Tag Archives: MIT

Building The Blueprint For Life On Mars

What is needed to make life on Mars sustainable for a long time? The main essentials of human life include air, water, food, and shelter. However, people require more than just the basic essentials to live comfortably. The Mars One project is becoming a more discussed topic by the media and public in general by the day. One interesting discussion is the speculation of how the first Mars settlers will create a lasting community on the planet.

The supplies that will be transported from Earth are likely to run out – most of them will probably be used in the seven-month journey to the red planet. When those first citizens arrive on Mars, they will have to come up with systems and processes to ensure sustainable resources for their future. In a nutshell, this is what they may be required to have. Even though humans will be able to produce numerous renewable resources on Mars, they will still need consistent funding from Earth.

According to the Mars One project, the estimated initial cost of settling the first four Mars citizens is around six billion dollars. Cost overruns are also a huge possibility. Future funding of this plan would come from donations by private investors, more so because the U.S has proposed budget cuts to space exploration funding. What began, as a grassroots cause might become a fierce global marketing campaign to get steady financial support.

A small leak in cash flow may cause trouble.  Space travel comes with a ton of health risks. All astronauts go through a thorough medical screening before undertaking a mission and they are monitored from Earth the entire time. However, this close monitoring will not be enough for permanent life on Mars. It is essential for all citizens to be able to access modern medical care.

It is almost impossible to have physicians of every specialty on Mars. Medical robots could act as a good alternative to diagnose the IBM Watson prototype and other conditions. Preventive medical technology such as early-warning software to preempt strokes, heart attacks, seizures, and other events might help. The use of minimally invasive robotic surgery to treat some conditions is also another option. All of these choices still call for equipment, facilities, and expertise. Communication with Earth is vital because of safety, technical support, and research.

Nonetheless, as the Mars community grows, the citizens will need stand-alone channels of communication among themselves. Creating a network of underground cables for the Internet and communications would be costly. A better choice is satellite phone and Internet. Humans and structures have to be protected from the environment. Too much exposure to dust storms, severe climate shifts, and radiation are some of the factors that astronauts need to be concerned about.

Southwest Research Institute has proposed plastic shielding for protection against cosmic radiation as well as wearing lead protective clothing and thick insulation. For structures, a strong outer coating might do. There are so many things to be considered when it comes to life on Mars. Examining them and coming up with solutions increases the chances of dual-planet existence. How will humans live on the red planet? An MIT team created a design concept in answer to this question as part of an international competition, Mars City Design 2017. The competition concentrated on sustainable cities on the red planet to be built within the next century.

The winning urban design by MIT, titled Redwood Forest, built tree habitats or domes, each with a capacity of up to 50 people. These domes offer open, public spaces with plants and water, obtained from the northern plains. The tree habitats will sit on top of networks of roots or underground tunnels that will give access to private spaces and convenient transportation to the rest of the tree habitats in the community. The roots will not only offer connectivity, but also protect residents from extreme thermal variations, micrometeorite impacts, and cosmic radiation.

The MIT team consisted of Caitlin Mueller, assistant professor, and postdoc Valentina Sumini leading nine students from various research groups and departments. Speaking on the project, Sumini says that the city will functionally and physically replicate a forest, utilizing the local resources on Mars such as regolith (or soil), water, the sun, and ice to support life. The forest-like design is also a symbol of the potential of growth as Mars transforms into a green planet.

Each tree habitat consists of an inflated membrane structure and a branching structural system. Since the design workflow is parametric, each habitat is different and is part of a diverse forest. The team seeks to create a comfortable environment for colonists using system architecture and location focused on sustainability—a very critical element for any Martian community.

George Lordos MBA ’00, the man responsible for the Redwood Forest system architecture, talked about the crucial role of water in developing vibrant communities on the red planet. He said that, in the Redwood Forest, each tree habitat would use energy from the sun to process and distribute water to the tree.

Water enters the soft cells in the dome and provides the much-needed protection from radiation, supplies hydroponic farms, and manages heat loads. Solar panels generate energy to break up the stored water for rocket fuel production, oxygen and charging hydrogen fuel cells (these are necessary in powering long-range vehicles and also for backup energy storage when dust storms occur).

According to the designers, most of the features in the Redwood Forest design could also be used on Earth. For instance, electric vehicles using underground multi-level networks might help with the congestion in cities in America. The tree habitat idea could help in creating working and living spaces in very harsh environments such as the sea floor, deserts, and high latitudes. Hydroponic gardening underneath cities could offer a steady supply of fresh vegetables; fish and fruits with lower transportation and land costs. Other member of the MIT team include AeroAstro PhD students Matthew Moraguez,

Alejandro Trujillo and Samuel Wald, Alpha Arsano SM ’17 (Architecture PhD student), Kamming Mark Tam MEng ’15 (research fellow), John Stillman and Meghan Maupin (Integrated Design and management Program graduates) and Zoe Lallas (Civil and Environmental engineering undergraduate). There is an easier way to launch humans to the red planet—the Martian mission could refuel on the moon. This is the suggestion of an MIT study.

