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.