In the News

Today marks 25 years since the Hubble Telescope was launched into space. Thanks to over one million images Hubble has collected, scientists now have a dramatically enhanced understanding of the universe.

Hubble’s observations have allowed scientists to confirm the existence of black holes and identify new galaxies and planets. It observed and captured images of Supernova 1987A, a massive explosion marking the death of a star. This is notable since the last time astronomers observed a supernova was in the 1600s. And in March, Hubble observed the splitting of a supernova into four images.

MIT alumni and faculty have been a part of much of Hubble’s history. Mike Massimino SM ’88, ENG ’90, ME ’90, PhD ’92, MIT AeroAstro Professor Jeff Hoffman, John Grunsfeld ’80, Mark C. Lee SM ’80  have all contributed to either Hubble’s launch or participated in the telescope’s five repair and servicing missions.

“It [Hubble] can travel at 17,500 miles an hour, but yet it can fix a gaze on part of the sky so accurately as if you were shooting a laser from the Empire State Building, you could hit a dime on the Washington Monument,” said Mike Massimino of Hubble’s observation abilities. Massimino was part of STS-109 and STS-125 missions to upgrade and repair the Hubble Telescope.

Watch our Happy Birthday Hubble video to learn more about how the Hubble Telescope operates, how it was conceived, and its contributions to scientific research.

 The Happy Birthday Hubble video was produced by MITAA videographer Brielle Domings. 

{ 0 comments }

Print
What’s the science behind a warming climate, and can it be combated? In this All Ears MIT podcast, MIT faculty members discuss the history and science behind Earth’s warming climate, and if anything can be done to mitigate a rising global temperature.

Some public debates on climate change tend be centered on complex numerical models—great for predicting quantitative estimates, not so great for collaborative discussions and brainstorming solutions. During this podcast, listen to four MIT faculty members—supported by historical and scientific data—discuss divergent areas of climate-related research, including coastal flooding, global warming, hurricane activity, and economic policy.

Subscribe to All Ears MIT on iTunes and SoundCloud. Listen to past podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting the Alumni Association’s SoundCloud page.

Associate Professor Dan Cziczo
Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
Cziczo is an atmospheric scientist studying how whose research is analyzing the effects that clouds may have in a increasingly warming climate. His research focuses the effect of atmospheric aerosols on cloud formations, meteoritic debris, and vehicle emissions in the atmosphere.

Kerry Emanuel

Professor Kerry Emanuel ’76, PhD ’78
Dept. of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Emanuel is a co-founder of the Lorenz Center, MIT’s climate activity think tank. He is the author of What We Know about Climate Change and his research on hurricane activity earned him a place on Time’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2006.

Knittel_225

Professor Christopher Knittel
MIT Sloan School of Management
Knittel co-directs MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research. The first energy chair at MIT, he has studied consumer and company reactions to energy price fluctuations—including rising prices of gasoline—and its implications on effective environmental policies.

whittle_225

Professor Andrew Whittle ScD ’87
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Professor Andrew J. Whittle is a geotechnical engineer who served on the panel reviewing the hurricane protection systems in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s safety review of Boston’s Big Dig tunnel system.

 

These interviews were culled from the Alumni Association’s Faculty Forum Online series—monthly live webcasts that feature faculty interviews on timely and relevant topics. View the entire archive on the Alumni Association website.

For more information on climate change research, visit  the Climate Change Conversation at MIT website, which is exploring the actions that MIT could take to make a significant positive contribution to confront climate change. MIT alumni can join the Energy, Environment and Sustainability Network, a group of worldwide alumni volunteers who want to share their energy interests with others.

{ 10 comments }

Eugene Rumer, author, podcast

Eugene Rumer PhD ’88, author of Conflict in Ukraine.

When Boris Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and Russian policy on Ukraine, was murdered on a bridge in Moscow in February, the outlook that Eugene Rumer PhD ’88 had on Putin’s Russia changed dramatically.

“I was shocked,” says Rumer, whose new book, Conflict in Ukraine, was published by MIT Press that month. “I was in a state of shock and confusion for some days. What it tells us, and it’s something that’s really new to my thinking about Russia, is that it’s really unstable.”

