A team of computer scientists and neuroscientists co-led by Professor H. Sebastian Seung has completed a five-year project mapping one cubic millimeter of THE VISUAL NEOCORTEX of a mouse. The publicly available dataset, the largest of its kind, offers detailed 3-D renderings of 200,000 brain cells and nearly 500 million synapses. Although the goal of the project was to improve machine learning by tracing connections within the brain, the results could also help neuroscientists and medical researchers understand and treat brain disorders.
Postdoctoral fellow Xiaohui Xu and Professor Rodney D. Priestley have created a hydrogel that functions as a CHEAP, SOLAR-POWERED WATER PURIFIER, according to a paper published in Advanced Materials. The gel absorbs water when placed in polluted water, leaving contaminants behind. Once warmed by the sun to 91 degrees Fahrenheit, the gel releases the now-clean water. Priestley and Xu developed the hydrogel to be used in artificial skin, but they now hope it could provide a low-cost solution for communities where clean drinking water is in short supply.
A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that reforestation may be more effective than expected at FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE. Professor Amilcare Porporato, graduate student Sara Cerasoli, and former postdoctoral fellow Jun Ying used modeling to test a theory that planting trees in temperate regions could have a warming effect due to the large amount of solar radiation that trees absorb. They found that clouds tend to gather more frequently above forested areas, creating a cooling effect that counteracts the forests’ trapped heat. By Joanna Wendel ’09