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Txch This Week: Recreating Pressure At Jupiter’s Core On Earth And Smartphone Psychology

by Annie Epstein

This week on Txchnologist, we were reacquainted with Don Wetzel, the New York Central Railroad engineer who in 1966 piloted an experimental train powered by two jet engines bolted to its roof. His adventure culminated in the vehicle reaching a speed of almost 184 mph, which set the record as the world’s fastest jet-powered train. Today, the M-497 is still America’s fastest train and Wetzel’s story remains a fascinating one.

On the international front, researchers in Denmark are putting the Danish healthcare system to good use. They have just published a  study encompassing the medical history of the entire country’s population over 15 years. Using Big Data analytics that crunched the medical history of roughly 6.2 million Danes, researcher Søren Brunak and his team examined disease trajectories and followed the diagnostic paths of a variety of diseases, finding links between the diagnosis of maladies like asthma and diabetes. Korean researchers, meanwhile, are busy perfecting the TransWall, a two-sided translucent touchscreen. It allows people to interact with it and each other, and provides audio and tactile feedback to users. The holographic screen was created to facilitate gaming and social interaction.

Engineers are taking inspiration from nature’s planes and creating smaller flying machines modeled off of bats, birds, and bees. Animals use flexible flight surfaces to maneuver in the air, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research wants to replicate this flight method to create tools for surveillance and warfare.

In the world of virtual reality, Brown University researchers are examining the dynamics of group behavior by observing individual participants placed in virtual crowds. Experimental psychologist William Warren says humans naturally coordinate movements with the people around them, similar to other animals that travel in formations like birds or fish.

Now we’re bringing you the news we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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Spotting Sinkholes

by Marsha Lewis, Inside Science

They can be big, dangerous, and unpredictable. Sinkholes can cause sudden, serious damage in a matter of seconds.

“It scares me a lot because it could happen to anybody,” said Tena Cooper, a resident of Winter Haven, Florida.

Sinkholes happen when water eats away at underground rock, creating pits and craters. Cooper lives near a sinkhole that was 15 feet deep and 70 feet wide.

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Last week, we brought you an AsapSCIENCE video uncovering seven myths about the brain you thought were true. This week, we stumbled on this one from Alltime Numbers that puts the organ in our noggin into perspective.

Check out the gifs above and the whole video below.

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Virtual Reality Uncovering Insights Into Behavior Of Real Crowds

Brown University researchers are trying to understand how real crowds work by dropping test subjects into virtual ones. Learning the still poorly understood dynamics of how groups behave could lead to improved urban planning, architectural design and evacuation planning, the lead researcher says. 

"The key to understanding collective behavior is how individuals interact with their neighbors," said William Warren, an experimental psychologist at the university’s Virtual Environment Navigation Lab. "What we’re trying to do in virtual reality is manipulate virtual crowds in any way we want and measure how an individual participant is responding to the crowd."

Warren says that people coordinate their movements with others around them, whether they are conscious of it or not. This sometimes leads to the formation of coherent swarms like those formed by fish or birds. “We want to understand that process,” he says. 

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