MIT Press to co-publish new open-access Quantitative Science Studies journal

The International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics (ISSI) has announced the launch of a new journal, Quantitative Science Studies (QSS). QSS is owned by ISSI, the primary scholarly and professional society for scientometrics and informetrics, and will be published jointly with the MIT Press in compliance with fair open access principles.

QSS will be a journal run for and by the scientometric community. The initial editorial board will be fully constituted by the former editorial board of the Journal of Informetrics (JOI), an Elsevier-owned journal. The transition of the editorial board from JOI to QSS was initiated by the unanimous resignation, on Jan. 10, of all members of the JOI editorial board. The editorial board members maintain that scholarly journals should be owned by the scholarly community rather than by commercial publishers; that journals should be open access; and that publishers should make citation data freely available. The members of the board had been unsatisifed with Elsevier for not meeting their expectations, and they therefore resigned their positions.

The content for QSS will be open access and therefore freely available for readers worldwide. Funding for establishing and marketing the new journal has been provided in part by the MIT Libraries. To ensure access for authors, the MIT Press will charge a comparatively low charge per article which will be fully covered by the Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) – Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology for the first three years of operation with support of the Communication, Information, Media Centre of the University of Konstanz. The funds from TIB will be managed by the Fair Open Access Alliance to ensure that the journal is operating under fair open access principles. The MIT Press is also a full participant in the I4OC initiative, which promotes unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data.

A recognized leader in open access book and journals publishing, the MIT Press has partnered with the MIT Libraries on several open access projects, including the Strong Ideas, a new hybrid open-access/print book series; and with the MIT Media Lab to launch the Knowledge Futures Group to support the development of new open access publishing platforms and tools.

“The MIT Press is very pleased to be the ISSI’s publishing partner for QSS,” says Nick Lindsay, director of journals and open access at the MIT Press. “Both organizations share many goals around extending the reach and availability of scholarship and QSS will undoubtedly quickly become a central node for scientometrics research.”

QSS is now open and accepting submissions. Please consult the journal’s website for more details.

Science as a social practice

Marion Boulicault hates making decisions. “I want to do everything,” she says, “and one of the effects of making a choice is that other choices are closed off.” Alternately drawn to work in environmental science, public policy, and philosophy, she has always felt compelled to bring her interests together.

So when she first began her doctorate in philosophy at MIT, Boulicault assumed that choosing such an abstract field meant letting go of the pragmatic, on-the-ground impact of a career in public service.

But after taking STS.260 (Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society), a class that analyzes science as a human activity, she found the two didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. She petitioned her department to allow her to take courses in the Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS) for credit, and has been dismantling disciplinary boundaries ever since.

Working at the interface of philosophy and science

Through her HASTS interdisciplinary coursework, Boulicault first encountered a field that intrigued her: the feminist philosophy of science. She was struck that problems of gender in science go far beyond equal representation. “The notion of ‘bias’ can’t be understood only at an individual level — it’s also social, cultural, and structural. Although science is often idealized as value-free and purely ‘objective,’ it’s a practice done by people and institutions,” she says. “Science is inherently social.”

A seminal study in her field, and a favorite of Boulicault’s, is detailed in Emily Martin’s “The Egg and the Sperm.” The 1991 study deconstructs the language of scientific textbooks, arguing that descriptions of the egg and sperm fit a gendered, fairy-tale paradigm: The egg is characterized as a passive damsel in distress, waiting to be awakened, and the sperm are described as energetic and active, in unwavering pursuit of fertilization. This paradigm hindered scientific progress, Martin writes, because it delayed crucial research characterizing the egg’s active role recruiting the sperm and the dynamic relationship between the sex cells.

Boulicault’s research extends this idea to the most fundamental language of science: numbers, metrics, and measurements. She is currently analyzing the use of metrics in fertility research, particularly the differences between two common infertility tests: the ovarian reserve test, and standard semen analysis. Boulicault’s work asks if and how social ideas about gender play a role in fertility measurements, and what this might mean for scientific research into fertility.

“The metaphor of women’s ticking biological clocks, and the narrative of an ovarian reserve that is constantly being depleted … these are central frames for the way we measure and think about fertility,” Boulicault says. “I worry that these frames might be entangled with potentially problematic ideas and norms about the role of women in society, and that these frames might end up hindering our understanding of how fertility actually functions.”

She adds: “What I’m investigating is: If we ask different questions and approach fertility research with different frameworks and measurements, might we find new or surprising things about the phenomenon of human fertility?”

Creating her community

Originally from London, Boulicault still feels homesick at times. She didn’t expect moving to the U.S. to be the culture shock that it was; even the differences in the English language gave her pause. “The tone and the cadence and cultural structures [aren’t the same]. There are other differences that are hard to articulate. Feeling like you fit in happens in feeling-y ways,” she says.

