Tag: Technology and society

Generating a realistic 3D world

While standing in a kitchen, you push some metal bowls across the counter into the sink with a clang, and drape a towel over the back of a chair. In another room, it sounds like some precariously stacked wooden blocks fell over, and there’s an epic toy car crash. These interactions with our environment are […]

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The intersection of math, computers, and everything else

Shardul Chiplunkar, a senior in Course 18C (mathematics with computer science), entered MIT interested in computers, but soon he was trying everything from spinning fire to building firewalls. He dabbled in audio engineering and glass blowing, was a tenor for the MIT/Wellesley Toons a capella group, and learned to sail. “When I was entering MIT, […]

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3 Questions: Can we fix our flawed software?

Sometimes, software is just like us. It can be bloated, slow, and messy. Humans might see a doctor if these symptoms persist (maybe not for messiness), but rarely do we push a flawed software program to go see its developer time and time again.  The answer to why our software is flawed is ensnared in […]

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In MIT visit, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston ’05 explores the accelerated shift to distributed work

When the cloud storage firm Dropbox decided to shut down its offices with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, co-founder and CEO Drew Houston ’05 had to send the company’s nearly 3,000 employees home and tell them they were not coming back to work anytime soon. “It felt like I was announcing a snow day or […]

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The reasons behind lithium-ion batteries’ rapid cost decline

Lithium-ion batteries, those marvels of lightweight power that have made possible today’s age of handheld electronics and electric vehicles, have plunged in cost since their introduction three decades ago at a rate similar to the drop in solar panel prices, as documented by a study published last March. But what brought about such an astonishing […]

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Is watching believing?

It might seem that video would be a singularly influential medium for spreading information online. But a new experiment conducted by MIT researchers finds that video clips have only a modestly larger impact on political persuasion than the written word does. “Our conclusion is that watching video is not much more persuasive than reading text,” […]

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Setting a new standard for hormone health

Half the population lives with monthly ovarian hormone cycles. Those cycles impact menstrual patterns, fertility, and much more, but stigmas around hormone problems have limited awareness about hormone health. Now, Aavia is working to help people understand their hormone cycle and its impacts. “These cycles impact quality of sleep, quality of muscle toning, energy, sex […]

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Q&A: Options for the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

The Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California, the only one still operating in the state, is set to close in 2025. A team of researchers at MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research; Stanford’s Precourt Energy Institute; and energy […]

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Giving robots social skills

Robots can deliver food on a college campus and hit a hole-in-one on the golf course, but even the most sophisticated robot can’t perform basic social interactions that are critical to everyday human life. MIT researchers have now incorporated certain social interactions into a framework for robotics, enabling machines to understand what it means to […]

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Toward speech recognition for uncommon spoken languages

Automated speech-recognition technology has become more common with the popularity of virtual assistants like Siri, but many of these systems only perform well with the most widely spoken of the world’s roughly 7,000 languages. Because these systems largely don’t exist for less common languages, the millions of people who speak them are cut off from […]

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Making machine learning more useful to high-stakes decision makers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in seven children in the United States experienced abuse or neglect in the past year. Child protective services agencies around the nation receive a high number of reports each year (about 4.4 million in 2019) of alleged neglect or abuse. With so many cases, […]

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3 Questions: Administering elections in a hyper-partisan era

Charles Stewart III is the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT and a renowned expert on U.S. election administration. A founding member of the influential Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Stewart also founded MIT’s Election Data and Science Lab, which recently teamed up with the American Enterprise Institute to release a major report: […]

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Chronicles of the epic mission to deliver Covid vaccines to the world

The race to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine has been likened to a moonshot, but in several ways landing a man on the moon was easier. In his new book, “A Shot in the Arm: How Science, Engineering, and Supply Chains Converged to Vaccinate the World” (MIT CTL Media, 2021), MIT Professor Yossi Sheffi recounts the […]

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Saving seaweed with machine learning

Last year, Charlene Xia ’17, SM ’20 found herself at a crossroads. She was finishing up her master’s degree in media arts and sciences from the MIT Media Lab and had just submitted applications to doctoral degree programs. All Xia could do was sit and wait. In the meantime, she narrowed down her career options, […]

