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Cells to Silicon: Your Brain in 2050

Videos from the World Science Festival are now online, including a panel on brain-computer interfaces and neural prosthetics that featured John Donoghue, professor of neuroscience and engineering. NPR science reporter Robert Krulwich moderated “Cells To Silicon: Your Brain in 2050,” a far-ranging discussion involving Donoghue, NYU research psychologist Gary Marcus, Cornell neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg, and UC–Berkeley engineer Michel Maharbiz.

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Progress on detecting glucose levels in saliva
Dealing with the 1 percent:

Researchers at Brown have developed a new biochip sensor that that can selectively measure glucose concentrations in a complex fluid like saliva. Their approach combines dye chemistry with plasmonic interferometry. A dependable glucose monitoring system that uses saliva rather than blood would be a significant improvement in managing diabetes.

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A habitable environment on Martian volcano?
Possibly habitable environs:

Heat from a volcano erupting beneath an immense glacier would have created large lakes of liquid water on Mars in the relatively recent past. And where there’s water, there is also the possibility of life. A recent paper by Brown University researchers calculates how much water may have been present near the Arsia Mons volcano and how long it may have remained.

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Free will seems a matter of mind, not soul
Profiles in a study of free will:

A new study tested whether people believe free will arises from a metaphysical basis or mental capacity. Even though most respondents said they believed humans to have souls, they judged free will and assigned blame for transgressions based on pragmatic considerations — such as whether the actor in question had the capacity to make an intentional and independent choice.

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Bribery in Bangalore: Using Data to Drive Public Policy

When Taran Raghuram ’14 was a high school student in Bangalore, India’s third-most populous city, he knew he wanted to work with the civic-action organization Janaagraha. He admired their mission to analyze public policy, educate the public on civic issues, and enable citizens and local government to improve their quality of life. Little did he know that to work with Janaagraha he would first end up traveling across the world to Providence to study at Brown.

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Schennach honored with Frisch Medal

Susanne Schennach, professor of economics, has been awarded the 2014 Frisch Medal of the Econometric Society for a paper she co-authored titled “Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation,” published in the May 2010 edition of Econometrica. Schennach co-authored the paper with Flavio Cunha, assistant professor of economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and James Heckman, professor of economics at the University of Chicago.

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Study finds genetic patterns in preeclampsia
Bioinformatic tools help identify the genetic causes of complex diseases:

A comprehensive review of preeclampsia genetics found important patterns among more than 500 significant genes. Among the insights is that different manifestations of the disease have distinct genetic underpinnings. The researchers plan to make their data freely searchable later this year.

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Makeathon inspires new assistive technologies
A weekend of intense focus on assistive technologies:

People who are “locked in” by paralysis may have lots to say but no way to say it. Assistive communications devices can create a communications channel from the slightest remaining ability for expressing intent: the blink of an eye, the twitch of a muscle. New designs for assistive technologies was the whole point of a recent two-day “makeathon” at Brown University.

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Snacking quality may decline as kids age
The age-related dietary effect of snacks :

A new study done by researchers at Brown University and Tufts University suggests that while snacks uniformly contribute to energy intake in both children and adolescents, the effect of snacking on dietary quality differs by age group. Findings suggest that snacks improve diet quality in elementary school children but detract from diet quality in adolescents.

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Grant for nuclear waste research

Brad Marston, professor of physics, will use a newly announced $75,000 grant from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative to develop predictive models needed to ensure the safe, long-term disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods.

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On Nurture, Nature, Votes, and Parties: Studying the Biological Underpinnings of Political Behavior

Rose McDermott and a small group of peers aim to determine the role that genes play in influencing behavior – in this case, political behaviors such as casting votes, choosing parties, leading countries, amassing weapons, waging war.  An offshoot of behavior genetics, the field is intensely interdisciplinary, mining the intersection of genetics and political science and marrying the knowledge, tools, and research methods of both disciplines.

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Programming the smart home: ‘If this, then that’
I’m up. Where’s the coffee?:

Homes already have intelligent devices beyond the TV remote — garage door openers, coffee makers, laundry machines, lights, HVAC — but each has its own arcane steps for programming. User research now shows that “trigger-action programming” could give users a reliable and simple way to control everything, as easy as “If this, then that.” 

 

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R.I. nitrogen cycle differs in bay and sound
Short distance, large difference:

A new study reports that anammox, a key process in the nitrogen cycle, is barely present in Narragansett Bay even though it’s a major factor just a little farther out into Rhode Island Sound. Scientists traced that to differences between bay and sound sediments, but that raises new questions about what’s going on in the Bay to account for those.

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