Ideas Lab (Page 1 of 3)

Holistic Heat Management

presented by Mary Ryan

Machines gen­er­ate waste heat when they do work for us. And this year, sev­en bil­lion of us will use twenty-five tril­lion kilo­watt hours of elec­tric­i­ty. An awful lot of that will end up as waste heat. So, we treat waste heat as a prob­lem. We see it as a chal­lenge to design how we can man­age it. We don’t think of it as a resource. If we thought of it as a resource, that would be results we are just throw­ing away.

Self-healing Concrete for Low-carbon Infrastructure

presented by Abir Al-Tabbaa

Our bridges, motor­ways, tun­nels, and dams, and all the build­ings that make up our infra­struc­ture are vital to our soci­ety and eco­nom­ic growth yet we take them for grant­ed. The shock­ing truth is that our infra­struc­ture is crum­bling beneath our feet. And this is cost­ing us dear­ly, both in terms of mon­ey and car­bon.

Molecular Mechanisms of Reward and Aversion

presented by Robert Malenka

Why do we do the things that we do? Why do we some­times choose to be lov­ing par­ents and oth­er times engage in irra­tional self-destructive behav­iors? What dri­ves us to some­times be altru­is­tic and oth­er times make deci­sions that real­ly threat­en our very sur­vival? Well, the answer lies in our brains. Our brains evolved to ensure that we repeat behav­iors that will lead to our sur­vival.

The Cellular Basis of Neural Computation

presented by Michael Hausser

Over the past cen­tu­ry, we’ve been to the moon, we’ve split the atom, we’ve sequenced the human genome, but were still only at the very begin­ning of our under­stand­ing of the human brain. This is one of the great chal­lenges that we face. If we can under­stand the brain, we can devel­op bet­ter treat­ments for brain dis­or­ders, we can design bet­ter robots, bet­ter com­put­ers, and ulti­mate­ly we can bet­ter under­stand our­selves.

Towards a Quantum Computer

presented by Jeremy O'Brien

From vast data cen­ters to mobile phones, the pow­er of com­put­ers con­tin­ues to trans­form our lives. But there are some prob­lems across arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, in the design of new mate­ri­als, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and clean ener­gy devices that they will sim­ply nev­er solve. So even if we turned our entire plan­et into a giant super­com­put­er we wouldn’t be able to solve these and many oth­er impor­tant prob­lems. The good news is that if we could build a com­put­ing device based on fun­da­men­tal quan­tum prin­ci­ples, we could.

Controlling the Brain with Light to Reactivate Lost Memories

presented by Susumu Tonegawa

The key mol­e­cule of opto­ge­net­ics is a light-sensitive pro­tein called chan­nel­rhodopsin, which is extract­ed from green algae. Scientists can insert chan­nel­rhodopsin into mem­o­ry cells. Subsequently, sci­en­tists can even acti­vate these with blue light which they deliv­er deep inside the brain with optic fibers. 

Machines That Can Read Human Emotions

presented by Maja Pantic

The face is a con­stant flow of facial expres­sions. We react and emote to exter­nal stim­uli all the time. And it is exact­ly this flow of expres­sions that is the observ­able win­dow to our inner self. Our emo­tions, our inten­tions, atti­tudes, moods. Why is this impor­tant? Because we can use it in a very wide vari­ety of appli­ca­tions.

The Rise of Social Robotics

presented by Vanessa Evers

Social ref­er­enc­ing is so great robots should do it, too. But first there are some tech­ni­cal chal­lenges that we need to solve. For instance, low ener­gy con­sump­tion. Throughout these tech­ni­cal chal­lenges, what these robots real­ly need to do is under­stand the social envi­ron­ment that they are in. 

Realizing a Brain on a Chip

presented by Julie Grollier

If we want to con­tin­ue increas­ing the per­for­mance of our com­put­ers, we need to rethink the way we com­pute. And our brains are won­der­ful proof that impres­sive com­pu­ta­tions can be car­ried out with a very low pow­er bud­get.

The Factory of the Future Fits in Your Home

presented by Paul K. Wright

As we began this work in 1987, 1990, going through that peri­od, 3D print­ers were pret­ty clum­sy. But now they’re cheap­er, they’re much more pre­cise and much more accu­rate. So, [now] we can actu­al­ly print the chem­i­cals for a bat­tery.

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