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Guide Index

Fixing the Leaning Tower of Pisa

All in the Family

Long-Distance Doc

Eruption!

Where's the Matter?

Renaissance Machines
in the classroom
TEACHING GUIDES


SCIENCE ITALIAN STYLE: Long-Distance Doc


A robot performs surgery and demonstrates cutting-edge medical technology in the operating room of the future. With the aid of a satellite and robotics, a surgeon in Rome, assisted by Frontiers host Alan Alda, performs an operation on a patient hundreds of miles away in Milan. Fortunately for all concerned, the patient is only a dummy. But once the technology is perfected, long-distance surgery may have life-saving applications on the battlefield and in outer space.

Curriculum Links
Activity 1: Surgical Stability
Activity 2: A Remote Remote



CURRICULUM LINKS

BIOLOGY

anatomy, microsurgery
CAREER EDUCATION

medicine, surgery

GENERAL SCIENCE


musculature and nervous systems
PHYSICS


electro-
magnetic waves
TECHNOLOGY

communication satellites,
distance
learning,
programming, robotics



ACTIVITY 1: SURGICAL STABILITY

Do you think you have steady enough hands to be a surgeon? Here's a device you can build to test your coordination and fine motor skills.

MATERIALS
  • 3 wire connectors (with alligator clips on both ends)
  • clay
  • 1 metal clothes hanger
  • emery cloth
  • 6-volt lantern battery
  • 6-volt bell (or buzzer)
  • large and small steel washers


PROCEDURE
  1. Untwist the metal hanger and use emery cloth to remove its coating.

  2. Bend the hanger into a curved shape with some twists and bends.

  3. Stick one end of the hanger into a clay base.

  4. Clip one end of a wire connector to the lower part of the hanger. Then clip the second end to the battery terminal.

  5. Clip one end of a second wire connector to the other battery terminal. Attach the second end of this wire connector to the 6-volt buzzer.

  6. Clip one end of a third wire connector to the buzzer's other terminal and clip the free end to a large washer.

  7. Use your fingers to slide the washer carefully along the hanger, following each of its twists and bends. Try not to let the washer make contact with the hanger. (The buzzer will sound if it does.)

Increase the difficulty of the task by using smaller washers.



ACTIVITY 2: A REMOTE REMOTE

The communication between a remote-control device and the TV is carried by electromagnetic waves. Like the communication between satellites, your remote commands to the TV can be bounced off reflective objects.

MATERIALS
  • TV with remote-control device
  • protractor
  • mirror
  • index cards
  • aluminum foil


PROCEDURE
  1. Aim a remote-control device toward the TV and advance the channels.

  2. Slowly increase the angle at which you aim the remote toward the TV. At what angle to the TV does the remote cease to affect the set? (Use a protractor to measure the angle between the TV and the inoperative remote direction.)

  3. Take turns holding a mirror that reflects the remote-control signal to the TV. What happens now? If the TV does not respond, change the remote's angle so that the reflected beam is aimed straight toward the TV.

  4. Cover a set of four index cards with aluminum foil. Use these cards to construct a zigzag reflective path for the TV beam.


CHALLENGE
  • Brainstorm applications of the remote-control surgery demonstrated on Frontiers.









 

Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.