August 12, 2011, 5:53 pm
A Web-based game that uses the brainpower of biology novices to understand molecules key to life and disease is producing working designs of those molecules in a Stanford University laboratory—and the process could influence the way scientific discovery works.
RNA molecules—DNA’s single-stranded relative—play key roles in cell function. Those roles depend on RNA shapes, the way the shape of a key determines which lock it can open. And that’s where things get tricky. RNA shapes depend on how the molecules’ components fit together, but the rules that govern what fits where are not well understood. Shapes that should work in theory often prove impossible to produce in practice.
The game EteRNA, which was started by the Stanford biochemist Rhiju Das and the Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Adrien Treuille, allows researchers to farm out some of the intellectual legwork behind…
August 4, 2011, 4:50 pm
Like many teenagers, students at the Kennedy Day School want to feel like rock stars. And though they have physical and cognitive disabilities that make it difficult for them to play traditional instruments, now they, too, can jam and get a taste of rock-and-roll glory.
As part of an effort at the Berklee College of Music to test new approaches in music therapy, researchers have developed a system that adapts guitar and drum controllers from the popular Guitar Hero video game to let students at Kennedy Day School play along with music tracks. A series of presets give the therapists and young students options—they can choose between rap, funk, rock, and pop music, or they can drag an MP3 file of their choice into the program. With the push of a button on the guitar or the strike of a drumstick on the electronic drum pad, students can create a sound that is in the right tune and in…
August 1, 2011, 5:51 pm
College students with very poor vision have had to struggle to see a blackboard and take notes—basic tasks that can hold some back. Now a team of four students from Arizona State University has designed a system, called Note-Taker, that couples a tablet PC and a video camera, and could be a major advance over the small eyeglass-mounted telescopes that many students have had to rely on. It recently won second place in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup technology competition.
There are roughly 75,000 students at colleges and trade schools who are visually impaired. The telescopes allow students with low vision to see the blackboard, but they can only focus on one section at a time. Then they have to take off the telescope, write notes, and then go back to the board and try and catch up with the lecture.
David S. Hayden, who graduated from Arizona State in May, understands these challenges…
July 5, 2011, 6:46 pm
More than 400 colleges and universities have set up channels on YouTube as part of the YouTube EDU section of the popular video site, but university officials admit they are still experimenting with the service and learning what types of videos resonate with off-campus audiences.
With data provided by YouTube, The Chronicle has determined the 10 most popular videos on YouTube EDU of the 2010-11 academic year (from June 2010 to June 2011). Some college officials stress that popularity is not always their main goal—because many colleges upload lectures and study materials designed for those enrolled in the courses. Still, the list gives a sense of the variety of videos colleges post and their impact.
Star-studded commencement speeches seem to be the best way for colleges to draw viewers. Four graduation videos made it onto the top-10 list, and three of the four featured…