Posts about MIT

MIT Faculty Open Access to Their Scholarly Articles

MIT faculty open access to their scholarly articles

In a move aimed at broadening access to MIT’s research and scholarship, faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have voted to make their scholarly articles available to the public for free and open access on the Web.

The new policy, which was approved unanimously at an MIT faculty meeting on Wednesday, March 18 and took immediate effect, emphasizes MIT’s commitment to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible.

Under the new policy, faculty authors give MIT nonexclusive permission to disseminate their journal articles for open access through DSpace, an open-source software platform developed by the MIT Libraries and Hewlett Packard and launched in 2002. The policy gives MIT and its faculty the right to use and share the articles for any purpose other than to make a profit. Authors may opt out on a paper-by-paper basis.

MIT’s policy is the first faculty-driven, university-wide initiative of its kind in the United States. While Harvard and Stanford universities have implemented open access mandates at some of their schools, MIT is the first to fully implement the policy university-wide as a result of a faculty vote. MIT’s resolution is built on similar language adopted by the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences in 2008.

It is good to see scientists putting advancing science above outdated journal business models. It is a bit of a shame that we have to be happy for such a small thing but given the state of those fighting against open science it is good to see those in favor of open access to science make progress.

Related: John Conyers Fights Open ScienceAnger at Anti-Open Access PRThe Future of Scholarly Publication

Very Cool Wearable Computing Gadget from MIT

Pattie Maes presentation at TED shows a very cool prototype for wearable, useful computing spearheaded by Pranav Mistry (who received a standing ovation at TED). It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment.

The prototype of the system cost only $350. The software, created by them, obviously is the key, but how amazing is that, $350 for the hardware used in the prototype! There is a useful web site on the Sixth Sense project.

The SixthSense prototype is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. The hardware components are coupled in a pendant like mobile wearable device. Both the projector and the camera are connected to the mobile computing device in the user’s pocket. The projector projects visual information enabling surfaces, walls and physical objects around us to be used as interfaces; while the camera recognizes and tracks user’s hand gestures and physical objects using computer-vision based techniques.

The software program processes the video stream data captured by the camera and tracks the locations of the colored markers (visual tracking fiducials) at the tip of the user’s fingers using simple computer-vision techniques. The movements and arrangements of these fiducials are interpreted into gestures that act as interaction instructions for the projected application interfaces. The maximum number of tracked fingers is only constrained by the number of unique fiducials, thus SixthSense also supports multi-touch and multi-user interaction.

Related: Awesome Cat CamCool Mechanical Simulation SystemEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Shellerposts on cool gadgets

Solving the Toughest Problems in Computer Science

Software Breakthroughs: Solving the Toughest Problems in Computer Science, 2004:

Bill Gates’ talk at MIT provided an optimistic view of the next generation of computer science, now that the “rough draft” is done. Gates finds a paradox today in that computer science is poised to transform work and home life, “but people’s excitement level is not as high as it was five years ago during the Internet bubble.” Because most sectors of the computer industry—from microchips to storage, displays to wireless connectivity— continuously improve in performance, Gates predicts a flood of new products and applications. He sported a wristwatch that receives data wirelessly, as well as keeps its user on schedule. Gates describes “rich, new peripherals” such as ultra-wideband digital cameras and he demonstrates software that allows pictures to be archived using a 3D visual interface with a built-in time, date, and keyword database. He says that computer science is merging with and making over such fields as astronomy and biology, by unifying vast, unwieldy data collections into easily navigable libraries. And Gates appears confident that technological breakthroughs will ultimately resolve urgent problems of computer and network security.

