People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Storm Shelters in OKC

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.

Leaning On God Through Hard Times

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.

Book explores milestones of astronomical discovery

Here’s quick rule of thumb about the universe: Everything old is new again.

Those materials being used when new stars or planets form are just recycled cosmic matter, after all. But also, even our latest scientific discoveries may not be as new as they seem.

That’s one insight from Marcia Bartusiak’s new book, “Dispatches from Planet 3,” published by Yale University Press, a tour of major discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics that digs into the history behind these breakthroughs.

“No discovery comes out of the blue,” says Bartusiak, professor of the practice in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. “Sometimes it takes decades of preparation for [discoveries] to be built, one brick at a time.”

The book, drawn from her columns in Natural History, underscores that point by highlighting unheralded scientists whose work influenced later discoveries.

Moreover, as Bartusiak observes in the book, recent scientific debates often echo older argument. Take the kerfuffle last decade about whether or not Pluto should be regarded as a proper planet in our solar system. As Bartusiak recounts in the book, the same thing happened multiple times in the 19th century, when objects called Ceres, Vesta, and Juno first gained and then lost membership in the club of planets. 

“Ceres in the 19th century was a certified planet, along with Vesta and Juno, the big asteroids, until they got demoted into the general asteroid belt,” Bartusiak says. “Then the same thing happened again, and everyone said, ‘Poor Pluto, it’s not a planet any more.’ Well, I’m sure in the 19th century there were people going ‘Poor Ceres, it’s not a planet.’ We’ll get over it.”

(Demoting Pluto, by the way, is a judgment Bartusiak is comfortable with: “They made the right decision. Pluto is a dwarf planet. It’s part of the Kuiper Belt. I’m sure I’ll get a lot of people mad with me, [but] it makes sense to have Pluto in that group, rather than … with the big terrestrial planets and the gas giants.”)

One astronomer who made a crucial Pluto-related discovery was Jane X. Luu, who helped locate asteroids orbiting the sun from even farther away. Luu is just one of many women in “Dispatches from Planet 3” — although, Bartusiak says, that was not by design, but simply a consequence of hunting for the origins of important advances. 

“I did not have an agenda for this book,” Bartusiak says. “I have always been the type of writer that wanted to follow my nose on what the most interesting findings, discoveries, and theories were, without worrying about who was doing them.”

But as it happens, many stories about the development of scientific knowledge involve accomplished female scientists who did not immediately become household names.

Consider the astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who in the 1920s, Bartusiak notes, “first knew that hydrogen is the major element of the universe. A major discovery! This is the fuel for stars. It was central to astronomical studies. And yet, the greatest astronomer of the time, Henry Norris Russell, made her take [the idea] out of her thesis before they would accept it at Harvard.”

Bartusiak’s book also recounts the career of Beatrice Tinsley, an astrophysicist who in the 1970s developed important work about the ways galaxies change over time, before she died in her early 40s.

“Who really started thinking about galaxy evolution?” Bartusiak asks. “Beatrice Tinsley, ignored when she first started doing this, [produced] one of the most accomplished PhD theses in astronomical history. She was the first to really take it seriously.”

The notion that galaxies evolve, Bartusiak’s book reminds us, is a relatively recent concept, running counter to ages of conventional wisdom. 

“People thought of the universe as being serene [and that] every galaxy was like the Milky Way,” Bartusiak says. “And that was based on what they could see.” Deep in the postwar era, our empirical knowledge expanded, and so did our conception of galactic-scale activity.

In fairness, the Milky Way is pretty placid at the moment.

“It will get active again when we collide with Andromeda, 4 billion years from now,” Bartusiak says. “We’re lucky we’re not in the galactic center or in a very active star cluster. You have stars blowing up, and it probably would be hard for life to start if you were in an area where X-rays were raining down on you, or if a supernova was going off nearby. We’re off in a little spur in a very quiet part of the Milky Way galaxy, which has enabled life on Earth here to evolve and flourish without a cosmic incident raining havoc down upon us.”

Bartusiak closes the book with chapters on black holes, the idea of the multiverse, and our problems in conceptualizing what it means to think that the universe had a beginning.

“We think that black holes and gravitational waves are strange, but there may stranger things to come,” Barytusiak says. “As I say in a chapter with [Harvard theoretical physicist] Lisa Randall, experimenters and theorists used to work in tandem … and now the theorists have moved so far from observations that it’s a little frightening. There’s a need for new instrumentation, the new James Webb telescopes, the new particle accelerators.”

Which ultimately brings Bartusiak to another part of science that definitely has precedent: the need for funding to support research.

“The bigger the instrument, the further out you can see, or the further down into spacetime you can see, so I want people to realize that if you want these stories to continue, you’re going to need a further investment,” Bartusiak says. “But that’s what makes us a civilization. That we can take at least some of our wealth and use it to expand our knowledge about where we live. And that includes the universe, not just the Earth.”

Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health at MIT aims to revolutionize disease prevention, detection, and treatment

Today, MIT and Community Jameel, the social enterprise organization founded and chaired by Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78, launched the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic). This is the fourth major collaborative effort between MIT and Community Jameel.

