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Peek at Brick and Mortar’s Specialty Cocktails

Scout Cambridge - 1 hour 29 min ago

Best Cocktails: Brick & Mortar 567 Massachusetts Ave., (617) 491-0016 brickmortarltd.com Dollywood Sip the Dollywood slowly—the flavors morph in your mouth, presenting different facets of the cocktail one by one. Four Roses Bourbon is at the heart of this drink, with orgeat introducing almond into the mix. With lemon and orange juices—fresh squeezed daily—and shaken […]

The post Peek at Brick and Mortar’s Specialty Cocktails appeared first on Scout Cambridge.

Categories: In the News

Drug Take Back Day is October 27

City of Cambridge News and Alerts - 12 hours 22 min ago
The Cambridge Police Department and Cambridge Public Health Department are hosting a medication take-back day on Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Cambridge Police Department, 125 Sixth Street in Cambridge. Personnel will be available to accept unwanted prescriptions, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications.
Categories: In the News

Daily Log 10.18.2018

City of Cambridge News and Alerts - 12 hours 22 min ago
An overview of the Cambridge Police Department's daily calls for service.
Categories: In the News

Bike safety advocates rally for protected lanes as city points to lack of rollout specifics in plan

Cambridge Day - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 20:41
The Cambridge Bicycle Safety Group organized a bike rally Wednesday on the steps of City Hall to urge faster progress in the installation of protected bike lanes, noting only a half-mile more is planned for implementation in the fall.
Categories: In the News

At least until Abbot Buildings construction, Harvard Square is notably open for the arts

Cambridge Day - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 16:49
The visual arts have a Harvard Square patron of sorts in the developer Regency Centers, enabling a small, temporary boom in gallery space: Susan Miller-Havens has opened a four-month residency at 9 JFK St., and MIT grad startup Spaceus is at 20 Brattle until Jan. 15.
Categories: In the News

Victim of Putnam truck accident was Jie Zhao, 27, MIT grad and newly ‘adulting’ homeowner

Cambridge Day - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 16:25
Jie Zhao celebrated her 27th birthday Sept. 14. Four weeks later she was killed by a dump truck a little more than a block from her home on Chestnut Street.
Categories: In the News

Defending against Spectre and Meltdown attacks

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 15:30

In January the technology world was rattled by the discovery of Meltdown and Spectre, two major security vulnerabilities in the processors that can be found in virtually every computer on the planet.

Perhaps the most alarming thing about these vulnerabilities is that they didn’t stem from normal software bugs or physical CPU problems. Instead, they arose from the architecture of the processors themselves — that is, the millions of transistors that work together to execute operations.

“These attacks fundamentally changed our understanding of what’s trustworthy in a system, and force us to re-examine where we devote security resources,” says Ilia Lebedev, a PhD student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “They’ve shown that we need to be paying much more attention to the microarchitecture of systems.”

Lebedev and his colleagues believe that they’ve made an important new breakthrough in this field, with an approach that makes it much harder for hackers to cash in on such vulnerabilities. Their method could have immediate applications in cloud computing, especially for fields like medicine and finance that currently limit their cloud-based features because of security concerns.

With Meltdown and Spectre, hackers exploited the fact that operations all take slightly different amounts of time to execute. To use a simplified example, someone who’s guessing a PIN might first try combinations “1111” through “9111." If the first eight guesses take the same amount of time, and "9111" takes a nanosecond longer, then that one most likely has at least the "9" right, and the attacker can then start guessing "9111" through "9911", and so on and so forth.

An operation that’s especially vulnerable to these so-called “timing attacks” is accessing memory. If systems always had to wait for memory before doing the next step of an action, they’d spend much of their time sitting idle.

To keep performance up, engineers employ a trick: They give the processor the power to execute multiple instructions while it waits for memory — and then, once memory is ready, discards the ones that weren’t needed. Hardware designers call this “speculative execution.”

While it pays off in performance speed, it also creates new security issues. Specifically, the attacker could make the processor speculatively execute some code to read a part of memory it shouldn’t be able to. Even if the code fails, it could still leak data that the attacker can then access.

A common way to try to prevent such attacks is to split up memory so that it’s not all stored in one area. Imagine an industrial kitchen shared by chefs who all want to keep their recipes secret. One approach would be to have the chefs set up their work on different sides — that’s essentially what happens with the Cache Allocation Technology (CAT) that Intel started using in 2016. But such a system is still quite insecure, since one chef can get a pretty good idea of others’ recipes by seeing which pots and pans they take from the common area.

In contrast, the MIT CSAIL team’s approach is the equivalent of building walls to split the kitchen into separate spaces, and ensuring that everyone only knows their own ingredients and appliances. (This approach is a form of so-called “secure way partitioning”; the chefs in the case of cache memory are referred to as “protection domains.”)
                
As a playful counterpoint to Intel’s CAT system, the researchers dubbed their method “DAWG”, which stands for “Dynamically Allocated Way Guard.” (The dynamic part means that DAWG can split the cache into multiple buckets whose size can vary over time.)

Lebedev co-wrote a new paper about the project with lead author Vladimir Kiriansky and MIT professors Saman Amarasinghe, Srini Devadas, and Joel Emer. They will present their findings next week at the annual IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO) in Fukuoka City, Japan.

“This paper dives into how to fully isolate one program's side-effects from percolating through to another program through the cache,” says Mohit Tiwari, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the project. “This work secures a channel that’s one of the most popular to use for attacks.”

In tests, the team also found that the system was comparable with CAT on performance. They say that DAWG requires very minimal modifications to modern operating systems.

