Notes & News: 2021 Calendar & More - December 10, 2020

[next] 2020 has just one more session left. Please join us on Tuesday, December 8 for:

George Church, Harvard University: Synthetic Biology, Aging Reversal, Machine Learning
Julie Hanna, Kiva & Alphabet: From Moonshots to Blockchain to Sustainability
John C. Mallery, MIT: Strategies and Tactics for Cyber Defense
Ethan Rublee, farm-ng: Open Software for Tractors & Emerging Agro Innovations

The first quarter of 2021 is already packed, thanks to Nancy Kleinrock.  Israel, New Zealand, and Germany will be the first stops on a global start-up series that she pioneered amidst decreased travel and increased desire for global connections.

Israel Startup Forum: Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST
New Zealand Startup Forum: Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST
Germany Startup Forum: Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 1:00 PM–3:30 PM EST

Eager for more 2021 news? Visit our 2021 Calendar of Events! Also, please look out for the Highlights and videos from December 1st which will be posted shortly.

Antibodies are key to knocking back a viral infection, but what if lab-designed “mini-binder” molecules could function equivalently, either as a therapeutic or vaccine? University of Washington researchers are using a combination of machine and human intelligence to do just this to combat SARS-CoV-19. (Erica Ollmann Saphire, San Diego, Feb 2015)

Yet the big AI news of the week is that DeepMind’s AlphaFold deep learning system has “cracked one of biology’s grand challenges” by accurately predicting the structure of a protein to within an atom’s width, with just the amino acid sequence as input. It successfully performed this feat on dozens of proteins. (Seth Cooper, Chicago, May 2011; Rhiju Das, San Jose, Feb 2012)

Somewhat less clear is whether the new NSF-funded, MIT-based Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Fundamental Interactions will be able to use neural net-based AI to achieve theoretical physics’ ultimate goal of devising a unified Theory of Everything. “We’re hoping to discover all kinds of new laws of physics,” says MIT’s Max Tegmark. “[We’ve] already shown that it can rediscover laws of physics.” Even if successful, we imagine Doug Lenat, Gary Marcus, and Jerry Kaplan would have a few thoughts to share on the unexplainability of what will be a black-box solution.

Amit Sahai (San Francisco, Dec 2014) and his colleagues have planted their flag in the sand, proclaiming the ability to perform the indistinguishability obfuscation he proposed during his Dec 2014 talk in San Francisco. Notably, their approach requires only “standard” security assumptions to succeed.

Just a few weeks ago we reminded you about Brian Chan and how he showed TTI/V “how to fold anything”—including an actual ukulele and a paper origami badger (Miami, Dec 2011). Well, Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science are applying origami to robotics in a novel way: as shape-shifting fingertips to improve a robot’s ability to grasp and manipulate objects. (Personal Robotics Lab, University of Washington field trip, Seattle, Mar 2020)

Kyber Photonics is poised to use its integrated-photonics design to meet the auto industry’s demanding standards for next-gen lidar technology of high performance, low cost, and multiyear reliability. Despite this MIT spinout just coming together as a company this year, Kyber believes its solid-state lidar-on-a-chip design developed at MIT and our own member MIT Lincoln Labs will rise to the occasion.

Everyone knows TTI/Vanguard has the most innovative clients in the world. What’s more, they are also the most altruistic. Longtime member USAA just made a game-changing commitment to fund 100 scholarships as well as to bolster emergency funds for vulnerable students at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Tasmania joins the Australian Capital Territory and a select league of nations—including Scotland, Iceland, and Costa Rica—to generate all of its energy from the local renewable sources of wind and hydro. (David Timmons, virtual conference, Sep 2020; Paulo de Souza, San Francisco, Dec 2014; Scott Sklar, St. Louis, Sep 2008)

You likely are not jumping on a real plane any time soon. But thanks to Microsoft, that won’t stop you from flying and landing a VR simulation from home. (MITRE field trip, McLean, Oct 2015; Gilman Louie, Chicago, May 2011)

Or, if you prefer to take a truly wide-ranging virtual excursion, check out this tour of the millions of previously undiscovered galaxies newly mapped by CSIRO’s Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope. One radio telescope struck galactic pay dirt just as another met its demise: Already damaged by a string of earthquakes, and with two support cables having failed in August and November, the Arecibo telescope came crashing down this week, as seen in this drone-captured video. (Dennis Wingo, San Francisco, Dec 2014; Eric Cheng, San Francisco, Dec 2014)

“Happiness doesn’t depend on who you are and what you have, it depends on what you think."— Buddha