J-Clinic, a key part of the MIT Quest for Intelligence, will focus on developing machine learning technologies to revolutionize the prevention, detection, and treatment of disease. It will concentrate on creating and commercializing high-precision, affordable, and scalable machine learning technologies in areas of health care ranging from diagnostics to pharmaceuticals, with three main areas of focus:

  • preventative medicine methods and technologies with the potential to change the course of noninfectious disease by stopping it in its tracks;
  • cost-effective diagnostic tests that may be able to both detect and alleviate health problems; and
  • drug discovery and development to enable faster and cheaper discovery, development, and manufacture of new pharmaceuticals, particularly those targeted for individually customized therapies.

J-Clinic’s holistic approach will utilize MIT’s strong expertise in cellular and medical biology, computer science, engineering, and the social sciences, among other areas.

“The health care system has no shortage of data,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “But it has far too little access to the kinds of tools and experts who can translate population-level data into clinical insights that could make it possible to tune care precisely for individuals. Building on MIT’s deep expertise in fields from cancer to neuroscience, and our longstanding connections to Boston’s world-class medical community, J-Clinic offers an accelerated path to creating new technologies that could help make health care more effective everywhere — from villages in developing nations to major teaching hospitals.”

“We are grateful to Community Jameel for their humanitarian vision, boldness, generosity, and continued enthusiasm for collaborating with MIT on their efforts to help make a better world,” Reif adds.

J-Clinic will leverage MIT’s strong relationship with industry and Boston-area hospitals to test, integrate, and deploy new technologies. It will also seek to advance patentable research that could be commercialized and spun-out through licensing to startups and pharmaceutical companies putting these advances into real-life practice.

“The J-Clinic will positively impact the world by accelerating the creation of machine learning technologies and algorithms that will make preventing, detecting, and treating disease more precise, affordable, and personalized,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, who will serve as J-Clinic’s chair. “It will be a truly multifaceted effort that amplifies synergies between the life sciences and the latest research in human and machine intelligence. J-Clinic will inspire innovation for the betterment of humanity.”

As part of its work, J-Clinic will support research projects, education, workshops, and other activities at the intersection of machine learning and biology.

“Channeling MIT’s machine learning expertise into health care will transform medical outcomes for people around the world,” says Fady Jameel, president of Community Jameel International. “Health care has been an important sphere of activity for Community Jameel since our earliest days, from founding the first nonprofit hospital for physical rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia, to partnering on the King Salman Center for Disability Research. J-Clinic continues our journey of supporting cutting-edge research and driving innovation in health care, in Saudi Arabia and around the whole world.”

This marriage of machine learning with clinical and biological insights aspires to spur a global transformation in the health care and medical fields with the aim to save the lives of millions of people, spawn new technologies, and improve the entire health care industry around the globe.

The Community Jameel gift to establish J-Clinic is part of MIT’s current $5 billion Campaign for a Better World and is consistent with Community Jameel’s focus on creating a better future. Earlier collaborations between MIT and Community Jameel include the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), established in 2003, which seeks answers to poverty in a changing world; the Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS), created in 2014, which addresses food and water scarcity and safety issues as the result of population rises and climate change; and the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL), launched in 2017, which pursues innovative, scalable, and sustainable educational innovation.

Community Jameel and MIT have also collaborated in the Abdul Latif Jameel-Toyota Endowed Scholarship since 1994 and the MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition and Saudi Startup Competition.

3Q: Sheila Widnall on sexual harassment in STEM

Sheila Widnall, MIT Institute Professor and former secretary of the U.S. Air Force, was co-chair of a report commissioned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to explore the impact of sexual harassment of women in those fields. Along with co-chair Paula Johnson, president of Wellesley College, Widnall and dozens of panel members and researchers spent two years collecting and analyzing data for the report, which was released over the summer. On Sept. 18, Widnall, Johnson, and Brandeis University Professor Anita Hill will offer their thoughts on the report’s findings and recommendations, in a discussion at MIT’s Huntington Hall, Room 10-250. Widnall spoke with MIT News about some of the report’s key takeaways.

Q: As a woman who has been working in academia for many years, did you find  anything in the results of this report that surprised you, anything that was unexpected?

A: Well, not unexpected, but the National Academy reports have to be based on data, and so our committee was composed of scientists, engineers, and social scientists, who have somewhat different ways of looking at problems. One of the challenges was to bring the committee together to agree on a common result. We couldn’t just make up things; we had to get data. So, we had some fundamental data from various universities that were taken by a recognized survey platform, and that was the foundation of our data.

We had data for thousands and thousands of faculty and students. We did not look at student-on-student behavior, which we felt was not really part of our charge. We were looking at the structure of academic institutions and the environment that’s created in the university. We also looked at the relationship between faculty, who hold considerable authority over the climate, and the futures of students, which can be influenced by faculty through activities such as thesis advising, and letter writing, and helping people find the next rung in their career.

At the end of the report, after we’d accumulated all this data and our conclusions about it, we said, “OK, what’s the solution?” And the solution is leadership. There is no other way to get started in some of these very difficult climate issues than leadership. Presidents, provosts, deans, department heads, faculty — these are the leaders at a university, and they are essential for dealing with these issues. We can’t make little recommendations to do this or do that. It really boils down to leadership.

Q: What are some of the specific recommendations or programs that the report committee would like to see adopted?

