Science & Technology

Keeping rain out of the drain

From cisterns beneath Shoemaker Green to the green roof on New College House, special features of campus buildings and landscapes are helping manage stormwater to keep rain from the sewer lines, and scholars are using the infrastructure as a research opportunity.

Katherine Unger Baillie

A unique perspective on renewable energy

In a conversation with Rachel Kyte, the U.N. special representative and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All discusses how this energy sector has changed in the past decade and what happens when political will doesn’t match the science.

Michele W. Berger

Predilections of a destructive pest

The spotted lanternfly is emerging as a serious threat to agriculture and forested areas. At The Woodlands Cemetery near campus, Benjamin Rohr hopes to determine the types of trees the insect prefers to shape control strategies moving forward.

Katherine Unger Baillie



In the News


WESA Radio (Pittsburgh)

Wheels, drones and Rescue Randy: DARPA robotics competition puts mine rescue to the test

A four-legged robot from the School of Engineering and Applied Science was among robots performing underwater search and rescue in a competition. “They're doing everything completely autonomously, so every step they take is kind of a minor victory for us,” said C. J. Taylor. “We always feel that we could do better. We learn so much from each of these events and that gives us new ideas about things that we want to try.”

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Penn Live

Wildlife diseases in Pennsylvania targeted by $10 million Game Commission-Penn partnership

Julie Ellis and Lisa Murphy of the School of Veterinary Medicine commented on a new collaboration between Penn Vet and the Pennsylvania Game Commission: the Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program, based at New Bolton Center.

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Axios

Looking to AI to understand how we learn

PIK Professor Konrad Kording said, “There is a big undercurrent in neuroscience [saying] we should go back to neural networks,” which rely on technology that allows machines to learn from their mistakes.

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Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Why not fly over it?’ Uber picks New Jersey firms in ambitious bid to beat traffic congestion

Rahul Mangharam of the School of Engineering and Applied Science commented on Uber’s new air taxi venture. “It’s going to be a very congested sky,” he said. “You want to make sure that each flight plan is safe by design, and that even if they do mess up for some reason, they have a fallback option.”

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The New York Times

A feisty Google adversary tests how much people care about privacy

Joseph Turow of the Annenberg School for Communication commented on DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search engine. “I’m almost embarrassed to say that I don’t use it more than I do,” he said. “There is something in my head that tells me I’ll get a better search from Google, even when I don’t know if that is demonstrably correct or not.”

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Wired

Twitter and Instagram unveil new ways to combat hate—again

Jessa Lingel of the Annenberg School for Communication said “we need humans” to help parse what is and isn’t offensive language based on context. “The tech just isn’t there yet.”

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Gizmodo

This freaky robotic fish is powered by ‘blood’

James Pikul of the School of Engineering and Applied Science co-authored a study in which researchers developed a soft, robotic lionfish powered by a blood-like compound. “This robot blood is our first demonstration of storing energy in a fluid that is normally only used for actuation,” he said.

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Scientific American

How the mind emerges from the brain’s complex networks

Danielle Bassett of the School of Engineering and Applied Science co-authored an article about network neuroscience, which allows us to see the origins of mental activity in the brain. One day, they write, “a neuroscientist who knew all the principles of brain function and everything about someone’s brain could predict that person’s mental conditions—the future, as well as the past, would be present inside the person’s mind.”

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Scientific American

Domestication made dogs’ facial anatomy more fetching to humans

James Serpell of the School of Veterinary Medicine said humans may have bred dogs to appear more infantile over time. “We are innately predisposed to respond with a kind of nurturing behavior towards certain physical characteristics,” he said. “Over time, [humans selected] for traits that satisfy that parental nurturing response.”

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The Guardian

Reversible superglue proves strong enough to hold average man

Shu Yang and colleagues from the School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a new glue from hydrogel, inspired by snail slime. “The mucus [snails] produce is a viscous liquid, but when it dries they become firmly stuck,” said Yang.

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