One way in which Boulicault has found a home away from home is through co-op living. In shared houses that emphasize collective living and decision-making, residents build a strong sense of community through weekly dinners and group house project days, and by prioritizing open communication. Boulicault also feels at home in nature; she enjoys hiking in the nearby White Mountains and is an avid biker.

Boulicault’s commitment to public service throughout her time in the U.S. has also helped her build connections with the community. She spent summers volunteering at a malaria clinic and a public defender’s office, and worked for two years as a researcher at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington before coming to MIT.

Despite the time constraints of graduate school, she continues to channel her desire to work for the public good. Boulicault is a co-director of the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) at MIT, which invites 20 undergraduates from underrepresented groups to spend a week on campus every summer. From planning seminars to booking travel, she has happily thrown herself into the work to make a difference in her own discipline.

Philosophy can be a tough sell for the PIKSI cohorts. Yet through her involvement with PIKSI, Boulicault hopes to show students that despite the subject’s seemingly esoteric nature, it offers practical tools for improving the world.

“I also think it’s really important for philosophy. If any of these students end up going into philosophy, it will be a great thing for our discipline. … Philosophy can be a better and more inclusive field than it currently is, and these students will help to create that if they end up pursuing PhDs and becoming professors.”

Bringing a humanities perspective to science

Boulicault has managed to merge her dual passions for conceptual thinking and public service as a founding member of the Harvard GenderSci Lab, which generates feminist critiques, methods, and concepts for scientific research on sex and gender.  

At times, operating within a truly interdisciplinary framework is difficult — the GenderSci Lab consists of biologists, psychologists, philosophers, and historians — but she has found others with similar interests and has created her own interdisciplinary space.

“The dream of interdisciplinarity is that, by bringing together multiple methods and perspectives, you can come to understand a given phenomenon — like gender in science — in new and transformative ways … but there are challenges. I sometimes worry that, by working in so many disciplines at once, I might not end up fitting into any. The philosophers think, ‘This isn’t real philosophy’; the historians think, ‘She’s in the philosophy department’; and the scientists think, ‘She only has an undergrad degree in the sciences,’” Boulicault laughs. “But I only worry about that in my dark moments!”

Boulicault says the philosophy section at MIT has been hugely supportive of her endeavors and has itself become more interdisciplinary in recent years. But she believes there are even more opportunities for synergy between the humanities and sciences at MIT. It’s also a timely perspective for MIT, given the launch of the MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, which aims to incorporate ethics into the advancement of computing and artificial intelligence.

“Science and technology have essential roles to play in societal development — and figure heavily into MIT’s global image — but I think that the broader MIT ethos could be informed by paying more attention to the scholars at MIT in HASTS and philosophy who are asking questions like: ‘What is technology? In what ways is it social and how might it be assuming or amplifying existing and possibly problematic social ideas?’” Boulicault says.

Introducing Scratch 3.0

The Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab has launched Scratch 3.0, a new version of the creative coding platform for kids. The latest updates include:
•    extensions for LEGO robotics, Makey Makey, micro:bit, Google Translate, and Amazon Text-to-Speech;
•    an ideas section with new video tutorials and inspiration for activities;
•    full coding curricula from Raspberry Pi Code Club, Google CS First, and the ScratchEd Creative Computing Curriculum Guide;
•    new characters, sounds, and backgrounds, and improved paint and sound editing tools; and
•    compatibility on all current browsers and a wide variety of touch devices like tablets, as well as an offline version.

Over the past decade, 35 million kids in over 150 countries around the world have used Scratch to create their own animations, games, and other interactive projects while learning the basics of coding. Scratch is used in schools, libraries, and homes across the globe, giving parents and educators the tools to build coding literacy while helping kids gain confidence with new technologies in a fun, creative environment.

“As kids create and share projects with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively — essential skills for everyone in today’s society,” says Mitchel Resnick, the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research at the MIT Media Lab and director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group, where Scratch was created.

Scratch is founded on the constructionist learning theory developed by Seymour Papert, one of the Media Lab’s founding faculty members. Resnick, a protégé and longtime thought partner of Papert’s, brings those constructionist tenets into every aspect of the Lifelong Kindergarten group’s work. Resnick has distilled his vision of creative learning into his principles of Projects, Passion, Peers, and Play — a credo that also serves as a mission statement for Scratch.

The Scratch coding tools are integrated into a vibrant online community — a global online forum and playground where kids can collaborate on projects, offer comments and feedback, and find like-minded peers with whom to create and play. With 3.0, the Scratch team of developers, moderators, and designers has gone all in on the community’s capabilities and potential, drawing on experiences from Scratchers who have shared their personal stories of making friends, discovering passions, and finding a sense of belonging.

The new version optimizes the platform’s collaborative and interactive suite of tools; for example, new language translation blocks allow for greater cross-cultural connections.

“Scratch 3.0 expands how, what, and where kids can create with code,” says Resnick. “We can’t wait to see what kids create with Scratch 3.0.”

