In The Jetsons, cars sometimes drove themselves. Now electrical engineering professor Eugenio Culurciello is catching up. Culurciello and his colleagues have developed a miniature supercomputer system, which they call NeuFlow, to mimic human vision. At the High Performance Embedded Computing workshop in Boston, they described the system, able to recognize and react to the road, other cars, pedestrians, stoplights, and sidewalks. The goal is a wallet-sized driver-replacement product that can be wired to the automotive electronics system; it has yet to be tested in a car.


Glaciers are generally viewed as geological buzz saws, because they cut down mountains by promoting erosion when they slide downhill. But geologist Mark Brandon and his colleagues have shown that in areas like the southern Andes, where the temperature rarely gets above zero, glaciers tend not to move. Instead, they act like armor, protecting the mountains and keeping them taller than their counterparts in warmer climes. The study appeared in Nature.


A low dose of ketamine, an anesthetic that is also abused as a recreational drug, carries some serious side effects but alsorelieves severe depression that conventional antidepressants can't touch. In a Science study using rats, biologist Ronald Duman and his colleagues described the biochemical pathway by which ketamine—which works in hours rather than the several weeks it takes conventional drugs to be effective—reverses depression-like behaviors in the rodents. The research suggests "novel therapeutic targets for antidepressant drug development."


A research team led by School of Medicine scientist Erol Fikrig has discovered a biochemical trick that the bug-borne West Nile virus uses to con mosquito cells into helping it survive inside the insect. According to the study, published in Cell, the virus causes infected mosquitoes to produce a special protein, which, teamed with a second protein, enables the virus to reproduce and infect other cells. The discovery may allow researchers to find a way to break the infection cycle at the source.  


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