People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the start of an extremely fascinating time in the annals of my cherished Houston. Tropical storm Allison, that early summer daytime came to see. The thunderstorm went rapidly, although there was Tuesday. Friday, afterward arrived, and Allison returned. This time going slowly, this time in the north. The thunderstorm became still. Thousands of people driven from their houses. Only when they might be desired most, several leading hospitals shut. Dozens of important surface roads, and every important highway covered in water that was high.

Yet even prior to the rain stopped, service to others, and narratives of Christian compassion started to be composed. For a couples class, about 75 people had assembled at Lakewood Church among the greatest nondenominational churches in The United States. From time they got ready to depart the waters had climbed so high they were stranded. The facility of Lakewood stayed dry and high at the center of among the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees in the powerful thunderstorm started arriving at their doorstep. Without no advance preparation, and demand of official sanction, those 75 classmates started a calamity shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 customers. The greatest of over 30 refuges that could be established in the height of the thunderstorm.

Where help was doled out to those who’d suffered losses after Lakewood functioned as a Red Cross Service Center. When it became clear that FEMA aid, and Red Cross wouldn’t bring aid enough, Lakewood and Second Baptist joined -Houston to produce an adopt a family plan to greatly help get folks on their feet quicker. In the occasions that followed militaries of Christians arrived in both churches. From all over town, people of economical standing, race, and each and every denomination collected. Wet rotted carpeting were pulled up, sheet stone removed. Piles of clothes donated food and bed clothes were doled out. Elbow grease and cleaning equipment were used to start eliminating traces of the damage.

It would have been an excellent example of practical ministry in a period of disaster, in the event the story stopped here, but it continues. A great many other churches functioned as shelters as well as in the occasions that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Tons of new volunteers, a lot of them Christians put to work, and were put through accelerated training. That Saturday, I used to be trapped in my own, personal subdivision. Particular that my family was safe because I worked in Storm Shelters OKC that was near where I used to live. What they wouldn’t permit the storm to do, is take their demand to give their religion, or their self respect. I saw so a lot of people as they brought gifts of food, clothes and bedclothes, praising the Lord. I saw young kids coming making use of their parents to not give new, rarely used toys to kids who had none.

Unity Church of Christianity from a location across town impacted by the storm sent a sizable way to obtain bedding as well as other supplies. A tiny troupe of musicians and Christian clowns requested to be permitted to amuse the kids in the shelter where I served and arrived. We of course promptly taken their offer. The kids were collected by them in a sizable empty space of flooring. They sang, they told stories, balloon animals were made by them. The kids, frightened, at least briefly displaced laughed.

When not occupied elsewhere I did lots of listening. I listened to survivors that were disappointed, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to kids make an effort to take advantage of a scenario they could not comprehend. All these are only the stories I have heard or seen. I am aware that spiritual groups, Churches, and lots of other individual Christians functioned admirably. I do need to thank them for the attempts in disaster. I thank The Lord for supplying them to serve.

I didn’t write its individuals, or this which means you’d feel sorry for Houston. As this disaster unfolded yet what I saw encouraged my beliefs the Lord will provide through our brothers and sisters in religion for us. Regardless how awful your community hits, you the individual Christian can be a part of the remedy. Those blankets you can probably never use, and have stored away mean much to people who have none. You are able to help in the event that you can drive. You are able to help if you’re able to create a cot. It is possible to help in the event that you can scrub a wall. It is possible to help if all you are able to do is sit and listen. Large catastrophes like Allison get lots of focus. However a disaster can come in virtually any size. That is a serious disaster to your family that called it home in case a single household burns. It is going to be generations prior to the folks here forget Allison.

United States Oil and Gas Exploration Opportunities

Firms investing in this sector can research, develop and create, as well as appreciate the edges of a global gas and oil portfolio with no political and economical disadvantages. Allowing regime and the US financial conditions is rated amongst the world and the petroleum made in US is sold at costs that were international. The firms will likely gain as US also has a national market that is booming. Where 500 exploration wells are drilled most of the petroleum exploration in US continues to be concentrated around the Taranaki Basin. On the other hand, the US sedimentary basins still remain unexplored and many show existence of petroleum seeps and arrangements were also unveiled by the investigation data with high hydrocarbon potential. There have already been onshore gas discoveries before including Great south river basins, East Coast Basin and offshore Canterbury.

As interest in petroleum is expected to grow strongly during this interval but this doesn’t automatically dim the bright future expectations in this sector. The interest in petroleum is anticipated to reach 338 PJ per annum. The US government is eager to augment the gas and oil supply. As new discoveries in this sector are required to carry through the national demand at the same time as raise the amount of self reliance and minimize the cost on imports of petroleum the Gas and Oil exploration sector is thought to be among the dawn sectors. The US government has invented a distinctive approach to reach its petroleum and gas exploration targets. It’s developed a “Benefit For Attempt” model for Petroleum and Gas exploration tasks in US.

The “Benefit For Attempt” in today’s analytic thinking is defined as oil reserves found per kilometer drilled. It will help in deriving the estimate of reservations drilled for dollar and each kilometer spent for each investigation. The authorities of US has revealed considerable signs that it’ll bring positive effects of change which will favor investigation of new oil reserves since the price of investigation has adverse effects on investigation task. The Authorities of US has made the information accessible about the oil potential in its study report. Foil of advice in royalty and allocation regimes, and simplicity of processes have enhanced the attractiveness of Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector in the United States.

Petroleum was the third biggest export earner in 2008 for US and the chance to to keep up the growth of the sector is broadly accessible by manners of investigation endeavors that are new. The government is poised to keep the impetus in this sector. Now many firms are active with new exploration jobs in the Challenger Plateau of the United States, Northland East Slope Basin region, outer Taranaki Basin, and Bellona Trough region. The 89 Energy oil and gas sector guarantees foreign investors as government to high increase has declared a five year continuance of an exemption for offshore petroleum and gas exploration in its 2009 budget. The authorities provide nonresident rig operators with tax breaks.

Modern Robot Duct Cleaning Uses

AC systems, and heat, venting collect pollutants and contaminants like mold, debris, dust and bacteria that can have an adverse impact on indoor air quality. Most folks are at present aware that indoor air pollution could be a health concern and increased visibility has been thus gained by the area. Studies have also suggested cleaning their efficacy enhances and is contributory to a longer operating life, along with maintenance and energy cost savings. The cleaning of the parts of forced air systems of heat, venting and cooling system is what’s called duct cleaning. Robots are an advantageous tool raising the price and efficacy facets of the procedure. Therefore, using modern robot duct isn’t any longer a new practice.

A cleaner, healthier indoor environment is created by a clean air duct system which lowers energy prices and increases efficiency. As we spend more hours inside air duct cleaning has become an important variable in the cleaning sector. Indoor pollutant levels can increase. Health effects can show years or up immediately after repeated or long exposure. These effects range from some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer that can be deadly or debilitating. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure indoor air quality isn’t endangered inside buildings. Dangerous pollutants that can found in inside can transcend outdoor air pollutants in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duct cleaning from Air Duct Cleaning Edmond professionals removes microbial contaminants, that might not be visible to the naked eye together with both observable contaminants. Indoor air quality cans impact and present a health hazard. Air ducts can be host to a number of health hazard microbial agents. Legionnaires Disease is one malaise that’s got public notice as our modern surroundings supports the development of the bacteria that has the potential to cause outbreaks and causes the affliction. Typical disorder-causing surroundings contain wetness producing gear such as those in air conditioned buildings with cooling towers that are badly maintained. In summary, in building and designing systems to control our surroundings, we’ve created conditions that were perfect . Those systems must be correctly tracked and preserved. That’s the secret to controlling this disorder.

Robots allow for the occupation while saving workers from exposure to be done faster. Signs of the technological progress in the duct cleaning business is apparent in the variety of gear now available for example, array of robotic gear, to be used in air duct cleaning. Robots are priceless in hard to reach places. Robots used to see states inside the duct, now may be used for spraying, cleaning and sampling procedures. The remote controlled robotic gear can be fitted with practical and fastener characteristics to reach many different use functions.

Video recorders and a closed circuit television camera system can be attached to the robotic gear to view states and operations and for documentation purposes. Inside ducts are inspected by review apparatus in the robot. Robots traveling to particular sections of the system and can move around barriers. Some join functions that empower cleaning operation and instruction manual and fit into little ducts. An useful view range can be delivered by them with models delivering disinfection, cleaning, review, coating and sealing abilities economically.

