MIT News - Security studies and military http://news.mit.edu/topic/mitsecurity-studies-rss.xml MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Wed, 19 Feb 2020 14:30:01 -0500 Benjamin Chang: Might technology tip the global scales? http://news.mit.edu/2020/benjamin-chang-might-technology-tip-scales-0219 MIT graduate student is assessing the impacts of artificial intelligence on military power, with a focus on the US and China. Wed, 19 Feb 2020 14:30:01 -0500 Leda Zimmerman | MIT Political Science http://news.mit.edu/2020/benjamin-chang-might-technology-tip-scales-0219 <p>The United States and China seem locked in an ever-tightening embrace, superpowers entangled in a web of economic and military concerns. "Every issue critical to world order — whether climate change, terrorism, or trade — is clearly and closely intertwined with U.S.-China relations," says Benjamin Chang, a fourth-year PhD candidate in political science concentrating in international relations and security studies. "Competition between these nations will shape all outcomes anyone cares about in the next 50 years or more."</p> <p>Little surprise, then, that Chang is homing in on this relationship for his thesis, which broadly examines the impact of artificial intelligence on military power. As China and the United States circle each other as rivals and uneasy partners on the global stage, Chang hopes to learn what the integration of artificial intelligence in different domains might mean for the balance of power.</p> <p>"There is a set of questions related to how technology will be used in the world in general, where the U.S. and China are the two actors with the most influence," says Chang. "I want to know, for instance, how AI will affect strategic stability between them."</p> <p><strong>The nuclear balance</strong></p> <p>In the domain of military power, one question Chang has been pursuing is whether the use of AI in nuclear strategy offers a battlefield advantage. "For the U.S., the main issue involves locating China's elusive mobile missile launchers," Chang says. "The U.S. has satellite and other remote sensors that provide too much intelligence for human analysts, but AI, with its image classifiers based on deep learning, could sort through all this data to locate Chinese assets in a timely fashion."</p> <p>While Chang's data draws on publicly available information about each side's military capabilities, these sources can't provide specific numbers for China's nuclear arsenal. "We don't know if China has 250 or 300 nukes, so I design programs to run combat simulations with high and low numbers of weapons to try and isolate the effects of AI on combat outcomes." Chang credits J. Chappell Lawson, Vipin Narang, and Eric Heginbotham — his advisors in international relations and security studies — for helping shape his research methodology.</p> <p>If the United States develops the capacity to locate these mobile nuclear assets quickly, "that could change the battlefield outcome and hold China's arsenal at risk," says Chang. "And if China feels it isn't able to protect its nuclear arsenal, it might have an incentive to use it or lose it."</p> <p>In subsequent research, Chang will examine the impacts of AI on cybersecurity and on autonomous weaponry such as drones.</p> <p><strong>A start in policy debate</strong></p> <p>Pondering international and security issues began early for Chang. "I developed a big interest in these subjects through policy debate, which motivated me to read hundreds of pages and gave me a breadth and depth of knowledge on disparate topics," he says. "Debate exposed me to the study of military affairs and got me interested in America's role in the world generally."</p> <p>Chang's engagement with policy deepened at Princeton University, where he earned his BA summa cum laude from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. While he knew he wanted to focus on foreign policy of some kind, his special focus on China came fortuitously: He was assigned to a junior seminar where students developed a working paper on "Building the Rule of Law in China." He took a series of Mandarin language courses, and produced a thesis comparing 19th century American nationalist behavior with modern-day Chinese nationalism.</p> <p>By graduation, Chang knew he wanted to aim for a career in national security and policy by way of a graduate school education. But he sought real-world seasoning first: a two-year stint as an analyst at Long Term Strategy Group, a Washington defense research firm. At LTSG, Chang facilitated wargames simulating Asia-Pacific conflicts, and wrote monographs on Chinese foreign policy, nuclear signaling, and island warfare doctrine.</p> <p><strong>Bridging a divide</strong></p> <p>Today, he is applying this expertise. "I'm trying to use my computer science understanding to bridge the gap between people working at a highly technical level of AI, and folks in security studies who are perhaps less familiar with the technology," he says. Propelled by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and a research fellowship with the Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Chang continues with his simulations and is beginning to write up some of his analysis. He thinks some of his findings might prove surprising.</p> <p>"There is an assumption — based on China's vast collection of personal data and surveillance of citizens — that AI is the means by which China will leapfrog the U.S. in military power," says Chang. "But I think this is wrong." In fact, the United States "has much more military-relevant data than China does, because it collects on so many platforms — in the deep ocean, and from satellites — that are a holdover from fighting the Soviet Union."</p> <p>Among Chang's research challenges: the fact that AI is not a mature technology and hasn't been fully implemented in modern militaries. "There's not yet much literature or data to draw on when assessing its impact," he notes. Also, he would like to nail down a good definition of AI for his field. "With current definitions of AI, thinking about its influence is a bit like investigating the effect of explosives on international affairs: you could be talking about nuclear weapons or dynamite and gunpowder," he says. "In my dissertation I'm attempting a scoping of AI so that it's more amenable to good political science analysis."</p> <p>Getting these ideas down on paper will be Chang's job for at least the next year. The writing occasionally feels like a struggle. "Some days I'll sit there and it won't come out, and other days, after a long walk along the Charles, I can write all day, and it feels good."</p> MIT political science PhD candidate Benjamin ChangPhoto: Benjamin ChangPolitical science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Artificial intelligence, Security studies and military, China, Policy, Students, Graduate, postdoctoral, Computer science and technology Helping military veterans nail that interview http://news.mit.edu/2020/candorful-military-veterans-job-interview-0128 Interview coaching startup Candorful helps veterans transitioning to civilian life prepare for job interviews. Tue, 28 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500 Zach Winn | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2020/candorful-military-veterans-job-interview-0128 <p>The military is great at teaching soldiers to accomplish objectives under stressful conditions, work as part of a team, and lead groups of people. Those skills are useful in business as well as combat, but many veterans lack experience communicating their skills to recruiters or hiring managers in job interviews.</p> <p>As a result, many veterans struggle to land a good job after their service — a critical factor for a successful transition into civilian life. Now the startup Candorful is working to change that. The nonprofit facilitates video mock interviews for veterans with volunteer coaches to help them put their best foot forward with employers.</p> <p>“Veterans rapidly gain experience managing teams and projects, making an impact, working with minimal resources,” says Candorful co-founder and executive director Pat Hubbell SM ’91. When competing with civilians during the interview process, veterans “may be better prepared for a job, but civilians typically know how to talk about their experience and personal impact more effectively,” she adds. “In the military, it’s all about the team, so veterans are not comfortable talking about their individual impact. They often talk about what their team did instead.”</p> <p>Thinking about their accomplishments at the individual level is just one of the many mental pivots veterans must make as they learn to sell themselves to hiring managers. Candorful aids in that process through live interview simulations and feedback. Veterans accessing the company’s platform choose three coaches from Candorful’s pool of experienced interviewers. They then conduct three one-on-one mock interviews via a video conferencing platform, each lasting about 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of verbal feedback. After the session, veterans receive a full report on their performance from each coach.</p> <p>The company was started in 2017 by Hubbell and co-founder Peter Sukits, who served in the U.S. Army for five years. The founders celebrated their 1,000th training session in November and are planning to dramatically increase the number of veterans coming through their platform this year.</p> <p>“Our clients can be actively deployed or in a transition program,” Hubbell says, noting Candorful has even helped a soldier serving in a war zone. “They can be anywhere in the world.”</p> <p><strong>Giving back</strong></p> <p>As a captain in the Army, Sukits served as a platoon leader and head planning officer for a 400-soldier battalion in Afghanistan. He decided it was time to pursue a civilian career in 2011.</p> <p>At the time, Hubbell was working as a consultant and advisor at Cornell University, where she was running mock job interviews with students and alumni. That’s where she met Sukits.</p> <p>Sukits had attended Carnegie Mellon University as an undergraduate prior to commissioning as an Army officer, and Hubbell was impressed with his qualifications and charisma. But she also noticed his discomfort with elaborating on his personal experience.</p> <p>“Veterans have amazing skills, [such as] leadership skills, and rich experience, but the experience of selling yourself during a job interview doesn’t exist in the military.”</p> <p>Sukits was accepted into Cornell University’s MBA program and went on to land a great job at Procter and Gamble. But his desire to help others drove him to call Hubbell in 2016 to brainstorm business ideas around offering career services. It didn’t take long for them to focus on conducting mock job interviews for veterans transitioning back to civilian life.</p> <p>Hubbell had already measured the impact of mock interviews at Cornell. She found that students who participated in the interviews were twice as likely to land their desired job, and they did so sooner than students who hadn’t done the practice interviews.</p> <p>Although it had been 20 years since Hubbell was a student at MIT, she had kept in touch with fellow alumni and staff members. The founders received support from MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service early on, which Hubbell says gave the business legitimacy and helped them hone their story. Three of Hubbell’s former classmates at the MIT Sloan School of Management began serving on Candorful’s board of directors, and when it came time for the newly formed board to meet, Rod Garcia, the assistant dean of admissions at MIT Sloan, set them up with a conference room on campus.</p> <p>The startup began as a for-profit venture, but it became clear that securing nonprofit status was essential to gain the trust of partners like Hiring Our Heroes and the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program. Hubbel says being a nonprofit changed the founders’ approach to fundraising, and it took about 18 months to be granted nonprofit status, but the founders didn’t let the wait prevent them from helping veterans.</p> <p><strong>Easing the transition</strong></p> <p>In the summer of 2017, relying on volunteers, the founders began coaching a small number of veterans. By 2018, they had partnered with veteran transition assistance programs and had a steady stream of veterans using their service.</p> <p>Hubbell credits a few large companies for providing assistance early on, including Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Amazon, PWC, Keystone Strategy, East Boston Savings Bank, and Ernst and Young. Some of those companies put Candorful on their internal volunteer opportunities lists, which helped establish a pool of highly qualified coaches. Volunteers come from a variety of fields, the one unifying factor being that they have extensive experience conducting job interviews.</p> <p>“Our volunteers are people who want to give back to veterans,” Hubbell says. “And it’s easy for them; they’re able to do it from their desk at lunch or dining room table after dinner.”</p> <p>Following the interview and verbal feedback, each volunteer fills out a scorecard that provides the veterans with grades on everything from their physical appearance to their response structure. Veterans, in turn, rate their coaches.</p> <p>Of the people who have gone through the Candorful process and left the military, Hubbell says 98 percent had landed their desired job as of the third quarter of 2019.</p> <p>As the founders work to update their numbers, Hubbell can happily report that Candorful has helped almost 500 veterans prepare for and land jobs, some of whom have even returned to Candorful as volunteer coaches.</p> <p>“The vast majority of our clients have worked in the military for 10 to 20 years,” Hubbell says. “By the time civilians are reaching the 10-year point of their career, they’ve had experience with interviews, learned, and gotten feedback. The military community &nbsp;doesn’t have the same experience, so we want to close that gap. Not to mention, if they’re eight to 20 years out of high school, they probably have kids. There’s a lot on the line when it’s time to get a good job.”</p> Candorful uses video conferencing to facilitate mock job interviews between volunteer coaches and military personnel to help prepare them for civilian job interviews.Image: CandorfulInnovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Jobs, Venture Mentoring Service, Alumni/ae, Social entrepreneurship, Security studies and military, Startups, MIT Sloan School of Management Jeanne Guillemin, biological warfare expert and senior advisor at MIT, dies at 76 http://news.mit.edu/2020/jeanne-guillemin-biological-warfare-expert-mit-ssp-senior-advisor-dies-0107 A sought-after analyst on the use of biological weapons, she was a model of interdisciplinary excellence to all — especially women. Tue, 07 Jan 2020 14:55:01 -0500 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2020/jeanne-guillemin-biological-warfare-expert-mit-ssp-senior-advisor-dies-0107 <p>Jeanne Guillemin, a medical anthropologist and biological warfare expert, died on Nov. 15, 2019, at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was 76.</p> <p>Guillemin received her bachelor’s degree in social psychology from Harvard University in 1968 and her doctorate in sociology and anthropology from Brandeis University in 1973. She was a professor of international relations and anthropology at Boston College, where she taught for 33 years.</p> <p>From 2006 until her death, she served as a senior advisor to the MIT Security Studies Program (SSP).</p> <p>“Jeanne was a great scholar, with a ferocious appetite for getting to the bottom of whatever history she chose to study.&nbsp;Beyond her scholarship, she enlivened the Security Studies Program with both her&nbsp;wit and her charm, while also serving as a role model for our community, especially women scholars. She will be missed,” says Taylor Fravel, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and director of SSP.</p> <p>Guillemin was instrumental in launching a women’s international speakers series at the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), which has been effective in reaching women graduate students, fellows, and faculty in the greater Boston, Massachusetts area.&nbsp;</p> <p>Shortly before her death, she <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2019/jeanne-guillemin-expert-biological-chemical-weapons-establishes-endowment-mit-1021" target="_self">established an endowed fund at CIS</a> to provide financial support to female PhD candidates studying international affairs.&nbsp;She described her gift as a resource to graduate students to help energize their sense of inquiry and search for knowledge. The first disbursements of this fund will be made in the spring for the next academic year.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Jeanne was a model of interdisciplinary excellence to all — and especially women. Her endowment was such a gracious and thoughtful gesture on her part. We will always remember Jeanne and the contributions she made to our community and beyond,” says Richard Samuels, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of CIS.</p> <p><em>The New York Times</em>&nbsp;described her as a “scientific sleuth” and <em>The Washington Post</em>&nbsp;as a “pioneering researcher” in obituaries that lauded her groundbreaking work in biological warfare — a field where men had long outnumbered their female colleagues.</p> <p>Indeed, she was a sought-after analyst on the use of biological weapons and published four books on the topic.</p> <p>Her first book, “Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak”&nbsp;(University of California Press, 1999), documents her epidemiological inquiry into the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak in the Soviet Union.&nbsp;</p> <p>With a MacArthur Foundation writing award, she next wrote&nbsp;“Biological Weapons: The History of State-sponsored Programs and&nbsp;Contemporary Bioterrorism”&nbsp;(Columbia University Press, 2005), a valued course text.</p> <p>Her 2011 book,&nbsp;“American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation's Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack”&nbsp;(Macmillan/Henry Holt, 2011), was praised by reviewers as the definitive version of the 2001 letter attacks that changed national policy regarding bioterrorism.&nbsp;It was awarded a 2012 Mass Center for the Book/Library of Congress Award in nonfiction.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her most recent book,&nbsp;“Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial” (Columbia University Press, 2017) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It explains how Imperial Japan's use of biological weapons during World War II failed to be prosecuted at the Tokyo war crimes trial of 1946-48.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to consulting and lecturing, she was a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on WMD (2009-13), served on the board of Transaction Books, and was an associate of the Harvard-Sussex Program on chemical and biological weapons disarmament.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her family has requested that gifts in her memory be made to the <a href="https://giving.mit.edu/jeanne-guillemin" target="_blank">Jeanne&nbsp;E. Guillemin&nbsp;fund</a> at MIT.</p> Jeanne Guillemin was described by The New York Times as a “scientific sleuth” and the Washington Post as a “pioneering researcher” in obituaries that lauded her groundbreaking work in biological warfare — a field where men had long outnumbered their female colleagues.Photo: Jean-Baptiste GuilleminCenter for International Studies, Obituaries, Staff, Women, Anthropology, International relations, Security studies and military, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Advancing nuclear detection and inspection http://news.mit.edu/2019/advancing-nuclear-detection-and-inspection-areg-danagoulian-1114 Assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering Areg Danagoulian probes deep inside cargo containers and ballistic warheads to ferret out fissile materials. Thu, 14 Nov 2019 11:25:01 -0500 Leda Zimmerman | Nuclear science and engineering http://news.mit.edu/2019/advancing-nuclear-detection-and-inspection-areg-danagoulian-1114 <p>If not for an episode of soul-searching at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Areg Danagoulian ’99 might have remained content pummeling protons with photons and advancing experimental nuclear physics. Instead, the assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering took off on a different trajectory.</p> <p>“At Los Alamos, where I worked after my doctoral research, I began learning about the scale of the problem of nuclear weapons,” he recounts. “With two children, I was newly sensitive to the issue, and began wondering if I could apply what I had learned in nuclear physics to address such urgent challenges as nuclear terrorism and accidental nuclear war.”</p> <p>Since 2008, Danagoulian has committed himself to these challenges, generating new technologies that reduce nuclear security threats in the near term and that offer game-changing options in the arena of nuclear nonproliferation and treaty verification.</p> <p>This work has brought significant notice. This year the U.S. Department of Energy named him as a member of its Consortium of Monitoring, Technology, and Verification. And for scientific and engineering achievements that bear important implications for the field, he was just awarded the 2019 Radiation Science and Technology Award from the American Nuclear Society.</p> <p><strong>Verify, then trust</strong></p> <p>One of Danagoulian’s key research thrusts is development of a method for verifying the authenticity of nuclear warheads. His most recent work in the area, <a href="http://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12386-0" target="_blank">published</a> in the Sept. 30 <em>Nature Communications</em>&nbsp;and coauthored by nuclear science and engineering graduate student Ezra M. Engel, may open up new paths to reducing nuclear stockpiles and reaching new treaties on deployed nuclear weaponry.</p> <p>“Up to now, there have been no ways to verify warheads, or to verify dismantlement of warheads,” says Danagoulian. For security reasons, nuclear powers don’t let inspectors get close to their warheads, and the conventional method for offering proof of dismantlement relies on destroying weapons delivery systems — e.g., cutting wings off B-52 bombers.</p> <p>And even where disarmament treaties exist, “there is an incentive to cheat and maintain an advantage,” says Danagoulian. Without the capacity to determine whether the other side’s warhead is real, or if its warhead has actually been dismantled, a nation might well view a current or future treaty as toothless.</p> <p>But Danagoulian has found a technical solution to this problem. His approach uses neutron resonance transmission spectroscopy to capture a unique fingerprint of the relevant isotopes in a nuclear weapon, as well as its geometry. During this process, information describing these key identifiers for a nuclear object becomes encrypted physically in a special filter. This encrypted, master version of data can be used as the basis for comparison of other warheads. If their nuclear signatures don't match this template, warheads may be deemed hoaxes.</p> <p>This technology offers two major advances: First, the physical encryption, unlike a digitally stored, computational record, cannot be hacked. And second, the process around this technology makes it possible for weapons inspectors to determine the nature of a weapon without ascertaining its engineering makeup.</p> <p>“This is a way to verify that something is a warhead, and find out nothing about it,” says Danagoulian. The capacity to protect proprietary nuclear weapon design while verifying the dismantlement of its treaty partner’s nuclear stockpile makes it more likely that nations will submit to inspections, and potentially sign new treaties.