Concrete Slab Repair – DIY Vs Professionals

We often come across many sources of information which talk about DIY ways of keeping your home in good condition. They often refer to some projects which can be undertaken by the occupants without having to take professional help. But is this always the right way forward? There are reasons to believe that at times it does make sense to hire professionals for the job. Hence where does the truth actually lie? We will try and find out the difference between DIY OKC concrete slab repair works and hiring professionals to do the job. It will be, we hope, a good source of information for those who wish to have the right knowledge and insight.

DIY Projects Which You Can Handle

Even if you are a competent DIY person with the right kind of skill sets and knowledge, it is doubtful whether you will be able to handle all types of extreme erosion control Edmond OK jobs. You can at best handle small jobs like patio works and that too during the weekends. You must understand that even small concrete slab repair jobs do take their own time. Further, you can work only on slabs which are on the ground level and anything a bit high, you could face problems.

Better To Hire Professionals

When you decide to handle big sized projects like footings, foundations and slap repair beyond a certain height, you would always do better to hire concrete professionals. This is because they come with the right experience and they will be able to work longer hours and do work more efficiently and speedily. They also have the right tools and infrastructure to reach heights and work.

You Might Need Permits Under The Law

There are some big sized projects for which you might need special sanction from the local municipal authorities before you get started. Since you do not have such a license or permission, you will have no other option but to choose professionals to do the job for you.

Taking Care Of Technical And Other Aspects

There are quite a few technical and other aspects which are best handled by professionals rather than being done using some unknown DIY ways and means. For example when it comes to big projects, mixing large quantities of batter is in itself a challenging and difficult task. The ratio has to be perfect and there is no room for error. In such cases, it would always be better to go in for professionals because they certainly will be able to do a much better job of it.

 Taking Care Of The Safety Aspects

We also need to understand that complex concrete slab repair work involves some bit of risk and dangers. The workers who are actually into the job should be well equipped and it has been found over and over again that it always makes much better sense to hire professionals to do the job. It is near impossible for DIY professionals to ensure that they will be able to fully take care of the safety and other features at any given point of time.

The Final Word

When all the above facts are taken into account there are reasons to believe that it does make sense to hire these professionals rather than depending on DIY beyond a point.

 

 

Top 3 Drawbacks Of Undergoing Dialysis

A device or technique that has the ability to eliminate impurities from the blood is considered to be one of the life-saving wonders of contemporary medicine. One of these happens to be dialysis Quality which is meant to provide an artificial replacement for any kidney in case it ceases to function properly. In fact, patients whose kidneys are not functioning correctly either permanently or temporarily will need to undergo dialysis. However, in spite of being a useful treatment, dialysis can likewise lead to a number of issues in the long run. Here, we have talked about the top 3 drawbacks of undergoing dialysis.

  1. First Use Syndrome

In some cases, our body might not react properly while using a hemodiafiltration machine. Although rare, First Use Syndrome happens to be a condition that might arise because of implementing an artificial kidney. Amongst the different symptoms of this ailment, shortness of breath, chest as well as back discomfort, sneezing, wheezing, or even sudden demise deserve special mention. In case you too are combating these types of conditions following you first dialysis, you must not hesitate to inform the physician since First Use Syndrome might even result in death.

  1. Bleeding

As per Dr. David Fowler, the chief medical examiner of Maryland, over 24 dialysis sufferers met their death while bleeding profusely during the period between 2000 and 2007. Interestingly, almost all these demises occurred when the patients were in their houses alone and started bleeding. The reason this has been properly explained by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Office in the state of Maryland. Patients that are suffering from kidney failure need their blood to be cleaned as many as 3 times every week in order to continue living. Nevertheless, this continual process of drawing and returning the blood to one’s body can make the patient extremely feeble and he often succumbs to death over time.

  1. Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis

MRI (also known as magnetic resonance imaging) happens to be a device for taking images similar to that of an x-ray. However, MRI is a better technique since it allows us to see things which cannot be seen by ordinary x-rays. On some occasions, an ordinary MRI is not sufficient to get the job done and we require a specialized process to see things which will allow us to detect any abnormality. A fluid referred to as a “contrast agent” will be injected into the bloodstream which will help to create contrast on the MRI image thus enabling us to detect certain abnormalities.

Once the job is accomplished, the contrast agent will be taken out of the body by means of the kidneys. However, the kidneys will not be removing this contrast agent quickly which might lead to the eventual poisoning of the human body.

Contrast agents make use of a rare metal known as Gadolinium. Recently, it has been discovered by the doctors that this metal comes with some painful side effects called Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis. The preliminary indications of this condition consist of muscle weakness, hypertension, as well as stiff and hardened epidermis. Moreover, the patients might also struggle with burning, itching, and extreme discomfort in the affected regions. Over time, they might even encounter stiffness in the joints that can impede their mobility completely. In some cases, they might even suffer death.