The remote controlled robotic gear comes in various sizes and shapes for different uses. Of robotic video cameras the first use was in the 80s to record states inside the duct. Robotic cleaning systems have a lot more uses. These devices provide improved accessibility for better cleaning and reduce labor costs. Lately, functions have been expanded by areas for the use of small mobile robots in the service industries, including uses for review and duct cleaning.

More improvements are being considered to make a tool that was productive even more effective. If you determine to have your ventilation, heat and cooling system cleaned, it’s important to make sure all parts of the system clean and is qualified to achieve this. Failure to clean one part of a contaminated system can lead to re-contamination of the entire system.

When To Call A DWI Attorney

Charges or fees against a DWI offender need a legal Sugar Land criminal defense attorney that is qualified dismiss or so that you can reduce charges or the fees. So, undoubtedly a DWI attorney is needed by everyone. Even if it’s a first-time violation the penalties can be severe being represented by a DWI attorney that is qualified is vitally significant. If you’re facing following charges for DWI subsequently the punishments can contain felony charges and be severe. Locating an excellent attorney is thus a job you should approach when possible.

So you must bear in mind that you just should hire a DWI attorney who practices within the state where the violation occurred every state within America will make its laws and legislation regarding DWI violations. It is because they are going to have the knowledge and expertise of state law that is relevant to sufficiently defend you and will be knowledgeable about the processes and evaluations performed to establish your guilt.

As your attorney they are going to look to the evaluations that have been completed at the time of your arrest and the authorities evidence that is accompanying to assess whether or not these evaluations were accurately performed, carried out by competent staff and if the right processes where followed. It isn’t often that a police testimony is asserted against, although authorities testimony also can be challenged in court.

You should attempt to locate someone who specializes in these kind of cases when you start trying to find a DWI attorney. Whilst many attorneys may be willing to consider on your case, a lawyer who specializes in these cases is required by the skilled knowledge needed to interpret the scientific and medical evaluations ran when you had been detained. The first consultation is free and provides you with the chance to to inquire further about their experience in fees and these cases.

Many attorneys will work according into a fee that is hourly or on a set fee basis determined by the kind of case. You may find how they have been paid to satisfy your financial situation and you will have the capacity to negotiate the conditions of their fee. If you are unable to afford to hire an attorney that is private you then can request a court-appointed attorney paid for by the state. Before you hire a DWI attorney you should make sure when you might be expected to appear in court and you understand the precise charges imposed against you.

How Credit Card Works

The credit card is making your life more easy, supplying an amazing set of options. The credit card is a retail trade settlement; a credit system worked through the little plastic card which bears its name. Regulated by ISO 7810 defines credit cards the actual card itself consistently chooses the same structure, size and contour. A strip of a special stuff on the card (the substance resembles the floppy disk or a magnetic group) is saving all the necessary data. This magnetic strip enables the credit card’s validation. The layout has become an important variable; an enticing credit card layout is essential in ensuring advice and its dependability keeping properties.

A credit card is supplied to the user just after a bank approves an account, estimating a varied variety of variables to ascertain fiscal dependability. This bank is the credit supplier. When a purchase is being made by an individual, he must sign a receipt to verify the trade. There are the card details, and the amount of cash to be paid. You can find many shops that take electronic authority for the credit cards and use cloud tokenization for authorization. Nearly all verification are made using a digital verification system; it enables assessing the card is not invalid. If the customer has enough cash to insure the purchase he could be attempting to make staying on his credit limit any retailer may also check.

As the credit supplier, it is as much as the banks to keep the user informed of his statement. They typically send monthly statements detailing each trade procedures through the outstanding fees, the card and the sums owed. This enables the cardholder to ensure all the payments are right, and to discover mistakes or fraudulent action to dispute. Interest is typically charging and establishes a minimal repayment amount by the end of the following billing cycle.

The precise way the interest is charged is normally set within an initial understanding. On the rear of the credit card statement these elements are specified by the supplier. Generally, the credit card is an easy type of revolving credit from one month to another. It can also be a classy financial instrument, having many balance sections to afford a greater extent for credit management. Interest rates may also be not the same as one card to another. The credit card promotion services are using some appealing incentives find some new ones along the way and to keep their customers.

Why Get Help From A Property Management?

One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the revenue of your rental home would be to engage and contact property management in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If you wish to know more and are considering the product please browse the remainder of the post. Leasing out your bit of real property may be real cash-cow as many landlords understand, but that cash flow usually includes a tremendous concern. Night phones from tenants that have the trouble of marketing the house if you own an emptiness just take out lots of the pleasure of earning money off of leases, overdue lease payments which you must chase down, as well as over-flowing lavatories. One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the earnings would be to engage a property management organization.

These businesses perform as the go between for the tenant as well as you. The tenant will not actually need to understand who you’re when you hire a property management company. The company manages the day to day while you still possess the ability to help make the final judgements in regards to the home relationships using the tenant. The company may manage the marketing for you personally, for those who are in possession of a unit that is vacant. Since the company is going to have more connections in a bigger market than you’ve got along with the industry than you are doing, you’ll discover your device gets stuffed a whole lot more quickly making use of their aid. In addition, the property management company may care for testing prospective tenants. With regards to the arrangement you’ve got, you might nevertheless not be unable to get the last say regarding if a tenant is qualified for the the system, but of locating a suitable tenant, the day-to-day difficulty is not any longer your problem. They’ll also manage the before-move-in the reviews as well as reviews required following a tenant moves away.

It is possible to step back watching the profits, after the the system is stuffed. Communicating will be handled by the company with all the tenant if you have an issue. You won’t be telephoned if this pipe explosions at the center of the night time. Your consultant is called by the tenant in the company, who then makes the preparations that are required to get the issue repaired with a care supplier. You get a phone call a day later or may not know there was an issue before you register using the business. The property management organization may also make your leasing obligations to to get. The company will do what’s required to accumulate if your tenant is making a payment. In certain arrangements, the organization is going to also take-over paying taxation, insurance, and the mortgage on the portion of property. You actually need to do-nothing but appreciate after after all the the invoices are paid, the revenue which is sent your way.

With all the advantages, you’re probably questioning exactly what to employing a property management organization, the downside should be. From hiring one the primary variable that stops some landlords is the price. All these providers will be paid for by you. The price must be weighed by you from the time frame you’ll save time that you may subsequently use to follow additional revenue-producing efforts or just take pleasure in the fruits of your expense work.

Benifits From An Orthodontic Care

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry centered on the identification and treatment of dental and related facial problems. The outcomes of Norman Orthodontist OKC treatment could be dramatic — an advanced quality of life for a lot of individuals of ages and lovely grins, improved oral health health, aesthetics and increased cosmetic tranquility. Whether into a look dentistry attention is needed or not is an individual’s own choice. Situations are tolerated by most folks like totally various kinds of bite issues or over bites and don’t get treated. Nevertheless, a number people sense guaranteed with teeth that are correctly aligned, appealing and simpler. Dentistry attention may enhance construct and appearance power. It jointly might work with you consult with clearness or to gnaw on greater.

Orthodontic attention isn’t only decorative in character. It might also gain long term oral health health. Right, correctly aligned teeth is not more difficult to floss and clean. This may ease and decrease the risk of rot. It may also quit periodontists irritation that problems gums. Periodontists might finish in disease, that occurs once micro-organism bunch round your house where the teeth and the gums meet. Periodontists can be ended in by untreated periodontists. Such an unhealthiness result in enamel reduction and may ruin bone that surrounds the teeth. Less may be chewed by people who have stings that are harmful with efficacy. A few of us using a serious bite down side might have difficulties obtaining enough nutrients. Once the teeth aren’t aimed correctly, this somewhat might happen. Morsel issues that are repairing may allow it to be more easy to chew and digest meals.

One may also have language problems, when the top and lower front teeth do not arrange right. All these are fixed through therapy, occasionally combined with medical help. Eventually, remedy may ease to avoid early use of rear areas. Your teeth grow to an unlikely quantity of pressure, as you chew down. In case your top teeth do not match it’ll trigger your teeth that are back to degrade. The most frequently encountered type of therapy is the braces (or retainer) and head-gear. But, a lot people complain about suffering with this technique that, unfortunately, is also unavoidable. Sport braces damages, as well as additional individuals have problem in talking. Dental practitioners, though, state several days can be normally disappeared throughout by the hurting. Occasionally annoyance is caused by them. In the event that you’d like to to quit more unpleasant senses, fresh, soft and tedious food must be avoided by you. In addition, tend not to take your braces away unless the medical professional claims so.