“We tend to think about these kinds of situations happening in countries that don’t have stable political systems,” Rumer, a senior associate and the director of Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program, says in this month’s Alumni Books Podcast. “We just didn’t think about Russia as being as dangerous a place for opposition politicians, certainly establishment opposition politicians…this is a new situation in Russia—I dare say it’s a wake-up call for some in the ruling circles as well.”

In his new book, Rumer and co-author Rajon Menon take what they term a “first cut at explaining the context, causes, and consequences of Ukraine 2014,” a crisis which unfolded in dramatic fashion only weeks after the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a few hundred miles away.

Since he completed the book last fall, of course, the crisis has continued to unfold, but “has sort of plateaued,” says Rumer.

“The one factor that perhaps we did not do justice to in the book…is how unprepared everyone has been and how everything that’s been happening throughout these really turbulent months has been a product of improvisation.”

Asked how his MIT education factored into his career path, Rumer explains, “I finished [at MIT] in 1988…soon after I started I found myself to be a failed Sovietologist. That said, the history of the place doesn’t change, the analytical skills that we need to apply don’t change, my study of –at the time in the defense and arms control program, of some of the fundamentals of nuclear strategy and arms control – all that comes in handy.”

Rumer’s devotion is evident in the book’s opening pages. He dedicated his portion of the book to his thesis advisor, Professor Stephen M. Meyer.

Listen to the complete podcast here. Listen to past books podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

{ 1 comment }

Edith Clarke first female electrical engineer

Edith Clarke SM ’19

Even after becoming the first woman to earn her master’s in electrical engineering from MIT, Edith Clarke SM ’19 was having trouble getting a job in her field. But she didn’t let that stop her. She took a position for General Electric as a supervisor of computers, a position she was vastly overqualified for, and used her spare time to invent the graphical calculator, applying for a patent in 1921. The device, approved in 1925, was used to solve electric power transmission line problems and for Clarke, this was just the beginning.

“There is no demand for women engineers, as such, as there are for women doctors; but there’s always a demand for anyone who can do a good piece of work,” she said. And her work would prove its worth.

Not only was Clarke the first female electrical engineer, she was the first female to hold a professional position as an electrical engineer in the US, and the first female professor of electrical engineering. Clarke also developed mathematical methods that simplified and reduced the work of electrical engineers, published 18 technical papers, and her textbook Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems became the standard for the industry in her time.

After a long career at GE, earning an engineering role in 1923, she retired in 1945 and spent the next 10 years teaching electrical engineering at the University of Texas in Austin. She died in November 1959 in Baltimore.

Although Clarke struggled as a female in a male-dominant career in the early 1900s, she eventually gained recognition and respect from her peers and has since been recognized.

This year’s National Inventors Hall of Fame will induct 14 individuals, including Clarke. The National Inventors Hall of Fame recognizes monumental individuals whose innovations are crucial to our lives, highlighting their contributions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The event will be held from May 11-13 in Washington, DC.

Edith Clarke first female engineer, graphical calculator

Photo: Edith Clarke’s graphical calculator. Image credit: NIHF

{ 0 comments }

Mosely works with Yongquan Lu, co-president of OrigaMIT

During the MIT project, Mosely works with Yongquan Lu, co-president of OrigaMIT. Video: Melanie Gonick.

A Menger Sponge is the answer. MIT’s origami team, OrigaMIT, which made one out of 50,000 business cards, defines it as a mathematical fractal formed by iteratively removing the middle cross-sections of a cube. Their effort is special because it helped complete an international effort to recreate a Megamenger and because the level-3 version was first designed and built by origami artist Jeannine Mosely SM ’79, EE ’80, PhD ’84.

Watch a video about their project, completing a level-3 Menger sponge—that measured ~54 inches to each side—thanks to the help of Mosely and the students, faculty, and staff who stopped by to fold last fall.

So what was Mosely’s role in constructing the level-3 Menger Sponge?

Mosely learned how to fold modular origami cubes out of business cards in 1994 from a verbal description in an email. Most modular origami designs involve tucking flaps into pockets in order to the link the units together, but the business card cube has only flaps and no pockets and is stable only when all of the flaps are on the outside of the model, she says. Then she had an insight while watching her seven-year-old son make and play with cubes.

