December 2009


Alumnus Tim Creamer answers a reporter's question during a press conference held in Kazakhstan two days before the Soyuz launch.

Yesterday alumnus Tim Creamer and two other crew members arrived at the International Space Station to join Expedition 22. The crew launched aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-17 spacecraft on December 21st from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It is  the first time that Creamer SM ’92 has been to space.

While at the station, Creamer and his colleagues in Expedition 21 and 22 will work on setting up and activating new research facilities. They’ll activate the new Combined Operational Load-Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT); unberth the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicle when its supply mission is complete; and welcome a new Russian docking module, two shuttle crews and a Progress resupply ship.

Creamer is expected to remain at the space station for six months. You can read his full bio on the NASA Web site and follow his progress on twitter @Astro_TJ.

He is expected to remain at the station for the next six months.

Erik Demaine

Click photo to check out a video clip of MIT associate professor Erik Demaine from the show.

Between the Folds, part of PBS’ Independent Lens series, spotlights ten masters of the art and science of origami, including MIT associate professor Erik Demaine and Brian Chan ’02, SM ’04, PhD ’09. Works from those featured on the program range from minimalist designs to paper caricatures reminiscent of Daumier and Picasso to creations using advanced computations. The result is a look at how the creativity inherent in origami blurs the lines between art and science.

Check your local listings for air times.

The show’s Web site also offers a history of origami and a Match the Folds game to see if you can discern the finished product from a fold pattern.

Visionary Engineer, Harold Edgerton, an MIT Museum exhibit showcasing MIT’s new digital collection of works by Harold “Doc” Edgerton, is the literal tip of the iceberg. Edgerton, the renowned MIT professor, inventor and engineer, may be best known for transforming the stroboscope into a tool that could stop action and show the world in photos and films how a milk drop splashes, how a hummingbird flies, and how bombs explode. At the museum, you can see films, original artifacts, plus plus a new ‘piddler’ machine built for this exhibition.

Drop of milk captured by Doc Edgerton.

Drop of milk captured by Doc Edgerton.

The rest of the iceberg is the vast digital repository of his work now available online. The Edgerton Digital Collections (EDC) project makes 22,000 still images, 150 films and video, and thousands of pages of hand written notes available online. Check the galleries for iconic images, learn about his techniques, and review his notebooks.

On TechTV, you can see what formations milk takes on when it is dropped in a slow motion film by Edgerton, who died, still teaching as a professor emeritus at age 87, in 1990. This 78-video collection also includes slow-motion explosions of two-ton BlockBuster bombs and sand dollars burying themselves in the ocean floor.

Edgeron’s biography shows a man in motion. In 1927, Edgerton earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and in 1931, he earned his PhD. His doctoral dissertation included a high-speed motion picture of a motor in motion, made with a mercury-arc stroboscope. Edgerton soon developed and improved strobes and used them to freeze objects in motion in both still photographs and ultra-high-speed movies. He worked with photojournalists, entertainers, and, at the request of the military, he developed a nighttime aerial reconnaissance photography system that was used in WWII. He published many articles in National Geographic magazine including, “Hummingbirds in Action,” in 1947. The article contained high-speed photographs that illustrated for the first time the wing movement and flight patterns of these tiny birds. He worked with Jacques-Yves Cousteau, building underwater flashes and cameras and then acoustic devices that measured distances underwater, which were used  to locate an H-bomb off the coast of Spain. And he did much, much more.

The one thing I’ll miss most about college is the fact that dorm life is like one giant slumber party – you get to live (sans over protective parents…hi mom!) with your best friends (sleep/eat/study/party) and there is very little alone time, if you choose. Middle of the night quandry? Forget the telephone – just go next door. Need a study buddy? Great, everyone is in the lounge writing papers. Dinner time? Baker Dining – together. Gym? Round up the troops. Funny youtube video that you *have* to share? Forget email lists, just carry your laptop into the hall. Birthday? Why wait until the birth-day? Midnight is the more appropriate time to celebrate.

Or so I thought, until it was 12:22am on my birthday and I had not been summoned by friends. No knock on my door, no “showering” (did that always go on at MIT? Anyway, my friends know better), not even an instant message. A bit downtrodden, I decided it wasn’t a big deal, and that we’d just celebrate tomorrow as planned. But I wanted to say goodnight to everyone, so I slipped out of my room to scamper down to the lounge. I was greeted by a never ending supply of paper, each with a different word of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs. And then…well…see for yourself.

