by David Chandler

A prototype of what is being touted as the world's first practical flying car took to the air for the first time this month, a milestone in a project started four years ago by students in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

At 7:40 a.m. on March 5, the winged car taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway -- a maneuver it would repeat about a half dozen times over the next two days. In the coming months the company, a Woburn-based startup called Terrafugia, will test the plane in a series of ever-longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.

The goal of this research is to enable a multi-limbed robot to climb vertical rock using techniques similar to those developed by human climbers (Figure 1). The robot consists of a small number of articulated limbs. Only the limb end-points can make contact with the environment—a vertical surface with small, arbitrarily distributed features called holds (Figure 2). A path through this environment is a sequence of one-step climbing moves in which the robot brings a limb end-point to a new hold.

Mammalian cells can produce tiny magnetic nuggets after the introduction of a single gene from bacteria, scientists have found. The gene MagA could become a valuable tool for tracking cells’ movement through the body via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), says Xiaoping Hu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“We have found a very simple way to make mammalian cells have a magnetic signature,” says Hu, who is director of Emory's Biomedical Imaging Technology Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

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