MI weekly selection #292

Uncertainties added to equation for alien life

New research has included uncertainties of numbers in the equation used to determine how widespread alien life might be throughout the galaxy. “We can show that, given current scientific uncertainty, we get a distribution that could make both the optimists and pessimists happy at the same time: a fair chance of several alien civilizations, but also a fair chance of no aliens within the visible universe,” said Anders Sandberg, lead author of the study.


A look at how tiny robots could change the medical industry

Tiny tumbling robots that can deliver treatments and conduct medical procedures within the body could one day revolutionize the medical industry. “Our preliminary research in actuation and tumbling locomotion in microrobots moves us a step closer to this vision by demonstrating that it is feasible to operate microrobots in multiple complex environments,” the authors write.

American Scientist

Highly developed brain region gives parrots a mental edge

A region in parrots’ brains called the medial spiriform nucleus is highly developed, and, like pontine nuclei in primates, transfers information between the cortex and cerebellum and is associated with intelligence. Parrots’ medial spiriform nuclei are relatively larger than other birds’ and may account for parrots’ superior intelligence, and researchers say the finding may enhance understanding of how the pontine nuclei works in the human brain.


New video-rate ultrasound system compatible with MRI scanners

An all-optical ultrasound imager that can perform video-rate imaging and be used within MRI scanners. “Through the combination of a new imaging paradigm, new optical ultrasound generating materials, optimized ultrasound source geometries and a highly sensitive fiber-optic ultrasound detector, we achieved image frame rates that were up to three orders of magnitude faster than the current state-of-the-art,” said Erwin Alles, lead author of the study.

Physics World

Equivalence principle tested on white dwarfs, pulsar

Researchers have tested the equivalence principle on a pair of white dwarfs and a pulsar, showing that Einstein’s theory of general relativity still holds up. “Now, anyone with an alternative theory of gravity has an even narrower range of possibilities that their theory has to fit into in order to match what we have seen,” said Nina Gusinskaia, co-author of the study.


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