Science_afficionado (932920) writes "Vanderbilt University scientists reported significant progress toward creating "homo minutus" — a benchtop human — at the Society of Toxicology meeting on Mar. 26 in Phoenix. The advance is the successful development and analysis of a human liver construct//organ-on-a-chip that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver. The achievement is the first result from a five-year, $19 million multi-institutional effort led by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), to develop four interconnected human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — that are based on a highly miniaturized platform nicknamed ATHENA (Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer). The project is supported by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. Similar programs to create smaller-scale organs-on-chips are underway at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "There is a general consensus that ultimately photons will replace electrons running through wires in most of our microelectronic devices. One of the current technical barriers to the spread of optoelectronics has been the difficulty in miniaturizing the ultrafast optical switches required. Now a team of physicists at Vanderbilt has made terahertz optical switches out of nanoparticles of vanadium dioxide, a material long known for its ability to rapidly change phase between metallic to semiconducting states. They report in the Mar. 12 issue of Nano Letters that they have created individually addressable switches that are 200 nm in diameter and can switch between transparent and opaque states at terahertz rates." Link to Original Source top
New class of "hypervelocity stars" discovered escaping the galaxy
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "Astronomers have discovered a surprising new class of “hypervelocity stars” that are moving at more than a million miles per hour, fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy. The 20 hyper stars are about the same size as the sun and, other than their extreme speed, have the same composition as the stars in the galactic disk. The big surprise is that they don't seem to come from the galaxy's center. The generally accepted mechanism for producing hypervelocity stars relies on the extreme gravitational field of the supermassive black hole that resides in the galaxy's core. So the discovery means that astrophysicists must come up with an entirely new method for speeding stars to hypervelocities." Link to Original Source top
You don't know what your fingers are doing when you are typing
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "A team of cognitive psychologists at Vanderbilt and Kobe universities have found that skilled typists can’t identify the positions of many of the keys on the QWERTY keyboard and even when people are learning to type they don’t appear to learn key locations, a conclusion that conflicts with current theories of automatic learning." Link to Original Source top
Tech advances make robotic legs that move like natural limbs
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "Recent advances in robotics technology make it possible to create prosthetics that can duplicate the natural movement of human legs. This capability promises to dramatically improve the mobility of lower-limb amputees, allowing them to negotiate stairs and slopes and uneven ground, significantly reducing their risk of falling as well as reducing stress on the rest of their bodies. In a perspective published this week in Science Translational Medicine, pioneers in advanced prosthetics technology at Vanderbilt University describe the technological developments that have made this possible and the benefits this will have for amputees.
Perspectives article: http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/5/210/210ps15
Story and video on robotic leg: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/08/bionic-leg/
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Goal of national robotics grant is to create smarter surgical robots
Science_afficionado writes "Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed an intelligent, adaptive system centered on a humanoid robot that is designed to help treat young children diagnosed with ASD. An initial test with a dozen children demonstrated that they responded almost as well to the robot as they did to a human therapist in training sessions designed to teach them a critical social communication skill. The system and the test are described in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering [http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6373737&contentType=Journals+%26+Magazines&searchWithin%3Dsarkar%26punumber%3D7333]" Link to Original Source top
Researchers commissioned to create "microbrain" to improve drug testing
Science_afficionado writes "Creating a device called a microbrain bioeactor that simulates brain chemistry using a small number of human cells is the goal of a $2.1 million award that is part of a major new federal initiative to develop a human-on-a-chip: a series of “organs on a chip” designed to improve the drug development process.
Science_afficionado writes "An engineering grad student at Vanderbilt has developed an app for android tablets equipped with haptic feedback that turns them into a valuable tool for teaching mathematics and other STEM subjects to visually impaired students." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "Generally, the thermal conductivity of a given material is fixed. However, a team of Vanderbilt engineers have discovered that the thermal conductivity of thin films can be enhanced by as much as 45 percent. The ability to tune and enhance a material's ability to conduct heat could provide engineers with an important new tool for managing thermal effects in microelectronics, optoelectronics and nanocomposites. The discovery was reported Dec. 11 online by Nature Nanotechnology (http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nnano.2011.216.html)" Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "A new lower-limb prosthetic — the first with powered knee and ankle joints that work together — allows amputees to walk without the leg-dragging characteristic of conventional artificial legs. The device uses the latest advances in computer, sensor, motor and battery technology to give it bionic capabilities." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "Electrical engineers at Vanderbilt have created the basic components for computer chips out of thin films of nanodiamond. These combine the properties of vacuum tubes and solid state microelectronics and can operate in extreme environments where normal devices fail." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "A team of scientists and engineers from Vanderbilt University have invented the world's smallest version of the periscope and are using it to look at cells and other micro-organisms from several sides at once. They call their devices "mirrored pyramidal wells" because they consist of pyramidal-shaped cavities molded into silicon about the width of a human hair whose interior surfaces are coated with a reflective layer of gold or platinum. The university has applied for a patent. For more details, images and video go to http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/stories/micropyramids.html" Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "In the southeastern U.S. fisherman have an unusual way to collect earthworms for bait. The practice is called worm grunting, fiddling, snoring or charming. It involves pounding a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing the top of the stake with a long piece of steel to produce a grunting sound that causes earthworms to come to the surface where they can be easily collected for bait. A study published today in the open access journal PLoS ONE shows that the technique works because the worm grunters are unknowingly imitating the sounds created by burrowing moles. A story on the research with video and audio clips is available at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/stories/wormgrunt.html and full text of the paper is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0003472." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "A new study has found that cockroaches are morons in the morning and geniuses in the evening in terms of their learning capacity. Previous studies suggest that the learning capacity of both people and rats are also affected by their internal biological clocks. But the effect is far more dramatic in cockroaches and it is the first time it has been found in insects. And, no, the researchers didn't try giving their cockroaches a sip of coffee to see if it revived them! For the details, go to http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/stories/cockroach.html." Link to Original Source top
Science_afficionado writes "A scientist using a high-speed video camera has discovered that some semi-aquatic mammals can do something that experts had considered to be impossible: using their sense of smell underwater.
A multimedia story on Exploration, Vanderbilt's online research magazine, includes video clips that show how the critters do it. The URL is http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/stories/unde rwatersniffing.html. (FLASH is required.)"