Oct 29

- CDC Says Ebola Droplets Can Only Travel 3 Feet … But MIT Research Shows Sneezes Can Travel Up to 20 Feet (Washington’s Blog, Oct 28, 2014):

Checking the CDC’s Math

This week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admitted that Ebola can travel through the air in aerosols, but claims that it can never go more than 3 feet.

Let’s check their math …

CDC (like the World Health Organization) admits that Ebola can be spread through sneezing or coughing.

But the CDC itself admits that flu droplets can travel 6 feet.

Mythbusters demonstrated that sneezes can nail people some 17 feet away:

But engineers at MIT show that sneezes can actually travel up to 200 times farther than previously thought … up to 20 feet.

How? Continue reading »

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May 26

Cofounders, from left to right, Jason Stockman, Wei Sun, Andy Yen
Cofounders, from left to right, Jason Stockman, Wei Sun, Andy Yen.

- The Only Email System The NSA Can’t Access (Forbes, May 19, 2014):

When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”

There was a massive response, and of the 40 or so active in the discussion, six started meeting at CERN’s Restaurant Number 1, pooling their deep knowledge of computing and physics to found ProtonMail, a gmail-like email system which uses end-to-end encryption, making it impossible for outside parties to monitor.

Encrypted emails have actually been around since the 1980s, but they are extremely difficult to use. When Edward Snowden asked a reporter to use an end-to-end encrypted email to share details of the NSA surveillance program the reporter couldn’t get the system to work, says Yen. Continue reading »

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Aug 15

- Encryption is less secure than we thought (MIT News, Aug 14, 2013):

For 65 years, most information-theoretic analyses of cryptographic systems have made a mathematical assumption that turns out to be wrong.

Information theory — the discipline that gave us digital communication and data compression — also put cryptography on a secure mathematical foundation. Since 1948, when the paper that created information theory first appeared, most information-theoretic analyses of secure schemes have depended on a common assumption.

Unfortunately, as a group of researchers at MIT and the National University of Ireland (NUI) at Maynooth, demonstrated in a paper presented at the recent International Symposium on Information Theory (view PDF), that assumption is false. In a follow-up paper being presented this fall at the Asilomar Conference on Signals and Systems, the same team shows that, as a consequence, the wireless card readers used in many keyless-entry systems may not be as secure as previously thought.

Continue reading »

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Jul 28

- Neuroscientists plant false memories in the brain (MIT News, July 25, 2013):

MIT study also pinpoints where the brain stores memory traces, both false and authentic.

The phenomenon of false memory has been well-documented: In many court cases, defendants have been found guilty based on testimony from witnesses and victims who were sure of their recollections, but DNA evidence later overturned the conviction.

In a step toward understanding how these faulty memories arise, MIT neuroscientists have shown that they can plant false memories in the brains of mice. They also found that many of the neurological traces of these memories are identical in nature to those of authentic memories.

“Whether it’s a false or genuine memory, the brain’s neural mechanism underlying the recall of the memory is the same,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the July 25 edition of Science.

Continue reading »

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Feb 14

- How to turn living cells into computers (Nature, Feb 13, 2013):

Genetic system performs logic operations and stores data in DNA.

Synthetic biologists have developed DNA modules that perform logic operations in living cells. These ‘genetic circuits’ could be used to track key moments in a cell’s life or, at the flick of a chemical switch, change a cell’s fate, the researchers say. Their results are described this week in Nature Biotechnology1.

Synthetic biology seeks to bring concepts from electronic engineering to cell biology, treating gene functions as components in a circuit. To that end, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have devised a set of simple genetic modules that respond to inputs much like the Boolean logic gates used in computers.

Continue reading »

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Jan 24


The new molecules are known as ‘graphene fragments,’ because they largely consist of flat sheets of carbon (which are attached to zinc atoms). That makes them easier to align during deposition, which could simplify the manufacture of molecular memories.
Graphic: Christine Daniloff/MIT

- Storing data in individual molecules (MIT News, Jan 23, 2013):

An international team of researchers demonstrates the possibility of molecular memory near room temperature.
Moore’s law — the well-known doubling of computer chips’ computational power every 18 months or so — has been paced by a similarly steady increase in the storage capacity of disk drives. In 1980, a hard drive could store about a half-megabyte of data in a square inch of disk space; now, manufacturers are closing in on a million megabytes of data per square inch.

