STS.006J Bioethics (MIT)
Many difficult ethical questions have arisen from the explosive growth of biomedical research and the health-care industry since World War II. When and how should doctors be allowed to help patients end their lives? Should embryos be cloned for research and/or reproduction? Should parents be given control over the genetic make-up of their children? What sorts of living things is it appropriate to use as research subjects? How should we distribute scarce and expensive medical resources? While som
Open Education for an Open World
In Charles M. Vest’s expansive vision, scientists and engineers around the world are creating a “meta university” as they increasingly share ideas and build on common knowledge. Technology enables this integration of minds, leading us toward “an era better called brain circulation,” he says.
Vest cites evidence of rap
Transportation, the Built Environment and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Developing Cities
It seems that income and travel are inextricably linked. As communities gain wealth and prosperity, their travel footprint increases. While this relationship affords benefits to those in developed nations, it is not scalable. Global population is projected to increase by nearly 2 billion people by 2030. If this newly adde
Innovation at the Interface: Technological Fusion at MIT
When disciplines converge, innovation results. To prove the point, two inventers offered rich and varied examples from their respective areas: artificial intelligence and biomedicine. Rodney Brooks describes robots exploring dangerous bunkers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and intelligent prosthetic limbs. He predicts that in
Engineering a New Attack on Disease
Out of a world population of 6 billion, 57 million people die each year. And while we have gained 20 years in life expectancy since World War 2, diseases like HIV have taken a toll on morbidity in many developing nations. But according to Rick Young, “the global disease burden is much larger than the number of deaths.” Countles
Innovation in Post-Launch Surveillance and Pharmaco-Vigilance
These panelists describe struggling to transform their approach to drug safety, while acknowledging the need to regain public trust after troubling episodes involving drug side effects.
Névine Zariffa points out that “no clinical trial program known to man will ever help predict every single instance of ev
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