“We think this is an important step forward in giving computer architects, cloud providers, and other IT professionals a better way to efficiently and dynamically allocate resources,” says Kiriansky, a PhD student at CSAIL. “It establishes clear boundaries for where sharing should and should not happen, so that programs with sensitive information can keep that data reasonably secure.”

The team is quick to caution that DAWG can’t yet defend against all speculative attacks. However, they have experimentally demonstrated that it is a foolproof solution to a broad range of non-speculative attacks against cryptographic software.

Lebedev says that the growing prevalence of these types of attacks demonstrates that, contrary to popular tech-CEO wisdom, more information sharing isn’t always a good thing.

“There’s a tension between performance and security that’s come to a head for a community of architecture designers that have always tried to share as much as possible in as many places as possible,” he says. “On the other hand, if security was the only priority, we’d have separate computers for every program we want to run so that no information could ever leak, which obviously isn’t practical. DAWG is part of a growing body of work trying to reconcile these two opposing forces.”

It’s worth recognizing that the sudden attention on timing attacks reflects the paradoxical fact that computer security has actually gotten a lot better in the last 20 years.

“A decade ago software wasn’t written as well as it is today, which means that other attacks were a lot easier to perform,” says Kiriansky. “As other aspects of security have become harder to carry out, these microarchitectural attacks have become more appealing, though they’re still fortunately just a small piece in an arsenal of actions that an attacker would have to take to actually do damage.”

The team is now working to improve DAWG so that it can stop all currently known speculative-execution attacks. In the meantime, they’re hopeful that companies such as Intel will be interested in adopting their idea — or others like it — to minimize the chance of future data breaches.

“These kinds of attacks have become a lot easier thanks to these vulnerabilities,” says Kiriansky. “With all the negative PR that’s come up, companies like Intel have the incentives to get this right. The stars are aligned to make an approach like this happen.”

Categories: In the News

Exploring the future of learning through virtual and augmented reality

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 15:20

At a recent on-campus symposium titled “VR, Sound and Cinema: Implications for Storytelling and Learning,” MIT Open Learning explored the future of storytelling and learning through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).  

The event featured a panel of faculty and industry experts in VR/AR, cinema, and storytelling, showcasing the power of these tools and their potential impact on learning. Speakers included Sanjay Sarma, vice president for Open Learning; Fox Harrell, a professor of digital media and artificial intelligence at MIT; Academy Award-winning director Shekhar Kapur; Berklee College of Music Professor Susan Rogers; Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini; and Edgar Choueiri, a professor of applied physics at Princeton University.

Harrell, who is currently working on a new VR/AR project with MIT Open Learning, studies new forms of computational narrative, gaming, social media, and related digital media based in computer science. His talk focused on answering the question: “How do virtual realities impact our learning and engagement?” He also screened a preview of Karim Ben Khelifa’s “The Enemy,” a groundbreaking virtual reality experience that made its American premiere at the MIT Museum in December 2017.

In “The Enemy,” participants embody a soldier avatar, who encounters and interacts with enemy soldiers. Participants can ask their enemies questions, who can then adjust their responses based on the participants’ own lived experiences as well as their real-time physiological responses. The intended result is to create empathy between supposed enemies, whose hopes, dreams, and nightmares are more similar than their biases would have them believe.

“This can be a really powerful teaching tool,” Harrell said, explaining that it could be used in war zones and with child soldiers.

Next, film director and producer Shekhar Kapur spoke about storytelling in the age of infinite technological resources. Kapur pondered why people tend to watch the same movie over and over.

“We don’t always watch a movie again because it’s great, but because we can reflect upon ourselves and how we’ve changed even if the movie content hasn’t,” he said. In this sense, Kapur argued, stories have always been virtual, because they have always been filtered through each person’s subjective and shifting perspective.

“We are the stories we tell ourselves,” said Kapur, who believes that technology has always dictated the storytelling format. “If I don’t learn the new storytelling technologies, I’ll become a dinosaur.” Kapur insists that the three-act narrative dictated by past technologies will have to become more flexible, user-centric, and open-ended as VR becomes more commonplace. “We should be driven by the things we want. For example, I want to see my father again but he passed away several years ago. Can I retell his story with technologies that will make him seem real again? I don’t know.”

Finally, Susan Rogers, a professor of music production and engineering and an expert in music cognition at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, took the floor to talk about how technology is influencing our daily lives.

“Our behavior is becoming further from reality the more our technology imitates reality,” she said.

Rogers’ assessment focused on reality versus truth, examining what would happen to VR once it becomes so close to reality that it no longer seemed virtual.

“Scientists worship the truth — so how can scientists appreciate virtual reality?” she asked. “It isn’t truth.”

Following the panel, Professor Sarma invited guests to participate in a deeper dive into the day’s discussions. Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini and Edgar Choueiri, a professor of engineering physics at Princeton and director of the university's Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory (EPPDyL), led in-depth talks on how sound enhances learning and storytelling.

Mangini spoke of the need for sound designers to embrace artistry and narrative in their work.

“If we live in technique, we live on the boundaries of creativity,” he said. While technology has come a long way, he argued, there is still more to be done with 3-D.

“Our ancestors told stories around a fire,” he said. “Today, we still sit around in the dark watching a flickering light.”

Choueiri ended the event with a special interactive presentation, first asking aloud, “Why has spatial development been neglected for so long?” and then asserting that people’s emotional reactions are inherently spatial. To demonstrate the visceral nature of 3-D sound, Choueiri chose a volunteer and projected 3-D sound directly to him, by measuring and targeting his head-related transfer function (HRTF).

