More gaming goodness from OCW and MITx

Image: CMS.611 Creating Video Games on MIT OpenCourseWare.

A major update to OCW’s CMS.611 Creating Video Games is coming soon.

PAX East, one of the largest gaming events in North America, returns to snowy Boston this weekend.

Around such events, game companies always line up plenty of big announcements. OCW is joining the party. Yes, some of our staff will be attending. And we’re also hard at work on a fabulous update for the core course CMS.611J Creating Video Games. That will publish later this spring, but you can get a preview now with this brand-new trailer video.

Meanwhile, since last year’s PAX East, OCW has continued to publish more game studies courses, reflecting the vitality of MIT’s gaming community and the growth of games in academics. We published first versions of CMS.611J Creating Video Games and CMS.615 Games for Social Change, and added a new version of the ever-popular CMS.608 Game Design complete with audio lectures and new student-designed games you can download, build and play.

MITx on edX is another great source of free MIT game studies courses. The next one, 11.127x Design and Development of Games for Learning, is now open for registration and begins on April 1 2015.

Check out the complete list of OCW and MITx game studies courses.


Like Friends on Facebook, Some Nerves Are Tighter than Others

Image of neuron with many connections to other neurons.

Neurons in the brain have many connections to one another. (Image courtesy of Mike Seyfang on Flickr.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director 

Brain researchers at the University of Basel recently reported that nerve cells in the brain are organized like friends in a social network, conjuring a fascinating parallel between micro and macro human networks. In social networks, people often have many connections but only a few truly close friends. Similarly, “weak contacts in the brain have little impact, despite being in the majority,” says [Professor Thomas] Mrsic-Flogel. “The few strong connections from neurons with similar functions exert the strongest influence on the activity of their partners. This could help them work together to amplify specific information from the outside world.”

Those interested in understanding the science behind neural networks might explore OCW’s rich collection of courses from MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The courses range from the introductory to the specialized and advanced. OCW’s most recent publications include:

  •  9.14 Brain Structure and its Origins, taught by Professor Gerald Schneider, examines the larger neural structures that form in the brain and central nervous system. This course has full audio lectures, elaborately illustrated lecture notes, questions to accompany the readings, and more.
  • 9.04 Sensory Systems, taught by Professors Peter Schiller and M. Christian Brown, examines the neural bases for sensory perception, focusing on visual and auditory systems in mammals. The course has full video lectures, selected lecture notes, and a full list of readings.

As for social networks, MIT offers many courses affording a variety of perspectives, and a number of these are represented on OCW. Here is a sampler:

Quick test for Ebola (MIT News)

Photo of two rectangular boxes containing a set of paper strips.

MIT News reports: “A new paper diagnostic device can detect Ebola as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers in about 10 minutes. The device (pictured here) has silver nanoparticles of different colors that indicate different diseases. On the left is the unused device, opened to reveal the contents inside. On the right, the device has been used for diagnosis; the colored bands show positive tests.” (Photo by Jose Gomez-Marquez, Helena de Puig, and Chun-Wan Yen.)

Today, MIT News reports on a simple paper strip test developed by MIT researchers that can diagnose Ebola and other fevers within 10 minutes.

When diagnosing a case of Ebola, time is of the essence. However, existing diagnostic tests take at least a day or two to yield results, preventing health care workers from quickly determining whether a patient needs immediate treatment and isolation.

A new test from MIT researchers could change that: The device, a simple paper strip similar to a pregnancy test, can rapidly diagnose Ebola, as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as yellow fever and dengue fever.

“As we saw with the recent Ebola outbreak, sometimes people present with symptoms and it’s not clear what they have,” says Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, a visiting scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the technical staff at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “We wanted to come up with a rapid diagnostic that could differentiate between different diseases.”

Read the complete story >

With their low cost and ease of use, paper diagnostic and microfluidic technologies like this device offer great promise for addressing global health challenges. Learn more with these related courses on OCW.

SP.725 D-Lab: Medical Technologies for the Developing World was taught by Jose Gomez-Marquez, one of the researchers on this new device. The course explores the current state of global health challenges and teaches how to design medical technologies that address those problems. Lab topics include field diagnostics and microfluidics.

