It takes a well-trained eye to spot an irregular heartbeat in the peaks and valleys of an electrocardiogram. The same goes for identifying an extinct ape from a single fossilized tooth, or telling an original van Gogh from a fake.
But in recent years, applied mathematician Ingrid Daubechies has been training computers to churn through ECG tracings, high-resolution scans of fossils, paintings and other complex digital data and work things out automatically.
Once they've mastered the skills of toddlerhood, humans are pretty good at what roboticists call "motion planning"—reaching around obstacles to precisely pick up a soda in a crowded fridge, or slipping their hands around a screen to connect an unseen cable.
But for robots with multi-jointed arms, motion planning is a hard problem that requires time-consuming computation. Simply picking an object up in an environment that has not been pre-engineered for the robot may require several seconds of computation.
Researchers from Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill are testing the ability of drones to detect sharks in coastal waterways.
In a collaborative study funded by North Carolina Aquariums, the researchers are examining whether drones can effectively pinpoint bonnethead sharks in different habitats and water conditions.
The electrical conductivity of a sheet of graphene under a magnetic field is depicted by the colors in these two images. As the magnetic field increases from the bottom to the top of the image, the conductivity decreases (brighter colors). Superconductivity should only exist at low magnetic fields, as seen in the left panel.
Less than three months after devastating floods washed over parts of South Carolina, Duke’s ResearchMobile trundled down to Columbia, one of the hardest-hit areas, and set up shop in the parking lot of a shuttered Piggly Wiggly. Eight Duke students and two faculty spent part of their winter break to sit down with locals in a cubicle in the upfitted RV and say, “Tell us about what happened and how it affected you.”
Treatments for devastating diseases like cancer and HIV sometimes begin with a single cell. These gold spirals, each thinner than a human hair, are part of a cell-sorting microchip developed by Benjamin Yellen’s team at the Pratt School of Engineering. When an electric field is applied, each spiral acts as a miniature antenna, producing electric forces that exert precise control on biological cells.
Collaborative Innovation at the Intersection of Data and Health
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Scientists can now watch how hundreds of individual cells work together to maintain and regenerate skin tissue, thanks to a genetically engineered line of technicolor zebrafish.
Every cell on the surface of the fish, from the center of the eye to the tip of each scale, is genetically programmed to glow with a slightly different hue. But these zebrafish weren’t bred to brighten up an aquarium; the colors effectively stamp each cell with a permanent barcode, letting scientists track its movements in a live animal for days or even weeks at a time.
Tiny spirals of DNA can encode more than just the color of your eyes or the shape of your nose. Using self-assembling DNA wires, Duke engineer Chris Dwyer is building optical computing chips so compact that you could cram 5,000 movies on a single CD-sized disc. The chromophores (red dots) absorb light and transform it into packets of energy called excitons. Then these excitons leap from chromophore to chromophore in a specific pattern.