A: We found many productive actions taken by universities, including climate surveys, and our committee was particularly pleased with ombudsman programs — having a way that individuals can go to people and discuss issues and get help. I think MIT has been a leader in that; I’m not sure all universities have those. And another recommendation — I hate to use the word training, because faculty hate the word training — but MIT has put in place some things that faculty have to work through in terms of training, mainly to understand the definitions of what these various terms mean, in terms of the legal structure, the climate structure. The bottom line is you want to create a civil and welcoming climate where people feel free to express any concerns that they have.

One of the things we did, since we were data-driven, was that we tried to collect examples of processes and programs that have been put in place by other societies, and put them forward as examples.

We found various professional societies that are very aware of things that can happen offsite, so they have instituted special policies or even procedures for making sure that a meeting is a safe and welcoming environment for people who come across the country to go to a professional meeting. There are several examples of that in the report, of societies that have really stepped forward and put in place procedures and principles about “this is how you should behave at a meeting.” So I think that’s very welcome.

Q: One of the interesting findings of the report was that gender harassment — stereotyping what people can or can’t do based on their gender — was especially pervasive. What are some of the impacts of that kind of behavior?

A: A hostile work environment is caused by the uncivility of the climate. All the little microinsults, things like telling women they can’t solder or that women don’t belong in science or engineering. I think that’s really an important point in our report. Gender discrimination is most pervasive, and many people don’t think it’s wrong; they just don’t give it a second thought.

If you have a climate where people feel that they can get away with that kind of behavior, then it’s more likely to happen. If you have an environment where people are expected to be polite — is that an old-fashioned word? — or civil, people act respectfully.

It’s pretty clear that physical assault is unacceptable. So we didn’t deal a lot with that issue. It’s certainly a very serious kind of harassment. But we did try to focus on this less obvious form and the responsibilities of universities to create a safe and welcoming climate. I think MIT does a really good job of that.

I think the numbers have helped to improve the climate. You know, when I came to MIT women were 1 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now it’s 46 percent, so clearly, times have changed.

When I came here as a freshman, my freshman advisor said, “What are you doing here?” That wasn’t exactly welcoming. He looked at me as if I didn’t belong here. And I don’t think that’s the case anymore, not with such a high percentage of undergraduates being women. I think increasingly, people do feel that women are an inherent part of the field of engineering, in the field of science, in medicine.

Air pollution can put a dent in solar power

Ian Marius Peters, now an MIT research scientist, was working on solar energy research in Singapore in 2013 when he encountered an extraordinary cloud of pollution. The city was suddenly engulfed in a foul-smelling cloud of haze so thick that from one side of a street you couldn’t see the buildings on the other side, and the air had the acrid smell of burning. The event, triggered by forest fires in Indonesia and concentrated by unusual wind patterns, lasted two weeks, quickly causing stores to run out of face masks as citizens snapped them up to aid their breathing.

While others were addressing the public health issues of the thick air pollution, Peters’ co-worker Andre Nobre from Cleantech Energy Corp., whose field is also solar energy, wondered about what impact such hazes might have on the output of solar panels in the area. That led to a years-long project to try to quantify just how urban-based solar installations are affected by hazes, which tend to be concentrated in dense cities.

Now, the results of that research have just been published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, and the findings show that these effects are indeed substantial. In some cases it can mean the difference between a successful solar power installation and one that ends up failing to meet expected production levels — and possibly operates at a loss.

After initially collecting data on both the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground, and the amount of particulate matter in the air as measured by other instruments, Peters worked with MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering Tonio Buonassisi and three others to find a way to calculate the amount of sunlight that was being absorbed or scattered by haze before reaching the solar panels. Finding the necessary data to determine that level of absorption proved to be surprisingly difficult.

Eventually, they were able to collect data in Delhi, India, providing measures of insolation and of pollution over a two-year period — and confirmed significant reductions in the solar-panel output. But unlike Singapore, what they found was that “in Delhi it’s constant. There’s never a day without pollution,” Peters says. There, they found the annual average level of attenuation of the solar panel output was about 12 percent.

While that might not sound like such a large amount, Peters points out that it is larger than the profit margins for some solar installations, and thus could literally be enough to make the difference between a successful project and one that fails — not only impacting that project, but also potentially causing a ripple effect by deterring others from investing in solar projects. If the size of an installation is based on expected levels of sunlight reaching the ground in that area, without considering the effects of haze, it will instead fall short of meeting its intended output and its expected revenues.

“When you’re doing project planning, if you haven’t considered air pollution, you’re going to undersize, and get a wrong estimate of your return on investment,” Peters says

After their detailed Delhi study, the team examined preliminary data from 16 other cities around the world, and found impacts ranging from 2 percent for Singapore to over 9 percent for Beijing, Dakha, Ulan Bator, and Kolkata. In addition, they looked at how the different types of solar cells — gallium arsenide, cadmium telluride, and perovskite — are affected by the hazes, because of their different spectral responses. All of them were affected even more strongly than the standard silicon panels they initially studied, with perovskite, a highly promising newer solar cell material, being affected the most (with over 17 percent attenuation in Delhi).

Many countries around the world have been moving toward greater installation of urban solar panels, with India aiming for 40 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar installations, while China already has 22 GW of them. Most of these are in urban areas. So the impact of these reductions in output could be quite severe, the researchers say.