An experimental technology called molecular memory, which would store data in individual molecules, promises another 1,000-fold increase in storage density. But previous schemes for molecular memory have relied on physical systems cooled to near absolute zero. In the Jan. 23 online edition of Nature, an international team of researchers led by Jagadeesh Moodera, a senior research scientist in the MIT Department of Physics and at MIT’s Francis Bitter Magnet Laboratory, describes a new molecular-memory scheme that works at around the freezing point of water — which in physics parlance counts as “room temperature.”

Moreover, where previous schemes required sandwiching the storage molecules between two ferromagnetic electrodes, the new scheme would require only one ferromagnetic electrode. That could greatly simplify manufacture, as could the shape of the storage molecules themselves: because they consist of flat sheets of carbon atoms attached to zinc atoms, they can be deposited in very thin layers with very precise arrangements.

Continue reading »

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Dec 21

- MIT discovers a new state of matter, a new kind of magnetism (Extreme Tech, Dec 20, 2012):

Researchers at MIT have discovered a new state of matter with a new kind of magnetism. This new state, called a quantum spin liquid (QSL), could lead to significant advances in data storage. QSLs also exhibit a quantum phenomenon called long-range entanglement, which could lead to new types of communications systems, and more.

Continue reading »

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Dec 12

- How A Handful Of Unsupervised MIT Economists Run The World (ZeroHedge, Dec 12, 2012)

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Dec 10

Researchers have discovered that there’s enough power in living trees to run an electric circuit.


TREE POWER: Engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis demonstrate with students how a device can be plugged into a tree for power. (Photo: University of Washington)

- Electrical device plugs directly into trees for power (Mother Nature Network, Sep 10, 2012):

In today’s world of high-tech portable gadgets, iPods and cell phones, we’ve become dependent upon readily accessible electric outlets to power our devices and charge our batteries. But now researchers at the University of Washington have discovered nature’s alternative to the power outlet: living trees.

That’s right, living trees. UW engineers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis have invented an electrical device that can be plugged directly into any tree for power. “As far as we know this is the first peer-reviewed paper of someone powering something entirely by sticking electrodes into a tree,” said Parviz.

The research was based upon a breakthrough study last year out of MIT, when scientists found that plants generate a voltage of up to 200 millivolts when one electrode is placed in a plant and the other in the surrounding soil. Those researchers are already designing devices which act as forest sensors powered entirely by this new method. But until now, no one has applied these findings to the development of tree power.

Continue reading »

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Jun 14

- New energy source for future medical implants: sugar (MIT News, June 12, 2012):

Implantable fuel cell built at MIT could power neural prosthetics that help patients regain control of limbs.

MIT engineers have developed a fuel cell that runs on the same sugar that powers human cells: glucose. This glucose fuel cell could be used to drive highly efficient brain implants of the future, which could help paralyzed patients move their arms and legs again.

The fuel cell, described in the June 12 edition of the journal PLoS ONE, strips electrons from glucose molecules to create a small electric current. The researchers, led by Rahul Sarpeshkar, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, fabricated the fuel cell on a silicon chip, allowing it to be integrated with other circuits that would be needed for a brain implant.

Continue reading »

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May 02

- All Hail the Robotic Farmers and Pilots of the Future (Wired, May 1, 2012):

NEW YORK — Fighter pilot Mary “Missy” Cummings saw it coming while landing her F/A-18 supersonic jet on a Navy aircraft carrier — the world-changing disruption barreling toward the present.

Instead of landing the multi-million-dollar machine on the small deck of the ship herself in the 1990s, a computer accomplished the tricky feat for her.

“Here the computer was taking off better than I could, landing itself better than I could and doing the mission better than I ever could,” Cummings said Tuesday during the Wired Disruptive by Design business conference. “It was really humiliating. That was what used to make me better than everyone else.”

Eventually Cummings took a step back, told herself the heyday of fighter pilots was over and joined the robots. She’s now an aeronautics professor at MIT working to tackle the monotonous work of flying, farming and other industries with autonomous drones. Continue reading »

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Mar 09

- LED’s efficiency exceeds 100% (PhysOrg.com, Mar 5, 2012):

For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that an LED can emit more optical power than the electrical power it consumes. Although scientifically intriguing, the results won’t immediately result in ultra-efficient commercial LEDs since the demonstration works only for LEDs with very low input power that produce very small amounts of light.

The researchers, Parthiban Santhanam and coauthors from MIT, have published their study in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

As the researchers explain in their study, the key to achieving a power conversion efficiency above 100%, i.e., “unity efficiency,” is to greatly decrease the applied voltage. According to their calculations, as the voltage is halved, the input power is decreased by a factor of 4, while the emitted light power scales linearly with voltage so that it’s also only halved. In other words, an LED’s efficiency increases as its output power decreases. (The inverse of this relationship – that LED efficiency decreases as its output power increases – is one of the biggest hurdles in designing bright, efficient LED lights.)

