Alumni Life

Guest Post by Sarah Jensen from the Ask an Engineer series, published by MIT’s School of Engineering

Photo: Reggie35

Photo: Reggie35

Since the time of Aristotle, researchers and amateur scientists alike have batted about the counter-intuitive theory that hot water freezes faster than cold. The notion even has a name: the Mpemba effect, named for a Tanzanian schoolboy who in 1963 noticed that the ice cream he and his classmates made from warm milk froze quicker than that made from cool milk.

“No matter what the initial temperature of water is, it must be brought to the freezing point before it will change state and become ice,” says Prakash Govindan, most recently a postdoctoral associate in MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Department. It will actually take more time and energy to freeze hot water because it must be brought down further in temperature until it reaches the freezing point, about 0°C.

Govindan suggests conducting a simple experiment to demonstrate that hot and cold water will behave as logic predicts. “Fill two identical containers with hot and cold tap water from the kitchen sink and see which freezes first,” he says. Interestingly, he points out, the rates of change in this experiment will not be the same. “When you set them in the freezer, the freezer will work harder to bring the temperature of the hot water down, so initially the rate of heat transfer will be faster in the hot water.” However, the other container will be cooling at the same time (if not at quite the same rate).

When the temperature of the water in each container reaches just about 0°C it will undergo the same changes as it moves from a liquid to a solid, and it will take the same amount of time to begin forming tiny ice crystals. At that point, each mixture of liquid and ice will be at a uniform temperature, and as more heat is taken from the mixtures, the thermodynamic principle of latent heat kicks in: The water continues to convert to a solid state, but no longer changes in temperature. “As long as you have a mixture of liquid water and solid ice, the temperature will remain at 0 until all the water is frozen,” says Govindan.

It’s never been convincingly proven than hot water and cold water behave differently from each other at any step of the freezing process, despite the ongoing fascination with the Mpemba effect. In early 2013, Europe’s Royal Society of Chemistry even held a competition for the best explanation of the theory. The winner speculated that hot water indeed freezes more quickly if the cold water is first supercooled. But logic triumphs when it comes the plain ordinary water that comes from the household faucet. Most likely to impact the freezing point of water is the presence of impurities such as salt, dissolved solids, and gases—and the ingredients of homemade ice cream. 

Thanks to Khubaib Mukhtar of Pakistan for this question. Visit the MIT School of Engineering’s Ask an Engineer site for answers to more of your questions.

{ 0 comments }

Adding the word fortis to the MIT motto, 40 runners of the MIT Strong team employed mind, hand, and strength on April 21 in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. In doing so, the 40 runners raised over $150,000 for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund.

On the 26.2-mile route from Hopkinton to Boston, the runners, ten of whom are alumni, had plenty of inspiration.

Along the course were seven cheering stations operated by volunteer alumni and friends of MIT. On the streets of Boston one could hear chants of “MIT Strong” as resoundingly as “Boston Strong.” And from the field of over 36,000 runners, the team earned plenty of encouragement along the way.

Dava Newman '89, SM '89, PhD '92. Photo: Dave Conlon.

Professor Dava Newman ’89, SM ’89, PhD ’92. Photo: Dave Conlon. More photos.

It paid off for Maddie Hickman ’11, who earned her finisher medal after five and one-half hours of running.

“The marathon was incredible, one of the best experiences ever,” Hickman said. “The energy along the entire route was amazing, the run was wonderful, and seeing friends throughout was awesome! Thank you so much to the MIT Strong team—to the organizers for making this happen, and to all of you for being such a great community! And special thanks to [teammate] Rachel DeLucas, who told me in January that I could totally run the marathon despite never having run more than a mile before. I never would have done this otherwise.”

Brian Mulcahey ’86 overcame injury, dehydration, and a scary post-race trip to the medical tent. “If ever I experienced an example of mind over body, this race was it,” he said. “By all accounts, I probably should have dropped out by mile 20. However, this was not a year to do that—after last year’s tragedy, the crowd support, the MIT Strong cause, and my 800 miles of training. My mind wouldn’t let my body quit.”

Maggie Lloyd ’12 added: “Those red MIT Strong signs were my motivation throughout the course. They were a constant reminder of why we started this race and why we would finish it strong!” When she picked up her phone at day’s end, Lloyd had messages “from a whole variety of friends–people I’ve known since I was little and people I just met in the past few months were so kind to think of me on this day. I am honored to have made them proud, and to have worn the MIT Strong singlet that day.”

