Of course you don’t need an excuse to bake delicious desserts, but St. Patrick’s Day and its attendent festivities are still a great time to dust off that cookie sheet and preheat the oven. (Even if the holiday is usually eclipsed by drink and not dessert, celebrants still have to eat. Eventually.)

With that in mind, Slice has assembled a list of geeked out cookies that would be perfect for almost any St. Patrick’s Day party. Just kick up the green food coloring and voila! You’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with science.

Click the images for more information. Credit: http://www.notsohumblepie.blogspot.com

Circuit board cookies

Space Invaders cookies

Periodic table with shortbread cookies

Earth cookies

Erez Lieberman-Aiden won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.

Erez Lieberman-Aiden won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.

A scientific Renaissance man who works in mathematics, linguistics, biotechnology, and polymer physics, Erez Lieberman-Aiden, has won the prestigious $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. His inventions range from a new 3-D method of genome sequencing to evolutionary graph theory to the iShoe, a sensor-laden insole for the elderly. And he’s a visual artist and a creative writer.

A graduate student at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Lieberman-Aiden’s most recent invention is the Hi-C method for three-dimensional genome sequencing. Developed with his advisor Eric Lander, the founding director of the Broad Institute, and colleagues, Lieberman-Aiden hopes that Hi-C will help scientists understand how genes are turned on and off inside the cell and shed light on diseases like cancer.

Lieberman-Aiden and a Harvard mathematics professor developed evolutionary graph theory, which provides a quantitative language to describe replication of entities—such as organisms or ideas—along networks that can be applied fields ranging from cancer biology to social networks.

In 3-D genome imaging, nearby regions of DNA are depicted in different colors

In 3-D genome imaging, nearby regions of DNA are depicted in different colors.

A speaker of English, Hebrew, and Hungarian, he and a colleague have also contributed to the understanding of how languages follow the laws of natural selection in predictable ways, leading to specific equations that describe the evolution of verbs.

He and his wife, Aviva Presser Aiden, an MIT graduate student, run a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, Bears Without Borders, dedicated to the creation and delivery of toys and childhood necessities to children worldwide. An inventor herself, Aviva was on the team that developed a dirt-powered battery designed for rural, off-grid communities, which was named one of Popular Mechanics 10 Most Brilliant Innovations of 2009.


George Smoot greets fifth graders.

George Smoot greets fifth graders.

American astrophysicist George Smoot ’66, PhD ’71 won $1M on the TV game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” on Sept. 18. He was only the second person to win $1M on the show and the first man to do so.

Of course, this is not the first prize he’s won. Smoot was awarded a Physics Nobel Prize in 2006. He won the Nobel Prize for his work on Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE) with John C. Mather that led to the measurement “…of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.” This work helped cement the big-bang theory of the universe. According to the Nobel Prize committee, “the COBE-project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science.”

And he even had fun winning a million dollars. Watch the episode. His final question? “What’s the location of Acadia National Park?”

Newly discovered in Georgia. Photo: Courtesy University of Georgia.

Newly discovered in Georgia. Photo: Courtesy University of Georgia.

Jennifer Frazer SM ’04, a science writer living in Boulder, CO, set out to be a scientist, “but like many science writers, realized in horror that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a windowless lab staring at racks of Eppendorf tubes filled with clear liquids.” You can benefit from her lab exit by reading the newest entry on the Slice of MIT blogroll–the Artful Amoeba, her commentary on the wonders of biological diversity.

A recent post, “How Many Salamanders Can Dance on the Head of a Pin,” describes the 2007 discovery of the tiny patch-nosed salamander (pictured). “What’s a Sea Pig” gives a short description, “a cross between a star-nosed mole, a naked mole rat, and a hallucinogen-induced, Cthulu-themed nightmare” then links the reader on to the real definition.

Read Frazer’s profile in Technology Review for her scientific journey, but, in brief, she earned degrees from Cornell in biology and plant pathology, then a master’s in science writing from MIT. She worked on a small newspaper in Wyoming, winning a 2007 AAAS Science Journalism Award for uncovering a poisonous lichen as the cause of mysterious elk deaths. You can hear her four-minute acceptance speech. These days she’s living in Boulder, where she works as a science writer for a large science nonprofit—and roams the countryside discovering amazing bits of life on Earth.

Want to add your commentary on personal or professional matters to the Slice of MIT blogroll? Just email your name, blog name, URL, and short description to sliceofmit@mit.edu.

Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

Physicist Richard Feynman ’39 was a Nobel laureate and a witty lecturer, which is saying a lot for a guy whose topics ranged from the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium to particle physics. Undeniably brilliant, he was credited with pioneering the field of quantum computing and introducing the concept of nanotechnology. Though he died in 1988, his words have a new life.

Some of his lively lectures and chunks of his biography are available online in Scribd, which describes itself as the “largest social publishing company in the world—the website where more than 60 million people each month discover and share original writings and documents.” After a free sign in, you can join them.

The Meaning of It All,” three lectures given in 1963, comment on the impact of science outside of science. He teases apart issues that arise from science defined in three ways: as a method for finding things out, the resulting body of knowledge, and what is done with that knowledge.

In “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” Feynman’s 1959 talk to the American Physical Society, he introduces the concept of nanotechnology.

What do you care what other people will think?” is an as told-to-chronicle of Feynman’s work on the presidential commission investigation into the 1986 Challenger disaster. This engaging personal narrative digs into the technical and management problems that triggered the tragedy.

Chocolate truffles for all!

Chocolate truffles for all!

