The Implications of Synthetic Biology
There’s no mistaking Drew Endy’s profession: “I like to make things -- that’s what I do.” From his engineer’s perspective, the slow and painful methods of bioengineering demand a solution. Endy hopes to refine the tools necessary to move the field forward. “We’re going from looking at the living world as only c
Energy resources: Water quality
Water is arguably the most important physical resource as it is the one that is essential to human survival. Understanding the global water cycle and how we use water is essential to planning a sustainable source of water for the future. In the UK there are areas where water supplies are limited, shown by recent droughts. Globally, there are many areas that do not have enough water to support the current population adequately. Decisions will have to be made on the best way to use water in a worl
Electronics on Plastic: A Solution to the Energy Challenge, or a Pipe Dream?
As urgency to address climate change mounts, there’s ever greater interest in harnessing the unlimited potential of the sun to replace fossil fuels. This tantalizing prospect has inspired a raft of new scientific ventures, reports Stephen Forrest.
A theoretical field of silicon solar cells that is 1
The Next Frontier: Bioelectronic Interfaces
In the beginning, there was ENIAC. The first electrical computer could do 5,000 additions or subtractions per second, recounts Mark Reed, as long as people with shopping carts full of vacuum tubes jumped to the rescue each time the behemoth suffered a burnout. Then came transistors, and integrated circuits, greatly incre
Whales to Wood, Wood to Coal/Oil- What’s Next?
In 1845, the Dietz Company of New York introduced the sperm oil lantern, which nearly wiped out some whale species. A decade or so later, Dietz began to manufacture lamps using other oils, and gas lighting fixtures, giving whales a reprieve. More than a century has passed, and we’re “about to do it again,” says
Imperative of Science and Technology in Accelerating African and Rwandan Development
The news these days from Africa isn’t all bad. In fact, in some places, it’s downright hopeful, as Rwandan President Paul Kagame attests. “Our continent is no longer all about violence and disease and human disasters that scarred many African countries in recent decades,” says Kagame. “We are now becoming a continen
The International Development Fair: The Human Factor at Work in the World
Imagine if thousands of Amy Smiths were unleashed on the world, providing simple, ingenious inventions to make life easier for those subsisting on less than $2 a day -- half of humanity. This MacArthur Award-winning inventor has been seeding such programs at MIT, and describes tangible results of efforts to inspire
China's Development and China-U.S. Relations
MIT President Susan Hockfield hails a new era of collaboration between the Institute and China, and Zhou Wenzhong, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China, discusses the larger relationship between his country and the U.S., particularly in light of the economic crisis
Recent History of Boston Transportation
Frederick Salvucci’s perspective on transportation development is an amalgam of civil engineering, history, economics, policy, and not least, the direct impact on people’s lives. Here he surveys the evolution of transportation in Boston and beyond from the 1830s to the present.
Salvucci covers si
The Mysterious Field of Engineering Systems
One of the nation’s revered technology leaders dispenses anecdotes and wisdom on the slippery subject of engineering systems (or systems engineering). Norm Augustine just can’t get a handle on the discipline: “No one agrees on what it is, or what it does.” After years in industries like Lockheed Martin, Augusti
Looking Ahead to 2020
Real-world practitioners of systems engineering/engineering systems describe how the young discipline has shaped their very large enterprises.
For the past 10 years, David Lehman has been incorporating key systems engineering ideas within MITRE Corporation. Successes include getting project leaders to think
Race from France to France, Leave Antarctica to Starboard
Rich Wilson had followed the Vendée Globe Race ('round-the-world single-handed) since its inception in 1988 but had never considered sailing it himself—“too hard, too long, too dangerous, too risky, too, too, too, the boats were too big, the sails were too big.”
Then he reconsidered the possibility when he realize
Visual Overviews for Cultural Heritage: Interactive Exploration for Scholars in the Humanities, Art
A focus on designing technologies that allow the "visualization of things not visible" has been at the center of Ben Shneiderman’s work over the past two decades. He advocates the discovery of temporal patterns, relationships and clusters via an empowering user experience which enables discovery at a customizable pace and
The Power of Competition: How to Focus the World’s Brains on your Innovation Challenges
Cooperation may be making us “a little bit too nice” when it comes to innovation, suggests Fiona Murray. She believes there’s nothing like competition for injecting energy into the process of solving key innovation problems, whether in business or society.
Murray is convinced competition make ventures “more ef
Automotive Lightweighting as a Strategic Opportunity for India’s Automotive Industry
Suppose you could leapfrog 100 years of experience in the automotive industry and begin a new manufacturing epoch. The strategic change you would make is to lightweight the vehicle, observes Charles Fine. Although steel has been the material of choice for many automotive components since the dawn of the automotive age, th
Water is arguably the most important physical resource as it is the one that is essential to human survival. Understanding the global water cycle and how we use water is essential to planning a sustainable source of water for the future. In the UK there are areas where water supplies are limited, showin by recent droughts. Globally, there are many reas that do ot have enough water to support the current population adequately. Decisions will have to be made on the best way to use water in a world
Alzheimer’s Disease: Realizing the Promise of Molecular Medicine
In 1906, when Alois Alzheimer first described the disease that bears his name, it was a rarity; life expectancy in the US was around 50 years, and few people lived long enough to develop Alzheimer’s disease (AD). But as life expectancies have risen around the world, AD has become vastly more prevalent, and it is now one of the m
National Security and Civil Liberties
Merrie Najimy’s father told her that “making the right decision isn’t always popular but making the popular decision isn’t always right.” Each of the speakers on this panel has taken an unpopular stand following September 11th. Najimy believes that the Patriot Act codified anti-immigrant passions fired up by the ter
Iraq: What Now?
The gloves come off in this biting review of Bush Administration policy in “post-war Iraq.” Juan Cole believes the administration acted on a fundamental misunderstanding, imagining that by toppling the Hussein regime, all Iraqis “would be happy.” After the U.S. destroyed Hussein’s security apparatus, preexisting constituen
The Militarization of Science and Space
Chomsky launches a savage, two-pronged assault on national economic policies and efforts at “global domination….By now the stakes are so high that issues of survival arise,” says Chomsky.
The basic principle underlying our current economy is “to make rich people happy and make everybody else frightened.” Chom