Tag Archives: MIT

Winning Science September 25, 2014

One of the most ingenious and useful inventions of ancient Rome was cement.  In fact, the famous state formation theorist Paul Kennedy has said that concrete was the innovation that most completely accounts for the rise of a civilization unmatched until the 18th century (no state or empire reached the same level of GDP until the British industrialization and mercantile economy in the 1700’s).  It was used for everything from aqueducts to the famous Coliseum.  Two thousand years later, cement is still mankind’s favorite and most used construction material.

Now, a five year research project by a team from MIT and CNRS may have found a way to improve the formula.  The amount of green-house gas emissions from concrete is alarming, especially given its popularity in construction all over the globe.  Through a reduction in the calcium content, scientists have been able to lower emissions by up to 60% while simultaneously increasing the mechanical strength of the material and reducing the possibility of fracture, which would make it even more appealing to the oil industry especially.Roman_aqueduct_Tarragona


Now if only we could figure out a way to make it last 2,000 years…


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Winning Science April 16, 2014

The Cassini spacecraft has discovered what appears to be a new moon being formed in the rings of Saturn. The new moon, named Peggy, is being formed from the ice that makes up Saturn’s rings. While this baby moon is still currently too small to see, the gravitational effects on the rings are visible. Peggy joins the 62 other moons that Saturn has, both official and provisional.


The moon might be named after a real person, but all I can think about is the guy from the Capital One commercial.

Leave it to the folks at MIT to determine that our furniture is too lazy. They seem to think it should be doing more for us. The Transform projects created a table-ish structure that moves and responds to people. The system senses when a person is nearby using a Kinect (from an Xbox). The table uses 1,152 plastic pins to provide motion. There is also a fantastic video of the table rolling a ball around. Yes, you just read that right, the surface is moving a ball around, in a controlled and complex manner.


Maybe it won’t be too long until we have hospital beds like Yashida’s in The Wolverine. Seems like it could be comfy.

Scientists in Russia have successfully grown a new esophagus and implanted it in a rat.  What is an esophagus? When you drink something and you start coughing because it went “down the wrong pipe,” it should have gone down the esophagus. It’s the part of the body that takes food and liquids (e.g. beer) from the mouth to the stomach. The Russian scientists were able to accomplish this by using a scaffold of existing cells and then allowing stem cells to develop around that scaffold. Not only is this a fascinating advance, but an interesting technique for doing it as well.


I’m pretty partial to my own esophagus because of the whole loving beer and food thing.


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Winning Science January 22, 2014

For those of you, like me, who are stuck at home due to the snow, we have some Winning Science here to keep you company.

It’s said that every generation has it’s war. For my generation, it’s the War on Terror, specifcally the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whatever your political views might be, I think we can all agree that we must take care of those returning home from these wars, especially those who’s wounds have caused serious changes in their life. The FDA, in association with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, has entered into clinical trials for a new prosthetic that will help these veterans, and all other amputees for that matter, take a step closer to their previous lives. The prosthetic requires the implantation of small sensors in the limb which read signals the signals coming directly from the brain. These signals are then transmitted to a belt pack which in turns controls the prosthetic.

The device is capable of 3 degrees of motion: wrist rotation, finger closing and extension, and lateral thumb movement. It does not yet allow a full range of motion, but is a significant step forward.

Generally speaking, it’s common knowledge that well ordered systems are more efficient that chaotic ones. Well scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory are turning common knowledge on its head. During experiments on lithium ion batteries, scientists discovered that batteries with less order, but excessive amounts of lithium performed equally as well as ordered batteries after 500 to 1000 charge cycles. Another benefit of more chaotic construction is volume stability (battery won’t expand as it ages). Researchers are now investigating what happens after even more charge cycles and exploring what other materials they can use.


Turns out my room wasn’t messy when I was a kid, it was more efficient. If only my mother had known that.

Who here doesn’t want a transparent computer screen, just like in the movies? I know I do. Thanks to MIT, that desire is a step closer to being reality. Not only that, but MIT managed to do it for about ten bucks. I am all about cheap cutting edge technology. The other fascinating part is that MIT’s screen, unlike many others, is visible from almost any vantage point.

maxresdefaultI may not be Iron Man, but a man can dream can’t he.

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