</p> <p>“By reducing technological barriers, our approach might catalyze future treaties,” says Danagoulian. While he knows that “without political will, even the coolest technology won’t come into play,” he wants the right technology in hand if and when the political door opens. “Our research is high risk, high reward: If and when the politics lines up, the impact will be enormous.”</p> <p><strong>Evolving nuclear concerns</strong></p> <p>Danagoulian was born in Soviet-era Armenia, the child of two physicists. While he grew up during the Cold War, he says that most of the Soviet public didn’t perceive nuclear weapons as an existential threat. “The party regulated all debate, and while my own father knew a lot and discussed with me the devastating power of the bomb, most people knew little about fallout and nuclear winter,” he recalls. “Then suddenly, in the late 1980s, the Soviet Union was all about peace, but no one could really say what it meant to try to prevent nuclear war.”</p> <p>Smitten with math, he decided to become a physicist. After moving to the United States with his family in 1993, he attended first North Carolina State University, then MIT as an undergraduate, where he was warmly welcomed by the nuclear physics group.</p> <p>Then came doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he investigated the interactions of fundamental particles, and next, his career-changing time at Los Alamos. “People there were working on nuclear detection and others on nuclear terrorism,” he says. “But not everyone shared my sense of the dangers of nuclear weapons, or the urgency to get rid of them.”</p> <p>Eager to pursue technological solutions to nuclear threats where he could employ his physics expertise, Danagoulian took a job at Passport Systems starting in 2009. Over the next five years, he helped spearhead a new process for detecting bomb-worthy nuclear materials concealed in large shipping containers. “We wanted to be able to find a tiny amount of material, maybe a two-inch cube representing a two- to three-kilogram uranium or plutonium weapon, inside a jammed 20-ton container,” he says.</p> <p>The technology he helped develop finds radioactive material by subjecting a container to a beam of photons. These energetic particles catalyze fission and breakup of elements like uranium and plutonium, releasing a flood of neutrons. “If we see a sudden increase in the count of fast neutrons in our detector, we know something weird is going on inside,” he says. This technology for sniffing out radioactive weapons has been put into practice at such sites as South Boston’s Conley terminal.</p> <p><strong>Contending with an existential threat</strong></p> <p>While bringing this technology to commercial fruition was rewarding, Danagoulian felt drawn back to academia. “I was more interested in focusing fully on research and the opportunity to work with students,” he says. Returning to MIT in 2014, he encountered an eager and engaged pool of young people.</p> <p>“Today’s students, even though they didn’t grow up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, are imaginative and curious enough to understand the scale of the problem,” he says. “Many come to MIT motivated to adopt a mission, which is more important than a good job to them.”</p> <p>Danagoulian is happy for such motivated recruits, given the immensity of his cause. “We use abstract and technical language like deterrence and strategic balance to talk about these weapons, when what we’re really talking about are instruments of global genocide,” he says. “I’d like to see a world with no nuclear weapons at all.”</p> Areg Danagoulian has committed himself to generating new technologies that reduce nuclear security threats and that offer game-changing options in the arena of nuclear nonproliferation and treaty verification.Photo: Gretchen ErtlNuclear science and engineering, Research, Nuclear security and policy, Security studies and military, School of Engineering, Physics, International relations, Cryptography, Profile, Alumni/ae, Policy, Faculty At the Center for International Studies, a student endowment for women in international affairs http://news.mit.edu/2019/jeanne-guillemin-expert-biological-chemical-weapons-establishes-endowment-mit-1021 Established by distinguished sociologist Jeanne Guillemin, the endowment will provide financial support for women at MIT pursuing a PhD in international affairs. Mon, 21 Oct 2019 09:00:00 -0400 Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2019/jeanne-guillemin-expert-biological-chemical-weapons-establishes-endowment-mit-1021 <p>The Center for International Studies has announced that its longtime colleague, the sociologist of science and national security Jeanne Guillemin, has established an endowed fund to provide financial support to female PhD candidates studying international affairs.&nbsp;The first disbursements of this fund will be made in the spring for the next academic year.&nbsp;</p> <p>“My hope is that&nbsp;the endowment will help women graduate students find new options for special projects that will energize their sense of inquiry and search for knowledge,” says Guillemin, who has&nbsp;been a research associate and senior advisor at the MIT Security Studies Program since 2006.</p> <p>“On behalf of CIS, I want to express to Jeanne our deepest gratitude. She is a model of interdisciplinary excellence to all — and especially women. She was instrumental in establishing a&nbsp;women’s international security speakers series at CIS, which has been effective in reaching women graduate students, fellows, and faculty in the greater Boston area. This endowment, which is such a gracious and thoughtful gesture on her part, will provide extra support to our women PhD students,” says Richard Samuels, director of the MIT Center for International Studies and Ford International Professor of Political Science.</p> <p>Guillemin was trained&nbsp;in medical sociology and anthropology at Harvard and Brandeis Universities.&nbsp;She is an authority on biological weapons&nbsp;and has published four books on the topic.</p> <p>Her first book, “Anthrax: The Investigation of a Deadly Outbreak”&nbsp;(University of California Press, 1999), documents her epidemiological inquiry into the 1979 Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak in the Soviet Union.&nbsp;</p> <p>With a MacArthur Foundation writing award, she next wrote&nbsp;“Biological Weapons: The History of State-sponsored Programs and&nbsp;Contemporary Bioterrorism”&nbsp;(Columbia University Press, 2005), a valued course text.</p> <p>Her 2011 book,&nbsp;“American Anthrax: Fear, Crime, and the Investigation of the Nation's Deadliest Bioterrorist Attack”&nbsp;(Macmillan/Henry Holt, 2011), was praised by reviewers as the definitive version of the 2001 letter attacks that changed national policy regarding bioterrorism.&nbsp;It was awarded a 2012 Mass Center for the Book/Library of Congress Award in nonfiction.&nbsp;</p> <p>Her most recent book,&nbsp;“Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial” (Columbia University Press, 2017) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It explains how Imperial Japan's use of biological weapons during World War II failed to be prosecuted at the Tokyo war crimes trial, 1946-48.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to consulting and lecturing, she was a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on WMD (2009-13), served on the board of Transaction Books, and is an associate of the Harvard-Sussex Program on chemical and biological weapons disarmament.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prior to joining MIT, she was&nbsp;professor of sociology at Boston College, where she taught for 25 years.</p> “My hope is that the endowment will help women graduate students find new options for special projects that will energize their sense of inquiry and search for knowledge,” says Guillemin, who has been a research associate and senior advisor at the MIT Security Studies Program since 2006.Photo: John GuilleminCenter for International Studies, Security studies and military, International relations, Funding, Women, Graduate, postdoctoral, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Technology transfer award recognizes system that detects concealed objects on people http://news.mit.edu/2019/technology-transfer-award-recognizes-system-detects-concealed-objects-people-1004 The technology, first developed at Lincoln Laboratory, is now licensed and will soon be tested to screen passersby in sports stadiums. Fri, 04 Oct 2019 13:40:01 -0400 Kylie Foy | Lincoln Laboratory http://news.mit.edu/2019/technology-transfer-award-recognizes-system-detects-concealed-objects-people-1004 <p>Many of us are familiar with body scanners at airport security, where we must step into a machine, stand still, and wait for the system to detect any objects that might concern security. MIT Lincoln Laboratory has developed a similar technology that can detect and classify an item concealed on a person, but it does so as a person simply walks by.</p> <p>This technology has been licensed and transferred to the security company <a href="https://libertydefense.com/">Liberty Defense</a>, which intends to commercialize it in a system called HEXWAVE. For this transition, the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) awarded their 2019 Excellence in Technology Transfer Award for the Northeast region to the team that facilitated its transition.</p> <p>The technology transfer team includes William Moulder and Jeffrey Herd of the RF Technology Group at Lincoln Laboratory; Jayme Selinger and David Pronchick in the laboratory's Contracting Services Department; Kevin Lefebvre of the MIT Technology Licensing Office; and Aman Bhardwaj, Liberty Defense's chief operations officer and its president of U.S. operations.&nbsp;</p> <p>"It is rewarding to see the lab’s technology be transitioned to address an important problem," says Moulder, who led the technology's development at Lincoln Laboratory. "This tech transfer was successful because the technology addresses a well-defined national need and can be applied to multiple commercial security applications. The transition partner has significant experience in the security industry and understands the process of product development and system integration."</p> <p>The system handles a constant stream of subjects, making it possible to screen people in places like malls, stadiums, train stations, or schools, where it would otherwise be too disruptive to employ stop-and-pose imaging technology. The technology works by sending low-energy microwaves (less powerful than what a cell phone transmits) through clothing and bags on a person as he walks past the antenna. These microwaves bounce off any metal, liquid, or plastic on a person’s body and return to the antenna, generating a 3-D microwave image of the items. The system's artificial intelligence algorithms then process the image to classify the items. If an image is characterized as depicting a potentially threatening item, an operator is alerted and a security official can be dispatched to investigate.</p> <p>The system architecture — including the sparse aperture antenna array, radio-frequency transceivers, and real-time image processing capability — was transferred to Liberty Defense. In addition, "a spread-spectrum waveform and custom RF transceiver subsystem were jointly developed under a <a href="https://www.ll.mit.edu/partner-us/small-business-industry/cooperative-research-and-development-agreements">Cooperative Research and Development Agreement</a> [CRADA]," says Herd, who leads the RF Technology Group. A CRADA is the mechanism through which a federally funded research institution can transfer technology, processes, and technical know-how they have developed to the private sector for commercialization.</p> <p>Liberty Defense has since signed agreements to beta test HEXWAVE at <a href="https://libertydefense.com/news/liberty-defense-signs-maryland-stadium-authority-camden-yards-sports-complex/">Camden Yards Sports Complex</a> in Baltimore, Maryland;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.libertydefense.com/news/liberty-defense-to-collaborate-with-fc-bayern-munchen-to-beta-test-hexwave/" target="_blank">FC Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena</a>&nbsp;in Germany;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.libertydefense.com/news/liberty-defense-mou-strategy-includes-vancouver-arena-limited-partnership/" target="_blank">Rogers Arena</a>&nbsp;in&nbsp;Vancouver, British Columbia; in the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.libertydefense.com/news/liberty-defense-signs-mou-with-the-utah-attorney-general-for-testing-of-hexwave/" target="_blank">state of Utah</a>; in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.libertydefense.com/news/liberty-defense-provides-update-on-sleiman-enterprises-mou-to-test-hexwave/" target="_blank">Sleiman shopping centers</a>; and other locations.</p> <p>For the laboratory, transitioning technology to industry is an important part of its role as a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC). The mission of the FLC is to promote, facilitate, and educate FFRDCs and industry on the process of technology transfer.</p> <p>"Overall, this partnership has greatly accelerated movement of a federally developed technology investment into industry," FLC stated in an announcement about the award. "Almost one year after its founding, LDT [Liberty Defense] has grown to a sizeable organization, building a product that is based on a federally funded prototype." According to FLC, Lincoln Laboratory's close interaction with Liberty Defense facilitated "very efficient transfer of some of the core research and development, and practical developments realized under the federally funded effort."</p> Lincoln Laboratory employees (left to right) William Moulder, Jayme Selinger, David Pronchick, and Jeffrey Herd accept the FLC Excellence in Technology Transfer Award.Photo: The award recipientsLincoln Laboratory, Security studies and military, Imaging, Awards, honors and fellowships, Technology Licensing Office How to dismantle a nuclear bomb http://news.mit.edu/2019/verify-dismantle-nuclear-bombs-0927 MIT team successfully tests a new method for verification of weapons reduction. Mon, 30 Sep 2019 05:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/verify-dismantle-nuclear-bombs-0927 <p>How do weapons inspectors verify that a nuclear bomb has been dismantled? An unsettling answer is: They don’t, for the most part. When countries sign arms reduction pacts, they do not typically grant inspectors complete access to their nuclear technologies, for fear of giving away military secrets.</p> <p>Instead, past U.S.-Russia arms reduction treaties have called for the destruction of the delivery systems for nuclear warheads, such as missiles and planes, but not the warheads themselves. To comply with the START treaty, for example, the U.S. cut the wings off B-52 bombers and left them in the Arizona desert, where Russia could visually confirm the airplanes’ dismemberment.</p> <p>It’s a logical approach but not a perfect one. Stored nuclear warheads might not be deliverable in a war, but they could still be stolen, sold, or accidentally detonated, with disastrous consequences for human society.</p> <p>“There’s a real need to preempt these kinds of dangerous scenarios and go after these stockpiles,” says Areg Danagoulian, an MIT nuclear scientist. “And that really means a verified dismantlement of the weapons themselves.”</p> <p>Now MIT researchers led by Danagoulian have successfully tested a new high-tech method that could help inspectors verify the destruction of nuclear weapons. The method uses neutron beams to establish certain facts about the warheads in question — and, crucially, uses an isotopic filter that physically encrypts the information in the measured data.</p> <p>A paper detailing the experiments, “A physically cryptographic warhead verification system using neutron induced nuclear resonances,” is being published today in <em>Nature Communications</em>. The authors are Danagoulian, who is an&nbsp;assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, and graduate student Ezra Engel. Danagoulian is the corresponding author.</p> <p><strong>High-stakes testing</strong></p> <p>The experiment builds on previous theoretical work, by Danagoulian and other members of his research group, who last year published two papers detailing computer simulations of the system. The testing took place at the Gaerttner Linear Accelerator (LINAC) Facility on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, using a 15-meter long section of the facility’s neutron-beam line.</p> <p>Nuclear warheads have a couple of characteristics that are central to the experiment. They tend to use particular isotopes of plutonium — varieties of the element that have different numbers of neutrons. And nuclear warheads have a distinctive spatial arrangement of materials.</p> <p>The experiments consisted of sending a horizontal neutron beam first through a proxy of the warhead, then through a an encrypting filter scrambling the information. The beam’s signal was then sent to a lithium glass detector, where a signature of the data, representing some of its key properties, was recorded. The MIT tests were performed using molybdenum and tungsten, two metals that share significant properties with plutonium and served as viable proxies for it.</p> <p>The test works, first of all, because the neutron beam can identify the isotope in question.</p> <p>“At the low energy range, the neutrons’ interactions are extremely isotope-specific,” Danagoulian says. “So you do a measurement where you have an isotopic tag, a signal which itself embeds information about the isotopes and the geometry. But you do an additional step which physically encrypts it.”</p> <p>That physical encryption of the neutron beam information alters some of the exact details, but still allows scientists to record a distinct signature of the object and then use it to perform object-to-object comparisons. This alteration means a country can submit to the test without divulging all the details about how its weapons are engineered.</p> <p>“This encrypting filter basically covers up the intrinsic properties of the actual classified object itself,” Danagoulian explains.</p> <p>It would also be possible just to send the neutron beam through the warhead, record that information, and then encrypt it on a computer system. But the process of physical encryption is more secure, Danagoulian notes: “You could, in principle, do it with computers, but computers are unreliable. They can be hacked, while the laws of physics are immutable.”</p> <p>The MIT tests also included checks to make sure that inspectors could not reverse-engineer the process and thus deduce the weapons information countries want to keep secret.</p> <p>To conduct a weapons inspection, then, a host country would present a warhead to weapons inspectors, who could run the neutron-beam test on the materials. If it passes muster, they could run the test on every other warhead intended for destruction as well, and make sure that the data signatures from those additional bombs match the signature of the original warhead.</p> <p>For this reason, a country could not, say, present one real nuclear warhead to be dismantled, but bamboozle inspectors with a series of identical-looking fake weapons. And while many additional protocols would have to be arranged to make the whole process function reliably, the new method plausibly balances both disclosure and secrecy for the parties involved.</p> <p><strong>The human element</strong></p> <p>Danagoulian believes putting the new method through the testing stage has been a significant step forward for his research team.</p> <p>“Simulations capture the physics, but they don’t capture system instabilities,” Danagoulian says. “Experiments capture the whole world.”</p> <p>In the future, he would like to build a smaller-scale version of the testing apparatus, one that would be just 5 meters long and could be mobile, for use at all weapons sites.</p> <p>“The purpose of our work is to create these concepts, validate them, prove that they work through simulations and experiments, and then have the National Laboratories to use them in their set of verification techniques,” Danagoulian says, referring to U.S. Department of Energy scientists.</p> <p>Karl van Bibber, a professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, who has read the group’s papers, says “the work is promising and has taken a large step&nbsp;forward,” but adds that “there is yet a ways to go” for the project. More specifically, van Bibber notes, in the recent tests it was easier to detect fake weapons based on the isotopic characteristics of the materials rather than their spatial arrangements. He believes testing at the relevant U.S. National Laboratories — Los Alamos or Livermore — would help further assess the verification techniques on sophisticated missile designs.</p> <p>Overall, van Bibber adds, speaking of the researchers, “their persistence is paying off, and the treaty&nbsp;verification community has got to be paying attention.”</p> <p>Danagoulian also emphasizes the seriousness of nuclear weapons disarmament. A small cluster of several modern nuclear warheads, he notes, equals the destructive force of every armament fired in World War II, including the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. and Russia possess about 13,000 nuclear weapons between them.</p> <p>“The concept of nuclear war is so big that it doesn’t [normally] fit in the human brain,” Danagoulian says. “It’s so terrifying, so horrible, that people shut it down.”</p> <p>In Danagoulian’s case, he also emphasizes that, in his case, becoming a parent greatly increased his sense that action is needed on this issue, and helped spur the current research project.</p> <p>“It put an urgency in my head,” Danagoulian says. “Can I use my knowledge and my skill and my training in physics to do something for society and for my children? This is the human aspect of the work.”</p> <p>The research was supported, in part, by a U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Award.</p> Back, standing (left to right): William Koch, Jacob Bickus, David Stern*, Hin “Jimmy” Lee Front, seated (Left to right): Ruaridh Macdonald, Areg Danagoulian, Ethan Klein *David Stern is a student at Tufts who is working this summer in Areg’s Lab. Melanie Gonick, MITResearch, Nuclear science and engineering, School of Engineering, Nuclear security and policy, Security studies and military, Cryptography The intersection of technology and war http://news.mit.edu/2019/intersection-technology-and-war-fiona-cunningham-0813 MIT excels in teaching the science and technology associated with the operation of societies, businesses, and militaries, says Fiona Cunningham PhD ’19. Tue, 13 Aug 2019 13:30:01 -0400 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2019/intersection-technology-and-war-fiona-cunningham-0813 <p>Pursuing big questions is part of the MIT ethos, says Fiona Cunningham PhD ’19.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Walking through the Infinite Corridor, you can see what people are doing in this space. There is such dedication across the Institute to solving big problems. There is dedication to doing the best work, without hubris, and often without a break. I find this so exciting, and it’s a huge part of what makes me so proud to be an alumna. This dedication will stay with me forever.”</p> <p>Cunningham completed her PhD at the Department of Political Science, where she was also a member of the Security Studies Program. Her work explores how technology affects warfare in the post-Cold War era. She studies how nations — China specifically — plan to use technology in conflict to achieve their aims.