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Kick-off 2011 with IAP

As the new year begins, CSAIL students, professors and staff are invited to kick-off 2011 with a fun twist on MIT's traditional academic and extracurricular offerings, thanks to the Independent Activities Period (IAP). Held each January, this four-week special term allows MIT community members to share a skill with fellow students and colleagues, explore an intriguing new subject and learn in a fun and engaging manner.

At CSAIL the IAP offerings range from competition based programming courses to video projects. Offering a little something for everyone, here are the 2011 CSAIL-sponsored IAP courses:

6.470- MIT Web Programming Competition http://web.mit.edu/6.470

Learning From the Fruit Fly

Diving deep into the functional elements of the fruit fly to grasp a better understanding of human biology may seem like a long shot, but that's exactly what CSAIL Principal Investigator Manolis Kellis and his colleagues have done. In a paper released in the December 24 edition of Science, Kellis and members of the model organism ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements Consortium (modENCODE) publish the integrative analysis of the Drosophila (fruitfly) project, which is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Creating a Sense of Stability

What if emergency teams had access to the most up-to-date information on road conditions when responding to a natural disaster? What if soldiers in war-torn regions could tap into the latest intelligence briefings to help avoid dangerous situations? For years CSAIL Principal Investigator Nancy Lynch has dedicated her efforts to creating stable access to unstable networks of devices. A paper on her work, which was largely funded by the National Science Foundation, can be found in this month's issue of Distributed Computing.

Triceratops Invades CSAIL

A warning to all those who dare to venture into the Stata Center this week: There is a dinosaur on the loose. Thanks to OrigaMIT, a life-size origami Triceratops skeleton is now on display in front of the Gates Tower elevators. The Triceratops will be on display throughout the week of December 13.

Standing about five-feet high, 11-feet long and four-feet wide, the Triceratops took club members a month to create using 19, five-feet squares of heavy-weight paper. Based upon a design by Master Issei Yoshino, the plans allow for a finished product big enough to display in public, while also allowing paper folders to use separate sheets of paper instead of one giant sheet.

The Future of Computer Architectures Explored

Microsoft Research Technical Fellow Chuck Thacker spoke at CSAIL on Thursday, December 9 as part of the 2010-2011 Dertouzos Lecturer Series. Thacker has worked for 40 years in industrial research labs creating hardware for systems like the Ethernet and Alto, the first networked personal computer. His presentation focused on The Future of Computer Architecture Research, examining the future of computer architectures, the increasing amount of cooperation between hardware and software creators and ways to overcome current performance limits.

CSAIL Brings 'Minority Report' Technology Alive

The futuristic technology of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, which saw Tom Cruise work with a glove-controlled interface that allowed him to pull, drag and toss images around a computer screen, is now possible thanks to a new graphical interface coming out of CSAIL. Systems Robotics Engineer Garratt Gallagher has released a video where he plucks images from a reel he drags onto the screen, then enlarges, spins and casts the pictures aside a la Minority Report.

Thacker Speaking as Part of Dertouzos Lecturer Series

The Dertouzos Lecturer Series continues this Thursday with a presentation by Chuck Thacker, Technical Fellow at Microsoft Research. Thacker will speak on December 9 from 4:30PM- 5:30PM in the Kirsch Auditorium (room 32-123) at CSAIL on The Future of Computer Architecture Research. Thacker will discuss the obstacles currently posed to the development and improvement of computer architectures and ways to bypass resulting limitations. CSAIL's annual Dertouzos Lecturer Series, named in honor of former lab director Michael Dertouzos, brings some of the greatest minds in computer science and robotics to MIT's Stata Center.

CSAIL Reacts to NASA Press Conference

About 20 CSAIL students, researchers and staff gathered in the Kiva seminar room on Thursday, December 2 to watch NASA's press conference on astrobiology research that NASA believes challenges fundamental concepts about requirements for life on Earth. Researchers think they have discovered a microorganism that can substitute arsenic for phosphorus and still manage to grow and thrive- a discovery NASA says could open the door to the possibility of new life forms on Earth. Critics counter that NASA has not provided significant evidence to support its findings, and that the microorganism appears to be more of a terrestrial extremophile than a form of alien life.