For a deeper dive into the technology, try 6.S079 NanomakerYou can see paper microfluidics being built and in operation with a tutorial video and the associated lab materials.

Preview some health diagnostics of the future with MAS.S963 Engineering Health: Towards the Tricorder. In this course, students learned to fabricate, remix, and design detection and monitoring devices for health, inspired by the Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize competition. (By the way, one of the ten finalist teams in that competition is led by Dr. Eugene Chan, an alumnus of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program.)

Finally, try these courses for complementary perspectives on global health: from social & ethical concerns (HST.934J Introduction to Global Medicine: Bioscience, Technologies, Disparities, Strategies) to improving care via better business models (15.S07 Global Health Lab) and innovative mobile information services (HST.S14 Health Information Systems to Improve Quality of Care in Resource-Poor Settings).

It’s Fair Use Week!

From the Fair Use Fundamentals infographic, courtesy of Fair Use Week (CC BY).

From the Fair Use Fundamentals infographic (PDF), courtesy of Fair Use Week (CC BY).

Fair Use Week is an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use in the United States and fair dealing in Canada and other jurisdictions. With a wealth of events and resources, it’s running February 23-27, 2015.

If you’ve used OpenCourseWare in the past few years, you’ve almost certainly benefited from our application of fair use. It allows us to retain more content, such as images and text excerpts in lecture notes, or media clips within lecture videos, that would otherwise have been cut out prior to our publication.

Since the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare was released at the end of 2009, fair use has led to more complete materials in over 180 OCW courses. That’s over 50% of the courses we’ve published during this time.  Across those courses, you’ll find about 4,000 pieces of content that would NOT be shared with you if not for fair use. And a few of these courses probably would not have been publishable without a fair use foundation.

To learn more about fair use in OpenCourseWare, see our FAQ on fair use.

Coming Soon to MITx: Digital Systems, Space Flight, DNA Repair

Photo of an astronaut in spacesuit standing on a platform in space.

Jeffrey Hoffman, instructor of the upcoming MITx course 16.00x, in a 1993 spacewalk to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Starting in March, a number of exciting MITx courses are being offered for the first time on the edX platform.

6.004.1x Computational Structures — Part 1: Digital Circuits

Have you ever thought about creating a computer from scratch? The 6.004x series of courses offers the opportunity to do just that. This first installment in the seriesis a bottom-up exploration of the abstractions, principles, and techniques used in the design of digital systems,” the course site says. All you need is “a rudimentary knowledge of electricity and some exposure to programming.”

The course is taught by Senior Lecturer Chris Terman, Professor Steve Ward, and Lecturer Silvina Hanono Wachman. It starts on March 3 and lasts for 11 weeks.

OCW offers a version of Professor Ward’s on-campus foundation for the series, 6.004 Computation Structures. The OCW course site has a full set of lecture notes, tutorial problems with solutions, exams with solutions, and labs.

16.00x Introduction to Aerospace Engineering: Aeronautics and Human Spaceflight

Been dreaming since you were a kid of what it would be like to see the earth from outer space? Wishing you might one day get the chance to go for a spacewalk?

Prepare yourself! Study with someone who has!

Professor Jeffrey Hoffman, the lead instructor, knows something about space travel. He was a NASA astronaut from 1978 to 1997 and made five space flights, becoming the first astronaut to log 1000 hours of flight time aboard the Space Shuttle.  He has taken four spacewalks.

The course explores “how rockets work, how spacecraft move in orbit, how we create artificial environments inside spacecraft to keep astronauts alive and healthy, what it’s like living in a world without gravity, how the human body adapts to space, and how spacewalks happen.” Blast-off is scheduled for March 3, and the flight will last eight weeks.

Professor Hoffman is no stranger to OCW either. He has published two courses: 16.885J Aircraft Systems Engineering  and 16.891J Space Policy Seminar (with Professor Daniel Hastings).

[** Update 2/19/15: Here’s the results of Professor Hoffman’s Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session.]

