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The Lead

Diagnosis by keyboard

April 1, 2015 2:05 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Analyzing people’s keystrokes as they type on a computer keyboard can reveal a great deal of information about the state of their motor function, according to a new study. In the study, the researchers found that their algorithm for analyzing keystrokes could distinguish between typing done in the middle of the night, when sleep deprivation impairs motor skills, and typing performed when fully rested.

Better traffic signals can cut greenhouse gas emissions

March 31, 2015 7:34 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Sitting in traffic during rush hour is not just frustrating for drivers; it also adds...

Analysis sees many promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

March 26, 2015 12:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology,...

Thousands of atoms entangled with a single photon

March 26, 2015 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Physicists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Belgrade have developed a...

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New kind of “tandem” solar cell developed

March 25, 2015 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford Univ. have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

Satellite imagery can aid development projects

March 23, 2015 8:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Projects that target aid toward villages and rural areas in the developing world often face time-consuming challenges, even at the most basic level of figuring out where the most appropriate sites are for pilot programs or deployment of new systems such as solar-power for regions that have no access to electricity. Often, even the sizes and locations of villages are poorly mapped, so time-consuming field studies are needed.

Prices of cancer drugs have soared since 1995

March 18, 2015 7:37 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The prices of leading cancer drugs have risen at rates far outstripping inflation over the last two decades, according to a new study co-authored by an Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist. But the exact reasons for the cost increases are unclear. Since 1995, a group of 58 leading cancer drugs has increased in price by 10% annually, even when adjusted for inflation and incremental health benefits, the study finds.

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Second minor planet may possess Saturn-like rings

March 17, 2015 7:43 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

There are only five bodies in our solar system that are known to bear rings. The most obvious is the planet Saturn; to a lesser extent, rings of gas and dust also encircle Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune. The fifth member of this haloed group is Chariklo, one of a class of minor planets called centaurs: small, rocky bodies that possess qualities of both asteroids and comets.

Magnetic brain stimulation

March 13, 2015 7:54 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a method to stimulate brain tissue using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles: a technique allowing direct stimulation of neurons, which could be an effective treatment for a variety of neurological diseases, without the need for implants or external connections.

Swine flu outbreak in India raises concern

March 11, 2015 12:54 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Since December, an outbreak of swine flu in India has killed more than 1,200 people, and a new study suggests that the strain has acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza. The findings contradict previous reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating around the world ever since.

Electrospray thruster makes small satellites more capable

March 11, 2015 8:28 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Small satellites are becoming increasingly popular tools for Earth-imaging, communications and other applications. But they have major control issues: Once in space, they can’t accurately point cameras or change orbit, and they usually crash and burn within a few months. What these satellites lack is a viable propulsion system.

Finger-mounted reading device for the blind

March 10, 2015 1:29 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at the MIT Media Laboratory have built a prototype of a finger-mounted device with a built-in camera that converts written text into audio for visually impaired users.             

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Detector sniffs out origins of methane

March 6, 2015 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, second only to carbon dioxide in its capacity to trap heat in Earth’s atmosphere for a long time. The gas can originate from lakes and swamps, natural-gas pipelines, deep-sea vents and livestock. Understanding the sources of methane, and how the gas is formed, could give scientists a better understanding of its role in warming the planet.

Why isn’t the universe as bright as it should be?

March 4, 2015 4:50 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A handful of new stars are born each year in the Milky Way, while many more blink on across the universe. But astronomers have observed that galaxies should be churning out millions more stars, based on the amount of interstellar gas available. Now researchers have pieced together a theory describing how clusters of galaxies may regulate star formation.

Why seashells’ mineral forms differently in seawater

March 3, 2015 3:16 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth’s oceans: Why does calcium carbonate, the tough material of seashells and corals, sometimes take the form of calcite, and at other times form a chemically identical form of the mineral, called aragonite, that is more soluble—and therefore more vulnerable to ocean acidification?

