How much do you know about your ancestors? Many people can't trace their family back more than a century, but researchers have grown a family tree with more than 13 million people in it.
Yaniv Erlich and colleagues at MIT's Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have used data that goes back to the 15th century to shed light on how genetic traits influence successive generations.
The ankle is something of an anatomical puzzle.
"Imagine you have a collection of pebbles, and you wrap a whole bunch of elastic bands around them," Neville Hogan, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT, said in a school news report. "That's pretty much a description of what the ankle is. It's nowhere near a simple joint from a kinematics standpoint."
So Hogan teamed up with colleagues at MIT's Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation to test Anklebot, a robot that uses electrodes to record the torque and angular displacement at the joint and calculate stiffness in various directions.
To do this, the bot is mounted to a knee brace that is in turn connected to a custom shoe, and Anklebot… Read more
Remember that Lego spaceship you once built? What if it could have a working thruster the size and weight of a Lego brick?
MIT professor Paulo Lozano is designing prototype "microthrusters" that would propel pint-size satellites in orbit and into deep space.
The director of MIT's Space Propulsion Laboratory believes such microthrusters and the scaled-down satellites they would power could radically reduce the cost of space missions compared with conventional spacecraft technology. … Read more
If you look down and see a series of colorful cubes crawling toward you, don't panic. It's not Tetris come to real life, but rather the creation of robotics researchers at MIT. The M-Blocks robots are cube-shaped modular bots with no external moving parts. Nonetheless, they can move, crawl over each other, and self-assemble.
The secret to the robots' movements lies under the skin. Each little cube hides a small flywheel that can hit speeds of 20,000 revolutions per minute. Magnets embedded in strategic locations help the M-Blocks stick together.… Read more
In journalism, there's something called a lede, which is just another word for the main or most important part of your story. Normally you want to lay it out for the reader in the first sentence or two. Obviously, I'm hesitating here.
That's because I can't decide if it's more important that researchers at MIT and Harvard have just managed to create a previously unobserved form of matter by getting photons to bind together into molecules, or the fact that the result is basically a real-life lightsaber -- that could be part of a quantum computer one day.
Actually, I think what this story is really about is...friendship.… Read more
It's just a matter of time before we all have replicant companions, right? And they'll need artificial memories like in "Blade Runner."
That's why we should all thank the scientists at the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, who have managed to implant artificial memories in mice. Doing it with biological androids should be no problem.
Reporting in the latest edition of the journal Science, Susumu Tonegawa and colleagues describe how they were able to get mice to believe they had been shocked in one place, when it had really happened in another. … Read more
We're still very far away from Data on "Star Trek," an artificial intelligence creation with self-awareness and a human-like mind. But artificial intelligence designers are taking baby steps. More accurately, they're taking 4-year-old steps.
A study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago took one of today's top artificial intelligence systems, ConceptNet 4, and gave it an IQ test. Its average IQ worked out to be about that of a 4-year-old human, the researchers found.… Read more
Do you really wish you had X-ray vision? Sure, it would be fun to see what your neighbors are doing behind those walls -- until you see something you wish you hadn't.
Regardless, researchers at MIT have developed a sensing technology that uses low-power Wi-Fi to detect moving people. It follows other wall-penetrating sensor tech using radar and heavy equipment.
The Wi-Vi system by Dina Katabi and Fadel Adib sends out a low-power Wi-Fi signal and tracks its reflections to sense people moving around, even if they're in closed rooms or behind walls. … Read more
It sounds like the start of a joke: "A group of MIT people walk into a sock factory..." But the punch line is a pair of socks that have been so thoroughly engineered, they make tube socks look like something a triceratops would have worn back in the Cretaceous Period.
MIT startup Ministry of Supply has turned its plentiful resource of engineering and high-tech minds to the problem of dress socks. The result is the Atlas performance dress socks Kickstarter project, which has already more than doubled its $30,000 funding goal. There is good reason for this outpouring of sock support.… Read more