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MIT

Analysis of the way a goshawk flies through cluttered forests has revealed a critical safe...

Research into goshawk flight could inform the design of next generation UAVS. Where prior research into bird flight has focused on steady flight, new research from MIT examines the patterns of birds adept at flying in "cluttered environments" to find principles applicable to robot motion planning. It's research that might one day find practical applications in engineering, including fast, agile UAVs.  Read More

The Fermat spiral found in the spiraling pattern of florets in sunflowers has inspired a m...

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plants, such as the Gemsolar and PS10 plants in Spain, use arrays of mirrors (or heliostats) to focus a large area of the Sun's rays onto a small area, where the concentrated light is converted to heat that is used to generate electricity. While CSP has gained popularity in recent years with numerous plants being built around the world, they require a large area to generate the amounts of electricity needed to make them economically viable. Taking inspiration from the sunflower, researchers have devised a more efficient design that would allow such plants to be constructed on a much smaller area.  Read More

Called AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System), the suit replicates what it might be like to b...

What does it really feel like to be 75 years old? A group of researchers in MIT's Agelab have created a suit to help people understand what it might be like to navigate the world as a senior citizen. Called AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System), the suit replicates what it might be like to be in a 75-year-old body, replicating dexterity, flexibility, motor, and visual elements into a suit that can be worn by people of all ages.  Read More

The various laser-cut wooden panels of Matt Keeler's Fab Boombox snap together to form the...

Music lovers wanting to listen to digital music files on the move are pretty much spoiled for choice these days, whether keeping things personal with players like the Cowon C2 I reviewed earlier in the month, or sharing with friends using something like the FoxL v2 wireless loudspeaker. If commercial designs don't really appeal, though, there is another route - you could always build your own. Matt Keeter's Fab Boombox is just such a device, designed and built for a final class project and featuring laser-cut, snap-together panels housing stereo speakers (said to be loud in a quiet room and quiet in a noisy room), a custom main control board with an MP3 decoder and a 9V battery power source. Digital music is fed into the player via an SD card slot, with the user controlling playback on a touch-sensitive interface.  Read More

MIT's Materials Project website is a database of chemical compounds, that scientists can u...

Remember what it was like in the days before the internet, if you were trying to find out something specific? If you wanted know what flounders eat, for instance, you would have to physically go to the library, look up “marine biology” in the card catalogue, find the appropriate books in the stacks, look up “flounder” in their indexes – and even then, you might not find what you were looking for. It was certainly a lot more work than just typing in “flounder diet” on Google. Well, materials research so far has been kind of like that pre-Google era, in that scientists have had to spend months conducting research in order to determine how different compounds will react with one another. With the launch of MIT’s Materials Project website, however, it looks like that could be about to change.  Read More

Media Lab postdoctoral associate Andreas Velten explains how the camera works

We've been hearing about trillions in the news so much lately, it's easy to become desensitized to just what a colossal number that is. Recently, a team of brilliant researchers at MIT's Media Lab (ML) built an imaging system capable of making an exposure every picosecond- one trillionth of a second. Just how fast is that? Why, a thousand times faster than a nanosecond, of course. Put another way, one picosecond is to one second as one second is to about 31,700 years. That's fast. So fast, in fact, this system can literally slow down light itself and it does so in a manner unlike any other camera.  Read More

Former graduate student Nirav Dave (left) and PhD student Myron King (right) were part of ...

Although we may think of smartphones as being like tiny desktop computers, they do have at least one key difference – in order to save battery power, many of their functions are hardwired into highly-efficient dedicated processors, instead of taking the form of software. Because smartphones perform so many functions, however, not all of them can be hardwired. As a result, designers of mobile devices must decide which functions will be handled by software, and which by hardware. Computer scientists from MIT have recently devised a system that should make those designers’ jobs a lot easier – if they’re willing to adopt it.  Read More

MIT has developed an algorithm that predicts which cars are likely to run a red light, so ...

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for the year 2008, over 700 fatalities resulted from drivers running red lights at intersections across the United States. Approximately half of the people killed weren’t the errant drivers themselves, but were other drivers, passengers or pedestrians who simply happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One approach to reducing these numbers is to utilize technology such as Mercedes Benz’s Smart Stop system, that won’t let drivers run red lights. Scientists at MIT are looking at the problem from another angle, however – they have developed a system that identifies cars likely to run the reds, so that the other drivers can be warned to stay out of their way.  Read More

An image of the new computer chip, that mimics the activity of neurons in the brain (Photo...

The human brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, and each one of those communicates with many others by releasing neurotransmitters. Those neurotransmitters cross a gap – properly known as a synapse – between the sending (presynaptic) and receiving (postsynaptic) neurons. Ion channels on the membranes of the postsynaptic neurons open or close in response to the arrival of the neurotransmitters, changing the neurons’ electrical potential. Should that potential change to a sufficient degree, the neuron will produce an electrical impulse known as an action potential. It’s a very complex process ... and scientists from MIT have now recreated it on a silicon computer chip.  Read More

A rendering of the FastRunner bipedal sprinting robot (Image: IHMC)

Fast as the FastRunner may become, it will never be able to escape the comparison to an ostrich. One day, thanks to a joint effort by MIT and the Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC), this bipedal sprinting robot is going to assume its rightful place in the DARPA-funded robotic zoo, right next to the robotic cheetah and the mule-like BigDog. Thanks to an innovative, self-stabilizing leg design, the movements of this flightless robotic bird are going to be not only very efficient, but also extremely fast. The legs are already capable of hitting 27 mph (43.4 km/h), matching the fastest of humans. The researchers hope to see FastRunner reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80.4 km/h). That, plus the ability to negotiate fairly rough, uneven terrain, potentially makes it a force to be reckoned with, on the battlefield and elsewhere.  Read More

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