Past studies have shown that water ice and lunar soil in specific craters of the moon can be mined and made into fuel. Assume that the necessary technologies are developed when the mission to Mars is set to take place; the MIT team has discovered that a detour to the moon for refueling would cut the mass of the mission by 68%. The team built a model to figure out the best route to the red planet, with the assumption that fuel-generating infrastructure and resources are available on the moon.

They determined that the most mass-efficient path would involve launching a crew with fuel, just enough to get it into orbit around Earth. Tankers of fuel would then be launched into space from a fuel plant on the moon. The Mars-bound crew would pick up the tankers, go to a nearby fueling station and refuel before going on their way. This plan is different from NASA’s direct route. It is against the common idea of how to get to Mars, where you have to go straight, carrying everything with you.

This new detour idea is unintuitive. However, from a big-picture view, it could be the most affordable option. Space exploration programs have employed two major strategies in providing resources to mission crews: the carry-along strategy, where all resources and vehicles accompany the crew at all times and the resupply strategy, which involves replenishing the crew with resources on a regular basis. However, the more humans go beyond Earth’s orbit in exploration, the more these strategies become less sustainable. The destinations are far away and budgets are limited.

The team suggests that missions to distant destinations will have a lot to gain from an “in-situ utilization” supply strategy; where resources and provisions such as fuel, oxygen, and water are produced and collected on the way. The resources generated in space would be used in place of those that would otherwise come from Earth. Ishimatsu came up with a network flow model for various routes to the red planet to see if manned missions would benefit from infrastructure and fuel resources in space. The routes range from a direct flight to those with several pit stops on the way.

The purpose of the model was to reduce the mass launched from Earth. The model focuses on a future situation in which fuel can be produced and distributed from the moon to certain points in space. According to the model, fuel depots are situated at specific gravitationally bound places in space, known as Lagrange points. Ishimatsu argues that this research highlights the importance of having a resource-producing structure in space. He goes on to say that it may not be necessary for the first mission to Mars but its presence will make repeated trips easier and more sustainable. Although the goal is to create a self-sustaining colony on Mars, a ‘road in space’ will make interplanetary travel more affordable. 

IBM and MIT pen 10-year, $240M AI research partnership

IBM and MIT came together today to sign a 10-year, $240 million partnership agreement that establishes the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab at the prestigious Cambridge, MA academic institution.

The lab will be co-chaired by Dario Gil, IBM Research VP of AI and Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering.

Big Blue intends to invest $240 million into the lab where IBM researchers and MIT students and faculty will work side by side to conduct advanced AI research. As to what happens to the IP that the partnership produces, the sides were a bit murky about that.

This much we know: MIT plans to publish papers related to the research, while the two parties plan to open source a good part of the code. Some of the IP will end up inside IBM products and services. MIT hopes to generate some AI-based startups as part of the deal too.

“The core mission of joint lab is to bring together MIT scientists and IBM [researchers] to shape the future of AI and push the frontiers of science,” IBM’s Gil told TechCrunch.

To that end, the two parties plan to put out requests to IBM scientists and the MIT student community to submit ideas for joint research. To narrow the focus of what could be a broad endeavor, they have established a number of principles to guide the research.

 

This includes developing AI algorithms with goal of getting beyond specific applications for neural-based deep learning networks and finding more generalized ways to solve complex problems in the enterprise.

Secondly, they hope to harness the power of machine learning with quantum computing, an area that IBM is working hard to develop right now. There is tremendous potential for AI to drive the development of quantum computing and conversely for quantum computing and the computing power it brings to drive the development of AI.

With IBM’s Watson Security and Healthcare divisions located right down the street from MIT in Kendall Square, the two parties have agreed to concentrate on these two industry verticals in their work. Finally, the two teams plan to work together to help understand the social and economic impact of AI in society, which as we have seen has already proven to be considerable.

While this is a big deal for both MIT and IBM, Chandrakasan made clear that the lab is but one piece of a broader campus-wide AI initiative. Still, the two sides hope the new partnership will eventually yield a number of research and commercial breakthroughs that will lead to new businesses both inside IBM and in the Massachusetts startup community, particularly in the healthcare and cybersecurity areas.