Since the attacks in Boston last year, the MIT Strong team found inspiration in the healing spirit on campus, in their colleagues and fellow students, and from each other in training. At a community rally for the team on Friday afternoon, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart spoke to the team’s dedication through one of the harshest winters in recent memory.

“They were undaunted by the cold, the ice, the slush, and snow, and the uncleared sidewalks,” said Barnhart. “They ran on, knowing that much greater sacrifices had been made and knowing that all of you were right behind them. They sacrificed a great deal to get here today and they did it to run for us, so that we can show the world that we are still strong, we are a team, and we will keep doing the things that define us as a community.”

Dan Oliver '60 and the team at Friday's rally.

Dan Oliver ’60 and the team at Friday’s rally.

Hickman, who befriended Sean Collier during MIT Outing Club adventures, presented Barnhart with an honorary team singlet at the picnic. Dan Oliver ’60 concluded the rally with a presentation of a poster he had prepared. ”The marathon is not 26.2 miles long,” said Oliver, “it’s 24.8 kilosmoots.”

On Saturday evening, the MIT Alumni Association honored the team and family members at a pre-race dinner at Walker Memorial. On Monday, the team powered through rising temperatures and a crowded field, wending its way through eight cities and towns and over a million spectators. Whether it took them three hours or six hours to finish, the team’s runners made their way to Boylston St. and to a post-race reception at Ashdown House on Monday evening.

The ten alumni runners on MIT Strong were Maggie Lloyd ’12, Mike Gerhardt ’12, Gordon Wintrob ’12, Brian Mulcahey ’86, Dava Newman ’89, SM ’89, PhD ’92, Alex Slocum ’82, SM ’83, PhD ’85, Maddie Hickman ’11, Jeremy Rishel ’94, Stephen Shum ’11, and Dan Oliver ’60.

Before the rally on Friday, the MIT community hosted a ceremony of remembrance marking the one-year anniversary of the death of  Officer Collier. At the ceremony, Professor J. Meejin Yoon unveiled plans for a permanent memorial honoring Collier.

{ 0 comments }

Fred Kaneb ’43 has been a soldier, petroleum trader, fiberglass manufacturer, and Pepsi distributor.  But for the past 40 years in Cornwall, Ontario, Kaneb has been a farmer too.

Fred Kaneb '43.

Fred Kaneb ’43.

Managing an orchard of nearly 900 apple and pear trees that he bought in the 1970s on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Kaneb is an engineer of the land. Reached by phone this week, Kaneb spoke warily of the half-foot of April snow the farm received right in the midst of pruning season. At 94 years old, though, nothing fazes him. Kaneb shoveled out then returned to the orchard to prune, a rite of spring he hasn’t missed in four decades.

“I work away at it, six days a week,” says Kaneb. “It takes five or six weeks to get everything pruned.”

Kaneb grows MacIntosh, Honey Crisp, Cortland, Russet, and Empire apples, and Flemish Beauty, Bartlett, and Anjou pears. Some varieties came with the farm when he bought it. Others, like the Honey Crisp and Empire, he introduced himself.

Kaneb says that while he used to sell his produce and make part of his living off the land, “times have changed, the people have changed, and how we eat has changed.” No matter. Kaneb has plenty of willing consumers in church groups, food banks, and schools. “Even then, we still have some left over,” he says.

Though Kaneb is known well in town for his bountiful crops and generosity, he is also somewhat of a legend. After graduating from MIT, Kaneb entered the Naval Reserve and was put to work applying his engineering talent in Pensacola, FL, home of the Navy’s flight school. Kaneb designed the Dilbert Dunker, a detached cockpit from an old plane that plunged frightened, aspiring pilots deep into a swimming pool upside down to train them for escaping crashes at sea.

Fred Kaneb's Dilbert Dunker. About 8,000 pilots trained in them over the years.

The Dilbert Dunker made Kaneb famous in the ’40s—about 8,000 pilots trained on them. Today, Kaneb works on engineering his orchards.

Kaneb designed four Dilbert Dunkers in all, one of which went on display last fall at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. The museum honored Kaneb for his contribution in 2009, when he donated his papers to it and was reunited with his invention of seven decades prior.

“The Army colonel said somebody has got to teach them what it is like to be drowning,” Kaneb recalled at the time. “It took us between six months to a year to design and build it.”

“If you think of all the people who have gone through [the Dilbert Dunker], all the astronauts, the people who went to the moon…they all had to go through Pensacola, through this one,” said the Navy captain overseeing the visit.

