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Popular Science

Using machine learning techniques, MIT researchers analyzed social media sentiment around the world during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and found that the “pandemic precipitated a dramatic drop in happiness,” reports Charlotte Hu for Popular Science. “We wanted to do this global study to compare different countries because they were hit by the pandemic at different times,” explains Prof. Siqi Zheng, “and they have different cultures, different political systems, and different healthcare systems.”

Fortune

Fortune reporter Jeremy Kahn spotlights a study co-authored by Prof. Marzyeh Ghassemi exploring issues associated with “explainable” AI systems that are being applied in fields such as healthcare, finance and government. The researchers explain that those using such systems “might have misunderstood the capabilities of contemporary explainability techniques—they can produce broad descriptions of how the AI system works in a general sense but, for individual decisions, the explanations are unreliable or, in some instances, only offer superficial levels of explanation.”

The Wall Street Journal

Prof. Stuart Madnick writes for The Wall Street Journal about how flaws in a company’s cybersecurity defenses can lead to cyberattacks. “Every decision regarding cybersecurity must weigh the benefits of not doing something (cost savings or the faster growth) against the increased risk to the organization,” writes Madnick.

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter Andrew Liszewski writes that CSAIL researchers developed a new AI system to teach the MIT mini cheetah how to adapt its gait, allowing it to learn to run. Using AI and simulations, “in just three hours’ time, the robot experienced 100 days worth of virtual adventures over a diverse variety of terrains,” writes Liszewski, “and learned countless new techniques for modifying its gait so that it can still effectively loco-mote from point A to point B no matter what might be underfoot.”

Scientific American

Graduate student Matt Groh speaks with Scientific American reporter Sarah Vitak about his team’s work studying whether human detection or artificial intelligence is better at identifying deepfakes and misinformation online. “One of the things that we would suggest for the future development of these systems is trying to figure out ways to explain why the AI is making a decision,” says Groh.

New York Times

Prof. Emeritus Leo Marx, “a cultural historian whose landmark book exploring the pervasive intrusion of technology on nature helped define the field of American studies,” has died at age 102, reports John Motyka for The New York Times. Motyka writes that Marx was a “pioneer in an eclectic and still evolving quest to determine an American national identity.”

TechCrunch

TechCrunch reporter Brian Heater spotlights MIT startup Strio.AI, which is aimed at bringing autonomous picking and pruning to strawberry crops.

WBUR

Prof. Stuart Madnick speaks with Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing about the increase of SMS phishing, a texting scam through messaging services. “People tend to fall for these things if they are in an emotional state and SMS messages often are a higher emotional phenomenon than email messages,” says Madnick.

TechCrunch

OPT Industries, an MIT spinoff, has created InstaSwab, a nasal swab “up to 20 times more effective in bacterial sample elution,” reports Brian Heater for TechCrunch. “With the ability to print around the clock, the firm also believes it can play a pivotal role in addressing supply chain concerns — a long-time goal for additive manufacturing,” writes Heater.

New York Times

New York Times reporter Daisuke Wakabayashi highlights a paper written by Prof. Glenn Ellison, head of MIT’s Department of Economics, and Senior Lecturer Sarah Fisher Ellison explaining how technology has made it easier to find products, but retailers have retaliated by raising prices. “To the extent that there is more obfuscation going on, consumers pay more for everything,” said Ellison. Wakabayashi also spotlights a study by Prof. Amy Finkelstein that found “when people use cash less, prices go up.”

ABC News

ABC News reporter Mary Kekatos speaks with Prof. Kate Brown about concerns surrounding Russian troops’ recent seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. “Conventional war and nuclear power are not a good combination,” says Brown. “Nuclear power requires security, stability and peace. It’s a tall order.”

ABC News

Prof. Stuart Madnick speaks with Ivan Pereira and Luke Barr of ABC News about the potential for Russia to launch cyberattacks on the U.S. and how Americans can prepare. "Cyberattacks and cyber security are not something we talk about a lot, but we need to," said Madnick. "This is not a brand new issue.”

PBS NOVA

PBS Nova premiered “Augmented,” a documentary film that features Prof. Hugh Herr and his research team’s work in developing brain controlled robotic limbs and reimagining amputation procedures. “Herr is teaming up with an injured climber and a surgeon at a leading Boston hospital to test a new approach to surgical amputation that allows prosthetic limbs to move and feel like the real thing,” writes PBS Nova.

The Verge

Prof. Kate Brown speaks with Verge reporter Justine Calma about the potential implications of fighting in the containment zone around Chernobyl. “It’s a continuing problem,” Brown says. “It’s supposed to be contained. It’s supposed to be left untouched. And that’s the problem with any kind of nuclear site. It demands stability and peace.”

The Economist

Prof. Julie Shah speaks with The Economist about her work developing systems to help robots operate safely and efficiently with humans. “Robots need to see us as more than just an obstacle to maneuver around,” says Shah. “They need to work with us and anticipate what we need.”