CSAIL students reacted to the NASA announcement with a mixture of enthusiasm and disappointment.

Pushing Computer Limits

CSAIL Associate Professor Scott Aaronson is delving into the next frontier of computing: quantum computing. The wild west of the computer world, quantum computing is a new means of expanding the boundaries of information processing.

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Art

Nurturing the relationship between science and art was the goal of a recent workshop hosted by CSAIL Associate Professor Fox Harrell, who splits his time between CSAIL and teaching Digital Media in the Comparative Media Studies and Writing and Humanistic Studies programs at MIT. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Harrell brought together 55 intellectual leaders- including university deans, professors, artists and scientists- from the worlds of art, social science and computer research to lay the foundation for collaboration between the two realms.

Aaronson & Kellis Nominated for PECASE Program

The spotlight shone on two CSAIL Principal Investigators earlier this month as President Obama honored Scott Aaronson and Manolis Kellis with Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon up-and-coming science and engineering professionals. The Presidential Awards were created in 1996 by the National Science and Technology Council, under a commission from President Clinton, to help foster growth among scientists and engineers who show the necessary promise and potential to lead America's next generation of scientific innovation. Additionally, the U.S.

Rock Star of Robotics Speaks to MIT Students

Rodney Brooks, introduced by CSAIL Director Victor Zue as the "bad boy of robotics," wowed the crowds with his presentation on Robots Working with People as part of CSAIL's 2010-2011 Dertouzos Lecturer Series on Thursday, November 18. Brooks, the former director of CSAIL and the founder, chairman, and CTO of Heartland Robotics, offered his perspective on the future of robotics from "the point of view of an academic refugee."

Origami Comes Alive

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a reconfigurable robot! One of the latest inventions coming out of CSAIL is a flat piece of semi-rigid plastic, about a half-millimeter thick, that can transform from an origami boat into a paper airplane, all without the aid of guiding human hands. Developed by researchers from CSAIL and Harvard University, the sheet uses the concepts behind origami and electrical engineering to create a robot that is able to transform into a series of objects when prompted by electronic signals.

Morris Awarded for Efforts in Operating Systems Research

CSAIL Principal Investigator (PI) and MIT Professor Robert Morris has been honored with the 2010 Mark Weiser Award for over 20 years of innovation in the field of operating systems research. The award, presented by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Operating Systems (ACM SIGOPS) and created in honor of computing visionary Mark Weiser, recognizes a researcher who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in the field.

“Robert is internationally known for his many contributions to computer network architectures and computer systems research, including major innovations such as distributed hash tables and wireless mesh networks,” said MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Head Eric Grimson. “The award is very well deserved.”

CSAIL Papers Honored at ACM Conference

CSAIL was awarded top honors at the ACM User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) conference this October in the form of best paper awards for two works created by CSAIL members.

CSAIL PhD student Michael Bernstein was awarded the best student paper award for his work "Soylent: A Word Processor with a Crowd Inside." Soylent is a Microsoft Word application that recruits individuals from Amazon Mechanical Turk to help with tasks such as shortening, proofreading and editing. Bernstein teamed up with CSAIL co-authors Greg Little, Katrina Panovich, David Crowell, David Kager and Rob Miller.

George M. Sprowls Award Recipients Announced

It was recently announced that the following students were named recipients of the George M. Sprowls Award, which is awarded for the best doctoral theses in computer science. The awards will be presented at the EECS awards ceremony in the spring of 2011. Benjamin Rossman was recognized for his work on "Average-Case Complexity of Detecting Cliques" under the supervision of Madhu Sudan. For his work on "Unsupervised Multilingual Learning," Benjamin Snyder, working under the supervision of Regina Barzilay, was recognized.

