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Paul McEuen delivers inaugural Dresselhaus Lecture on cell-sized robots
4 December 2019, 8:30 pm

Functional, intelligent robots the size of a single cell are within reach, said Cornell University Professor Paul McEuen at the inaugural Mildred S. Dresselhaus Lecture at MIT on Nov. 13.

“To build a robot that is on the scale of 100 microns in size, and have it work, that’s a big dream,” said McEuen, the John A. Newman Professor of Physical Science at Cornell University and director of Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. “One hundred microns is a very special size. It is the border between the visible and the invisible, or microscopic, world.”

In a talk entitled “Cell-sized Sensors and Robots” in front of a large audience in MIT’s 10-250 lecture hall, McEuen introduced his concept for a new generation of machines that work at the microscale by combining microelectronics, solar cells, and light. The microbots, as he calls them, operate using optical wireless integrated circuits and surface electrochemical actuators.

Kicking off the Dresselhaus Lectures

Inaugurated this year to honor MIT professor and physicist Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus, the Dresselhaus Lecture recognizes a significant figure in science and engineering whose leadership and impact echo the late Intistute Professor's life, accomplishments, and values. The lecture will be presented annually in November, the month of her birth.

Dresselhaus spent over 50 years at MIT, where she was a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (originally the Department of Electrical Engineering) as well as in the Department of Physics. She was MIT’s first female Institute Professor, co-organizer of the first MIT Women’s Forum, the first solo recipient of a Kavli Prize, and the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in the engineering category.

Her research into the fundamental properties of carbon earned her the nickname the “Queen of Carbon Science.” She was also nationally known for her work to develop wider opportunities for women in science and engineering.

“Millie was a physicist, a materials scientist, and an electrical engineer; an MIT professor, researcher, and doctoral supervisor; a prolific author; and a longtime leader in the scientific community,” said Asu Ozdaglar, current EECS department head, in her opening remarks. “Even in her final years, she was active in her field at MIT and in the department, attending EECS faculty meetings and playing an important role in developing the MIT.nano facility.”

Pushing the boundaries of physics

McEuen, who first met Dresselhaus when he attended graduate school at Yale University with her son, expressed what a privilege it was to celebrate Millie as the inaugural speaker. “When I think of my scientific heroes, it’s a very, very short list. And I think at the top of it would be Millie Dresselhaus. To be able to give this lecture in her honor means the world to me.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of Oklahoma, McEuen continued his research at Yale University, where he completed his PhD in 1990 in applied physics. McEuen spent two years at MIT as a postdoc studying condensed matter physics, and then became a principal investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He spent eight years teaching at the University of California at Berkeley before joining the faculty at Cornell as a professor in the physics department in 2001.

“Paul is a pioneer for our generation, exploring the domain of atoms and molecules to push the frontier even further. It is no exaggeration to say that his discoveries and innovations will help define the Nano Age,” said Vladimir Bulović, the founding faculty director of MIT.nano and the Fariborz Maseeh (1990) Professor in Emerging Technology.

The world is our oyster”

McEuen joked at the beginning of his talk that speaking of technology measured in microns sounds “so 1950s” in today’s world, in which researchers can manipulate at the scale of nanometers. One micron — an abbreviation for micrometer — is one millionth of a meter; a nanometer is one billionth of a meter.

“[But] if you want a micro robot, you need nanoscale parts. Just as the birth of the transistor gave rise to all the computational systems we have now,” he said, “the birth of simple, nanoscale mechanical and electronic elements is going to give birth to a robotics technology at the microscopic scale of less than 100 microns.”

The motto of McEuen and his research group at Cornell is “anything, as long as it’s small.” This focus includes fundamentals of nanostructures, atomically-thin origami for metamaterials and micromachines, and microscale smart phones and optobots. McEuen emphasized the importance of borrowing from other fields, such as microelectronics technology, to build something new. Cornell researchers have used this technology to build an optical wireless integrated circuit (OWIC) — essentially a microscopic cellphone made of solar cells that power it and receive external information, a simple transistor circuit to serve as its brain, and a light-emitting diode to blink out data.

Why make something so small? The first reason is cost; the second is its wide array of applications. Such tiny devices could measure voltage or temperature, making them useful for microfluidic experiments. In the future, they could be deployed as smart, secure tags for counterfeiting, invisible sensors for the internet of things, or used for neural interfacing to measure electrical activity in the brain.

Adding a surface electrochemical actuator to these OWICs brings mechanical movement to McEuen’s microbots. By capping a very thin piece of platinum on one side and applying a voltage to the other, “we could make all kinds of cool things.”

At the end of his talk, McEuen answered audience questions moderated by Bulović, such as how do the microbots communicate with one another and what is their functional lifespan. He closed with a final quote from Millie Dresselhaus: “Follow your interests, get the best available education and training, set your sights high, be persistent, be flexible, keep your options open, accept help when offered, and be prepared to help others.”

Nominations for the 2020 Dresselhaus lecture can be submitted on MIT.nano’s website. Any significant figure in science and engineering from anywhere in the world may be considered.

