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The Daily brief: August 18, 2011


High-speed overlap | A Caltrain study stated that its trains could share the track with a proposed high-speed rail line, after the installation of several hundreds of millions of dollars in new equipment in addition to electrified rails in the San Mateo-Redwood City corridor. In theory, upgrading the Caltrain tracks instead of building an entirely new line would lessen the impact of new construction on surrounding buildings and infrastructure, although more tracks might still be added.

Popular science | More than 58,000 people have signed up for computer science professor Sebastian Thrun and Google research director Peter Norvig’s class “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.” The online course, which lasts ten weeks, will make use of interactive features as well as traditional lectures.

Spicer award | SLAC associate staff scientist Stefan Mannsfeld has won the 2011 William and Diane Spicer Young Investigator Award, which recognizes a young researcher whose work has been involved with the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource or the synchrotron community (a synchrotron is a type of cyclic particle accelerator). His work has led to insights on the properties of thin-film organic materials.

Smelt a rat? | Stanford researchers have found that, in male rats infected with the parasite Toxoplasma, the same brain region that is active in anticipation of mating is activated when the rat smells cat urine. While the researchers aren’t entirely sure the reaction is sexual attraction, the observed behavior makes evolutionary sense: the cat’s small intestine is the only place where Toxoplasma can sexually reproduce.

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