In their experiments, the researchers reduced the LED’s input power to just 30 picowatts and measured an output of 69 picowatts of light – an efficiency of 230%. The physical mechanisms worked the same as with any LED: when excited by the applied voltage, electrons and holes have a certain probability of generating photons. The researchers didn’t try to increase this probability, as some previous research has focused on, but instead took advantage of small amounts of excess heat to emit more power than consumed. This heat arises from vibrations in the device’s atomic lattice, which occur due to entropy.

Continue reading »

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Jul 31

“As such, it is perhaps the most promising tool for behavioral change to have come along in decades.”

- Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops (Wired, June 19, 2011):


The premise of a feedback loop is simple: Provide people with information about their actions in real time, then give them a chance to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors. Photo: Kevin Van Aelst

In 2003, officials in Garden Grove, California, a community of 170,000 people wedged amid the suburban sprawl of Orange County, set out to confront a problem that afflicts most every town in America: drivers speeding through school zones.

Local authorities had tried many tactics to get people to slow down. They replaced old speed limit signs with bright new ones to remind drivers of the 25-mile-an-hour limit during school hours. Police began ticketing speeding motorists during drop-off and pickup times. But these efforts had only limited success, and speeding cars continued to hit bicyclists and pedestrians in the school zones with depressing regularity.

So city engineers decided to take another approach. In five Garden Grove school zones, they put up what are known as dynamic speed displays, or driver feedback signs: a speed limit posting coupled with a radar sensor attached to a huge digital readout announcing “Your Speed.”

Continue reading »

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Jun 14

- Protecting medical implants from attack (MIT News, June 13, 2011):

Millions of Americans have implantable medical devices, from pacemakers and defibrillators to brain stimulators and drug pumps; worldwide, 300,000 more people receive them every year. Most such devices have wireless connections, so that doctors can monitor patients’ vital signs or revise treatment programs. But recent research has shown that this leaves the devices vulnerable to attack: In the worst-case scenario, an attacker could kill a victim by instructing an implantable device to deliver lethal doses of medication or electricity.

At the Association for Computing Machinery’s upcoming Sigcomm conference, researchers from MIT and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) will present a new system for preventing such attacks. The system would use a second transmitter to jam unauthorized signals in an implant’s operating frequency, permitting only authorized users to communicate with it. Because the jamming transmitter, rather than the implant, would handle encryption and authentication, the system would work even with existing implants.

The researchers envision that the jamming transmitter — which they call a shield — would be small enough to wear as a necklace or a watch. A device authorized to access the implant would send encrypted instructions to the shield, which would decode and relay them.

Continue reading »

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May 11

Flashback:

On the day the tsunami hit it was known that there was a meltdown going on and the cover-up is still ongoing:

Listen to the interview with the former editor of the Japan Times Yochi Shimatsu on March 12:

- Japan: Full Core Meltdown Will Send Radiation Over United States

- Japan And US Try To Coverup Nuclear Catastrophe


Radioactive byproducts indicate that nuclear chain reactions must have been burning at the damaged nuclear reactors long after the disaster unfolded

Nuclear reactors produce radioactive by-products that decay at different rates. One common by-product is iodine-131 which has a half life of about 8 days while another is cesium-137 with a half life of about 30 years.

When a reactor switches off, the iodine decays more quickly so the ratio between these two isotopes changes rapidly over a period of days. That’s why measuring this ratio is a good way to work out when the nuclear reactions terminated.

There are some complicating factors, however. The most important of these is that the ratio of iodine-131 and cesium-137 to start with depends on how long the reactor has been operating and so is not constant.

Continue reading »

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Mar 01

Boston Dynamics, the military engineering firm best known for its four-legged BigDog robot, has been awarded two contracts by DARPA to develop a pair of new robots: an agile humanoid called ATLAS and a speedy, animal-inspired quadruped called CHEETAH.

ATLAS looks like a headless Terminator, with a torso, two legs and two arms, all controlled by an array of servos, pistons and robotic muscles. His killer feature is lifelike agility, and will be able to tackle difficult terrain by walking upright, sidling through narrow passages and using his hands for balance, support and grip.

“ATLAS will walk like a man, using a heel-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step,” explains Rob Playter, the ATLAS principal investigator and VP of Engineering at Boston Dynamics. Dynamic agility systems will allow the robot to use his own momentum to throw or swing himself across gaps and between handholds. It’s not entirely clear why he lacks a head.


