February 2010

Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

Will likes to see stuff at MIT whenever he is in town. This time I took him to see robots in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, wearable computing in the Media Lab, and miscellaneous cool stuff in the Precision Engineering Research Group. It wasn’t hard to find people to help out.

We walked around for three hours. Then, he was off to do soundchecks. A few hours after he learned about energy-storing inverse lakes, he and his Black Eyed Peas played to a sold-out crowd at the TD Banknorth Garden.

I always like amazing people, like Will, who is highly creative, does interesting things, and is interested in the future. MIT attracts amazing, highly creative, interesting, interested people like honey attracts bears.

And on top of all that, Will is a fan of my field, Artificial Intelligence.   Check out the Peas homepage, click on Playlist, and run the first of the Imma Be Rocking That videos.

Anyway, when Will and his entourage were about to leave, and all the obligatory pictures were taken, he asked, as he generally does, if I could use a few tickets for the show. “Hey, that would be great,” I said. I like the Peas, and besides, I hadn’t been to a good concert since the Rolling Stones were in town in ’06.

Alas, my daughter seized the tickets. “You’re nowhere near cool enough to go,” she said, “and I have some friends.” Maybe I should find a new place to buy clothes.


Post-operation care at Hospital St. Louis, a public assistance hospital in Paris

Post-operation care at Hospital St. Louis, a public assistance hospital in Paris (© Owen Franken).

Curious about Owen Franken? View 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.

Firefly creates 3-D digital images in the air.

Firefly creates 3-D digital images in the air.

Swarm robots are lighting up the sky! Firefly, an MIT SENSEable City Laboratory project developed in collaboration with ARES Lab (Aerospace Robotics and Embedded Systems Laboratory), is launching a swarm of tiny helicopters embedded with sparkling LED lights. The swarm, on command, can render an uncanny representation of the Mona Lisa, then reform into complex 3-D shapes such as a moving face or the ocean’s surface alive with waves.

These fireflies act as ‘smart pixels’ soaring through the air and working in concert to produce digital displays with animated color and free-form images that are still or in motion and viewable from any angle. Though SENSEable has only a handful now in flight, the group wants to scale up the project quickly.

A fabulous video shows Firefly’s potential.


See for yourself how far-reaching the MIT connection is with PlanetMIT, A Global Community Atlas. Click the pins and you’ll easily find alumni, student, volunteer, and parent populations; MIT clubs; Enterprise Forum chapters; and area representatives with links to their listings in the Online Alumni Directory. Red pins indicate areas where there is an official MIT alumni presence.

PlanetMIT: A Global Community Atlas

Check out PlanetMIT: A Global Community Atlas.

Check out places you live and travel to—you’ll discover an MIT community likely awaits. Want to find entrepreneurs in the Middle East? No problem. Just look for the MIT Enterprise Forum chapters. Curious how many MITers live on Mauritius or how many MIT clubs there are in California? Look no further.


The time has finally come to vote for the geeky pickup line that you like best. Whether you interpret “best” to mean “it would work on me!” or “best effort” or something else entirely is your prerogative.

There are five options in the poll below, culled from some 29 submissions that rolled in over the last week. Thanks to everyone who participated. The pickup lines generated a lot of smiles, Facebook “likes,” and maybe even some dates. (Write and tell us if you used one successfully!)

Happy voting:


Vodpod videos no longer available.

MIT is a powerhouse when it comes to problem solving. Some of the world’s most talented scientists engineers study and work at the Institute, and breakthroughs across different disciplines are often a part of daily life.

However some problems, particularly in the energy sector, transcend the scope of a single discipline and require a systems-wide approach. A new video by AMPS and the Alumni Association focuses on that multidisciplinary strategy, showing how innovation in energy technology has to be combined with innovation in business models and policies in order to create and promote a sustainable energy system.

View the seven minute Energy Innovation video above or watch it on TechTV.

MIT welcomed the year of the tiger last Sunday with several celebrations throughout campus. MIT has always been exceptional at providing the entire student body with opportunities to learn about the many cultures present on campus. This past Sunday’s event, the Chinese Students Club’s annual Chinese New Year Banquet, was no exception. With hundreds of people of all ages and ethnicities coming from different parts of Boston, the Chinese New Year Banquet was not only a didactic experience, but it was also tons of fun. Although the actual Chinese New Year was on February 14, hundreds showed up to celebrate this past Sunday, the 21st, in Walker Memorial with plenty of food and entertainment. The menu consisted of 20+ Chinese dishes, along with bubble tea and Chinese desserts. With performances including traditional fan dances, Chinese yo-yo tricks, Chinese dragon dances, and many more, the event didn’t have one dull moment. Highlighting the night was a performance by Far East Movement, a hip-hop group based out of Los Angeles, who recently signed a deal with Interscope Records. Their performance was definitely a crowd pleaser, and it was amazing to see such a talented group of guys rock the stage in our very own Walker Memorial building. Overall, it was a fantastically well-put-together event and a great way to spend a Sunday night. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

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