Kaneb is most at home on his farm, though, where his four children, seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren visit often. In the winter, Kaneb snowshoes across the acreage, surveying the deer tracks, taking stock of the pond he designed, the rows of fruit trees he planted, the fire pit where he burns trees blighted with disease, and the irrigation system he built to water them. “We do everything ourselves,” says Kaneb, “and everything is pretty good.”

Though he missed his 70th reunion, Kaneb says he’ll be at his 75th. And he occasionally gets a call from his classmate, Israel Lenzner ’43, who lives in Florida. Few alumni can chat about the old days at MIT as they do.

{ 0 comments }

Pins passed out at Nerd Nite. Photo: Mary Lewey

Pins passed out at Nerd Nite. Photo: Mary Lewey

Can robots learn to bake cookies? Can ceramic filters make water drinkable in the developing world? MIT alumni Mario Bollini ’09, SM ’12 and Amelia Servi ’10, SM ‘13 shared insights on these topics at recent Nerd Nites, a popular event that showcases new research from MIT and other area universities.

The bonus? You can drink beer while you learn.

Over the past 10 years, Nerd Nite has grown from one grad student presenting evolutionary biology research at a Boston pub to monthly events in 80 cities around the world. There are Nerd Nites in Milan, Liberia, Detroit, Amsterdam, and Auckland. And if it’s not in your city, you can start one.

Typical Nites include a mix of hard science talks like membrane desalinization, social science presentations, such as the history of cycling in New England, and the (fake) history of Godzilla monsters.

Adrian Ward speaks at a special Nerd Nite held at the Oberon Theater on how the Internet is reshaping our lives. Photo: Mary Lewey

Adrian Ward speaks at a special Nerd Nite held at the Oberon Theater on the impact of the Internet. Photo: Mary Lewey

“People have always been interested in science, technology, and the humanities,” explained Boston Nerd Nite co-organizer Tim Sullivan. “They’ve also always been interested in bars and beer. Nerd Nite just puts those two things together.”

Boston’s Nerd Nite is held monthly at Middlesex Bar, located a stone’s throw away from MIT campus. The event usually attracts upwards of 200 people, many affiliated with MIT. “It’s a format that lends itself to the MIT community really well,” said Mary Lewey, Boston Nerd Nite co-organizer. “The intention is to learn from people rather than judge or criticize,” said Lewey.

Amelia Servi presents at Nerd Nite Boston. Photo: Mary Lewey

Amelia Servi presents at Nerd Nite Boston.
Photo: Mary Lewey

MIT alumni are frequent speakers both in Boston and Nites worldwide. “Presentations to people outside of my field, like my recent one at Nerd Nite, make me take a step back to look at my motivation for the work and all of the foundational work that went before mine,” said Amelia Servi ’10, SM ’13, who first attended a similar event in Phnom Penh. “I felt like people were interested and learned something, which is a very satisfying feeling as a speaker.”

In Boston, Maxim Lobovsky SM ’11, co-founder of Formlabs, walked Nerd Niters through his company’s process of inventing one of the first affordable 3D printers.

At a New York City Nerd Nite, Hesky Fisher ’02 talked about developing Plover, an open source stenography application.

And in Seattle, Liang Sim SM ’06 made the unlikely connection between salsa dancing and theories of engineering and management consulting. Any good salsa dancing presentation includes actual dancing, and Sim did not disappoint, dancing with wife, Eliza.

Does the popularity of this Boston-born event demonstrate an upsurge in nerd pride? Perhaps, but Sullivan argues that Boston has always been a hotbed for nerds. “If you are passionate about a topic and you take the time to learn more about it, you are a nerd,” explains Sullivan. “You are a geek.”

But there’s a difference between a geek and a nerd. You guessed it—that was a topic at a Nerd Nite event too.

Find the Nerd Nite in your area, present, or start your own. 

{ 0 comments }

Collier_1

The temporary memorial to MIT Police Officer Sean Collier HM. Photo by Joe McGonegal.

MIT will mark the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings and the death of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier HM in a ceremony of remembrance on Friday, April 18—one year to the day that Collier was killed in active duty by the alleged marathon bombing suspects.

The one-hour ceremony will take place at 9:30 a.m. at MIT’s North Court and is open to the Institute community. The ceremony will include remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren, Cambridge Mayor David Maher, MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz, members of the MIT Police Department, graduate student Sara E. Ferry, and Associate Professor J. Meejin Yoon, who is designing a permanent memorial to Collier and will share a rendering of the memorial following the ceremony.

