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  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

  • I'd like to introduce you to an interesting person named Ötzi.

  • He lives in Italy

  • at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

  • because he's a mummy.

  • This is an artist's rendition of what he might have looked like

  • when he was alive 5,300 years ago.

  • You want to see what he looks like today?

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, brace yourselves, gross mummy pic coming at you.

  • So, he's not as handsome as he used to be,

  • but he's actually in great shape for a mummy

  • because he was discovered frozen in ice.

  • Ötzi is the oldest mummy that's been discovered with preserved skin.

  • 5,300 years is super old,

  • older than the Egyptian pyramids,

  • and Ötzi's skin is covered in 61 black tattoos,

  • all lines and crosses on parts of his body

  • where he might have experienced pain.

  • So scientists think that they might have been used

  • to mark sites for some kind of therapy,

  • like acupuncture.

  • So clearly, if the oldest skin we've seen

  • is all tattooed up,

  • tattooing is a very ancient practice.

  • But fast-forward to today and tattoos are everywhere.

  • Almost one in four Americans has a tattoo,

  • it's a multibillion-dollar industry,

  • and whether you love tattoos or hate them,

  • this talk will change the way you think about them.

  • So, why are tattoos so popular?

  • Unlike Ötzi, most of us today use tattoos for some kind of self-expression.

  • Personally, I love tattoos because I love art

  • and there is something so wonderful to me,

  • almost romantic, about the way a tattoo as an art form

  • cannot be commodified.

  • Right? Your tattoo lives and dies with you.

  • It can't be bought or sold or traded,

  • so its only value is really personal to you,

  • and I love that.

  • Now, I tend to gravitate towards really colorful tattoos

  • because I'm obsessed with color.

  • I teach a whole course on it at my university.

  • But my very first tattoo was an all-black tattoo

  • like Ötzi's.

  • Yep, I did that clichéd thing that young people do sometimes

  • and I got a tattoo in a language I can't even read.

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, but I was 19 years old,

  • I had just returned from my first trip overseas,

  • I was in Japan in the mountains

  • meditating in Buddhist monasteries,

  • and it was a really meaningful experience to me,

  • so I wanted to commemorate it with this Japanese and Chinese character

  • for "mountain."

  • Now, here's what blows my mind.

  • My 14-year-old tattoo

  • and Ötzi's 5,300-year-old tattoos

  • are made of the same exact stuff:

  • soot,

  • that black powdery carbon dust

  • that gets left behind in the fireplace when you burn stuff.

  • And if you zoom way, way in on either my tattoo or Ötzi's tattoos,

  • you'll find that they all look something like this.

  • A tattoo is nothing more than a bunch of tiny pigment particles,

  • soot in this case,

  • that get trapped in the dermis,

  • which is the layer of tissue right underneath the surface of the skin.

  • So in over five thousand years,

  • we've done very little to update tattoo technology,

  • apart from getting access to more colors

  • and slightly more efficient methods of installation.

  • While I'm an artist, I'm also a scientist,

  • and I direct a laboratory that researches nanotechnology,

  • which is the science of building things with ultratiny building blocks,

  • thousands of times smaller even than the width of a human hair.

  • And I began to ask myself,

  • how could nanotechnology serve tattooing?

  • If tattoos are just a bunch of particles in the skin,

  • could we swap those particles out for ones that do something more interesting?

  • Here's my big idea:

  • I believe that tattoos can give you superpowers.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, I don't mean they're going to make us fly,

  • but I do think that we can have superpowers

  • in the sense that tattoos can give us new abilities

  • that we don't currently possess.

  • By upgrading the particles, we can engineer tattooing

  • so that it will change not only the appearance of our skin,

  • but also the function of our skin.

  • Let me show you.

  • This is a diagram of a microcapsule.

  • It's a tiny hollow particle with a protective outer shell,

  • about the size of a tattoo pigment,

  • and you can fill the inside with practically whatever you want.

  • So what if we put interesting materials inside of these microcapsules

  • and made tattoo inks with them?

  • What sorts of things could we make a tattoo do?

  • What problems could we solve?

  • What human limitations could we overcome?

  • Well, here's one idea:

  • one of our weaknesses as humans

  • is that we can't see ultraviolet, or UV, light.

  • That's the high-energy part of sunlight

  • that causes sunburn and increases our risk of skin cancer.

  • Many animals and insects can actually see UV light, but we can't.

  • If we could, we'd be able to see sunscreen when it was applied on our skin.