The sold-out event garnered an impressive level of interest from the public and students from MIT and Berklee College, who made up almost half of the audience. As VR/AR technology applications continue to grow, MIT Open Learning officials say they hope to hold more events that explore the intersection of science, media, and learning.

Categories: In the News

Exploring the future of learning through virtual and augmented reality

MIT Events - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 15:20

At a recent on-campus symposium titled “VR, Sound and Cinema: Implications for Storytelling and Learning,” MIT Open Learning explored the future of storytelling and learning through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).  

The event featured a panel of faculty and industry experts in VR/AR, cinema, and storytelling, showcasing the power of these tools and their potential impact on learning. Speakers included Sanjay Sarma, vice president for Open Learning; Fox Harrell, a professor of digital media and artificial intelligence at MIT; Academy Award-winning director Shekhar Kapur; Berklee College of Music Professor Susan Rogers; Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini; and Edgar Choueiri, a professor of applied physics at Princeton University.

Harrell, who is currently working on a new VR/AR project with MIT Open Learning, studies new forms of computational narrative, gaming, social media, and related digital media based in computer science. His talk focused on answering the question: “How do virtual realities impact our learning and engagement?” He also screened a preview of Karim Ben Khelifa’s “The Enemy,” a groundbreaking virtual reality experience that made its American premiere at the MIT Museum in December 2017.

In “The Enemy,” participants embody a soldier avatar, who encounters and interacts with enemy soldiers. Participants can ask their enemies questions, who can then adjust their responses based on the participants’ own lived experiences as well as their real-time physiological responses. The intended result is to create empathy between supposed enemies, whose hopes, dreams, and nightmares are more similar than their biases would have them believe.

“This can be a really powerful teaching tool,” Harrell said, explaining that it could be used in war zones and with child soldiers.

Next, film director and producer Shekhar Kapur spoke about storytelling in the age of infinite technological resources. Kapur pondered why people tend to watch the same movie over and over.

“We don’t always watch a movie again because it’s great, but because we can reflect upon ourselves and how we’ve changed even if the movie content hasn’t,” he said. In this sense, Kapur argued, stories have always been virtual, because they have always been filtered through each person’s subjective and shifting perspective.

“We are the stories we tell ourselves,” said Kapur, who believes that technology has always dictated the storytelling format. “If I don’t learn the new storytelling technologies, I’ll become a dinosaur.” Kapur insists that the three-act narrative dictated by past technologies will have to become more flexible, user-centric, and open-ended as VR becomes more commonplace. “We should be driven by the things we want. For example, I want to see my father again but he passed away several years ago. Can I retell his story with technologies that will make him seem real again? I don’t know.”

Finally, Susan Rogers, a professor of music production and engineering and an expert in music cognition at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, took the floor to talk about how technology is influencing our daily lives.

“Our behavior is becoming further from reality the more our technology imitates reality,” she said.

Rogers’ assessment focused on reality versus truth, examining what would happen to VR once it becomes so close to reality that it no longer seemed virtual.

“Scientists worship the truth — so how can scientists appreciate virtual reality?” she asked. “It isn’t truth.”

Following the panel, Professor Sarma invited guests to participate in a deeper dive into the day’s discussions. Academy Award-winning sound designer Mark Mangini and Edgar Choueiri, a professor of engineering physics at Princeton and director of the university's Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Laboratory (EPPDyL), led in-depth talks on how sound enhances learning and storytelling.

Mangini spoke of the need for sound designers to embrace artistry and narrative in their work.

“If we live in technique, we live on the boundaries of creativity,” he said. While technology has come a long way, he argued, there is still more to be done with 3-D.

“Our ancestors told stories around a fire,” he said. “Today, we still sit around in the dark watching a flickering light.”

Choueiri ended the event with a special interactive presentation, first asking aloud, “Why has spatial development been neglected for so long?” and then asserting that people’s emotional reactions are inherently spatial. To demonstrate the visceral nature of 3-D sound, Choueiri chose a volunteer and projected 3-D sound directly to him, by measuring and targeting his head-related transfer function (HRTF).

The sold-out event garnered an impressive level of interest from the public and students from MIT and Berklee College, who made up almost half of the audience. As VR/AR technology applications continue to grow, MIT Open Learning officials say they hope to hold more events that explore the intersection of science, media, and learning.

Categories: In the News

Cryptographic protocol enables greater collaboration in drug discovery

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 14:00

MIT researchers have developed a cryptographic system that could help neural networks identify promising drug candidates in massive pharmacological datasets, while keeping the data private. Secure computation done at such a massive scale could enable broad pooling of sensitive pharmacological data for predictive drug discovery.

Datasets of drug-target interactions (DTI), which show whether candidate compounds act on target proteins, are critical in helping researchers develop new medications. Models can be trained to crunch datasets of known DTIs and then, using that information, find novel drug candidates.

In recent years, pharmaceutical firms, universities, and other entities have become open to pooling pharmacological data into larger databases that can greatly improve training of these models. Due to intellectual property matters and other privacy concerns, however, these datasets remain limited in scope. Cryptography methods to secure the data are so computationally intensive they don’t scale well to datasets beyond, say, tens of thousands of DTIs, which is relatively small.

In a paper published today in Science, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) describe a neural network securely trained and tested on a dataset of more than a million DTIs. The network leverages modern cryptographic tools and optimization techniques to keep the input data private, while running quickly and efficiently at scale.

