February 2018


Image: Chelsea Turner/MIT

Science & Tech

“Falling Short on Science” – a NYT Op-ed by MIT's Maria Zuber

MIT’s Vice President for Research, Professor Maria Zuber, wrote an op-ed published in the New York Times online, calling for robust investment in American science, and pointing out how it's been limited by the current fiscal stalemate. Read the entire piece here. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/falling-short-on-science.html

Institute launches the MIT Intelligence Quest

On February 1, MIT announced announced the launch of the MIT Intelligence Quest, an initiative to discover the foundations of human intelligence and drive the development of technological tools that can positively influence virtually every aspect of society. Read more about it here. http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-launches-intelligence-quest-0201

Changing the color of 3-D printed objects

3-D printing has come a long way since the first rapid prototyping patent was rejected in 1980, evolving from basic designs to a wide range of highly-customizable objects. But once objects are printed, they’re final. Imagine if that weren’t the case — if, for example, you could change the color of your smartphone case or earrings on demand. Researchers from MIT’s CSAIL have now gotten closer to making that a reality with ColorMod, a method for repeatedly changing the colors of 3-D printed objects, after fabrication. Read more here. http://news.mit.edu/2018/changing-color-3-d-printed-objects-0129

Energy & Environment

Physicists create new form of light

What if particles of light could be made to interact, attracting and repelling each other like atoms in ordinary matter? One tantalizing, albeit sci-fi possibility: light sabers — beams of light that pull and push on each other, making for epic confrontations. Or, two beams of light could meet and merge into one single, luminous stream. It may seem like such optical behavior would require bending the rules of physics, but now scientists at MIT and their colleagues have demonstrated that photons can indeed be made to interact in dazzling ways. Read more here. http://news.mit.edu/2018/physicists-create-new-form-light-0215

Neural networks everywhere

Most recent advances in artificial-intelligence systems, such as speech- or face-recognition programs, have come courtesy of neural networks, densely interconnected meshes of simple information processors that learn to perform tasks by analyzing huge sets of training data. But neural nets are too large to be practical for handheld devices. MIT researchers have now developed a special-purpose chip that reduces neural networks’ power consumption by up to 95 percent, making them workable for battery-powered devices. That could make it possible to run neural networks locally on smartphones or even to embed them in household appliances. Read more here. http://news.mit.edu/2018/chip-neural-networks-battery-powered-devices-0214


Going for the gold: mitigating the hazards of “flat light”

Skiers taking to the slopes at the winter Olympics have a common enemy: flat light. Flat light occurs on overcast days when light diffuses through moisture in the air, creating a white-out effect that makes shadows and colors difficult to see. It impedes skiers’ ability to perceive the terrain in front of them. Figuring out how to mitigate the effects of flat light could help improve the performance of competitive athletes, while also making the sport safer for enthusiasts. The key to solving this problem lies in goggle lenses. Designing a lens that allows skiers to see clearly in flat light has been one of the top priorities for firm Shred, in a collaboration with the MIT Sports Lab. Read more about it here. http://news.mit.edu/2018/students-improve-ski-goggles-flat-light-0130