Improving Max Flow

For years computer scientists approached the maximum-flow (max flow) problem, the greatest amount of data that can be sent across a specific network, using a tried-and-true method: Graphs that depict a network’s maximum capacity. The graphs allowed users to search for the most efficient mode of delivering information and proved useful in a variety of fields, from network analysis to digital image processing, airline scheduling and more.

Faster websites, more reliable data

Today, visiting almost any major website — checking your Facebook news feed, looking for books on Amazon, bidding for merchandise on eBay — involves querying a database. But the databases that these sites maintain are enormous, and searching them anew every time a new user logs on would be painfully time consuming. To serve up data in a timely fashion, most big sites use a technique called caching. Their servers keep local copies of their most frequently accessed data, which they can send to users without searching the database.

Announcing the 10/11 Dertouzos Lecturer Series

It's fall once more, which means it's time for the return of CSAIL's annual Dertouzos Lecturer Series. Named in honor of former lab director Michael Dertouzos, the series brings some of the greatest minds in computer science and robotics to the Stata Center.

This year's lineup is no exception, featuring distinguished speakers from Microsoft, Google, the University of California at Berkeley, and the return of former CSAIL director Rodney Brooks.

Oct. 7
Craig Mundie, Microsoft
"More Like Us: Human-Centric Computing"

Nov. 4
Kathy Yelick, UC Berkeley

Nov. 18
Rodney Brooks, MIT and Heartland Robotics
"Robots Working with People"

Dec. 9
Chuck Thacker, Microsoft Research

Two New PIs Join CSAIL

This fall, CSAIL welcomes two new Principal Investigators to its ranks--Associate Professor D. Fox Harrell and Assistant Professor Dana Moshkovitz.

Harrell's work focuses on the connection between imaginative cognition and computation. He received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for his advances in digital media. Harrell's research at CSAIL will dovetail with work for MIT's Programs in Comparative Media Studies and Writing & Humanistic Studies.

Moshkovitz is an Assistant Professor in the EECS Department. Her focus is on theoretical computer science, probabilistically checkable proofs, and coding theory. She joins CSAIL's Theory of Computation group.

The P vs. NP Debate Heats Up

For decades, it's been the most compelling--and the most seemingly unsolvable--problem in computer science. Does P = NP? In other words, can a problem that can be checked by a computer also be solved by a computer? HP Labs mathematician Vinay Deolalikar claims to have definitively answered the question.

But CSAIL's Scott Aaronson is certain that Deolalikar can't back it up. So certain, in fact, that he's staking $200,000--plus his house--on it. "This is not a problem that’s going to be solved by just combining or pushing around the ideas that we already have," Aaronson said in an interview with MIT News.

CSAIL to Help DARPA Develop New Supercomputer

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched an initiative this week to fast-track the development of next-generation supercomputers. CSAIL is among four organizations tapped by the newly-founded Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program to help build the new system.

A prototype of an exascale, energy-efficient computer is planned for 2018. DARPA is hoping to far outstrip Moore's Law, which predicts a much more gradual rate of computational development. Other organizations involved include Intel, Nvidia, and Sandia National Laboratory. Click here to read more about the project.

See What's New in Playground

While much of the research being done at CSAIL is under wraps, some projects are available to the larger public. You can find the latest on Playground, CSAIL's collection of downloadable, homegrown programs and apps.

Recent additions include Firefox organizational add-on list.it, interactive iPhone app WAMI, and Sikuli, a streamlined visual programming tool. Click here to check out Playground for yourself.

Kaelbling and Micali Named EECS Chairs

Two CSAIL Principal Investigators, Professors Leslie Kaelbling and Silvio Micali, have been named faculty Chairs in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Kaelbling, who co-heads the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group, takes on the Panasonic Chair. The position was created by the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company for leaders at the forefront of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Micali, of the Cryptography and Information Security Group, has been named a Ford Professor of Engineering. The Chair honors Micali for his advances in the field of theoretical computer science.