The team’s experiments show the network performs faster and more accurately than existing approaches; it can process massive datasets in days, whereas other cryptographic frameworks would take months. Moreover, the network identified several novel interactions, including one between the leukemia drug imatinib and an enzyme ErbB4 — mutations of which have been associated with cancer — which could have clinical significance.

“People realize they need to pool their data to greatly accelerate the drug discovery process and enable us, together, to make scientific advances in solving important human diseases, such as cancer or diabetes. But they don’t have good ways of doing it,” says corresponding author Bonnie Berger, the Simons Professor of Mathematics and a principal investigator at CSAIL. “With this work, we provide a way for these entities to efficiently pool and analyze their data at a very large scale.”

Joining Berger on the paper are co-first authors Brian Hie and Hyunghoon Cho, both graduate students in electrical engineering and computer science and researchers in CSAIL’s Computation and Biology group.

“Secret sharing” data

The new paper builds on previous work by the researchers in protecting patient confidentiality in genomic studies, which find links between particular genetic variants and incidence of disease. That genomic data could potentially reveal personal information, so patients can be reluctant to enroll in the studies. In that work, Berger, Cho, and a former Stanford University PhD student developed a protocol based on a cryptography framework called “secret sharing,” which securely and efficiently analyzes datasets of a million genomes. In contrast, existing proposals could handle only a few thousand genomes.

Secret sharing is used in multiparty computation, where sensitive data is divided into separate “shares” among multiple servers. Throughout computation, each party will always have only its share of the data, which appears fully random. Collectively, however, the servers can still communicate and perform useful operations on the underlying private data. At the end of the computation, when a result is needed, the parties combine their shares to reveal the result.

“We used our previous work as a basis to apply secret sharing to the problem of pharmacological collaboration, but it didn’t work right off the shelf,” Berger says.

A key innovation was reducing the computation needed in training and testing. Existing predictive drug-discovery models represent the chemical and protein structures of DTIs as graphs or matrices. These approaches, however, scale quadratically, or squared, with the number of DTIs in the dataset. Basically, processing these representations becomes extremely computationally intensive as the size of the dataset grows. “While that may be fine for working with the raw data, if you try that in secure computation, it’s infeasible,” Hie says.

The researchers instead trained a neural network that relies on linear calculations, which scale far more efficiently with the data. “We absolutely needed scalability, because we’re trying to provide a way to pool data together [into] much larger datasets,” Cho says.

The researchers trained a neural network on the STITCH dataset, which has 1.5 million DTIs, making it the largest publicly available dataset of its kind. In training, the network encodes each drug compound and protein structure as a simple vector representation. This essentially condenses the complicated structures as 1s and 0s that a computer can easily process. From those vectors, the network then learns the patterns of interactions and noninteractions. Fed new pairs of compounds and protein structures, the network then predicts if they’ll interact.

The network also has an architecture optimized for efficiency and security. Each layer of a neural network requires some activation function that determines how to send the information to the next layer. In their network, the researchers used an efficient activation function called a rectified linear unit (ReLU). This function requires only a single, secure numerical comparison of an interaction to determine whether to send (1) or not send (0) the data to the next layer, while also never revealing anything about the actual data. This operation can be more efficient in secure computation compared to more complex functions, so it reduces computational burden while ensuring data privacy.

“The reason that’s important is we want to do this within the secret sharing framework … and we don’t want to ramp up the computational overhead,” Berger says. In the end, “no parameters of the model are revealed and all input data — the drugs, targets, and interactions — are kept private.”

Finding interactions

The researchers pitted their network against several state-of-the-art, plaintext (unencrypted) models on a portion of known DTIs from DrugBank, a popular dataset containing about 2,000 DTIs. In addition to keeping the data private, the researchers’ network outperformed all of the models in prediction accuracy. Only two baseline models could reasonably scale to the STITCH dataset, and the researchers’ model achieved nearly double the accuracy of those models.

The researchers also tested drug-target pairs with no listed interactions in STITCH, and found several clinically established drug interactions that weren’t listed in the database but should be. In the paper, the researchers list the top strongest predictions, including: droloxifene and an estrogen receptor, which reached phase III clinical trials as a treatment for breast cancer; and seocalcitol and a vitamin D receptor to treat other cancers. Cho and Hie independently validated the highest-scoring novel interactions via contract research organizations.

Next, the researchers are working with partners to establish their collaborative pipeline in a real-world setting. “We are interested in putting together an environment for secure computation, so we can run our secure protocol with real data,” Cho says.

Categories: In the News

Awards season means arrival of 10-offering Independent Film Festival Boston at Brattle

Cambridge Day - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:53
The Independent Film Festival Boston kicks off its fourth annual Fall Focus this weekend, a fast and furious three days of cinema at The Brattle Theatre that begins Friday.
Categories: In the News

Electrical properties of dendrites help explain our brain’s unique computing power

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:00

Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information so the cells can respond appropriately.

Using hard-to-obtain samples of human brain tissue, MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that human dendrites have different electrical properties from those of other species. Their studies reveal that electrical signals weaken more as they flow along human dendrites, resulting in a higher degree of electrical compartmentalization, meaning that small sections of dendrites can behave independently from the rest of the neuron.

These differences may contribute to the enhanced computing power of the human brain, the researchers say.

“It’s not just that humans are smart because we have more neurons and a larger cortex. From the bottom up, neurons behave differently,” says Mark Harnett, the Fred and Carole Middleton Career Development Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. “In human neurons, there is more electrical compartmentalization, and that allows these units to be a little bit more independent, potentially leading to increased computational capabilities of single neurons.”