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I want to understand the changing nature of warfare and how new technologies have become both opportunities and restraints for countries in international politics. These questions are the kinds of questions that global leaders are thinking about when they are grappling with the rise of China, how technology factors into the current U.S.-China trade war, and how technology does or doesn’t fit within national boundaries.”</p> <p>She received the Lucian Pye Award for&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fionascunningham.com/research-1">outstanding PhD thesis</a>. The award was established by the political science department in 2005 and recipients are determined by the graduate studies committee. Pye was a leading China scholar who taught political science at MIT for 35 years.</p> <p>"Fiona’s thesis was exemplary. She asked an important question that bears on the future of peace and stability among nations, and conducted an impressive amount of original research about a topic that is especially challenging to study. In this way, she combined academic rigor with policy relevance,”&nbsp;says Taylor Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Security Studies Program.</p> <p><strong>The road to China</strong></p> <p>Cunningham was born and raised in Australia, where the influences of neighboring East Asia are strong. This is what led to her initial curiosity about the region. After high school, she took a gap year and spent part of it in China, where she was drawn into the culture and politics — and the challenge of learning Chinese.</p> <p>She returned to Australia for her undergraduate studies and recalls two pivotal experiences that guided her academic path: a visiting semester at Harvard University, where she got a taste for the U.S. approach to studying international relations, and working as a research associate at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an Australian think tank. There she worked with Rory Medcalf, whose early attention to the international security challenges created by the rise of China really helped shape her research questions, says Cunningham.&nbsp;</p> <p>After those experiences, she knew what she wanted to study and she knew she wanted to study at MIT.</p> <p>“I chose MIT because no other political science graduate program had such strengths in both East Asia and security studies. And, as someone who has always been interested in science and technology and its impact on international politics, the idea that I would be at an Institute where so much brain power is dedicated to advancing the scientific and technological aspects of how our societies, businesses, and militaries operate was amazing!”</p> <p><strong>A model community&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The Department of Political Science and the Security Studies Program provided a thriving community for Cunningham.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The faculty and scholars she worked with —Taylor Fravel, Vipin Narang, Barry Posen, Owen Coté, Frank Gavin — are models of how to do rigorous scholarship about the things that really matter for the way our world works, she says: “They somehow contribute fully to the discipline and the public debate, which is both super-human and very inspiring.”</p> <p>Fravel served as her dissertation chair. “Taylor was my mentor, my professor, and, in addition to that, my co-author. I was so fortunate to be able to learn how to think, research, write, and teach from him in all of those roles.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Fravel and Cunningham co-authored a paper in 2015 on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/ISEC_a_00215">China’s nuclear strategy</a>. They have a forthcoming paper delving further into that topic that examines China’s views of nuclear escalation.</p> <p>Three women — Lena Andrews ’18, Marika Landau-Wells ’18, and Ketian Zhang ’19 — went through the program with Cunningham. “We really helped each other and we will always have a special bond.”</p> <p>The support she found in these relationships, plus her family, has been a source of inspiration. “My parents have always encouraged me to do something I was passionate about, do it really well, and to do something that will make a difference,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Breaking new ground</strong></p> <p>Cunningham joined George Washington University as assistant professor of political science and international affairs this fall after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.&nbsp;</p> <p>She chose an academic track because she wants the freedom to continue to pursue the international relations questions she finds most important.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also her strong ambition to continue doing fieldwork, especially within China.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> “I want to see the problems I research through the eyes of people on the front lines. In addition to my fieldwork in China, the Security Studies Program provided me with these kinds of experiences through field trips to U.S. military bases during graduate school. You can’t get that from a book.”</p> <p>She also looks forward to teaching. “For me, teaching is about teaching students how to think critically about future problems, and how to write and communicate their analysis and their thinking.”</p> <p>Cunningham had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant in undergraduate courses while at MIT. “The students at MIT are so capable. They would bring their STEM background to topics like cybersecurity and the causes of war. I would walk away amazed! If these students are our future, then our world will be good hands.”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>As a professor, she aims to help her students consider the consequences, both intended and unintended, of employing technology. She wants them to think about the political questions that come into play both now and into the future.</p> <p>MIT really gets you attuned to this crossover of technology and its social and political implications, she explains.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The San Francisco (California) Bay Area, where she has spent the last year, provided fertile ground for her to dig deeper.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Silicon Valley is the innovation engine of the U.S. economy, and arguably the world economy. I've been looking around there to see what are the next political science questions.&nbsp;What is the next big question that sits at the intersection of technology and conflict? And what role does great power competition play in the day-to-day life of tech companies? What is the role of individuals and the companies they are running in making decisions that have big political implications?”&nbsp;</p> <p>Pursuing big questions is a part of Cunningham’s ethos. This dedication will stay with her forever.&nbsp;</p> “I chose MIT because no other political science graduate program had such strengths in both East Asia and security studies,” says Fiona Cunningham PhD ’19. “I want to understand the changing nature of warfare and how new technologies have become both opportunities and restraints for countries in international politics.”Photo courtesy of Fiona CunninghamCenter for International Studies, Political science, China, Security studies and military, Technology and society, Alumni/ae, Profile, Asia, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Taylor Fravel named director of the MIT Security Studies Program http://news.mit.edu/2019/m-taylor-fravel-named-director-mit-security-studies-program-0701 Barry Posen announces the leadership transition, welcomes the infusion of new energy. Mon, 01 Jul 2019 11:30:01 -0400 Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2019/m-taylor-fravel-named-director-mit-security-studies-program-0701 <p>M. Taylor Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science, has been named director of the MIT Security Studies Program (SSP). Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of SSP since 2006, announced the leadership transition to the SSP community at its recent gala dinner.</p> <p>Fravel takes over as director today. Posen will continue his research and teaching responsibilities at MIT. As a member of SSP,&nbsp;he will continue leading the Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellows Program.</p> <p>“SSP is a community of scholars dedicated to the proposition that the problem of international and internal war merits sustained study. I have every confidence that Taylor will bring an infusion of new ideas, and energy to attempt new initiatives, that come with a new leader,” says Posen.&nbsp;</p> <p>SSP is widely recognized as a leader in its field, generating research on international security issues and training graduate students for careers in academia, government, business, and civil society organizations. The MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) provides the intellectual home and the administrative infrastructure for SSP.</p> <p>Fravel is an expert on international security, with a focus on China’s foreign and security policies. He joined MIT in 2004 as assistant professor of political science and member of SSP.&nbsp;He currently serves on the editorial boards of&nbsp;<em>Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies,&nbsp;</em>and&nbsp;the<em> China Quarterly</em>, and is a member of the board of directors for the National Committee on United States-China Relations.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fravel’s most recent book, "<a href="https://cis.mit.edu/active-defense" target="_blank">Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949</a>," was published by Princeton University Press earlier this year. It has been praised as “the first book to provide a comprehensive history of China’s military doctrine as it has evolved since the founding of the People’s Republic.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“SSP is one of the country’s preeminent university-based programs for the study of international security,” Fravel says. “For more than 40 years, the faculty, fellows, and students of SSP have been conducting policy-relevant and rigorous research on questions of war and peace, both among states and within them. I am honored to be given this opportunity to serve as director and look forward to working with my SSP and MIT colleagues in this new role.”</p> <p>Fravel is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD in political science. He has been a postdoc at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, a predoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, a fellow with the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, and a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes scholar.&nbsp;</p> “For more than 40 years, the faculty, fellows, and students of SSP have been conducting policy-relevant and rigorous research on questions of war and peace, both among states and within them. I am honored to be given this opportunity to serve as director and look forward to working with my SSP and MIT colleagues in this new role,” says M. Taylor Fravel, the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science.Photo: Dominick ReuterCenter for International Studies, Political science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, China, Faculty, Security studies and military Projects advance naval ship design and capabilities http://news.mit.edu/2019/projects-advance-naval-ship-design-and-capabilities-0625 At the annual MIT Ship Design and Technology Symposium, naval construction and engineering students presented their work on real-life naval design projects. Tue, 25 Jun 2019 13:10:01 -0400 Mary Beth O’Leary | Department of Mechanical Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2019/projects-advance-naval-ship-design-and-capabilities-0625 <p>For the past 20 years, officials from the U.S. Navy and leaders in the shipbuilding industry have convened on MIT’s campus each spring for the MIT Ship Design and Technology Symposium. The daylong event is a platform to update industry and military leaders on the latest groundbreaking research in naval construction and engineering being conducted at MIT.</p> <p>The main event of the symposium was the design project presentations given by Course 2N (Naval Construction and Engineering) graduate students. These projects serve as a capstone of their three-year curriculum.</p> <p>This year, recent graduate Andrew Freeman MEng '19, SM '19, who was advised by Dick K. P. Yue, the Philip J. Solondz Professor of Engineering, and William Taft MEng '19, SM '19, who works with James Kirtley, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, presented their current research. Rear Admiral Ronald A. Boxall, director of surface warfare at the U.S. Navy, served as keynote speaker at the event, which took place in May.</p> <p>“The Ship Design and Technology Symposium gives students in the 2N program the opportunity to present ship and submarine design and conversions, as well as thesis research, to the leaders of the U.S. Navy and design teams from industry,” explains Joe Harbour, professor of the practice of naval construction at MIT. “Through the formal presentation and poster sessions, the naval and industrial leaders can better understand opportunities to improve designs and design processes.”</p> <p>Since 1901, the Course 2N program has been educating active-duty officers in the Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, in addition to foreign naval officers. This year, eight groups of 2N students presented design or conversion project briefs to an audience of experts in the Samberg Conference Center.</p> <p>The following three projects exemplify the ways in which these students are adapting existing naval designs and creating novel designs that can help increase the capabilities and efficiency of naval vessels.</p> <p><strong>The next generation of hospital ships</strong></p> <p>The Navy has a fleet of hospital ships ready for any major combat situations that might arise. These floating hospitals allow doctors to care for large numbers of casualties, perform operations, stabilize patients, and help transfer patients to other medical facilities.</p> <p>Lately, these ships have been instrumental in response efforts during major disasters — such as the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. The ships also provide an opportunity for doctors to train local medical professionals in developing countries.</p> <p>The Navy's current fleet of hospital ships is aging. Designed in the 1980s, these ships require an update to complement the way naval operations are conducted in modern times. As such, the U.S. Navy is looking to launch the next fleet of hospital ships in 2035.</p> <p>A team of Course 2N students including Aaron Sponseller, Travis Rapp, and Robert Carelli was tasked with assessing current hospital ship designs and proposing a design for the next generation of hospital ships.</p> <p>“We looked at several different hull form sizes that could achieve the goals of our sponsors, and assigned scores to rank their attributes and determine which one could best achieve their intended mission,” explains Carelli.</p> <p>In addition to visiting the USS Mercy, a hospital ship that was commissioned during World War II, the team toured nearby Tufts Medical Center to get a sense of what a state-of-the-art medical facility looked like. One thing that immediately struck the team was how different the electrical needs of a modern-day medical facility are from the needs nearly 40 years ago, when the medical ships were first being designed.</p> <p>“Part of the problem with the current ships is they scaled their electrical capacity with older equipment from the 1980s in mind,” adds Rapp. This capacity doesn’t account for the increased electrical burden of digital CT scans, high-tech medical devices, and communication suites.</p> <p>The current ships have a separate propulsion plant and electrical generation plant. The team found that combining the two would increase the ship’s electrical capacity, especially while "on station" — a term used when a ship maintains its position in the water.</p> <p>“These ships spend a lot of time on station while doctors operate on patients,” explains Carelli. “By using the same system for propelling and electrical generation, you have a lot more capacity for these medical operations when it’s on station and for speed when the ship is moving.”</p> <p>The team also recommended that the ship be downsized and tailored to treat intensive care cases rather than having such large stable patient areas. “We trimmed the fat, so to speak, and are moving the ship toward what really delivers value — intensive care capability for combat operations,” says Rapp.</p> <p>The team hopes their project will inform the decisions the Navy makes when they do replace large hospital ships in 2035. “The Navy goes through multiple iterations of defining how they want their next ship to be designed and we are one small step in that process,” adds Sponseller.</p> <p><strong>Autonomous fishing vessels </strong></p> <p>Over the past few decades, advances in artificial intelligence and sensory hardware have led to increasingly sophisticated unmanned vehicles in the water. Sleek autonomous underwater vehicles operate below the water’s surface. Rather than work on these complex and often expensive machines, Course 2N students Jason Barker, David Baxter, and Brian Stanfield assessed the possibility of using something far more commonplace for their design project: fishing vessels.</p> <p>“We were charged with looking at the possibility of going into a port, acquiring a low-end vessel like a fishing boat, and making that boat an autonomous machine for various missions,” explains Barker.</p> <p>With such a broad scope, Barker and his teammates set some parameters to guide their research. They honed in on one fishing boat in particular: a 44 four-drum seiner.</p> <p>The next step was determining how such a vessel could be outfitted with sensors to carry out a range of missions including measuring marine life, monitoring marine traffic in a given area, carrying out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, and, perhaps most importantly, conducting search and rescue operations.</p> <p>The team estimated that the cost of transforming an everyday fishing boat into an autonomous vehicle would be roughly $2 million — substantially lower than building a new autonomous vehicle. The relatively low cost could make this an appealing exercise in areas where piracy is a potential concern. “Because the price of entry is so low, it’s not as risky as using a capital asset in these areas,” Barker explains.</p> <p>The low price could also lead to a number of such autonomous vehicles in a given area. “You could put out a lot of these vessels,” adds Barker. “With the advances of swarm technologies you could create a network or grid of autonomous boats.”</p> <p><strong>Increasing endurance and efficiency in Freedom-class ships</strong></p> <p>For Course 2N student Charles Hasenbank, working on a conversion project for the engineering plant of Freedom-class ships was a natural fit. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, Hasenbank served on the USS Freedom.</p> <p>Freedom-class ships can reach upwards of 40 knots, 10 knots faster than most combat ships. “To get those extra knots requires a substantial amount of power,” explains Hasenbank. This power is generated by two diesel engines and two gas turbines that are also used to power large aircraft like the Dreamliner.</p> <p>For their new frigate program, the Navy is looking to achieve a maximum speed of 30 knots, making the extra power provided by these engines unnecessary. The endurance range of these new frigates, however, would be higher than what the current Freedom-class ships allow. As such, Hasenbank and his fellow students Tikhon Ruggles and Cody White were tasked with exploring alternate forms of propulsion.</p> <p>The team had five driving criteria in determining how to best convert the ships’ power system — minimize weight changes, increase efficiency, maintain or decrease acquisition costs, increase simplicity, and improve fleet commonality.</p> <p>“The current design is a very capable platform, but the efficiencies aren’t there because speed was a driving factor,” explains Hasenbank.</p> <p>When redesigning the engineering plant, the team landed on the use of four propellers, which would maintain the amount of draft currently experienced by these ships. To accommodate this change, the structure of the stern would need to be altered.</p> <p>By removing a step currently in the stern design, the team made an unexpected discovery. Above 12 knots, their stern design would decrease hull resistance. “Something we didn’t initially expect was we improved efficiency and gained endurance through decreasing the hull resistance,” adds Hasenbank. “That was a nice surprise along the way.”</p> <p>The team’s new design would be able to meet the 30 knot speed requirement of the new frigate program and it would add anywhere between 500 and 1,000 nautical miles of endurance to the ship.</p> <p>Along with the other design projects presented at the MIT Ship Design and Technology Symposium, the work conducted by Hasenbank and his team could inform important decisions the U.S. Navy has to make in the coming years as it looks to update and modernize its fleet.</p> Students enrolled in the MIT Course 2N program who also graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy pose with Rear Admiral Brian Antonio, a curriculum sponsor for the program. Photo: Course 2N StaffMechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Oceanography and ocean engineering, Security studies and military, Autonomous vehicles, Special events and guest speakers, Students, Alumni/ae, Transportation MIT and U.S. Air Force sign agreement to launch AI Accelerator http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-and-us-air-force-sign-agreement-new-ai-accelerator-0520 New program will focus on rapid deployment of artificial intelligence innovations in operations, disaster response, and medical readiness. Mon, 20 May 2019 10:55:55 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-and-us-air-force-sign-agreement-new-ai-accelerator-0520 <p>MIT and the U.S. Air Force have signed an agreement to launch a new program designed to make fundamental advances in artificial intelligence that could improve Air Force operations while also addressing broader societal needs.</p> <p>The effort, known as the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator, will leverage the expertise and resources of MIT and the Air Force to conduct fundamental research directed at enabling rapid prototyping, scaling, and application of AI algorithms and systems. The Air Force plans to invest approximately $15 million per year as it builds upon its five-decade relationship with MIT.</p> <p>The collaboration is expected to support at least 10 MIT research projects addressing challenges that are important to both the Air Force and society more broadly, such as disaster response and medical readiness.</p> <p>“This collaboration is very much in line with MIT’s core value of service to the nation,” says Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research and the E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. “MIT researchers who choose to participate will bring state-of-the-art expertise in AI to advance Air Force mission areas and help train Air Force personnel in applications of AI.”</p> <p>Under the agreement, MIT will form interdisciplinary teams of researchers, faculty, and students whose work focuses on topics in artificial intelligence, control theory, formal methods, machine learning, robotics, and perception, among other fields. Teams will also include leaders in technology policy, history, and ethics from a range of departments, labs, and centers across the Institute. Members of the Air Force will join and lend expertise to each team.