It is advised which you just observe your medical professional often for medical examinations to prevent choice possible problems that may appear while getting therapy. You are going to be approved using a specific dental hygiene, if necessary. Dental specialist may look-out of managing and id malocclusion now. Orthodontia – the main specialization of medication – mainly targets repairing chin problems and teeth, your grin as well as thus your sting. Dentist, however, won’t only do chin remedies and crisis teeth. They also handle tender to severe dental circumstances which may grow to states that are risky. You actually have not got to quantify throughout a predicament your life all. See dental specialist San – Direction Posts, and you’ll notice only but of stunning your smile plenty will soon be.

Digital Diploma debuts at MIT

In 1868, the fledgling Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Boylston Street awarded its first diplomas to 14 graduates. Since then, it has issued paper credentials to more than 207,000 undergraduate and graduate students in much the same way.

But this summer, as part of a pilot program, a cohort of 111 graduates became the first to have the option to receive their diplomas on their smartphones via an app, in addition to the traditional format. The pilot resulted from a partnership between the MIT Registrar’s Office and Learning Machine, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software development company.

The app is called Blockcerts Wallet, and it enables students to quickly and easily get a verifiable, tamper-proof version of their diploma that they can share with employers, schools, family, and friends. To ensure the security of the diploma, the pilot utilizes the same blockchain technology that powers the digital currency Bitcoin. It also integrates with MIT’s identity provider, Touchstone. And while digital credentials aren’t new — some schools and businesses are already touting their use of them — the MIT pilot is groundbreaking because it gives students autonomy over their own records.

“From the beginning, one of our primary motivations has been to empower students to be the curators of their own credentials,” says Registrar and Senior Associate Dean Mary Callahan. “This pilot makes it possible for them to have ownership of their records and be able to share them in a secure way, with whomever they choose.”

The Institute is among the first universities to make the leap, says Chris Jagers, co-founder and CEO of Learning Machine.

“MIT has issued official records in a format that can exist even if the institution goes away, even if we go away as a vendor,” Jagers says. “People can own and use their official records, which is a fundamental shift.”

Ideas collide

When Callahan first read about the blockchain a few years ago, she was immediately intrigued. It seemed to provide permanence, convenience, and a level of security worthy of the student record, and she wondered: Could the Registrar’s Office use the technology to issue digital records, like a diploma? She decided to look into the possibility.

As it turned out, MIT’s experimentation with blockchain technology was already well underway. In 2015, Philipp Schmidt, the director of learning innovation at the MIT Media Lab, had begun issuing internal, non-academic digital certificates to his team. Schmidt had realized that, despite the rise of decentralized, informal online learning opportunities, there was no digital way to track and manage these accomplishments. He says he became interested in finding a “more modular credentialing environment, where you would get some kind of recognition for lots of things you did throughout your life.”

Soon, Learning Machine and Schmidt’s team at the Media Lab discovered they had a mutual interest in developing secure official records and began to collaborate. Throughout 2016, using Schmidt’s team’s prototypes, they developed an open-source toolkit called Blockcerts, which any developer or school can use to issue and verify blockchain-based educational credentials.

When Callahan and Jagers connected last fall, it became clear that a partnership on a small pilot would be an ideal way to put Blockcerts to the test. “Mary was very up-to-date and had been introduced to concepts of cryptography, so she and her office were really excited to try out this technology,” says Jagers.

Callahan says that, for the Registrar’s Office, “it was the perfect confluence: technology developed at MIT and a vendor who was aware of MIT’s culture as a community that values learning, at a time when a comprehensive record of lifelong learning was an evolving need.”

Harnessing the power of the blockchain

That technology draws on the Bitcoin blockchain, an open, global ledger that records transactions on a distributed database. Each transaction — known as a block — is encrypted, timestamped, and then added to the previous block on the chain, creating a timeline. A transaction cannot be modified once it is recorded, because any change in one block would require the alteration of all subsequent blocks, and because the information is distributed across a decentralized, worldwide network of computers.

The software Learning Machine developed uses the Bitcoin blockchain, but it’s not the only blockchain around. Jagers says that recently there has been a proliferation of new types of blockchains, but that Bitcoin remains the gold standard for Learning Machine’s purposes because it prioritizes security over other qualities like speed, cost, or ease of use. “We believe it’s still the right choice for official records that need to last a lifetime and work anywhere in the world,” he says.

Learning Machine also recognized early on that there was a missing link in the system, despite the potential of blockchain technology to make official, recipient-owned credentials a reality. In order for the information to be encrypted, the user also needs to obtain a public and private key — a set of unique numerical identifiers that represent them.

“It’s a huge roadblock to tell students to go generate public-private key pairs for the Bitcoin blockchain,” Jagers says. “Nobody has any idea what you’re talking about.”

Blockcerts Wallet solves that problem. After the student downloads the app, it generates the public-private key pair and sends the public key to MIT, where it is written into the digital record. Next, a one-way hash (a string of numbers that can be used for verification later) is added to the blockchain. The diploma information itself doesn’t go onto the blockchain, just the timestamped transaction indicating that MIT created the digital record. Finally, MIT emails the digital diploma (a JavaScript Object Notation file, or JSON) with the student’s public key inscribed into it. Because the mobile app on the student’s phone has their unique private key, the student can prove ownership of the diploma.

The pilot begins

This year, the Registrar’s Office contacted 85 master of finance and 26 master of science in media arts and sciences June graduates to let them know their secure digital diplomas were available via the Blockcerts Wallet app.

For students, the benefits go beyond mere novelty. They can share their diplomas almost immediately with whomever they please, free of charge, without involving an intermediary. This is particularly important for students who need to prove to an employer or another university that they have an MIT diploma. And thanks to the blockchain, the third party can easily verify that the diploma is legitimate without having to contact the Registrar’s Office. Using a portal, employers or schools can paste a link or upload a student’s digital diploma file and receive a verification immediately. The portal essentially uses the blockchain as a notary, locating the transaction ID (which identifies when the digital record was added to the blockchain), verifying the keys, and confirming that nothing has been altered since the record was added.

Callahan is pleased with the outcome of the pilot so far.

“Our goals were to build our own knowledge and confidence, while utilizing student feedback,” she says. “We believe this adds great value to higher education.” In fact, Callahan has already received inquiries about the pilot from a number of universities around the world and from colleagues in the European Commission.

The promise of transformative technology

Both Callahan and Jagers agree that the blockchain technology has enormous potential.

“We’ve just begun to scratch the surface of where this will lead. It’s really an exciting time,” Callahan says.

One possible application is creating stackable certificates on the blockchain, which would enable an individual to link credentials from different institutions — for example, an undergraduate degree from one university, a graduate degree from another, and a professional certification. Jagers says he believes it will soon be possible to embed links or IDs of other pre-existing digital records into a new meta-record.

“It’s not just about solving a problem,” he adds. “It really is transformative. And it could be as big as the web, because it affects every sector. It’s not just academic records. It’s being able to passively know that digital things are true. That creates a whole new reality across every sector.”

The Registrar’s Office has expanded the digital diploma pilot to include a cohort of students who graduated in September. Over the long term, Callahan hopes to explore the possibility of offering digital records for other learning credentials MIT students may obtain from programs such as MIT Professional Education, the Kaufman Teaching Certificate Program, and the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program.

Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz calls the new ability for MIT to issue robust and portable credentials “exciting, and necessary, to keep up with the demands of our on-campus students and learners around the world.”

“It’s also gratifying to see how innovation happens everywhere here, especially in places where you might not expect it like our Registrar’s Office,” Waitz says. “I applaud their creative experimentation and see their approach as a model and source of inspiration for others to push academic boundaries.”

Innovating for shared prosperity

The MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy has awarded over $1 million in prize money in its second annual MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) in recognition and celebration of for-profit and nonprofit organizations using technology to improve economic opportunity for base- and middle-level income earners.

Held yesterday evening in Boston during HUBweek, IIC’s gala celebration featured such luminaries as Eric Schmidt, executive chariman of Alphabet Inc., and Mignon Clyburn, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner, among others.