In Delhi alone, the lost revenue from power generation could amount to as much as $20 million annually; for Kolkata about $16 million; and for Beijing and Shanghai it’s about $10 million annually each, the team estimates. Planned installations in Los Angeles could lose between $6 million and $9 million.

Overall, they project, the potential losses “could easily amount to hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars annually.” And if systems are under-designed because of a failure to take hazes into account, that could also affect overall system reliability, they say.

Peters says that the major health benefits related to reducing levels of air pollution should be motivation enough for nations to take strong measures, but this study “hopefully is another small piece of showing that we really should improve air quality in cities, and showing that it really matters.”

The research team also included S. Karthik of Cleantech Energy Corp. in Singapore, and Haohui L. of the National University of Singapore. The work was supported by Singapore’s National Research Foundation through the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology and by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation.

Climate Controlled Storage

For many Americans, collecting “stuff” is a national pastime. Between the sporting goods, instruments, furniture, clothing, keepsakes and other heirlooms we acquire in our lifetimes, our homes are bulging at the seams. Often, a solution is renting a storage space to house our extra belongings; sometimes long-term and sometimes just for a transitional period. So, any storage place should work, right? Many people don’t consider the option of a climate controlled storage facility, where belongings are safeguarded against the elements.

 

You may believe you won’t be leaving your items in storage for very long, so what is the point of going with a premium, climate controlled unit as opposed to just a regular storage space? There are several advantages to going with a climate controlled unit, as long as it is in a reputable storage facility. The most important reason to rent a climate controlled space is to protect your valuables from heat and humidity or blistering cold temperatures. Since weather is so unpredictable, having a climate controlled unit can give you an extra peace of mind that your property will not be ruined due to the fluctuation in temperatures. As anyone from Colorado can attest, the weather can start out beautiful and sunny and then drop 50 degrees the same day. Southerners know that humidity can cause havoc with mildew, while desert dwellers can account for searing, dry hot temperatures. The North and Northeast know that snow, sleet, wind and hail can certainly take their toll, even to items securely locked in a storage unit. All these factors are non-existent in a climate controlled environment, where the temperature stays at anywhere between 50 and 85 degrees, depending upon your items and your preference.

 

Another factor to consider: while an air conditioned unit might be more expensive, the cost of replacing your property would probably be much more expensive in the long run. Or, worse yet, items that are not easily replaced shouldn’t be left to chance in a too hot or too cold storage unit; heirlooms are not worth the risk! Oftentimes, too, bugs and other pests infiltrate regular storage units; this is less likely to happen in a climate controlled unit. These units are less likely to accumulate dirt and dust, as well, since they are usually enclosed inside a building.

 

While conventional storage units are usually individual units accessed through a gate, climate controlled storage units Edmond OK are housed in a larger building, providing additional security. Your air conditioned unit will also offer more privacy, and is harder to break into than standard, outdoor units. Plus, if there happens to be a flood, or an abundance of snow, the moisture will not wick into your unit inside the building but an outdoor unit may suffer damage, and in turn, so might your belongings.

 

If you are unsure which items to include in a climate controlled unit, you can consult with a storage solution expert. He or she can give you pointers on how to keep your valuables protected. Leaving grandma’s 1900th century wood furniture in a storage unit to combat the heat and the cold would be ill advised; the wood will only weaken, warp, rot or split due to expansion and contraction caused by extreme temperatures. The same is true for leather furniture; those beautiful leather couches you spent so much time and money acquiring can be ruined in a regular storage unit. The introduction of any moisture can cause leather furniture to discolor or even mildew, rendering it utterly worthless. When using a climate controlled unit, not only are you controlling the air temperature, but the humidity. Humidity can be a killer to appliances and electronics, as well. Hoses on appliances can freeze and crack or mildew can build up inside refrigerators, washers, freezers or dishwashers. Electronics like television sets and computer equipment definitely need to be kept from the elements of weather or their electrical circuits and internal components may freeze or fry.

Another item you will want to protect:  your wardrobe. You may have invested many years and many dollars into your clothing items, only to have them wrecked by leaving them in a storage unit. Moth holes, mildew, and stains can result from not protecting your clothes in a climate controlled unit, so it truly pays to protect your investments!

True collectors know how destructive excessive heat or cold can be on a collection, whether it’s precious artwork, vintage wine, or a stamp collection. Coveted musical instruments from pianos to guitars to trumpets and flutes can all be affected by inconsistent temperatures. Glues that hold instruments together can fail, strings can snap, moisture and mold can build up inside an instrument; all from not carefully protecting them from temperature changes. Humidity and heat can increase the growth of bacteria on the mouthpiece of an instrument and materials like rubber pieces can break down over time with temperature changes. Wooden instruments, just like wooden furniture, can crack from expanding and contracting due to weather changes.

While clothing, instruments and furniture are important, if you ask most people what their most prized possession might be, a good number will respond that photographs mean the most to them. Family photographs, while easily scanned and saved onto a computer, are commonplace, but actual photographs are still a treasured part of peoples’ memories. You can seal photos in an air tight box but to completely safeguard them from varying temperatures, keeping them in a climate controlled environment is best. Preserving your memories is paramount, and you don’t want to lose these keepsakes to a change in climate. Too much heat or humidity will make photos stick together, and the chemicals will blend together, destroying them.