“I realized that the corners of the flaps could be tucked under each other to link the cubes together. So you could build any shape you could imagine out of enough of them. I also observed that you could use the same unit to cover the flaps on the external faces of your model, to add pattern or color to the surface.”

By gathering obsolete business cards from colleagues, Mosely accumulated several hundred thousand cards. Then she decided to build a level-3 approximation of a Menger Sponge, a fractal shape named for its discoverer, Karl Menger. It’s an approximate rendering because a true fractal has an infinitesimal degree of detail, she says.

preparing for a 2006 exhibit.

Mosely takes a break when re-assembling eight separate sections for a 2006 exhibition at Machine Project, an LA art gallery. Photo: Margaret Wertheim, Institute For Figuring.

She estimated the project would require about 66,000 cards and take 800 person-hours to build. It took much longer.

“I decided to build it as a group project so that I could spread the joy of origami, math, and engineering around and get help building it. I taught classes and workshops at various schools, the MIT Museum, the Boston Science Museum, at origami conventions and festivals, always collecting cubes and larger modules for the finished sponge.”

Even then, with raising two children and working full time, the project took from 1994 to 2005.

Why do business cards work so well for this type of origami? The size, shape, and stiffness work well for three-dimensional projects. And they are easy to fold.

“The ratio of the sides of an American business card is 1.75:1. But 1.75 is very close to the square root of 3 (1.732) which is the arctangent of 60 degrees. This means that it is very easy to fold equilateral triangles in a business card. Just fold two opposite corners to touch each other and you will see what I mean. There are dozens of things you can do with equilateral triangles.”

Dr. Mosely’s current work as an origami artist includes the creation in 2008 of a model of the Worcester’s Union Station, with 300 local school children and 100 Worcester Polytechnic Institute students, in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration. The train station incorporated around 60,000 business cards and was 10′ wide, 7′ deep and 6′ tall.

Learn more about Jeannine Mosely and about paperfolding at MIT

{ 1 comment }

Update: Happy April Fools’ Day! Currently, there is no forecast for a significant snowstorm in the Boston area—fingers crossed the snow totals for this historic winter stay where they are! If the Alps of MIT returns next year, however, we vote for the formation of a yodeling club and would urge them to perform for us daily.

Pictured: The Alps of MIT after last month’s Winter Storm Marcus. Today’s storm is expected to drop two feet of snow in the Boston area.

Boston-area weather reports are forecasting nearly two feet of snow for later today. MIT has announced several weather-related precautions for students, staff, and alumni. Unfortunately, a late-spring snowstorm is not unprecedented. In April 1997, an early-spring storm closed MIT and dropped 27 inches of snow around Boston.

Because the Institute was closed for four weather-related emergencies earlier this year—losing valuable research and class time—MIT will remain open on Thursday. In lieu of closure, the Institute has announced the following updates and precautions that will take place during the storm:

  • MIT subzero materials scientists will test a new hydro-polymer solution on sidewalks adjacent to 77 Mass Ave. The substance can resist snow accumulation, keeping it floating several inches above the walkway until it can be swept aside.
  • The MIT Department of Crystalline Fluid Conservation will preserve snow from campus, as part of a new federal grant that will research the connection between snow fall and the loss of sense of humor.
  • Alps of MIT, the five-story snow mound on Albany St., featured on TripAdvisor and the Boston Globe, will remain open through April 30. Hot cocoa, baked croissants, and fresh strudel will be served daily at 8:00 a.m., with live music from the Alpgorithms, MIT’s student yodeling club.
  • The MIT community is encouraged to use public transportation to arrive on campus. In the event that public transportation is shut down, the community is encouraged to sled.
  • MIT’s crew and sailing teams will use modified “skate boats” equipped with eight-foot blades to practice on the still-frozen Charles River.
  • A structural engineering competition, Snow Castles in Killian Court, will take place tonight at midnight. The winning team will receive a three-person sled for use on the Alps of MIT.
  • The Media Lab’s Relocation Correlation Group will conduct surveys to measure the emotional impact of Boston’s winter—including a longitudinal study on the increase in applications to graduate schools in warm-weather climates.