Related: Bill Gates Interview from 1993Donald Knuth – Computer ScientistOpen Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingInternship with Bill Gates

Educating the Biologist of the 21st Century

An Introductory Science Curriculum for 21st Century Biologists by David Botstein (webcast)

At Princeton’s new Lewis-Sigler Institute, Botstein is spearheading an innovative effort at interdisciplinary undergraduate education. Students will take advantage of state of the art laboratories and computers capable of crunching vast amounts of data generated by actual research. Professors will “provide essential fundamental concepts as required, using the just-in-time-principle” – no more of the “learn this now, it will be good for you later” approach, which Botstein likens to hazing. Botstein says there is “lots of overhead in teaching historical and traditional origins” so his students will learn instead “with ideas and technologies of today.” He wants to create a new basic language that will enable his biology students to make sense of the fundamental issues of other disciplines.

Very good look at future of biology education.

Related: MIT Faculty Study Recommends Significant Undergraduate Education ChangesThe Importance of Science EducationWebcast: Engineering Education in the 21st CenturyEducating the Engineer of 2020: NAE Report

Bacteria Offer Line of Attack on Cystic Fibrosis

Bacteria Offer Line of Attack on Cystic Fibrosis

MIT researchers have found that the pigments responsible for the blue-green stain of the mucus that clogs the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients are primarily signaling molecules that allow large clusters of the opportunistic infection agent, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, to organize themselves into structured communities.

P. aeruginosa appears as a classic opportunistic infection, easily shrugged off by healthy people but a grave threat to those with CF, which chokes the lungs of its victims with sticky mucus.

“We have a long way to go before being able to test this idea, but the hope is that if survival in the lung is influenced by phenazine — or some other electron-shuttling molecule or molecules — tampering with phenazine trafficking might be a potential way to make antibiotics more effective,” said Newman, whose lab investigates how ancestral bacteria on the early Earth evolved the ability to metabolize minerals.

Related: Clues to Prion InfectivityRiver Blindness Worm Develops Resistance to DrugsBeneficial Bacteria

High School Inventor Teams @ MIT

Sadly MIT deleted the video after having it live for several years.

Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams is a national grants initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program to foster inventiveness among high school students. The webcast above shows a high school team presenting a project they completed to create a solution to provide clean water. This stuff is great. I love appropriate technology. I love seeing kids think and create effective solutions to real problems. This is how you get kids to learn – not boring classes (at least kids like me).

The students are passing on the project to students at their school to continue to work on. (MIT TechTV used to have many more presentation by other InvenTeams – not anymore 🙁 ) InvenTeams and MIT deserve a great deal of credit for creating such great learning opportunities and great solutions for the world.

InvenTeams composed of high school students, teachers and mentors are asked to collaboratively identify a problem that they want to solve, research the problem, and then develop a prototype invention as an in-class or extracurricular project. Grants of up to $10,000 support each team’s efforts. InvenTeams are encouraged to work with community partners, specifically the potential beneficiaries of their invention.

Related: Water and Electricity for AllWater Pump Merry-go-RoundEngineering a Better World: Bike Corn-ShellerInspiring a New Generation of InventorsKids in the Lab: Getting High-Schoolers Hooked on Science

Easier Way to Make Coal Cleaner

MIT has an Energy “Manhattan project”. The USA has a huge amount of coal, if we ever can figure out how to make it clean that will be a huge benefit (though I have my doubts we can really make it clean enough). easier way to make coal cleaner

“Our approach — ‘partial capture’ — can get CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants down to emissions levels of natural gas power plants,” said Ashleigh Hildebrand, a graduate student in chemical engineering and the Technology and Policy Program. “Policies such as California’s Emissions Performance Standards could be met by coal plants using partial capture rather than having to rely solely on natural gas, which is increasingly imported and subject to high and volatile prices.”

The researchers conclude that as a near-term measure, partial capture looks promising. New coal plants with lower CO2 emissions would generate much-needed electricity while also demonstrating carbon capture and providing a setting for testing CO2 storage — steps that will accelerate the large-scale deployment of full capture in the future.

Related: Solar Thermal in Desert, to Beat Coal by 2020Electricity SavingsWind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007Australian Coal Mining Caused Earthquakes

Engineering a Better World: Bike Corn-Sheller

photo of bike maize sheller

More appropriate technology from MIT’s D-Lab.