Oftentimes, people will store their belongings when they move to a new town and want to get settled. Or, storage units are kept to house inherited items from other family members; regardless of the reason, no one wants to suffer the loss of their treasures to something that could be avoided. A simple climate controlled environment can ensure your property is not subjected to fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels.

 

 

Noelle Selin named director of the MIT Technology and Policy Program

Noelle Selin, an associate professor with a joint appointment in the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), has been appointed the next director for the Technology and Policy Program (TPP) at MIT.

TPP is a two-year, interdisciplinary master of science program that combines science and engineering with social sciences, to educate students whose research addresses important technological issues confronting society. Over more than 40 years, TPP’s more than 1,200 alumni have gone on to work in industry and government as well as academia.

Selin’s own research links science and policy, particularly on the topic of atmospheric pollutants. Her interdisciplinary research aims to inform decision-making on air pollution, climate change, and hazardous substances. A major focus is on mercury pollution, where she has engaged with policy-makers both domestically and internationally. In addition to her work modeling the transport and fate of pollutants, she has published articles and book chapters on the interactions between science and policy in international environmental negotiations, in particular focusing on global efforts to regulate hazardous substances.

“Noelle is an excellent educator and teacher, and has substantially contributed to the curriculum in IDSS and TPP,” said IDSS Director Munther Dahleh, a professor in IDSS and MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. While serving as associate director of TPP, Selin managed the admission process and led a curricular development effort that revised the set of course requirements for TPP students. In 2018, she shared the Joseph A. Martore ’75 Award for Exceptional Contributions to Education in IDSS for her contributions to the core TPP course Science, Technology, and Public Policy. She also received TPP’s Faculty Appreciation Award in 2013.

Selin first came to MIT in 2007 as a postdoc at the Center for Global Change Science. She joined the Engineering Systems Division as an assistant professor in 2010 with a joint appointment in EAPS. She joined IDSS as a core faculty member when it was launched in 2015. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in July 2017.

In the area of policy, Selin had prior appointments as a research associate with the Initiative on Science and Technology for Sustainability at Harvard’s Kennedy School and as a visiting researcher at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. She also previously worked on chemicals issues at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She holds a BA in environmental science and public policy and an MA and PhD in earth and planetary sciences, all from Harvard University.

Selin received the NSF CAREER Award and two best Environmental Policy paper awards from the journal Environmental Science and Technology (2015 and 2016). She is a Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow, a member of the Global Young Academy (2014-2018), a fellow of the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement (2016-2017), and a Leopold Leadership Fellow (2013).

“I am truly honored to be named as the next Director of TPP,” says Selin. “I see TPP as a hub for education, research, and practice in mobilizing technical expertise to inform policy, within MIT and beyond, and I am excited to help shape its future.”

3 Questions: Sasha Costanza-Chock on new “#MoreThanCode” report

Not every technology platform or tool you use, or website you visit, comes straight from a startup or Silicon Valley. Many are developed by nonprofits, government agencies, or advocacy groups practicing community technology, technology for social justice, or “public interest technology.” What can we learn from these community-engaged technology practitioners? How can organizations that work for equity achieve the diversity they often advocate for in society?

Sasha Costanza-Chock, an associate professor in Comparative Media Studies/Writing at MIT, is the lead author of a new report, titled “#MoreThanCode: Practitioners reimagine the landscape of technology for justice and equity,” which delves into these issues. The report distills 109 interviews, 11 focus groups, and data from thousands of organizations into five high-level recommendations for those who want to use technology for the public good. (The report was funded by NetGain, the Ford Foundation, Mozilla, Code for America, and OTI.) MIT News sat down with Costanza-Chock to talk about the report and its recommendations.

Q: Who are the practitioners in this tech ecosystem?

A: “#MoreThanCode” is a report about people working to use technology for social good and for social justice — the space the report’s funders call “public interest technology.” There’s a very wide range of roles for people who use technology to advance the public interest, and it’s not only software developers who are active.

One of our key recommendations is that when funders and organzations — be they city governments or nonprofits or for-profit companies — are putting together teams, they need to think broadly about who is on that team. We found that a good team to develop technology that’s going to advance social justice or the public interest is going to include software developers, graphic designers, researchers, and domain [subject] experts. Domain experts might have formal expertise, but the most important team member is someone with lived experience of the particular condition that technology is supposed to address.

Q: On that note, can you say a little about the current state of social diversity in this sector?

A: Certainly. One of our key goals in the report was to produce baseline knowledge about who’s working in public interest technology. And unfortunately, in terms of hard data, the main finding is that we don’t have it, because many organizations in the space have not published diversity and inclusivity data about who their staff are, who their volunteers are.

And so one recommendation in the report is that everybody who says they’re doing public interest technology, or using technology for good, should be gathering data about, at the very least, race and gender, and publicly releasing it. Gathering and releasing diversity data, and setting time-bound, public targets for diversity and inclusion goals, are two main things that we know work in organizations, from the evidence-based literature. Good intentions aren’t enough.

Although we weren’t able to gather that kind of sector-wide diversity data, we did interview 109 people and conduct focus groups with 79 more, and asked them about their experiences with racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, and other common forms of systematic marginalization people experience. About half of the people we talked to for the report said they had experiences like that.

The leading recommendation at the end of the report is summed up in a slogan from the disability justice movement, which is, “Nothing about us, without us.” The idea is that when you’re going to develop a technology to help a community, you have to include members of that community from the beginning of your process … and ideally in the governance of the project when it’s deployed.

