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Visual control of big data

August 15, 2014 7:55 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the age of big data, visualization tools are vital. With a single glance at a graphic display, a human being can recognize patterns that a computer might fail to find even after hours of analysis. But what if there are aberrations in the patterns? Or what if there’s just a suggestion of a visual pattern that’s not distinct enough to justify any strong inferences? Or what if the pattern is clear, but not what was to be expected?

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Space station supply ship exits, now packing trash

August 15, 2014 7:22 am | by Marcia Dunn - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A commercial cargo ship has ended its monthlong space station visit. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station released the Cygnus supply ship, now full of trash for disposal early Friday. They parted company 260 miles above Africa's southwest coast. Orbital Sciences Corp. launched the Cygnus from Virginia in mid-July under a NASA contract.

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Scientists racing to test Ebola vaccines in humans

August 14, 2014 6:22 pm | by Matthew Perrone - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists are racing to begin the first human safety tests of two experimental Ebola vaccines, but it won't be easy to prove that the shots and other potential treatments in the pipeline really work. There are no proven drugs or vaccines for Ebola, a disease so rare that it's been hard to attract investments in countermeasures. But the current outbreak in West Africa is fueling new efforts to speed Ebola vaccine and drug development.

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New tool makes a single picture worth a thousand—and more—images

August 14, 2014 5:57 pm | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Software developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley computer scientists seeks to tame the vast amount of visual data in the world by generating a single photo that can represent massive clusters of images. This tool can give users the photographic gist of a kid on Santa’s lap, housecats, or brides and grooms at their weddings. It works by generating an image that literally averages the key features of the other photos.

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Non-invasive method controls size of molecules passing blood-brain barrier

August 14, 2014 4:38 pm | News | Comments

A new technique has demonstrated for the first time that the size of molecules penetrating the blood-brain barrier can be controlled using acoustic pressure. The innovative ultrasound approach uses acoustic pressure to let molecules through, and may help treatment for central nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

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Inside the cell, an ocean of buffeting waves

August 14, 2014 1:22 pm | by Caroline Perry, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Conventional wisdom holds that the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a viscous fluid, with organelles and proteins suspended within it, jiggling against one another and drifting at random. However, a new biophysical study led by researchers at Harvard Univ. challenges this model and reveals that those drifting objects are subject to a very different type of environment.

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Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production

August 14, 2014 10:25 am | News | Comments

A research team in Europe has achieved significantly increase in the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water. Their breakthrough in light-driven generation of hydrogen was achieved by using a novel molecular shuttle to enhance charge-carrier transport with semiconductor nanocrystals.

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Chip-based platform could simplify measurements of single molecules

August 14, 2014 9:11 am | by Melissae Fellet, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Santa Cruz have developed a new approach for studying single molecules and nanoparticles by combining electrical and optical measurements on an integrated chip-based platform. In a paper published in Nano Letters, the researchers reported using the device to distinguish viruses from similarly-sized nanoparticles with 100% fidelity.

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Can our computers continue to get smaller and more powerful?

August 14, 2014 9:09 am | News | Comments

Chip designers are facing both engineering and fundamental limits that have become barriers to the continued improvement of computer performance. Have we reached the limits to computation? In a review article in Nature, Igor Markov of the Univ. of Michigan reviews limiting factors in the development of computing systems to help determine what is achievable, identifying "loose" limits and viable opportunities for advancements.

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Immune cells get cancer-fighting boost from nanomaterials

August 14, 2014 9:00 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have developed a novel cancer immunotherapy that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites; the immune cells can then be injected back into a patient’s blood to boost the immune response or fight cancer.

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The mummy’s face: Solving an ancient mystery

August 14, 2014 8:51 am | News | Comments

The “Bearded Man, 170-180 A.D.” is a Roman-Egyptian portrait that adorned the sarcophagus sheltering his mummified remains. The details of who he was have been lost to time, but a microscopic sliver of painted wood could hold the keys to unraveling the first part of this centuries-old mystery. Figuring out what kind of pigment was used, and the exact materials used to create it, could help scientists unlock his identity.

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Finding a piece of the proton-spin puzzle

August 14, 2014 8:11 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

What causes a proton to spin? This fundamental question has been a longstanding mystery in particle physics, although it was once thought that the answer would be fairly straightforward: The spin of a proton’s three subatomic particles, called quarks, would simply add up to produce its total spin.

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Three radars are better than one

August 14, 2014 8:11 am | News | Comments

Putting three radars on a plane to measure rainfall may seem like overkill. But for the Integrated Precipitation and Hydrology Experiment field campaign in North Carolina recently, more definitely was better. The system is specifically designed to measure rain in difficult-to-forecast mountain regions, where a wide range of frequencies to need be covered so that researchers can detect the more than 30 varieties of rainfall.

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Test reveals purity of graphene

August 14, 2014 8:02 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Graphene may be tough, but those who handle it had better be tender. The environment surrounding the atom-thick carbon material can influence its electronic performance, according to researchers at Rice and Osaka universities who have come up with a simple way to spot contaminants.

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Nanotech invention improves effectiveness of the “penicillin of cancer”

August 14, 2014 8:01 am | by Jared Sagoff, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

By combining magnetic nanoparticles with one of the most common and effective chemotherapy drugs, Argonne National Laboratory researchers have created a way to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly into the nucleus of cancer cells. They have created nano-sized bubbles, or “micelles,” that contain magnetic nanoparticles of iron oxide and cisplatin, a conventional chemotherapy drug also known as “the penicillin of cancer.”

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