MIT is leading an NSF-funded project with researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that aims to enable anyone to "design, customize and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours." Constructed from "cyber-physical primitives," the robots (some early examples here) would be able to be made in bulk on demand and could help change the entire workflow of device and robot creation, from engineering to warehousing to assembly.
"We want to eat, not be eaten by our food, right?"[TED]. Artist/MIT graduate Jae Rhim Lee's current project explores the possibility of, and interest in ecologically responsible interment. She is currently cultivating personalized Infinity Mushrooms, which in combination with the Mushroom Death Suit will promote postmortem mycological growth, and more importantly intimacy with and acceptance of the physical realities of decomposition as vehicles toward death acceptance. [more inside]
"One of the deep, dark secrets of America's past has finally come to light. Starting in the early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of American children were warehoused in institutions by state governments." An early part of the American experiment with Eugenics, the Walter E. Fernald State School inspired scores of similar institutions across the country, and more recently, one of the definitive histories of the era. [more inside]
A quicker picker-upper. "[A] group of MIT researchers will present a new algorithm that, in a large range of practically important cases, improves on the fast Fourier transform."
MIT today announced the launch of an online learning initiative internally called “MITx.” Think you can hack it at MIT? If so, the world-renowned university is willing to give you a new kind of credential to prove it. [more inside]
Capturing light in motion at a trillionth of a second. MIT, using a new technique called Femto Photography, consisting of femtosecond laser illumination, picosecond-accurate detectors and mathematical reconstruction techniques, has captured the movement of pulses of light.
"Science writing tackles big ideas, important issues. It’s ambitious, creative, hard to do—yet utterly compelling."
SCOPE is the all-online student publication for MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing. [more inside]
Which place looks safer? Which place looks more unique? Which place looks more upper-class? MIT is crowdsourcing a "perception network" to analyze people's subconscious judgments about urban spaces. Preliminary results for Boston, New York City, Vienna, Salzburg, and Linz (Austria). [more inside]
Donald Thomas "Tom" Scholz (born 10 March 1947) is an American rock musician, songwriter, guitarist, pianist, inventor, and mechanical engineer, best known as the founder of the hard rock band Boston. He is also the inventor of the Rockman guitar amplifier. [more inside]
MIT scientist Dr. Todd Rider has developed a viral infection treatment that works by triggering host cell suicide when it finds the cell has been producing double-stranded RNA. Since dsRNA is the mechanism by which all viral infections proceed, but is not part of normal cellular function, the treatment seems both universal and safe. [more inside]
MIT students created water bottle light bulbs that diffract natural sunlight and provide the equivalent of a 55 watt light bulb out of an empty plastic bottle, water, and a few drops of bleach. They are being installed and used in shanty towns where no natural light gets into the makeshift tin roof homes.
Did Errol Morris's brother invent email? Film documentarian Errol Morris starts an extended, discursive piece at the Opionator section of the New York Times. Having previously documented his investigation of Crimean War photographs, Morris has posted the first part of a planned five part series covering his older brother's role in creating an early form of email. Along the way he touches on the computer culture of the 60s, dining options in Cambridge, MA, the MIT experience, and the Van Vleck dynasty.
"/b/ has given rise to more ﬂuid practices to signal identity and status in spite of, or perhaps because of, the lack of technological support."
4chan and /b/: An Analysis of Anonymity and Ephemerality in a Large Online Community is a paper by researchers from MIT and the University of Southampton. The paper itself [PDF].
MIT is expected to announce tomorrow its naming of Joichi Ito as head of the MIT Media Lab (NYTimes). This is noteworthy because rather than being a star of academia, design, or engineering, he is a 44-year-old venture capitalist. [more inside]
Every year, nine million children under five die from preventable diseases such as diarrhea and malaria. Often, the treatments for these diseases are cheap, safe, and readily available. So why don't people pick these 'low-hanging fruit'? Why don’t mothers vaccinate their children? Why don’t families use bednets, or buy chlorinated water? And why do they spend such large amounts of money on ineffective cure instead?Poor Economics is a book and website by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. It has maps, graphs, and data drawn from the research at MIT's Poverty Action Lab. It is currently being reviewed and discussed (1, 2, 3) at the Economist. BONUS: Duflo discusses the book and Randomized Controlled Trials (Wikipedia: RCT).
