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What is it? »Portuguese student at MIT develops risk-assessment methodology to help prevent tunnel accidents
January 28, 2010

In 2000 and 2001, the northern Portuguese city of Porto experienced three tunnel accidents. One woman died in the 2001 incident, when a tunnel that was part of the city’s Metro system collapsed under her house. Helping to prevent these kinds of accidents motivated Rita Sousa’s doctoral research in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) for the past several years.


 

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What is it? »NextLab projects selected to exhibit at Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s Design Triennial
January 27, 2010

The Next Billion Network, selected for the Cooper-Hewitt’s Design Triennial exhibition, features NextLab projects created in partnership with the MIT Media Lab. NextLab founder and instructor Jhonatan Rotberg is currently a lecturer in MIT Engineering Systems Division and now presides over NextLab 2.0, the next generation of this program, in partnership with Dr. Edgar Blanco, executive director of the MIT Center for Latin American Logistics Innovation. Nextlab 2.0 is being hosted at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

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What is it? »Explained: Gallager codes
In 1993, scientists achieved the maximum rate for data transmission — only to find they’d been scooped 30 years earlier by an MIT grad student.
January 21, 2010

This is the second part of a two-part Explained about information theory. The first part, on the Shannon limit, appeared on Tuesday.

In the 1948 paper that created the field of information theory, MIT grad (and future professor) Claude Shannon threw down the gauntlet to future generations of researchers. In those predigital days, communications channels — such as phone lines or radio bands — were particularly susceptible to the electrical or electromagnetic disruptions known as “noise.” Shannon proved the counterintuitive result that no matter how noisy a channel, information could be sent over it error free. All you needed was a way to add enough redundancy to the information so that errors could be corrected. He also demonstrated that there was a hard limit on how efficient those error-correcting codes could be — a minimum amount of extra information that would guarantee near-zero error. Since longer codes take longer to send, a minimum code length implied a maximum transmission rate — the Shannon limit. Finally, Shannon proved that codes approaching that limit must exist. But he didn’t show how to find them.


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What is it? »Explained: The Shannon limit
A 1948 paper by Claude Shannon SM ’37, PhD ’40 created the field of information theory — and set its research agenda for the next 50 years.
January 19, 2010

It’s the early 1980s, and you’re an equipment manufacturer for the fledgling personal-computer market. For years, modems that send data over the telephone lines have been stuck at a maximum rate of 9.6 kilobits per second: if you try to increase the rate, an intolerable number of errors creeps into the data.
Then a group of engineers demonstrates that newly devised error-correcting codes can boost a modem’s transmission rate by 25 percent. You scent a business opportunity. Are there codes that can drive the data rate even higher? If so, how much higher? And what are those codes?


 

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What is it? »John Holdren keynote at AeroAstro Giant Leaps
The next 'Giant Leaps' in energy, environment and air transportation.
January 12, 2010

It's no exaggeration to say John Holdren's job involves tackling the most critical issues of our age: economic recovery and growth, health care, energy, climate change, global pandemics, national security, ecosystem preservation ... the list goes on. 


 

 

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What is it? »(Silencing the brain with light) MIT neuroengineers find a new way to quickly and reversibly shut off neurons with multiple colors of light, which could lead to new treatments for epilepsy and chronic pain.
January 7, 2010

Giving epilepsy patients an electric jolt to shut off out-of-control neuron firing during seizures is being explored as a way to treat the chronic brain disorder. New research from MIT now raises the possibility of silencing those seizures with light instead of electricity. 

A team led by neuroengineer Edward Boyden has found a class of proteins that, when inserted into neurons, allow them to be turned off with rays of yellow-green light. The silencing is near instantaneous and easily reversible.


 

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What is it? »(New and improved RNA interference) Researchers use RNA interference to silence multiple genes at once. The advance, which one expert calls a ‘substantial breakthrough,’ could lead to new treatments for liver diseases.
January 4, 2010

Ever since RNA interference was discovered, in 1998, scientists have been pursuing the tantalizing ability to shut off any gene in the body — in particular, malfunctioning genes that cause diseases such as cancer.

This week, researchers at MIT and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals report that they have successfully used RNA interference to turn off multiple genes in the livers of mice, an advance that could lead to new treatments for diseases of the liver and other organs.

 

 

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