 

Anna Frebel is searching the stars for clues to the universe’s origins

In August 2002, Anna Frebel pressed pause on her undergraduate physics studies in Germany and spent her entire life savings on a plane ticket to take her halfway around the world, to a mountaintop observatory just outside Canberra, Australia.

She spent the next five months volunteering at the Australian National University Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, where astronomers had regular access to a set of world-class telescopes set atop Mount Stromlo.

On Jan. 18, 2003, brushfires that had been burning for weeks in the surrounding forest suddenly advanced toward Canberra, whipped up by a dry, scorching wind.

“The fire front just swept in, and it marched at about six to seven miles an hour, and it just rode right into the city. The observatory was the first to fall,” recalls Frebel, who watched the calamity from the opposite end of Canberra.

The fires obliterated the observatory’s historic telescopes, along with several administrative buildings and even some homes of researchers living on the mountainside.

“It was a pretty big shock,” Frebel says. “But tragedy also brings out community, and we were all helping each other, and it really bonded us together.”

As the campus set to work clearing the ash and rebuilding the facility, Frebel decided to extend her initially one-year visit to Australia — a decision that turned out to be career-making.

“I wasn’t going to be deterred by a burned-down observatory,” says Frebel, who was granted a tenure position this year in MIT’s Department of Physics.

Frebel’s star

Soon after the fires subsided, Frebel accepted an offer by the Australian National University to pursue a PhD in astronomy. She chose to focus her studies on a then-fledgling field: the search for the universe’s oldest stars.

It’s believed that, immediately after the Big Bang exploded the universe into existence, clouds of hydrogen, helium, and lithium coalesced to form the very first generation of stars. These incredibly massive stellar pioneers grew out of control and quickly burned out as supernovas.

To sustain their enormous luminosities, atoms of hydrogen and helium smashed together to create heavier elements in their cores, considered to be the universe’s first “metals” — a term in astronomy used to describe all elements that are heavier than hydrogen and helium. These metals in turn forged the second generation of stars, which researchers believe formed just half a billion years after the Big Bang.

Since then, many stellar generations have populated the night sky, containing ever more abundant metals. Astronomers suspect, however, that those early, second-generation stars can still be found in some pockets of the universe, and possibly even in our own Milky Way.

Frebel set out to find these oldest stars, also known as “metal-poor” stars. One of her first discoveries was HE 1327-2326, which contained the smallest amount of iron ever known, estimated at about 1/400,000 that of the Earth’s sun. Given this extremely low “metallicity,” the star was likely a second-generation star, born very shortly after the Big Bang. Until 2014, Frebel’s star remained the record-holder for the most metal-poor star ever discovered.

The results were published in 2005 in Nature, with Frebel, then just two years into her PhD, as lead author.

A star turn

Frebel went on to work as a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin, and later the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where she continued to make remarkable insights into the early universe. Most notably, in 2007, she discovered HE 1523-0901, a red giant star in the Milky Way galaxy. Frebel estimated the star to be about 13.2 billion years old — among the oldest stars ever discovered and nearly as old as the universe itself.

In 2010, she unearthed a similarly primitive star in a nearby galaxy, that appeared to have the exact same metallic content as some of the old stars she had observed in the outskirts of our own Milky Way. This seemed to suggest, for the first time, that young galaxies like the Milky Way may “cannibalize” nearby, older galaxies, taking in their ancient stars as their own.

“A lot more detail has come to light in the last 10 years or so, and now we’re asking questions like, not just whether these objects are out there, but exactly where did they form, and how,” Frebel says. “So the puzzle is filling in.”

In 2012, she accepted an offer to join the physics faculty at MIT, where she continues to assemble the pieces to the early universe’s history. Much of her research is focused on analyzing stellar observations taken by the twin Magellan telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory, in Chile. Frebel’s group makes the long trek to the observatory about three times per year to collect light from stars in the Milky Way and small satellite dwarf galaxies.

Once they arrive at the mountaintop observatory, the astronomers adapt to a night owl’s schedule, sleeping through the day and rising close to dinner time. Then, they grab a quick bite at the observatory’s lodge before heading up the mountainside to one of the two telescopes, where they remain into the early morning hours, collecting streams of photons from various stars of interest.

On nights when bad weather makes data collection impossible, Frebel reviews her data or she writes — about the solitary, sleep-deprived experience of observatory work; the broader search for the universe’s oldest stars; and most recently, about an overlooked scientific heroine in nuclear physics.

Engaging with the public

In addition to her academic work, Frebel makes a point of reaching out to a broader audience, to share her excitement in the cosmos. In one of many essays that she’s penned for such popular magazines as Scientific American, she describes the satisfied weariness following a long night’s work:

“Already I am imagining myself drawing the thick, sun-proof shades on my window and resting my head against my pillow. The morning twilight cloaks the stars overhead, but I know they are there — burning as they have for billions of years.”