Q: The report also suggests people should not always look for “silver bullets” or instant answers from technology alone. Why is that, and what are some of the other recommendations from the report?

A: I’m not going to say it’s never about finding a new [technological] solution, but over and over again, the people we interviewed said the projects that were most successful were deployments of resilient, proven technology, rather than some super-exciting new app that’s suddenly supposed to solve everything.

One recommendation is that when organizations set up tech teams, you want someone from the community on the design team, not just at a moment of consultation. That’s a pretty important takeaway. A lot of people told us it was important to go further than just doing initial consultations with a community — having people on the design team from beginning to end is a best practice we recommend.

Some people talked about creating tech clinics, modeled after legal clinics in education. That would be something a place like MIT could think about. Law schools often require students to spend a certain number of hours providing legal services pro bono to people in different domains who otherwise can’t afford lawyers. It would be interesting to consider whether there could be a [similar] tech clinic concept.

Our final recommendation was about recognizing organizational models beyond traditional startups, government offices, or 501c3 nonprofits — for example, consider tech cooperatives, or ad hoc networks that emerge around a crisis moment. These are hard for investors or foundations to fund: Whom do you fund? And yet a lot of really important technology projects are informal. In the wake of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, there were hundreds of developers, techies, and community organizers doing everything they could, ad hoc, to get communications infrastructure back up.

People should develop strategies for supporting those kinds of networks when they do spring up. For funders, that may mean setting up a crisis response fund with a mechanism to rapidly dispense smaller amounts of funds. And members of the MIT community who are creating new companies to bring “tech for good” innovations to market should consider worker-owned cooperatives, platform co-ops, and other models that internally mirror the kind of world they’d like to build.

Elections management in the U.S. is improving

The administration of elections by states improved overall by six percentage points between 2012 and 2016, according to the new Elections Performance Index (EPI) released by the MIT Election Data and Science Lab (MEDSL).

Using indicators ranging from wait times at the polls and voter turnout to problems with absentee ballots, voter registration, or voting technology, the EPI provides a nonpartisan, objective measure of how well each state is faring in managing national elections. The index, which was developed and managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts before being transferred to MEDSL in 2017, can show the impact of policy changes and where a state might be doing well or facing challenges. Voters, policymakers, and election officials can use its rankings to compare their state with its own past performance, as well as the performance of other states.

“The index is an important foundation for the ongoing discussions on election management,” says Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science at MIT and MEDSL’s founding director.  “The new release of the index helps remind us that election administration is a multidimensional challenge. Significant improvements in the 2016 index also illustrate that when election officials commit themselves to a path of improvement, good things can happen.”

Overall, almost all states improved their index scores in the 2016 election, compared with the 2012 presidential election. Twenty-two states improved at a rate greater than the national average. Overall, Vermont showed the most significant improvement, landing at the top of the index for the first time after expanding the availability of online voter tools, providing online voter registration, and requiring a postelection audit. The District of Columbia, West Virginia, and South Carolina also saw significant gains in their scores and rankings.

Only six states saw their scores decline from 2012. This is largely due to an increase in the residual vote rate, which is a common measure of voting machine performance. However, the residual vote rate can also increase when more voters abstain from voting for president, which appears to have been a significant factor in the decline of four of the six states.

When it launched in 2013, the EPI provided the first comprehensive assessment of election administration in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Its 17 indicators (which were winnowed down by an advisory committee from an initial list of 40) were selected as measurements for reliable, consistent, and valid data that covered the broad scope of issues involved in managing an election.

“We felt it was important to reflect a wide variety of factors that could determine whether voting was convenient and secure,” says Stewart, who was one of the convenors of the EPI advisory committee. “We selected not only obvious measures like voter turnout, but also less visible factors that nonetheless affect a lot of voters, such as the handling of absentee ballots and residual votes.”

The EPI now includes data from every federal U.S. election since 2008. The online index provides an interactive way to see how election administration has changed over time during this period, and allows users to explore the context behind each measurement, as well as the data. Individual pages show the story for each state, explain what each indicator means, and illustrate differences or trends.

Cybersecurity has been a hot topic in discussions on U.S. election administration; some voters and election officials might understandably wonder whether the EPI sheds light on the issue. 

The short answer: “It’s complicated,” says Stewart.

“The EPI tries to measure policy outputs whenever possible, and it’s very difficult to measure the security of a state’s election system directly,” he says. “Certainly, if a major attack on a state’s computer system dramatically affected the ability to vote, it would show up in a number of factors we measure.”

For example, if such an attack occurred, voter turnout might be lower, more provisional ballots might be used, more voters might complain of registration problems, or longer lines might form at the polls. The EPI already measures those factors, as well as whether states require audits of election results, which, says Stewart, “is one way to capture whether the voting machines or tallying systems were tampered with.

“Still, we’d like to develop a measure closer to cybersecurity itself, and we plan to work on that for the next release,” he says.

One interesting thread to trace in the EPI is the issue of long lines at the polls, which made headlines in 2012. This spurred then-President Obama to appoint a commission to study a wide variety of election administration issues, including voting wait times.

