MIT News


3 Questions: Lisa Parks on drones, warfare, and the media

MIT News

Drones have become a common part of warfare -- but their use remains a subject of public contention. Lisa Parks, a professor in MIT's program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing and director of its Global Media Technologies and Cultures Lab, has spent extensive time analyzing this public debate. Now, she has co-edited a new volume examining the subject, while contributing a piece to it herself. The book, "Life in the Age of Drone Warfare," has just been published by Duke University Press. MIT News talked with Parks this week about the impact and public perception of drones.


Stress can lead to risky decisions

MIT News

Making decisions is not always easy, especially when choosing between two options that have both positive and negative elements, such as deciding between a job with a high salary but long hours, and a lower-paying job that allows for more leisure time. MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that making decisions in this type of situation, known as a cost-benefit conflict, is dramatically affected by chronic stress. In a study of mice, they found that stressed animals were far likelier to choose high-risk, high-payoff options. The researchers also found that impairments of a specific brain circuit underlie this abnormal decision making, and they showed that they could restore normal behavior by manipulating this circuit. If a method for tuning this circuit in humans were developed, it could help patients with disorders such as depression, addiction, and anxiety, which often feature poor decision-making.


Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science announces six new faculty members

MIT News

MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) has appointed six new faculty members. One has already joined the department, while five others will arrive in 2018 and early 2019. Song Han will join EECS as an assistant professor in July 2018. His research focuses on energy-efficient deep learning at the intersection of machine learning and computer architecture. He proposed the Deep Compression algorithm, which can compress neural networks by 17 to 49 times while fully preserving prediction accuracy.


STEX25 strengthens collaboration between startups and industry

MIT News

Most startup accelerators focus on early growth opportunities, providing startups with seed funding and mentorship, encouraging team building, and advancing product development. Then there's STEX25, an accelerator launched last year by MIT Startup Exchange that prioritizes connecting industry partners of the MIT Industrial Liaison Program (ILP) with top growth-stage MIT-connected startups. The ILP and MIT Startup Exchange are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations. "Fostering corporate partnerships is our mandate," says Trond Undheim, program director of STEX25. "We believe such partnerships are key to enhancing a fast-growing startup's validation and value, and startups are highly effective vehicles for testing the commercial viability of products."


Next-generation optogenetic molecules control single neurons

MIT News

Researchers at MIT and Paris Descartes University have developed a new optogenetic technique that sculpts light to target individual cells bearing engineered light-sensitive molecules, so that individual neurons can be precisely stimulated. Until now, it has been challenging to use optogenetics to target single cells with such precise control over both the timing and location of the activation. This new advance paves the way for studies of how individual cells, and connections among those cells, generate specific behaviors such as initiating a movement or learning a new skill. "Ideally what you would like to do is play the brain like a piano. You would want to control neurons independently, rather than having them all march in lockstep the way traditional optogenetics works, but which normally the brain doesn't do," says Ed Boyden, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and biological engineering at MIT, and a member of MIT's Media Lab and McGovern Institute for Brain Research.


President Reif: We must build a future in which technology works for everyone

MIT News

In an op-ed published today in The Boston Globe, MIT President L. Rafael Reif has urged those at the vanguard of the technology revolution to help lead the way in ensuring that automation in the workplace has a positive impact on society. "We must proactively and thoughtfully reinvent the future of work," he writes. In a recent Pew study, 72 percent of Americans reported feeling worried or very worried about a future where robots and computers can do many human jobs. However, Reif notes, past periods of technological and social upheaval have been smoothed by "deliberate, coordinated action," ultimately leading to overall job growth and other important gains. Ideas such as universal public education, the GI Bill, and the post-Sputnik focus on science education, he notes, were "broad, far-sighted investments in human development" that allowed the country to recover from disruptive technological and social change.


Artificial intelligence summit discusses impact of machines on jobs, productivity, and the global economy

MIT News

This week MIT hosted a summit on "AI and the Future of Work", focused on helping industry, government, and the workforce navigate the opportunities and challenges of artificial intelligence and automation. Hosted by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE), the event featured speakers such as Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt and machine-learning pioneer Yann LeCun. Taking place in MIT's Kresge Auditorium, the summit featured remarks from CSAIL Director Daniela Rus and IDE Director Erik Brynjolfsson, as well as a keynote address by Schmidt. Computer scientists, economists, and industry experts spoke about a range of topics that included legal policy, technical challenges, and assistive technologies. During his opening remarks, MIT President L. Rafael Reif noted the important societal gains that could stem from AI, such as economic growth, higher living standards, longer life spans and less disease.


Artificial intelligence aids materials fabrication

MIT News

In recent years, research efforts such as the Materials Genome Initiative and the Materials Project have produced a wealth of computational tools for designing new materials useful for a range of applications, from energy and electronics to aeronautics and civil engineering. But developing processes for producing those materials has continued to depend on a combination of experience, intuition, and manual literature reviews. A team of researchers at MIT, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and the University of California at Berkeley hope to close that materials-science automation gap, with a new artificial-intelligence system that would pore through research papers to deduce "recipes" for producing particular materials. "Computational materials scientists have made a lot of progress in the'what' to make -- what material to design based on desired properties," says Elsa Olivetti, the Atlantic Richfield Assistant Professor of Energy Studies in MIT's Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE). "But because of that success, the bottleneck has shifted to, 'Okay, now how do I make it?'"


Promise seen in possible treatment for autism spectrum disorder

MIT News

This deletion is characterized by intellectual disability; impaired language, communication, and socialization skills; and autism spectrum disorder or ASD. Research from the laboratories of Mark Bear at MIT and Jacqueline Crawley at the University of California at Davis, has identified a potential therapeutic for ASD. Researchers found that R-Baclofen reverses cognitive deficits and improves social interactions in two lines of 16p11.2 The findings, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, have the potential to treat humans with 16p11.2 "Our collaborative teams found that treatment with the drug R-baclofen improved scores on several learning and memory tasks, and on a standard assay of social behavior, in 16p11.2


Remembering and honoring the life of undergraduate Henoch Argaw

MIT News

In the 3rd grade, Henoch Argaw began tutoring his fellow students at Southeast Christian Academy Elementary School in Colorado. "He told me and Sehin [his mother] that he was writing a math instruction book," recalls Neway Argaw, his father. "By that time, he was already attending 5th grade [level] math and science courses." Their son continued tutoring all the way through high school and also took up a related pursuit, refereeing and coaching youth soccer for the Colorado Storm and other Colorado soccer clubs. He was also a competitive chess player and played the trumpet since 4th grade.