Articles

Kick-off 2011 with IAP

As the new year begins, CSAIL students, professors and staff are invited to kick-off 2011 with a fun twist on MIT's traditional academic and extracurricular offerings, thanks to the Independent Activities Period (IAP). Held each January, this four-week special term allows MIT community members to share a skill with fellow students and colleagues, explore an intriguing new subject and learn in a fun and engaging manner.

At CSAIL the IAP offerings range from competition based programming courses to video projects. Offering a little something for everyone, here are the 2011 CSAIL-sponsored IAP courses:

6.470- MIT Web Programming Competition http://web.mit.edu/6.470

Learning From the Fruit Fly

Diving deep into the functional elements of the fruit fly to grasp a better understanding of human biology may seem like a long shot, but that's exactly what CSAIL Principal Investigator Manolis Kellis and his colleagues have done. In a paper released in the December 24 edition of Science, Kellis and members of the model organism ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements Consortium (modENCODE) publish the integrative analysis of the Drosophila (fruitfly) project, which is funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Creating a Sense of Stability

What if emergency teams had access to the most up-to-date information on road conditions when responding to a natural disaster? What if soldiers in war-torn regions could tap into the latest intelligence briefings to help avoid dangerous situations? For years CSAIL Principal Investigator Nancy Lynch has dedicated her efforts to creating stable access to unstable networks of devices. A paper on her work, which was largely funded by the National Science Foundation, can be found in this month's issue of Distributed Computing.

Triceratops Invades CSAIL

A warning to all those who dare to venture into the Stata Center this week: There is a dinosaur on the loose. Thanks to OrigaMIT, a life-size origami Triceratops skeleton is now on display in front of the Gates Tower elevators. The Triceratops will be on display throughout the week of December 13.

Standing about five-feet high, 11-feet long and four-feet wide, the Triceratops took club members a month to create using 19, five-feet squares of heavy-weight paper. Based upon a design by Master Issei Yoshino, the plans allow for a finished product big enough to display in public, while also allowing paper folders to use separate sheets of paper instead of one giant sheet.

The Future of Computer Architectures Explored

Microsoft Research Technical Fellow Chuck Thacker spoke at CSAIL on Thursday, December 9 as part of the 2010-2011 Dertouzos Lecturer Series. Thacker has worked for 40 years in industrial research labs creating hardware for systems like the Ethernet and Alto, the first networked personal computer. His presentation focused on The Future of Computer Architecture Research, examining the future of computer architectures, the increasing amount of cooperation between hardware and software creators and ways to overcome current performance limits.

CSAIL Brings 'Minority Report' Technology Alive

The futuristic technology of Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, which saw Tom Cruise work with a glove-controlled interface that allowed him to pull, drag and toss images around a computer screen, is now possible thanks to a new graphical interface coming out of CSAIL. Systems Robotics Engineer Garratt Gallagher has released a video where he plucks images from a reel he drags onto the screen, then enlarges, spins and casts the pictures aside a la Minority Report.

Thacker Speaking as Part of Dertouzos Lecturer Series

The Dertouzos Lecturer Series continues this Thursday with a presentation by Chuck Thacker, Technical Fellow at Microsoft Research. Thacker will speak on December 9 from 4:30PM- 5:30PM in the Kirsch Auditorium (room 32-123) at CSAIL on The Future of Computer Architecture Research. Thacker will discuss the obstacles currently posed to the development and improvement of computer architectures and ways to bypass resulting limitations. CSAIL's annual Dertouzos Lecturer Series, named in honor of former lab director Michael Dertouzos, brings some of the greatest minds in computer science and robotics to MIT's Stata Center.

CSAIL Reacts to NASA Press Conference

About 20 CSAIL students, researchers and staff gathered in the Kiva seminar room on Thursday, December 2 to watch NASA's press conference on astrobiology research that NASA believes challenges fundamental concepts about requirements for life on Earth. Researchers think they have discovered a microorganism that can substitute arsenic for phosphorus and still manage to grow and thrive- a discovery NASA says could open the door to the possibility of new life forms on Earth. Critics counter that NASA has not provided significant evidence to support its findings, and that the microorganism appears to be more of a terrestrial extremophile than a form of alien life.

