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The Lead

Major step for implantable drug-delivery device

June 29, 2015 8:56 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

An implantable, microchip-based device may soon replace the injections and pills now needed to treat chronic diseases: Earlier this month, MIT spinout Microchips Biotech partnered with a pharmaceutical giant to commercialize its wirelessly controlled, implantable, microchip-based devices that store and release drugs inside the body over many years.

Tactical throwable cameras

June 26, 2015 11:40 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Unseen areas are troublesome for police and first responders: Rooms can harbor dangerous gunmen...

A new means to killing harmful bacteria

June 25, 2015 11:50 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

The global rise in antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to public health, damaging our...

New manufacturing approach slices lithium-ion battery cost in half

June 23, 2015 11:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

An advanced manufacturing approach for lithium-ion batteries, developed by researchers at...

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Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors

June 23, 2015 8:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The latest buzz in the information technology industry regards “the Internet of things”, the idea that vehicles, appliances, civil-engineering structures, manufacturing equipment and even livestock would have their own embedded sensors that report information directly to networked servers, aiding with maintenance and the coordination of tasks.

Uncovering a dynamic cortex

June 22, 2015 7:37 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have proven that the brain’s cortex doesn’t process specific tasks in highly specialized modules, showing that the cortex is, in fact, quite dynamic when sharing information. Previous studies of the brain have depicted the cortex as a patchwork of function-specific regions.

Recalling happier memories can reverse depression

June 19, 2015 7:28 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have shown that they can cure the symptoms of depression in mice by artificially reactivating happy memories that were formed before the onset of depression. The findings offer a possible explanation for the success of psychotherapies in which depression patients are encouraged to recall pleasant experiences.

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Amplifying small motions in large motions

June 17, 2015 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

For several years now, the research groups of Massachusetts Institute of Technology professors of computer science and engineering William Freeman and Frédo Durand have been investigating techniques for amplifying movements captured by video but indiscernible to the human eye. Versions of their algorithms can make the human pulse visible and even recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of objects filmed through soundproof glass.

Small thunderstorms may cause massive cyclones on Saturn

June 16, 2015 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For the last decade, astronomers have observed curious “hotspots” on Saturn’s poles. In 2008, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft beamed back close-up images of these hotspots, revealing them to be immense cyclones, each as wide as the Earth. Scientists estimate that Saturn’s cyclones may whip up 300 mph winds, and likely have been churning for years.

Centimeter-long origami robot

June 15, 2015 7:18 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers presented a printable origami robot that folds itself up from a flat sheet of plastic when heated and measures about a centimeter from front to back. Weighing only a third of a gram, the robot can swim, climb an incline, traverse rough terrain and carry a load twice its weight.

Longstanding problem put to rest

June 11, 2015 9:51 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Comparing the genomes of different species is the basis of a great deal of modern biology. DNA sequences that are conserved across species are likely to be functionally important, while variations between members of the same species can indicate different susceptibilities to disease. The basic algorithm for determining how much two sequences of symbols have in common is now more than 40 years old.

Surfaces get smooth or bumpy on demand

June 11, 2015 7:24 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology team has developed a way of making soft materials, using a 3-D printer, with surface textures that can then be modified at will to be perfectly smooth, or ridged or bumpy, or even to have complex patterns that could be used to guide fluids.

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Scientists create ultracold molecules

June 10, 2015 7:21 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The air around us is a chaotic superhighway of molecules whizzing through space and constantly colliding with each other at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. Such erratic molecular behavior is normal at ambient temperatures. But scientists have long suspected that if temperatures were to plunge to near absolute zero, molecules would come to a screeching halt, ceasing their individual chaotic motion and behaving as one collective body.

Vanishing friction

June 5, 2015 9:51 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Friction is all around us, working against the motion of tires on pavement, the scrawl of a pen across paper and even the flow of proteins through the bloodstream. Whenever two surfaces come in contact, there is friction, except in very special cases where friction essentially vanishes, a phenomenon, known as “superlubricity,” in which surfaces simply slide over each other without resistance.

Unlocking nanofibers’ potential

June 5, 2015 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nanofibers have a huge range of potential applications, from solar cells to water filtration to fuel cells. But so far, their high cost of manufacture has relegated them to just a few niche industries. MIT researchers describe a new technique for producing nanofibers that increases the rate of production fourfold while reducing energy consumption by more than 90%, holding out the prospect of cheap, efficient nanofiber production.