</p> <p>“MIT is the leading institution for AI research, education, and application, making this a huge opportunity for the Air Force as we deepen and expand our scientific and technical enterprise,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson says. “Drawing from one of the best of American research universities is vital.”</p> <p>The AI Accelerator can include faculty, staff, and students in all five MIT schools, and will be a component of the new MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, opening this fall. The college will take a strongly interdisciplinary approach to computing, and focus on the societal implications of computing and AI. The MIT-Air Force program will be housed in MIT’s Beaver Works facility, an innovation center located in the Technology Square block of Kendall Square. MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development center, will make available its specialized facilities and resources to support Air Force mission requirements.</p> <p>“Our objective is to advance the underlying science behind AI and facilitate societal applications, including helping create solutions in fields like disaster relief and medical preparedness that are of interest to the Air Force,” says Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We plan to assemble interdisciplinary teams that will collaborate across disparate fields of AI to create new algorithms and solutions.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The AI Accelerator research program will aim to develop new algorithms and systems to assist complex decision-making that might help the Air Force, for example, better focus its maintenance efforts — an expensive and critical part of its aircraft operations. This fundamental research also intends to develop AI to assist humans in aspects of planning, control, and other complex tasks. Finally, the work aims to enable rapid deployment of advanced algorithms and capabilities developed at MIT to foster AI innovation across the country.</p> <p>In addition to disaster relief and medical readiness, other possible research areas may include data management, maintenance and logistics, vehicle safety, and cyber resiliency.</p> <p>“The AI Accelerator provides us with an opportunity to develop technologies that will be vectors for positive change in the world,” Rus says. “This new project will integrate societal implications into research from the outset.”</p> <p>“MIT continues to pursue research that addresses current problems, while training researchers to think through the implications for tomorrow as research is translated to new technologies and new problems,” adds Krystyn Van Vliet, associate provost and professor of materials science and engineering and of biological engineering. “The MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator allows MIT to demonstrate that concept when AI provides one of the tools for human decisions.</p> Photo: Jake BelcherComputer science and technology, Algorithms, Research, Funding, Machine learning, Artifical intelligence, Security studies and military, Collaboration, Government, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing Caught between criminals and cops http://news.mit.edu/2019/caught-between-criminals-and-cops-andrew-miller-0513 Using virtual reality, doctoral candidate Andrew Miller gauges citizens&#039; faith in law enforcement in the face of gang violence. Mon, 13 May 2019 10:10:00 -0400 Leda Zimmerman | MIT Political Science http://news.mit.edu/2019/caught-between-criminals-and-cops-andrew-miller-0513 <p>To a resume rich in policy and security studies, work experience, and publications, <a href="https://polisci.mit.edu/people/andrew-miller" target="_blank">Andrew Miller</a> may now add the unlikely skill of video production. While investigating the impact of gang violence on Lagos, Nigeria, the sixth-year political science doctoral candidate came up with an innovative research tool: immersive, virtual reality (VR) videos.</p> <p>"This was the first time VR was deployed in a large-scale field survey," says Miller, a PhD candidate in the MIT Department of Political Science. "Using VR video vignettes, we could immerse respondents in hypothetical scenarios, which helped elicit their real-world emotions when answering questions about these scenarios."</p> <p>Miller's foray into production evolved as part of his multi-year doctoral study into the ways criminal organizations wield influence in communities.</p> <p>"Deaths from criminal violence likely equal deaths from civil war, terrorism, and interstate war combined," he says, "and those responsible often operate with quasi-impunity." In the Americas, for instance, for every 100 murders, only about 25 people are convicted, Miller notes. "It's not just a problem for developing countries; even in some major American cities, people who commit murder are much more likely to get away with it than be arrested or convicted."</p> <p>Miller has a master's degree in foreign service and security from Georgetown University, and has held international development and security positions with Deloitte Consulting and the Council on Foreign Relations. After spending significant time on the ground in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo, he became keenly aware of "criminal organizations operating in many of these places under the surface," and of frequent collusion between criminal groups and governments.</p> <p>"You could have a government with all the resources, the trappings of legitimacy and legal frameworks, and still have small, illegal organizations that exercise a surprising degree of control in communities," he says.</p> <p>In the daily lives of citizens in so many of the places he visited, the most meaningful security issues involve "problems with underground economies, real or perceived corruption of the police, and threatened and actual violence by criminals trying to control these economies," Miller says.</p> <p>Concerned by this pervasive problem, which is only likely to grow in significance as urban areas expand in population, Miller set out to investigate the relationships between citizens and law enforcement. He decided to focus specifically on how and why people in communities afflicted by gang violence decide to cooperate with police. "If someone sees a shooting or hears about somebody involved in a shooting, what determines if that person shares information with the police?" Miller wondered.</p> <p><strong>Trust issues</strong></p> <p>Hoping to develop a broadly applicable theory, Miller chose two very different locales as research sites: Lagos, Nigeria, and Baltimore, Maryland. The former, home to more than 10 million people and the economic and cultural hub of West Africa, has pockets of the city beset with groups that extort shopkeepers, along the lines of Sicily's mafia. Baltimore is afflicted with gang violence around drug trafficking and one of the highest murder rates in the United States. What unites both cities, says Miller, is "a strained relationship between many residents and the police.”</p> <p>Miller began in Lagos, with its densely populated markets, to explore this distrust. His research had built-in constraints: He could not run real-world simulations of violent incidents to test witness responses.</p> <p>So Miller devised the notion of VR vignettes played on mobile phones to engage subjects and make it a more realistic experience for them. Hiring a Lagos production team and actors, he filmed a series of staged fights, with more than a dozen variations changing the circumstances of the fight or police response. Shown these different videos, 1,025 people completed surveys about their willingness to share information with the police.</p> <p>After 11 months in Nigeria, Miller has begun to glean insights from his fieldwork. Among them: The central constraint to reporting incidents to police is "a deep-seated perceived retaliation risk from gangs, which are regarded with both antipathy and fear," says Miller. (One possible remedy to this hurdle that he identified through his research: expanding access to anonymous police tip lines — not currently available in Lagos.)</p> <p>His survey data also revealed that even if citizens witness police using excessive force, violating the rights of suspects, they still believe sharing information is important.</p> <p>"It was surprising to me that, even in cases where police are widely perceived as corrupt, citizens hold an enduring faith in their ability to bring law and order, as long as it doesn't jeopardize personal safety," he says. "People show amazing resilience in the face of their problems."</p> <p><strong>Baltimore and beyond</strong></p> <p>Miller has now turned his focus to completing the Baltimore phase of research. He's donning his production hat once again — this time for video segments of local news stories designed for an online survey. Both the work in Lagos and Baltimore will feature in his thesis on cooperation between citizens and the police in communities with gangs.</p> <p>Although Miller has given himself little time off, he managed to slip away to northern Italy recently and was able to indulge in his favorite pastimes of travel and food.</p> <p>While he once pursued a future in development and humanitarian assistance, he has fully committed to a life in academia. "I really love digging into issues deeply, and I enjoy teaching, especially the undergraduates at MIT," he says. He also cites the fruitful support and friendships he found in the political science department "that proved instrumental at all stages of the research process, from developing ideas to writing up the results."</p> <p>A faculty position in a comparable environment that enables him to continue this work would be ideal, says Miller. "It's important that my work both contributes to academic theory and is relevant to people's lives," he says. "People in the communities where I have been working have emphasized to me that research like this needs to be done, so I hope it will be useful."</p> A survey team led by grad student Andrew Miller displays use of the virtual reality equipment, which helped elicit feedback on providing information about crimes in Lagos, Nigeria.Photo: Andrew MillerPolitical science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Security studies and military, Police, Research, Students, graduate, Graduate, postdoctoral, Profile, Augmented and virtual reality Workshop explores national security repercussions of climate change http://news.mit.edu/2019/workshop-explores-national-security-repercussions-climate-change-0222 Experts assess potential global destabilization caused by climate change impacts on water supplies, land use, and migration. Fri, 22 Feb 2019 09:00:00 -0500 Kylie Foy | MIT Lincoln Laboratory http://news.mit.edu/2019/workshop-explores-national-security-repercussions-climate-change-0222 <p>Scientists can, to varying degrees of accuracy, model the climate. They can predict the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions grow, sea levels rise, and ocean temperatures warm. It is also possible to predict the direct impacts climate change will have to infrastructure, including to U.S. military bases. But modeling how societies will react to these climate-driven changes is arguably much harder, and was the central problem at a recent Climate Change and National Security Workshop.</p> <p>The workshop, jointly organized by MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and hosted at MIT, brought together science and policy experts from campus, the U.S. Geological Survey, the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and several other organizations to discuss how to predict social and political conflicts that may be caused or exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.</p> <p>"What do we think those impacts of climate change will be, where and who will be affected, and will those impacts cause conflicts and problems? These questions prompt the kind of analysis that we think is needed," said Edward Wack, who led the workshop and is the assistant head of Lincoln Laboratory's <a href="https://www.ll.mit.edu/r-d/homeland-protection">Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control divisions</a>.</p> <p>The workshop resulted from a climate change study that Lincoln Laboratory conducted last year. The study's purpose was to develop the laboratory’s strategy to understand, predict, mitigate, and adapt to climate change in ways that connect with the laboratory's national security role. The federally funded research and development center's mission is to develop advanced technology that meets national security needs.</p> <p>The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has weighed the national security implications of climate change <a href="https://climateandsecurity.org/resources/u-s-government/defense/">for decades</a>. In its 2014 <a href="https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/downloads/CCARprint_wForward_e.pdf">Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap</a>, the DoD declared that "climate change will affect the Department of Defense's ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security." Among the reasons that climate change is a risk is its role as a "threat multiplier." That is, it can significantly add to problems of instability — food and water shortages, diseases, economic insecurity, mass migration — that could boil over into conflict. In its <a href="https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/01/sec_335_ndaa-report_effects_of_a_changing_climate_to_dod.pdf">most recent climate report</a>, the DoD also assessed the direct impacts climate change poses to its installations over the next 20 years, and revealed that many of its installations are already facing climate change-related risks, including recurrent flooding at 15 bases, drought exposure at 43 bases, and wildfire risk to 36 bases.</p> <p>"In general, climate change doesn't, on its own, cause conflict, but it makes bad situations worse, especially where local institutions and governments are fragile or lack the capacity to meet existing challenges," said John Conger, who is the director of the nonpartisan <a href="https://climateandsecurity.org/">Center for Climate and Security</a> and formerly the principal deputy under secretary of defense (comptroller) at the DoD. He was one of several presenters at the workshop.</p> <p>"The DoD monitors the security situation globally and has often deployed to regions that are embroiled in conflict or have endured natural disasters. Broadly, the DoD will better be able to anticipate where those requirements will emerge if it incorporates climate change into its global calculus," he said.</p> <p>Anticipating these requirements will depend partly on regional climate models. MIT Professor Elfatih Eltahir of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is developing such models. His research seeks to simulate the climate of different regions around the world in order to understand how climate change and human activity may impact water availability, extreme weather, and the spread of diseases in those areas. He and his students have developed sophisticated numerical models, such as the MIT Regional Climate Model, that are used for predicting such impacts at regional scales.</p> <p>"Regional climate models are designed with the skill of simulating climate processes at regional and local scales — 100 kilometers to 10 kilometers," Eltahir said. "With such a high resolution, these sophisticated models are capable of resolving the impact of climate change on variables that are important for society."</p> <p>At the workshop, Eltahir shared his modeling results, such as the high likelihood of severe heat stress impacting regions of South Asia — in particular, heat waves with wet bulb temperatures (the lowest temperature at which air can be cooled through evaporation of water into it) predicted to be higher than any recorded in history and in the deadly range. These modelled conditions may be predictors of mass migration as populated areas become unhabitable.</p> <p>Adam Schlosser, a senior research scientist in the <a href="https://cgcs.mit.edu/">MIT Center for Global Change Science</a> and deputy director of the <a href="https://globalchange.mit.edu/">MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change</a>, discussed the Joint Program's analysis of water stress in India and China, showing predictions of serious problems by mid-century. He then compared a variety of possible interventions. One intervention would be reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which their analysis shows makes a modest but noticeable reduction in water stress. Other actions directly aimed at conserving water, such as lining irrigation canals with concrete and irrigating more efficiently, show a bigger impact.</p> <p>These types of intervention analyses may help policy makers confront future climate-related decisions. Schlosser also presented the Joint Program's work coupling economic models with global climate models. This research aims to delineate the economic and climatic impacts of different policy decisions.</p> <p>"Dr. Schlosser's talk highlighted that climate change is coupled to a variety of other environmental issues, and it isn't always clear how to compare climate mitigation, or reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, with direct attacks on or adaptations to specific problems," said Deborah Campbell, an associate technology officer at Lincoln Laboratory. "Mitigation may cover more problems and be better in the long run, but adaption to a particular environment problem may be more efficient at solving a short-term problem."</p> <p>When it comes to adaptation, technology can have an immediate impact. Dave Harden, who previously worked for the USAID Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance under the administration of President Barack Obama, pointed to the <a href="https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-palestinians-reach-landmark-water-deal-for-west-bank-gaza-strip/">use of desalination technology</a> to solve low water-supply problems in the West Bank and Gaza and its impact on easing potential conflict over the issue between Israelis and Palestinians.&nbsp;</p> <p>For Lincoln Laboratory, modeling climate-related scenarios is the first step in figuring out what technology will be needed for adapting to new challenges. Last year, researchers from the laboratory and the Joint Program published a study that found that the expected lifetime of power transformers will be reduced by up to 40 percent as a result of an increasing number of hot days in the United States. Putting monitoring systems in place today, for example, could help energy providers plan for these replacements before widespread grid disruptions occur.</p> <p>Eltahir also added that technological solutions in the form of new sensors or satellite technologies, such as those developed at Lincoln Laboratory, could provide new, high-resolution data about land surface conditions and atmospheric conditions. Such data would help in developing more accurate regional climate models.</p> <p>Wack saw the laboratory and MIT continuing to partner on research that investigates how climate change will impact our lives and what role technology can play in avoiding bad outcomes at home and globally. "Climate change poses a real threat to our national security and will require our nation’s best expertise to get out ahead of, and solve, these challenges," he said. "We’re excited to join with MIT campus to develop the advanced technologies needed to protect the nation."</p> A coastal lagoon near the island of Kos, Greece, is completely dried out during the summer season. Photo: NinjaDriverInBrussels/Wikimedia CommonsCivil and environmental engineering, Climate change, Global Warming, Security studies and military, Disaster response, Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, Center for Global Change Science, Lincoln Laboratory From the Marines to MIT http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-eaps-assistant-professor-brent-minchew-from-marines-to-glaciers-at-mit-0208 Brent Minchew has flown presidents and foreign dignitaries on Marine One. Today he studies how ice sheets evolve and respond to changing climate. Fri, 08 Feb 2019 13:00:00 -0500 Kelsey Tsipis | EAPS http://news.mit.edu/2019/mit-eaps-assistant-professor-brent-minchew-from-marines-to-glaciers-at-mit-0208 <p>It has been more than a decade since Brent Minchew donned his dress blues, but reminders&nbsp;of his days as a U.S. Marine are everywhere in his office at&nbsp;MIT: a photo with Vice President Al Gore taken at Andrews Air Force Base in January 2001; a matte army-green road bike propped up in the corner, his shaved head and military stature; and, best of all, some spellbinding stories.</p> <p>Minchew&nbsp;was 17 and chasing a life of adventure and purpose when he enlisted in the Marines straight out of high school in 1995.</p> <p>“I grew up in a very small-town mindset, so I'd seen only one very small subset of culture,” he says. “I wanted to see the world and I wanted to understand how other people lived.”</p> <p>After basic training, Minchew was chosen to join HMX-1, the squadron responsible for flying the president of the United States, the vice president,&nbsp;other heads of state,&nbsp;and Department of Defense officials. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure he desperately sought, but it is one of the highest honors to which an enlisted Marine can aspire. Now, with the clarity of time, Minchew recognizes the historic moments&nbsp;he was privy to, including ferrying&nbsp;foreign dignitaries to Camp David ahead of international peace talks.</p> <p>Then on Sept.&nbsp;11, 2001, his squadron responded to the attack on the U.S. Pentagon, where he and his squad members were charged with transporting important personnel and papers to Camp David for safe keeping. Months later, he requested and was given permission to join&nbsp;the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and shortly afterwards was deployed, first to Mosul, Iraq, and then to Djibouti on the eastern horn of Africa.</p> <p>For his final posting, Minchew was stationed in Monrovia, Liberia in the midst of the Second Liberian Civil War, arriving just ahead of United Nations peacekeepers. After nearly eight years in the military, Minchew says he&nbsp;finally found himself doing the humanitarian aid work for which he had originally joined.</p> <p>“That was a really fitting end to my career as a Marine,” Minchew says.</p> <p>Today, Minchew’s daily responsibilities are a far cry from flying helicopters full of foreign dignitaries. An assistant professor in the MIT Department&nbsp;of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary&nbsp;Sciences (EAPS), he is researching ice sheet dynamics and leading the&nbsp;<a href="http://glaciers.mit.edu/" target="_blank">Glaciers at MIT</a>&nbsp;research group, where he heads a team looking at the mechanisms of ice, hoping to solve the most complex problems in one of the world’s formidable environments.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“I kind of took a non-linear approach to life,” he readily jokes.</p> <p>Non-linear as his career may be, the common thread through Minchew’s path from the Marine Corps to MIT is a determined pursuit of adventure and insatiable curiosity for the extreme, only-partially-understood places on Earth.</p> <p><strong>“Best childhood ever”</strong></p> <p>Michew&nbsp;attributes his curious nature in large part to his childhood in Texas. Minchew was born in Pasadena,&nbsp;a small working-class town just southeast of Houston,&nbsp;where his mother was a computer programmer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, a place that provided an early taproot for his love of the sciences.</p> <p>“I would go to work with her&nbsp;and get to hang out on the actual Space Shuttle mockup, where the astronauts trained,” he says. “It was the best childhood ever.”