In 2015, she published her first book, “Searching for the Oldest Stars: Ancient Relics from the Early Universe.” And just last year, she wrote and performed a 12-minute play about the life and accomplishments of Lise Meitner, an Austrian-Swedish physicist who was instrumental in discovering nuclear fission. Meitner, who worked for most of her career in Berlin, Germany, fled to Sweden during the Nazi occupation. There, she and her long-time collaborator Otto Hahn found evidence of nuclear fission. But it was Hahn who ultimately received the Nobel Prize for the discovery.

“Scientifically, [Meitner] is absolutely in line with Marie Curie, but she was never recognized appropriately for her work,” Frebel says. “She should be a household name, but she isn’t. So I find it very important to help rectify that.”

Frebel has given a handful of performances of the play, during which she appears in the first half, dressed in costume as Meitner. In the second half, she appears as herself, explaining to the audience how Meitner’s revelations influence astronomers’ work today.

Getting into character is nothing new for Frebel, who, as a high school student in Gottingen, Germany, took on multiple roles in the school plays. She also took part in what she calls the “subculture of figure-rollerskating” — a competitive sport that is analogous to figure-skating, only on roller skates. During that formative time, Frebel partly credits her mother for turning her focus to science and to the women who advanced their fields.

“When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a lot of biographies of women scientists and other notable women, and I still have a little book of Lise Meitner from when I was around 13,” Frebel says. “So I have been very familiar with her, and I do work basically on the topic that she was interested in. So I’m one of her scientific daughters.”

Sound and technology unlock innovation at MIT

Sound is a powerfully evocative medium, capable of conjuring authentic emotions and unlocking new experiences. This fall, several cross-disciplinary projects at MIT probed the technological and aesthetic limits of sound, resulting in new innovations and perspectives, from motion-sensing headphones that enable joggers to maintain a steady pace, virtual reality technology that enables blind people to experience comic book action, as well as projects that challenge our very relationship with technology.

Sound as political participation

“Sound is by nature a democratic medium,” says Ian Condry, an anthropologist and professor in MIT’s Department of Global Studies and Languages, adding that “sound lets us listen around the margins and to follow multiple voices coming from multiple directions.”

That concept informed this year’s Hacking Arts Hackathon Signature Hack, which Condry helped coordinate. The multi-channel audio installation sampled and abstracted audio excerpts from recent presidential inaugural addresses, then blended them with breathing sounds that the team recorded from a live audience. Building on this soundtrack, two team members acted as event DJs, instructing the audience to hum and breathe in unison, while their phones — controlled by an app created for the hackathon — played additional breathing and humming sounds.

“We wanted to play with multiple streams of speech and audio,” says Adam Haar Horowitz, a second-year master’s student at the MIT Media Lab, and member of the winning team. “Not just the words, which can be divisive, but the texture and pauses between the words.”

A guy walks into a library…

What happens when artificial intelligence decides what’s funny? Sound and democracy played prominently in “The Laughing Room,” an installation conceived by a team including author, illustrator, and MIT PhD candidate Jonny Sun and Stephanie Frampton, MIT associate professor of literature, as part of her project called ARTificial Intelligence, a collaboration between MIT Libraries and the Cambridge Public Library.

Funded in part by a Fay Chandler Faculty Creativity Seed Grant from the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST), “The Laughing Room” invited public library visitors into a set that evoked a television sitcom living room, where they told stories or jokes that were analyzed by the room’s AI. If the algorithm determined a story was funny, it played a recorded laugh track. “The Laughing Room” — as well as the AI’s algorithmic calculations — were then broadcast on screens in “The Control Room,” a companion installation at MIT’s Hayden Library.

While fun for the public, the project also mined more serious issues. “There is a tension in society around technology,” says Sun, “between the things technology allows you to do, like having an algorithm tell you your joke is funny, and the price we pay for that technology, which is usually our privacy.”

Using sound to keep the pace

How can audio augmented reality enhance our quality of life? That challenge was explored by more than 70 students from multiple disciplines who competed in the Bose MIT Challenge in October. The competition, organized by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology and an MIT graduate who co-founded Harmonix, the company that developed iconic video games Guitar Hero and Rock Band, encourages students to invent real-life applications for Bose AR, a new audio augmented reality technology and platform.

This year’s winning entry adapted the Bose’s motion-sensing AR headphones to enable runners to stay on pace as they train. When the runner accelerates, the music is heard behind them. When their place slows, the music sounds as if it’s ahead of them.

“I’d joined hackathons at my home university,” said Dominic Co, a one-year exchange student in architecture from the University of Hong Kong and member of the three-person winning team. “But there’s such a strong culture of making things here at MIT. And so many opportunities to learn from other people.”

Creating a fuller picture with sound

Sound — and the technology that delivers it — has the capacity to enhance everyone’s quality of life, especially for the 8.4 million Americans without sight. That was the target audience of Project Daredevil, which won the MIT Creative Arts Competition last April.