Harnett, who is also a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and Sydney Cash, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, are the senior authors of the study, which appears in the Oct. 18 issue of Cell. The paper’s lead author is Lou Beaulieu-Laroche, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Neural computation

Dendrites can be thought of as analogous to transistors in a computer, performing simple operations using electrical signals. Dendrites receive input from many other neurons and carry those signals to the cell body. If stimulated enough, a neuron fires an action potential — an electrical impulse that then stimulates other neurons. Large networks of these neurons communicate with each other to generate thoughts and behavior.

The structure of a single neuron often resembles a tree, with many branches bringing in information that arrives far from the cell body. Previous research has found that the strength of electrical signals arriving at the cell body depends, in part, on how far they travel along the dendrite to get there. As the signals propagate, they become weaker, so a signal that arrives far from the cell body has less of an impact than one that arrives near the cell body.

Dendrites in the cortex of the human brain are much longer than those in rats and most other species, because the human cortex has evolved to be much thicker than that of other species. In humans, the cortex makes up about 75 percent of the total brain volume, compared to about 30 percent in the rat brain.

Although the human cortex is two to three times thicker than that of rats, it maintains the same overall organization, consisting of six distinctive layers of neurons. Neurons from layer 5 have dendrites long enough to reach all the way to layer 1, meaning that human dendrites have had to elongate as the human brain has evolved, and electrical signals have to travel that much farther.

In the new study, the MIT team wanted to investigate how these length differences might affect dendrites’ electrical properties. They were able to compare electrical activity in rat and human dendrites, using small pieces of brain tissue removed from epilepsy patients undergoing surgical removal of part of the temporal lobe. In order to reach the diseased part of the brain, surgeons also have to take out a small chunk of the anterior temporal lobe.

With the help of MGH collaborators Cash, Matthew Frosch, Ziv Williams, and Emad Eskandar, Harnett’s lab was able to obtain samples of the anterior temporal lobe, each about the size of a fingernail.

Evidence suggests that the anterior temporal lobe is not affected by epilepsy, and the tissue appears normal when examined with neuropathological techniques, Harnett says. This part of the brain appears to be involved in a variety of functions, including language and visual processing, but is not critical to any one function; patients are able to function normally after it is removed.

Once the tissue was removed, the researchers placed it in a solution very similar to cerebrospinal fluid, with oxygen flowing through it. This allowed them to keep the tissue alive for up to 48 hours. During that time, they used a technique known as patch-clamp electrophysiology to measure how electrical signals travel along dendrites of pyramidal neurons, which are the most common type of excitatory neurons in the cortex.

These experiments were performed primarily by Beaulieu-Laroche. Harnett’s lab (and others) have previously done this kind of experiment in rodent dendrites, but his team is the first to analyze electrical properties of human dendrites.

Unique features

The researchers found that because human dendrites cover longer distances, a signal flowing along a human dendrite from layer 1 to the cell body in layer 5 is much weaker when it arrives than a signal flowing along a rat dendrite from layer 1 to layer 5.

They also showed that human and rat dendrites have the same number of ion channels, which regulate the current flow, but these channels occur at a lower density in human dendrites as a result of the dendrite elongation. They also developed a detailed biophysical model that shows that this density change can account for some of the differences in electrical activity seen between human and rat dendrites, Harnett says.

Nelson Spruston, senior director of scientific programs at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Research Campus, described the researchers’ analysis of human dendrites as “a remarkable accomplishment.”

“These are the most carefully detailed measurements to date of the physiological properties of human neurons,” says Spruston, who was not involved in the research. “These kinds of experiments are very technically demanding, even in mice and rats, so from a technical perspective, it’s pretty amazing that they’ve done this in humans.”

The question remains, how do these differences affect human brainpower? Harnett’s hypothesis is that because of these differences, which allow more regions of a dendrite to influence the strength of an incoming signal, individual neurons can perform more complex computations on the information.

“If you have a cortical column that has a chunk of human or rodent cortex, you’re going to be able to accomplish more computations faster with the human architecture versus the rodent architecture,” he says.

There are many other differences between human neurons and those of other species, Harnett adds, making it difficult to tease out the effects of dendritic electrical properties. In future studies, he hopes to explore further the precise impact of these electrical properties, and how they interact with other unique features of human neurons to produce more computing power.

The research was funded by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Dana Foundation David Mahoney Neuroimaging Grant Program, and the National Institutes of Health.

Categories: In the News

Daily Log 10.17.2018

City of Cambridge News and Alerts - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 00:00
An overview of the Cambridge Police Department's daily calls for service.
Categories: In the News

Tang family gift supports MIT.nano, MIT Quest for Intelligence

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 00:00

The Tang family of Hong Kong has made a $20 million gift to MIT to name the Tang Family Imaging Suite in the new MIT.nano facility and establish the Tang Family Catalyst Fund to support the MIT Quest for Intelligence.

The Imaging Suite in MIT.nano is part of a highly specialized facility for viewing, measuring, and understanding at the nanoscale. With design features that include a 5-million-pound slab of concrete for stabilization, isolated construction of individual spaces, and technology to minimize mechanical and electromagnetic interference, MIT.nano’s imaging suites provide the “quiet” environment needed for this sensitive work.

“We are grateful for the Tang family’s generosity and visionary investment in nanoscale research at MIT,” says Vladimir Bulović, inaugural director of MIT.nano and the Fariborz Maseeh Professor in Emerging Technology. “The imaging suite will allow scientists and engineers to decipher the structure and function of matter with precision that has not been possible before and, armed with this new knowledge, identify promising opportunities for innovation in health, energy, communications and computing, and a host of other fields.”