</p> <p>When his family moved to a small town north of Dallas, Minchew brought with him a fascination with&nbsp;flying, an&nbsp;admiration for&nbsp;John Glenn, and, perhaps most notably, a curiosity for how helicopters worked. Joining the Marine Corps, he says, perfectly wrapped all those things together.</p> <p>“It was just so obvious that that's what I wanted to do,” he says.</p> <p>When his military service ended in 2004, Minchew returned to Texas to spend time with family and start an academic career, taking classes at the University of Texas at Dallas as physics major before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin to major in aerospace engineering. As a master’s student in orbital mechanics, Minchew planned to design spacecrafts to complete sample return missions from Enceladus, a moon of Saturn with geysers.</p> <p>His interests soon shifted, however, when a professor introduced him to Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) remote sensing, a type of radar that measures motion by calculating the change in phase of the radar waves between two separate images.&nbsp;</p> <p>“To me, it was roughly equivalent to having something like 10 million GPS stations scattered all over the ground. I just thought it was absolutely fascinating that you can measure deformation at centimeter-scale accuracy over huge areas with really high precision and very high resolution,” Minchew says. “As soon as I saw it, I had to know more.”</p> <p>Minchew quickly changed his master’s focus to remote sensing and then, perhaps unsurprisingly, choose the most adventurous area to study: glaciers,&nbsp;in Antarctica.</p> <p>“Antarctica is like this sense of inherent adventure,” he says. “It's impossible to think of Antarctica and not think of adventure.”</p> <p>Minchew left Texas for the other&nbsp;Pasadena — in California —&nbsp;heading to Caltech to complete a PhD in geophysics. At Caltech, Minchew worked under&nbsp;geodesy&nbsp;expert Mark Simons, before joining the&nbsp;British Antarctic Survey as a postdoc, hoping for the chance to see the glaciers of Antarctica in person. However, the year he planned to make the trip, there was a major fracture in the ice that endangered a British research station, forcing him to stay home.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Minchew is one of the country’s leading experts on ice sheet dynamics, a topic he has an infectious passion for and&nbsp;speaks about animatedly, with the ever-slightest Texan twang.</p> <p>“I&nbsp;think a lot of people tend to mistake the ubiquity of ice with some sense that it's sort of a normal and typical material but it's not,” he&nbsp;says. “It's a fascinating material with all kinds of interesting properties.”</p> <p>It floats, for example, he says. “Almost nothing else floats in its solid phase.” Less well-known is that it’s still highly viscous even at its melting temperature. Even more remarkably, he continues, is that ice can be brittle at its melting temperatures. “Nothing else that I know of is brittle at its melting temperature. That's amazing.”</p> <p>For glaciers, he explains, that has all kinds of interesting dynamical implications that inform how ice sheets evolve and couple into the climate system. Last January, Minchew was hired to answer these questions, leading Glaciers at MIT.</p> <p><strong>A part of something special</strong></p> <p>Minchew’s office in the Green Building is remarkably tidy. A&nbsp;dry erase board spans an entire wall, facing a huge glass-plated map of Antarctica with a sticker in the corner that reads: “I [heart]&nbsp;Geodesy.” On the map, a thick black line separates the halo of floating ice shelves from the solid mainland ice sheet. Those margins, Minchew explains, keep the ice sheet from disappearing into the ocean by providing back stress, almost like a levy.</p> <p>“There is this common misconception that ice shelves, the floating bits, have a major role to play in sea level contribution,” he says. “But by themselves, they don't necessarily matter. They're already floating, so they've contributed whatever they're going to contribute to sea level. However, they can play a major role in setting the sea level contribution of ice sheets because they are resisting the flow of the ice from the land to the ocean.”</p> <p>How margins behave — and thus how the ice sheet will respond to changes in climate — is one of the three primary areas of interests for Glaciers at MIT. The team will use novel remote sensing techniques to look at the mechanics of how cracks form in the ice and how glaciers slip along their beds.</p> <p>The latter is arguably the largest source of uncertainty in understanding projections of sea level rise, says Minchew, at least for ice sheet models. It’s still unknown how the drag, or resistance, at the base is related to the speed at which ice is traveling. For example, whether the resistance increases the faster the ice flows, whether it’s independent of speed, or whether the resistance lessens the faster the ice flows, perhaps because the ice becomes more disconnected from the base as it increases in speed.</p> <p>“All these things are possible, so we don't quite know how to represent resistance in our models,” he says. “That problem has been around for a long time because it's really hard to figure out what's going on at the bottom of two kilometers of ice.”</p> <p>Another unknown is how cracks in ice form and travel. Rifts, or fractures, tend to spread in spurts, with stress building up at the crack until, upon reaching a tipping point, it rips through the ice until it “runs out of gas,” Minchew explains. But that’s a “pretty superficial” understanding of fractures, he says. The glaciers team will dig into the next level-details: how fast rifts propagate, how that rate feeds back into the whole propagation.</p> <p>For example, Minchew supervises EAPS PhD student Joanna Millstein, who uses satellite observations to map how the stress field changes on Brunt Ice Shelf before and after the propagation of a long rift, called Chasm 1 — the same one that kept Minchew from Antarctica.</p> <p>Despite the freezing rain drops outside his window, Minchew says he, his wife (a teacher), and their 7-year-old daughter “couldn’t be happier here.” The opportunity to spearhead Glaciers at MIT seems to have outweighed their initial hesitancy of Northeast winters.</p> <p>“This has been just a really great opportunity to not only carve out my own space in ice sheet dynamics, but to carve out my own space among all these other very interesting and admirable people here,” he says.</p> <p>In addition to the caliber of his EAPS colleagues and students, Minchew was also attracted to MIT because of its close connections with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, which was responsible for a lot of remote sensing development. It seems Minchew has found at MIT a team as dedicated and permanently curious as he.</p> <p>“There’s this idea here that people feel like they are a part of something special, a part of the growth of something special,” he says. “I’m proud to be a part of that.”</p> EAPS Assistant Professor Brent Minchew (right) with former Vice President Al Gore in 2001. Photo courtesy of Brent MinchewSchool of Science, EAPS, Research, Climate change, Sensors, Global Warming, Antarctica, Lincoln Laboratory, Satellites, Security studies and military 3 Questions: Stephen Van Evera revisits World War I http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-stephen-van-evera-revisits-world-war-i-100-years-after-bitter-end-1108 A century after its bitter end, the political science professor calls the Great War a wellspring of the 20th century&#039;s horrors and tragedies. Thu, 08 Nov 2018 17:00:00 -0500 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-stephen-van-evera-revisits-world-war-i-100-years-after-bitter-end-1108 <p><em>One hundred years ago on Nov. 11, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice bringing to an end World War I. That bloody conflict decimated Europe and destroyed three major empires (Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman). Its aftershocks still echo in our own times.</em></p> <p><em>As this day of remembrance approaches — commemorated throughout Europe as Armistice Day, and in the U.S. as Veterans Day — it is a reminder of Machiavelli's tenet that ‘</em>‘whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past."&nbsp;<em><a href="http://polisci.mit.edu/people/stephen-van-evera">Stephen Van Evera</a>, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and an expert on the causes of war, revisits the Great War and discusses key insights for today a full century after its bitter end.&nbsp;</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> Who caused the war? Do historians agree or not? Where does the debate stand?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;My answer is: The Germans caused the war.&nbsp;They wanted a general European war in 1914 and deliberately brought it about. Their deed was the crime of the century. But others disagree. A hundred years later scholars still dispute which state was most responsible. Views have evolved a lot, but there is no consensus.</p> <p>During 1919 to 45 most German historians blamed Russia, or Britain, or France, while deeming Germany largely innocent. Historians outside Germany generally viewed the war as an accident, for which all the European powers deserved blame.&nbsp; Few put primary responsibility on Germany.</p> <p>Then in 1961 and 1969 German historian Fritz Fischer published books that put greatest blame on Germany. His books stirred one of the most intense historical debates we've ever seen. The firestorm was covered in the German popular press, debated at public forums attended by thousands, and discussed in the German parliament, as though the soul of Germany was at stake — which in a way it was.&nbsp;</p> <p>Fischer and most Fischer followers argued that Germany instigated the 1914 July crisis in order to ignite a local Balkan war that would improve Germany’s power position in Europe. German leaders did not want a general European war, but they deliberately risked such a war, and lost control of events. Some Fischerites went further, arguing that Germany instigated the 1914 July crisis in order to cause a general European war, which they wanted for “preventive” reasons — they hoped to cut Russian power down to size before Russia’s military power outgrew German power — and to position Germany to seize a wider empire in Europe and Africa. Both Fischer variants assign Germany prime responsibility.</p> <p>Within Germany the Fischer view holds sway today.&nbsp; Germans broadly take responsibility for the war. But several recent works by non-Germans reject the Fischer view, assigning Germany less responsibility than Fischer while blaming others. So the Fischer school's views predominate in Germany but elsewhere the debate continues.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Why is it important for scholars to assign responsibility for World War I, or for other wars?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;When responsibility for past war is left unassigned, chauvinist mythmakers on one or both sides will over-blame the other for causing the war while whitewashing their own responsibility.&nbsp;Both sides will then be angered when the other refuses to admit responsibility and apologize for violence they believe the other caused, and be further angered that the other has the gall to blame them for this violence.&nbsp;They may also infer that the other may resort to violence again, as its non-apology shows that it sees nothing wrong with its past violence.</p> <p>The German government infused German society with self-whitewashing, other-maligning myths of this kind about World War I origins during the interwar years.&nbsp;These myths played a key role in fueling Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933.&nbsp;They were devised and spread by the Kriegsschuldreferat (War Guilt Office), a secret unit in the German foreign ministry.&nbsp;The Kriegsschuldreferat sponsored twisted accounts of the war’s origins by nationalist German historians,&nbsp;underwrote mass propaganda on the war’s origins, selectively edited document collections, and worked to corrupt historical understanding abroad by exporting this propaganda to Britain, France, and the U.S.&nbsp;This innocence propaganda persuaded the German public that Germany had little or no responsibility for causing the war.&nbsp;Germans&nbsp;were taught instead that Britain instigated the war; then outrageously blamed Germany for the war in the Versailles treaty’s War Guilt&nbsp;clause; and then forced Germany to pay reparations for a war Britain itself began.</p> <p>An enraging narrative for Germans who believed it.&nbsp;And many Germans did. Hitler’s rise to power was fueled in part by the wave of German public fear and fury that this false narrative fostered. Hitler told Germans that Germany’s neighbors had attacked Germany in 1914 without reason, and then falsely denied their crime while falsely blaming Germany.&nbsp;States so malicious could well attack Germany again. Germany therefore had to recover its power and strike its neighbors before they struck Germany.</p> <p>After 1945 international politics in Western Europe was miraculously transformed.&nbsp;War became unthinkable in a region where rivers of blood had flowed for centuries.&nbsp;This political transformation stemmed in important part from a transformation in the teaching of international history in European schools and universities.&nbsp;The international history of Europe was commonized.&nbsp;Europeans everywhere now learned largely the same history instead of imbibing their own national myths.&nbsp;An important cause of war, chauvinist nationalist mythmaking, was erased.&nbsp;Greatest credit for this achievement goes to truthtelling German historians — including the Fischer school — and schoolteachers&nbsp;who documented German responsibility for World War I, World War II, and the Holocaust and explained it to the German people.&nbsp;By enabling a rough consensus among former belligerents on who was responsible for past violence these historians&nbsp;and schoolteachers&nbsp;played a large role in healing the wounds of the world wars and making another round of war impossible.</p> <p>Nationalist/chauvinist historical mythmaking declined worldwide after World War II but it never disappeared.&nbsp;It still infects many places.&nbsp;If, like the Germans, the people of these still-infected places&nbsp;faced&nbsp;their past truthfully they would downsize their sense of victimhood to better fit the facts. Their sense of grievance and entitlement would diminish accordingly.&nbsp;They would be quicker to see the justice in others' claims and to grant what others deserve.&nbsp;Peace with their neighbors would be easier to reach and sustain.&nbsp;War would be easier to avoid.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What consequences — past and present —&nbsp;arose from the impact of the Great War?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;Like a boulder that triggers a landslide as it tumbles downhill, World War I unleashed forces that later caused even greater violence.</p> <p>Without World War I there would have been no Hitler, as he rose to power on trumped up&nbsp;grievances that stemmed from World War I.&nbsp;Hence without World War I, there would have been no World War II.&nbsp;There also would have been no Holocaust, as the Holocaust was a particular project of the Nazi elite that other German elites would not have pursued had they ruled instead of Hitler.</p> <p>Without World War I there would have been no Russian revolution; hence no Leninism or Stalinism; hence no vast massacres by Stalin — approximately 30 million murdered —&nbsp;and no Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West during 1947 to 1989; hence no peripheral wars in Korea, Indochina, Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cambodia, killing millions.&nbsp;</p> <p>The moral of story is: War can be self-feeding, self-perpetuating, and self-expanding.&nbsp;It has fire-like properties that cause it to continue once it begins.&nbsp;It is hard to extinguish because, like fire, it sustains itself by generating its own heat.&nbsp;In this case the “heat” is mutual fear and mutual hatred born of wartime violence, and&nbsp;war-generated&nbsp;combat political ideologies, like Bolshevism, Naziism, and extremist Sunni jihadism, that see human affairs as a Darwinistic struggle that compels groups to destroy others or be destroyed themselves.</p> One hundred years ago on Nov. 11, 1918, the Allied Powers and Germany signed an armistice bringing to an end World War I. Images courtesy of the Center for International Studies and Wikipedia CommonsSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Science, Political science, Security studies and military, History, Faculty, Policy Analyzing the 2018 election: Insights from MIT scholars http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-school-of-humanities-arts-social-sciences-faculty-election-insights-1030 SHASS faculty members offer research-based perspectives with commentaries, plus a Music for the Midterms playlist, and an election book list. Tue, 30 Oct 2018 12:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-school-of-humanities-arts-social-sciences-faculty-election-insights-1030 <p><em>For the 2018 version of the <a href="http://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2018-election-insights-research-based-perspectives-mit">Election Insights</a> series,&nbsp;MIT humanities, arts, and social science faculty members are&nbsp;offering research-based perspectives on issues of importance to the country — ranging from the future of work to national security to civic discourse and the role that, as the Constitution states,&nbsp;"we, the people" have in the defense of democracy itself.</em></p> <p><em>In addition to&nbsp;commentaries, the series also includes "Music for the Midterms," a lively playlist created by our music faculty,&nbsp;and an annotated election book list consisting of&nbsp;nine works selected by MIT humanities scholars for their value&nbsp;illuminating&nbsp;this moment in American history.</em></p> <p><em>Please, remember to vote on&nbsp;or before Nov. 6.</em></p> <p><strong>Commentary: On civil society and the defense of democracy</strong><br /> <br /> "What is written in a constitution can take a nation only so far unless society is willing to act to protect it. Every constitutional design has its loopholes, and every age brings its new challenges, which even farsighted constitutional designers cannot anticipate. We have to keep reminding ourselves that the future of our much-cherished institutions depends not on others but on ourselves, and that we are all individually responsible for our institutions." <em>—Daron Acemoglu, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-daron-acemoglu-civil-society-last-defense-democracy" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On partisan politics</strong><br /> <br /> "Partisan polarization is one of most important political developments of the past half-century. Of course, Democrats and Republicans have always taken divergent positions on issues ranging from slavery to internal improvements. Nevertheless, contemporary polarization differs from that of earlier eras, if only because the U.S. government directly shapes the lives of so many more people, in the U.S. and around the world." <em>—Devin Caughey, associate professor of political science</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-devin-caughey-partisan-politics" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On media technology and immigration policy</strong><br /> <br /> "Widespread access to social media lowers the barrier for communities that have been marginalized by mass media and makes it easier for them to gain visibility and adherents. How might any of this affect the midterm elections? Here are three brief hypotheses, based on my ongoing research into the relationship between media technologies and social movements." <em>—Sasha Costanza-Chock, associate professor of civic media</em> <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-sasha-costanza-chock-media-technology-and-immigration-policy" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On democracy and civic discourse</strong><br /> <br /> "Elections are helpful reminders (as if we needed any) that we do not all agree. Yet, we must somehow figure out how to get along despite our disagreements. In particular, we may wonder whether, and to what extent, we should tolerate views we disagree with. In some cases, a well-functioning discursive market — a public forum of diverse views — may require us to respond to certain views with 'discursive intolerance." <em>—Justin Khoo, associate professor of philosophy&nbsp; </em><a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-justin-khoo-democracy-and-civil-discourse" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On female candidates of color</strong><br /> <br /> “A record number of women have filed as candidates this year, and a record number have won primaries in House and Senate races. Women of color make up one-third of the women candidates for the House, and three of four female gubernatorial nominees are women of color." <em>—Helen Elaine Lee, professor of writing</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2018-election-insights-helen-elaine-lee-women-candidates-color" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On social media and youth political engagement</strong><br /> <br /> "Although discussions about youth and new media tend to assume that something about the technology itself is responsible for political and social changes, in fact, the political possibilities associated with contemporary media are highly contingent upon societal power structures.” <em>—Jennifer Light, the Bern Dibner Professor of the History of Science and Technology</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-jennifer-light-social-media-and-youth-political-engagement" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On the U.S.