Approximately 1,000 organizations from around the world competed in the challenge. Nearly 160 expert core judges reviewed the applications. The 16 top-scoring competitors — all of which are inventing a more inclusive, productive, and sustainable future for the global workforce — advanced to a Champion Committee, which selected four grand-prize winners.

In all, the IIC awarded $150,000 to each of the four grand-prize winners, and $35,000 each to 12 runners-up competing in four categories: Financial Inclusion; Income Growth and Job Creation; Skills and Matching; and Technology Access.

The grand prize winners are:

LaunchCode (Skills and Matching category): LaunchCode expands the tech workforce across the U.S. by providing free coding education to jobseekers lacking traditional credentials, using a low-cost, scalable model that quickly replicates in-person coding classes, followed by matching participants to paid apprenticeships with hundreds of companies via a digital platform that helps them transition into full-time employment.

AdmitHub (Technology Access category): Of the approximately 2.5 million U.S. students who enroll at colleges each year, 48 percent fail to earn a degree within six years. Students who drop out come disproportionately from underserved communities. The societal impact is staggering, costing the U.S. an estimated $4.5 billion in lost earnings and taxes annually. AdmitHub has designed an innovative solution — an artificial intelligence virtual assistant. With it, students receive 24/7 personalized support, and more data is available for universities to provide greater individual support.

EFL (Financial Inclusion category): Three billion people worldwide lack the credit history lenders require to make a loan. This creates a missed opportunity for lenders along with widespread financial exclusion. EFL brings 10 years of experience applying psychometrics and behavioral science to loan repayment, providing insight into how personality drives credit risk across cultures and segments, allowing users to effectively score potential borrowers anywhere at any time. With more than $1.5 billion lent across 15 countries, EFL is empowering lenders to grow with less risk.

Logistimo (Income and Jobs category): Constrained by availability, reliability, and affordability of transport, villages in rural frontier communities lack access to essential goods, rendering them underserved and disconnected from mainstream value chains. Logistimo’s digital auction-based platform — using demand aggregation, load/route/schedule optimization, and fulfilment tracking — better connects demand to local capacity. Logistimo’s vehicle-agnostic approach supports milk runs and line-hauls, seamlessly integrating trucks, bikes, boats, and UAVs alike. During 18 months, the platform has performed 14,000 deliveries for 1,000 customers, and more than 80 jobs have been created alongside a 300 percent income increase for many transporters.

The 12 runners-up are:

African Renewable Energy Distributor Ltd (Technology Access) has developed a one-stop shop mobile solar kiosk to promote African entrepreneurship.

AID:Tech (Financial Inclusion) uses Blockchain technology to revolutionize how governments, corporates, and non-governmental organizations deliver digital entitlements across the world.

Digital Citizen Fund (Technology Access) helps girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology, virtually connect with others across the world, and obtain necessary skills for success.

dot Learn (Technology Access) creates technology for data-light video learning in emerging markets.

Hogaru (Income Growth and Job Creation) empowers women in Latin America’s cleaning industry by leveraging technology to select, train, and manage teams while connecting them to over 7,000 customers.

iHub (Skills and Matching) provides upcoming developers in Kenya with an opportunity to work in teams alongside more experienced engineers on real-world projects.

Leap Skills Academy (Skills and Matching) mentors, trains and provides employment opportunities to students from low-income households in India through technology and classroom training.

New Day (Skills and Matching) is a smartphone-centric, low- to mid-income employment platform for developing markets worldwide, enabling scalable and rewarding job matching, skills building, and employer transparency.

Nomanini (Financial Inclusion) is a South African-based enterprise enabling merchants to facilitate a wide range of basic transactions including mobile top-ups, utility payments, remittances, deposits, withdrawals, account opening, and mobile money/card acceptance.

SkillSmart (Income Growth and Job Creation) levels the playing field and transforms the talent development process by driving from employer demand and connecting employers and job seekers at the skill level.

Tala (Financial Inclusion) is a mobile technology and data science company that is building financial identities for underserved people in emerging markets through alternative data and instant credit.

Tuteria (Income Growth and Job Creation) uses an online platform where learners can easily find, evaluate, book, pay for, and track lessons with a verified local teacher in any subject, skill, or exam.

“The grand challenge of our era is to use digital technologies to create not only prosperity, but shared prosperity,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and the Schussel Family Professor of Management Science at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “We created the Inclusive Innovation Challenge to recognize and reward the many amazing people and organizations that are working to accomplish this mission.”

“With the IIC, we’re celebrating the entrepreneurs and innovators who are demonstrating so many different ways to put powerful technology to use to improve people’s economic prospects,” adds Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and principal research scientist at MIT Sloan. “Our award winners and other entrants show us that broadly shared prosperity is possible, which makes a great antidote to pessimism and negativity.”

The IIC was funded with support from Google.org; The Joyce Foundation; and Joseph Eastin and ISN.

For more information on IIC winners and its mission, please visit MITinclusiveinnovation.com.

Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab holds inaugural J-WEL Week

Today, the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL) kicks off its first J-WEL Week, a semiannual meeting of members to explore new developments in brain science, pedagogy, and digital learning practices. The theme of the meeting is “The Power of Problem Solving.” During the four-day meeting, participants will use presentations on MIT educational research and teaching approaches as a jumping off point for articulating goals and action plans for their own organizations.

Sanjay Sarma, MIT vice president for open learning, describes the J-WEL approach: “Through J-WEL, we will forge new and long-lasting collaborations as we learn, share, and train together, using the assets developed at MIT as well as by leveraging the community convened by J-WEL.”

J-WEL Week is structured in three parallel, interwoven programs, one for each of the lab’s three collaboratives — pK-12, Higher Ed, and Workplace Learning. The program has been designed by J-WEL faculty directors professors Angela Becher, Eric Klopfer, Hazel Sive, and George Westerman, with the strategic leadership of J-WEL Executive Director Vijay M.S. Kumar, who each bring to the program decades of experience and passion across pre-K-12, higher education, and workplace learning.

Attendees at the first J-WEL Week come from 27 countries, including Australia, China, Colombia, Jordan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. The participants include university senior administrators, industry leaders, educators, government officials, and heads of leading foundations.  

The event is being held at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and features some of the top educational innovators from the MIT community. The week will begin with a welcome from Vice President of Open Learning Sanjay Sarma and J-WEL Executive Director Vijay Kumar, followed by presentations highlighting unique aspects of the MIT educational approach. The next two days will include deeper dives for each membership collaborative: pK-12, Higher Education, and Workplace Learning, with attendees participating in modular breakout sessions that address their specific interest areas. Speakers throughout the week include MIT professors Martin Culpepper, Robert Langer, Mitchel Resnick, Laura Schulz, Emma Teng, and Karen Willcox.

J-WEL will work with educators, universities, governments, and companies to revolutionize the effectiveness and reach of education, and aims to prepare people everywhere for a labor market radically altered by technological progress, globalization, and the pursuit of higher living standards around the world. A guiding focus of J-WEL is populations underserved by education both globally and domestically, such as women and girls, a growing displaced population that includes refugees, and those underrepresented in STEM fields.

J-WEL was launched in May by Community Jameel, the social enterprise organization, and MIT. The chairman of Community Jameel is MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78, a life member of the MIT Corporation and 2016 recipient of the MIT Alumni Association’s highest honor for his history of service and philanthropy. J-WEL is named in honor of his father, the late Abdul Latif Jameel, founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel business, whose work to help the lives of tens of thousands of people is continued today by Community Jameel.

“Education and learning are fundamental to a strong society and economy,” says Fady Mohammed Jameel, president of Community Jameel International, “they promote employment and create increased opportunity for all.”

Maria Zuber: Golden Goose Awards illustrate virtues of basic research

The sixth annual Golden Goose Awards, announced Sept. 27, recognize three teams of scientists for pioneering work that was initially poorly understood or even ridiculed, but in time proved to be significant. The awards were bestowed at an evening ceremony that drew a throng of science fans and research advocates to the Library of Congress in Washington. Earlier in the day, MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber gave the keynote speech at an afternoon reception for the award winners in the U.S. Senate’s Kennedy Caucus Room.