The first semester of the 2009-2010 school year comes to a close, as students at the Institute finish their finals, pack their bags, and head home for winter break! The week before finals was packed with events, from study breaks to acapella concerts. One of the highlights of the week was Dance Troupe’s first show of the year, called “Recession.” With a wide variety of dances including hip-hop, contemporary, tango, and even belly dancing, “Recession” displayed another one of the many talents of MIT students. With five separate shows on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, hundreds of students, parents, and even staff came to see the MIT dancers in action. The atmosphere was electric! I, myself, participated in a hip-hop number, choreographed by Carter Chang, Jonathan Blackwood, Daniel Kim, and Stephen Goodman. With finals week just the week after, the Dance Troupe concert was a great way to take a break from studying and for those that performed in the show, it was an extremely rewarding experience. Composing a number was a great way to bond with fellow students, and I look forward to participating in Dance Troupe next semester as well. Happy winter break to all!

Decadent chocolate dessert at the three-star Michelin restaurant Pierre Gagnaire in Paris (© Owen Franken).

Decadent chocolate dessert at the three-star Michelin restaurant Pierre Gagnaire, Paris (© Owen Franken).

Curious about Owen Franken? See more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site. And, view his exhibition, A Photography Retrospective, through early January 2010 at the Gallery at Vivid Solutions, 2208 Martin Luther King Ave. SE, Washington, DC.

Drs. Dheera Ananthakrishnan and David Katz in the operating theatre, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.

From left: Drs. Dheera Ananthakrishnan and David Katz in the operating theatre, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.

Every day in the U.S. orthopedic surgeons use basic trauma plates and screws to set and repair fractures in patients’ arms, legs, and other bones. But in the developing world, where this equipment is often not available, a broken arm can mean the difference between a family’s breadwinner being able to work or not. And, because surgeries are infrequent, new doctors can’t be adequately trained. When orthopedic surgeon Dheera Ananthakrishnan ’90 learned from company reps that a surplus of first-generation orthopedic implants sat gathering dust in warehouses, she decided to do something to unite obvious demand with abundant supply.

Having studied mechanical engineering at MIT, the logistical problem appealed to Ananthakrishnan. She joined with orthopedist Jim Kercher and his wife, Heather Kercher, both Georgia Tech-trained engineers, to apply supply chain management principles to the problem. Before long, Orthopaedic Link (OL) was born. It’s a nonprofit that uses an online portal to connect idle, usable orthopedic implant surpluses with the surgeons and organizations in the developing world that need them.

Dr. Nyengo Mkandawire, the only Malawian-born orthopedic surgeon operating in Malawi today, with a patient of his who had been treated for four months by a traditional healer for a herniated disc in her low back. She was unable to walk when she came to Queens Hospital. Mkandawire performed a lumbar discectomy surgery on her, and just before this picture was taken, they were dancing together!

Dr. Nyengo Mkandawire, the only Malawian-born orthopedic surgeon operating in Malawi today, with a patient who had been treated for four months by a traditional healer for a herniated disc in her low back. She was unable to walk when she came to Queens Hospital. Mkandawire performed surgery on her using supplies delivered by Orthopaedic Link, and just before this picture was taken, they were dancing together!

Recipient hospitals and doctors, though, are fully evaluated before they can receive supplies. “We’re trying to find surgeons with a good skill set who are limited mainly by a lack of supplies, in developing countries that are politically stable,” Ananthakrishnan explains. She seeks doctors already providing services for free and who are looking to train other doctors and students. She herself personally visits sites to observe surgeries and understand the needs of a hospital. Ananthakrishnan and her team also follow up with the doctors and patients to gather feedback about the efficacy of the donated equipment.

Success story—Philippines
The government hospital Davao Medical Center (DMC), the only hospital in the Philippines that performs charity spinal surgery, houses the best spine surgeons in the region but they lack the implants needed to treat patients. One year after Ananthakrishnan and her partners conceived of OL, in March 2009, patients at DMC were receiving much-needed spinal implants. One patient, Donald Manurong, a 46-year-old coconut picker and sole supporter of nine, fractured his spine after falling out of a tree and was unable to provide for his family. He could have been crippled for life, but after his surgery he is recovering and will soon be back to work. Since OL’s visit, doctors have performed nine other spinal surgeries—valuable training for the next generation of surgeons. See photos of Orthopaedic Link in the Philippines (on Facebook) and read a blog post by a resident training there. (more…)

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