-</strong><strong>North Korea relationship</strong><br /> <br /> "The North Korean nuclear program is not something to be 'solved' — that window has closed — it is an issue to be managed. The good news is that the United States has a lot of experience managing the emergence of new nuclear weapons powers." <em>—Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-vipin-narang-us-north-korea-relationship" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On reducing gun violence</strong><br /> <br /> "America’s gun culture is a resilient fact of political life. Attempts to reverse the country’s appetite for firearms have largely failed, even as gun violence persists at an astonishing pace. Lately, however, a social movement to challenge gun culture has rocked politics for the first time in a generation." <em>—John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist in the Center for International Studies</em>&nbsp; <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-john-tirman-reducing-gun-violence" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Commentary:&nbsp;On American identity</strong><br /> <br /> "The stories and interpretations that different groups of Americans offer of economic changes, including the loss of manufacturing jobs and growing inequality, are central to how they understand their own social positions as well as the kinds of economic and political futures they can envision. Many Americans are now struggling for a way to understand and talk about these economic changes — changes that are also apparent in other wealthy countries but more extreme in the United States.” <em>—Christine Walley, professor of anthropology&nbsp;</em> <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2018-election-insights-christine-walley-american-identity" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a><br /> <br /> <strong>Playlist: Music for the Midterms</strong><br /> <br /> As America heads toward the 2018 midterm elections on Nov. 6, MIT Music faculty offer a wide-ranging playlist — from Verdi to Gershwin to Lin-Manuel Miranda — along with notes on why each work resonates with this election season. <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-musical-playlist-mit-music-faculty" target="_blank">Access the playlist &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Annotated election book list: Reading for the Midterms</strong><br /> <br /> As the 2018 midterms approach, MIT writers and scholars in the humanities offer a selection of nine books — along with notes on why each work is illuminating for this moment in American political history. <a href="https://shass.mit.edu/news/election-insights-2018-reading-midterms" target="_blank">Browse the book list &gt;&gt;</a></p> The 2018 Election Insights series includes: Research-based commentaries by MIT experts on key issues for the country; a "Music for the Midterms" playlist; and an annotated election booklist.School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Anthropology, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, International initiatives, Philosophy, Political science, Technology and society, Security studies and military, Books and authors, Manufacturing, Music, North Korea, Social media, Voting and elections Defending against Spectre and Meltdown attacks http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-csail-dawg-better-security-against-spectre-meltdown-attacks-1018 New system breaks up cache memory more efficiently to better protect computer systems against timing attacks. Thu, 18 Oct 2018 15:30:00 -0400 Adam Conner-Simons | CSAIL http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-csail-dawg-better-security-against-spectre-meltdown-attacks-1018 <p>In January the technology world was rattled by the discovery of Meltdown and Spectre, two major security vulnerabilities in the processors that can be found in virtually every computer on the planet.</p> <p>Perhaps the most alarming thing about these vulnerabilities is that they didn’t stem from normal software bugs or physical CPU problems. Instead, they arose from the architecture of the processors themselves — that is, the millions of transistors that work together to execute operations.</p> <p>“These attacks fundamentally changed our understanding of what’s trustworthy in a system, and force us to re-examine where we devote security resources,” says Ilia Lebedev, a PhD student at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “They’ve shown that we need to be paying much more attention to the microarchitecture of systems.”</p> <p>Lebedev and his colleagues believe that they’ve made an important new breakthrough in this field, with an approach that makes it much harder for hackers to cash in on such vulnerabilities. Their method could have immediate applications in cloud computing, especially for fields like medicine and finance that currently limit their cloud-based features because of security concerns.</p> <p>With Meltdown and Spectre, hackers exploited the fact that operations all take slightly different amounts of time to execute. To use a simplified example, someone who’s guessing a PIN might first try combinations “1111” through “9111." If the first eight guesses take the same amount of time, and "9111" takes a nanosecond longer, then that one most likely has at least the "9" right, and the attacker can then start guessing "9111" through "9911", and so on and so forth.</p> <p>An operation that’s especially vulnerable to these so-called “timing attacks” is accessing memory. If systems always had to wait for memory before doing the next step of an action, they’d spend much of their time sitting idle.</p> <p>To keep performance up, engineers employ a trick: They give the processor the power to execute multiple instructions while it waits for memory —&nbsp;and then, once memory is ready, discards the ones that weren’t needed. Hardware designers call this&nbsp;“speculative execution.”</p> <p>While it pays off in performance speed, it also creates new security issues. Specifically, the attacker could make the processor speculatively execute some code to read a part of memory it shouldn’t be able to. Even if the code fails, it could still leak data that the attacker can then access.</p> <p>A common way to try to prevent such attacks is to split up memory so that it’s not all stored in one area. Imagine an industrial kitchen shared by chefs who all want to keep their recipes secret. One approach would be to have the chefs set up their work on different sides —&nbsp;that’s essentially what happens with the Cache Allocation Technology&nbsp;(CAT) that Intel started using in 2016. But such a system is still quite insecure, since one chef can get a pretty good idea of others’ recipes by seeing which pots and pans they take from the common area.</p> <p>In contrast, the MIT CSAIL team’s approach is the equivalent of building walls to split the kitchen into separate spaces, and ensuring that everyone only knows their own ingredients and appliances. (This approach is a form of so-called “secure way partitioning”; the chefs&nbsp;in the case of cache memory&nbsp;are referred to as “protection domains.”)<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> As a playful counterpoint to Intel’s CAT system, the researchers dubbed their method “DAWG”, which stands for “Dynamically Allocated Way Guard.” (The dynamic&nbsp;part means that DAWG can split the cache into multiple buckets whose size can vary over time.)</p> <p>Lebedev co-wrote a new <a href="http://people.csail.mit.edu/vlk/dawg-micro18.pdf" target="_blank">paper</a> about the project with lead author Vladimir Kiriansky and MIT professors Saman Amarasinghe, Srini Devadas, and Joel Emer. They will present their findings next week at the annual IEEE/ACM International Symposium on Microarchitecture (MICRO) in Fukuoka City, Japan.</p> <p>“This paper dives into how to fully isolate one program's side-effects from percolating through to another program through the cache,” says Mohit Tiwari, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the project. “This work secures a channel that’s one of the most popular to use for attacks.”</p> <p>In tests, the team also found that the system was comparable with CAT on performance. They say that DAWG requires very minimal modifications to modern operating systems.</p> <p>“We think this is an important step forward in giving computer architects, cloud providers, and other IT professionals a better way to efficiently and dynamically allocate resources,” says Kiriansky, a PhD student at CSAIL. “It establishes clear boundaries for where sharing should and should not happen, so that programs with sensitive information can keep that data reasonably secure.”</p> <p>The team is quick to caution that DAWG can’t yet defend against all speculative attacks. However, they have experimentally demonstrated that it is a foolproof solution to a broad range of non-speculative attacks against cryptographic software.</p> <p>Lebedev says that the growing prevalence of these types of attacks demonstrates that, contrary to popular tech-CEO wisdom, more information sharing isn’t always a good thing.</p> <p>“There’s a tension between performance and security that’s come to a head for a community of architecture designers that have always tried to share as much as possible in as many places as possible,” he says. “On the other hand, if security was the only priority, we’d have separate computers for every program we want to run so that no information could ever leak, which obviously isn’t practical. DAWG is part of a growing body of work trying to reconcile these two opposing forces.”</p> <p>It’s worth recognizing that the sudden attention on timing attacks reflects the paradoxical fact that computer security has actually gotten a lot better in the last 20 years.</p> <p>“A decade ago software wasn’t written as well as it is today, which means that other attacks were a lot easier to perform,” says Kiriansky. “As other aspects of security have become harder to carry out, these microarchitectural attacks have become more appealing, though they’re still fortunately just a small piece in an arsenal of actions that an attacker would have to take to actually do damage.”</p> <p>The team is now working to improve DAWG so that it can stop all currently known speculative-execution attacks. In the meantime, they’re hopeful that companies such as Intel will be interested in adopting their idea —&nbsp;or others like it —&nbsp;to minimize the chance of future data breaches.</p> <p>“These kinds of attacks have become a lot easier thanks to these vulnerabilities,” says Kiriansky. “With all the negative PR that’s come up, companies like Intel have the incentives to get this right. The stars are aligned to make an approach like this happen.”</p> A new system developed at CSAIL was shown to have stronger security guarantees than Intel's existing approach for preventing so-called "timing attacks" like Meltdown and Spectre, made possible by hardware vulnerabilities. Image courtesy of Graz University of TechnologySchool of Engineering, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Computer science and technology, Cyber security, Security studies and military, internet of things, Technology and society Movement-enhancing exoskeletons may impair decision making http://news.mit.edu/2018/movement-enhancing-exoskeletons-impair-decision-making-1004 In lab experiments, soldiers wearing exoskeletons designed to improve physical performance reacted more slowly to visual cues. Thu, 04 Oct 2018 09:40:00 -0400 Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2018/movement-enhancing-exoskeletons-impair-decision-making-1004 <p>As engineers make strides in the design of wearable, electronically active, and responsive leg braces, arm supports, and full-body suits, collectively known as exoskeletons, researchers at MIT are raising an important question: While these Iron Man-like appendages may amp up a person’s strength, mobility, and endurance, what effect might they have on attention and decision making?</p> <p>The question is far from trivial, as exoskeletons are currently being designed and tested for use on the battlefield, where U.S. soldiers are expected to perform focused tactical maneuvers while typically carrying 60 to 100 pounds of equipment. Exoskeletons such as electronically adaptive hip, knee, and leg braces could bear a significant portion of a soldier’s load, freeing them up to move faster and with more agility.</p> <p>But could wearing such bionic add-ons, and adjusting to their movements, take away some of the attention needed for cognitive tasks, such as spotting an enemy, relaying a message, or following a squadron?</p> <p>The answer, the MIT team found, is yes, at least in some scenarios. In a study that they are presenting this week at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, the researchers tested volunteers, who were either active-duty members of the military or participants in a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit, as they marched through an obstacle course while wearing a commercially available knee exoskeleton and carrying a backpack weighing up to 80 pounds. Seven of the 12 subjects had slower reaction times in a visual task when they completed the course with the exoskeleton on and powered, compared to when they finished it without the exoskeleton.</p> <p>The researchers also found that the soldiers, when asked to follow a leader at a certain distance, were less able to keep a constant distance while wearing the exoskeleton.</p> <p>The results, though preliminary, suggest that engineers designing exoskeletons for military and other uses may want to consider a device’s “cognitive fit” — how much of a user’s attention or decision making the device could potentially divert even while assisting them physically.</p> <p>“In a military exoskeleton, soldiers are supposed to be scanning for enemies in the environment, making sure where other people in their squad are, monitoring a whole variety of things,” says Leia Stirling, an assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science. “You don’t want them to have to focus on how they’re stepping because of the exoskeleton. That’s why I was interested in how much attention these technologies require.”</p> <p>Stirling’s co-authors on the paper include researchers at MIT, Draper, and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.</p> <p><strong>Follow the leader</strong></p> <p>To investigate exoskeletons’ effect on a user’s attention, the team set up an obstacle course at UMass Lowell’s <a href="http://nerve.uml.edu/" target="_blank">NERVE Center</a>, a facility that normally tests and evaluates robots over various physical courses. Stirling and her colleagues modified an existing obstacle course to include cross-slopes and short walls to step over. Lights at both ends of the obstacle course were set up to intermittently blink on and off.</p> <p>The team enlisted 12 male subjects and trained them over a period of three days. During the first day, they were each custom-fit with, and trained to use, a commercially available knee exoskeleton — a rigid, powered knee brace designed to help extend a user’s leg and increase endurance while, for example, in climbing over obstacles and walking over long distances.</p> <p>Over the following two days, the subjects were instructed to navigate the obstacle course while following a researcher, posing as a squadron member. As they made their way through the course, the subjects performed several cognitive tasks. The first was a visual task, in which the subjects had to press a button on a mock rifle as soon as they perceived a light go on. The second was a pair of audio tasks, in which the subjects had to respond to a radio call check with a simple “Roger, over,” as well as a more complicated task, where they had to listen to three leaders reporting different numbers of enemies and then report the total number over the radio. The third was a follow-along task, where the subjects had to maintain a certain distance from the squadron leader as they navigated the course.</p> <p>Overall, Stirling found that for the visual task, seven of the 12 subjects wearing the powered exoskeleton reacted significantly more slowly and tended to miss light signals completely, compared with their performance when not wearing the device. While wearing the powered knee-brace, the subjects also had a harder time maintaining the specified distance when following the leader.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>Fluid suits</strong></p> <p>Going forward, Stirling plans to investigate the importance of reaction times while wearing an exoskeleton in various contexts. The video above highlights ongoing work in collaboration with Dephy, Inc., MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and U.S. Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), which seeks to understand why some users are more adept than others at using exoskeletons.</p> <p>“For a military soldier, if they don’t detect an enemy over half a second, what does that mean? Does that put their life at risk, or is that OK?” Stirling says. “We need to better understand what these operationally relevant differences are. A reaction time of half a second for me walking down a sidewalk is probably not a big deal. But it could be a big deal in a military environment.”</p> <p>Interestingly, the team identified a few users who were unfazed by the addition of an exoskeleton, and who performed just as well in the visual, audio, and follow-along tasks.</p> <p>“In this study, we see some people have no deficit in their attention. But some people do, and we’re not sure why some people are good exoskeleton users and some have more difficulty,” Stirling says. “Now we’re starting to investigate what makes people good users versus less adept users. Is this driven from a motor pathway, or a perception pathway, or a cognitive pathway?”</p> <p>Stirling’s group is working toward a better understanding of the way humans adapt and react to exoskeletons and other wearable technologies, such as next-generation spacesuits.</p> <p>“We’re looking at the fluency between what the system is doing and what the human is doing,” Stirling says. “If the human wants to speed up or slow down, can this system be designed to appropriately move so the human is not fighting the system, and vice versa?”</p> <p>Marcia O’Malley, a professor of mechanical engineering at Rice University, says that knowing the cognitive effects of an exoskeleton is especially relevant if the device is used on the battlefield.</p> <p>“A decrease in cognitive&nbsp;ability would be extremely detrimental, even if the physical capability of the warfighter is enhanced,” says O’Malley, who was not involved in the research.&nbsp;“This [study] is about as close to ‘field testing’ as you can get — moving away from a controlled laboratory setting. So, while there is a good deal of variability in the results, they shed important light on the tradeoffs in physical and cognitive performance enhancement.”</p> <p>Beyond military and space applications, Stirling says that if the connection between the human and the machine can be made more fluid, requiring less of a user’s immediate attention, then exoskeletons may find a much wider, commercial appeal.</p> <p>“Maybe you want to be able to climb that mountain, or go on a longer hike, or you may be older and want to run around with your grandkids,” Stirling says.<br /> “How can you design exoskeletons so people can reduce their own injury risk and extend their capability, their activities of daily living? These systems are really exciting. We just want to be cognizant of the different risks that occur when you bring something into a natural environment.”</p> <p>This research was supported, in part, by Draper.</p> This device, known as the PowerWalk, harvests kinetic energy. It may reduce the number of batteries a soldier needs to carry, potentially lightening the load and freeing up space in backpacks for other supplies, including food and water. Image: Bionic Power Inc.Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Assistive technology, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), Research, School of Engineering, Security studies and military An assault on American intelligence http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-hosts-general-michael-hayden-assault-on-american-intelligence-1003 In MIT visit, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden describes current difficulties faced by society and U.S. intelligence services. Wed, 03 Oct 2018 16:00:00 -0400 Una Hajdari | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-hosts-general-michael-hayden-assault-on-american-intelligence-1003 <p>“Oh come on, how many of you think Barack Obama wiretapped the Trump Tower? All their hands went up. Almost unanimous,” said&nbsp;retired four-star general <a href="https://twitter.com/GenMhayden" target="_blank">Michael Hayden</a>.</p> <p>Hayden, a former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2009) and the National Security Agency (1999-2005) was retelling an incident from his recently released book, “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies” in front of an audience that filled MIT’s 425-seat Huntington Hall (Room 10-250). Hayden was describing a scene at a local bar in his native Pittsburgh where he met with people who he might have known growing up there or was related to, but who now hold sharply divergent views.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I used to run the NSA. I kinda know how this works. Number one, they wouldn’t do it. Number two, the plumbing doesn’t work that way. They almost certainly couldn’t do it,” he said. When asked, “What evidence do you have?” the bargoers said, simply, “Obama.” When asked, “Where do you get your news?” the answer was invariably, “Facebook.”</p> <p>The anecdote aptly explains the dilemmas Hayden attempts to tackle in his book, which deals with the ways in which the basic adherence to truth and facts has been eroded since Donald Trump announced he was running for president, and what the consequences are for what he calls&nbsp;“fact-based institutions.”&nbsp;The judiciary, the media, the intelligence community, and others are suffering in an era when everyone’s version of the truth is up for grabs, Hayden explains — especially when the intelligence community he knows so well is being attacked. While he does not predict societal collapse or civil war in North America, he said he is worried about the “assault on truth” that is currently taking place.</p> <p>“The veneer of civilization is something that is quite thin,” he said.&nbsp;“It has to be protected and nurtured.”</p> <p>While most of the younger generations might not be aware of this —&nbsp;including some of the younger generations at MIT —&nbsp;he said “civilization as we know it” is not a given.</p> <p>While this phenomenon can be witnessed all over the world, Hayden stressed&nbsp;that it presents a particular problem for U.S. society.</p> <p>“America was a concept under which we built a nation. If you remove the concept you remove the basic fundamental character.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The United States was formed on the basis of the ideas of the Enlightenment, with adaptations and improvements being made as societies and “civilization” developed. Since then, those who rejected these ideas represented the negative phenomena in society and were often overpowered by the progressive or forward-thinking mainstream. Now, those who represent the negative segments of society are threatening to become mainstream.</p> <p>“This is a rejection of the way of thinking that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries in the Enlightenment. I don’t want to overemphasize this but the Western man, after that period, was generally pragmatic. Our definition of truth was the best working theory we could develop at the moment of objective reality. That dynamic is what I think is under threat,” Hayden explained.</p> <p>Hayden described&nbsp;the predicament that our society currently finds itself as a three-layer cake with each layer representing&nbsp;the major “players.”</p> <p>“The basic layer and therefore the most important one is us,” he said.&nbsp;“It is the American population where our political culture is moving in the direction of a post-truth reality.”</p> <p>This is where the group from the anecdote fits in, as well as everyone else. Although Hayden places all of American society in the biggest layer at the bottom, he says that people who compose the third layer are very different. “The winds of globalization have been at my back for 50 years. The people I grew up with, the winds of globalization have largely been in their face and the uneven effects of globalization have created grievances,” he said.</p> <p>The grievances are more cultural rather than economic, but it creates the conditions for people with seemingly “simple” answers to appeal to their grievances and “tribe loyalties” and actually make their case to them. Also like the group in the opening anecdote, this group relies on social media outlets for their news —&nbsp;as well as their facts.</p> <p>“Social media knows you as well as you know yourself. The business model for social media is to keep you there, keep you on the site, so it gives you something that’s pleasing to you,” Hayden continued. “But the longer you’re there the more you want [it]. The core algorithm keeps giving you [that]. Which in this version are more extreme versions of the views you had when you entered the enterprise in the first place.”</p> <p>He also emphasized&nbsp;the fact that working-class communities are those who are particularly susceptible to the divisions.</p> <p>“It is the elites of the world who are uniting,” he said.