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Here & There


MIT research on a 150-ton magnet and a new treatment for breast cancer were recently featured on WBUR radio's "Here and Now" on June 20.

Dr. Alan Fenn's work 10 years ago on "Star Wars" technology to detect missiles is now being applied to breast cancer. The radio program described an ongoing clinical trial, in which focused microwave radiation is used to heat and kill breast cancer cells. Dr. Fenn is a senior staff member at Lincoln Laboratory.

The work has also been reported in international media including the June 6 "La Tercera" (a Chilean newspaper) and the June 7 Daily Telegraph (London).

In April, a 150-ton magnet that's central to an international experiment for fusion energy research passed its initial operating test. WBUR featured comments on June 28 about the work from Dr. Joseph Minervini of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center and the Department of Nuclear Engineering. Dr. Minervini led the MIT researchers involved; their colleagues are from the United States and Japan.

Thanks to the web, you can hear the stories yourself. Go to <> and click on "browse past shows." The breast cancer segment starts at about 10.5 minutes into the June 20 program. The June 28 magnet segment begins at about 10 minutes 35 seconds. Grab the RealPlayer Clip Position Button to fast-forward the audio to the segment.


A June 18 story in the London Sunday Times about growing human organs on silicon featured the work of Professor Linda Griffith of chemical engineering. According to writer Peter Fairley, Professor Griffith "is adapting 3-D printing machines to make 3-D scaffolds of biodegradable polymer that can guide the growth of blood vessels.

"While making livers for organ replacement is Griffith's long-term goal, tissues that mimic the human liver" may also have key applications. For example, swatches of liver could be used to test new drugs. "There's a substantial need for liver tissue that doesn't have anything to do with putting it into a patient," Professor Griffith told Mr. Fairley.


Chris Ayres' June 10 column in the London Times, "A Week on the Web," included the following item about Professor Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab.

Professor Negroponte "told an International Advertising Association conference that washing machines would soon be surfing the Internet and electronic paper would soon start making telephone calls." He also said that "in the next three years machines, rather than people, would be the heaviest Web users." His comments were reported by a variety of other media, including the Reuters wire service.


The human sense of touch is so exquisite that people who are blind and deaf can understand a person's words by putting a hand on that person's hand and cheek while they talk. Mandayam Srinivasan, director of MIT's Touch Lab and a principal research scientist and lecturer in mechanical engineering, recalled how one blind-deaf person not only understood his words, but asked if he was from India. (He is.)

So began a nine-page story on the Touch Lab in the June 2000 issue of Smithsonian magazine. According to writer Richard Wolkomir, the lab was created to understand how the human hand works. "I think about it like an engineer," Dr. Srinivasan told the writer. "This is a system -- how does this system work?" Among other applications the lab "uses its findings to invest virtual environments with the sense of touch."

Photographer Richard Schultz, who spent a week camped out in the lab, took eight color photographs to accompany Mr. Wolkomir's text. They included a shot of mechanical engineering graduate student Jung Kim next to computer screens showing the "virtual instruments" he's developing for virtual surgery. Another photo shows graduate student Thao Dang using a computer to "touch" the outlines "of a virtual rectangle, a shape that actually exists only as computer code."


��������� "In 2010, half of the retail stores in America will be closed because half of all purchasing will occur online." -- Sloan School Professor Lester Thurow at the 2000 World Congress on Information Technology held in June. His remarks were quoted in the June 17 Estates Gazette.

���������"The most widely used language on the Internet will be Chinese." -- Prediction by Professor Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media Lab, in a June 21 story in the International Herald Tribune.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 9, 2000.

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