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.

MIT announces new learning research initiatives

Photo of student in a library working on papers and her laptop.MIT’s committed efforts to understand learning and improve it at all levels of education took a big step forward yesterday. As reported by MIT News:

MIT President L. Rafael Reif announced today a significant expansion of the Institute’s programs in learning research and online and digital education — from pre-kindergarten through residential higher education and lifelong learning — that fulfills a number of recommendations made in 2014 by the Institute-Wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education.

Most notably, Reif announced the creation of the MIT Integrated Learning Initiative (MITili), to be led by Professor John Gabrieli, and a new effort to increase MIT’s ability to improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning by students from pre-kindergarten through high school (pK-12), to be led by Professor Angela Belcher. The announcement also included a program to support faculty innovations in MIT residential education and new work to enhance MIT’s continuing education programs. Read more >

What does this mean for OCW and other MIT open educational resources? We look forward to providing better opportunities for learners, and sharing MIT’s latest teaching methods through initiatives like OCW Educator. The accompanying FAQ: Reshaping MIT’s programs in online and digital education states that

Research out of MITili will inform MIT’s digital learning and open education efforts, such as MIT OpenCourseWare, MITx, and the new MicroMaster’s program, and seeks to further improve these online learning platforms by applying latest developments in learning scholarship and educational technology. Read more >

Exciting times!

As an OpenMatters blog post wouldn’t be complete without some related OCW content, we heartily recommend MITili founding director John Gabrieli’s popular 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology. This OCW Scholar course takes you on an engaging scientific journey through human nature, including “how the mind works and how the brain supports the mind.”

If they were a nation, MIT entrepreneurs would be world’s 10th-largest economy

Infographic: as of 2014, MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues.

Illustration by Christine Daniloff/MIT.

A report released yesterday says that, as of 2014, living MIT graduates who have started and built for-profit companies:

  • launched more than 30,000 active firms,
  • created 4.6 million jobs,
  • and generate roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenue.

As MIT News reported:

That revenue total falls between the world’s ninth-largest GDP, Russia ($2.097 trillion), and the 10th-largest, India ($1.877 trillion), according to 2013 data on those and other countries from the International Monetary Fund.

“The report confirms what has long been clear: Our community’s passion for doing, making, designing and building is alive and growing,” President L. Rafael Reif wrote in an email today to the MIT community. “As we do our part by continuing to foster our students’ natural creativity and energy, it is inspiring to see the potential our alumni hold to extend MIT’s power to do good for the world.”

Read more >

Entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities abound at MIT, affording students from all disciplines many ways to learn, gain experience, make connections and unleash their inspiration.

Inspired to learn more about entrepreneurship?  See OCW’s popular Entrepreneurship collection for a hand-picked selection of entrepreneurship courses, plus links to many videos and other online resources.

Over one billion works use Creative Commons

Graph of # of work vs. years, showing dramatic increase.

Creative Commons licensed works have nearly tripled in the past 5 years, recently exceeding 1 Billion total works. (Image courtesy of Creative Commons, license CC BY 4.0)

Open sharing? We couldn’t do it without you, Creative Commons.

Since OCW adopted a Creative Commons license in 2004, we’ve shared materials from thousands of MIT courses with hundreds of millions of people around the world. All those pageviews, file downloads, remixes and translations, and passing along to friends and colleagues have been enabled by Creative Commons’ clear and widely-accepted terms of use.

Today, Creative Commons announced a major milestone: over 1 billion works have been licensed using Creative Commons since the organization’s founding, and the size of the commons has nearly tripled in the past five years alone. Read more about Creative Commons’ impressive growth and impact in their just-released 2015 State of the Commons Report.

Creators are choosing to share many of their works with the world, free of or with limited restrictions, to support global collaboration. MIT OpenCourseWare is proud to support the Creative Commons’ vision of the world, and proud of our contributions to this vibrant community powered by collaboration and gratitude. The benefits are a world of free and open content that creates more equity, access, and innovation for everyone.

Bringing synthetic biology education to life (MIT News)

BioBuilder lab among students, Kuldell says, is called “Eau That Smell,” which involves examining bacteria engineered to smell like ripe bananas at a certain stage of their growth. Students also enjoy “What a Colorful World,” a lab where students study E. coli programmed to change colors. Another lab, “Golden Bread,” has students add beta-carotene to baker’s yeast. (Image: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

BioBuilder labs include “Eau That Smell” (bacteria engineered to smell like ripe bananas at a certain stage of their growth),“What a Colorful World” (E. coli programmed to change colors), and “Golden Bread” (adding beta-carotene to baker’s yeast). (Image: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

Bringing Synthetic Biology Education to Life

Rob Matheson | MIT News Office
December 4, 2015

Synthetic biology — which involves engineering biological systems for new uses — has become an increasingly prominent, and promising, field of study in colleges and universities worldwide.

Research has yielded, for example, viruses that attack harmful bacteria, yeasts that produce biofuels, and engineered microorganisms capable of detecting toxins in the environment, among many other innovations.