The ceremony will also include a singing of the national anthem by Cambridge Police Lt. Pauline Wells, a performance from Professor John Harbison and the MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble, and a benediction from MIT chaplain Robert M. Randolph.

At 1 p.m. on April 18, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart will host an MIT community picnic on the North Court that will cheer on the MIT Strong marathon team, the group of faculty, staff, and alumni who are running the 2014 Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund.

According to the Boston Globe, the Collier Fund—which has already raised more than $500,000 from nearly 2,000 individuals—will be used for annual scholarships at MIT and the Massachusetts Police Academy, a memorial medal fund that honor’s Collier’s legacy, and the Yoon-designed permanent memorial at the corner of Vassar St. and Main St. on MIT campus.

Collier_2

Photo by Joe McGonegal

A year later, MIT keeps Sean Collier’s memory alive,” Boston Globe:

“He touched so many lives around campus; people knew him directly or indirectly,” said Kris Brewer, the webmaster for MIT’s School of Engineering, who met Collier when he joined MIT’s Outing Club, a group of outdoor enthusiasts. “He was a bit of a techno geek, too. . . . He fit into [MIT’s] technology culture. He was working on websites.”

The April 18 ceremony and picnic crowns a year-long remembrance Collier’s of legacy at MIT.

On June 8, 2013, Collier was posthumously inducted as a member of the MIT Alumni Association at MIT’s Technology Day.

On Oct. 18—exactly six months to the day of Collier’s death—MIT Police and the Department Facilities unveiled a temporary memorial, made from a piece of the Great Dome, bearing an MIT police badge and Collier’s badge number, 179, at the corner of Main St. and Vassar St.

And earlier this year, a group of MIT alumni, students, faculty, and staff formed MIT Strong, a 40-person contingent that has raised more than $142,000 in support of the Collier Fund. According to its website, MIT Strong was formed to honor the life, sacrifice, and legacy of Collier; celebrate the spirit and strength of the MIT community; and to offer a visible MIT presence at the 2014 marathon.

{ 0 comments }

You may have seen Pantheon, the newest creation out of MIT Media Lab’s Macro Connection group, in the news lately. With the ability to rank globally famous people—Aristotle currently sits at number one—the platform has garnered a lot of attention. These rankings, however, are just one part of Pantheon.

A concept developed by Macro Connection’s Principal Investigator, César A. Hidalgo, which builds off his previous work with the Observatory of Economic Complexity and DataViva, Pantheon aims to map and visualize historical cultural production. Think of cultural production as contributions to our global culture, like Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone or Stephen King’s multitude of novels.

“The major insight at the project’s start was that a lot of things can count as culture, say Starbucks or blue jeans. Those things we can’t really measure, but we can measure Harry Potter as proxied by JK Rowling,” explains graduate student Kevin Hu ’13, who works with the Macro Connections group.

Consequently, cultural productions are represented in Pantheon’s database by the biographies of globally notable characters who have broken the boundaries of space, time, and language.

Pantheon then ranks, sorts, and visualizes the data of the 11,340 biographies sourced from Wikipedia that meet this criteria. For the language criteria, a biography must appear in Wikipedia in more than 25 different languages to be included in Pantheon’s database. Pantheon’s space criteria relates to how far a notable figure’s influence has reached around the world. Lastly, time helps to weed out cultural one-hit wonders that may seem huge in a specific year, but lose their cultural relevance beyond that.

With this information, Pantheon can then provide visitors myriad visualizations. It can showcase the cultural output of a country based on profession—the US is tops for actors. Or rank the most famous gymnasts of all time—Věra Čáslavská of the Czech Republic claims the number one spot.

Beyond the compelling visualizations, Hu says that the ultimate goal of Pantheon is to give everyone the chance to discover and draw conclusions from data it provides: “Anyone with a web browser and internet connection can learn the stories contained in our data.”

{ 0 comments }

Christie Barany SM '00 makes her pitch on Shark Tank.

Christie Barany SM ’00 makes her pitch on Shark Tank. Screenshot via abc.com.

Imagine pitching your two-year-old startup to a panel of multi-millionaire entrepreneurs. Now imagine those potential investors dissecting your company’s potential—while nearly seven million people watch on television.

That scenario occurred for Christie Barany SM ’00 on April 5 when she promoted her company, Monkey Mat, on Shark Tank, a reality series that features business pitches from entrepreneurs to a panel of investors, or “sharks.”

“It was surreal,” says Barany. “The cameras start rolling and the sharks know nothing about you—then the questions start flying.”

