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University of Michigan

  1. Researchers May Have Found a Scientific Explanation For Near Death Experiences

    Now if we could just determine the reason for the angelic chorus that appears when I eat cake...

    Many on their deathbeds, in fiction and reality, report seeing a tunnel with a bright light at its end, an experience so common it's become a cliche. While some believe the light is heaven (which makes life a giant, smelly subway station, I guess?), researchers have found new evidence that these visions may stem from electrical surges in the brain.

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  2. Throw Money At This! You Can Help Kickstart Interplanetary Engines For Tiny Satellites

    Who needs a long, drawn out grants process when you've got a whole Internet full of folks with a couple bucks to throw in the kitty for space exploration?

    Researchers at the University of Michigan want your help to power the next generation of space flight. They're not counting on sending shuttles anywhere, though -- their plan for tiny, plasma-driven thrusters that could propel micro-satellites into interplanetary space as early as 2015. To hit that ambitious goal, though, they're not counting on the traditional grants process -- which can be quite protracted -- and instead taking their funding needs to the people via Kickstarter. 

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  3. I Want One! Physicists Create Desktop-Sized Antimatter Gun

    The gun could help researchers study black holes by creating bursts of similar particles right in the lab.

    hose of you looking to begin a career in supervillainy will want to take note of this story -- researchers working at the University of Michigan have succeeded in building an antimatter gun small enough that it can rest on a standard desktop. And, when it's not resting , it can fire brief blasts of electrons and their antimatter counterpart, positrons. World leaders can sleep easy, though, despite the fact that desktop antimatter guns are now a thing that exist. Rather than bringing cities to their knees, the team of researchers behind the project want to use it to learn more about the strange physics of black holes, which emit bursts of positrons and electrons, albeit on a much grander scale than the University of Michigan antimatter gun.

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  4. Animals Are Drugging Themselves Way More Than We Thought

    Sometimes animals don't need you and your fancy pills. They can get their own meds, thank you very much. It's a phenomenon called zoopharmacognosy, and it's a known thing. A chimp might eat a vomit-inducing plant to purge his system of parasites, or a parrot might eat clay to help with digestion. But the practice of animal self-medication may be far more widespread than we ever knew, says a new study at the University of Michigan.

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  5. There and Back Again: Evidence of Reverse Evolution Seen in Dust Mites

    It's commonly held -- but not universally accepted  -- that evolution is a one-way street. Researchers who deny the idea that evolutionary traffic can only move forward saw their  arguments bolstered this week with the publication of a study suggesting that house dust mites may have evolved from free-living creatures into full-time parasites, only to abandon that evolutionary track and go back the way they came, reverting to the free-living creatures that live invisibly in your carpet, bed, and other places in your home that it's probably best not to think about them living.

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  6. Sweating Promotes Wound Healing, Isn’t Just For Ruining Your Best Shirt Anymore

    Sweating -- it's not just a thing to do profusely while talking to the really cute barista anymore! The bodily function that's ruined more items of apparel than coffee spills and sloppy joe dinners put together has some unexpected properties that make it a key factor in properly healing wounds on the skin like scrapes, burns and ulcers.

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  7. “Princess Scientists” Draw Young Girls Into Science, and Plenty of Controversy

    Pretty Pretty Princess

    Erika Ebbel Angle, host of the live science show "The Dr. Erika Show", has two costume elements that should tell you everything you need to know; a lab coat, and her Miss Massachusetts tiara. The tiara in particular is a big hit with the studio audience of kids, most of them girls. Ebbel Angle, who is an MIT graduate with a Ph. D. in biochemistry, says the crown-and-labcoat pairing is meant to subvert what she feels is a stereotype about female scientists, and their presumed slovenly appearance. She wants to prove beauty and brains are possible for scientific women, and makes sure that the kids are getting the message. But swinging too far to an emphasis on beauty is its own extreme stereotype, and Ebbel Angle's show is seen by some as a case of protesting too much. If popular entertainment for the age group can be taken as a reasonable sample of our cultural mores, the show is speaking that language, and using it to make science more inviting. The "Princess Scientist" concept is tailored to its target audience of young girls, many of whom could be drawn to consider an area they had not otherwise. At the same time, it re-enforces an ideal of the smart, career-oriented woman who should also maintain a perfect physical appearance. It seems like, either way, there's no winning. The real question becomes whether it is more important to appeal to impressionable would-be female scientists or enthusiasts, or to examine why this spectrum exists, and what can be done to change the perception of choices for the way women represent themselves.

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  8. Wasps are Good at Recognizing Each Others' Faces, Similar to Humans

    WASPs are good at recognizing faces, of course, but you might be surprised to know that wasps are good at it too. According to a study performed at the University of Michigan, wasps can recognize friends and strangers by the distinctive markings on their faces. In addition, they'll react more aggressively towards wasps they don't know than they will towards their buddies. Certain natural deformities like a missing attenna can throw this recognition off, but overall, the insects are great at remembering the dudes they've seen up to as long as a week before.

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  9. MABEL, World's Fasted Two-Legged Robot With Knees, Runs 9 Minute Mile

    It may not sound like much, but MABEL's ability to run at a brisk 6.8 miles per hour is a pretty impressive accomplishment in robotics. Headed by Jessy Grizzle, professor of electrical engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, the members of the MABEL project have a wealth of in-depth knowledge about how complicated walking and running actually are. MABEL is designed to mimic actual human form in great detail, which is exceedingly complicated considering robots don't have automatic feedback response like meatbags who have feet, skin, a brain, a sense of touch, and a built-in sense of balance.

    The process of actually making MABEL run involves a lot of precise calculations, not to mention precise robotics. MABEL has dozens of springs that function as tendons, weighs in at 143 pounds, has a similar weight distribution, and takes running strides during which both of her legs are off the ground for 40% of the time, just like a real human. For the time being, she still requires a boom for lateral stablization, but even considering that, the feat is impressive. While it certainly isn't hard to make a robot that can move and move fast, making robots that can adequately mimic activites humans do without a second thought is the biggest challenge robotics has to face. Thankfully, that should mean they won't be rebelling any time soon.

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  10. New "E-MiLi" Mode Could Boost Cellphone Battery Life By 54% While Using Wi-Fi

    E-MiLi, also known as Energy-Minimizing Idle Listening, is a proof-of-concept cellphone modification being developed by professor Kang Shin and student Xinyu Zhang at the University of Michigan that increase cellphone battery life by up 54%. When your cellphone is on and connected to Wi-Fi, it is constantly sniffing around for incoming traffic, even when idle, and that eats up battery. This is the problem E-MiLi aims to fix. E-MiLi is a process that cuts down a phone's Wi-Fi card down to 1/16th of its normal speed during transmission lulls, which is how the power saving is achieved. Then, when E-MiLi detects incoming data, it kicks things back into full gear and everything is back to normal. Afterwards, it returns to dormancy.

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