December 14, 2016
In their round up of the top science stories of 2016, Science News highlighted several MIT research breakthroughs. The top story of the year was the successful detection of gravitational waves by researchers from MIT, Caltech and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Another highlight was the discovery by Prof. Susan Solomon that the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is shrinking.
September ozone hole has shrunk by 4 million square kilometers since 2000.
LIGO opens a new window on the universe with the observation of gravitational waves from colliding black holes.
Writing for The Boston Globe, Prof. Eric Lander, president of the Broad Institute, argues for enabling cancer patients to become actively involved in cancer research. “Patients must have an active voice in decisions. Patient data should never be sold,” Lander writes. “Researchers anywhere should have rapid access to the de-identified clinical and genomic data, to ensure that anyone can make discoveries.”
Prof. Mark Harnett has found that each individual cell in the human brain could operate like a mini-computer, reports Clare Wilson for New Scientist. Wilson explains that “the study has revealed a key structural difference between human and mouse neurons that could help explain our superior powers of intelligence.”
Financial Times reporter Jemima Kelly reports that MIT researchers have developed a low-power chip that is hardwired to perform public-key encryption. Kelly writes that the chip is “potentially a game-changer for simple, low-powered products such as smart sensors used by industry to gauge things such as temperature and pressure, as well as health monitors.”
IEEE Spectrum reporter Mark Anderson highlights how Prof. Jeehwan Kim’s research group has developed techniques to produce ultrathin semiconducting films and harvest the materials necessary to manufacture 2-D electronics. Anderson explains that the group’s advances could make possible such innovations as high-efficiency solar cells attached to a car’s exterior and low-power, long-lasting wearable devices.
Prof. Angelika Amon received this year’s Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for her “contributions to finding significant solutions to curing human diseases,” while Profs. Chenyang Xu, Daniel Harlow, Matt Evans and research scientist Lisa Barsotti received New Horizons Prizes for “early-career achievements in their respective fields,” reports Xinhua.
MIT researchers have developed a way to prevent the theft of sensitive data hidden on a computer’s memory, writes TechCrunch’s Zack Whittaker. Storing sensitive data in different memory locations creates “clear boundaries for where sharing should and should not happen, so that programs with sensitive information can keep that data reasonably secure,” explains graduate student Vladimir Kiriansky.