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Twisted images courtesy of SEAS

Study Sheds Light on Soft Artificial Muscles

November 15, 2019

Artificial muscles will power the soft robots and wearable devices of the future, but the underlying mechanics is not well known. Professor L. Mahadevan's study in Physical Review Letters uncovers some of the fundamental physical properties of artificial muscle fibers. The thin soft filaments can stretch, bend and twist into extreme deformations. Mahadevan's study explains the theoretical...

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Still image from Joystick Angle Task Trial courtesy of Ölvecsky and Dhawale

Predicting Evolution

November 13, 2019

New research by Bence Ölvecsky and Postdoc, Ashesh Dhawale, suggests errors resulting from variability in motor function is a feature, not a bug, of our nervous system and play a critical role in learning. The study published in Current Biology addresses the issue of how the brain regulates variability, which is necessary for learning, but not useful when a successful...

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Figure 2: Time-calibrated phylogeny of sampled synapsid taxa.

How Does Biological Complexity Arise?

November 7, 2019

Stephanie Pierce and Postdoc Katrina Jones tackle the question of biological complexity using the complex mammalian spine as an evolutionary example. Using phylogenetic modeling, Pierce and Jones were able to discover why the mammalian vertebral column became more complex over time. The data published in Nature Communications shows major shifts in spine complexity are associated with increases in aerobic capacity, thus supporting the hypothesis for...

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Heliconius hecale (Tiger Longwing) captive by S. Rae, Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World on Flickr

Study Reveals Speciation More Complicated Than Imagined

November 1, 2019

 

Jim Mallet and PhD students Nate Edelman (Mallet Lab) and Michael Miyagi (Desai & Wakeley Labs) have found evidence for widespread hybridization and gene flow between different species of Heliconius butterflies. The team looked at a group of neotropical butterflies and found that different species have been hybridizing with each other throughout their millions-of-years-old history. They developed a new method to identify parts of the genome that were particularly impacted by hybridization and showed the process of recombination is widespread and important to the...

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