&nbsp;“And it’s the workers of the world who are reaching for their national flags.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The second layer of the cake is the Trump administration. “Objective reality is not the distinctive departure point for what Trump says or does,” he said.</p> <p>He offered&nbsp;another anecdote, a conversation he had with a retired PDB briefer — someone who delivers the president’s daily highly confidential briefings. They compared what sort of president Trump was.&nbsp;</p> <p>“He said, Mike we have had presidents who have argued with us —&nbsp;that was my experience with George W. Bush.&nbsp;We’ve had presidents who simply lie; the Nixonian image comes to mind. They don’t argue about objective reality, they just lie about it. He offered the view that Trump isn’t either of those.”</p> <p>Trump, the retired briefer argued, was someone who “fully believed his version of events,” Hayden said.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Does the thought process there make a distinction between the past I need and the past that happened? And the answer is maybe not, which is a little bit different than lying.”</p> <p>According to the briefer, the only proof of veracity that the president seems to need is “a lot of people saying they agree with him and if he can make it trending.”</p> <p>The third layer are the Russians, but according to Hayden they are “the least of our problems.” Unlike layers three and two, which actively participate in questioning the truth, those in Russia who want to affect U.S. society base their interference on “existing divisions” —&nbsp;divisions that were created by layer one and layer two. He doesn’t doubt that the Russians were involved in trying to influence the 2016 elections, but whether anyone in the U.S. was involved depends on the results of the ongoing Mueller probe. Whether or not they influenced the votes is “unknowable and unmeasurable,” he said.</p> <p>“What the Russians did we would call a covert influence campaign. The specifics of a covert influence campaign are clear: You never create a division in a society,” he said.&nbsp;“You identify pre-existing divisions and you exploit and worsen the pre-existing divisions.”</p> <p>Their motives, he said, were to “mess with our heads,”&nbsp;punish Hillary Clinton, and delegitimize her as the inevitable winner, as well as hope to push votes in Trump’s direction.</p> <p>The event was sponsored by the MIT Center for International Studies as part of its flagship public event series, the MIT Starr Forum. The forum brings to campus leading authorities to discuss pressing issues in the world of international relations and U.S. foreign policy.</p> General Michael Hayden took questions from the audience and from Joel Brenner (right), who was a former senior counsel at the NSA and head of US counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence. Brenner is a research affiliate of the MIT Center for International Studies and CSAIL’s Internet Policy Research Initiative.Photo: Laura Kerwin/Center for International StudiesBooks and authors, Political science, Policy, Security studies and military, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Special events and guest speakers, Center for International Studies, Government, History, Politics, International relations, Voting and elections, Social media, Technology and society Holding law-enforcement accountable for electronic surveillance http://news.mit.edu/2018/holding-law-enforcement-accountable-for-electronic-surveillance-audit-0808 CSAIL system encourages government transparency using cryptography on a public log of wiretap requests. Wed, 08 Aug 2018 10:00:00 -0400 Adam Conner-Simons | CSAIL http://news.mit.edu/2018/holding-law-enforcement-accountable-for-electronic-surveillance-audit-0808 <p>When the FBI filed a court order in 2016 commanding Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters in a terrorist attack in San Bernandino, California, the news made headlines across the globe. Yet every day there are tens of <a href="http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2071399" target="_blank">thousands of court orders</a> asking tech companies to turn over Americans’ private data. Many of these orders never see the light of day, leaving a whole privacy-sensitive aspect of government power immune to judicial oversight and lacking in public accountability.</p> <p>To protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, these requests require some secrecy: Companies usually aren’t allowed to inform individual users that they’re being investigated, and the court orders themselves are also temporarily hidden from the public.</p> <p>In many cases, though, charges never actually materialize, and the sealed orders usually end up forgotten by the courts that issue them, resulting in a severe accountability deficit.</p> <p>To address this issue, researchers from MIT’s <a href="http://csail.mit.edu" target="_blank">Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory</a> (CSAIL) and <a href="http://ipri.mit.edu" target="_blank">Internet Policy Research Initiative</a> (IPRI) have proposed a <a href="https://eprint.iacr.org/2018/697.pdf" target="_blank">new cryptographic system</a> to improve the accountability of government surveillance while still maintaining enough confidentiality for the police to do their jobs.</p> <p>“While certain information may need to stay secret for an investigation to be done properly, some details have to be revealed for accountability to even be possible,” says CSAIL graduate student Jonathan Frankle, one of the lead authors of a <a href="https://eprint.iacr.org/2018/697.pdf" target="_blank">new paper</a> about the system, which they’ve dubbed “AUDIT” ("Accountability of Unreleased Data for Improved Transparency"). “This work is about using modern cryptography to develop creative ways to balance these conflicting issues.”</p> <p>Many of AUDIT’s technical methods were developed by one of its co-authors, MIT Professor Shafi Goldwasser. AUDIT is designed around a public ledger on which government officials share information about data requests. When a judge issues a secret court order or a law enforcement agency secretly requests data from a company, they have to make an iron-clad promise to make the data request public later in the form of what’s known as a “cryptographic commitment.” If the courts ultimately decide to release the data, the public can rest assured that the correct documents were released in full. If the courts decide not to, then that refusal itself will be made known.</p> <p>AUDIT can also be used to demonstrate that actions by law-enforcement agencies are consistent with what a court order actually allows. For example, if a court order leads to the FBI going to Amazon to get records about a specific customer, AUDIT can prove that the FBI’s request is above board using a cryptographic method called “zero-knowledge proofs.” First developed in the 1980s by Goldwasser and other researchers, these proofs counterintuitively make it possible to prove that surveillance is being conducted properly without revealing any specific information about the surveillance.</p> <p>The team's approach builds on privacy research in accountable systems led by co-author Daniel J. Weitzner, a principal research scientist at CSAIL and director of IPRI.</p> <p>“As the volume of personal information expands, better accountability for how that information is used is essential for maintaining public trust,” says Weitzner. “We know that the public is worried about losing control over their personal data, so building technology that can improve actual accountability will help increase trust in the internet environment overall.”</p> <p>Another element of AUDIT is that statistical information can be aggregated so that that the extent of surveillance can be studied at a larger scale. This enables the public to ask all sorts of tough questions about how their data are being shared. What kinds of cases are most likely to prompt court orders? How many judges issued more than 100 orders in the past year, or more than 10 requests to Facebook this month? Frankle says the team’s goal is to establish a set of reliable, court-issued transparency reports, to supplement the voluntary reports that companies put out.</p> <p>“We know that the legal system struggles to keep up with the complexity of increasing sophisticated users of personal data,” says Weitzner. “Systems like AUDIT can help courts keep track of how the police conduct surveillance and assure that they are acting within the scope of the law, without impeding legitimate investigative activity.”</p> <p>Importantly, the team developed its aggregation system using an approach called multi-party computation (MPC), which allows courts to disclose relevant information without actually revealing their internal workings or data to one another. The current state-of-the-art MPC would normally be too slow to run on the data of hundreds of federal judges across the entire court system, so the team took advantage of the court system’s natural hierarchy of lower and higher courts to design a particular variant of MPC that would scale efficiently for the federal judiciary.</p> <p>According to Frankle, AUDIT could be applied to any process in which data must be both kept secret but also subject to public scrutiny. For example, clinical trials of new drugs often involve private information, but also require enough transparency to assure regulators and the public that proper testing protocols are being observed.</p> <p>“It’s completely reasonable for government officials to want some level of secrecy, so that they can perform their duties without fear of interference from those who are under investigation,” Frankle says. “But that secrecy can’t be permanent. People have a right to know if their personal data has been accessed, and at a higher level, we as a public have the right to know how much surveillance is going on.”</p> <p>Next the team plans to explore what could be done to AUDIT so that it can handle even more complex data requests - specifically, by looking at tweaking the design via software engineering. They also are exploring the possibility of partnering with specific federal judges to develop a prototype for real-world use.</p> <p>“My hope is that, once this proof of concept becomes reality, court administrators will embrace the possibility of enhancing public oversight while preserving necessary secrecy,” says Stephen William Smith, a federal magistrate judge who has written extensively about government accountability. “Lessons learned here will undoubtedly smooth the way towards greater accountability for a broader class of secret information processes, which are a hallmark of our digital age.”</p> <p>Frankle co-wrote the paper with Goldwasser, Weitzner, CSAIL PhD graduate Sunoo Park and undergraduate Daniel Shaar. The paper will be presented at this week’s USENIX Security conference in Baltimore. IPRI team members will also discuss related surveillance issues in more detail at upcoming workshops for both USENIX and this week’s International Cryptography Conference (Crypto 2018) in Santa Barbara.</p> <p>The research was supported by IPRI, National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Simons Foundation.</p> Computer scientists from MIT and IPRI propose a new cryptographic system to improve accountability of government surveillance while maintaining enough confidentiality for the police to do their jobs.Research, Algorithms, Privacy, Policy, Government, Cyber security, Technology and society, Law, Security studies and military, Computer science and technology, Cryptography, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), School of Engineering Transforming the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command, with thanks to MIT http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-online-course-model-based-design-transforming-us-dod-navair-acquisitions-0806 NAVAIR is upgrading its acquisition capabilities using an MIT online course in model-based systems engineering. Mon, 06 Aug 2018 09:00:00 -0400 Alice McCarthy | MIT Open Learning http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-online-course-model-based-design-transforming-us-dod-navair-acquisitions-0806 <p>For the past three years, the Department of Defense’s <a href="http://www.navair.navy.mil/" target="_blank">Naval Air Systems Command</a> (NAVAIR) organization has committed to a different kind of mission than any it has pursued before — to transform their engineering acquisition capabilities to a model-based design. Their goal is to shorten the timeline from beginning to delivery without lacking quality or precision.</p> <p>Since early in 2017, an essential part of implementing that transformation has been NAVAIR’s participation in the MIT program, “Architecture and Systems Engineering: Models and Methods to Manage Complex Systems,” a four-course online course on model-based systems engineering.</p> <p>“It is taking way too long to develop and deliver the next generation of war fighting capability to our war fighters,” says David Cohen, director of the Air Platform Systems Engineering Department at NAVAIR, referring to the current design and development processes based on systems engineering practices and processes from the 1970s. “We need to shorten that timeline dramatically.&nbsp;We have a national security imperative to be delivering the next level of technology to our warfighter to continue to try to maintain our advantage over our adversaries.”</p> <p>NAVAIR&nbsp;views the shift to model-based systems engineering as an essential step in shortening and modernizing its abilities to deliver high-quality, state-of-the-art programs. They enrolled their first cohort of 60 engineers and managers into the MIT program in March 2017. The third group will soon complete the four-month program, which has become a key piece of the NAVAIR transformation by building the awareness and skills needed to successfully implement model-based systems engineering.</p> <p><strong>Procuring&nbsp;naval aviation assets</strong></p> <p>NAVAIR procures and helps sustain all of the Navy and Marine Corps aviation assets —&nbsp;helicopters, jets, transport aircraft, bombs, avionics, missiles, virtually any kind of weapon used by U.S. sailors and Marines. Their responsibilities include research, design, development, and systems engineering of these assets internally and with contractors; acquisition, testing and evaluation of these assets, as well as training, repair, modification, and in-service engineering and logistics support.</p> <p>“We are the organization that receives requirements from the Pentagon for a new program, puts them out on contract, does the acquisition of that project and also provides the technical oversight and programmatic oversight during the development of that project to be sure it is maturing as expected and delivering what is needed,” says David Meiser, Advanced Systems Engineering Department head, who is helping to lead the systems transformation effort at NAVAIR.</p> <p>NAVAIR employs more than 10,000 engineers, plus logisticians, testers, and specialists in a variety of different areas from software, to engines, to structures.</p> <p>“We are kind of like the FAA for naval aircraft,” says Meiser, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration. “We go through the whole test and certification process and also provide the air-worthiness authority. Once the system is tested and does what it needs to do, we also provide the support mechanism to have ongoing logistics and engineering support needed to maintain these aircraft for 20-50 years.”</p> <p><strong>Design changes needed</strong></p> <p>It takes approximately 15 years to build a new weapons system, such as a fighter jet, from idea to fruition. A key reason is due to increasing systems complexity. In the 1960s, the technology of a jet was largely based solely on the air vehicle itself. Today, everything is integrated with the aircraft ranging from how it flies, its targeting system, its weapons capabilities, the visual system, and more.</p> <p>“They are so much more complex in functionality and capabilities and it’s harder to develop and manage all of the requirements and interfaces,” says Systems Transformation Director&nbsp;Jaime Guerrero&nbsp;of NAVAIR’s Systems Engineering Development and Implementation Center. “You need a model-based approach to do that as opposed to a document-centric approach which has been how NAVAIR has operated for decades.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Add to the pressure that NAVAIR leadership was mandating a cycle time collapse from 15 years to less than half that, David Cohen says.&nbsp;</p> <p>“That’s where we need to be,” Cohen adds. “The threats we are trying to address with these weapons systems are evolving in a faster pace. We have to be a lot more agile in terms of getting a product to the fleet much faster.”</p> <p>In 2013, NAVAIR participated in a research effort with the DOD’s <a href="http://www.sercuarc.org/">Systems Engineering Research Center</a> (SERC) to learn how to find better and faster ways of systems engineering. After collaborating with industry partners, academia, and other government agencies, SERC determined that is was technically feasible to pursue modeling methods as the way forward in the future. Between 2014 and early 2016, NAVAIR engineering leadership researched modeling methods with its key industry partners like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and 30 other companies to see how they were executing model methods, as well as those practiced in the auto industry where short design timelines are the norm. They also enlisted input from other government agencies that were already moving their processes to a model-centric method.</p> <p>“We absorbed a lot of information from these industries to see that we could use a different methodology to collapse cycle time,” Guerrero says.</p> <p>In those two years, NAVAIR researched 40-50 companies, universities, and government agencies and decided it was technically feasible for them to transform in about 10 years to be a different organization with different skills, tools, methods, and processes. They made the commitment to shift to model-based system engineering to incorporate this paradigm shift into its organization.</p> <p><strong>Implementing model-based systems engineering</strong></p> <p>Leadership, however,&nbsp;was not supportive of a 10-year transformational window. They wanted to aggressively compress the timeline.</p> <p>“When we realized leadership wanted to compress the timeline to about a three-year timeline for transforming the organization, we decided to go out and search experts and the best training we could get, the best tools in the market,” Guerrero recalls.</p> <p>They started searching for the resources needed to do that and attended workshops and symposiums. One of them was sponsored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which was a few steps ahead in initiating a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) perspective. There, Meiser, and Guerrero learned of the MIT program from <a href="http://systemarchitect.mit.edu/cameron.php" target="_blank">Bruce Cameron</a>, director of the <a href="http://systemarchitect.mit.edu/" target="_blank">Systems Architecture Lab at MIT</a>, who developed the coursework in 2016 and was also in attendance.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>“Some of our partners, especially Boeing, were already involved with the MIT coursework and they recommended it,” says Guerrero. It had also become a command initiative at NAVAIR to push a fast transformation program. “So we had the command initiative and the resources to go out and train as many people as possible,” he says.</p> <p>NAVAIR committed to the courses as a way to establish a common language, to introduce its workforce to concepts, tools, and terminology that will foster deeper conversations that are going to be necessary to adopt MBSE concepts and advance the level of training.</p> <p>The entire <a href="http://sysengonline.mit.edu/?utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_source=mitxpro&amp;utm_campaign=sysengx-fl18&amp;utm_content=mitnews-navair">four-course online program</a>, which runs on the edX online learning platform, requires about 20 weeks for completion. Each course is gated with a weekly lesson which requires about 4-5 hours of work/week. It has a combination of videos, reading material, assessment and course work. At the end of each week, students are required to complete a project which is reviewed by peers.</p> <p>When Guerrero and Meiser completed the program&nbsp;in the spring of 2017, they realized it would help align NAVAIR’s leadership by educating its command leaders why modeling is part of the solution for them to become a more agile organization.</p> <p>“The four-course series provides a high-level explanation of how to do systems engineering and architecture in a model-based environment, Meiser says. “At the end of these courses you may not be a total practitioner of model-based engineering but you have an appreciation of the value of model based methods.”</p> <p><strong>Management commitment from top leadership&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>“We came out of that and realized we needed to require a lot of our senior leaders here and some of our chief engineers because it is not about making them modelers or making them experts in the process,” adds Guerrero. “It’s about informing them of how this model-centric method is going to help us as an organization. Leaders have to be in agreement and push in the same direction to make this quick transformation happen.”</p> <p>Fortunately, NAVAIR’s top leadership was immediately on board.</p> <p>“What we have going for us at NAVAIR is that they’ve embraced MBSE and faster cycle times as a command initiative and they’ve committed to doing this comprehensively across NAVAIR,” says Meiser, adding they’ve been given the budget to pursue MBSE and top-level support.</p> <p>Vice Admiral Paul Grosklags, NAVAIR commander, even <a href="http://youtu.be/ppTq1n2cTVY" target="_blank">prepared a video</a> discussing the path to going digital with acquisition, sustainment, and business processes and how it has the potential to increase readiness and speed to the fleet. Encouraged by that, Guerrero and Meiser produced their own&nbsp;YouTube video to help get the message out about the <a href="http://youtu.be/171blNCgpCo" target="_blank">systems engineering transformation</a> at NAVAIR.</p> <p>As a result, NAVAIR targets the MIT program toward management and command leaders across all of its engineering disciplines as well as logistics and testing, the people who have to facilitate the change. Though they are not the individuals responsible for doing the modeling, they are required&nbsp;to understand the capabilities of model-based systems engineering.</p> <p>Now that nearly 150 NAVAIR personnel have completed the program, the feedback has been very encouraging. Some with more experience believe it was a great reinforcement of what they knew or should have known. Others say it helped them understand certain MBSE aspects they were not previously familiar with.</p> <p>“We’ve given it to a fairly diverse group of people,” says Meiser. “One thing I had heard regularly is that people say once they’ve been through it that they look at the problem differently. That has been the effect we’ve wanted to have. They start to think more about how to approach the problems in a model-based approach.”</p> <p>Participants have also realized the value of pursuing this type of education together in the MIT program.</p> <p>“We have learned from others NOT to try to do this transformational work in isolation,” adds Meiser. “This discipline is fairly new and having access to others pursuing the same thing has been very helpful for us.”