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IBM and MIT pen 10-year, $240M AI research partnership

Increasing Minimum Wage Puts More Jobs at Risk of Automation

When the minimum wage goes up, the robots come for people’s jobs. That’s the upshot of a paper published today on the National Bureau of Economic Research’s website (abstract, full PDF paywalled), which analyzed how changes to the minimum wage from 1980 to 2015 affected low-skill jobs in various sectors of the U.S. economy. 

Federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, the same level it’s been at since 2009. But 30 states have laws on the books that mandate a higher wage—it’s $11 in Washington State, for example, and Seattle recently voted to phase in a pay hike that would bring it to $15 by 2022. Such measures are designed to ensure that “minimum wage” is the same thing as a “living wage.”

Interestingly, a study of Seattle’s new law, released in June, suggested that cuts to working hours meant people were actually losing as much as $125 a month.

The new analysis, by Grace Lorden of the London School of Economics and David Neumark at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that there’s a similar negative effect among people who work minimum-wage jobs that machines can do. The researchers found that across all industries they measured, raising minimum wage by $1 equates to a decline in “automatable” jobs—things like packing boxes or operating a sewing machine—of 0.43 percent.

That may not sound like much, but we’re talking about millions of jobs across the entire U.S. economy. And certain industries were affected far more than others—in manufacturing, an uptick of $1 in minimum wage drove employment in automatable jobs down a full percentage point.

Of course, we know that automation is already gobbling up jobs in the U.S. (see “Who Will Own the Robots?”). This latest study suggests that even wage policies designed to help America’s workforce may instead be speeding up that process.

Source:

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/608636/increasing-minimum-wage-puts-more-jobs-at-risk-of-automation/

Startup soars with LEGO drones

Like many kids, Amir Hirsch ’06, SM ’07 grew up playing with LEGOs. But unlike many adults, is still playing with them as part of his job as CEO and co-founder of Flybrix. Started in 2015, the company sells kits for children and adults alike to build their own reusable drones out of the popular plastic building bricks.

“It lets you tinker around with LEGOs, come up with a design you like, and see it fly,” Hirsch says.

In addition to the LEGOs, Flybrix kits come with all the parts necessary to build a drone and make it fly, including motors, a fully-routed Arduino board, and a lithium polymer battery.

Learning opportunities abound. Builders gain insight into the aerodynamics of the drone’s fan, the electromechanics necessary to control a motor, and flight basics including balance and feedback. Hirsch, who double-majored in mathematics and electrical engineering and computer science (EECS) for his bachelor’s and earned a master’s in EECS, says such concepts become much clearer when actually flying a drone built by hand.

“You really feel the feedback system trying to keep it stable,” he says.

But what goes up must come down. The average Flybrix drone can stay up for five minutes.

“Most of the time when I’m flying something, people ask that I crash it into the wall,” said Hirsch who earned his degrees in electrical engineering and computer science as well as mathematics. “Because they all want to see it shatter into a lot of pieces.”

All of the kit’s pieces can be reused to build another drone. To date, Hirsch has only lost one.

“I flew one that’s [stuck] just above the white board [of our office] … it’s not accessible unless you take down the wall,” he says.

In 2016, the company sold more than 8,000 drone kits online and hopes to be in many national retail chains this December. Flybrix has sold nearly 500 units to school systems around the world, including many in STEM-focused school programs in Australia.

While the company primarily targets young people 14 years and older, Hirsch says he expects interest from other areas. “I bet you that retired pilots are our best demographic,” he says.

Flybrix is not Hirsch’s first startup. In 2011, he founded Zigfu, which received seed funding through Ycombinator to build and market an application programming interface (API) that aids developers of motion games and gesture user interfaces. Prior to that, he founded a company that made educational iPad apps.

He recalls some advice he received from an MIT alumnus as being integral to his career, even before he caught the startup bug. He summarized the conversation in a 2013 blog post that was later picked up by Forbes.

“You have to think about building up a market approach for how to get customers … and how to use technology to build a defensible position,” he says. “Technology is not a prerequisite for business success, but marketing is.”

Source:

http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-alumnus-amir-hirsch-flybrix-lego-drone-kits-0803

Prototype ‘3D’ chip from MIT could eliminate memory bottlenecks

Future CPUs will have to deal with growing amounts of data, but all too often they are slowed down by bandwidth issues between the processor and RAM. A prototype chip built by researchers at Stanford and MIT can solve the problem by sandwiching the memory, processor and even sensors all into one unit. While current chips are made of silicon, the prototype processor is made of graphene carbon nanotubes, with resistive RAM (RRAM) layered over it.

 

The team claims this makes for “the most complex nanoelectronic system ever made with emerging nanotechnologies,” creating a 3D computer architecture. Using carbon makes the whole thing possible, since higher temperatures required to make a silicon CPU would damage the sensitive RRAM cells.