CSAIL students reacted to the NASA announcement with a mixture of enthusiasm and disappointment.

Pushing Computer Limits

CSAIL Associate Professor Scott Aaronson is delving into the next frontier of computing: quantum computing. The wild west of the computer world, quantum computing is a new means of expanding the boundaries of information processing.

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Art

Nurturing the relationship between science and art was the goal of a recent workshop hosted by CSAIL Associate Professor Fox Harrell, who splits his time between CSAIL and teaching Digital Media in the Comparative Media Studies and Writing and Humanistic Studies programs at MIT. Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Harrell brought together 55 intellectual leaders- including university deans, professors, artists and scientists- from the worlds of art, social science and computer research to lay the foundation for collaboration between the two realms.

Aaronson & Kellis Nominated for PECASE Program

The spotlight shone on two CSAIL Principal Investigators earlier this month as President Obama honored Scott Aaronson and Manolis Kellis with Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon up-and-coming science and engineering professionals. The Presidential Awards were created in 1996 by the National Science and Technology Council, under a commission from President Clinton, to help foster growth among scientists and engineers who show the necessary promise and potential to lead America's next generation of scientific innovation. Additionally, the U.S.

Rock Star of Robotics Speaks to MIT Students

Rodney Brooks, introduced by CSAIL Director Victor Zue as the "bad boy of robotics," wowed the crowds with his presentation on Robots Working with People as part of CSAIL's 2010-2011 Dertouzos Lecturer Series on Thursday, November 18. Brooks, the former director of CSAIL and the founder, chairman, and CTO of Heartland Robotics, offered his perspective on the future of robotics from "the point of view of an academic refugee."

Origami Comes Alive

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a reconfigurable robot! One of the latest inventions coming out of CSAIL is a flat piece of semi-rigid plastic, about a half-millimeter thick, that can transform from an origami boat into a paper airplane, all without the aid of guiding human hands. Developed by researchers from CSAIL and Harvard University, the sheet uses the concepts behind origami and electrical engineering to create a robot that is able to transform into a series of objects when prompted by electronic signals.

Morris Awarded for Efforts in Operating Systems Research

CSAIL Principal Investigator (PI) and MIT Professor Robert Morris has been honored with the 2010 Mark Weiser Award for over 20 years of innovation in the field of operating systems research. The award, presented by the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Operating Systems (ACM SIGOPS) and created in honor of computing visionary Mark Weiser, recognizes a researcher who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in the field.

“Robert is internationally known for his many contributions to computer network architectures and computer systems research, including major innovations such as distributed hash tables and wireless mesh networks,” said MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Head Eric Grimson. “The award is very well deserved.”

CSAIL Papers Honored at ACM Conference

CSAIL was awarded top honors at the ACM User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) conference this October in the form of best paper awards for two works created by CSAIL members.

CSAIL PhD student Michael Bernstein was awarded the best student paper award for his work "Soylent: A Word Processor with a Crowd Inside." Soylent is a Microsoft Word application that recruits individuals from Amazon Mechanical Turk to help with tasks such as shortening, proofreading and editing. Bernstein teamed up with CSAIL co-authors Greg Little, Katrina Panovich, David Crowell, David Kager and Rob Miller.

George M. Sprowls Award Recipients Announced

It was recently announced that the following students were named recipients of the George M. Sprowls Award, which is awarded for the best doctoral theses in computer science. The awards will be presented at the EECS awards ceremony in the spring of 2011. Benjamin Rossman was recognized for his work on "Average-Case Complexity of Detecting Cliques" under the supervision of Madhu Sudan. For his work on "Unsupervised Multilingual Learning," Benjamin Snyder, working under the supervision of Regina Barzilay, was recognized.