From the day cognitive scientist Deb Roy and his wife brought their son home five years ago, the family's every movement and word was captured and tracked with a series of fisheye lenses in every room in their house. The purpose was to understand how we learn language, in context, through the words we hear. [more inside]
openculture.com is offering hundreds of links to free online courses from the top universities in the United States (and Oxford).
At the Bartos Theater, in conversation with Henry Jenkins, these speakers [Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein] don’t so much square off as share their hopes and fears for the emergence of online democracy. [more inside]
Is the rise of automation from computers software and robotics and web-fueled outsourcing leading to a shrinking middle class? MIT Economist David Autor thinks so. Good Magazine speculates on the implications for America's future.
The MIDAS - multifunction in-dorm automation system - offers a complete, torturously elaborate system for controlling every aspect of dormitory life. Note especially the emergency party mode button, and Seagalvision, the spy camera in a can of Seagal-branded energy drink.
Two galleries of fluid motion - one from the journal Physics of Fluids, and one from MIT. The MIT gallery shows some common everyday fluids in unexpected lights. The PoF gallery (which is quite extensive, check out the 85-09 archives) mostly concerns itself with more esoteric interests. Some of the results presented have a stark beauty and some are riotously colourful. I personally love the results that look at turbulence and transition. Also, some visualisations from the past ten or so years are presented as video! (PDFs, Quicktime)
The internet is full of answers, and some of them might even be true. For almost 20 years, the the Newton BBS has been a source of answers to science questions that may be accessed directly via the Web
as well as through telnet (no public telnet access any more, sorry). The Newton BBS "Ask A Scientist" archive has answers from 15 science fields, from astronomy to zoology, for a total of more than 20,000 questions answered. This was covered previously, and the site is aimed at teachers and students from grades K-12, so io9's Ask a Physicist questions (with answers from Dr. Dave Goldberg) might be more engaging. See also: MIT's Ask An Engineer.
Andrew Shane Huang is a 35 year old hardware hacker, known to some as bunnie, and others as that guy who hacked the Xbox and went on to write a book about it. Finding the hidden key to the Xbox was an enjoyable distraction while he worked on getting his PhD in Electrical Engineering from MIT as part of Project Aries. Since then, he has written for (and been written about) in Make Magazine, has giving talks on the strategy of hardware openness and manufacturing practices in China, as experienced with the development of the opensource ambient "internet-based TV" called Chumby. When he's not busy on such excursions, bunnie writes about hacking (and more specifically, Chumby hacking), technology in China, and even biology in exquisite detail on the bunnie studios blog (previously). [more inside]
"Former Harvard student Adam Wheeler was indicted [yesterday] on multiple counts of identity fraud and larceny. According to the Boston Globe, Wheeler allegedly built a 'fraudulent life history that led to his admission to Harvard, and for using forged academic materials from Harvard when he applied for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.'"* In his transfer student application to Harvard "...Wheeler claimed he got a perfect score on the SAT, straight A's at prestigious prep school Phillips Academy Andover and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...In reality, he had never attended either school..."* He has plead not guilty to the charges. [more inside]
The Copenhagen Wheel project transforms ordinary bicycles into hybrid electric bikes that also function as mobile environmental sensing units. [via digital urban] [more inside]
Researchers at MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences have identified two "morality centers" of the brain. In two separate experiments, they have shown a correlation between a particular part of the brain and the ability to make moral jusgments related to intent to commit a crime. In one experiment, patients with brain damage in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of the brain don't consider hypothetical perpetrators to be morally responsible for their actions. In another experiment (noted on NPR today) the researchers showed that they could switch off the moral judgment function by applying a magnetic field to the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ) of the brain. The TPJ has also been implicated in "out of body experiences", both in cases of brain damage and by artificially stimulating the area.