The Tang Family Catalyst Fund will provide $5 million for artificial intelligence (AI) research activities and operations, with a special focus on projects at the intersection of AI and financial technology.

“AI tools and technologies are going to revolutionize many industries and disciplines,” says Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering and the Vannevar Bush Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We are delighted to have the support of the Tang family as we lead the development and discovery of these new tools and technologies.”

“The Quest is fueled by cross-disciplinary collaboration and the support of enterprising people such as the Tang family who see great value in exploration and discovery,” says Antonio Torralba, inaugural director of The Quest for Intelligence. “From seed grants for early-stage faculty and student research, to undergraduate and graduate student activities, the Tang Family Catalyst Fund will kindle new ideas that advance machine learning.”

Categories: In the News

A passionate advocate for open data

MIT News - Thu, 10/18/2018 - 00:00

Radha Mastandrea wants to know what the universe is made of.

More specifically, she wants to know about tiny pieces of it called quarks, the particles that make up other, bigger particles such as protons and neutrons. The more we know about those, she says, the more we know about the building blocks of all matter.

Mastandrea’s research is largely dependent on data, which she gets from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. The scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, will smash two protons together, which will generate a number of quarks and gluons. Every such particle then “showers” into a stream of other particles — these streams are called quark jets, or gluon jets (depending on the particle they showered from). Mastandrea then sifts through heaps of raw data about these jets, and uses the information to learn more about the particles they came from.

Professor Allan Adams, a former recitation instructor of Mastandrea’s, suggested she describe her current work “as if we were slamming two clocks together and we get two elephants out.” The clocks are protons — when they’re slammed together, the quark jets that result aren’t necessarily what researchers would have predicted.

“The step I add,” Mastandrea says, “is, you slam together clocks, you get two elephants, and then the elephants create baby elephants, and you record the baby elephants,” she laughs. “At some point the analogy kind of breaks down.”

Data-driven

Part of what makes Mastandrea’s research challenging is that data from CERN are organized in a way that works well for researchers there, but are difficult to sort through for scientists outside of CERN who may not understand how the data are structured.

To be sure, Mastandrea applauds CERN for making its data open to everyone; she’s passionate about the ability of open data to further research around the globe. However, she and her labmates have developed a GitHub tool that extracts important information from CERN’s data and puts it in a text file that’s easier for labs outside CERN to interpret. They plan to make that framework public. She used a grant she received from the Heising-Simons Foundation to expand computing resources for this project.  

Before using CERN’s data, Mastandrea primarily worked with simulations. During her first year at MIT she began studying emissions at the 21-centimeter line, which is named after the wavelength of energy hydrogen atoms emit when after they undergo a certain energy change. That summer, she studied neutrinoless double beta decays under Lindley Winslow, the Jerrold R. Zacharias Career Development Assistant Professor of Physics at MIT.

Mastandrea’s time at Caltech, with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the summer after her sophomore year, provided a change of pace. There, she helped the LIGO team simulate black hole mergers, and was on the ground floor during some of the crucial discoveries that led to LIGO’s monumental paper on gravitational waves from neutron star mergers — experiences that made for “the most exciting summer.” But at the time, the LIGO team still hadn’t collected quite enough data from actual black hole mergers to run in the simulation she was working on. For Mastandrea, using the data from CERN in her current research is particularly exciting and meaningful.

“It feels like a true physics analysis. … I’m actually investigating the world, not just the fake world that I generate,” she says.

Dancing out of the lab

Mastandrea had never tried the Indian dance form called bhangra before coming to college. She’d played the trumpet for a long time, and she figured she would keep playing as an out-of-lab outlet. In time, though, she discovered she wasn’t enjoying it as much as she’d hoped. She decided to try something new.

“I was just surprised by how much fun it was,” she says, describing how she joined MIT’s bhangra dance team. “The people I met were so friendly.”

Mastandrea says that dancing is “a different kind of stress” than her work in the lab. Bhangra is no casual exercise — it’s high-energy and a little exhausting — but for Mastandrea, a co-captain of the team, it’s more rewarding than it is strenuous.

“The whole dance is meant to be an expression of joy,” she says. “It’s meant to engage people, and you have to make people not only love watching you, but you have to make them want to join you when you’re done. It’s definitely an amazing experience.”

When she’s not bringing joy through dance, she’s experiencing it through food — she loves to cook. She has a profound adoration for tomatoes — she’ll bite into them like they’re apples, she admits with a grin. One day, she says, she’d love to take time off and attend culinary school. For now, though, she gets her fill of cooking entertainment from Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” in which chefs foil each other’s plans as they vie for dominance.

“Throwing yourself into a hugely different part of your life”

On the humanities side of her education, one of Mastandrea’s favorite parts of MIT is the philosophy department.

“From what I can tell … they make a real effort to engage undergraduates and make things interesting, and also just to talk with them. They’re very accessible, and that’s great when the problems that philosophy covers are so broad and require this discussion,” she says.

She’s also currently enrolled in a playwriting class. She gives credit to the theater department for creating such a unique experience for MIT students.

“Everyone I see is so passionate about science … and then I go here [to a theater class]. … I see the same passion about something completely different, throwing yourself into a hugely different part of your life, and … casting yourself out and trying something new. There’s no better way to do that than with the theater classes.”

In addition to classes, there are many individuals she is grateful to have met at MIT. She credits her research advisor, Jesse Thaler, and Lindley Winslow, who is both the advisor for the Undergraduate Women in Physics group (which Mastandrea is president of) and Mastandrea’s former research advisor, with helping transform her “from a person who studies physics, who takes physics classes, to someone who … is beginning to think and research with the mindset of a physicist.” Her academic advisor, Michael McDonald, has also been an important resource to her throughout her time here.

