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Showing posts from April, 2020

Springs Could Enable Runners to Smash the Natural Speed Limit

One of the most captivating aspects of the summer Olympics is watching the world’s best athletes push their bodies to the edge of what is humanly possible. In 2016, the world watched in awe as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt won his third consecutive Olympic gold in each of three distances—the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. Bolt is the fastest man in recorded history, reaching a top of speed of 12m/s, more than 27mph.


His wins left me wondering about the science of it all. How fast is it humanly possible to run? Aside from willingness to get off the couch and train, what ultimately limits running performance?

In new research published in the journal Science Advances, Vanderbilt University’s Amanda Sutrisno and David Braun explored these questions from a fascinating perspective. Braun leads the Advanced Robotics and Control Laboratory within Vanderbilt’s Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology. He and his students are interested not just in optimizing human performa…

How Artificial Intelligence Helps Us Fight Pandemics

The novel coronavirus outbreak has quickly become the largest pandemic in recent history, but it’s not unprecedented. The outbreak of the so-called “Spanish Flu”, an avian influenza virus, spread worldwide, infecting one-third of the population. While scientists are still learning how the coronavirus operates, we have lots of tools at our disposal to fight it.

In the world of ever-growing datasets, artificial intelligence can make connections that even the most diligent of scientists miss. While they have a lot to learn before making insights, I believe AI can save the world.

Faster diagnoses

Identifying positive coronavirus cases is critical for mitigating its spread, but that’s hard to do.

In the US, a shortage of COVID-19 tests means that many more people have the virus than what we’re counting for. It also means that we’re likely underestimating the number of fatalities from the virus. We’re seeing shortages of the vital chemicals needed to carry out these tests, and a lack of prod…

Probing Cell Softness with Acoustics

Antoine Riaud might need to take his wife on a second honeymoon. You’re supposed to spend that first romantic getaway obsessing over your new spouse, not how cells behave in an acoustics experiment. But when inspiration calls…well, it can be hard to ignore.

For some time Riaud had been working on an idea for a new medical device, inspired by evidence that cancerous cells exhibit different physical properties than healthy cells. In particular, cancerous cells are softer—easier to deform—than their healthy counterparts. This suggests that measuring cell softness could be a way to diagnose cancer and monitor its progression, and maybe other diseases as well.


Riaud was a post-doc in Valerie Taly’s research group at Paris Descartes University (Paris V) when he started thinking about this possibility. After reading up on the subject, he realized that none of the existing techniques for measuring cell softness could work in a clinical setting. They either required elaborate setups with high-…