The effort that state and local officials put into addressing wait times at polling places paid off, as the significant drop in this indicator for many of 2012’s worst-performing states shows. Florida — which at 45 minutes had the longest average wait to vote in 2012 — dropped to a 2016 wait-time of 5.5 minutes. The District of Columbia, which had 2012’s second-longest average wait, saw wait times drop from 33.9 minutes to 16.3 minutes in 2016. Overall, seven states had average wait times of more than 20 minutes in 2012, but by 2016 that number dropped to zero.

(MIT, along with the Bipartisan Policy Center, has had a major program to work with election officials to record line lengths and reduce wait times. A report on this effort, entitled “Improving the Voter Experience,” was released in April.)

There are a few other trends that stand out to seasoned election watchers.

“One of the most surprising things we saw in 2016 was a spike in the residual vote rate,” says Stewart. This indicator measures the performance of voting machines; to do so, it calculates the number of under-votes and over-votes cast in an election, as a percentage of voter turnout. An under-vote occurs when no vote is recorded on a ballot; an over-vote, conversely, means a ballot has votes for more than one candidate in a single-winner race.

Because it’s calculated using the top office on the ballot, the residual vote rate is only calculated every four years, using the presidential vote (the top office for midterm elections varies considerably from state to state). The 2000 election, with its infamous punch cards and hanging chads, still holds the record for highest residual vote rate in the last two decades. Nationwide, the rate in that election was 1.9 percent, with state highs of up to 3.9 percent. In contrast, the average rate for the 2012 election was only 0.99 percent.

The nationwide residual vote rate in 2016, however, spiked up to 1.39 percent. Why such a significant jump? It may be due to an increase in voters abstaining from casting a vote in the contentious presidential race, rather than a decline in the performance of voting machines. Interestingly, Nevada saw a historical low in the residual vote rate in 2016. The state offers an option on its ballots for voters to choose “none of these candidates.”

As MEDSL’s staff look ahead to the next federal election, now less than three months away, they’re already planning out their approach for the 2018 EPI.

“We learned in 2016 that the EPI indicators are remarkably stable within states over time, although changes in election policies can dramatically change a state’s position in the index,” says Cameron Wimpy, the lab’s research director. “Looking ahead to 2018, we’ll be thinking about other objective measures of election administration that vary across the states.”

Nearly 10 years after the first EPI advisory committee was convened, MEDSL will reconvene many of them again — plus a few new faces — to revisit the current indicators and discuss whether any might need to be altered or retired. At the same time, they’ll face the challenge of evaluating new potential measurements and data sources, and identifying whether they have a place in a redesigned index.

The bottom line?

“The core of election administration is making sure that every voter who wants to cast a vote can, and ensuring that only legal votes are cast and counted,” says Stewart. “The EPI exists to illustrate how many factors are involved in doing that, and to help the public understand what needs to be fixed. Monitoring all these factors will be our task as the U.S. rolls into another national election.”

Shaping technology’s future

Jessika Trancik’s life has been one of straddling languages and cultures, both in academia and in her own life.

Born in Boston to a Swedish mother and American father, she lived in Cambridge as a child but spent summers in Sweden and grew up bilingual, and still carries dual citizenship. In her work as an associate professor in MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems and Society, which spans all of MIT’s five schools, she brings together engineering and the social sciences in order to carry out rigorous analyses of the factors that bring about technological changes that transform society.

Trancik says that “growing up in a couple of different cultures, you become very comfortable with that, and to some extent being able to understand and talk to people from different disciplines is [a similar experience].” And, she says, “science is a way to connect with people around the world. There are no national boundaries; it’s like a more unified network of people working on problems and discussing them.”

“I was always drawn to science and engineering because it affords an opportunity to have a positive impact on people and the planet,” she says.

Trancik graduated from Cornell University, where her father was a professor of urban design and her mother was a lecturer in Swedish. While there she studied materials science, analyzing the structure of metals and ceramics using transmission electron microscopy. In graduate school, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, she focused on polymer materials including spider silk. This exceptionally strong material, which is formed at room temperature, is a promising model for synthetic materials for structural and other applications, she says. “There’s an environmental motivation there, which is that you can produce a higher-performance material at lower energetic costs,” she says.

At MIT, where she earned tenure last year, Trancik’s work focuses on the pace of innovation in different sectors of technology, and the forces that accelerate or retard that progress, for example in energy storage or in photovoltaic cells. That includes “evaluating opportunities for cost reduction and improvement, and what the effective drivers of improvement might be,” she says.

Her work these days focuses on “whether we can predict in advance what kinds of technological innovations will take off,” and how to influence that process, she says. “This whole area of research that I’ve been working on developing spans evaluating technologies in a larger context — their scalability, their costs, their emissions, their performance along different dimensions — and then using that information to inform how we’re developing these technologies.” The work aims to guide decisions by engineers, policymakers, businesses, and investors.

She credits some early teachers for asking open-ended questions that helped spur creative thinking. “I’ve always had an interest and enjoyment in problem solving and answering previously unanswered questions, and in rigorous ways, in testable ways.” And in applying that, she says, “I was really interested in the environment and in design, and so materials science seemed to bring together a lot of these different topics and questions.”

Trancik’s interests were, and are, quite varied indeed. “Growing up I was very interested in languages, I was very interested in design and painting and drawing, and I was also very interested in math and science, and writing. I did a ton of sports, first gymnastics and then tennis and skiing. That really sort of persisted, along with mountain biking, surfing, and lots of other sports like that. And music as well. I played the saxophone.”

