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Harvard

— Robotics

Soft robotic grippers lend a delicate hand in undersea exploration

While underwater robotics solutions are becoming more and more impressive as the years go by, machines used for delicate activities like collecting samples of marine life or conducting underwater archaeology still sport clunky robotic hands that lack the necessary soft touch. A research team from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has been working to tackle the issue, designing, building and testing a soft gripper solution.

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— Music

"Zoolophone" features custom-shaped keys that still produce the right notes

Scientists from Columbia, Harvard and MIT have collaborated to create a xylophone-like instrument that has keys shaped like animals. It's not just a cute toy, however. Their "zoolophone" was designed using new technology that allows objects of a specified shape to produce a specified sound. It could ultimately be used to build things like low-noise computer fans, or bridges that don't amplify road noise.

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— Materials

Slick coating keeps steel clean and tough

When liquids stick to steel for long enough, the steel corrodes or becomes contaminated. Unfortunately, however, porous surface coatings that repel liquids also tend to make steel weaker … until now, that is. Scientists at Harvard University have recently discovered that their existing SLIPS (Slippery Liquid Porous Surfaces) technology not only causes liquids to roll right off, but it actually makes steel stronger.

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— Biology Feature

Can we build a complete wiring diagram of the human brain?

Our brains are wondrous, incredible machines. They're slower than the earliest personal computers in terms of raw processing power, yet capable of leaps of intuition and able to store a lifetime of memories that are cross-referenced and instantly-accessible at the slightest prompting. We know so very little about how they do these things, however. But imagine for a moment if we could build a complete wiring diagram of a human brain – to map in detail every one of the hundred trillion or so synapses and roughly hundred billion neurons together with all the tiniest supporting mechanisms. What might that mean, and would it even be possible?

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— Biology

Imaging tool lets scientists look inside brain at nanoscale resolution

The human brain contains more synapses than there are galaxies in the observable universe (to put a number on it, there are perhaps 100 trillion synapses versus 100 billion galaxies), and now scientists can see them all – individually. A new imaging tool promises to open the door to all sorts of new insights about the brain and how it works. The tool can generate images at a nanoscale resolution, which is small enough to see all cellular objects and many of their sub-cellular components (so for the biology-literate, that's stuff like neurons and the synapses that permit them to fire, plus axons, dendrites, glia, mitochondria, blood vessel cells, and so on).

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— Robotics

Insect-inspired amphibious robot jumps like a water strider

Despite what our science fiction-fueled imaginations love to be entertained with, there is more to the field of modern robotics than colossal combat machines or bionic baristas. Some projects may seem mundane by comparison, yet the results are no less impressive, especially the ones that enlighten through the process. Although it took a few trial and error attempts, scientists have finally created an insect-inspired robot that can jump off of water's surface.

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