This technology could do more than just speed up the framerate on your next Xbox too, as the current prototype used a top layer of one million carbon nanotube sensors to detect gases, with the information processed and measured directly on the chip. So far, the development has been funded by organizations including DARPA and the NSF. The next step in the process is to work with Analog Devices on new versions of the technology — unfortunately like so many graphene-related breakthroughs we have no idea when this one will be commercially available.

Source:

https://www.engadget.com/2017/07/06/prototype-3d-chip-from-mit-could-eliminate-memory-bottlenecks/

MIT is building autonomous drones that can both drive and fly

Researchers from MIT on Monday shared a new prototype for a system of wheeled, autonomous drones that can switch between flying and driving.

 

The drones, which were built at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, also include route-planning software that can help calculate when the flying robot switches from air to ground in order to optimize its battery life.

The project foreshadows a future where autonomous transportation may one day be able to both sail above traffic but also navigate roads in dense urban environments.

“Normal drones can’t maneuver on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile while having only a slight reduction in flying time,” said MIT graduate student Brandon Araki, who is a lead author on a paper about the new research, in a statement.

 

A drone that drives on the ground when appropriate could actually prove more efficient overall. It can save time by flying instead of being stuck in traffic, and also save its battery life by traveling on the ground when the vehicle doesn’t need to fly to reach its destination.

To test out the new system, researchers built a small model of a city block, with buildings, parking spots, roadways and landing pads, along with eight small drones with wheels.

Image result for drones that can both drive and fly

The dream of autonomous flying cars (or autonomous driving drones) isn’t limited to MIT. Companies like Uber and Kitty Hawk, which counts Google co-founder Larry Page as an investor, are working to make flying cars a reality one day. In April, Uber said it hopes to bring flying cars to U.S. airspace by 2020.

 

But as this new research from MIT demonstrates, the future of autonomous transportation might be less about attaching wings to a car and more about adding wheels to a drone.

Source:

https://www.recode.net/2017/6/26/15874648/mit-drone-fly-drive-autonomous-wheeled-urban-cars

MIT built a robot that can 3D print a building


A new system developed at MIT is able to print a basic structure in one go, according to the team’s paper in the journal Science Robotics.

The system comprises a tracked vehicle mounted with a large robotic arm. At the end of this robotic arm is a smaller, precision-motion robotic arm, used to extrude concrete or spray insulation material. It’s free moving, can be customized to print on any suitable surface and is intended to be self-sufficient.

The team tested the system by printing the basic structure of the walls of a dome 15 metres (50 feet) in diameter and 3.65 metres (12 feet) in height out of insulation foam. The structure took 14 hours to print in total, creating a mould into which concrete is poured.

The aim is “in the future, to have something totally autonomous, that you could send to the moon or Mars or Antarctica, and it would just go out and make these buildings for years,” said lead author Stephen Keating.

Source:

https://www.cnet.com/news/mit-robot-can-3d-print-a-building/

MIT duoskin electrical temporary tattoos a success at new york fashion week

 MIT’s ‘duoskin’ is a fabrication process that enables anyone to create customized functional tattoos that can be attached directly on their skin, like electical temporary tattoos. they use gold metal leaf—a material that’s cheap, skin-friendly, and robust for everyday wear—and provide three different types of on-skin interfaces: sensing touch input, displaying output, and wireless communication. this process draws from the aesthetics found in metallic jewelry-like temporary tattoos to create on-skin devices which resemble jewelry.  
MIT’s ‘duoskin’ devices allow people to control their mobile devices, display information, and store date on their skin while serving as a statement of personal style. they can be designed in any color and shape, and they can go anywhere on the body.  its metallic tattoo process can store and share data wirelessly with your smartphone or other such device via near-field communication (NFC) technology. at the same time, its ‘touch input’ technology enables you to use your skin like a trackpad for activities such as adjusting the volume on your smartphone, turning on lights, or writing text. additionally, the tattoo can show information, including your mood and the weather.
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Fashion designer Chris Bevans, a former MIT media lab director’s fellow, heard about the project and he saw an interesting connection between his dyne brand on wireless tech in clothing and ‘duoskin’s’ NFC tags. in January this year he decided to reach out to the ‘duoskin’ team to talk about a collaboration for his New York fashion week show. cindy hsin-liu kao, the PhD student behind the project, decided it would be an interesting design experiment to customize ‘duoskin’ for a menswear fashion show—focusing on the ability to personalize it for any wearer, be it high-end or street style. the team custom-designed and fabricated ten NFC tags and shipped them to chris before his new york show so he could incorporate them into his new clothing line.
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