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As usual, what you really want to do is read the paper: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41551-016-0009

This is a well-written and very clear paper. It covers several aspects that went unmentioned in the Gizmodo article, and highlights that although building such a device may be trivial, evaluating and studying it is not.

Some highlights: the paper covers how the device was built in detail, including information on the three safety mechanisms used to ensure the operator doesn't get exposed to infected blood (shatterproof plastic capillaries, epoxied sample holders made from drinking straws, and sealing of the capillaries inside two paper discs). It is exclusively made from low-cost materials, but it's more than just a piece of paper, handles and some string (fishing wire).

The paper also covers the physical dynamics of the "paperfuge" in great detail, analyzing its rotational dynamics and building a theoretical model of motion that agrees well with the physical observations (captured with a 6000fps high-speed camera). It also shows that the max RPM varies with disc size, with 125000 RPM for a small disc (5mm diameter). The paper even mentions that this was submitted as a Guiness World Record.

Finally it shows that the paperfuge produces sample separation results on par with electromechanical centrifuges using similar spinning time (1.5min for paperfuge, 2min for centrifuge for plasma separation), and does an analysis of the resulting blood samples.

> As usual, what you really want to do is read the paper:

An aside: If you are not reading Nature you may be missing out on a lot. I would guess the same applies to Science.

Only the back half of Nature is actual research papers, which often are indeed very slow going. The other half is science news written clearly - it's fascinating, not a chore at all - and with a level of knowledge and sophistication unmatched elsewhere (AFAIK), and most importantly it will completely change your perspective: There is a world of research and knowledge that you won't even know exists if you read the more 'popular' science press.

A little time reading Nature will save you much more time reading less informative publications.

If you read Nature and science papers, plan on reading the supplementary materials (typically 20-200 pages) where we are forced to put all the real science. And the online methods (a half measure spurred by outrage at the preceding).

Wouldn't want to waste words on silly shit like methods, references, discussions, etc in a CNS paper, would we?

LIGO doesn't even bother sending papers to Nature or science any more. The editors at both are unbearably pompous.

Agree. Nature News and Comment [1] is where I usually go first for my science news

- [1] http://www.nature.com/news/

At $199 a year it is extremely expensive. I remember I was paying close to $1,000 a year for the journal my 1,000 student college I work for.

Not including JSTOR and other subscriptions for these Journals. The bill 10 years ago was about $70,000 for journal access on computers where I had the print copies in boxes behind the journals or in the storage area collecting dust.

So how does someone not connected to a university get access to all this essential knowledge? Subscribing as an individual to JSTOR, etc. is far too expensive (thousands per year, I believe) and complicated. I don't want the administrative burden of my own research library.

The sarcastic answer: You have to pirate papers. There is a popular Russian hub for science papers that contains almost every paper ever published in the last couple of years. It is used by many academics.

Almost no organization can afford to pay for all the stores, so even universities have limited access in the sense that they can only offer their students and staff a limited selection of what is available. Subscription fees are too high, single journals are often only available in bundles with other journals/topics, increasing the price further. Publishers act as gatekeepers to (often publicly funded!) knowledge.

Thanks a lot for the summary. It's so hard to look at simple things and see how difficult it is to make them a product, and even harder to see the edge cases that prevent it from being used in healthcare.

I really like that there's a comparison to commercial centrifuges, since that shows the quality of medical care isn't going down simply to be cheap. Overall it looks like a well thought out design.

Holy crap. 125,000RPM for a 5mm disc means the edge is spinning at nearly 9,000mph.

On top of that, the g-force would be

    a = v^2 / r 
    v = 2 * pi * 5mm * 125000/60 s^-1`
    r = 5mm 
...giving 87,000 gees?!

I start to wonder if general relativity effects (frame-dragging?) start to become noticeable at that acceleration.

Quick math and google says no:

9,000 MPH = 0.00001342 C

Threshold for relativistic effects is .01 C according to this paper:


EDIT: Rereading that paper, they're focused at the particle level, which may or may not make this irrelevant. I know anecdotally that GPS satellites have to take relativity into account. Geostationary satellites move at 1.9 miles per seconds, which is 6840 mph - quite a bit lower than our centrifuge. That being said, the precision required for GPS means that very small changes due to relative effects have a rather large impact. In short, where there is motion, there is relativity. Is it enough to measure here? Possibly - sticking a small microcontroller and having it report the time would be interesting. Is it enough to matter? The answer is relative.

I believe in GPS satellites relativistic effects are due in greater part to the difference in gravity between the surface of the earth and the satellite, more so than the special relativity effects.

According to a reference[1] from Wikipedia[2] the effect would be 45 μs for general relativity 7 μs for special relativity, combining into a 38 μs drift.

So although you are technically correct (45 > 7) they are both significant.