  • Unfortunately, most of us don't wear sunscreen,

  • and those of us who do

  • can't really tell when it wears off, because it's invisible.

  • It's the main reason we treat over five million cases

  • of preventable skin cancer every year in the US alone,

  • costing our economy over five billion dollars annually.

  • So how could we overcome this human weakness with a tattoo?

  • Well, if the problem is that we can't see UV rays,

  • maybe we can make a tattoo detect them for us.

  • So I thought, why don't we take some microcapsules,

  • load it up with a UV-sensitive, color-changing dye,

  • and make a tattoo ink out of that?

  • Now, one of the troubles of being a tattoo technologist

  • is finding willing test subjects.

  • (Laughter)

  • And when it came time to test this tattoo ink,

  • I thought it best not to torture my poor graduate students.

  • So I decided to tattoo a couple of spots on my own arm instead.

  • And It actually worked. Check it out!

  • I call these tattoos solar freckles

  • because they're powered by sunshine.

  • And right now, they're invisible,

  • but as soon as I expose them to a UV light, acting as the Sun --

  • there they are, blue spots.

  • Now, I'm not wearing sunscreen in this video,

  • but if I was, those blue spots would not appear,

  • and then when my sunscreen wore off later,

  • the solar freckles would reappear in UV light

  • and I would know that it was time to reapply sunscreen.

  • So these tattoos act as a real-time, naked-eye indicator

  • of your skin's UV exposure.

  • And of course,

  • I think there are lots of really cool, artistic things you could do

  • with a color-changing tattoo like this,

  • but I hope that it will also help us solve a big problem

  • in skin protection.

  • (Applause)

  • Let me give you another example.

  • Normal human body temperature is about 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit,

  • and if you fall outside of that range,

  • you need to seek medical attention right away.

  • Now, the problem is that humans can't detect our own body temperature

  • without a thermometer.

  • Sure, you could try the old hand-on-the-forehead trick,

  • but there's zero scientific evidence to back that up.

  • (Laughter)

  • So what if we could create a tattooable thermometer

  • that you could access anytime?

  • Well, remember how the solar freckles used a UV-sensitive dye

  • inside of the microcapsules of the tattoo ink?

  • Well, you could also put heat-sensitive dyes

  • inside of microcapsules

  • and you could make different tattoo inks

  • that change color at different temperatures.

  • Suppose it was 96, 98, and a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.

  • If you place those inks side by side,

  • now you have a temperature scale

  • tuned to the human body.

  • In this video, you can see the different patches of tattoos

  • disappearing sequentially

  • as the pigskin we tested them on

  • is heated up.

  • So if you were to place a tattoo like this

  • in a location that was stable to external temperature fluctuations --

  • maybe inside of the mouth, perhaps on the back of the lip? --

  • then you'd be able to read your body temperature anytime

  • by just glancing at your tattoo in the mirror.

  • Amazing, right?

  • (Applause)

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • Another limitation that we have as humans

  • is that our skin doesn't conduct electricity,

  • and that can be a good thing, but not necessarily --

  • (Laughter)

  • if you have an electronic biomedical implant,

  • like a pacemaker for example.

  • Right now, if you have a pacemaker,

  • you need surgery every five or 10 years to replace the battery when it dies.

  • And wouldn't it be nice if, instead,

  • we could simply recharge the battery through a patch of conducting skin?

  • Well, if you were to try to tackle that problem with a tattoo,

  • the first step would be to make a tattoo that conducts electricity.

  • So we've been working on a conducting tattoo ink in my lab.

  • And right now, we're able to increase the conductivity of skin over 300-fold

  • with our conducting tattoo ink.

  • Now, we have a long way to go before we reach the conductivity

  • of something like a copper wire,

  • but we're making progress and I'm really excited about this

  • because I think that it could open up a whole new world of possibility

  • for tattoos.

  • I envision a future where tattoos enable us --

  • tattooable wires and tattooable electronics enable us

  • to merge our technologies with our bodies

  • so that they feel more like extensions of ourselves

  • rather than external devices.

  • So these are a few examples of the new abilities that we can gain

  • by using nanotechnology to upgrade our tattoos,

  • but this really is only the beginning.

  • I believe the sky is the limit for what we can do with high-tech tattoos.

  • In the future, tattoos will not only be beautiful,

  • they'll be functional too.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Joanna Pietrulewicz

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【TED】Carson Bruns: Could a tattoo help you stay healthy? (Could a tattoo help you stay healthy? | Carson Bruns)

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    林宜悉 posted on 2019/06/04
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