While of course we here at Online Universities are online education's biggest fans, there is still something to be said for the magic that happens when a group of bright, inquiring minds come together under one roof. Some of the world's most incredible research has come and continues to come from traditional colleges and universities in the United States and around the globe. These are some of the most amazing projects going on now.
Temporal invisibility cloak, Cornell University:
Did you know we're already to the point we have to differentiate between "traditional" and "new" invisibility cloaks? Cornell's Gaeta Group of the School of Applied and Engineering Physics is pioneering research in a new way to cloak an item: in time, not space. Researchers managed to interrupt the flow of light in a fiber-optic cable, effectively cloaking an event from the human eye for 15-trillionths of a second. It's a brief window, to say the least, but as director Alexander Gaeta says, "You have to start somewhere and this is a proof of concept."
Brain visions to video, UC Berkeley:
If you've ever had a dream that you thought would make a great movie, scientists at UC Berkeley might have provided a way for you to one day watch that footage. Using an MIR machine, test subjects were shown movie trailers while their brains' blood flows were recorded. This info was then used by a computer to learn over time what kind of visual stimuli were prompting the brain activity, which it then compared to a database of 18 million seconds' worth of YouTube videos. The resulting video it creates is blurry, but now researchers can build on this groundwork to one day allow us to see what the mind imagines.
Eye computing, Imperial College London:
Wearable computing has been a fixture of sci-fi movies for years, but universities like Imperial College London are helping ensure such technology will soon be fact, not fiction. Researchers from the school recently demonstrated a special type of glasses that allow computer users to move the cursor on a screen with only their eyes. Tiny cameras in the lenses take constant pictures of the pupil to track where it is pointed, and users "click" targets by winking. In the demonstration, people played the classic video game Pong using only their eyeballs. The glasses use low power and, perhaps most amazingly of all, will be relatively inexpensive (under $100).
Leukemia treatment, University of Pennsylvania:
Researchers at Penn may have found a treatment for leukemia that puts them "on the cusp of a simple treatment that would take care of all cancers." Even if such a panacea remains elusive, the work Dr. Carl June and others at the school have been doing for over a decade has produced amazing results of late. They have successfully trained the blood cells in two cancer sufferers to be "killer cells" that attack existing and new cancer cells. It is the first time the process has been done with regard to cancer cells. While the list of cured patients is still very short, the research continues and the process is already being tried against other types of cancers.
Brain-computer interface, Brown University:
Working with researchers from four other organizations, including Harvard Medical School, Brown is producing some amazing scientific research. What began as an experimental study called BrainGate, in which a tiny device was implanted in the motor cortex in order to monitor a person's intended physical movements so that a robotic device can assist, has flowered into BrainGate2. In April, a woman who has been paralyzed for 15 years used her thoughts to control a robotic arm to bring a bottle to her mouth, let her take a drink, and return the bottle to the table. The obvious potential for changing the lives of people whose movements are inhibited is enormous.
Nanocomputing, University of Leeds and Tokyo University of Technology:
These two schools are collaborating on research that harnesses tiny bacteria that eat iron to potentially create better and faster computer hard drives. As the bacteria eat the iron they create tiny magnets in themselves, which, it is hoped, can be used to contain one bit of information each. The work by Leeds' School of Physics and Astronomy and Tokyo University's Agriculture and Technology School could eventually lead to entirely biological computers. The next step for the group in Tokyo is to create the means for growing computer parts from "scratch."
Electric car recharging, Toyohashi University of Technology:
Electric cars have yet to gain much traction, as thus far the amount of power available on a charge has been paltry. But the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan may be on the road to a solution. A group from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Information Engineering recently demonstrated how power could be transmitted wirelessly to a running car through the concrete in a street. The group sent up to 60 watts of power through 10 centimeters of concrete, and they said their technology will be able to send power through 20 centimeters, the same amount actually used in some streets.
Photographing an atom's shadow, Griffith University:
By giving us close-ups of the atom, microscopes have gone pretty much as small as they can go. Now, for the first time, scientists at the Centre for Quantum Mechanics at Australia's Griffith University have taken a photograph of an atom's shadow. Using a super-high resolution microscope, the researchers proved it only takes one atom to cast a shadow. Although it may seem like trivial information to garner after five years of work, the knowledge could be used in atomic physics, quantum computing, and biomicroscopy, helping view sensitive cells with just enough light without damaging them.
Nano rockets, Radboud University Nijmegen:
This university in the Netherlands is highly regarded for its research, like this project from the school's Institute for Molecules and Materials. The work involves rockets, not extraordinary in themselves, but incredible when made one-tenth the size of a single piece of bacteria and used to deliver materials to different parts inside the human body. Scientists are using polymersomes, ball-shaped containers, as the body of their miniscule rockets, propelling them from head to toe (literally) through gases escaping from clusters of nanoparticles. Currently, the scientists are trying to perfect their rocket steering, and after that, the sky's the limit.
"Geckskin," University of Massachusetts Amherst:
Scientists' longstanding amazement at the ability of the gecko to hold itself up on a wall with ease has led to an amazing product developed by a UMass Amherst biologist and fellow researchers. Called "Geckskin," it's a device "about the size of an index card" that can hold up to 700 pounds of force, and the work continues to improve performance even more. The team realized the key to the lizard's gripping power lay not in the tiny hairs on his feet but the design of the pad and the way it makes contact with a surface. The resulting product can be used to hang heavy items like TVs and easily remove them and reattach them with no residue left behind.