You may–or may not–know that chocolate has six crystalline states and that heating it too quickly can separate its molecules and cause it to become gritty. The science of chocolate blends with the pleasure when MIT students and alumni put that knowledge to delicious use as members of MIT’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science.

This chocolate appreciation club, inspired by truffle-making parties hosted by then-student Ariel Segall ’04, continues as an eclectic bunch of chocolatiers who share the fruits of their work–hot chocolate during exams, truffle sales, IAP science of chocolate lectures, and chocolate tastings open to the public. Near campus? Check their Web site for the next mouth-watering event.

You can do this at home: watch the video to learn how to make tea-infused dark chocolate truffles.

Several months ago we were delighted to report that for the first time in NASA history, four MIT alums were scheduled to be in space at the same time. We saw some great photos from the missions, including a couple of alum Mike Fincke ’89. Well, we have more good news today: Last week, Fincke was joined by another alum, Dominic “Tony” Antonelli ’89. Antonelli launched on the space shuttle Discovery on March 15th as pilot of the STS-119 mission and docked with the International Space Station on March 17th.

Michael Fincke '89 (left), Expedition 18 commander; and Tony Antonelli '89, STS-119 pilot, look over procedures checklists in the Quest Airlock of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station. Photo: NASA

Michael Fincke '89 (left) and Tony Antonelli '89 look over procedures checklists in the Quest Airlock of the International Space Station while Space Shuttle Discovery remains docked with the station. Photo: NASA

If that’s not enough to rouse your MIT pride, consider this: Kwatsi Alibaruho ’95 is the lead flight director for the STS-119 mission. Why is this such a big deal? Do the math—there are fewer mission control flight directors than NASA astronauts, and, perhaps more impressively, Alibaruho is the first ever African American NASA flight director.

Lead flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho monitors data at his console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center during the docking of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-119 mission.

Lead flight director Kwatsi Alibaruho '95 monitors data at his console in the space station flight control room in the Mission Control Center at NASA's Johnson Space Center during the docking of the International Space Station and Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-119 mission. Photo: NASA

Congratulations to Fincke, Antonelli, and Alibaruho!

For more MITAA space coverage, check out:
Space Exploration: 34 MIT Astronauts and Counting

Or visit the MIT Astronaut page, run by the MIT Club of South Texas: http://alumweb.mit.edu/clubs/s-texas/doc/Astro/AstroHome.htm

PS: Let’s see a close-up of those MIT hats!

Hat close-up

A Transition.  And in the crisp, early-morning air on March 5th, it made its first flight over a long runway at the Plattsburgh International Airport in New York, looking like a cross between a VW bug and a puddle jumper.

Transition, Photo: Terrafugia

Transition, Photo: Terrafugia

Transition, the “roadable aircraft,” was designed by MIT alum Carl Dietrich’s company, Terrafugia. The first flight lasted 37 seconds and covered about 3000 feet, according to a press release. Retired Air Force colonel Phil Meteer piloted the plane.

“It was apparent to me from the moment of takeoff that I had control of a very stable aircraft,” Meteer reportedly said at a March 18th press conference. “I had a test plan…and after a minute I realized my daughter could do this, it was fun, anyone could do it.”

Delivery of the first $194,000 vehicle is scheduled for 2011, however 40 people have already put down $10,000 deposits to hold their place.

Transition by the numbers:

  • MPH on road: 65
  • MPH in air: 115
  • MPG: 30
  • Amount of time it takes for Tranisition to convert from flight to road configurations: 30 seconds
  • Number of MIT degrees obtained by Terrafugia founder, Carl Dietrich: 3*

*’99, SM ’03, PhD ’07—all degrees are in Aero & Astro

On Friday afternoon the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team came together to unveil Eleanor, the group’s newest upright-seating, solar-electric car.

Having never seen a solar car in person, I was completely taken by it. Imagine a stingray that has been bred with the mother of all Apple iPods, and you’re starting to get it. Sleek, flat, otherwordly. It was incredible.


After hearing from a few students and faculty, the team lifted off Eleanor’s top cover and showed us her electrical innards.

Eleanor with top off

I talked to one graduate student, Robert Pilawa, who has worked on the car’s electrical components—in his spare time, which raises an interesting point: For the most part, Eleanor was built in the students’ spare time. For that reason, Pilawa said that the hardest part of a project like this one was making time to work on it.

“Students are incredibly busy, so they can work hard for awhile, and then academics come in. Work goes in bursts and varies by team member,” he said.

This fall Eleanor will head cross country and then be flown to Australia to take place in the World Solar Challenge.

Learn more about the World Solar Challenge.

Learn more about Eleanor.

Watch a quick video that shows the team moving the top of the car and gives a glimpse of what’s under the hood.

In the 21st century, news sources may be burgeoning but the rate of discovery in science research is even more astonishing. How is a science-savvy reader to keep up with important research day to day?

A 19th century naturalist's desk re-discovered.

A 19th century naturalist's desk re-discovered.

One answer is the Knight Science Journalism (KSJ) Tracker, a peer-review service for science journalists, created by MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program. The KSJ Tracker, with several posts a day, compares global coverage of a news topic and links to the best sources.

Today, for example, a report on the Census of Marine Life project led to stories on the newly discovered diversity swimming in the two polar seas. Other topics? Hot climate change news that emerged from an AAAS gathering last weekend. The discovery of a 19th century naturalist’s desk—fully loaded—in a D.C. antique shop. Earlier stories focused on the decoding of the cold virus genome, space junk collisions, and the biology of romantic love.