[1] http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast162/Unit5/gps.... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System#Hist...

Relativity has almost no effect on GPS at it's worse it would have an accuracy degradation of less than 1cm, there are considerably bigger sources of errors in GPS than relativity and various corrections to those. Shadows, echoes, atmospheric effects and the doppler effect have considerable effect on GPS accuracy, relativity will not.

Relativity has a massive effect on GPS. If unaccounted for, the error would increase by 11km per day.

EDIT: I might be wrong on the “11km” part. See reply


No it doesn't http://www.physicsmyths.org.uk/gps.htm This would only be an issue if you had substantial drift between different sattlites the 38 microsecond delay is irrelevant since all satellites in the constellation have a similar delay.

It's also less relevant when solving using the more common method which is time-tagging at the receiver, relativity might be a bigger pain if you are doing time-tagging at the transmitter but since the clocks of different satellites are not synchronized and can differ by as much as 1ms that delta would be more of an issue than relativity.

If you are doing normal GPS accuracy which is 15m you don't need to use relativistic correction in the receiver, is you are solving for almanac data you do not need to do relativistic correction in the receiver, you only really do relativistic corrections when you are using centimeter level accuracy GPS and even then you have considerably bigger corrections to do.

Yes relativity was accounted for when GPS was designed, but it's by no means would send you to China, not even to the wrong town.

What GPS needs to work is for the receivers to be able to calculate a proper geometric range delay or at least be constantly and consistently wrong when calculating the delay for different satellites in the cluster.


Discounting relativity would reduce accuracy, but it would be consistent and constant and so would not present that much of an issue, it's also by far not the biggest offender when it comes to corrections.

Thank you. Is it fair to say that the 38µs correction done in the satellites is more for GPS’s other use? That is, as a source of accurate timekeeping to the receivers? It sounds like positioning is not affected like I thought, but the designers felt the need to engineer a solution to the relativity problem nonetheless.

There are different corrections for relativity, one is the "one time adjustment" that all clocks got which is on average closer to earth clock rates but it's not 100% constant since general and special relativity do not affect all satellites in the same manner and they all got the same clock correction.

The other "relativistic" correction is one done in the receiver and is needed for geometric range delay calculation, basically taking into account that light doesn't travel in a straight path, we've kinda known that since the early days of classical optics - Fermat's principle or the principle of least time.

Now while it's true that we are using the "relativistic" version of this in our calculation solving the classical or even ignoring it all correctly as long as we account for other effects would still allow you to find a starbucks.

Since GPS was initially intended for military use it had other uses such as time keeping that can be used to synchronize communication, encryption and other things these errors can be cumulative whilst navigation errors are often not since the drift would be more or less uniform with all satellites you see.

Yes, putting MC and check it's time after a device-lifetime of use would be quite an interesting experiment.

Where do you get those 9000 mph from? as far as I can see the edge velocity will be 65.45 m/s or 236 km/h:

Fill in the blanks, m/s:

   v (in m/s) = pi * D * rpm / 60 (D in m)

   3.141593 * 0.01 * 125,000 / 60 = 65.45 (m/s)
or, in km/h

   v (in km/h) = pi * D * rpm * 60 / 1000  (D in m)

   3.141593 * 0.01 * 125,000 * 60 / 1000 = 235.62 (km/h)
These values are valid for a disc with a 5 mm radius. If that '5 mm' indicates the diameter the values would be halved to 32.72 m/s or 118 km/h.

You used 5m instead of 5mm, putting you out by a factor of 1000:

    2 * Pi * 0.005m * 125000/60 s^-1 = 65.4m/s = 235km/h.

This is an impressively high spin rate. The sub-$1k centrifuges on Amazon look like they about 10,000 RPM, although at least one gets 100,000 RPM.


You're wrong. 125,000 RPM with a 5 mm diameter is 235.58 km/hour or 146.4 mph, giving you 1,712,957 m/s^2 or 174,613 Gs (weird!)

No it isn't, you must have mistyped something. The diameter, not radius is 5mm, not that it makes a big difference. The top speed is a little over 30 meters per second or 70 mph. (Edit: possibly because you turned seconds into 1/s for some reason? Either way, the edge of the disk is not going hypersonic or anywhere close to it)

It's my fault - I misread R_d as diameter and not radius. The disc is indeed 5mm in radius (10mm in diameter). With this value, the speed of the disc edge is 65m/s or about 145mph.

Actually the radius is 5mm in the paper, it was nneonneo that got that part wrong.

The wrong part doesn't come from the 5mm, it comes from being orders of magnitude wrong by some other method.

Oh, yeah I know. Didn't mean to imply your main point was incorrect.

If I was using this thing, I would fix one end to a solid endpoint and pull the other end so that I would not be in the line of fire if the thing exploded.

The video shows them doing exactly this with one end tied to a door handle.

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