The patient who transformed the science of memory
Suzanne Corkin was a graduate student at McGill University when she met a young man named Henry Molaison in 1962. She spent several days giving him memory tests as she gathered data for her PhD thesis. But each day she had to reintroduce herself, as Molaison had almost completely lost the ability to form new memories.
Plastics have become synonymous with waste, but they can be made sustainably.
There can be little doubt that plastic materials have dramatically improved everything from clothing to travel to communications to building. Some of the damage they have caused, however, is equally dramatic.
MIT researchers have decoded the complex structure that gives bones their strength
A team of MIT researchers led by civil engineer and materials scientist Markus Buehler has finally unraveled the structure of bone—a long-standing mystery—with almost atom-by-atom precision. Doing so took many years of analysis by some of the world’s most powerful computers, results that were confirmed by laboratory experiments.
Metastatic cells move through tight spaces more quickly than ordinary cells
Most cancer deaths are caused by metastatic tumors, which break free from the original cancer site and spread throughout the body. Many of the genetic changes that allow cells to become metastatic have been studied extensively, but it has been more difficult to study the physical changes that contribute to this process.
Study of anesthesia-induced brain-wave patterns could help doctors make sure patients don’t wake up during operations
Since the mid-1800s, doctors have used drugs to induce general anesthesia in patients undergoing surgery. However, little is known about how these drugs create such a profound loss of consciousness.
Compact unmanned aerial vehicles will perform many valuable jobs if aviation regulations allow them to operate commercially.
I don’t use the word “drone,” which originally referred to remotely piloted planes used for anti-aircraft target practice and is now closely associated with long-range surveillance and strike vehicles operated by the military (see “The World as Free-Fire Zone”). But I do envision wider use of aircraft with sensors, perception, and intelligence. I call them “flying robots.”
Aetna sees cost savings in helping people track their health and fitness.
A smartphone app that launches this week gives the health insurance company Aetna access to detailed user health-tracking data. As costs spiral upward, health-care companies could turn to such apps as a way to monitor customers and encourage healthy behavior.
An environmentally-friendly way of making vanillin from the lignin in wood pulp could change the economics of this flavouring industry
Millions of people use the tool Ghostery to block online tracking technology—few realize that it feeds data to the ad industry.
Whenever discussion starts about how to hide from the tracking code that follows users around the Web to serve them targeted ads, recommendations soon pile up for a browser add-on called Ghostery. It blocks tracking code, noticeably speeds up how quickly pages load as a result, and has roughly 19 million users. Yet some of those who advocate Ghostery as a way to escape the clutches of the online ad industry may not realize that the company behind it, Evidon, is in fact part of that selfsame industry.
A scientist who has anguished over terrors in her family’s history explores how people might erase the trauma from memories.
It was a Saturday night at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, and the second-floor auditorium held an odd mix of gray-haired, cerebral Upper East Side types and young, scruffy downtown grad students in black denim. Up on the stage, neuroscientist Daniela Schiller, a riveting figure with her long, straight hair and impossibly erect posture, paused briefly from what she was doing to deliver a mini-lecture about memory.
New tech will lower the cost of carbon capture, but the sheer scale needed to reduce emissions prevent it from being a panacea.
I’ve recently reported on a handful of ways that researchers are trying to lower the cost of capturing carbon dioxide, with the view to storing it underground or using it for something useful (see “Cheaper Ways to Capture Carbon Dioxide,” “Grasping for Ways to Capture Carbon Dioxide on the Cheap,” and “Fuel Cells Could Offer Cheap Carbon Dioxide Storage”).
The best of the rest from the Physics arXiv preprint server
A novel software tool could make it far easier to bring new energy storage technologies to market.
If we’re ever going to run the world on intermittent renewable energy, we’re going to need to change the power grid, making it smarter and more adaptable, extending transmission lines to connect far flung wind farms, and adding something that we only have a very small scale right now—the ability to store electricity generated when the sun is shining for use when it isn’t.
Another chance to catch the most interesting, and important, articles from the previous week on MIT Technology Review.
A roundup of the most interesting stories from other sites, collected by the staff at MIT Technology Review.
The Secret War
This account of General Keith Alexander’s cyberwar efforts paints a valuable big picture.
—Tom Simonite, IT editor
By eschewing grit and realism for creativity and simplicity, Minecraft shows how bedroom programmers can create global hits.
All video-game makers are minor gods. They are, after all, in the business of world creation. The game creator sets down the mountains and arranges the valleys in his or her world. The creator decides upon the sky’s hue, the water’s viscosity, the pitch of birdsong, and the force of gravity’s pull. The creator types “Let there be light” (or the C# equivalent) and there is light. The creator chooses how and when night falls and whether or not there will be a new dawn. The creator conjures how time works (linear, malleable, or something else entirely) and writes the strands of code that form the incumbent creatures’ DNA. Then, when everything is planned out, the creator clicks “RUN” to execute a Big Bang.
Researchers are designing a “dialysis-like” machine that could identify and remove pathogens responsible for an often lethal blood infection.
Taking advantage of recent advances in nanotechnology and microfluidics, researchers have made significant progress toward a device that could be used to rapidly remove pathogens from the blood of patients with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when an infection is distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream.
The decision should reduce uncertainty in the field of molecular diagnostics.
The U.S. Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling on the issue of human gene patents on Thursday, deciding that while DNA found naturally cannot be patented, synthetically produced DNA can.
The social network between characters in Homer’s Odyssey is remarkably similar to real social networks today. That suggests the story is based, at least in part, on real events, say researchers
MIT Technology Review’s first mobile-focused conference featured some big names and big news.
Last night we wrapped up our first Mobile Summit, a two-day event dedicated to an incredibly important and exciting area of technological innovation.