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University of Chicago

When a mineral is the most abundant on the planet, (making up an estimated 38 percent of the Earth's entire volume, in fact), you would think that someone would have given it a name by now. But things are never as simple as they seem. Despite being so prevalent, the substance in question has only ever existed in synthetic form until recently, and the first naturally-occurring example of it didn't even come from beneath the ground; it arrived from outer space. Read More
As someone who almost shuffled off this mortal coil after downing a satay, I'm always hopeful when potential breakthroughs for the treatment of food allergies arise. The latest cause for hope, which could one day let food allergy sufferers order in restaurants without worrying about potentially life-threatening ingredients hidden within, comes from scientists at the University of Chicago Medicine, who have found that a common gut bacteria protects against food allergies in mice. Read More
Back in 2010, we first heard about a clever device known as the robotic universal jamming gripper. With its business end composed of a party balloon filled with coffee grounds, it could form a secure grip around objects of varying sizes and shapes. Now, that device has been commercialized – although incorporating higher-tech materials than balloons and coffee. Read More
It's something most of us take for granted, but our sense of touch is every bit as useful to us as our sight and hearing. Though it seems simple, picking up and holding an object requires nearly instantaneous sensation in the parts of our hands and fingers in contact with the desired object, as well as a sense of the pressure we're applying. Many experimental efforts to simulate a sense of touch in amputees fitted with prosthetics require the subject to learn new associations between touching an object and some abstract sensation. But new research at the University of Chicago suggests that it is possible to map the individual finger pads of a prosthetic hand to the corresponding parts of the brain. In other words, prosthetic hands which offer a realistic sense of touch may theoretically be possible. Read More
Despite decades of study, scientists remained unsure as to how insulin binds to the insulin receptor on the surface of cells to allow them to take up sugar from the blood and transform it into energy. Now, a definitive answer has now been found with a team of scientists capturing the first three-dimensional images of insulin “docking” to its receptor. It is hoped that the new knowledge can be exploited to develop new and improved insulin medications to treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Read More
Last year we looked at a universal robotic gripper, which was made by filling an elastic membrane with coffee grounds. The versatile gripper, which is attached to a robotic arm, was able to pick up a wide variety of objects, including a coin or raw egg, which are notoriously difficult for robotic grippers modeled after the human hand to deal with. Now the universal jamming gripper's developers have given it the ability to "shoot" objects some distance, which could enable it to sort objects into different bins, dispose of trash, or maybe even try out for the NBA. Read More
If you come across a word or phrase in another language, a printed or online dictionary is usually a good place to look for help. If you're faced with a language that's long been dead, however, then you've got problems. Those studying the cuneiform texts of Mesopotamian clay tablets or stone carvings now have reason to rejoice. After nine decades, the University of Chicago's Assyrian Dictionary Project has finally been completed - opening an encyclopedic window into the day to day lives of people from one of the world's first civilizations. Read More