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Category: Research

How well do explanation methods for machine-learning models work? | MIT News
January 18, 2022

Imagine a team of physicians using a neural network to detect cancer in mammogram images. Even if this machine-learning model seems to be performing well, it might be focusing on image features that are accidentally correlated with tumors, like a watermark or timestamp, rather than actual signs of tumors. To test these models, researchers use “feature-attribution methods,” techniques that are supposed to tell them...

Controlling how “odd couple” surfaces and liquids interact | MIT News
January 17, 2022

The wettability of a surface — whether drops of water or another liquid bead up or spread out when they come into contact with it — is a crucial factor in a wide variety of commercial and industrial applications, such as how efficiently boilers and condensers work in power plants or how heat pipes funnel heat away in industrial processes. This characteristic has long been seen as a fixed property of a given pair of...

“Hey, Alexa! Are you trustworthy?”
January 14, 2022

A family gathers around their kitchen island to unbox the digital assistant they just purchased. They will be more likely to trust this new voice-user interface, which might be a smart speaker like Amazon’s Alexa or a social robot like Jibo, if it exhibits some humanlike social behaviors, according to a new study by researchers in MIT’s Media Lab. The researchers found that family members tend to think a device is more competent and...

Pricing carbon, valuing people
January 12, 2022

In November, inflation hit a 39-year high in the United States. The consumer price index was up 6.8 percent from the previous year due to major increases in the cost of rent, food, motor vehicles, gasoline, and other common household expenses. While inflation impacts the entire country, its effects are not felt equally. At greatest risk are low- and middle-income Americans who may lack sufficient financial reserves to absorb such economic...

Synthesis too slow? Let this robot do it. | MIT News
January 12, 2022

Researchers in the lab of Bradley Pentelute, MIT professor of chemistry, have invented a fully automated fast-flow instrument that can synthesize peptide-nucleic acids in a single shot. By automating the process of synthesizing CPP-conjugated peptide-nucleic acids (PPNAs) using the robot dubbed “Tiny Tides” by the research team, typical PPNA synthesis time was reduced from multiple days to just two hours. “This new...

Overcoming a bottleneck in carbon dioxide conversion | MIT News
January 11, 2022

If researchers could find a way to chemically convert carbon dioxide into fuels or other products, they might make a major dent in greenhouse gas emissions. But many such processes that have seemed promising in the lab haven’t performed as expected in scaled-up formats that would be suitable for use with a power plant or other emissions sources. Now, researchers at MIT have identified, quantified, and modeled a major...

Physicists detect a hybrid particle held together by uniquely intense “glue” | MIT News
January 11, 2022

In the particle world, sometimes two is better than one. Take, for instance, electron pairs. When two electrons are bound together, they can glide through a material without friction, giving the material special superconducting properties. Such paired electrons, or Cooper pairs, are a kind of hybrid particle — a composite of two particles that behaves as one, with properties that are greater than the sum of its...

In Down syndrome cells, genome-wide disruptions mimic a senescence-like state | MIT News
January 11, 2022

In Down syndrome, the third copy of chromosome 21 causes a reorganization of the 3D configuration of the entire genome in a key cell type of the developing brain, a new study shows. The resulting disruption of gene transcription and cell function are so similar to those seen in cellular aging, or senescence, that the scientists leading the study found they could use anti-senescence drugs to correct them in cell...

Tackling hard computational problems | MIT News
January 11, 2022

The notion that some computational problems in math and computer science can be hard should come as no surprise. There is, in fact, an entire class of problems deemed impossible to solve algorithmically. Just below this class lie slightly “easier” problems that are less well-understood — and may be impossible, too. David Gamarnik, professor of operations research at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the...

Courtney Lesoon and Elizabeth Yarina win Fulbright-Hays Scholarships | MIT News
January 10, 2022

Two MIT doctoral students in the MIT School of Architecture and Planning have received the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Scholarship for Doctoral Dissertation Research Award. Courtney Lesoon and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Yarina are the first awardees from MIT in more than a decade. The fellowship provides opportunities for doctoral students to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad. The program, funded by the U.S....

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