7.28.1x Molecular Biology: DNA Replication and Repair

“Did you know that your cells synthesize enough DNA during your lifetime to stretch a lightyear in length? How does the cellular machinery accomplish such a feat without making more mistakes than you can survive?” The course site opens with this mind-boggler. It goes on, “Why isn’t the incidence of cancer even higher than it is? And, if the DNA in each and every cell is two meters long, how is this genetic material compacted to fit inside the cell nucleus without becoming a tangled mess?”

Welcome to the world of modern molecular genetics, where the astounding gets mutated into the factual. The course is intended to help students “build [their] experimental design and data analysis skills” in molecular biology.

Professors Stephen Bell and Tania Baker are the lead instructors. The course starts on March 10 and lasts eight weeks.

OCW has a version of the on-campus course 7.28 Molecular Biology, as it was taught in Spring 2005.

The only prerequisite for 7.28.1x is a course in introductory biology along the lines of 7.00x Introduction to Biology or OCW’s 7.01SC Fundamentals of Biology or 7.013 Introductory Biology.

At MIT, food for thought (MIT News)

Photo of a teacher and several students making pizza dough.

In ES.S41 Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full, instructor Dr. Paola Rebusco used cooking to help her students learn Italian. (Image courtesy of Graham Gordon Ramsay. Used with permission.)

A recent event at MIT has us reflecting on food’s power as a pedagogical tool.

At MIT, food for thought
Symposium uses cuisine to explore immigration, identity, and politics.
Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office | February 11, 2015

Beyond being a human necessity, food can serve as a symbol of social class or national identity; a consuming hobby; or even a battleground for raw politics. Last Friday at MIT, food also became a lens on history: A scholarly conference revealed rich new research on gender, migration, and ethnicity, all refracted through the study of cuisine.

To see how food sheds light on social history, consider Asian immigration to the U.S.: Chinese-Americans have long been burdened with food-based stereotypes, such as the idea that dogs are standard fare in China.

Yet as MIT historian Emma Teng asserted at the symposium, four Chinese-Americans who became celebrity cooks during the 20th century — Buwei Yang Chao, Joyce Chen, Cecilia Chiang, and Grace Zia Chu  — all promoted Chinese cooking with a considerably more tasteful image. In their popular books and television shows, Chinese cuisine was carefully stripped of some exotic touches.

“They contested the notion of indiscriminate omnivorousness,” said Teng, an MIT professor of global studies and languages. In so doing, she added, the Chinese-American cooking stars were significant figures “in the fight against racism, bigotry, and ethnocentrism.”

Read the full article >

Food is a great way to learn about many topics, and so naturally it occupies a prominent place in many courses on OCW.  You’ll find courses ranging from the philosophical to the most practical, using food to:

Bon appetit !

P.S. fun fact, MIT has a long and storied history with food. Over 100 years ago, biology professor Samuel Cate Prescott figured out how to keep canned food safe. This work eventually led to the founding of MIT’s prominent Department of Food Technology. Prior to its dissolution in 1988, the department’s researchers and alumni developed such goodies as frozen TV dinners and microwave ovens, Starburst candies, and frozen orange juice concentrate. And who better than MIT to develop food for space travelers?

Immunity engineering: beyond the vaccine headlines

Image of a cell, appearing as a blue sphere with many points protruding.

A scanning electron micrograph of a human T lymphocyte (also known as a T cell). Image courtesy of NIAID on Flickr.

With the recent U.S. measles outbreak, and some politicians piling on with “I’m not a scientist, but…” pronouncements, vaccines are riding high in the current news cycle.

The public health and policy aspects of vaccines are indeed quite important. Meanwhile fueled by new scientific insights and engineering methods, there’s also plenty happening in research labs. If you’ve studied some college biology, OCW’s recently published 7.341 Designer Immunity: Lessons in Engineering the Immune System can help you keep current.

This course was taught in Spring 2014 by MIT postdocs Gregory Szeto and Talar Tokatlian. With summaries of each topic and extensive links to primary research literature, you can survey leading-edge strategies for battling influenza, hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.