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How to 3-D print hair, brushes, and fur

Bypassing computer-aided design (CAD) software, MIT researchers invent a radical pixel-mapping printing technique
June 20, 2016

"It's very inspiring to see how these [hair-like] structures occur in nature and how they can achieve different functions," says Jifei Ou, a graduate student in media arts and sciences at MIT. "We're just trying to think how can we fully utilize the potential of 3-D printing, and create new functional materials whose properties are easily tunable and controllable." Pictured is an example of 3-D printed hair. (credit: Courtesy of Tangible Media Group/MIT Media Lab)

Researchers in MIT’s Media Lab have bypassed a major design step in 3-D printing — quickly and efficiently modeling and printing thousands of hair-like structures.

Instead of using conventional computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw thousands of individual hairs on a computer — a step that would take hours to compute — the team built a new software platform called “Cilllia” that lets users simply define the… read more

China’s Sunway TaihuLight tops world supercomputer ratings

June 20, 2016

Sunway TaihuLight System (credit: National Supercomputing Center)

Chinese supercomputers maintained their No. 1 ranking on the 47th edition of the TOP500 list of the world’s top supercomputers, announced today (June 20). The new Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer operates at 93 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second) Rmax on the LINPACK benchmark — twice as fast and three times as efficient as China’s Tianhe-2 (at 33.86 petaflop/s), now in the #2 spot.… read more

Ultra-flexible solar cells thin enough to wrap around a glass stirring rod

June 20, 2016

Ultra-thin solar cells flexible enough to bend around small objects, such as a 6-mm-diameter glass rod (credit: Juho Kim, et al./APL)

Scientists in South Korea have designed ultra-thin photovoltaics that are flexible enough to wrap around a thin glass rod. The new solar cells could power wearable electronics like smart watches and fitness trackers.

“Our photovoltaic is about 1 micrometer thick” (the thinnest human hair is about 17 micrometers), said Jongho Lee, an engineer at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. Standard photovoltaics are usually hundreds… read more

An augmented-reality head-up display in a diver’s helmet

June 17, 2016

Prototype of the Divers Augmented Vision Display (DVAD) positioned within a dive helmet (credit: U.S. Navy Photo/Richard Manley (RELEASED) 151130-N-PD526-005)

The U.S. Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center has developed what may be the first underwater augmented-reality head-up display (HUD) built into a diving helmet.

The Divers Augmented Vision Display (DAVD) gives divers a real-time, high-res visual display of everything from sector sonar (real-time topside view of the diver’s location and dive site), text messages, diagrams, and photographs to augmented-reality videos. Having real-time visual data enables them to be more effective… read more

Could deep-learning systems radically transform drug discovery?

AI drug-discovery engine to be presented at Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin on June 29-30
June 17, 2016

(credit: Insilico Medicine)

Scientists at Insilico Medicine have developed a new drug-discovery engine that they say is capable of predicting therapeutic use, toxicity, and adverse effects of thousands of molecules, and they plan to reveal it at the Re-Work Machine Intelligence Summit in Berlin, June 29–30.

Drug discovery takes decades, with high failure rates. Among the reasons: irreproducible experiments with poor choice of animal models and inability to… read more

Two inventions deal with virtual-reality sickness

June 16, 2016

GVS ft

Columbia Engineering researchers announced earlier this week that they have developed a simple way to reduce VR motion sickness that can be applied to existing consumer VR devices, such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, Gear VR, and Google Cardboard devices.

The trick is to subtly change the field of view (FOV), or how much of an image you can see, during visually perceived motion.… read more

A low-cost ‘electronic nose’ spectrometer for home health diagnosis

June 16, 2016

Current experimental design of transmitter radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer. Using integrated circuits (such as the one below “CHIP1”) in an electronic nose will make the device more affordable. (credit: UT Dallas)

UT Dallas researchers have designed an affordable “electronic nose” radio-frequency front end for a rotational spectrometer — used for detecting chemical molecules in human breath for health diagnosis.