Source: MIT News - CSAIL - Robotics - Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) - Robots - Artificial intelligence

Reprinted with permission of MIT News : MIT News homepage



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XKCD Comic / XKCD Comic : AI Hiring Algorithm
« Last post by Tyler on Today at 12:00:43 PM »
AI Hiring Algorithm
4 December 2019, 5:00 am

So glad Kate over in R&D pushed for using the AlgoMaxAnalyzer to look into this. Hiring her was a great decisio- waaaait.

Source: xkcd.com

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AI News / Re: On the prevalence of AI hype, and how to watch out for it
« Last post by goaty on December 04, 2019, 03:22:53 PM »
gpt-2 will carry out things approximately due to its inefficient method of "knowing"   if you ask it whats the answer to a mathematical question,  itll start jabbering out numbers instead of doing the mathematics for real, but I bet that form of approximate reaction could still be useful in simple situations of life where it accidentally has all the bases covered in its text chains (and generalizing methods), with its humoungous garbage load of memory required.

NN's could still work for the real thing, just someone needs to work out something better than random trial and error.   My best advice would be what a lot of other ppl are already doing,  just working instead of just procrastinated about.

There is some fixed intuitive thing that is the fundamental of all things,   and then this is what is put into relation with itself,   Ive got the excuse that im working on something easier and need to get it done, like open ai, but maybe this proper way of learning doesn't take ten million gigs of computation, and everyone is barking up the wrong tree,   but maybe its good we are, because we need to get it out of the way before we move onto the more important way of doing it,  for example the computer actually generating an idea for real.

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XKCD Comic / Re: XKCD Comic : Is it Christmas?
« Last post by Freddy on December 04, 2019, 11:23:55 AM »
@Korrelan,

I don't think you are being grumpy really. These days Christmas seems to start in mid November. I never felt very Christmassy until nearer the time. But this year and last we visited some Christmas fayres and I really enjoyed it - it's just nice to get together. We don't have to travel as far as you HS though. Also the mulled wine was appreciated  ^-^

I found the sales advantageous this year more than others. Not for presents but for things for my new project. Spending thousands on presents does seem a bit wild, we spend nowhere near that much!

Christmas day meal is a high point too of course :)
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XKCD Comic / Re: XKCD Comic : Is it Christmas?
« Last post by Freddy on December 04, 2019, 10:42:47 AM »
A good Christmas for me might involve ordering large amounts of pizza, watching the extended Lord of the Rings, then tinkering with AI in the evenings. Also audio books are good, coupled with long walks through beautiful snowy landscapes with my canine friend, hell yeah!

Sounds like my perfect Christmas too. I have the regular LorR movies but I may pick up the extended for this year. I have various audio books to listen to as well, I find I can't sit down for a long time and read like I used to.
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XKCD Comic / Re: XKCD Comic : Is it Christmas?
« Last post by Korrelan on December 04, 2019, 09:23:19 AM »
@HS

That does sound stressful, so when I see images on the news of the travel chaos at world airports over the holiday period your're probably in there somewhere lol  Once the child gets older he is probably going to want to spend his xmas with his friends/ girlfriend so that might appease the yearly exodus.  Send them a pad  and 'facetime' them all lol.

@Lock

It always seemed like madness to me, everyone was spending <£1000 on buying presents for everyone else, stressing about what to get them and finding the time to do the shopping, etc. We would each end up with a pile of 'stuff' that we didn't really want/ need. So now we each spend the money on something for ourselves... meet up for a drink in a decent pub, have a good long session/ chat... it's brought the social aspect to the fore and everyone always says how they can enjoy xmas more without the stress.  Every one is happy, and they each actually have something  for xmas that makes them happy.

 :)

Prior to present birthday/ xmas thing, 20 years ago I suggested we all stop visiting/ cold calling on each other.  That we all meet up once every three weeks in a pub and have a chat. If you can make it fine, if you can't we will see you next time. Also each 'household' throws a BBQ once a year, that fits into the three week schedule.  I've got my lot sorted out lol.

 ;D
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XKCD Comic / Re: XKCD Comic : Is it Christmas?
« Last post by LOCKSUIT on December 04, 2019, 06:56:41 AM »
We can and do share ideas and bodies and tools that spread and become common-knowledge/appliance/body (body?), but otherwise I don't see why I wouldn't buy my own gifts I know I seek.
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XKCD Comic / Re: XKCD Comic : Is it Christmas?
« Last post by Hopefully Something on December 04, 2019, 01:57:01 AM »
Luxury...  The majority of my family, family friends, long lost neighbors etc, live in Europe. So I have a week or two of being dragged through a dozen get-togethers with relative-strangers, all asking the same handful of personal questions, in a couple languages I've half forgotten. This is all book-ended by a couple of twenty hour plane trips with a six year old who is mastering the dark arts of chaos and peacelessness. I get that everyone involved means well... but I can sure imagine more relaxing scenarios. The sense of wonder and mystery are but faint memories of a bygone age... A good Christmas for me might involve ordering large amounts of pizza, watching the extended Lord of the Rings, then tinkering with AI in the evenings. Also audio books are good, coupled with long walks through beautiful snowy landscapes with my canine friend, hell yeah! Some people are more extroverted than that, and want to party 24/7, no problem, lets split up. Everyone should be able to choose their preferred version of holidays, otherwise it kills the point.
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Hey Carvalho, nice to have you join. Seems like there are SOOO many laws to consider, I bet an AI would really help to sort through them.
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