Barany and business partner Courtney Tabor—the self-titled “Monkey Mat Mamas”—were seeking $100,000 in exchange for 30 percent stake in Monkey Mat, which sells 5’ x 5’ water-repellant mats that can be folded into a compact pouch. The company’s target audience is parents seeking a portable, clean surface that could be used at airports, picnics, and soccer games.

After their pitch, Barany and Tabor fielded questions—and criticism—from five sharks. One investor strongly disapproved of the mats’ then-price of $39.99 (“It needs to be $9.99!”) and another was unimpressed with their size and color. (“It’s too small…and the colors are off.”)

“Obviously you want every shark to be interested,” Barany says. “But the great thing is that it happens so fast, you don’t have any time to take it personally.”

The "Monkey Mat Mamas" inside the Shark Tank.

The “Monkey Mat Mamas” inside the Shark Tank.

Others were more receptive; shark Mark Cuban said he loved the product and shark Lori Greiner believed she could lower the sale price. Cuban and Greiner made an offer: $100,000 for a 35 percent stake in the company.

The Monkey Mat Mamas quickly accepted the handshake deal. (Watch the April 5 Shark Tank episode.)

“We were thrilled,” she says. “It was validation because we weren’t willing to compromise the quality to lower the price.”

Although the episode aired on April 5, filming took place in July 2013 following a months-long application process. Pitches are condensed into a 10-minute segment for TV, but in reality, many pitches can take more than an hour.

“We’ve tried to recreate the pitch so many times,” she says. “The dialogue went in so many different directions. They definitely focused on the price point during the show.”

In the nine-month period between the actual pitch and the show’s airing, Barany and Tabor have worked with closely with Cuban and Greiner to grow the product. Thanks in part to the sharks’ experience in manufacturing and retail, Monkey Mat was able to lower its price to $19.99.

“We’re amazed at how accessible they are,” she says. “They have so much on their plate but they are always available. They’re helping us expand the company with a lower cost and new price in a broader market.”

Barany co-founded Monkey Mat in 2012 after a career in the medical device and biotechnology industry. She says reaction from the Shark Tank appearance was instantaneous and overwhelming.

“Building this company is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “The response has been great, and because of DVR, it’s still coming. But the challenges that come with an MIT education—pushing boundaries and working through the night—has really prepared me.”

{ 0 comments }

Guest Blogger: Debbie Levey, CEE Technical Writer

Bridges have profoundly affected Nelly Rosario ’94 all her life. “Maybe because I’m a bilingual middle child who grew up near the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn and often crossed it on foot, bridges play such a literal and figurative role in my imagination,” she said.

Nelly Rosario '94

Nelly Rosario ’94

Her career similarly spans the two cultures of engineering and humanities. Although she received her degree in civil and environmental engineering, this academic year she has returned to MIT as a visiting scholar with the Comparative Media Studies and Writing Department.

“Writing was how I distilled what I learned and is a great way to bridge disciplines, people, ideas.” Rosario credits legendary MIT professor Elzbieta (Chodakowska) Ettinger with “pushing me over the edge to make a decision about my focus after MIT. One of the biggest lessons she imparted was to really understand writing as a science and in a serious way.”

After graduation, Rosario returned to New York City and attended writing classes while teaching environmental education at a high school auspiciously called El Puente [The Bridge]. She then enrolled in the graduate writing program at Columbia and realized “it was sort of the inverse of MIT: suddenly none of my engineering background counted in class. But in the second year, I understood that in design, simplicity is always best, and I really tried to bring an elegance to each sentence.” A few years later, she published a critically acclaimed book, Song of the Water Saints. For the last seven years, she has taught creative writing at Texas State University.

Currently Rosario is preparing for her next novel, which concentrates on medicine and anatomy, by visiting MIT libraries, interviewing people, and sitting in on lectures. She notices changes since her own student days including many more women students and faculty and a greater focus on digital thinking, multimedia, new ways of telling stories.

Rosario also serves part-time as writer and researcher for the ongoing Blacks at MIT History Project directed by Clarence Williams, MIT adjunct professor of urban studies, emeritus. “We’re looking at how blacks influenced the Institute and vice versa, collecting oral histories, photographs and data, and analyzing the material within a larger framework and context. We’re thinking about a way to look at history to unfold the future, what that means for the Institute, and how diversity and excellence can work in tandem.”

As a residential scholar in Simmons Hall, Rosario said, “It’s like a trifecta being here: a visiting scholar, working with the Blacks at MIT History Project, and living at Simmons. I get to talk to so many students, and everyone is doing intense work in different fields. I’m literally living in the sponge, soaking it all up.”

