You can change the world!

Submit your idea to MIT Solve

Maybe it’s an idea that’s been rattling around your head or maybe you’re about to have an epiphany that can dramatically improve the lives of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.

Now is your chance to make your idea become a reality.

Solve, an initiative of MIT, has launched three new challenges on its open innovation platform and is seeking submissions which could be pitched at the United Nations on March 7th.

Aimed at developing and implementing solutions to major global issues, the current Solve challenges seek innovative solutions that address: 

  • Refugee Education: How can we improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Carbon Contributions: How can individuals and corporations manage and reduce their carbon contributions? Click here to view the challenge.
  • Chronic Diseases: How can we help people prevent, detect and manage chronic diseases, especially in resources-limited settings? Click here to view the challenge.

Challenges are active and open for applications until January 20, 2017. Anyone with innovative ideas and a passion for finding affordable, far-reaching, and implementable solutions is encouraged to apply.

You can find out more information about MIT Solve at http://solve.mit.edu/

William Bowen, Mellon Foundation president who led initial OCW funding, dies at 83

Photo of man standing at a Princeton University lectern, giving a speech.

Photo of William Bowen by Brian Wilson, Office of Communications, Princeton University.

MIT OpenCourseWare joins with our colleagues across higher education to mourn the passing of William Bowen. As president of the Mellon Foundation, he played a central role in the creation of OpenCourseWare.

More on the OCW story below. But first, those who didn’t know Bowen can get a glimpse of his life and reach in Brian Rosenberg’s eloquent rememberance in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

To Bill Bowen, the important things always mattered, regardless of his age or his title. He cared in 2016 as passionately about the entrenched inequities in higher education as he did when he assumed the presidency of Princeton, at age 38. He cared as much about issues of academic freedom and free speech as he did in 1973, when he defended the right of William Shockley, a physics professor who believed blacks were genetically inferior, to say things that Bowen himself found deeply offensive. He argued as forcefully for the importance of the arts and humanities in our culture as he did when he assumed the presidency of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in 1988.

He never stopped caring, and he never stopped being the most thoughtful and articulate voice on these and a host of other issues central to our educational system and our civic life…

Outside the circles of academe, his name is not nearly as well known as those of innumerable politicians and business people. But whether they know his name or not, many people who have attended a college whose doors would have been closed to them previously, or who received financial aid that created a world of new possibilities, are better off because Bill Bowen cared about their lives.

How did Bill Bowen come into the OCW fold? In 2000, MIT President Charles Vest had just received the revolutionary recommendation that would lead to OpenCourseWare. An Institute committee of faculty, staff and alumni felt that MIT should respond to the rapid growth of the Internet by giving all of its basic teaching materials away on the web for free.

President Vest quickly saw the wisdom and the enormous potential of the proposal, and set out to make it real. One of the first big questions: how to fund it? His first stop was none other than Bill Bowen. Vest describes their initial meeting:

I had breakfast in New York with Bill Bowen, the distinguished former president of Princeton University and current president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Bill is that rare combination, a deep thinker and an effective leader.

Over eggs, I said, “Bill, I want to tell you how MIT is thinking about using the Internet for education. Then I’ll have three questions. Do you think it’s a good idea? If you think it is a good idea, do you think foundations might fund it? And, if so, might The Mellon Foundation be interested?”

Normally when one approaches a foundation for support, the answer, if not “No,” is a request to send a letter. Then one might be asked to do a draft proposal with an approximate budget. Finally, one might be asked for a full-blown proposal, to which the ultimate response seems most likely to be rejection. In this case, Bill looked at me and said, “Don’t take this idea anywhere else. Let’s go to work to figure out how to fund it.”

Vest tells an expanded version of this story, with more recollections of Bill Bowen, in the following video from a 2011 panel discussion (clip starts at 13:20).

Obama to Leave the White House a Nerdier Place Than He Found It (NY Times)

Photo of woman pointing out aspects of aparatus on a lab bench, with President standing beside her looking on.

Professor Paula Hammond discusses her research with President Barack Obama during his 2009 visit to the MIT campus.

President Barack Obama has evolved in many ways during his eight years in office, both personally and politically. Add now to that list, becoming a self-professed science nerd?  We caught an early glimpse of this leaning when he visited the MIT campus in October 2009, touring several labs, showing “keen interest, quick understanding and warm appreciation,” and giving an address on clean energy.

A recent piece by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times highlights the arc of President Obama’s enthusiastic embrace of science.

President Obama has started initiatives to study the brain and gene-based diseases. He has led attacks on the Ebola virus and antibiotic resistance. Last month, he wrote an academic article in a prominent medical journal.

But the science event many in the White House remember most powerfully was the kid with the marshmallow cannon.

“So would it, like, hit the wall up there?” Mr. Obama asked during the 2012 White House Science Fair when he came upon Joey Hudy, 14, standing before his homemade Extreme Marshmallow Cannon.

“Yeah,” Joey answered.

“Would it stick?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s try it,” Mr. Obama said with glee.

And so, for what may have been the first time since the British burned the house down in 1814, a fast-moving projectile hit the State Dining Room wall. The marshmallow did not stick.

He began an annual tradition of science fairs, arguing that if he celebrates the nation’s top athletes at the White House, he should do the same for the best young scientific talent. He often mentions the students he has met at the fairs, including Elana Simon, who at age 12 survived a rare form of liver cancer and before graduating high school helped discover its genetic cause.

