University of Texas

For five years, the annual BotPrize competition has been using a variant of the Turing Test known as a "Computer game bot Turing Test" to challenge programmers, researchers and hobbyists to create a bot for Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004) that is indistinguishable from a human player. Fittingly, in the centenary year of Turing’s birth, not one but two teams have finally claimed the prize by achieving “humanness ratings” of over 50 percent. In comparison, human players received an average humanness rating of just over 40 percent. Read More

Sandy beaches are a delight for swimmers, surfers, sailors, and people strolling down the boardwalk. A horde of beautiful shells and buried coins (not to mention the occasional dropped ring) awaits the skilled beachcomber. Beach sand also carries within it a variety of traces of the history of that beach. A prime example is the magnetic sands of Normandy. Read More

Diesel engines are a classic example of good news and bad news. The good news is that diesel engines are much more fuel efficient than petrol engines. The bad news is that they belch out some pretty nasty emissions like nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. The good news is that catalytic converters can scrub those out. The bad news is that last Friday the platinum needed by the converters is selling for US$1,473.10 an ounce. Now the good news is that a team at Nanostellar in Redwood, California, has developed a mineral catalyst that outperforms platinum at a fraction of the cost. Read More
Rapamycin, a bacterial product first discovered in a soil sample from Easter Island – also known as Rapa Nui, hence the name – is an immunosuppressant drug used to prevent rejection in organ transplants that has now been found to enhance learning and memory in young and old mice alike. Researchers at the School of Medicine at The University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center San Antonio made the discovery while looking for a way to prevent the decline in cognitive skills that comes with age. Read More
A team of researchers at the University of Texas is exploring the possibility of electrically stimulating the visual cortex of the brain to create simple images and shapes. This development could lead to a visual prosthetic device that would effectively "trick" the brain of visually impaired or blind people into seeing ... and such a device, the authors say, is only about five years away. Read More
The practice of surgically removing diseased or damaged tissue within the body is something of a trade-off – quite often, some of the surrounding healthy tissue will also end up being removed in the process. In highly-sensitive areas such as the brain or spinal cord, where a fraction of a millimeter either way can have huge consequences, sometimes surgery is deemed to be just too risky. A newly-developed endoscopic laser “scalpel,” however, looks like it could lower those risks considerably. Read More
Those of us who envy Superman for his X-ray vision may soon get that ability - on our cell phones. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have reported a new approach to harnessing the potential of the terahertz band in portable devices. Read More
In First World countries' medical systems, the standard way of checking a patient's body fluid samples is to send them off to a lab. In developing nations, however, such labs often don't exist, nor does the infrastructure for transporting biological samples. Fortunately, a number of groups have been developing simple, inexpensive testing devices that could be used by clinicians in these countries. One of the latest gadgets is the very simple origami Paper Analytical Device, or oPAD – it's made out of paper, could be purchased for under 10 cents, and is folded together by the user. Read More
In spite of numerous medical breakthroughs ranging from heart transplants to bypass surgery, cardiovascular disease still tops the list as the leading cause of death in developed countries. Key among the many problems that trouble our hearts is something called myocardial ischemia disease (MID), a condition that leads to reduced blood flow in the vessels of the heart and lower extremities and, frequently, corrective surgery. Now, University of Texas at Austin (UTA) biomedical engineer Aaron Baker and his research team have developed a method that may speed up the body's ability to grow new blood vessels (a phenomenon called angiogenesis), and best of all, no surgery is required. That's potentially great news for the nearly 27 million folks in the U.S. alone who chronically suffer from MID. Read More
Professor George Bittner and his colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Neuroscience have developed a simple and inexpensive procedure to quickly repair severed peripheral nerves. The team took advantage of a mechanism similar to that which permits many invertebrates to regenerate and repair nerve damage. The new procedure, based on timely application of common chemicals to the severed nerve ends, could help patients to recover nearly full function in days or weeks. Read More