D-Lab-developed device makes corn processing more efficient

Jodie Wu, an MIT senior in mechanical engineering, spent the summer traveling from village to village in Tanzania to introduce a new system for processing the corn: A simple attachment for a bicycle that makes it possible to remove the kernels quickly and efficiently using pedal power. The device makes processing up to 30 times faster and allows one person to complete the job alone in one day.

The basic concept for the maize-sheller was first developed in Guatemala by an NGO called MayaPedal, and then refined by Wu last semester as a class project in D-Lab: Design, a class taught by Department of Mechanical Engineering Senior Lecturer Amy Smith. Now, thanks to Wu’s efforts, the technology is beginning to make its way around the world.

Thus, the owner of a bicycle, with a small extra investment, can travel from village to village to carry out a variety of useful tasks. A simple bike thereby becomes an ongoing source of income.

Wu refined the corn-sheller system, which was originally designed as a permanent installation that required a bicycle dedicated solely to that purpose, to make it an add-on, like Kiwia’s tools, that could be easily bolted onto an ordinary bike and removed easily.

Photo shows the prototype of the attachment. Engineering that makes a significant difference in people’s lives (especially those that need it the most) is even cooler than the latest high tech gizmos in my opinion. And those new gizmos are cool.

Related: Design for the Unwealthiest 90 PercentAppropriate Technology postsWater Pump Merry-go-RoundNepalese Entrepreneur Success – Tumaini Cycles blog (by

$400 Million More for Harvard and MIT

$400 million endowment for the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

“Today the Broad Institute is the world’s leading genomics and biomedical institute, and we’re now making a $600 million bet that the Broad will be the place where the greatest scientific discoveries take place,” Eli Broad said at today’s ceremony.

In its short history, the Broad Institute’s accomplishments include cataloging and identifying genetic risk factors for diseases such as type 2 diabetes and autism; discovering new therapeutic targets for cancer, malaria, and other diseases; and applying genomic tools to better understand and treat human pathogens like tuberculosis.

The Broads’ gift is the largest to support biomedical research at a university anywhere in the world. The Broads initially invested $100 million in 2003 as a way to test the institute’s new approach to biomedical research. By 2005, the Broad Institute had already made significant accomplishments and progress, and the Broads invested a second $100 million. Their endowment of $400 million today will allow the Broad Institute to transition to a permanent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization with both Harvard and MIT still at the heart of it, continuing to help govern the institute.

Many countries would love to create a world class center of biomedical research. And several are trying. Boston sure seems to be staking a claim that it will be one of those centers of excellence. The economic benefits of that to Boston will be huge.

Related: Harvard Plans Life Sciences Campus$1 Billion for Life Sciences in MassachusettsChina’s Gene Therapy Investment$600 Million for Basic Biomedical Research from HHMIEdinburgh University $115 Million Stem Cell Center

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives

MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives

MIT is providing seed funding to faculty to encourage global research. The seed funds cover a variety of expenses, including exploratory field research, workshop materials and instrument costs. Each proposal is eligible for up to $20,000 in funding. Research and collaboration can take place anywhere in the world on any topic. For all projects, up to $10,000 in additional funding is available for undergraduate and graduate student participation.

MISTI country programs also offer five country-specific seed funds for collaborative research involving France, India, Italy, Japan or Spain.

This is a good use of their huge endowment. So is the Open Courseware initiative. As is their elimination of tuition for those with families earning less than $75,000. Good for MIT.

Related: Global Engineering Education StudyMIT Faculty Study Recommends Significant Undergraduate Education ChangesFunding Medical Research

Do Dolphins Sleep?

Do dolphins sleep?, MIT:

Dolphins do sleep, but not quite in the same way that people do. They sleep with one half of the brain at a time and with one eye closed. Dolphins rest this way on and off throughout the day, switching which side of the brain they shut down. During these periods, everything inside the dolphin slows down, and the mammal moves very little.

Related: Why do We Sleep?Energy Efficiency of Digestioninteresting science factsWhy is the Sky Blue?