Daniel Levine, a master’s candidate at the MIT Media Lab, teamed with Matthew Shifrin, a sophomore at the New England Conservatory of Music, to create a virtual-reality system for the blind. The system’s wearable vestibular-stimulating helmet enables the sightless to experience sensations like flying, falling, and acceleration as they listen to an accompanying soundtrack.

Shifrin approached Levine two years ago for help in developing an immersive 3-D experience around the Daredevil comic books — a series whose superhero, like Shifrin, is blind. As a child, Shifrin’s father read Daredevil to him aloud, carefully describing the action in every pane. Project Daredevil has advanced that childhood experience using technology.

“Because of Dan and his engineering expertise, this project has expanded far beyond our initial plan,” says Shifrin. “It’s not just a thing for blind people. Anyone who is into virtual reality and gaming can wear the device.”

A beautiful marriage of art and technology

Another cross-disciplinary partnership in sound and technology that resulted in elegant outcomes this fall is the ongoing partnership between CAST Visiting Artist Jacob Collier and MIT PhD candidate Ben Bloomberg.

Bloomberg, who completed his undergraduate and master’s studies at MIT, studied music and performance design with Tod Machover, the Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media and director of the Media Lab’s Opera of the Future group. Bloomberg discovered Collier’s music videos online about four years ago; he then wrote the artist to ask whether he needed any help in adapting his video performances to the stage. Fortunately, the answer was yes.

Working closely with Collier, Bloomberg developed a computerized audio/visual performance platform that enables the charismatic composer and performer to move seamlessly from instrument to instrument on stage and sing multiple parts simultaneously. The duo continues to develop and perfect the technology in performance. “It’s like a technological prosthesis,” says Bloomberg, who has worked with dozens of artists, including Bjork and Ariana Grande.

While technology has opened the door to richer sound explorations, Bloomberg firmly places it in an artistic realm. “None of this would make any sense were it not for Jacob’s amazing talent. He pushes me to develop new technologies, or to find new ways to apply existing technology. The goal here isn’t to integrate technology just because we can, but to support the music and further its meaning.”

Explorations in sound continue into 2019 with the innovative annual performance series MIT Sounding. Highlights of the 2018-2019 season include a collaboration with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in honor of MIT Institute Professor John Harbison’s 80th birthday, the American premiere of the Spider’s Canvas, a virtual 3-D reconstruction of a spider’s web with each strand tuned to a different note, and residencies by two divergent musicians: the Haitian singer and rapper BIC and the innovative American pianist Joel Fan performing works by MIT composers.

How to Make Retirement Living Easier and Smoother

Retirement is a life changing period of one’s life. Some people take this new lifestyle very smoothly whereas some find it very difficult to adjust in it. They can also make this transition easier and smoother just by taking few careful steps. Some of these steps are briefly described in this write-up to help you in this regard.

Control your thoughts: Instead of taking your retirement as the end of your career you should take it as the start of a new lifestyle. You can talk about it with your partner as well as other retired people near you. Your retirement provides you new opportunities to share your experiences of life with other people either working as a volunteer or signing up with some inspirational classes.

Make a list of your requirements: There can be several things which you wanted to achieve in your life but could not spare time for them due to your busy work schedule. Now is the time you can fulfill your requirements as you have enough time for such things. So you should make a list of what you want to do to make yourself happier and satisfied.

Replace your social obligations: Most of the retired people miss their society they were used to attend during their working life. You can replace your social network by joining some fitness center, workshops, volunteering, classes or religious activities etc. Watching TV at home can also be a good way to spend your retired life but it can also make your life idle.

Keep yourself active: Instead of living an idle life the retired people should do some productive work to get a sense of pride for being helpful to someone near you and your social circle. Volunteering can be a good way to make your retired life active, smoother and easier as it can easily fill the emptiness created by your retirement living.

Design your daily schedule: You can make your retired life valuable by volunteering or joining some productive activity. Your active lifestyle will not only keep you bust but also happy as you are not killing your time idly. In the long run such decisions will keep you satisfied with your retired life.

Do what you could not do until your retirement: There can be many things which you wanted to do in your life but could not do due to our involvement in your work. It can be visiting your family and friends, remodeling your home, check your health through medical tests or see different parts of the country etc. Now is the time you can fulfill your ambitions without any stress and remain happy.

Keep yourself fit: Your health should be your first priority, especially after retirement. Retirement does not mean lie idly and eat whatever you want while watching TV. It will unbalance your digestive system and will affect your overall health. To remain healthy you should keep yourself busy mentally as well as physically.

Try to get a new job: If you are physically and mentally fit then you can try to get some part time or full time job, as per your condition. It will not only keep you busy but also improve your self confidence by providing you financial stability.