In her luncheon address, Zuber, who chairs the National Science Board, called the Golden Goose Awards “a chance every year to open our minds, shake off any cynicism, and remind ourselves of the enormous and often unpredictable promise of science.” She said the strong basic research system that supported the award-winning investigations did not come about by happenstance, but was deliberately built at the end of World War II. Leveraging the partnership between the government and universities that emerged during that war, this system was designed to support long-term work that fulfills two purposes:  stimulating the innovation that is the driver for much of our economic growth and, less tangibly, continually increasing our understanding of the world, so that we can always look forward to knowing things tomorrow that we don’t know today.

Zuber identified several ingredients that are needed if the U.S. research system is to remain healthy. One is a commitment to patience, a willingness to support research that may not pay off for many years. Another is money to invest — patiently — in research. A great pool of talent is also essential, drawing women and men from every segment of U.S. society while also attracting the best students and faculty from around the globe. A final ingredient, entwined with our democratic values, is freedom of inquiry.

“Science cannot prosper if researchers fear attack for honest work that leads to uncomfortable conclusions,” Zuber said. “Scientific results must always be open to question and probing, and society should always be able to discuss the ethical, social, and economic implications of scientific work. But researchers should not be expected to produce results that accord with any particular agenda.”

At the evening awards ceremony, six members of Congress pledged continued support for discovery-based research across all fields of science. Last among them was U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, who originally conceived of the awards as a way to tell engaging stories that would capture the interest of his fellow policymakers.

Master of Ceremonies Frank Sesno then presented Golden Goose Awards to three teams of scientists.

Oregon State University chemist Kaichang Li was honored for the development of a new class of adhesives, a research journey which began when a colleague first showed him a clump of mussels on the Oregon coast. Li learned to duplicate the mussels’ properties in his laboratory, but he was discouraged by the cost of his new adhesives. A second inspiration while eating a lunch of tofu provided a solution — inexpensive soybeans could provide proteins from which Li could build similar adhesives. Soy-based adhesives have now displaced carcinogenic formaldehyde-based glues in 60 percent of the hardwood plywood panels manufactured in America.

Mycologist Joyce Longcore and Smithsonian National Zoo scientists Allan Pessier, Don Nichols, and Elaine Lamirande were honored for persistent detective work showing that an obscure class of fungi known as chytrids was killing amphibians around the world. An opportunity to participate in an National Science Foundation-funded research project inspired Longcore to earn a PhD and return to the lab bench after two decades away. Ten years later, when Nichols and colleagues suspected that a fungus was killing the zoo’s poison dart frogs, they went to Longcore. By then she was one of the world’s experts on chytrids — but neither she nor anyone else had seen them growing on live amphibians. Today we know that these fungal infections have the potential to move great distances rapidly, assisted by human activity. This work has led to changes in national and international policies on animal transport and helped to save iconic species from extinction. 

Fuzzy logic and fuzzy sets were the brainchild of MIT alumnus Lofti Zadeh SM ’46, who worked for many years as a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Zadeh proposed revolutionary concepts in 1965 to deal with the mathematics and logic of imprecise information. The mathematical community was skeptical at first. But fuzzy logic eventually took hold. Control systems in heating ventilation and air conditioning systems, autofocus cameras, health care devices, and subway systems rely on fuzzy logic to improve performance and efficiency. More than 16,000 patents and nearly 100,000 papers cite Zadeh’s seminal work. Zadeh, who died earlier this month at the age of 96, was represented at the events by his Berkeley colleague David Culler SM ’85, PhD ’89.

Sesno interviewed the awardees, drawing out more details of their achievements. Each followed the template Cesno offered for a good story — compelling characters overcoming obstacles. Collectively they illustrate the ingredients Zuber said were essential if the goose is to keep laying golden eggs. For example, basic research support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Science Foundation enabled the prize-winning work. And, demonstrating the importance of a broad talent pool, the four men and two women honored are a diverse group of native-born citizens and immigrants. They come from and were educated in urban and rural areas across the U.S., from China, and from the former Soviet Union by way of Iran.

Exploring the new world of online credentials

Five years ago, at the first annual Online Learning Summit, the question being asked was “can we scale learning” to reach the vast population on the internet, said Sanjay Sarma, MIT’s vice president for open learning, in his introduction to this year’s summit. That’s no longer in question, he continued: “The answer is emphatically yes.”

Now, as the number of people taking online classes around the world has rocketed upward, the questions revolve around issues of how to carry out such online education, how to provide meaningful credentials for online classes, and how to integrate and complement online education with that offered on traditional residential campuses.

Introduced by MIT President L. Rafael Reif, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker delivered a keynote talk at the summit. The event took place Sept. 27-28 and drew administrators and professors from around the U.S. and elsewhere to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The summit has been jointly convened by MIT, Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University every year since 2013. The 2017 program included sessions on scaling various approaches, new types of credentials, diversity and inclusion, and academic integrity.

Baker described an innovative program that matches students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in the Boston area with mentors and a place to study, allowing the students to take classes from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), one of the largest providers of online accredited degrees. “I talked with a lot of these kids, and to a person, they said without a program like this, it wouldn’t happen,” Baker said, emphasizing the importance of combining in-person interaction with the online educational experience.

Online courses, combined with extra help for those who have fewer resources available, can be an important way to open up new career opportunities to people who might not be able to afford a traditional college degree, Baker said. For example, online classes allow students to fit classes around their own schedules while working full time or raising a family. For many people, “it’s either going to happen this way or not at all,” he said.

Citing booming enrollment in online classes, Baker noted, “You’re scratching an itch with this stuff.”

He told the story of a state employee who had worked his way up through the ranks of a state agency over many years, learning every aspect of how the agency functioned from the inside, and ending up as its deputy administrator. But when the administrator’s position opened up, even though everyone agreed this employee was by far the most qualified candidate, state regulations prevented his appointment because he lacked a college degree. For someone working full-time and supporting a family, taking time off for college had been out of the question, but the possibility of earning an accredited degree through online classes, at his own pace, could finally open the path to advancement for people in such situations, Baker said. “If [the Massachusetts state government] had something like a micromasters program available, we’d consider that to be the equivalent” of the required degree, he said.

Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU, described the growth of that institution’s online education program, which now enrolls 100,000 students online, compared to 3,000 at its Manchester, New Hampshire, campus. “I would argue that now, the best online education is better than most traditionally delivered education,” he said.

For example, he said, while a student struggling with a particular concept in a traditional math class might learn it just well enough to pass a test, or miss it altogether and get a lower grade, an online learner could go back over the lecture as often as needed to really grasp it. Already, he said, “in lots of colleges, students aren’t even going to classes. They’re online learners.”

LeBlanc said that in a recent study comparing 4,000 SNHU online students who had earned 60 online credits — the equivalent of two years of college — with 7,000 students who had earned two-year degrees, the online learners “outperformed in every category” the traditional graduates.

And such education is accessible to anyone, anywhere, as long as they can get to a place with an internet connection, he said.

Yossi Sheffi, the Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, who led MITx’s first online micromasters program, said teaching these online classes “is uplifting. We get people thanking us every morning.” He urged any of his fellow faculty members who hadn’t already done so to try teaching an online class. Most online students, he said, “have a real drive to do this, often under difficult conditions.”

MIT physicist Rainer Weiss shares Nobel Prize in physics

Rainer Weiss ’55, PhD ’62, professor emeritus of physics at MIT, has won the Nobel Prize in physics for 2017. Weiss wins half the prize, sharing the other half of the award with Kip S. Thorne, professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Caltech, and Barry C. Barish, professor emeritus of physics at Caltech.

The Nobel Foundation, in its announcement this morning, cited the physicists for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”

“We are immensely proud of Rai Weiss, and we also offer admiring best wishes to his chief collaborators and the entire LIGO team,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “The creativity and rigor of the LIGO experiment constitute a scientific triumph; we are profoundly inspired by the decades of ingenuity, optimism, and perseverance that made it possible. It is especially sweet that Rai Weiss not only served on the MIT faculty for 37 years, but is also an MIT graduate. Today’s announcement reminds us, on a grand scale, of the value and power of fundamental scientific research and why it deserves society’s collective support.”

Listening for a wobble

On Sept. 14, 2015, at approximately 5:51 a.m. EDT, a gravitational wave — a ripple from a distant part of the universe — passed through the Earth, generating an almost imperceptible, fleeting wobble in the world that would have gone completely unnoticed save for two massive, identical instruments, designed to listen for such cosmic distortions.