A check on runaway lake drainage

June 4, 2015 7:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Each summer, Greenland’s ice sheet begins to melt. Pockets of melting ice form hundreds of large, “supraglacial” lakes on the surface of the ice. Many of these lakes drain through cracks and crevasses in the ice sheet, creating a liquid layer over which massive chunks of ice can slide. This natural conveyor belt can speed ice toward the coast, where it eventually falls off into the sea.

Helping robots handle uncertainty

June 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Decentralized partially observable Markov decision processes are a way to model autonomous robots’ behavior in circumstances where neither their communication with each other nor their judgments about the outside world are perfect. The problem with Dec-POMDPs is that they’re as complicated as their name. They provide the most rigorous mathematical models of multi-agent systems under uncertainty.

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Tool measures the distance between phonon collisions

June 2, 2015 11:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Today’s computer chips pack billions of tiny transistors onto a plate of silicon within the width of a fingernail. Each transistor, just tens of nanometers wide, acts as a switch that, in concert with others, carries out a computer’s computations. As dense forests of transistors signal back and forth, they give off heat, which can fry the electronics, if a chip gets too hot.

Tough biogel structures produced by 3D printing

June 2, 2015 7:42 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new way of making tough, but soft and wet, biocompatible materials, called “hydrogels,” into complex and intricately patterned shapes. The process might lead to injectable materials for delivering drugs or cells into the body; scaffolds for regenerating load-bearing tissues; or tough but flexible actuators for future robots, the researchers say.

Circular orbits identified for small exoplanets

June 1, 2015 10:50 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Viewed from above, our solar system’s planetary orbits around the sun resemble rings around a bulls-eye. Each planet, including Earth, keeps to a roughly circular path, always maintaining the same distance from the sun. For decades, astronomers have wondered whether the solar system’s circular orbits might be a rarity in our universe.

Making power plants more efficient

June 1, 2015 7:27 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most of the world’s electricity-producing power plants, whether powered by coal, natural gas or nuclear fission, make electricity by generating steam that turns a turbine. That steam then is condensed back to water, and the cycle begins again. But the condensers that collect the steam are quite inefficient, and improving them could make a big difference in overall power plant efficiency.

Cheetah robot lands the running jump

May 29, 2015 10:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

In a leap for robot development, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs, making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance.

Researchers find “lost” memories

May 29, 2015 7:27 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light. In a paper published in Science, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveal that they were able to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved, using a technology known as optogenetics.

Diagnosing cancer with help from bacteria

May 28, 2015 11:31 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of California at San Diego have devised a new way to detect cancer that has spread to the liver, by enlisting help from probiotics, beneficial bacteria similar to those found in yogurt. Many types of cancer, including colon and pancreatic, tend to metastasize to the liver. The earlier doctors can find these tumors, the more likely that they can successfully treat them.

Spinning a new version of silk

May 28, 2015 7:22 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

After years of research decoding the complex structure and production of spider silk, researchers have now succeeded in producing samples of this exceptionally strong and resilient material in the laboratory. The new development could lead to a variety of biomedical materials made from synthesized silk with properties specifically tuned for their intended uses.

Helping robots put it all together

May 27, 2015 9:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Today’s industrial robots are remarkably efficient, as long as they’re in a controlled environment where everything is exactly where they expect it to be. But put them in an unfamiliar setting, where they have to think for themselves, and their efficiency plummets. And the difficulty of on-the-fly motion planning increases exponentially with the number of robots involved.

Advance in quantum error correction

May 26, 2015 7:25 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Quantum computers are largely theoretical devices that could perform some computations exponentially faster than conventional computers can. Crucial to most designs for quantum computers is quantum error correction, which helps preserve the fragile quantum states on which quantum computation depends.

Freshly squeezed vaccines

May 22, 2015 7:23 am | by Kevin Leonardi, Koch Institute | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have shown that they can use a microfluidic cell-squeezing device to introduce specific antigens inside the immune system’s B cells, providing a new approach to developing and implementing antigen-presenting cell vaccines.

Gauging materials’ physical properties from video

May 21, 2015 10:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Last summer, MIT researchers published a paper describing an algorithm that can recover intelligible speech from the analysis of the minute vibrations of objects in video captured through soundproof glass. In June, researchers from the same groups will describe how the technique can be adapted to infer material properties of physical objects, such as stiffness and weight, from video.

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