 

Lidar accelerates hurricane recovery in the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence’s slow trot over North and South Carolina in September led to inundating rain, record storm surges, and another major disaster for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to contend with. Facing damage over hundreds of square miles, FEMA again called upon MIT Lincoln Laboratory to use their state-of-the-art lidar system to image the destruction in the region.

Installed onto an airplane and flown nightly over a disaster site, lidar (which stands for light detection and ranging) sends out pulses of laser light that bounce off the land and structures below and are collected again by the instrument. The timing of each light pulse’s return to the instrument is used to build what researchers call a “point-cloud map,” a high-resolution 3-D model of the scanned area that depicts the heights of structures and landscape features. Laboratory analysts can then process this point-cloud data to glean information that helps FEMA focus their recovery efforts — for example, by estimating the number of collapsed houses in an area, the volume of debris piles, and the reach of flood waters.

Yet quickly sending the nearly two terabytes of data from a single night’s scan, or sortie, to the Laboratory for processing is a challenge. After a storm, local internet connections may be gone or spotty. When the Laboratory used this same lidar platform after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, downed networks meant having to physically ship a hard drive back to Massachusetts — a more than two-day delay in getting the data into analysts’ hands. When the team started the campaign in the Carolinas in mid-September, they faced the same obstacle.

This time, the obstacle was hurdled thanks to MCNC. The nonprofit organization formerly known as the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina is based out of Research Triangle Park near Durham, North Carolina, which was not directly affected by Hurricane Florence. MCNC gave the Laboratory free access to their North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN).

“Our state was hit hard by Hurricane Florence,” says Tommy Jacobson, MCNC’s chief operating officer and vice president. “For MCNC’s leadership, it was a quick and easy decision to enable MIT, who was in the state to assist FEMA, with access to our network resources to help however we could in making sure relief got to those that needed it.”

NCREN is North Carolina’s broadband backbone, connecting more than 750 institutions including all public school districts in the state, universities and colleges, public safety locations, and other community anchor institutions. Access for the Laboratory meant rack space for equipment inside the MCNC data center. From there, MCNC provisioned a 10-gigabit IP connection from the NCREN to Internet2, an ultrafast, advanced network that connects research centers around the world. This connection gave the team the ability to upload large volumes of data daily from their equipment inside the data center back to a computing center on MIT campus that is also connected to Internet2.

From there, another 10-gigabit connection bounced the data from campus to the Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center in Holyoke, where the data were processed.

“The 10-gig uplink from MCNC allowed us to transmit the data at such a higher speed that some of our uploads were done in about six to seven hours,” says Daniel Ribeirinha-Braga, a member of the Laboratory’s data management team in this hurricane effort. “Keep in mind that this is lidar data, which we get about 1.5 to 1.9 terabytes a night of, that needs to be copied to multiple places, such as other hard drives, organized to a single SSD [solid-state drive], and then uploaded to the Laboratory from MCNC.” 

The collaboration between the Laboratory and MCNC came about through Matt Daggett, a staff member in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group. He had worked at MCNC more than a decade ago.

“I was aware of the NCREN backbone and the data center on the MCNC campus,” Daggett says. “When it became clear that our flight operations would be based out of the RDU [Raleigh–Durham International] airport, I knew MCNC would be the perfect place to get our data onto the Internet2.”

Adds Jacobson: “We were grateful that MIT sought us out to provide that help,” 

With the data processing underway, the Laboratory has begun delivering reports to FEMA. The lidar imagery reveals things that would be impossible for FEMA to know from looking only at satellite images. “The most important difference between a satellite image and the lidar image is that you can do 3-D measurements on it,” says Anthony Lapadula of the HADR Systems Group. “So, because it’s 3-D data, we can do things like tell you how big a hole in a road is, or tell you how big an elevation drop is as a result of a landslide.”

One of the greatest advantages of the lidar work has been the time saved for FEMA. When someone reported damage at a specific location, FEMA could assess the damage quickly by asking Laboratory analysts to virtually visit the location in the point-cloud map and report what they found.

For instance, FEMA asked them to zoom in on a small town on the Lumber River in North Carolina that had been inundated with flood waters. Analysis of the data told FEMA the extent of the flood inundation, the volume of debris piles in the town, and changes in the river’s path. There were also environment questions to be answered, such as what the volume was of a coal ash pile to determine how much, if any, washed away with flood waters. They could also check in on public infrastructure, like a lock and dam along the Cape Fear River that the data showed to be completely flooded. 

Completing the 40 sorties requested over the Carolinas took the team several weeks to complete, right up until Thanksgiving. The sorties covered areas down the coastline from the Cape Lookout National Seashore to Myrtle Beach and through bands stretching inland. These hundreds of miles of lidar data were processed to a resolution of approximately 25 centimeters. To put that resolution into perspective, Lapadula says that if the scanned areas were covered completely with basketballs, they would be able to precisely measure the location of each ball.