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO, consists of two L-shaped interferometers, each 4 kilometers in length, separated by 1,865 miles. On Sept. 14, 2015, scientists picked up a very faint wobble in the instruments and soon confirmed that the interferometers had been infinitesimally stretched — by just one-ten-thousandth the diameter of a proton — and that this miniscule distortion arose from a passing gravitational wave.

The LIGO Scientific Collaboration, with the Caltech-MIT LIGO Laboratory and more than 1,000 scientists at universities and observatories around the world, confirmed the signal as the first direct detection of a gravitational wave by an instrument on Earth. The scientists further decoded the signal to determine that the gravitational wave was the product of a violent collision between two massive black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

The momentous result confirmed the theory of general relativity proposed by Albert Einstein, who almost exactly 100 years earlier had predicted the existence of gravitational waves but assumed that they would be virtually impossible to detect from Earth. Since this first discovery, LIGO has detected three other gravitational wave signals, also generated by pairs of spiraling, colliding black holes; the most announced of a detection came just last week.

“We are incredibly proud of Rai and his colleagues for their vision and courage that led to this great achievement,” says Michael Sipser, the Donner Professor of Mathematics and dean of the School of Science at MIT. “It is a wonderful day for them, for MIT, for risk-taking and boldness, and for all of science.”

A gravitational blueprint

The detection was an especially long-awaited payoff for Weiss, who came up with the initial design for LIGO some 50 years ago. He has since been instrumental in shaping and championing the idea as it developed from a desktop prototype to LIGO’s final, observatory-scale form.

In 1967, Weiss, then an assistant professor of physics at MIT, was asked by his department to teach an introductory course in general relativity — a subject he knew little about. A few years earlier, the American physicist Joseph Weber had claimed to have made the first detection of gravitational waves, using resonant bars — long, aluminum cylinders that should ring at a certain frequency in response to a gravitational wave. When his students asked him to explain how these Weber bars worked, Weiss found that he couldn’t.

No one in the scientific community had been able to replicate Weber’s results. Weiss had a very different idea for how to do it, and assigned the problem to his students, instructing them to design the simplest experiment they could to detect a gravitational wave. Weiss himself came up with a design: Build an L-shaped interferometer and shine a light down the length of each arm, at the end of which hangs a free-floating mirror. The lasers should bounce off the mirrors and head back along each arm, arriving where they started at the exact same time. If a gravitational wave passes through, it should “stretch” or displace the mirrors ever so slightly, and thus change the lasers’ arrival times.

Weiss refined the idea over a summer in MIT’s historic Building 20, a wooden structure built during World War II to develop radar technology. The building, meant to be temporary and known to many as the “Plywood Palace,” lived on to germinate and support innovative, high-risk projects. During that time, Weiss came to the conclusion that his design could indeed detect gravitational waves, if built to large enough dimensions. His design would serve as the essential blueprint for LIGO.

An observatory takes shape

To test his idea, Weiss initially built a 1.5-meter prototype. But to truly detect a gravitational wave, the instrument would have to be several thousand times longer: The longer the interferometer’s arms, the more sensitive its optics are to minute displacements.

To realize this audacious design, Weiss teamed up in 1976 with noted physicist Kip Thorne, who, based in part on conversations with Weiss, soon started a gravitational wave experiment group at Caltech. The two formed a collaboration between MIT and Caltech, and in 1979, Scottish physicist Ronald Drever, then of Glasgow University, joined the effort at Caltech. The three scientists — who became the co-founders of LIGO — worked to refine the dimensions and scientific requirements for an instrument sensitive enough to detect a gravitational wave.

Barry Barish soon joined the team as first a principal investigator, then director of the project, and was instrumental in securing funding for the audacious project, and bringing the detectors to completion.

After years of fits and starts in research and funding, the project finally received significant and enthusiastic backing from the National Science Foundation, and in the mid-1990s, LIGO broke ground, erecting its first interferometer in Hanford, Washington, and its second in Livingston, Louisiana.

Prior to making their seminal detection two years ago, LIGO’s detectors required years of fine-tuning to improve their sensitivity. During this time, Weiss not only advised on scientific quandaries but also stepped in to root out problems in the detectors themselves. Weiss is among the few to have walked the length of the interferometers’ tunnels in the space between LIGO’s laser beam tube and its encasement. Inspecting the detectors in this way, Weiss would often discover minute cracks, tiny shards of glass, and even infestations of wasps, mice, and black widow spiders, which he would promptly deal with.

A cosmic path

Weiss was born in 1932 in tumultuous Berlin. When his mother, Gertrude Loesner, was pregnant with Weiss, his father, neurologist Frederick Weiss, was abducted by the Nazis for testifying against a Nazi doctor. He was eventually released with the help of Loesner’s family. The young family fled to Prague and then emigrated to New York City, where Weiss grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, cultivating a love for classical music and electronics, and making a hobby of repairing radios.

After graduating high school, he went to MIT to study electrical engineering, in hopes of finding a way to quiet the hiss heard in shellac records. He later switched to physics, but then dropped out of school in his junior year, only to return shortly after, taking a job as a technician in Building 20. There, Weiss met physicist Jerrold Zacharias, who is credited with developing the first atomic clock. Zacharias encouraged and supported Weiss in finishing his undergraduate degree in 1955 and his PhD in 1962.

Weiss spent some time at Princeton University as a postdoc, where he developed experiments to test gravity, before returning to MIT as an assistant professor in 1964. In the midst of his work in gravitational wave detection, Weiss also investigated and became a leading researcher in cosmic microwave background radiation — thermal radiation, found in the microwave band of the radio spectrum, that is thought to be a diffuse afterglow from the Big Bang.

In 1976, Weiss was appointed to oversee a scientific working group for NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, which launched in 1989 and went on to precisely measure microwave radiation and its tiny, quantum fluctuations. Weiss was co-founder and chair of the science working group for the mission, whose measurements helped support the Big Bang theory of the universe. COBE’s findings earned two of its principal investigators the Nobel Prize in physics in 2006.

Weiss has received numerous awards and honors, including the Medaille de l’ADION, the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology, and the 2007 Einstein Prize of the American Physical Society. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Physical Society, as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, Weiss received a Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Gruber Prize in Cosmology, the Shaw Prize in Astronomy, and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, all shared with Drever and Thorne. Most recently, Weiss shared the Princess of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research with Thorne, Barry Barish of Caltech, and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

John Durant plans a new era for the MIT Museum

In the 12 years since John Durant took the helm at the MIT Museum, he has opened up the ground floor to gain street-level visibility, launched the Cambridge Science Festival, and grown attendance from around 50,000 to nearly 150,000 visitors a year.

Now, as he makes plans for a new, purpose-built museum in MIT’s burgeoning gateway location in Kendall Square, Durant says he is looking forward to offering the public deeper insights into the research under way at MIT.

“This is the big opportunity for the MIT Museum to be something like what MIT and the public deserve,” says Durant, who is both the Mark R. Epstein Director of the MIT Museum and a member of the faculty in MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS). “In our new location, we can anchor and mediate MIT’s relationship with the wider community.”

Engaging with the public is more critical than ever today, Durant says, because the value of science and of evidence-based reasoning has been called into question by some segments of society. “We have suddenly plunged into a situation — briefly, I hope — where it’s fashionable in some groups to believe that facts can be as you’d like them to be,” he says.

Yet, understanding science is necessary to make informed decisions on issues both private and public — from individual health care to national defense, says Durant, who received his PhD in the history and philosophy of science. “There are a multitude of ways in which science is relevant to our daily lives whether people know it or not,” he says. “Much of public policy has scientific aspects and dimensions.”

The human world at the core of MIT’s mission

Durant’s faculty home is in the SHASS-based Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS), whose humanities and social science researchers explore science, technology, and medicine to understand the human challenges at the core of MIT’s mission. STS is one of several programs that make SHASS the hub of the Institute’s major initiatives focused on furthering public engagement with science and technology. The school also trains some of the world’s finest science journalists via the Graduate Program in Science Writing as well as the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship (KSJ) program. Undark Magazine, KSJ’s digital offering published by KSJ Director Deborah Blum, explores ideas and endeavors at the intersection of science with political, cultural, and economic realities.

“Creative expression and the critical examination of ideas in their social and historical contexts are essential to the work of any museum, and particularly to the work of the MIT Museum,” says Durant. “This is why we are always looking for ways to incorporate the work of MIT faculty in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. A great example is our forthcoming special exhibition, ‘The Enemy.”

