A new MIT-designed open-source website might well be the Pinterest of microfluidics. The site, Metafluidics.org, is a free repository of designs for lab-on-a-chip devices, submitted by all sorts of inventors, including trained scientists and engineers, hobbyists, students, and amateur makers. Users can browse the site for devices ranging from simple cell sorters and fluid mixers, to more complex chips that analyze ocular fluid and synthesize gene sequences.

 

The site also serves as a social platform for the microfluidics community: Any user can log in to submit a design; they can also like, comment on, and download design files to reproduce a featured device or improve on it.

 

David S. Kong, director of the MIT Media Lab’s new Community Biotechnology Initiative, says the new site is designed to accelerate innovation in microfluidic design, which until now has followed a conventional, academically peer-reviewed route.

 

“There’s a familiar experience for people in microfluidics: You see a really amazing paper that shows you a design, but if you want to try to copy the design, the actual design files that are a critical part of reproducing or remixing a device are not shared in any systematic way,” Kong says. “As a result, researchers around the world are in parallel reinventing the wheel. It’s one of the reasons why open-source in general is a very powerful set of principles. It can really accelerate the diffusion of technology.”

 

Kong and his colleagues outlined the open-source platform in a paper published last week in the journal Nature Biotechnology. His co-authors are Todd Thorsen, Peter Carr, and Scott Wick of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory; Jonathan Babb and Jeremy Gam in the Department of Biological Engineering; and Ron Weiss, professor of biological engineering and of electrical engineering and computer science.

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A monkey’s brain builds a picture of a human face somewhat like a Mr. Potato Head — piecing it together bit by bit. The code that a monkey’s brain uses to represent faces relies not on groups of nerve cells tuned to specific faces — as has been previously proposed — but on a population of about 200 cells that code for different sets of facial characteristics. Added together, the information contributed by each nerve cell lets the brain efficiently capture any face, researchers report June 1 in Cell.

 

 

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The planet KELT 9b is so hot — hotter than many stars — that it shatters gas giant temperature records, researchers report online June 5 in Nature. This Jupiter-like exoplanet revolves around a star just 650 light-years away, locked in an orbit that keeps one side always facing its star. With blistering temps hovering at about 4,300o Celsius, the atmosphere on KELT 9b’s dayside is over 700 degrees hotter than the previous record-holder — and hot enough that atoms cannot bind together to form molecules.

 

“It’s like a star-planet hybrid,” says Drake Deming, a planetary scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park who was not involved in the research. “A kind of object we’ve never seen before.”

 

KELT 9b also boasts an unusual orbit, traveling around the poles of its star, rather than the equator, once every 36 hours. And radiation from KELT 9b’s host star is so intense that it blows the planet’s atmosphere out like a comet tail — and may eventually strip it away completely.

 

The planet is so bizarre that it took scientists nearly three years to convince themselves it was real, says Scott Gaudi of Ohio State University. Deming suspects KELT 9b is “the tip of the iceberg” for an undiscovered population of scalding-hot gas giants.

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Become part of a vibrant community of world-class professionals transforming the lives of a motivated and diverse student population. A pioneer in innovative academic programs since 1897 Bay Path University is seeking an experienced adjunct faculty member to teach an online graduate level course for the Master’s program in Applied Data Science. This course runs in an 8-week session (October 23, 2017 through December 16, 2017) and meets fully online.

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