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Laser scan reveals massive ancient Mayan civilization in Guatemala

At first glance, it could be easy to dismiss a patch in the Guatemalan jungle as just trees and plants. But after extensive analysis of a region spanning more than 2,100 square kilometers, a team of researchers has discovered an expansive ancient Mayan civilization overrun by the surrounding flora. Professor of Social Science Stephen Houston was part of the team that made the discovery, using lasers to survey the area. Beginning in 2016, the team flew over the area, shooting beams at the ground from as many as six different angles to get a detailed map of the land below. By “stripping” the land of surrounding plants and trees, the technology allowed researchers to see exactly where old buildings and ruins laid.

The findings “quite literally took my breath away,” Houston said in a University press release. As a result of the work, the team now estimates the population of the area to have been between seven and 11 million during the height of the Mayan civilization.

Software tool released to democratize brain scanning technology

The brain’s inner workings can be nearly impossible to measure, but Associate Professor of Neuroscience Stephanie Jones is working to change that. Jones recently released a user-friendly version of a software tool that describes the activity in the outer layer of the brain. By creating a tool that will assist doctors and clinicians with electroencephalography, Jones hopes that the assessment will become more common and properly diagnose a greater number of patients than is currently possible. Supported by a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Jones is working to democratize the technology and make it available to more people around the world.

Watson launches program to study disaster relief

Disaster can strike out of nowhere and wreak havoc on entire communities and neighborhoods. In an effort to study the response to these disasters, the Brown University International Advanced Research Institutes and Humanitarian Innovation Initiative have launched a fellowship to evaluate the best tactics and programs to address immediate and long-term needs of the relief efforts. For one week in late October, fellows in the Philippines and surrounding Southeast Asian countries will collaborate on potential paths forward, share their experiences and hear a number of lectures on innovative tactics being employed around the world.


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