This exhibition, opening in October, emerges from collaboration between photojournalist Ben Khelifa and Fox Harrell, an MIT faculty member with a joint appointment in Comparative Media Studies and the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “‘The Enemy‘ uses virtual reality technology to stretch visitors’ senses as well as their emotional and moral imaginations,” Durants says, “and we hope that it will foster more understanding in one of the places where it is most needed — in situations of human conflict.”

Wider conversations

Durant notes that the MIT Museum is also a place where visitors can get an inside look at the work that takes place at a world-class research institute. “People can understand a bit about MIT by engaging with the ideas and theories that MIT folks engage with,” he says, in research that ranges broadly across many fields. 

“MIT’s humanistic disciplines — history, philosophy, cultural studies — and the social sciences all bring distinctive, analytic voices to bear on questions to do with science and its place in the wider society,” says Durant. “They allow us to have wider conversations. They provide context, illuminating the broader implications of scientific research.”

The contributions of artists, composers, and playwrights are equally important. “You get radically different conversations when you bring the sensibilities of accomplished artists to the table,” Durant observes. “If you want to understand Einstein’s theory of relativity, you can take a class or read a textbook. Or, you could see a production of ‘Einstein’s Dreams’ [a play based on the novel of the same name by SHASS Professor Alan Lightman]. … This play takes you into the world of Einstein’s thought experience — as only an imaginative writer can do.”

Einstein’s theory of relativity can be difficult to understand, but making such material accessible to all is one of the key goals of the MIT Museum, Durant says. “We’re trying to find ways to engage people in science that’s legendarily hard — like quantum mechanics,” he says. “We aim to make even conceptually tough science accessible to more people.”

An experimental space

For example, this past February, the MIT Museum hosted an evening of live theater and conversation based around a current research project in quantum mechanics that is co-led by Professor David Kaiser, a physicist and historian of science. Durant says he expects the museum will find even more ways to bring scientists and other MIT researchers together with the public in the Kendall Square location, where it will have 57,000+ square feet of galleries, classrooms, and state-of-the-art program and performance spaces. The new museum is expected to open toward the end of 2020.

“Our new museum will be an experimental place,” says Durant, who is committed to the idea that the MIT Museum can operate along the same principles as the Institute as a whole. “We want to practice what we preach as a research university: Try new ideas, test them, and report our findings.”
 

Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Senior Writer: Kathryn O’Neill

 

Celebrating the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, a pioneer in melding art, science, and tech

In March 1968, on the same weekend that MIT dedicated its Center for Theoretical Physics, the Institute also inaugurated the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS). The juxtaposition was no coincidence. Founded by artist and MIT Professor György Kepes in 1967, CAVS was created as a fellowship program that brought cutting-edge visual artists into contact with scientists and engineers in the MIT community. The joint dedications were a declaration of MIT’s commitment to the arts, and its conviction that art and science are complementary and indispensable mission partners.

“Kepes and his colleagues, the people who founded CAVS, had lived through one or even two world wars,” says Gediminas Urbonas, director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), which was created when CAVS merged with MIT’s Visual Arts Program in 2009. “They had witnessed how a certain segment of mankind had used technology to cause destruction on an almost unimaginable scale. They believed in the arts, and in their potential to humanize those technologies so they might be used to help the human species thrive.”

This May, with the opening of an exhibition of artworks by renowned MIT alumni titled “In Our Present Condition,” the School of Architecture and Planning launched a yearlong celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of CAVS. “We adhere to the idea that art has its place alongside science and technology,” says Laura Knott, a CAVS alumna who co-curated the “In Our Present Condition” show, which is on view at the Dean’s Office Gallery through April 2018. “CAVS was the first program of its kind. And while it has since sparked similar programs around the world, MIT’s leadership in the field remains unsurpassed.”

Scheduled through spring 2018, the 50th anniversary celebration will include exhibitions on campus — including at the MIT Museum — a symposium, several publications, site-specific art installations, a fall lecture series, and the Oct. 25 launch of a “Virtual Museum” that will make CAVS archival materials available to researchers and the public.

“Fifty years ago, the founders of this initiative showed remarkable conviction and foresight in its creation,” says Urbonas, an internationally-recognized artist who came to MIT in 2009. “But what is even more remarkable is how the work and ideas that their initiative produced are still relevant to our present world. We are living in the future that they imagined. And that work, which was so avant-garde that it is only now being assessed by art historians, can help us address many of the crises that have and will emerge.”

CAVS owed much of its early prominence and character to Kepes, the Hungarian-born and educated painter, designer, photographer, and educator who founded the initiative in 1967. Kepes came to MIT in 1946 after a stint as head of the Light and Color Department at the Institute of Design in Chicago, which was then known as the New Bauhaus. He served as director at CAVS until 1974. He passed away in 2001.

“György Kepes was the greatest pioneer in the marriage of art and technology in America,” playwright Alan Brody, then the associate provost for Arts at MIT, said at the time of Kepes’s death. “He was a visionary, a towering intellect, and a breathtaking artist. He single-handedly created the Center for Advanced Visual Studies and turned it into an internationally acclaimed program for the development of the finest in late 20th century art.”

To honor Kepes and his legacy, the MIT Museum will host two exhibitions of his photographs. The first, “György Kepes Photographs: From Berlin to Chicago, 1930-1946,” opens on Sept. 21 and will feature work from the artist’s time in Europe and Chicago. The second show, “The MIT Years, 1946-1974,” which will run from March 16 through Aug. 31 of 2018, concentrating on the body of work he created while at MIT. Many of the works that will be on display in both shows have never been shown in public.

A third exhibition on view at the MIT Museum, beginning in February, will present a historical overview of CAVS through selected works by research fellows, students, and faculty. Installations will be located throughout the museum and draw from a range of media and methods.   

Another anniversary project — one of the most ambitious and intriguing — is “Futurity Island,” a large-scale land-based outdoor art installation. Two years in the making and the recent recipient of an Art Works Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Futurity Island project will address vital questions about how artists function under changing climatic conditions, how cities imagine new possibilities for waterfronts, and how the making and teaching of art will adjust to the new realities of rising sea and water levels. The installation will be presented to the public in 2018.

In addition to promoting collaborations between visual artists, scientists, and engineers at MIT, CAVS encouraged its visiting fellows to experiment with emerging technologies such as laser, video, and holography, and to devise novel applications of existing technologies like steam power. Early CAVS fellows included composer Maryanne Amacher, avant-garde filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek, artist and educator Lowry Burgess, video artist Peter Campus, performance artist Charlotte Moorman, artist Nam June Paik, and Otto Piene, the artist who directed CAVS from 1974 to 1994.

During its first two decades, many CAVS projects examined humanity’s relationship with the planet, and its environment. The center also pursued a mandate in civic art. In 1977, the “documenta 6” exhibition in Kassel, Germany, commissioned CAVS to create Centerbeam, a massive multimedia structure that was later mounted on the National Mall in Washington.

Later, in the 1990s and early 2000s, the work shifted toward questions of geopolitics, identity, and environmental citizenship. Artists used film, sculptural and digital interventions, and installations to explore the conditions of humans living in repressive or totalitarian societies, or recovering from natural disasters. Artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, the last director of CAVS, was instrumental in this shift.

Today, the heirs to CAVS broaden their legacy by engaging and testing the limits of the technologies of communication. “Art can hack and subvert technologies,” says Urbonas. “But what art ultimately does is try to understand technology, to propose new spaces in our collective imagination so we can come up with better answers and uses for it. We are pleased to be able to celebrate CAVS and its glorious past. But we are even more determined to apply what these artists have created and will create to the urgencies of our time.”

Ernest Moniz addresses threats of nuclear weapons and climate

Ernest J. Moniz, who in January left his position as the 13th U.S. Secretary of Energy, spoke on Thursday about his long and ongoing history at MIT, and about his current work focusing on two major threats the world faces: nuclear weapons and global climate change, both of which were central to his role in the last administration.

The talk, held before an overflow crowd in MIT’s Huntington Hall, was part of the Institute’s Compton Lecture series that has continued since 1957. President L. Rafael Reif introduced Moniz, who is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and special advisor to the MIT president, and noted that Moniz’ “record of accomplishment that would stand out in any context.” This record includes his years as chair of the Department of Physics, his role as founding head of the MIT Energy Initiative, and his three tours of duty in Washington. Moniz served twice in the Clinton administration and then for four years in the Obama administration, when he was appointed to run the Department of Energy by a 97 to 0 vote in the Senate.

