Science and Technology at the World Cup

ChristTheRedeemerThe entire planet is buzzing with excitement now that the World Cup has finally kicked off. And what a kick it was. No, I’m not talking about Clint Dempsey’s legendary goal during the first minute of the first game of the United States’ inevitable march to the championship, though that too was awesome. Instead, I’m talking about Juliano Pinto’s still more remarkable kick a few days earlier. For those who haven’t heard, Pinto is a 29-year-old Brazilian who successfully executed the World Cup’s commemorative first kick during the opening ceremony last Thursday, this despite the fact that he is paralyzed from the waist down. To accomplish this astounding feat, he wore an EEG cap that monitored his brain waves and an electronic “exoskeleton” that interpreted his brain’s impulses. (Click here to watch a GIF of Pinto’s kick.) The entire demonstration was dreamed up by Pinto’s fellow Brazilian, neuroengineer Miguel Nicolelis, who currently maintains a laboratory at Duke University. This sort of technology is obviously impressive, but what might be even more impressive is the fact that Dr. Nicolelis actually erred on the side of caution when he asked Pinto to wear an EEG cap. Research has shown that implanting electrodes directly into the brain, while more invasive, is also more effective. Just last month, for example, researchers gave hope to millions of paralyzed people across the globe when they showed that connecting a macaque monkey’s brain to a computer could restore function to previously paralyzed limbs. To learn more, check out the links here and here. And finally, since you’re likely to see Corcovado Mountain several hundred times during the next few weeks of World Cup coverage, you should do yourself a favor and listen to “Corcovado,” the legendary jazz recording written by Antonio Carlos Jobim in 1963. Until next time, go ‘Merica!