Current breath-analysis devices are bulky and too costly for commercial use, said Kenneth O, PhD, a principal investigator of the effort and director of Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE). Instead, the researchers used CMOS integrated circuits… read more

Bionic leaf 2.0

Uses solar energy to split water molecules + hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels
June 14, 2016

credit: Jessica Polka

Harvard scientists have created a system a system that uses solar energy plus hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels with 10 percent efficiency, compared to the 1 percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.

The system, co-created by Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard… read more

Wearable artificial kidney prototype successfully tested

June 14, 2016

Working prototype of wearable artificial kidney developed by Victor Gura, MD, and his team (credit: Stephen Brashear/University of Washington)

An FDA-approved exploratory clinical trial of a prototype wearable artificial kidney (WAK) — a miniaturized, wearable hemodialysis machine —  at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle has been completed, the researchers reported June 2 in an open-access paper in JCI Insight.

The seven patients enrolled in the study reported “significantly greater treatment satisfaction during the WAK treatment period compared with ratings of care during periods of conventional… read more

Gene circuits in live cells that perform complex analog/digital computations

June 14, 2016

MIT spinout Synlogic is re-programming bacteria found in the gut as "living therapeutics" to treat major diseases and rare genetic disorders (credit: Synlogic)

MIT researchers have developed synthetic biological circuits that combine both analog (continuous) and digital (discrete) computation — allowing living cells to carry out complex processing operations, such as releasing a drug in response to low glucose levels.

The research is presented in an open-access paper published in the journal Nature Communications.

Background: analog vs. digital biological circuits

Like electronic circuits, living… read more

Are you smarter than a macaw?

Ounce for ounce, bird brains have significantly more neurons than mammal or primate brains
June 13, 2016

(credit: Vanderbuilt University)

The first study to systematically measure the number of neurons in the brains of more than two dozen species of birds has found that the birds that were studied consistently have more neurons packed into their small brains than those in mammalian or even primate brains of the same mass.

The study results were published online in an open-access paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy ofread more

Higher intake of whole grains associated with lower risk of major chronic diseases and death

Even small increases in consumption could bring substantial health benefits
June 13, 2016

Cereal Plant, 7-Grain Bread,Wholegrain Food (credit iStock)

A meta-analysis of 45 studies (64 publications) of consumption of whole grain by an international team of researchers, led by Dagfinn Aune, PhD, at Imperial College London, found lower risks of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease overall, as well as deaths from all causes and from specific diseases, including stroke, cancer, diabetes, infectious and respiratory diseases.

The researchers say these results “strongly support dietary recommendations to increase intake… read more

Hierarchies exist in the brain because of lower connection costs, research shows

Findings may also improve artificial intelligence and robotics systems
June 10, 2016

heirarchical network ft

New research suggests why the human brain and other biological networks exhibit a hierarchical structure, and the study may improve attempts to create artificial intelligence.

The study, by researchers from the University of Wyoming and the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA, in France), demonstrates that the evolution of hierarchy — a simple system of ranking — in biological networks may arise because of the… read more

Mobilizing mitochondria to regenerate damaged neurons

June 10, 2016

After axonal injury, nearby mitochondria become incapable of producing ATP, as indicated by their change in color from yellow (healthy) to green (damaged). (credit: Zhou et al., 2016)

Boosting the transport of mitochondria (cell energy suppliers) along neuronal axons enhances the ability of mouse nerve cells to repair themselves and regrow after injury or disease, researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke report in The Journal of Cell Biology.

Neurons need large amounts of energy to extend their axons long distances through the body. This energy — in the form of… read more

Electrical fields aid wound healing

June 10, 2016

Time-lapse photo of human macrophages migrating directionally toward an anode . Left: no electric field. Right: Two hours after 150 mV/mm electric field applied (white lines shows the movement path toward candida yeast; numbers indicate start and end positions of cells). (credit: Joseph I. Hoare et al./JLB)

Small electrical currents appear to activate certain immune cells to jumpstart or speed wound healing and reduce infection when there’s a lack of immune cells available, such as with diabetes, University of Aberdeen (U.K.) scientists have found.

In a lab experiment, the scientists exposed healing macrophages (white blood cells that eat things that don’t belong), taken from human blood, to electrical fields of strength similar to that… read more

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