After graduating, Mastandrea plans to continue her education in graduate school and wants to keep researching. Maybe her work will lead her toward an answer to the ultimate question — what makes up the universe as we know it.

“Understanding what matter is made of tells us what matter can do, and how it can act in the world,” she says. “And we need to know the very basic constituents … knowing what things are made of tells us everything.”

Categories: In the News

Early education network likely to stay in place, but word will arrive before Tobin plans are set

Cambridge Day - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 20:45
The City Council appropriated $117,000 on Monday for a study of how to get all of Cambridge’s 4-year-olds in preschool, a long-delayed goal of officials who see the current model of uneven preschool attendance as damaging some students’ achievement later in life.
Categories: In the News

MEET YOUR WINNERS: Arts & Entertainment

Scout Cambridge - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 14:14

Events Space: OBERON 2 Arrow St., (617) 547-8300 americanrepertorytheater.org/venue/oberon Named for the medieval King of the Fairies, Harvard Square’s OBERON is the raucous sister-venue to the larger American Repertory Theater. Billing itself as a “thriving incubator for emerging artists to imagine new projects that could only exist in this exciting club theater environment,” the A.R.T.’s […]

The post MEET YOUR WINNERS: Arts & Entertainment appeared first on Scout Cambridge.

Categories: In the News

Translating research into impact

MIT News - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 12:40

The MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design has funded upwards of 100 projects since its inception, and finds itself at a crucial juncture of identifying market opportunities for some of its advanced-stage projects that require further support in order to be turned into profitable social enterprises.

The Tata Center was first established at MIT six years ago by a generous donation provided by one of India’s oldest philanthropic organizations, Tata Trusts. With several advanced-stage projects now in the pipeline, the center’s leadership recognized a need to answer a fundamental question: How can the Tata Center provide further support, and what might that support look like, to research projects that have reached a state of maturity?

The center's recently-concluded fourth annual symposium and workshop, a two-day event hosted at the Samberg Conference Center titled “Translating Research into Impact,” aimed to do just that.

“This is a preoccupation for us. We’re no longer looking for things to do, we’ve found things to do. And we’ve brought technologies to a point at which they’re ready to go out into the world in the form of helpful products and services,” Tata Center Director Rob Stoner said as he welcomed students, industry partners, faculty, non-governmental organization representatives, and government officials from both India and the U.S. to the conference. “So, our focus has become translation — handing off technologies that may have reached the prototype or demonstration stage at MIT to entrepreneurial firms, government agencies, NGOs — anyone who has the vision and commitment to bring them to scale in India. It takes a focused effort to do that successfully.”

Stoner was joined at the conference by Manoj Kumar, head of entrepreneurship and innovations at Tata Trusts and Maurizio Vecchione, the executive vice presdient of Global Good and Research, which is a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and the Gates Foundation.

In his opening keynote address, The Power of Developing World Technology: Reverse Innovation, Vecchione stressed the importance of investing in technologies for the developing world from a market-driven perspective. Focusing on the health care sector, Vecchione emphasized the need to dramatically increase research and development budgets targeted toward finding solutions for diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in the developing world. The world’s population, primarily led by developing countries like China, India, Nigeria, and Mexico, is projected to reach 9 billion by 2040. 

The keynote was followed by a panel on scaling social enterprises with Jessica Alderman, the director of communications for Envirofit International; Alex Eaton, CEO of Sistema Biobolsa and Charity; and Manoj Sinha, CEO of Husk Power Systems. One of the core issues that emerged during the panel was the perceived dichotomy of impact versus profit.

“The idea of profit is important. And profit is absolutely tied to impact,” Alderman said. “You will have a short-lived company if you don’t have a solid way of getting to profit.”

Symposium attendees were also introduced to new Tata Center startups and multiple advanced-stage projects working on techologies including:

  • urine-based tuberculosis diagnostics;
  • affordable silicon-based nanofiltration;
  • accessible intraperitoneal chemotherapy devices;
  • intelligence deployment to improve agri-supply chains; and
  • photovoltaic-powered village-scale desalination systems.

The first day to a close with a fireside chat with Ernest Moniz, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and former U.S. Secretary of Energy, followed by a town hall on funding social innovations with Ann Dewitt, COO of The Engine, Barry Johnson of the National Science Foundation, and Harkesh Kumar Mittal from India’s Department of Science and Technology.

On the second day of the conference, Ann Mei Chang, the author of “Lean Impact” and former chief innovation officer at USAID, delivered an inspiring keynote address on the importance of thinking big, starting small, and pursuing impact relentlessly.

This second day was dedicated to parallel sectorial workshops on Tata Center’s six focus areas: housing, health, agriculture, energy, environment, and water. Workshop participants included faculty from MIT, the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, Tata Fellows, active Tata Center collaborators, industry representatives, and representatives of some of India’s most influential NGOs.

“So many projects end up not leaving the institution because of gaps in our support ecosystem,” Stoner said, drawing the event to a close. “We’re determined at the Tata Center not to let that happen with our projects by filling those gaps.”  

The MIT Tata Center’s efforts to build connections in the developing world are linked to MIT’s broader campaign to engage with global challenges, and to translate innovative research into entrepreneurial impact. That work continues year-round. The next Tata Center Symposium will be held at MIT on Sept. 12 and 13, 2019.

Categories: In the News

Translating research into impact

MIT Events - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 12:40

The MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design has funded upwards of 100 projects since its inception, and finds itself at a crucial juncture of identifying market opportunities for some of its advanced-stage projects that require further support in order to be turned into profitable social enterprises.

