How Color-Changing Crystals Could Alter the Way Football Handles Concussions

A monster hit turns them from, say, green to purple.

credit: Wikimedia Commons user Jim Ferguson

Brain injuries are incredibly serious, but can be incredibly hard to diagnose in the heat of battle—or, say, a game. This is a grave issue that has plagued all sports—amateur and professional—but none so visibly as football. Earlier this year, a Philadelphia judge approved a plan that will see the National Football League pay out an estimated $1 billion to about 6,000 retired football players currently suffering from serious concussion-related diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

And a new Will Smith vehicle, to be released in December, is set to bring even more national attention to football brain injuries. In Concussion, Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist who made the startling connection between football players, brain injuries, and their long-term effects.

Whether the NFL is serious about tackling its brain injury problem is up for debate. But a new color-changing crystal created by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania could at least make serious concussions easier to detect. That might give football players opportunities stop playing before a brain injury becomes even more serious.

Force turns the crystals from green (left) to purple (right), via youtube screencapture

The research team, led by chemist Shu Yang, used a technique called holographic lithography to carefully engineer crystals of a specific color. Once a large force is applied to those crystals, however, their structures change, giving them a different hue.

What does all this complex science have to do with football? Yang’s team found it could incorporate those crystals into a polymer, which could then be molded into your standard football helmet.

“If the force was large enough, and you could easily tell that, then you could immediately seek medical attention,” Yang told about a potential color-changing helmet.

Yang cautions that right now, the crystal-making process is an extremely expensive one, and not yet viable for mass production. But the advances are great news in a country that has become increasingly obsessed with football—but also increasingly worried about its health consequences.

Via USA Today

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less

The disappearance of 40-year-old mortgage broker William Earl Moldt remained a mystery for 22 years because the technology used to find him hadn't been developed yet.

Moldt was reported missing on November 8, 1997. He had left a nightclub around 11 p.m. where he had been drinking. He wasn't known as a heavy drinker and witnesses at the bar said he didn't seem intoxicated when he left.

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore

The common stereotypes about liberals and conservatives are that liberals are bleeding hearts and conservatives are cold-hearted.

It makes sense, conservatives want limited government and to cut social programs that help the more vulnerable members of society. Whereas liberals don't mind paying a few more dollars in taxes to help the unfortunate.

A recent study out of Belgium scientifically supports the notion that people who scored lower on emotional ability tests tend to have right-wing and racist views.

Keep Reading Show less