CHEETAH, on the other hand, is about pure velocity. Named after the planet’s fastest land animal, Boston’s big-cat-inspired robot will sprint faster than the quickest human athletes. It doesn’t sacrifice maneuverability though, as the robot is being designed to take tighter turns so it can zigzag to chase and evade. “It will accelerate rapidly, starting and stopping on a dime,” says Boston Dynamics in a statement.

Continue reading »

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Nov 23


Ramesh Raskar explains how the camera can shoot around corners

A camera that can shoot around corners has been developed by US scientists.

The prototype uses an ultra-short high-intensity burst of laser light to illuminate a scene.

The device constructs a basic image of its surroundings – including objects hidden around the corner – by collecting the tiny amounts of light that bounce around the scene.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team believe it has uses in search and rescue and robot vision.

“It’s like having X-ray vision without the X-rays,” said Professor Ramesh Raskar, head of the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab and one of the team behind the system.

Continue reading »

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Nov 14

(NaturalNews) Splicing and dicing natural plant compounds and patenting them for profit may be a thing of the past for drug companies, at least in terms of them having to do it manually in a laboratory. It might seem like something out of a science fiction movie, but a team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has actually developed a way to genetically engineer plants that are programmed to create pharmaceutical drugs instead of their natural healing compounds.

You read that right. Sarah O’Connor and her colleagues from MIT added bacterial genes to periwinkle plants that altered their natural alkaloid production system, causing them to accept external chemical additions. Chemists then added halogens like chlorine and bromine to the plants’ biosynthetic mechanisms, which altered the composition of the final alkaloids. So instead of producing their natural alkaloids, the altered periwinkles literally started producing synthetic pharmaceutical drug versions of those alkaloids instead.

The process is similar to the type of genetic engineering that takes place with food crops, except this process goes a step further. Dubbed “metabolic engineering”, the process of altering the actual molecular output of plants shapes the very compounds they produce. And by manipulating these expressions, scientists can induce plants to grow a variety of different synthetic compounds that can be patented by drug companies.

The work is highly disturbing because periwinkles and other plants already produce natural, safe compounds that serve a therapeutic purpose. Vinblastine, the alkaloid naturally produced by periwinkles that was manipulated as part of the study, is already effective at treating cancer, for instance.

Continue reading »

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Jul 31

See also: Paul Craig Roberts: What Economy? There’s Nothing Left to Recover


Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

paul-craig-roberts
Paul Craig Roberts

Last week on NPR a professor in the Sloan School of Management at MIT explained that what is really at stake in the health care bill is the US government’s ability to borrow. In other words, the bill is about cutting health care costs, not about providing hard-pressed Americans with health care.

The professor said that if we didn’t get health care costs under control, in 30 years the US government would not be able to sell Treasury bonds.

It is not at all clear that the Treasury will be able to sell its debt instruments in 30 months, and it has nothing to do with health care costs. The Treasury debt marketing problem has to do with two back-to-back US fiscal year budgets, each with a $2 trillion deficit. The size of the US deficit exceeds in these troubled times the supply of world savings available to fund the US government’s wars, bailouts and stimulus plans. If the Federal Reserve has to monetize the Treasury’s new borrowings by creating demand deposits for the Treasury (printing money), America’s foreign creditors might flee the dollar.

The professor didn’t seem to know anything about this and gave Washington 30 more years before the proverbial hits the fan.

One looks in vain to the US financial media for accurate economic information. Currently, Wall Street, the White House, and the media are hyping a new sign of economic recovery–”surging” June home sales. John Williams at shadowstats.com predicted this latest reporting deception.

Here is the way Williams explains how statistics can produce false signs of recovery. The economy has been contracting for so long that a plateauing of the falloff in home sales compared to the previous time period’s more rapid contraction can appear like a gain.

Continue reading »

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Mar 12

Thing of the past? The new mobile phone batteries will be recharged in just 10 seconds

A revolutionary mobile phone battery that recharges in 10 seconds instead of several hours has been created by scientists.

The new device charges 100 times as fast as a conventional battery and could also be used in phones, laptops, iPods and digital cameras within just two or three years, they say.

The same technology could even allow an electric car to be charged up in the same time that it takes to fill a conventional car with petrol – removing one of the biggest obstacles to green, clean motoring.

The quick-charge battery is the brainchild of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The MIT team say their invention uses materials already available to battery manufacturers and would be simple to mass produce.


The new battery could also work with rechargeable cars

The invention is based on conventional lithium ion rechargeable batteries found in most cameras, phones and portable computers.

Continue reading »

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