MIT’s facilities department anticipates that all snow will be removed from campus by April 1, 2016.

The evolution of a  Killian Court snowman after 90 inches of snow during a three week period earlier this year.

A still-growing Killian Court snowman after 90 inches of snow in a three week period earlier this year.

The MIT Edgerton Center had some April Fools’ fun as well with a story on a new infant program.

{ 4 comments }

Anjali Mitter Duva, Faint Promise of Rain

Anjali Mitter Duva MCP ’99, author of Faint Promise of Rain.

More than 10 years ago, Anjali Mitter Duva MCP ’99 traveled to Rajasthan, India, to show her husband the country of her ancestry. In a guidebook on Jaisalmer, one of the cities they visited, Duva came across an anecdote that struck her: since children would often live till age five without seeing rain, families used to paint clouds on the walls near each window to prevent them from being scared when rain eventually fell.

“I wrote it down…just to save it, because I thought it was beautiful. I just felt I wanted to bring it to life somehow.”

In the coming years, that anecdote, combined with her love for Indian dance, resulted in her first novel, Faint Promise of Rain, published in fall 2014 by She Writes Press. The coming of age story of a young dancer named Adhira in the temple of Jaisalmer, faced with the conflict of embracing traditional norms and gender roles or rebelling against them, Faint Promise of Rain has earned critical acclaim and become the first of a four-novel series for Duva. Listen to a podcast interview with Duva.

“It was a confluence of things that just came together for me,” Duva says. “I hadn’t intended to set out writing a book.”

While set in the late 1500s, the novel has subtle echoes of contemporary challenges facing India, most pressingly the changing roles of women. “The dichotomy of how women are treated in India has always for me been a mystery—how it can survive this way for so long, that women are revered as the sustainer and on the other hand a blatant disregard for the rights of women,” says Duva. “It’s such a complicated issue that goes so far back. I don’t have an answer. In writing this book, it helped see the different sides even if it doesn’t explain them.”

Listen to the complete podcast here. Listen to past books podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

{ 0 comments }

Gizmo Garden student works on powering a disco ball.

Students work on powering a disco ball and Hawaiian windstorm. Photo courtesy Gizmo Garden.

When a middle school girl from rural Maine updated her Facebook page with photo of herself soldering on a circuit board, the creators of Gizmo Garden© knew the project was working—participating students were developing new images of themselves.

Bill Silver ’75, SM ’80 and his wife, Judy, held the winter-break workshop in February for 10 students to bolster the opportunity for technical education in a place they loved—coastal Maine—but a location with limited resources.

The couple, living fulltime in Nobleboro, Maine, for the past five years, wanted to find a way to contribute to their community in a meaningful way. Bill Silver, a co-founder of the machine vision systems maker Cognex, and Judy Silver, who worked at Cognex in marketing and sales, drew on their technical and outreach skills. Working from MIT Edgerton Center curriculum models, they developed a week-long workshop that brought middle school students together in a local library and invited them to create their own projects using their newly acquired skills of breadboarding and soldering electronics onto circuit boards.

Bill Silver lead the Gizmo Garden workshop.

Bill Silver, who led the workshop along with a local educator and a librarian, works with students.

The Silvers, at their former home near Cognex’s headquarters in Natick, Massachusetts, routinely visited Boston’s Museum of Science and the MIT Museum, says Bill Silver, who continues to work remotely from Maine as a Cognex senior vice president. “Technology was in the air there,’ he says, “it’s not in the air up here.”

Feeling empowered to work with electronics could transform the five girls and five boys selected for the program, says Judy Silver. “As wonderful as this community is, kids growing up here don’t see engineering and technical careers as even in their universe. And now the kids see they can do this. And they have seen what young professionals can do from the videos we showed them.”

The Silvers plan to continue the Gizmo Garden project in 2016, again working from an established curriculum and adding their own opportunities for creativity and cooperation. This year they based the project on the Edgerton K-12 electronics curriculum course created initially for i2 Camp. Local TV produced a short video that shares student projects from a spinning a disco ball to recreating an Hawaii wind storm.