The Tata Center was first established at MIT six years ago by a generous donation provided by one of India’s oldest philanthropic organizations, Tata Trusts. With several advanced-stage projects now in the pipeline, the center’s leadership recognized a need to answer a fundamental question: How can the Tata Center provide further support, and what might that support look like, to research projects that have reached a state of maturity?

The center's recently-concluded fourth annual symposium and workshop, a two-day event hosted at the Samberg Conference Center titled “Translating Research into Impact,” aimed to do just that.

“This is a preoccupation for us. We’re no longer looking for things to do, we’ve found things to do. And we’ve brought technologies to a point at which they’re ready to go out into the world in the form of helpful products and services,” Tata Center Director Rob Stoner said as he welcomed students, industry partners, faculty, non-governmental organization representatives, and government officials from both India and the U.S. to the conference. “So, our focus has become translation — handing off technologies that may have reached the prototype or demonstration stage at MIT to entrepreneurial firms, government agencies, NGOs — anyone who has the vision and commitment to bring them to scale in India. It takes a focused effort to do that successfully.”

Stoner was joined at the conference by Manoj Kumar, head of entrepreneurship and innovations at Tata Trusts and Maurizio Vecchione, the executive vice presdient of Global Good and Research, which is a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and the Gates Foundation.

In his opening keynote address, The Power of Developing World Technology: Reverse Innovation, Vecchione stressed the importance of investing in technologies for the developing world from a market-driven perspective. Focusing on the health care sector, Vecchione emphasized the need to dramatically increase research and development budgets targeted toward finding solutions for diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis in the developing world. The world’s population, primarily led by developing countries like China, India, Nigeria, and Mexico, is projected to reach 9 billion by 2040. 

The keynote was followed by a panel on scaling social enterprises with Jessica Alderman, the director of communications for Envirofit International; Alex Eaton, CEO of Sistema Biobolsa and Charity; and Manoj Sinha, CEO of Husk Power Systems. One of the core issues that emerged during the panel was the perceived dichotomy of impact versus profit.

“The idea of profit is important. And profit is absolutely tied to impact,” Alderman said. “You will have a short-lived company if you don’t have a solid way of getting to profit.”

Symposium attendees were also introduced to new Tata Center startups and multiple advanced-stage projects working on techologies including:

  • urine-based tuberculosis diagnostics;
  • affordable silicon-based nanofiltration;
  • accessible intraperitoneal chemotherapy devices;
  • intelligence deployment to improve agri-supply chains; and
  • photovoltaic-powered village-scale desalination systems.

The first day to a close with a fireside chat with Ernest Moniz, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and former U.S. Secretary of Energy, followed by a town hall on funding social innovations with Ann Dewitt, COO of The Engine, Barry Johnson of the National Science Foundation, and Harkesh Kumar Mittal from India’s Department of Science and Technology.

On the second day of the conference, Ann Mei Chang, the author of “Lean Impact” and former chief innovation officer at USAID, delivered an inspiring keynote address on the importance of thinking big, starting small, and pursuing impact relentlessly.

This second day was dedicated to parallel sectorial workshops on Tata Center’s six focus areas: housing, health, agriculture, energy, environment, and water. Workshop participants included faculty from MIT, the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai, Tata Fellows, active Tata Center collaborators, industry representatives, and representatives of some of India’s most influential NGOs.

“So many projects end up not leaving the institution because of gaps in our support ecosystem,” Stoner said, drawing the event to a close. “We’re determined at the Tata Center not to let that happen with our projects by filling those gaps.”  

The MIT Tata Center’s efforts to build connections in the developing world are linked to MIT’s broader campaign to engage with global challenges, and to translate innovative research into entrepreneurial impact. That work continues year-round. The next Tata Center Symposium will be held at MIT on Sept. 12 and 13, 2019.

Categories: In the News

Four from MIT named American Physical Society Fellows for 2018

MIT News - Wed, 10/17/2018 - 12:30

Four members of the MIT community have been elected as fellows of the American Physical Society for 2018. The distinct honor is bestowed on less than 0.5 percent of the society's membership each year.

APS Fellowship recognizes members that have completed exceptional physics research, identified innovative applications of physics to science and technology, or furthered physics education. Nominated by their peers, the four were selected based on their outstanding contributions to the field.

Lisa Barsotti is a principal research scientist at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team. Barsotti was nominated by the Division of Gravitational Physics for her “extraordinary leadership in commissioning the advanced LIGO detectors, improving their sensitivity through implementation of squeezed light, and enhancing the operation of the gravitational wave detector network through joint run planning between LIGO and Virgo.”

Martin Bazant is the E. G. Roos (1944) Professor of Chemical Engineering and a professor of mathematics. Nominated by the Division of Fluid Dynamics, Bazant was cited for “seminal contributions to electrokinetics and electrochemical physics, and their links to fluid dynamics, notably theories of diffuse-charge dynamics, induced-charge electro-osmosis, and electrochemical phase separation.”

Pablo Jarillo-Herrero is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics. Jarillo-Herrero was nominated by the Division of Condensed Matter Physics and selected based on his “seminal contributions to quantum electronic transport and optoelectronics in van der Waals materials and heterostructures.”

Richard Lanza is a senior research scientist in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Nominated by the Forum on Physics and Society, Lanza was cited for his “innovative application of physics and the development of new technologies to allow detection of explosives and weapon-usable nuclear materials, which has greatly benefited national and international security.”

Categories: In the News