Overdue overview


I’m blaming an emo­tional wind tunnel effect for my recent absence here. I promise to return with renewed vigor next week. Image via Thinkstock.

Okay, folks. It’s Friday after­noon and I sorely owe you a blog post. Not just for this week, but for the last one, too. So, instead of making excuses for my absence, I’m just going to use them as fodder for a post. Here’s a quick run­down of a few things I learned during this time when I was busy not blog­ging. Stay tuned for sto­ries and more info and all of it.

1. From a demo at a con­fer­ence: A mobile brain imaging device is allowing researchers to cor­re­late neu­ro­log­ical responses to emo­tional stimuli. I got to try it on and watch the visu­al­iza­tion light up when I thought about stuff.

2. Also from that con­fer­ence: Researchers are building tech­nolo­gies that can detect emo­tions in a snippet of recorded speech or written text and use that infor­ma­tion to auto­mat­i­cally gen­erate facial expres­sions and body ges­tures in vir­tual humans (think char­ac­ters in video games).

3. From an article I read while doing research on some­thing else: Sci­en­tists can track the spread of emo­tion through social net­works the same way they track viruses spreading through pop­u­la­tions.

4. From an inter­view with a fac­ulty member: Wind tun­nels aren’t the things you expe­ri­ence as you struggle down blus­tering city streets in the middle of a bliz­zard turning your umbrella upside down. Those are  wind tunnel effects. Wind tun­nels are actu­ally research devices that allow sci­en­tists and engi­neers to study the effects of air flow (of all inten­si­ties) on var­ious things, including build­ings.

5. From an inter­view at Global Game Jam with Thomas Dolby: The guy who pro­duced this amazing music video back in 1980 at the dawn of MTV, also cre­ated the mini-​​synthesizer that lives in vir­tu­ally all of our mobile phones these days and is respon­sible for the most notable ring­tone ever.

6. From another fac­ulty inter­view: All the data ever pro­duced by researchers at the Large Hadron Col­lider in Switzer­land has been avail­able for public con­sump­tion. But that was no easy task. A new pro­gram, which I wrote about here, will make it easier.

7. From a panel dis­cus­sion: Researchers are thinking about ways to uti­lize the heat output of our sewage system to gen­erate clean energy for our build­ings, homes, and infra­struc­ture. They’re already recy­cling some of the methane output to sup­ple­ment fuel supplies.

8. Also from that dis­cus­sion: Mass­a­chu­setts res­i­dents get 400 megawatts of energy (about the amount pro­duced by a small power plant) from solar energy. By 202 they expect to be get­ting more than 1600 megawatts that way.

9. From another panel dis­cus­sion: A new start-​​up in New York revamped an old food truck with a body scanner and a 3D printer and are using the gad­gets to print custom clothing for cus­tomers.

10. From another article I read: Levels of oxy­tocin (aka the “empathy chem­ical”) in the blood­stream increase after lis­tening to a good story, indi­cating increased empathy in our non-​​fictional relationships.