Yet high school students rarely learn about synthetic biology at all, says Natalie Kuldell, an instructor of biological engineering at MIT. The issue, she says, is lack of accessible, hands-on curricula for such a rapidly developing field.

“With subjects like physics, for instance, you can demonstrate engineering by building Rube Goldberg machines or model bridges,” Kuldell says. “But it’s hard to think how to bring engineering to biology for high school students.”

In partnership with high school teachers, Kuldell launched the BioBuilder Educational Foundation in 2011 to provide schools with lab kits and lesson plans — adapted from her own MIT curriculum and MIT research labs — to boost interest and innovation in the field.

Today, more than 400 teachers in 43 states are using the formal BioBuilder curriculum. Some have also adapted the coursework for middle school students. Many other teachers worldwide incorporate some of the material, which is freely available online, into their lesson plans.

Read more >

In Dr. Kuldell’s OCW course 20.020 Introduction to Biological Engineering Design, you can see how she introduces MIT undergraduates to synthetic biologyIn addition to BioBuilder animations, this content-rich course includes detailed week-by-week notes on each design and lab activity, examples of student project work, and teaching notes that fill in pedagogical background.

Four MIT Faculty elected AAAS Fellows (MIT News)

Portait photos of four men.

Clockwise from top left: Professors Karl Berggren, Edmund Bertschinger, Victor Zue, and Gerald Fink. (Photo credits, clockwise from top left: MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT Department of Physics, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Whitehead Institute,)

Four MIT faculty have just been elected AAAS Fellows, in recognition of their “scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.” OCW is please to have course materials by all three.

As MIT News reports:

Karl K. Berggren, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a researcher at the Research Laboratory of Electronics, was recognized for distinguished contributions to methods of nanofabrication, especially applied to superconductive quantum circuits, photodetectors, high-speed superconductive electronics, and energy systems.

Professor Berggren is a co-instructor on OCW’s 6.781J Submicrometer and Nanometer Technology, which features several videos demonstrating experimental instruments and techniques.

Edmund Bertschinger, a professor of physics and MIT’s Institute Community and Equity Officer, was recognized for highly visible, national-scale promotion of diversity in the fields of physics and astronomy, and for intellectual contributions to the field of gravitation and cosmology.

OCW has three courses by Professor Bertschinger: 8.224 Exploring Black Holes: General Relativity & Astrophysics (with selected video lectures), 8.942 Cosmology, and 8.962 General Relativity.

Gerald R. Fink, a professor of genetics within the MIT Department of Biology and a founding member of the Whitehead Institute, was recognized for his distinguished contributions to genetics and to science more broadly through his involvement as a leader of major scientific organizations, including AAAS.

Professor Fink is a co-instructor on OCW’s 7.03 Genetics, which includes complete lecture notes and 12 years’ worth of homework and exam problems for study.

Victor W. Zue, the Delta Electronics Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a principal researcher at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory was recognized for distinguished contributions to the field of computational spoken language and language understanding, and for contributions to the strengthening of academic computer science research; as well as for distinguished contributions to acoustic phonetics, phonology, and speech recognition, and for leadership in the development of human language technologies.

Professor Zue is a co-instructor on OCW’s 6.345 Automatic Speech Recognition, which features complete lecture notes.

Congratulations to Professors Berggren, Bertschinger, Fink, and Zue !

The inspiring story of Ahaan Rungta

Photo of young man working at a table in MIT dining area with his laptop, writing in a notebook.

Ahaan Rungta, MIT Class of 2019 (Photo by M. Scott Brauer)

“Some people think I’m gifted, but I don’t think so. OCW was a gift to me. I was lucky to be born at the time MIT was opening up education to the world and extra lucky that OCW brought MIT and me together.”

By Laurie Everett | MIT OpenCourseWare

Ahaan Rungta and his family moved from Calcutta, India, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 2001, the same year MIT announced OpenCourseWare (OCW), a bold plan to publish all of MIT’s course materials online and to share them with the world for free. Little did his parents realize at the time that their two-year-old son—already an avid reader—would eventually acquire his entire elementary and secondary education from OpenCourseWare and MITx, and would be admitted to the MIT class of 2019 at the age of 15.

“When I was five years old my mom told me ‘there’s this thing called OCW,’” says Ahaan, who was homeschooled. “I just couldn’t believe how much material was available. From that moment on I spent the next few years taking OCW courses.”

When most kids are entering kindergarten Ahaan was studying physics and chemistry through OpenCourseWare. For Ahaan’s mother, the biggest challenge to homeschooling her son was staying ahead of him, finding courses and materials to feed his insatiable mind.

“My parents always supported me and found the materials I needed to keep learning. My mother was a resource machine. As I got older, I studied math through OCW’s Highlights for High School program, and when I was ready for Linear Algebra, I watched all of Professor Gil Strang’s 18.06 video lectures. From the time I was five I learned exclusively from OCW. And I knew then I wanted to go to MIT.”