As she grew older, she realized she needed to specialize a bit, she says. “But I would have liked to have continued to do everything.” Still, she comes close. “I’m still skiing, backcountry skiing, surfing, mountain biking, these are my favorite sports. And that’s sort of just a part of my life, like brushing my teeth.”

Before her PhD, Trancik spent a summer doing volunteer work in Kenya, and then following her PhD she worked for a couple of years at the United Nations on postconflict sustainable development. “That’s the time when I got interested in taking my research in a new direction, to span studying technology and materials development as well as big societal challenges. And that’s when I started working on energy and climate change,” she recalls. That led to a fellowship at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where “the research I was doing was on photovoltaic devices and materials, as well as studying trends in solar energy development, and trying to understand why some technologies develop more quickly than others.”

After that, she went to a fellowship at the Santa Fe Institute, where “that afforded me a great opportunity to interact with scientists from many different areas — physicists, economists, biologists, engineers, and so forth.”

There, “the environment really supported what I was trying to do, which was to continue to build this research focus that spanned technology evaluation and technology development, and to explain technological progress in a way that we can help inform and direct it in positive directions,” she says.

Last year, Trancik gave a TEDx talk that summarized her views and her research focus. She says that in addressing global issues like climate change “we want to develop technology to help us solve these challenges. We need to understand how to measure technological progress toward these goals that we care about. And we also need to be able to understand and take advantage of the drivers of technological progress.

“We always have limited time and money,” she says. “So how do we make decisions that are going to allow us to get in the direction that we need to? How do we speed up the process?” That’s what Trancik aims to find out.

High school students learn to build big ideas

A group of high school students, some from as far away as Italy and China, came to MIT’s Edgerton Center this summer to learn more about what it takes to be an engineer — and learned a bit more about themselves as well.

Now in its 12th year, the Edgerton Center’s Engineering Design Workshop (EDW) brought together 27 students in a month-long creative binge to flesh out their own projects. Some were practical, some were whimsical, but all were challenging and fun.

The students started out the summer by learning basic electronics, mechanical fabrication, and a bit of 3-D printing. They then broke up into teams and brainstormed their own creations under the guidance of the program’s mentors, many of whom are EDW alumni themselves.

This year’s final designs, which were showcased in a final presentation for the kids and their parents on Aug. 3, included an automated river water monitoring platform; an improved ship dry dock; an interactive light game; a monowheel unicycle; a bionic exoskeleton; and what can best be described as a cross between a Segway and a Nimbus 2000 broomstick from Harry Potter (but with cup holders).

Many of the kids seemed shy at first to talk about their projects, but Edgerton Center instructor Chris Mayer gently urged them on.

“Why don’t you bring that over to the audience, so they could have a closer look?” he said. Invariably, the kids’ close-up demonstrations of their work elicited amazed gasps and nods from the crowd.

For some like Luo Yan, a senior high school student from the Shanghai Foreign Language School, the workshop was also a hands-on history lesson. He and his team researched the design of Boston’s historic Charlestown Navy Yard and built a scale mock-up showcasing their proposed improvements to its long-defunct dry dock.

“This has a lot of stories behind it,” he said, pointing to the miniature replicas of the yard’s buildings, which were built in 1833. “I just want to see it working again.”

Thirteen-year-old Mohan Hathi of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School said Team Exoskeleton’s big idea was to build an assistive system that could help with repetitive chores, like lifting heavy objects on an assembly line. But with barely a month to build a working prototype, they ended up having to decide whether to build a bionic hand or arm.

“We decided, why not do both? And if it happens then it happens,” he said. “But it ended up working, and I’m really happy.”

Team QUICK (short for aQuatic Underwater Information Collecting Kit) built a submersible sensor platform that could be used for environmental monitoring in the Charles River and other bodies of water. But barely had they presented their final design when the team was already considering how it could be improved — better battery life, perhaps, or more robust sensors.

True to its name, Team LIT (Light Interactive Technology) designed an Arduino-controlled LED wall display, and even came up with a fairy-catching game to go along with it. In the game, a light “fairy” would flit about, and a controller box off to the side allowed players to light up parts of the wall to block its path.

Meanwhile, teams Monowheel and Broomba showcased their unusual transport designs. The former was a one-wheeled single-track vehicle and the latter a self-balancing witch’s broomstick on wheels. More whimsical than practical, they nevertheless offered an interesting and fun way to get around.

Though not everyone was able to get their creations off the ground, Edgerton Center instructor Ed Moriarty ’76 said, the experience is invaluable in itself. Moriarty has been with the workshop from the very beginning and has served as both mentor and friend to all its past and present participants.

“We did not say that you have to succeed in building your project. We said you have to care about your project,” he explained. “We did not set this up as an instructional thing. This is, ‘Hey, what do you want to build?’ ‘He, let’s go try it!”

“This isn’t about teaching,” he added. “This is about empowering students to get together and do things.”

That’s something that Moriarty takes to heart and has been sharing with high school students — or anyone who happens to drop by the Edgerton Center on a lazy Saturday afternoon — for years now. If you have a big idea, he believes you should always chase it down the rabbit hole, because no matter where you end up, it’ll always be an adventure.

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.