Plastics have become synonymous with waste, but they can be made sustainably.
There can be little doubt that plastic materials have dramatically improved everything from clothing to travel to communications to building. Some of the damage they have caused, however, is equally dramatic.
Compact unmanned aerial vehicles will perform many valuable jobs if aviation regulations allow them to operate commercially.
I don’t use the word “drone,” which originally referred to remotely piloted planes used for anti-aircraft target practice and is now closely associated with long-range surveillance and strike vehicles operated by the military (see “The World as Free-Fire Zone”). But I do envision wider use of aircraft with sensors, perception, and intelligence. I call them “flying robots.”
Techniques that can soften or erase memories raise many ethical questions.
It should go without saying that the ability to selectively erase memories would be a very useful one to have. A person suffering night after night from post–traumatic stress disorder that is resistant to drugs or cognitive therapy would be able to resume his or her career. A young child who cannot forget the horror of watching a parent die in an automobile accident would finally see relief.
From different angles, two of our feature stories explore the role of humans in an automated world.
While we await Immanuel Kant’s perpetual peace, there will be wars; and if the president of the United States must sometimes defend the bad against the worse, perhaps it’s as well that he should make war with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
A 1938 article anticipated the opportunities—and challenges—of harnessing the sun’s energy.
Zeroing in on black carbon may slow the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions.
Cutting our overall use of fossil fuels has proved a daunting challenge, but it might be possible to get some relief from the effects of climate change by selectively reducing the particulate pollution we produce. Recent research suggests that if we can clean up diesel engines and primitive cookstoves in India and China, for example, that could delay the effects of greenhouse-gas buildup even if pollution from coal-fired power plants persists. A study released last week concludes that if every country were to do what California has done in the last couple of decades to clean up diesel emissions, it would slow down global warming by 15 percent. Reducing similar pollution from sources such as ships and cookstoves—which weren’t included in the study—could help even more.
The Media Lab’s Neri Oxman, PhD ’10, wants designers not just to dream up new products but to change the way they’re made.
On the ground floor of MIT’s Media Lab, a most unusual cocoon is being constructed. Several feet in height, it consists of 32 polygonal panels of silk threads laid down by a computer-controlled machine and then hand-sewn together into an airy three-dimensional scaffold. Though made of separate pieces, it is based on a design that uses a single line to weave the shape, much the way a silkworm constructs a cocoon out of a single kilometer-long thread. In another part of the building, thousands of gray silkworm larvae are being fattened on crushed mulberry leaves. When the worms are ready to stop eating and start spinning, they’ll be turned loose on the scaffold to fill in the spaces with their own feverish knitting, transforming the carefully designed structure into a living construction site.
Economists have long used game theory to make sense of the world. Now engineers and computer scientists are using it to rethink their work.
You and an accomplice in a major heist have been nabbed by the cops and are being interrogated in separate rooms. If you both keep quiet about the crime, you’ll each get a year in prison on a lesser charge. If you both squeal, you’ll each get five years. But if just one of you squeals, that one will go free while the other gets 10 years. If you don’t know what your accomplice will do, what’s the rational decision?
New faculty member Amos Winter, SM ’05, PhD ’11, tackles the “crazy hard” engineering challenges of the developing world.
Walk into Amos Winter’s lab on any given day and you might find the assistant professor of mechanical engineering working on a water purification system, a high-efficiency diesel tractor engine, prosthetic feet, or a prosthetic knee that enables users to walk with a natural gait, all of which he’s designing to help people in the developing world. But Winter didn’t set out to be a do-gooder. It happened by accident, a twist of fate—happier but no less unexpected than a fall from a tree, a motorcycle crash, or a tropical fever, any of which might leave someone in need of the invention for which he’s become best known.
A tale of Cold War jitters
On August 12, 1948, Senator Bourke Hickenlooper learned something that horrified him: the details of the American nuclear program were about to be spilled to a roomful of foreign scientists. He sped into action, requesting an emergency meeting with the secretary of defense. "Some of the most vital of our weapons secrets were about to be disclosed in full," he later recounted. He and the secretary moved quickly to stop the man they believed responsible.
Study finds ancient North Africa was much more lush than previously thought
Today the Sahara is a vast desert spanning more than 3.5 million square miles in northern Africa. But as recently as 6,000 years ago it was a verdant landscape, with sprawling vegetation and numerous lakes. Ancient cave paintings in the region depict hippos in watering holes, and roving herds of elephants and giraffes—a vibrant contrast with today’s barren, inhospitable terrain.
Randomized study sheds light on the effect of expanding health-care coverage
Enrollment in Medicaid helps lower-income Americans overcome depression, get proper treatment for diabetes, and avoid catastrophic medical bills, but it does not appear to reduce the near-term prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, according to a new study coauthored by MIT economist Amy Finkelstein.
Study of anesthesia-induced brain-wave patterns could help doctors make sure patients don’t wake up during operations
Since the mid-1800s, doctors have used drugs to induce general anesthesia in patients undergoing surgery. However, little is known about how these drugs create such a profound loss of consciousness.
MIT researchers have decoded the complex structure that gives bones their strength
A team of MIT researchers led by civil engineer and materials scientist Markus Buehler has finally unraveled the structure of bone—a long-standing mystery—with almost atom-by-atom precision. Doing so took many years of analysis by some of the world’s most powerful computers, results that were confirmed by laboratory experiments.
Metastatic cells move through tight spaces more quickly than ordinary cells
Most cancer deaths are caused by metastatic tumors, which break free from the original cancer site and spread throughout the body. Many of the genetic changes that allow cells to become metastatic have been studied extensively, but it has been more difficult to study the physical changes that contribute to this process.
Emissionless method could curb a major source of greenhouse gases
Conventional steelmaking may be the world’s leading industrial source of greenhouse gases. But a new process developed by MIT researchers could change all that—and produce stronger (and ultimately cheaper) steel.
The patient who transformed the science of memory
Suzanne Corkin was a graduate student at McGill University when she met a young man named Henry Molaison in 1962. She spent several days giving him memory tests as she gathered data for her PhD thesis. But each day she had to reintroduce herself, as Molaison had almost completely lost the ability to form new memories.
Event to mark Piper Alpha disaster
The Paisley Daily Express
A three-day conference to review health and safety in the oil and gas industry, marking the 25th anniversary of one of the world's worst offshore disasters is beginning. About 700 delegates from around the world are due to attend the event at Aberdeen ...
Piper Alpha: Aberdeen offshore conference teaching disaster lessonsBBC News
Salmond announces £100K for Piper Alpha memorial's upkeepHerald Scotland
STV Piper Alpha feature documentary to premiere at Edinburgh Film Festivalstv.tv
Aberdeen Press and Journal
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