Improving Max Flow

For years computer scientists approached the maximum-flow (max flow) problem, the greatest amount of data that can be sent across a specific network, using a tried-and-true method: Graphs that depict a network’s maximum capacity. The graphs allowed users to search for the most efficient mode of delivering information and proved useful in a variety of fields, from network analysis to digital image processing, airline scheduling and more.

Faster websites, more reliable data

Today, visiting almost any major website — checking your Facebook news feed, looking for books on Amazon, bidding for merchandise on eBay — involves querying a database. But the databases that these sites maintain are enormous, and searching them anew every time a new user logs on would be painfully time consuming. To serve up data in a timely fashion, most big sites use a technique called caching. Their servers keep local copies of their most frequently accessed data, which they can send to users without searching the database.

Announcing the 10/11 Dertouzos Lecturer Series

It's fall once more, which means it's time for the return of CSAIL's annual Dertouzos Lecturer Series. Named in honor of former lab director Michael Dertouzos, the series brings some of the greatest minds in computer science and robotics to the Stata Center.

This year's lineup is no exception, featuring distinguished speakers from Microsoft, Google, the University of California at Berkeley, and the return of former CSAIL director Rodney Brooks.

Oct. 7
Craig Mundie, Microsoft
"More Like Us: Human-Centric Computing"

Nov. 4
Kathy Yelick, UC Berkeley

Nov. 18
Rodney Brooks, MIT and Heartland Robotics
"Robots Working with People"

Dec. 9
Chuck Thacker, Microsoft Research

Two New PIs Join CSAIL

This fall, CSAIL welcomes two new Principal Investigators to its ranks--Associate Professor D. Fox Harrell and Assistant Professor Dana Moshkovitz.

Harrell's work focuses on the connection between imaginative cognition and computation. He received a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation for his advances in digital media. Harrell's research at CSAIL will dovetail with work for MIT's Programs in Comparative Media Studies and Writing & Humanistic Studies.

Moshkovitz is an Assistant Professor in the EECS Department. Her focus is on theoretical computer science, probabilistically checkable proofs, and coding theory. She joins CSAIL's Theory of Computation group.

The P vs. NP Debate Heats Up

For decades, it's been the most compelling--and the most seemingly unsolvable--problem in computer science. Does P = NP? In other words, can a problem that can be checked by a computer also be solved by a computer? HP Labs mathematician Vinay Deolalikar claims to have definitively answered the question.

But CSAIL's Scott Aaronson is certain that Deolalikar can't back it up. So certain, in fact, that he's staking $200,000--plus his house--on it. "This is not a problem that’s going to be solved by just combining or pushing around the ideas that we already have," Aaronson said in an interview with MIT News.

CSAIL to Help DARPA Develop New Supercomputer

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched an initiative this week to fast-track the development of next-generation supercomputers. CSAIL is among four organizations tapped by the newly-founded Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program to help build the new system.

A prototype of an exascale, energy-efficient computer is planned for 2018. DARPA is hoping to far outstrip Moore's Law, which predicts a much more gradual rate of computational development. Other organizations involved include Intel, Nvidia, and Sandia National Laboratory. Click here to read more about the project.

See What's New in Playground

While much of the research being done at CSAIL is under wraps, some projects are available to the larger public. You can find the latest on Playground, CSAIL's collection of downloadable, homegrown programs and apps.

Recent additions include Firefox organizational add-on list.it, interactive iPhone app WAMI, and Sikuli, a streamlined visual programming tool. Click here to check out Playground for yourself.

Kaelbling and Micali Named EECS Chairs

Two CSAIL Principal Investigators, Professors Leslie Kaelbling and Silvio Micali, have been named faculty Chairs in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Kaelbling, who co-heads the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group, takes on the Panasonic Chair. The position was created by the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company for leaders at the forefront of robotics and artificial intelligence.

Micali, of the Cryptography and Information Security Group, has been named a Ford Professor of Engineering. The Chair honors Micali for his advances in the field of theoretical computer science.

Videos

Talks