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Cynthia Breazeal named senior associate dean for open learning

Cynthia Breazeal has joined MIT Open Learning as senior associate dean, beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. The MIT professor of media arts and sciences and head of the Personal Robots group at the MIT Media Lab is also director of MIT RAISE, a cross-MIT initiative on artificial intelligence education. At MIT Open Learning, Breazeal […]

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Thriving Stars: An initiative to improve gender representation in electrical engineering and computer science

The MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science announced yesterday the Thriving Stars initiative, a new effort to improve gender representation in MIT’s largest doctoral graduate program. “All types of representation are vital to EECS at MIT, and Thriving Stars will unify multiple disparate efforts focusing on women and other underrepresented genders,” says Asu […]

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At the crossroads of language, technology, and empathy

Rujul Gandhi’s love of reading blossomed into a love of language at age 6, when she discovered a book at a garage sale called “What’s Behind the Word?” With forays into history, etymology, and language genealogies, the book captivated Gandhi, who as an MIT senior remains fascinated with words and how we use them. Growing […]

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Making data visualizations more accessible

In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced a simple chart to illustrate how measures like mask wearing and social distancing could “flatten the curve” and reduce the peak of infections. The chart was amplified by news sites and shared on social media platforms, but it often […]

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Maria Zuber testifies before Congress on striking the right balance between research security and openness

The United States must perform a careful balancing act to secure federally funded research against improper interference from China and other foreign governments without shutting down valuable international scientific research collaborations, MIT Vice President for Research Maria T. Zuber said this week in testimony before Congress. Speaking at a virtual hearing held by two subcommittees […]

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Ana Pantelic appointed executive director of MIT D-Lab

MIT D-Lab recently welcomed new Executive Director Ana Pantelic to its team. Pantelic has worked at the confluence of systems change and social innovation and brings nearly 15 years of experience in policy and practice from Latin America, East Africa, and the Balkans. “As we prepare to enter our third decade, we are excited to […]

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Budding coders create apps aimed at real-world impact

How can computer science be used to help make the world a better place? It’s a lofty question, but one that drives the team behind MIT App Inventor, a virtual programming platform that allows budding programmers of all ages to create their own apps. Following a year of disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the […]

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3 Questions: An anthropologist and a filmmaker on working-class lives in Chicago

The steel industry in the U.S. shrank dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s, with profound effects on the country’s industrial workforce. Suddenly, blue-collar workers who had spent their careers in the mills — often as part of multigenerational steelworking families — found themselves unable to earn a living as communities around them suffered and people […]

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Data flow’s decisive role on the global stage

In 2016, Meicen Sun came to a profound realization: “The control of digital information will lie at the heart of all the big questions and big contentions in politics.” A graduate student in her final year of study who is specializing in international security and the political economy of technology, Sun vividly recalls the emergence […]

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How quickly do algorithms improve?

Algorithms are sort of like a parent to a computer. They tell the computer how to make sense of information so they can, in turn, make something useful out of it. The more efficient the algorithm, the less work the computer has to do. For all of the technological progress in computing hardware, and the […]

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Making self-driving cars safer through keener robot perception

Aviation became a reality in the early 20th century, but it took 20 years before the proper safety precautions enabled widespread adoption of air travel. Today, the future of fully autonomous vehicles is similarly cloudy, due in large part to safety concerns. To accelerate that timeline, graduate student Heng “Hank” Yang and his collaborators have […]

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Study: As a population gets older, automation accelerates

You might think robots and other forms of workplace automation gain traction due to intrinsic advances in technology — that innovations naturally find their way into the economy. But a study co-authored by an MIT professor tells a different story: Robots are more widely adopted where populations become notably older, filling the gaps in an […]

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3 Questions: Jean-Jacques Degroof SM ’93, PhD ’02 on how MIT became an entrepreneurial powerhouse

There are tens of thousands of companies founded by MIT alumni operating around the world today. Those companies employ millions of people and generated nearly $2 trillion in annual revenue as of 2015. To train the next generation of founders, MIT offers more than 200 resources dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, including more than […]

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