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Popular Mechanics

MIT researchers have solved a geometry problem that explores how to divide n-dimensional spaces into theoretically equal “slices," reports Juandre for Popular Mechanics. “I can tell you at the beginning, we were a little bit stuck. We made some partial progress, but I guess by hitting those roadblocks we just learned a lot about what we needed at the end,” explains Zilian Jiang, a former Applied Mathematics Instructor at MIT. “That was [a] great experience, because at least for me personally, I feel like doing research is also about the experience.”

Quanta Magazine

New research by Professor Erik Demaine, lecturer Zachary Abel, robotics engineer Martin Demaine and their colleagues explores whether it is possible to “take any polyhedral (or flat-sided) shape that’s finite (like a cube, rather than a sphere or the endless plane) and fold it flat using creases," writes Rachel Crowell for Quanta Magazine. “By moving finite to infinite ‘conceptual’ slices, they created a procedure that, taken to its mathematical extreme, produced the flattened object they were looking for,” Crowell explains.

The New York Times

In an article for The New York Times exploring whether humans are the only species able to comprehend geometry, Siobhan Roberts spotlights Prof. Josh Tenenbaum’s approach to exploring how humans can extract so much information from minimal data, time, and energy. “Instead of being inspired by simple mathematical ideas of what a neuron does, it’s inspired by simple mathematical ideas of what thinking is,” says Tenenbaum.

Forbes

Forbes contributor David Bressan writes that a new study by MIT researchers proposes that oxygen began accumulating in early Earth’s atmosphere due to interactions between marine microbes and minerals in ocean sediments. The researchers hypothesize that “these interactions helped prevent oxygen from being consumed, setting off a self-amplifying process where more and more oxygen was made available to accumulate in the atmosphere,” writes Bressan.

Forbes

Sajith Wickramasekara15 and Ashu Singhal ’11 co-founded Benchling, a software company designed to make it easier to keep track of laboratory data. The company has now acquired Overwatch, a software company for customers working in preclinical biopharma research, reports Alex Knapp for Forbes. “It [the acquisition] fits really nicely in the direction our company is heading,” says Wickramasekara. “It really helps us extend our offering, especially for biopharma where we’re growing a lot.”

The Tyee

The Tyee reporter Andrew Nikiforuk spotlights research conducted by Alex Siegenfeld SB ‘15, PhD ‘22, Yaneer Bar-Yam SB ’78, PhD ’84, and their colleagues to better understand the hesitancy behind accepting the efficacy of mask wearing. “There weren’t any studies that conclusively showed masks were not effective, yet common sense just got undervalued,” says Siegenfeld.

Popular Mechanics

Prof. Erik Demaine speaks with Popular Mechanics reporter Sarah Wells about the surprisingly complex math behind wrapping a present. "If [the wrapping] is a square piece of paper, we know the best [way]," Demaine says. "[But] what if I gave you an eight-and-a-half by eleven rectangle? The answer turns out to be really complicated…And again, this is just wrapping a cube. If you're wrapping a general box, it's going to get even messier. Here, we don't even know the right answer."

USA Today

Google created a doodle honoring the late Lotfi Zadeh ’46 for creating the mathematical framework known as “fuzzy logic,” reports Brett Molina for USA Today. Zadeh’s theory “has been used in various tech applications, including anti-skid algorithms for cars,” writes Molina.

Forbes

Graduate student John Urschel speaks with Forbes contributor Talia Milgrom-Elcott about how his mother helped inspire his love of mathematics and the importance of representation. “It’s very hard to dream of being in a career if you can’t relate to anyone who’s actually in that field,” says Urschel. “One of my main goals in life as a mathematician is to increase representation of African American mathematicians.”

The Washington Post

Professor Martin Bazant and Professor John Bush have developed a new safety guideline to limit the risk of airborne Covid-19 transmission in different indoor settings. “For airborne transmission, social distancing in indoor spaces is not enough, and may provide a false sense of security,” says Bazant. “Efficient mask use is the most effective safety measure, followed by room ventilation, then filtration,” adds Bush.

CNN

CNN reporter Maggie Fox writes that MIT researchers have developed a new formula for calculating the risk of airborne Covid-19 transmission in indoor settings. "To minimize risk of infection, one should avoid spending extended periods in highly populated areas. One is safer in rooms with large volume and high ventilation rates," write Profs. Martin Bazant and John Bush.
 

Scientific American

In a forthcoming book, photographer Jessica Wynne spotlights the chalkboards of mathematicians, including Professor Alexei Borodin’s and Associate Professor Ankur Moitra’s, reports Clara Moskowitz for Scientific American

Quartz

MIT researchers are applying machine learning algorithms typically used for natural language processing to identify coronavirus variants, reports Brian Browdie for Quartz. “Besides being able to quantify the potential for mutations to escape, the research may pave the way for vaccines that broaden the body’s defenses against variants or that protect recipients against more than one virus, such as flu and the novel coronavirus, in a single shot,” writes Browdie. 

Education Week

Graduate student John Urschel speaks with Education Week reporter Kevin Bushweller about his work aimed at encouraging more students of color to pursue studies in the STEM fields, particularly math. “What really matters is resources, what really matters is how much a child is nurtured and fed things,” says Urschel. “This is just my opinion, but I would say that, by and large, if I had to choose between giving a child a little bit more innate math talent or a little bit more resources, I think, really, resources is what is a very good and bigger predictor [of future success].”

New York Times

Institute Professor Emeritus Isadore Singer, who became “one of the most important mathematicians of his era,” has died at age 96, reports Julie Rehmeyer for The New York Times. “Dr. Singer created a bridge between two seemingly unrelated areas of mathematics and then used it to build a further bridge, into theoretical physics,” writes Rehmeyer. “The achievement created the foundation for a blossoming of mathematical physics unseen since the time of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.”