Science & Technology

Making Mongolian ger dwellings more energy-efficient

Gers, called yurts in Russian, are the traditional one-room round, tent dwellings of Mongolian herders. In the last twenty years, about half of Mongolia’s population has settled in permanent “ger districts” around the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, bringing their nomadic tents with them.  

Jacquie Posey

Being hungry shuts off perception of chronic pain

Finding food is a necessary survival skill, but so is avoiding pain. Research led by J. Nicholas Betley and postdoctoral researcher Amber Alhadeff showed that being hungry activates a neural pathway that inhibits the sensing and responding to chronic pain. The findings offer up new targets for treating pain.

Katherine Unger Baillie

The future of technology

As new technologies emerge, they bring with them new ethical challenges. The topic of the future of technology was front and center on day three of the Penn Teach-in.

Ali Sundermier

Remembering Hawking: Q&A with Vijay Balasubramanian

Stephen Hawking, one of history’s most influential physicists, spent his life grappling with mysteries of the universe. Vijay Balasubramanian of the School of Arts and Sciences shared some of his memories of Hawking and discussed the impact the Briton had on scientists and nonscientists alike.

Ali Sundermier

Creating atomic water filters

A vast majority of the earth’s water is salty, making it unfit for people to drink. Researchers are working on a technology that could potentially offer a new method of desalinating water that would be both fast and scalable.

Ali Sundermier

In the News

“PBS NewsHour”

An 11-year-old changed election results on a replica Florida state website in under 10 minutes

The School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Matt Blaze discussed a hacking experiment, saying it was “not surprising that these precocious, bright kids would be able to do it because the websites that are on the internet are vulnerable…. What was interesting is just how utterly quickly they were able to do it.”


Why people can't resist the viral lure of the Kiki Challenge

Damon Centola of the Annenberg School for Communication explained the phenomenon of dangerous viral challenges: “Slightly dangerous or slightly risky challenges may have the best combination of high-enough riskiness to make it easy to create emotional excitement about participating, but low-enough risk that they can spread with only moderate levels of social reinforcement.”


The New York Times

Worker ants: You could have been queens

The Perelman School’s Roberto Bonasio discussed the difficulties of studying insulin signaling in ants. The relevant genes, said Bonasio, are involved in numerous bodily functions, making it tough to isolate their role in differentiating queens from workers.



Viral content-vaccine scandal test Beijing’s grip on information control

The Annenberg School for Communication’s Kecheng Fang discussed the Chinese government’s failed attempts to suppress discourse about current events on WeChat, a popular messaging platform. “This is a guerrilla war. The government cannot tackle it just like it does traditional media,” said Fang.


The Washington Post

Testosterone boost feeds U.S. men’s hunger for luxury products, study indicates

Researchers at the Wharton School found that men who were given doses of testosterone expressed more interest in high-status goods. However, the study authors also noted that “status signals are not universal” and that results may vary between cultures.


The Drone From This Penn Spinout Can Fly Inside Mines Without Maps or GPS

Exyn Technologies will be sending out a drone to explore a Latin American mine using only its own onboard sensors. The startup, which originated in Penn’s GRASP lab, was cofounded by Dean Vijay Kumar of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.


Philadelphia Inquirer

Penn Makes Third Big Biotech Bet, Helping to Raise $53M for Carisma

Cancer-fighting biotech company Carisma Therapeutics Inc. is the latest addition to Penn’s recently-announced investment plan. Roy Rosin, CIO at Penn Medicine, said, “Penn’s commitment is pretty exciting for this region.”


Philadelphia Inquirer

Penn Invests $50 million in Biotech in a Bold Bid to Build Philly’s Innovation Cluster

Kevin B. Mahoney of the Perelman School of Medicine and UPHS confirmed Penn’s plans to invest in biotech companies, with long-range goals “to create jobs, synergy and an innovation cluster around Penn technology and spin outs.”


Philadelphia Inquirer

Philly’s First Maker Faire: A Summer Carnival of Innovation

The School of Engineering and Applied Science’s Dean Vijay Kumar, Dan Koditschek, and Mark Yim were participants in Sunday’s Maker Faire, hosted at Pennovation.



Microsoft’s Purchase of GitHub Leaves Some Scientists Uneasy

Post-doc Daniel Himmelstein of the Perelman School of Medicine discussed problematic elements of GitHub’s model. “Regardless of the Microsoft acquisition, GitHub, as a centralized and closed company, possesses a dangerous level of control over the open-source ecosystem,” said Himmelstein.