But with only one of these extremely advanced systems available for use, Lincoln Laboratory staff are limited in how much area they can cover and how many disasters they can respond to with the technology. The lidar system was originally developed by the Active Optical Systems Group, who has been assisting the HADR Systems Group with data collection, processing, and algorithm development.

Several industry collaborators also participated in this effort. Employees from the small business 3DEO, which specializes in Geiger-mode lidar technology, assisted with the data collection. The small business LEEP has been helping with data analytics and providing training to FEMA analysts to facilitate the use of the data. Another partner, Basler Turbo Conversions, supported engineering aspects of installing the lidar on the BT-67 aircraft, which is being leased from the company AIRtec. 

While the laboratory has been involved in disaster recovery since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, it has never been so active in these efforts as in the past year since Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in 2017.

“We went a decade without a major hurricane hitting the continental United States,” Lapadula reflected. “Now, it’s like they just keep coming.”

Andrew Schneider’s “NERVOUS/SYSTEM” boldly launches MIT Performing

Albert Einstein once said of his teaching style, “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” That quote essentially describes how OBIE award-winning performer, writer, and interactive-electronics artist Andrew Schneider came to launch the inaugural season of the MIT Performing series, presented by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST), with the premiere of his work, “NERVOUS/SYSTEM.”

The idea to bring Schneider to MIT originated with Josh Higgason, technical instructor in music and theater arts at MIT. His goal was to find artists who were “making some of the most interesting work out in the world, and bring it right to our student’s doorsteps.” Schneider’s theater work met that high mark.

The initial plan was to bring Schneider and his collaborators to MIT to present a piece from their repertoire; the proposal later evolved, bringing Schneider to MIT as a CAST visiting artist to present a new work in Building W97, MIT’s new, state-of-the-art theater arts facility. The piece launched MIT Performing, the new prototyping and presenting series curated by Jay Scheib, professor of Theater at MIT, which aims to promote research based artistic practices and serve as a new platform for contemporary performance.

The Premiere

The modern black box theater saw the premiere of “NERVOUS/SYSTEM” Nov. 9-11. The piece is the final part of a triptych that builds on two previous works from Schneider’s “YOUARENOWHERE,” which explored parallel universes, and “AFTER,” a theatrical examination of shared consciousness.

To augment his independent research, Schneider spoke with MIT faculty and staff across departments, including mechanical engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, and philosophy. These discussions gave him a clearer understanding of space, time, and perception — ideas that would inform the structure and concepts in “NERVOUS/SYSTEM.”

Schneider returned for a two-week residency at Building W97 in July, 2018, working closely with his recurring collaborators. The group continued to finesse the theatrical design and technical logistics for “NERVOUS/SYSTEM,” using infrared video tracking and computer-controlled programming to stage complete blackouts, as well as to devise blocking schemes that create seamless scene changes, which play a critical role in “NERVOUS/SYSTEM.”

Described as “synaptic theater” by one experimental theater devotee in the audience, “NERVOUS/SYSTEM” examines the way humans connect — or, more often, disconnect — through a series of seemingly random vignettes. Some scenes are literally seconds long before abruptly going black and quickly juxtaposing to an entirely different combination of performers in a new setting. These rapid scene changes often reflect the relentless bombardment of information that informs our technology-driven modern life.

Telling stories in new ways

While the technical effects were nothing short of astonishing, more striking is the ability of Schneider’s performers, who are called on to handle the constant movement of props and backstage logistics. In this way, “NERVOUS/SYSTEM” is more of an impressionist movement piece than it is theater, as the actors seamlessly execute complex scene changes while communicating emotionally complex storylines, often with few words. Their ability to focus gives the play its visceral power.

“With our theater, it may look very hyper-technical — and it is hyper-technical–but that is all in service of telling these stories in new ways,” says Schneider. “We’re trying to work on your brain, so instead of latching onto a narrative about this person who’s failing to achieve success in their life … we try to work on you in a different way.”

Recurrent scenarios thread throughout the piece, such as the frustration the main character encounters when trying to engage their therapist or friends in meaningful conversation, or their repeated attempts to survey busy people in the street, with varying degrees of success. These misfired connections run through the heart of “NERVOUS/SYSTEM.” “That’s what a lot of the work is about,” says Schneider. “The difficulty of communicating with other people in the world, and (how) that is leading to many of the problems that we have as human beings. And that’s what I think our work is trying to explore.”

Schneider says his experiences at MIT changed his concept of art, science, and technology and the ways in which those disciplines intersect. While much of that shift in thinking came from his one-on-one conversations, it’s also something he sees as “just in the air” at MIT.

“Everyone feels it — the whole cast and crew. Being here feels like more of a research laboratory than being in a warehouse space in Brooklyn. So we’re thinking about things differently here.”

“NERVOUS/SYSTEM” is presented by  the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology, with support from the Council for the Arts at MIT. The work is having a New York premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music this month.

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