With the help of carbon nanotubes, scientists just solved the urinal splashback problem

thanks science no urine splashback urinals captive media
Hey dudes, personal question — is using a urinal a challenge? I mean, not the act of urinating, of course, but having to deal with all that pee splashback that I hear is next to inevitable with those male-specific contraptions. If the answer is yes, fret not — you’re not alone. In fact, a number of scientists have been so perplexed by this problem that they’ve taken it upon themselves to solve it, and now, I’m pleased to inform you that a team of physicists from Utah State University have successfully created “a urine black hole.” You’re welcome.

This truly practical breakthrough was recently presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics, where Randy Hurd gave what must have been a scintillating explanation of how his graduate advisor and a number of others at Utah State had dealt with the age-old problem of urine bouncing out of a urinal. “Since the mid-nineteenth century, both enlisted and fashion-conscious owners of khaki trousers have been plagued by undesired speckle patterns resulting from splash-back while urinating,” begins the group’s abstract, which concluded, “We propose improved urinal insert designs based on our experimental data in hopes of reducing potential embarrassment inherent in wearing khakis.”

The reason your pee tends to come right back atcha when using a urinal is that the stream tends to devolve into smaller, more unpredictable droplets as they leave the body. When these droplets hit the surface of a urinal, they end up with a mind of their own. While you can adjust your stance or your stream’s angle to try to reduce these effects (recommendations include standing closer to the urinal or aiming towards the lower back portion of the receptacle), sometimes when you gotta go, you don’t have time to think about all these logistics.

So the Utah State team developed an insert that borrows from nature’s marvels (because that’s the best way to address nature’s calls). Inspired by a super-absorbent moss, syntrichia caninervis (or Tortula Moss), the team made use of a carbon nanotube structure known as Vantablack. Vantablack is famous for letting light in but not letting any of it leave, making it the “world’s darkest material.” But in its urinal application, instead of taking light as its prisoner, it apprehends pee.

Featuring a veritable forest of miniscule pillars, the Vantablack insert traps urine, solving the splashback problem. But researchers Tadd Truscott and Hurd aren’t stopping there. “While we find the connection to urinals interesting, we are confident that the scientific community will have interest in the interaction between the splashing droplet and the pillars,” they told Gizmodo. So watch out, world. Who knows what this team will accomplish next?

Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Computing

Don't keep typing the same thing -- learn to copy and paste with these shortcuts!

Looking for useful Windows keyboard shortcuts? The most common are the cut, copy, paste and undo shortcuts compatible with all kinds of tasks. They can save you an awful lot of time if you learn how to use them.
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Movies & TV

Our first look at 'The Punisher' season 2 hints at January 2019 premiere

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero, Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Rise of the Machines: Here’s how much robots and A.I. progressed in 2018

2018 has generated no shortage of news, and the worlds of A.I. and robotics are no exception. Here are our picks for the most exciting, game changing examples of both we saw this year.
Emerging Tech

Are e-cigarettes safe? Here’s what the most recent science says

Ecigarettes are widely regarded and advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes for people who are trying to kick the smoking habit. How safe are these cigarette alternatives? We went deep into the recent scientific literature to…
Emerging Tech

Thrill-seekers will be able to pilot themselves in a giant drone as soon as 2019

Want to hitch a ride on a giant drone? The startup Lift Aircraft is gearing up to let paying customers fly its 18-rotor giant drones over assorted scenic landscapes across the U.S.
Emerging Tech

CRISPR gene therapy regulates hunger, staves off severe obesity in mice

Researchers from UC San Francisco have demonstrated how CRISPR gene editing can be used to prevent severe obesity in mice, without making a single edit to the mouse's genome. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Capture app saves money by 3D scanning objects using iPhone’s TrueDepth camera

Capture is a new iPhone app created by the Y Combinator-backed startup Standard Cyborg. It allows anyone to perform 3D scans of objects and share them with buddies. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe captures first image from within the atmosphere of the sun

NASA has shared the first image from inside the atmosphere of the sun taken by the Parker Solar Probe. The probe made the closest ever approach to a star, gathering data which scientists have been interpreting and released this week.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.