December 2016


MIT President L. Rafael Reif

Photo: Dominick Reuter

Science & Tech

MIT President calls for renewed national commitment to support basic science

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, MIT President L. Rafael Reif has called for renewed federal support in basic science research, “for the nation’s long-term security, prosperity, competitiveness and health, and for generations of lasting new jobs.” Noting that President-elect Trump has announced his intention to reinvest in public infrastructure, Reif stated in an op-ed published in the Dec. 8 edition: “we must also rebuild another kind of infrastructure now eroding — by renewing our national commitment to fundamental science.”  Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/wsj-president-reif-calls-renewed-national-commitment-support-basic-science-1208

Printable electronics

The next time you place your coffee order, imagine slapping onto your to-go cup a sticker that acts as an electronic decal, letting you know the precise temperature of your triple-venti no-foam latte. Someday, the high-tech stamping that produces such a sticker might also bring us food packaging that displays a digital countdown to warn of spoiling produce, or even a window pane that shows the day’s forecast, based on measurements of the weather conditions outside. Engineers at MIT have invented a fast, precise printing process that may make such electronic surfaces an inexpensive reality. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/stamping-technique-printable-electronics-1207


Unique visual stimulation may be new treatment for Alzheimer’s

Using a noninvasive technique of LED lights flickering at a specific frequency, MIT researchers have shown that they can substantially reduce the beta amyloid plaques seen in Alzheimer’s disease in the visual cortex of mice. The treatment appears to work by inducing brain waves known as gamma oscillations, which the researchers discovered help the brain suppress beta amyloid production and invigorate cells responsible for destroying the plaques. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/visual-stimulation-treatment-alzheimer-1207

How the brain recognizes faces

MIT researchers and their colleagues have developed a new computational model of the human brain’s face-recognition mechanism that seems to capture aspects of human neurology that previous models have missed; a machine-learning system that spontaneously reproduces aspects of human neurology. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/machine-learning-system-brain-recognizes-faces-1201

Energy & Environment

Measuring radiation damage on the fly

Materials exposed to a high-radiation environment such as the inside of a nuclear reactor vessel can gradually degrade and weaken. But to determine exactly how much damage these materials suffer generally requires removing a sample and testing it in specialized facilities, a process that can take weeks. An analytical method developed by researchers in the Department of Chemistry at MIT and applied by members of MIT’s Mesoscale Nuclear Materials Laboratory could change that, potentially allowing for continuous monitoring of these materials without the need to remove them from their radiation environment. This could greatly speed up the testing process and reduce the preventive replacement of materials that are in fact safe and usable. Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/measuring-radiation-damage-real-time-1213