter. 3D printers and laser cutters helped make adapters and homing teeth. A Raspberry Pi replaced the old laptops and they scaled up to a few machines.

All in all, a pretty impressive build. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the plotting water, this pen plotter is about as simple as you can get.

Better History Through X-Rays

Even if you aren’t a giant history buff, you probably know that the French royal family had some difficulties in the late 1700s. The end of the story saw the King beheaded and, a bit later, his wife the famous Marie Antoinette suffered the same fate. Marie wrote many letters to her confidant, and probable lover, Swedish count Axel von Fersen. Some of those letters have survived to the present day — sort of. An unknown person saw fit to blot out parts of the surviving letters with ink, rendering them illegible. Well, that is, until now thanks to modernĀ x-ray technology.

Anne Michelin from the French National Museum of Natural History and her colleagues were able to foil the censor and they even have a theory as to the ink blot’s origin: von Fersen, himself! The technique used may enable the recovery of other lost portions of historical documents and was published in the journal Science Advances.

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