A clearer view of clouds

March 3, 2015 10:25 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Meteorologists sometimes struggle to accurately predict the weather here on Earth, but now we can find out how cloudy it is on planets outside our solar system, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a paper to be published, the researchers describe a technique that analyzes data from NASA’s Kepler space observatory to determine the types of clouds on planets that orbit other stars, known as exoplanets.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

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Analysis shows ion slowdown in fuel cell material

March 2, 2015 11:01 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Dislocations in oxides such as cerium dioxide, a solid electrolyte for fuel cells, turn out to have a property that is the opposite of what researchers had expected, according to a new analysis. Researchers had thought that a certain kind of strain would speed the transport of oxygen ions through the material, potentially leading to the much faster diffusion that is necessary in high-performance solid-oxide fuel cells.

A mollusk of a different stripe

February 26, 2015 10:59 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The blue-rayed limpet is a tiny mollusk that lives in kelp beds along the coasts of Norway, Iceland, the U.K., Portugal and the Canary Islands. These diminutive organisms might escape notice entirely, if not for a very conspicuous feature: bright blue dotted lines that run in parallel along the length of their translucent shells. Depending on the angle at which light hits, a limpet’s shell can flash brilliantly even in murky water.

A simple way to make and reconfigure complex emulsions

February 26, 2015 8:00 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have devised a new way to make complex liquid mixtures, known as emulsions, that could have many applications in drug delivery, sensing, cleaning up pollutants and performing chemical reactions. Many drugs, vaccines, cosmetics and lotions are emulsions, in which tiny droplets of one liquid are suspended in another liquid.

Quick test for Ebola

February 24, 2015 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

When diagnosing a case of Ebola, time is of the essence. However, existing diagnostic tests take at least a day or two to yield results, preventing health care workers from quickly determining whether a patient needs immediate treatment and isolation. A new test could change that: The device, a simple paper strip similar to a pregnancy test, can rapidly diagnose Ebola, as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers.

How brain waves guide memory formation

February 23, 2015 12:11 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our brains generate a constant hum of activity: As neurons fire, they produce brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. Long thought to be merely a byproduct of neuron activity, recent studies suggest that these waves may play a critical role in communication between different parts of the brain. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists adds to that evidence.

Radio chip for the Internet of things

February 23, 2015 7:46 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the big theme was the “Internet of things”: the idea that everything in the human environment could be equipped with sensors and processors that can exchange data, helping with maintenance and the coordination of tasks. Realizing that vision, however, requires transmitters that are powerful enough to broadcast to devices dozens of yards away but energy-efficient enough to last for months.

Spacecraft catch a solar shockwave in the act

February 20, 2015 1:19 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

On Oct. 8, 2013, an explosion on the sun’s surface sent a supersonic blast wave of solar wind out into space. This shockwave tore past Mercury and Venus, blitzing by the moon before streaming toward Earth. The shockwave struck a massive blow to the Earth’s magnetic field, setting off a magnetized sound pulse around the planet.

Fibers made by transforming materials

February 20, 2015 8:26 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists have known how to draw thin fibers from bulk materials for decades. But a new approach to that old method, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, could lead to a whole new way of making high-quality fiber-based electronic devices. The idea grew out of a long-term research effort to develop multifunctional fibers that incorporate different materials into a single long functional strand.

Epigenomics of Alzheimer’s disease progression

February 18, 2015 9:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components—nature and nurture—seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in Nature.

Smarter multicore chips

February 18, 2015 7:33 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computer chips’ clocks have stopped getting faster. To keep delivering performance improvements, chipmakers are instead giving chips more processing units, or cores, which can execute computations in parallel. But the ways in which a chip carves up computations can make a big difference to performance.

Engineered insulin could offer better diabetes control

February 10, 2015 8:41 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For patients with diabetes, insulin is critical to maintaining good health and normal blood-sugar levels. However, it’s not an ideal solution because it can be difficult for patients to determine exactly how much insulin they need to prevent their blood sugar from swinging too high or too low. Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers hope to improve treatment for diabetes patients with a new type of engineered insulin.

Evaluating strategies for HIV vaccination

February 6, 2015 11:21 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Through an investigation of a fundamental process that guides the maturation of immune cells, researchers have revealed new insights into possible ways to vaccinate people to generate potent antibodies of the type that are predicted to offer protection against diverse strains of the highly mutable HIV. 

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