 

{ 0 comments }

Hugh Herr at TED

Hugh Herr SM ’93 greets Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who used a leg designed by Herr to perform for the first time since her injury in the Boston Marathon bombings, and her dance partner Christian Lightner. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Eich, Continuum

TED celebrated its 30th anniversary this month with a weeklong conference called the Next Chapter. What began as a small gathering featuring short (≤18 minutes) talks has grown into a worldwide media phenomenon, with more than 1,600 talks available online.

In honor of its anniversary, TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) welcomed back some of its “All-Star” speakers from previous years. Kicking things off was MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte ’66, MArch ’66, whose 1984 TED talk predicted tablet computing and online shopping. Negroponte offered a new prognostication this year—that one day, we will acquire knowledge by simply ingesting a pill.

Other TED All-Stars with MIT ties:

MIT was well represented throughout the week, both onstage and off:

Using the virtual reality technology Oculus Rift, attendees had the chance to experience Eyewire, a game developed at Sebastian Seung’s lab at MIT that is crowdsourcing a map of the brain.

Sengeh

Biomechatronics engineer David Sengeh SM ’12 speaks at a TED Fellows Talk. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

LittleBits creator Ayah Bdeir SM ’06 and biomechatronics engineer David Sengeh SM ’12 joined a TED Fellows Talk, billed as a session in which attendees should “expect the unexpected.”

Physics professor Allan Adams took on the fundamental nature of the universe, as well as an explanation of Big Bang discovery, illustrated by the comic strip xkcd.

Nancy Kanwisher ’80, PhD ’86, MIT’s Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, compared the brain to a Swiss Army knife.

Hugh Herr SM ’93, who heads the Biomechatronics research group at the MIT Media Lab, spoke of next-generation bionic limbs—and a first dance.

Ray Kurzweil ’70 explained his theory of the hierarchy of the brain.

Rodney Brooks, MIT professor emeritus and cofounder of iRobot, predicted that in the future, humans will work alongside robots, leading to a new manufacturing model.

XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis ’83, SM ’88, announced a new competition for future TED talks on artificial intelligence.

And cyber illusionist Marco Tempest, a director’s fellow at the MIT Media Lab, showed up with his robotic friend EDI (Electronic Deceptive Intelligence).

TED’s the Next Chapter conference offered a wide range of opinions on how society and technology will evolve in the next 30 years. We’ll find out in 2044 which predictions became reality.

Watch more talks and read news from the TED 30th anniversary event.

{ 0 comments }

Whether after tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia, hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, typhoons in the Philippines, or even during search efforts after last month’s lost Malaysian Airlines flight, waves have been the focus of many urgent conversations in the past decade. Anyone who has a home on or near a coastline is talking more these days about the simple calculus of storm surges, beach erosion, and sea level rise than ever before.

Into this discussion last fall came Waves, a new book by Fredric Raichlen SM ’55, ScD ’62, a civil engineering professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology. aas

Raichlen’s deceptively simple book, part of MIT Press’s Essential Knowledge Series, teaches its readers all the basics about waves, then takes direct aim at this century’s most pressing concerns about them. Listen to Raichlen’s discussion of the book in this month’s Alumni Books Podcast.

Raichlen, who studied waves at MIT’s hydrodynamics lab in the 1950s (now the Parsons Lab), says the book was his way to dial back the hysteria waves cause and ground readers in their fundamentals. In Waves, one learns that:

  • A tsunami, even far out to sea, is considered a shallow-water wave.
  • The sun has as much to do with tides as the moon does.
  • A storm in Alaska can cause wave damage to shorelines in Los Angeles, over 3,000 miles away.

“I wanted to lay down some of the basics of ocean waves in a simple fashion, and in the latter part of the book talk about areas I had become involved in both in research and in engineering consulting,” says Raichlen, who taught and conducted research at Caltech for nearly 50 years before retiring in 2001.

Readers will notice that the book sticks to its premise of essential knowledge and stops shorts of editorializing on climate change. “I really wanted to avoid that,” Raichlen says in the podcast. “Climate change and sea level rise are important to our coastal regions…[but] things are really not that definite in terms of quantitative estimates of sea level rise and there’s a wide range of ideas of the magnitude and rate of sea level rise. So I wanted to talk about things more definite.”

raichlen sound

Listen to the complete podcast here. Listen to past books podcasts on optics, health care, and architecture by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

{ 0 comments }