Mr. Obama’s presidential science advisory committee has been the most active in history, starting 34 studies of subjects as varied as advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity. Scientists on the committee said they worked so hard because Mr. Obama was deeply engaged in their work.

We took particular note of this statement:

In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Mr. Obama listed science as one of the few subjects he intended to pursue after the presidency.

So, President Obama: perhaps OCW can help you out here?

Our resources in science and beyond are perfect for self-paced learning, and well-suited to a busy lifestyle (which you’re certain to maintain). Most of the professors whose labs you visited in 2009 have classes on OCW. Whether you’re pursuing new curiosities in retirement, exploring a career transition, or even supplementing a current course of study in school, OCW is ready with a wealth of learning resources.

OCW courses from MIT’s newest AAAS members

MIT News reports that six MIT faculty members and the chair of the MIT Corporation are among 213 leaders from academia, business, public affairs, the humanities, and the arts elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS).  AAAS is “one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies [and] a leading center for independent policy research. Members contribute to academy publications, as well as studies of science and technology policy, energy and global security, social policy and American institutions, the humanities and culture, and education.”

OCW is pleased to highlight course materials from five of these MIT faculty.

Andrea Louise Campbell, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and head of the Department of Political Science.

Victor Chernozhukov, professor of economics.

Pavel Etingof, professor of mathematics.

John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology.

Vann McGee, professor of philosophy.

Also elected to AAAS are Jacqueline Hewitt, professor of physics and director of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research; and Robert Brian Millard ’73, chair of the MIT Corporation. Congratulations to all!

2001 was a banner year

Image of New York Times headline about OCW announcement, alongside Wikipedia logo and an image of DNA sequences on a computer screen.

OCW launched in 2001, alongside the creation of Wikipedia and the first publication of the Human Genome sequence.

This week, as we celebrate the 15 year anniversary of  MIT OpenCourseWare’s unveiling, we’re reflecting on other great strides taken in 2001 and in the years since. It wasn’t so long ago, but it can be hard to remember life before these other prominent “firsts.”

January 2001Wikipedia launched with the crowdsourcing concept that no central authority should control editing.

February 2001: the Human Genome Project published its draft sequence and analysis in Nature.

October 2001: Apple released the first iPod, putting “1,000 songs in your pocket.”

2001 was a time of tremendous energy, and also great uncertainty, about the growth and impact of the Internet. The dot-com investment bubble had burst in the previous year, and many early Internet high-fliers were crashing back to Earth.

The MIT faculty and administration were asking, “What impact will the Internet have on education, and what should MIT do about it?” Their answer, in the form of OCW, was a bold bet on the power of openly shared knowledge. Fifteen years later, the 200 million learners and educators around the world who have used OCW are grateful for their foresight and generosity.

Courses from MIT’s 2016 MacVicar Fellows

The 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: (clockwise from top left) Patty Tang, Jeffrey Grossman, Michael Sipser, and Srinivas Devadas.

The 2016 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: (clockwise from top left) Patty Tang, Jeffrey Grossman, Michael Sipser, and Srinivas Devadas.

Each year, MIT’s MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program honors several MIT professors who have made outstanding contributions to undergraduate teaching, educational innovation, and mentoring. Since 1992, over 90 MacVicar Faculty Fellows have been selected on the basis of merit through an annual nomination process.

This year’s awardees are Professors Srinivas Devadas (electrical engineering and computer science), Jeffrey Grossman (materials science and engineering), Michael Sipser (mathematics), and Patricia Tang (music).

OCW is honored to share courses from each of this year’s Fellows.

Srinivas Devadas

Jeffrey Grossman

Michael Sipser

Patricia Tang

Gravitational waves are everywhere, even on OCW

By now, surely you’re heard the dramatic news of the first observations of gravitational waves by the MIT-Caltech collaboration LIGO Laboratories.

While the phenomenon of gravitational waves may be new to many of us, MIT physics students have been learning about and thinking about gravitational waves and LIGO for some time. Here’s a few highlights from OCW.

If you already have some knowledge of relativity, a great entry point is 8.224 Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics. This advanced undergraduate subject includes video lectures on several key topics. And for Lecture 12, the course includes PowerPoint lecture slides on “LIGO: Detecting Gravitational Waves” by Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, one of MIT’s lead contributors to the LIGO project.

One of the suggested projects for this course was right on target with the big questions (alas we don’t have any samples of the resulting projects).

Newtonian gravity assumes action at a distance, in clear violation of the principle of relativity. How does general relativity fix this? Why and how do gravitational waves stretch space and what does that mean? How are they produced and how are LIGO and other instruments preparing to detect them?

If you want more background on Einstein’s theory of relativity and its connection to gravity, 8.033 Relativity is a good starting point, especially the lecture notes beginning with Lecture 17.

Another fascinating part on this discovery is the groundbreaking sensitivity of Advanced LIGO, capable of measuring a change in its 4 kilometer mirror spacing by about 10−18 m, less than one-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.

Video screenshot of professor in front of projected diagram of Advanced LIGO detector.

Watch Wolfgang Ketterle discuss the Advanced LIGO system.

In Lecture 7 of 8.422 Atomic and Optical Physics IIWolfgang Ketterle explains that “a lot of things pushing the frontier of precision measurement [are] motivated by the precision needed for gravitational wave detection.” Beginning at about 52:20 in this lecture, he describes some of the issues and solutions employed in Advanced LIGO’s precision Michelson laser interferometer.