A New Scale Can Measure the Weight of a Single Cell

Nanosurf
Nanosurf

Researchers in Europe have invented a new hypersensitive scale that can be used to measure fluctuations in living cells in real-time, Digital Trends reports. The Cytomass Monitor can measure the weight of a single cell weighing only two or three nanograms. (A nanogram is one billionth of a gram.)

Developed by researchers at ETH Zurich, the University of Basel, and University College London, the Cytomass Monitor works by monitoring the changing resonant frequency of a cantilever.

A pulsing blue laser pointed at the microscopic cantilever causes it to oscillate. When the cantilever—made sticky by collagen or a binding protein called fibronectin—picks up an individual cell, researchers can determine its weight by the way that the resonant frequency changes, which is read by an infrared laser. The device is made to be placed directly on the plate of a microscope, so the user can also see and film the cells moving.

In a new study published in the journal Nature, the researchers use the super-sensitive scale to show that a mammalian cell's mass subtly fluctuates throughout the cell cycle. On a second-to-second basis, a living cell's weight fluctuates by between 1 and 4 percent of its total weight, they found.

A Swiss technology company called Nanosurf is now working to make the Cytomass Monitor commercially available so that it can be used in a range of biological and pharmacological research. You can see the concept illustrated in the video below.

This is not, however, the most sensitive scale ever built. In 2012, researchers created a scale capable of measuring the mass of a single proton. 

[h/t Digital Trends]

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer

Amazon
Amazon

If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

Thomas Edison’s First Patented Invention—a Voting Machine for Congress—Was a Total Flop

Sadly, Congress voted 'No' on using Thomas Edison's voting machine.
Sadly, Congress voted 'No' on using Thomas Edison's voting machine.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On June 1, 1869, Thomas Edison patented his very first invention: a voting machine meant for Congress.

According to Rutgers University’s Thomas A. Edison Papers Project, the 22-year-old inventor might’ve been inspired to design the device after newspaper reports announced that both the New York state legislature and the city council of Washington, D.C., were investigating means of automating their ballot process. At the time, legislators voted by calling out “Yea” or “Nay” (or something of that nature), and a clerk jotted down their responses one by one.

Edison’s “electrographic vote-recorder” had the names of all the voters listed twice: in a “Yes” column on one side, and a “No” column on the other. When a person flipped a switch to indicate their vote, the machine would transmit the signal through an electric current and mark their name in the corresponding column, while keeping track of the total tally of votes on a dial. After everyone had voted, an attendant would place a sheet of chemically treated paper on top of the columns and press down on it with a metallic roller, imprinting the paper with the results.

thomas edison electrographic vote-recorder patent 1869
The sketch that accompanied Edison's patent.
U.S. Patent 0,090,646, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A telegraph operator named Dewitt Roberts invested $100—about $1754 in today's dollars, according to Tech Times—in the device and set off for an exhibition on Capitol Hill. Alas, members of Congress were completely uninterested, and the committee chairman in charge of deciding its fate declared that “if there is any invention on earth that we don't want down here, that is it.”

The committee didn’t think the vote-recorder streamlined the process enough to be useful, but it’s possible they weren’t too keen on speeding things up in the first place. If the officials didn’t voice their votes aloud, there wouldn’t be any opportunity to filibuster policies or persuade each other to switch their stances—an integral part of congressional proceedings.

Edison, of course, recovered from his first flop. He went on to invent (or at least improve upon) the light bulb, create the cat video, and devise many more notable creations.