In that post, Moniz said he had the great opportunity of working for a president who “put the clean energy and climate agenda and the nuclear security agenda very high in their set of priorities.” As a result, he was able to play a major role in the achievement of two significant international agreements: the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear pact, both of which were finalized in 2015.

The two global threats that these agreements addressed are very different in nature, he said: Whereas the use of nuclear weapons would be a rapidly devastating event, climate change “is more like a slow-motion train wreck.” Back in 1992, he said, when he began his first stint at the DoE, “it seemed that we were on a path to managing both problems.” That year saw the signing of the Kyoto agreement on climate change, which, he reminded the audience, is a treaty, ratified by the Senate, calling for stabilization of greenhouse gases at a level that is sustainable. “We are committed to that,” he said. In addition, negotiations led to the beginning of drastic reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles.

But the road since then has been far from smooth, and now the Paris Agreement on climate change, which Moniz helped to negotiate on behalf of the U.S., is under threat from the new administration and its energy secretary. “Bluntly, especially from the point of view of a policymaker, in my view it is completely laughable to say that the state of the science is not one on which we should take a prudent approach,” he said, noting that the Paris accord, to which 197 nations all agreed, represented such a prudent approach.

Given the U.S. Congress’s insistence, in passing the Kyoto agreement, that there be full international participation, the consensus reached in Paris represented a significant victory, he said: “This path has led us to where we want to go.”

Under the terms of that agreement, Moniz pointed out, the earliest the U.S. could actually withdraw from it, as the Trump administration has pledged, would be Nov. 4 2020, at the very end of its term.

He pointed out that with a single storm, hurricane Irene, a single company, Florida Power and Light, spent more than $4 billion on recovery. As such storms increase in intensity in a warming world, he said, “it’s a lot cheaper to mitigate than to adapt later. …There’s no going back.”

“We are going to a low-carbon future,” he added. “It’s clearly in the cards. If we don’t pursue the course, we’ll get to the same place, but it will be a rougher road.”

The transition to that worldwide low-carbon energy future, he said, “means there will be a multi-trillion-dollar market. No matter what you think on the climate side, decreasing our research programs doesn’t make sense.”

As for the threat posed by nuclear weapons, “the risk of a misunderstanding leading to the use of a nuclear weapon is probably higher today than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis,” he said.

To try to mitigate that threat, Moniz joined with former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn at a nonprofit organization called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, where Moniz is now the CEO. The organization advocates for negotiations, modeled on some nuclear weapons reduction programs that worked in the 1980s, to address the threats of weapons of mass destruction.

One significant accomplishment toward that end, he said, was the nuclear pact that he, along with then-Secretary of State John Kerry, negotiated with Iran. The highly technical agreement, which included meticulously detailed plans for verification measures, was made possible in part by the fact that of the four-person negotiating team – Kerry, Moniz, and their Iranian counterparts – three had PhDs from American universities (two of them from MIT), and all of them were able to negotiate in English without needing translators.

That agreement, he said, with its strong verification, “buys us a decade or 15 years of time, which could be used wisely” to negotiate further. If, instead, this administration fails to certify Iran’s compliance, “even though the IAEA says they are doing everything they are supposed to do, our European friends [who are also party to the agreement] are going to be not happy. That’s one more opportunity to put a wedge between us and our allies.”

As for North Korea, he said, an approach is needed that looks more broadly at the situation rather than just focusing on the nuclear weapons. “We have not had a serious dialog with China; we are not addressing all the issues that China is concerned with,” he said.

“I think that we do need to restart diplomacy. And that does not consist of choosing the most colorful words you can think of. We need to get a framework together that addresses all of our security concerns. … We have got to get back into the business of diplomacy, and then we can get to some progress.”

Projects make inroads on global food and water challenges

With goals that include finding better ways to purify and desalinate water, improving fertilizer production, and preventing food contamination, nearly two dozen research teams presented updates on their work at a day-long event on Sept. 15. The workshop featured the recipients of grants from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) program at MIT.

John H. Lienhard V, the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food and the director of J-WAFS, introduced the workshop by reporting that the program has received and funded grant proposals from all five of MIT’s schools, provided 24 seed grants and nine “Solutions” commercialization grants, and attracted industrial partners including the $4 billion water technology company Xylem.

J-WAFS has been awarding seed grants since its founding in 2014. The reports at the workshop included presentations on work that is just getting started under the latest grants, as well as progress reports from grants awarded over the past three years.

Among the newly awarded grants, three relate to improving water supplies for drinking and irrigation. Two others involve ways of providing low-cost, locally sourced fertilizers for crop production, and one is for a method to grow algae in bioreactors for use as animal feed or feedstock for biofuels.

Among the new water sector projects is one by Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering Evelyn Wang and chemistry professor Mircea Dinca, who are developing a practical, low-cost device to extract potable water directly from the air, even in low-humidity regions. This project builds on technology previously developed in Wang’s lab and potentially could triple or quadruple the water output of the previous version, Wang said.

Another, led by Stephen Graves, the Abraham J. Siegel Professor of Management Science at the Sloan School of Management, and Bish Sanyal, the Ford International Professor of Urban Development in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, will focus on agricultural extension services in Senegal and why the current services do not reach small farmers. This research will probe to what extent private firms with knowledge of irrigation technology can supplement public efforts.  In particular, the research will analyze the current barriers to privately provided irrigation and identify ways in which the benefits of such irrigation practices can be channeled toward small firms.

The fertilizer projects included a concept for deriving potassium fertilizer from feldspar, a mineral that is abundant in Africa and other regions, instead of importing such fertilizers at high cost. The idea is being developed by Associate Professor Antoine Allanore of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Another project, led by Karthish Manthiram, the Warren K. Lewis Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering, seeks to develop an electrochemical method for producing nitrogen fertilizer using smaller, lower-cost systems than the huge industrial facilities currently used for such production.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, one of the major factors holding back a ‘green revolution’ is a lack of fertilizer use,” said Davide Ciceri, a research scientist on Allanore’s research team. These projects could help to address that lack and increase productivity on farms in Africa, which presently lag far behind those of other continents. “Africa has the lowest yields in the world and the lowest nitrogen fertilizer use,” Manthiram said.

Among the projects nearing the end of their two-year grant term was one that aims to entirely eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizers, in this case by using biological engineering to create cereal grain species capable of producing their own fertilizer, as some leguminous plants already do. This project, led by professor of biological engineering Christopher Voigt, received a second J-WAFS seed grant this year to further develop the work.

Another concluding project, led by professors Noelle Selin of the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Valerie Karplus, the Class of 1943 Career Development Assistant Professor of Global Economics and Management, examined the prevalence of mercury pollution of rice in China and its correlation with emissions from potential contributing sources such as coal plants. These results could help bring about policy changes that focus on both legacy soil contamination and future emissions from the power sector.

Other projects studied ways of using climate change projections to help guide water and agriculture policy in the developing world, and opportunities for increasing food production in these areas. J-WAFS-supported researchers are also studying water systems, including how water percolates into the soil under different conditions — a crucial factor for the recharging of aquifers. Others are investigating how to detect and remediate various sources of pollution in water systems, and ways of detecting specific kinds of pathogens in food, fish, and aquaculture systems, and throughout global food supply chains.  

Principal investigators of concluding projects reported that their seed grants have helped them to secure substantial follow-on funding, including a multimillion dollar award for a project on food safety and supply chains, led by MIT Sloan School of Management professors Retsef Levi, Tauhid Zaman, and Yanchong Zheng.

The J-WAFS program funds work in both the developing and developed worlds, Lienhard said. Its researchers have been studying not just new technologies but also the social, economic, and political factors needed to allow such improvements to move toward widespread implementation. “It isn’t enough to have a great invention that works in a lab here in Cambridge. It has to work on site,” he said.

The program was “formed to catalyze research around MIT in the areas of water and food,” Lienhard said. “We’re really interested to see how we can bring the unique strengths of the Institute, in technology and science and business innovation and urban planning and social science, to bear on the urgent challenges that we face around water and food, going into the future.”

“We’ve gotten a lot of great proposals, and we don’t have enough money to fund them all,” he said. “But we’re doing our best to make the money go as far as we can.” J-WAFS will issue a new call for seed research proposals to the MIT community this fall.

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