NASA head Daniel Goldin's MIT Commencement address this week coincides with the world premiere of a Learning Channel program on exploring space. Destination Future: Space Exploration features MIT research in its mission to uncover "the visionaries, renegades and machines that may make the dream of space travel a reality for all of us." The show "also reveals what we need to know before heading off into the cosmos."
Producers for the show filmed at least two MIT labs last summer: those of Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics Laurence Young, and Charles Oman, also of aeronautics and astronautics. Both are tackling the physical effects of space on the human body and are key investigators in the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. Professor Young is director of the Houston-based program.
One project led by Professor Young that will no doubt be in the show is a "human centrifuge" or spinning bed that astronauts could one day use to create artificial gravity in space. Periodic exposure to artificial gravity could facilitate astronauts' overall performance in space.
Destination Future airs on the Learning Channel on June 5 (10pm and 1am EDT), June 6 (9pm and midnight) and June 10 (3pm).
The possible loss last month of Russia's last "early warning" satellite for detecting missile launches from the United States "is frightening," Geoffrey Forden told New Scientist magazine in a story that appeared in the May 19 issue.
Early-warning satellites, he said, "have saved the world from nuclear war three times after ground-based radars detected possible missile attacks -- twice in the US and once in Russia." The satellites "reassured the military that there had been no launches."
Mr. Forden, a senior research fellow at the Security Studies Program, published a report last month on how to improve Russia's early-warning system, which used to have nine satellites.
Growing older safely and with grace is of interest to many, so it's no surprise that MIT's AgeLab has been the focus of several recent stories in the media. The lab is using technology to create "a new lifestyle for active aging," director Joseph Coughlin told ABC News for a story that aired May 24 on World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.
Associate Professor Dava Newman of aeronautics and astronautics described the development of "smart clothes" that could help move stiff arms and legs. The clothes "would be very lightweight, very mobile, so it would actually be like strapping on designer clothes or something," she said.
A May 14 story in the Boston Globe described how the lab is also "testing the limits of technology for older drivers." With the help of Miss Daisy, a Volkswagen Beetle that can simulate a variety of driving conditions, AgeLab researchers are working to determine what new technologies will make driving safer for aging drivers.
Miss Daisy, with the help of elderly and young volunteers, is also helping the researchers determine what constitutes information overload. As visiting scientist Joachim Meyer told the Globe, "What is the best way to display information so it disrupts driving minimally?"
The AgeLab's work with elderly drivers was also featured on the May 13 episode of CBS Sunday Morning.
MASTER OF CEREMONIES
MIT's Todd Glickman has been a master of ceremonies for WGBH-TV's Auction 2001, which began June 1 and will run through June 9. Mr. Glickman, an industrial liaison officer in the Office of Corporate Relations and an MIT alumnus (SB 1977), told MIT Tech Talk that he's been involved with the public television for more than 20 years.
The goal of this year's auction is to raise more than $1.35 million. Mr. Glickman hosted on June 2 and 3; he will also host on June 8 from 7-10pm.
Alumnus Michael Fordice (PhD 1966) refers to his MIT alumni e-mail address as "a subtle resume" in a May 9 Associated Press story about the lifetime e-mail addresses now being offered by many colleges to their graduates.
"If you have an 'alum.mit.edu' address, people know right away you're an MIT grad," said Maggie Bruzelius, director of the Alumni Assocation's network services, in the same story.
The story ran in many different papers from the Stillwater Oklahoma News Press to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Several of these included a photo of Dr. Fordice in his home office.
"So you're not Martha Stewart in the kitchen. At least you can be Jane Jetson," wrote Mary Jo Dilonardo in a May 13 Cox News Service article about new technologies for the kitchen. She described several of the Media Lab's "Counter Intelligence" projects, "from talking trivets to stoves with pseudo-noses."
Massachusetts politicians seem to have appreciated a recent MIT presentation at the State House about electricity.
"Today's lecture provided information that we in the Legislature need to make sound energy policy," Energy Caucus chair and Sen. Susan Fargo told the Jamaica Plain/Roxbury Citizen in a May 17 story. "The MIT researchers have potential solutions to the energy situation now. I find it to be vital that my colleagues and I put this research to use to prevent an energy crisis in New England."
Energy Lab electricity experts Marija Ilic and Stephen Connors presented "Creating a Consumer-Friendly Electricity Market in New England" at the May 7 inaugural meeting of the Energy Caucus. It was the first of a series of briefings on environmental and energy-related issues for Massachusetts legislators given by MIT's Center for Environmental Initiatives (CEI).
Matthew Gardner, education and outreach coordinator for the CEI, told the Citizen, "The academic research community develops new knowledge about critical issues... However, what is often missing within academia is the ability to translate that information into a form that is accessible and useful to end-users in government, businesses and industry. This briefing is just one way to bring the expertise of the... research community directly to the policy makers of Massachusetts."
Frederick Harris, lecturer in music and director of MIT's Wind Ensemble, has a new book out that offers a collection of ideas from today's leading conductors on how they each develop feeling for a piece of music and communicate those feelings to an ensemble. Conducting with Feeling: Thoughts from Frank Battisti, Frederick Fennell, James Hainlen, Gustav Meier, Larry Rachleff, Gunther Schuller, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski is published by Meredith Music and distributed exclusively through Hal Leonard for $18.95. To order, call (800) 554-0626 or e-mail.
CLIPS AND QUOTES
"It's not as inane as it sounds." -- Sophomore Jim Paris about his work on the Net-connected washers and dryers in Random Hall. Mr. Paris, who was featured in a May 2001 story in Yahoo Internet Life, went on to explain that "you can log on to the machines from anywhere and see if they're available before lugging your clothes down four flights of stairs."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 6, 2001.