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ENDLESS FRONTIER: INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

March/April 2016

Image: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

 

Science & Tech

 

Wireless Tech Means Safer Drones, Smarter Homes And Password-Free WiFi

A new wireless technology developed by a research team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory havecould mean safer drones, smarter homes, and password-free WiFi. The team developed a system that enables a single WiFi access point to locate users to within tens of centimeters, without any external sensors. They demonstrated the system in an apartment and a cafe, while also showing off a drone that maintains a safe distance from its user with a margin of error of about 4 centimeters.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/1ZZitue

 

System Predicts 85 Percent Of Cyber-Attacks Using Input From Human Experts Today’s security systems usually fall into one of two categories: human or machine. So-called “analyst-driven solutions” rely on rules created by living experts and often miss any attacks that don’t match the rules. Meanwhile, current machine-learning approaches rely on “anomaly detection,” which tend to trigger false positives that both create distrust of the system, and end up having to be investigated by humans, anyway.

Now, researchers at MIT have developed an artificial intelligence platform that uses input from human analysts to predict cyber attacks, reducing false positives by a factor of 5.Learn more at http://bit.ly/1SWb2OZ

 

New Institute Will Accelerate Innovations in Fibers and Fabrics

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that an independent nonprofit founded by MIT, the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute, was selected to run a new, $317 million public-private partnership, winning a national competition for federal funding to create the latest Manufacturing Innovation Institute. The partnership's focus is to accelerate innovation in high-tech, U.S.-based manufacturing involving fibers and textiles. Learn more at http://bit.ly/21Wnq6H

 

Health/Convergence

 

Pharmacy on Demand

MIT researchers have developed a compact, portable pharmaceutical manufacturing system that can be reconfigured to produce a variety of drugs on demand. Just as an emergency generator supplies electricity to handle a power outage, the system could be rapidly deployed to produce drugs needed to handle an unexpected disease outbreak, or to prevent a drug shortage caused by a manufacturing plant shutdown, the researchers say.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/1TlKonk

 

Energy

 

Hybrid System Could Cut Coal-Plant Emissions in Half

Finding a cleaner way of using coal could be a significant step toward achieving carbon-emissions reductions, while meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly industrialized world population. A new plan from MIT researchers may generate electricity from coal with much greater efficiency — possibly up to double the fuel-to-electricity efficiency of today’s conventional coal plants. This could mean a 50 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions for a given amount of power produced. The key is combining into a single system two well-known technologies: coal gasification and fuel cells.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/1W5sKVC

 

Space

 

First Temperature Map of a “Super-Earth” Reveals Lava World

Astronomers from MIT, Cambridge University, and elsewhere have generated the first temperature map of a “super-Earth” exoplanet, revealing an inhospitable world covered in rivers and lakes of boiling hot magma. Temperatures on the planet are so high that any atmosphere is likely to have been burned off or vaporized into space. Named 55 Cancri e, the planet resides in the constellation Cancer, at a relatively close 40 light years from Earth, and at roughly twice the size of our planet, it is considered a super-Earth. But that is where all similarities end, as 55 Cancri e is essentially a heat-seeking fireball, orbiting extremely close to its star. It circles in just 18 hours, compared with Earth’s leisurely 365-day journey around the sun. It also may be boiling from the inside out.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/1UjMJ2x