Want to know more? Visit the Gizmo Garden Facebook page or email the Silvers: gizmo@tidewater.net. Alumni interested in working on similar projects can join the K-12 Education Volunteer Network and tap the MIT Edgerton Center for ideas as well.

{ 0 comments }

03.18.15_cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a topic that MIT has been addressing since the 60s, before personal computers were even on the market. Today, as security breaches threaten both personal and professional networks, MIT has announced plans to address the problem from three angles: technology, public policy, and organizational management.

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Director Daniela Rus answered a few questions for Slice of MIT about the new initiatives:

What expertise can MIT offer for these programs?

One of MIT’s first efforts in cybersecurity was developing time-sharing computers in the 60s that could be used by multiple people at once. As soon as this system was developed, they knew that they also needed to think critically about the necessary infrastructure to keep users’ information safe. In fact, since different users had to sign in and out of the system, by many accounts MIT is credited as being ground-zero for the world’s first-ever computer password.

More recently, conversations with various researchers in our lab further solidified the realization that we can bring a lot of concentrated thought leadership to this area of study, and that it therefore is deserving of its own initiatives.

What are the distinctions between the different programs?

03.18.15_cybersecurity_DanielleRus2

CSAIL Director Daniela Rus. Photo credit: Jason Dorfman/CSAIL.

The three initiatives are aimed at tackling the technical, regulatory, and business aspects of cybersecurity.

1. Cybersecurity@CSAIL, led by Dr. Howard Shrobe, brings together experts in software, hardware, cryptography, and other fields to address the technical challenges associated with preventing, working through, and recovering from web-based attacks.

2. The MIT Cybersecurity and Internet Policy Research Initiative, an interdisciplinary program funded by a $15 million grant from the Hewlett Foundation and led by CSAIL principal investigator Daniel Weitzner (former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Internet Policy in the White House), draws researchers from across MIT to create the foundations for smart, sustainable cybersecurity policy.

3. The Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, (IC)3, a new consortium based at the MIT Sloan School of Management and led by Professor Stuart Madnick, will address the need to improve the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure through a focus on the strategic, managerial, and operational issues related to cybersecurity.

How will CSAIL work with other departments on these initiatives?

There will be close collaboration between CSAIL and other centers and departments at MIT.

Industry members of Cybersecurity@CSAIL and (IC)3 can attend the annual meetings of both initiatives and will also get access to joint-networking events and access to an exclusive online repository of relevant research.

The policy initiative, meanwhile, will involve individuals from all over campus, including political scientists, economists, cryptographers, and engineers.

We hope that these initiatives will help us work together with industry to create better tools to eliminate a lot of the current vulnerabilities that plague the digital landscape and to have some more substantive discussions about what can be done in terms of better technology policy.

Read the full article on MIT News.

{ 1 comment }

MIT2_crop

The U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings on America’s best colleges and graduate schools were first released in 1983. In that time, the rankings and comprehensive guidebooks have become an integral part of the college application process and MIT has placed high in nearly every applicable category.

The magazine’s 2016 graduate rankings were officially released on March 10 and the Institute ranked first in more than 20 categories and sub-categories, including the best engineering graduate program for the 27th consecutive year.

The first-place School of Engineering’s top-ranked graduate programs include aerospace/aeronautical/astronautical engineering, chemical engineering, computer engineering (tied), electrical/electronic/communications engineering (tied), materials engineering, and mechanical engineering.

MIT’s other top-ranked graduate programs and departments include:

Biological Sciences
Economics
Chemistry
Computer Science
Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics
Econometrics
Information Systems
Inorganic Chemistry
Materials Engineering
Math
Mechanical Engineering
Physics
Production/Operations
Supply Chain/Logistics

The MIT Sloan School of Management was ranked the fifth best graduate program for business and Sloan’s graduate program in entrepreneurship ranking third. Overall, more than 60 MIT programs and departments ranked in the top 10. View all of U.S. NewsMIT rankings.

In determining rank, U.S. News weighs factors such as reputation, research activity, quality of faculty, research, and students, and student selectivity to rank the top graduate engineering schools.

U.S. News released its most-recent undergraduate ranking in September 2014. MIT was ranked seventh overall among national universities and had the top-ranked undergraduate engineering program for the 25th consecutive year.

{ 0 comments }