Researchers at MIT and in Korea have developed a new, efficient desalinization nanotechnology that could theoretically lead to small, portable units powered by solar cells or batteries, yet deliver enough potable fresh water from seawater to supply the needs of a family or small village. As an added bonus, the system would simultaneously remove many contaminants, viruses and bacteria. MIT Press Release. Abstract and Supplementary Information from Nature Nanotechnology. (pdf) [more inside]
The Sexaholics of Truthteller Planet - yes, it's one of those rotten logic problems, one of many that can be found at Tanya Khovanova’s Math Guide to the MIT Mystery Hunt.
Visionary Engineer : the Harold 'Doc' Edgerton digital collection consolidates the large body of work by the pioneer of stroboscopic high-speed photography. Iconic pictures, for instance. [via Slice of MIT] [more inside]
It started as a simple term project for an MIT class on ethics and law on the electronic frontier. Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay.
Two AI Pioneers. Two Bizarre Suicides. Wired's David Kushner examines the work of two young, competitive AI researchers, and the eerie circumstances of their deaths.
With the integration of cameras, GPS receivers, and more into cellphones, many people take for granted the lightweight, energy efficient technology in their pockets. MIT ties all that tech together to a weather balloon in Project Icarus, where for $150 a prepaid cellphone becomes a high-altitude near-space camera.
Personas is a part of the MIT Metropath(ologies) exhibit that scours the web for information and attempts to characterize a person based on an entered first and last name, showing visualizations of the process as it chugs along. [more inside]
From the successful conversion of a Porsche 914 into a battery electric vehicle (BEV), MIT's Electric Vehicle Team are now working on the conversion of a Mercury Milan Hybrid into a quick-charging BEV. Instead of the typical 10 to 12 hours for a full charge, the MIT team is looking at an 11 minute charge-time for their BEV, dubbed "elEVen," and they're blogging in detail about their progress. (via) [more inside]
Douglas Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has been recorded as a series of video lectures for MIT's Open Courseware project.
The MIT faculty unanimously adopted a university-wide Open Access mandate. Open Access got a big boost yesterday because of MIT's move. [more inside]
Academic Earth collects lectures on a wide variety of subjects from UC Berkely, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Yale that the universities have released under Creative Commons. The site is still in beta so it doesn't quite have the thousands of lectures its frontpage promises. It has many full courses, for example Benjamin Polak teaching game theory, Amy Hungerford on the American novel since 1945, Charles Bailyn's introduction to astrophysics, John Merriman on the history of France since 1871, Shelly Kagan on death and Oussama Khatib's introduction to robotics.
A visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. [NSFW words included!] [more inside]
Blind, Yet Seeing : New research into blindsight from Harvard University and M.I.T. showing that people who have been blinded by brain injury have resources beyond sight to do such tasks as navigate an obstacle course (movie).
"Reality mining is just like data mining... except instead of being applied to text and web pages... we're trying to find patterns in real life." MIT students "swap their privacy for smartphones that generate digital trails." [more inside]
Amy Smith and MIT's D-lab apply engineering principles to real-world problems that affect the world's poorest residents. She organizes an annual conference. Hear her talk at TED. Previously
Graph your life at MIT's Mycrocosm. Simple interface. Interesting potential. Worrying about. Freelance: No Idea What the Hell Is Going On. Food and Liquid Consumption. Also allows for sharing datasets with other users.
Three MIT students planned to reveal to Defcon how to make counterfeit "Charley Cards" - the electronic passes that allow access to Boston's MBTA transit system. The MBTA sued for a restraining order, and a judge has granted it. [more inside]