</p> <p><strong>The leadership perspective</strong></p> <p>Cohen appreciated the non-intrusive delivery method as well as the content, feeling that the on-site training provided a good balance of depth and instruction time. “It has been an integral first step, especially for bringing the broad workforce at large into the discussion of what MBSE is,” he says.</p> <p>Cohen knows NAVAIR is embarking on a monumental challenge. After completing the program himself, he realized he had to adjust his expectations.</p> <p>“It helped alert me to some of those cautionary areas where I could be considered more optimistic about my expectations,” he says. “Throughout the course, there was more emphasis on quality of the product, not just on rapid cycle time.”</p> <p>He was particularly impressed by the level of respect, knowledge,&nbsp;and professional experience demonstrated by others involved in the course.</p> <p>“I had to take on board and value the experience of people who have been working in this field a lot longer than we have,” he says. He admits the coursework tempered his aggressive expectations, but it simultaneously highlighted where NAVAIR needed to invest more research and resources in certain program areas to achieve the faster results expected by top leadership.</p> <p>Cohen credits the program with shaping the transformational process at NAVAIR by pointing out where they need to pursue deeper dives for the next level of depth in workforce training.</p> <p>“The course gives you the understanding that MBSE has layers to it,” he says. “So depending on where you are in the organization, you will need to get more in-depth training in your area. We found the course introduced everyone to the depth and breadth of what model-based engineering is, its applications and how it’s used.”</p> <p>At NAVAIR, the program has worked because they intentionally involve a large diversity of people across the organization rather than a few silos involving an entire group or department. They recommend that the program be taken by those in higher levels of an organization who are facilitating the engineering change. Those with more job-specific responsibilities should receive training specific to those precise areas they are going to be implement.</p> <p>“The courses have helped everyone understand the over-arching goal and establish a common language,” says Cohen. “Although the transition to model-based systems engineering is complicated, we have expanded our skills and contacts tremendously in the process and crystalized where we need to focus on to get results.”</p> The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command views a shift to model-based systems engineering as an essential step in shortening and modernizing its abilities to deliver high-quality, state-of-the-art programs. Pictured here is Cmdr. Cynthia Dieterly, commanding officer of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 conducts pre-flight checks on an E-2C Hawkeye prior to launch from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington.Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh/U.S. NavySchool of Engineering, EdX, online learning, Office of Open Learning, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Security studies and military, Navy 3Q: Barry Posen on the NATO Summit and state of the alliance http://news.mit.edu/2018/3q-barry-posen-nato-summit-state-of-alliance-0720 National security expert discusses US defense spending and considers whether the NATO alliance should remain a US priority. Fri, 20 Jul 2018 15:20:01 -0400 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/3q-barry-posen-nato-summit-state-of-alliance-0720 <p><em>Heads of state and heads of government recently attended the 2018 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit held in Brussels, Belgium. There, President Donald Trump created controversy by criticizing Germany and calling other allies “delinquent.” Yet, he deemed the meetings a “success.” </em></p> <p><em>Barry Posen, a leading national security expert and Cold War historian, offers in-depth&nbsp;scholarship on the historic meetings. Posen, a Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Security Studies Program,&nbsp; discusses the role of NATO today, and whether the alliance is “stronger than ever,” as President Trump stated in a post-summit press conference. And he provides historical context on defense spending, which was a chief criticism of the U.S. president. </em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>A core argument of President Trump’s going into the NATO Summit was that the defense spending by our allies is significantly imbalanced and needs to be increased. This issue has also been cited as an issue by earlier U.S. presidents. Do our allies “owe” us money?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>For many years, U.S. officials, including past presidents, have registered their displeasure with the level of defense spending by the NATO allies. It has been a guideline, perhaps since 2006, reaffirmed at the NATO Wales summit in 2014, that each ally would endeavor to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense. At Wales the allies further set 2024 as the year when this objective should be achieved. The fact is that <a href="http://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2018_07/20180709_180710-pr2018-91-en.pdf" target="_blank">NATO's own figures</a> — which differ slightly from national figures as a result of an accounting system that tries to ensure that each member's overall efforts are measured identically — show that the U.S. will devote 3.5 percent of its economy to defense in 2018, while the European average is expected to be 1.5 percent; and that follows four years of European increases.</p> <p>If one subscribes to the argument advanced by alliance supporters on both sides of the Atlantic, that NATO is an alliance of liberal democracies, which constitutes the foundation of a liberal world order from which all benefit, then all should contribute, and thus this is a very significant gap. It must be remembered that Europe as a whole is a very wealthy region; European nations can afford to invest more for their own security. Thus, the Europeans are cheap-riding on the U.S.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>That said, the allies don't "owe" the U.S. money in a legal or even an administrative sense.&nbsp;Other than a small budget for NATO infrastructure, there is no gigantic pool of NATO military funding to which we and the Europeans are meant to contribute. There is no official military account in deficit on anyone's books, awaiting European checks.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>If one looks into what the European spending does buy, there is a further difficulty: European defense spending is inefficient. Some of this inefficiency reflects the fact that the spending is distributed across 26 independent countries, some of them very small.&nbsp;But even the large countries are often inefficient. Germany, the most productive economy in European NATO, seems to get much less than&nbsp;it should for the money it does spend, which the president fairly points out is only about 1.25 percent of its GDP. For example, at best a third of its military equipment is in working condition.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Some scholars have argued that NATO is obsolete. What role does it play today?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Rather than ask whether NATO is obsolete, one should ask whether its benefits to the U.S. are commensurate with its costs to the U.S. This is a matter that should be debated.&nbsp;</p> <p>The original U.S. strategic reason for joining NATO was to ensure that the damaged but still productive post-World War II European economies would not fall into the hands of the Soviet Union and be turned against us. The U.S. never wishes to compete with a hegemonic power that controls all the wealth of western Eurasia. The elimination of this security threat was achieved with the Soviet collapse in 1991.&nbsp;Russia today is a mere shadow of the Soviet Union; France and Germany together have vastly more economic potential than Russia, and they even spend more in absolute terms on defense. So the great threat to Europe is no more. Russia is a pain in the neck, not a candidate for continental hegemony. NATO still does provide the U.S. with bases in Europe, troop contributions to various campaigns of the global war on terror, and some intelligence cooperation. NATO has also drawn the U.S. into three strategically unnecessary, if small, wars — Bosnia, Kosovo, and Libya.</p> <p>On the cost side of the ledger, the U.S. spends a great deal to be prepared to defend the European allies. Journalistic coverage and expert commentary on the NATO summit have been misleading on this score. Some like to count only the cost of the U.S. forces based in Europe, some 70,000 people in uniform, which is significant but not gigantic. This is absurd: Those forces enjoy their deterrent and combat power due to the logistics and training base, and more importantly the reinforcements, and even the nuclear deterrent force, based in the U.S.&nbsp;&nbsp;It may be hard to estimate the costs accurately, but we should try. For most of the Cold War, the U.S. built its forces to deal with two nearly simultaneous wars, one each in Europe and Asia. In the post cold war world, we amended this to two "major regional" wars against a variety of possible middle power challengers. The Pentagon's recently released "National Defense Strategy" redirects U.S. military planning toward great power rivalry, which among other things means deterring Russia in Europe. Presuming that the "two major war" standard persists, it is reasonable to attribute half of current U.S. defense spending to the NATO commitment. Interestingly, this gets us to 1.75 percent of U.S. GDP, which is close to the 2 percent that we have asked the allies to achieve, and to which they aspire.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>So the question citizens of the U.S. should ask, is what strategic benefits does this vast expenditure attain? If the most serious threat to the U.S. is gone, and the Europeans are rich enough to defend themselves against the threats that remain, should NATO continue to enjoy the priority is has had in U.S. national security policy? The U.S. foreign policy establishment has turned its attention to Asia, and the rise of China, which will likely prove a more formidable competitor than the Soviet Union ever was. This will require significant resources. Beyond security matters, if one day the U.S. begins to focus again on the ballooning national debt, the country will need to find the money somewhere.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>At a post-NATO Summit press conference, President Trump announced that “NATO is much stronger now” than it was before. Do you agree?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>NATO is neither stronger nor particularly weaker than it was before. The Europeans concluded four years ago that they needed to increase their defense spending.&nbsp;They have made some increases since 2014, and plan for further increases. Some alliance members seem on track to hit 2 percent of GDP fairly soon; unfortunately most of the richer and potentially more capable allies are not quite on track, though they are increasing their spending. For the sake of calming the president, at the recent Brussels summit they may have verbally re-committed to their efforts, but as the president likes to say, "we will see what happens."&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also critically important how the additional funds are spent.&nbsp;Decades of underfunding have left European militaries in woeful shape. It will take focused management attention to ensure that new money is not simply spread like butter across projects that may contribute little to the solution of key military problems.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>I am dubious that all the allies will reach 2 percent of GDP allocated to defense. In the past, allied efforts of this kind have often started strong and then petered out.&nbsp;The basic structure of the alliance causes this.&nbsp; The U.S. is a very great power, and aside from President Trump, the foreign policy establishment views the U.S. as the guardian of (the) world order. So long as the U.S. is strongly committed to NATO, the allies know that if they do a little less, we will fill any important gaps. Economists call this the free rider problem. In his way, the president may understand this, and could count it a political victory if, as a result of his targeted truculence, no slackening of European efforts happens on his watch.</p> Barry Posen, a Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the MIT Security Studies Program at the Center for International Studies, provided a foreign policy briefing on US grand strategy to consuls generals and journalists in April, 2018. He is the author of "The Case for Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy." Photo courtesy Laura Kerwin/MIT Center for International Studies3 Questions, Security studies and military, International relations, Center for International Studies, Political science, Russia, Europe, History, China, Global, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences The race to build the Navy’s next fleet of ships http://news.mit.edu/2018/race-to-build-next-fleet-of-us-navy-ships-0628 Retired Rear Admiral Chuck Goddard OCE ’85, SM ’85 is leading a bid to design the US Navy’s next class of guided-missile frigates. Thu, 28 Jun 2018 17:00:01 -0400 Mary Beth O'Leary | Department of Mechanical Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2018/race-to-build-next-fleet-of-us-navy-ships-0628 <p>Watching the USS<em> </em>Constitution sail around Boston Harbor is always a breathtaking sight. In June, spectators along the harbor got a particularly impressive display. The Constitution was joined on its cruise to Boston’s Fort Independence by the ITS<em> </em>Alpino<em>, </em>an Italian naval warship.</p> <p>Fincantieri designed and built the ITS Alpino, and its Wisconsin company, Fincantieri Marinette Marine, has received a contract from the U.S. Navy, along with four other companies, to produce a conceptual design for the next generation of frigates — making the tour around Boston Harbor even more remarkable.<br /> <br /> “You had the oldest frigate in the Navy sailing alongside what will hopefully be the newest frigate in the Navy,” explains Chuck Goddard OCE ’85, SM ’85, retired Navy rear admiral and senior vice president of Fincantieri Marine Group.</p> <p>A graduate of MIT’s naval architecture and marine engineering program, Goddard took the Alpino’s trip to Boston as an opportunity to reconnect with the MIT community. He invited faculty members Joe Harbour, professor of the practice of naval construction, and Nicholas Makris, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering and director of the Center for Ocean Engineering, along with a number of naval construction and engineering graduate students to take a guided tour of the ship.</p> <p>“It was a great opportunity to show our students the finished product of a shipbuilding project,” says Harbour.</p> <p>Goddard’s involvement in Fincantieri’s bid to design the Navy’s next fleet of frigates is the culmination of four-decades of designing and building ships. His career has straddled both the public and private sector, sent him from coast-to-coast, and placed him on dry land and the open ocean.</p> <p>Goddard studied naval architecture at the United States Naval Academy in the late ’70s. After graduating and a stint in Pearl Harbor, Goddard became an engineering duty officer for the Navy. It was then he was given the opportunity to enroll in MIT’s naval architecture and marine engineering program (then known as Course 13A).</p> <p>“When I showed up at MIT in June of ’82, I had been out at sea for three years,” recalls Goddard. “It was fun getting back into the academic world and spending that first summer getting up-to-speed on calculus and differential equations.”</p> <p>During his time at MIT, Goddard was mentored by Captain Clark “Corky” Graham ME ’67, SM ’67, PhD ’69, a professor of naval construction and engineering. They worked together on figuring out how to incorporate electric drives in naval ships. Goddard also learned about basic ship design in a civilian ship design course taught by Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis, professor of mechanical engineering ocean engineering.</p> <p>After graduating from MIT, it was time to get his feet wet once more in the Navy — quite literally. Goddard was sent to Panama City, Florida, where he became a qualified Navy hard-hat diver and salvage officer. “We were the ones doing the calculations for how to raise sunken ships,” he says. “It was a very fun summer.”</p> <p>Goddard was then sent to Long Beach Naval Shipyard in California where he worked on putting the USS <em>Missouri</em> back in commission. As luck would have it, he was soon contacted by his old mentor, Corky Graham. “I got my wish come true working with Corky at the David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland,” Goddard recalls. “We worked on electric drives again which was a real passion of mine.”</p> <p>Over his 30-year career in the Navy, Goddard worked on updating their fleet with the latest cutting-edge technology. He was involved in the then top-secret project Sea Shadow, which sought to build a stealth ship, and worked as a program manager for the construction of the large destroyer DDG-1000. After his promotion to admiral, he was tasked with overseeing a dozen ship design and building programs as program executive officer for ships for the Navy. He retired from the Navy in 2008 to enter the private sector.</p> <p>Goddard first joined Fincantieri in 2011, when he was asked to manage their shipyard along the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisconsin. “Actually, building ships in a shipyard was always one of my bucket list items,” he adds.</p> <p>In his current role, Goddard is overseeing Fincantieri’s participation in the Next Generation Frigate FFG(X) Program. If the design of the ITS Alpino is chosen next year by the U.S. Navy, he and his team will work on incorporating U.S. radars, sonars, and combat systems within the existing design. This processing of taking an existing ship and converting it for a different role or mission is something MIT students get exposure to.</p> <p>“It’s similar to a project you have to complete in MIT’s naval architecture program,” Goddard explains. “When the students were on board the Alpino, I was chatting a lot with them about their projects and what the challenges are with converting ships.”</p> <p>For Goddard, FFG(X) project is a perfect bookend to his career designing and building naval ships. “I got to a design naval ships inside the Navy, and now I get to design one outside the Navy,” he adds.</p> <p>While aboard the Alpino in Boston Harbor, Goddard announced that Fincantieri Marine Group has pledged $50,000 over the course of the next five years to support MIT’s Ocean Engineering Research and Development Fund.</p> The Italian naval warship ITS Alpino (foreground) sails alongside the USS Constitution in Boston Harbor on June 8, 2018. Photo: Fincantieri Marinette MarineAlumni/ae, Mechanical engineering, Navy, Security studies and military, Oceanography and ocean engineering Explained: Detecting the threat of nuclear weapons http://news.mit.edu/2018/explained-detecting-threat-nuclear-weapons-scott-kemp-0608 Professor of nuclear science and engineering Scott Kemp describes the science behind the search for clandestine nuclear sites. Fri, 08 Jun 2018 09:50:01 -0400 Meg Murphy | School of Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2018/explained-detecting-threat-nuclear-weapons-scott-kemp-0608 <p>Will the recent U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 accord that put restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program make it easier for Iran to pursue the bomb in secret? Not likely, according to Scott Kemp, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT.</p> <p>“The most powerful insights into Iran’s nuclear program come from traditional intelligence, not from inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” says Kemp, who this week published a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05383-8?utm_source=twt_nnc&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_campaign=naturenews&amp;sf191289962=1">commentary article</a> in <em>Nature</em> on the interplay of policy and science in North Korea.</p> <p>But covert nuclear-weapon programs, whether in Iran, North Korea, or elsewhere in the world, are a major unsolved problem, according to Kemp. He recently explained the technical challenges involved in the hunt for clandestine sites. And he floated a possible solution.</p> <p><strong>What inspectors look for </strong></p> <p>Inspectors want to search for the secret production of plutonium or highly enriched uranium, says Kemp. Manufacturing an actual explosive device can be accomplished quickly and discreetly once either of these ingredients is secured in enough quantity. “The assembly work can be done in an office building, underground facility, or even in a big kitchen. It’s nearly impossible to detect once the program reaches this point.”</p> <p>The good news, relatively speaking, is that manufacturing these explosive materials can leave telltale clues.</p> <p>“All international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation focus on preventing the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium,” says Kemp. “The hope is to stop the material from ever being produced in the first place, or at least in sufficient quantities to make a nuclear bomb.”</p> <p><strong>What are the telltale clues of covert production?</strong></p> <p>“The production of either plutonium or highly enriched uranium is a major operation that requires people and time,” says Kemp. The involvement of many people means traditional intelligence has some chance of finding the program. But traditional intelligence can be unreliable, especially in closed societies like North Korea. Technical mechanisms would provide a useful overlay.</p> <p>Detecting plutonium production, Kemp says, is easier than detecting enriched-uranium production for several reasons. The first clue is the heat signature. “Nearly all plutonium production occurs in nuclear reactors, and they obviously produce a lot of heat,” he says. “There are clever things a country could do to hide the heat signature, but they are not simple. Infrared satellites can search for waste heat leaving buildings, or being pumped into rivers or oceans.</p> <p>A second clue comes from chemical signatures. The processing of reactor fuel to extract plutonium creates chemical effluent, which could be another promising detection pathway. “In addition to plutonium, the nuclear reactor will also produce a mix of other radionuclides — and while most are trapped in the reactor, a few leak out to the environment,” says Kemp, “especially the noble gases, such as radioactive isotopes of xenon and krypton.”</p> <p>Scientists may be able to detect these isotopes — xenon-131, xenon-135, and krypton-85 —when they seep into the environment. “Governments already use detectors to look for those small signatures of the operation,” he says. “But a country could do all sorts of fancy things, like cryogenically freezing the off-gas, to eliminate the chemical signature if they wanted to. So we may or may not find signs of plutonium production this way.”</p> <p>And what about uranium enrichment? “It also produces a distinct chemical signature,” says Kemp, which is caused when uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas leaks into the atmosphere. The probability of a leak is very small, but it happens. When the gas escapes into open air, water vapor causes it to decompose into hydrofluoric acid and a specific kind of dust-like aerosol. The hydrofluoric acid is not useful in terms of detection. It is too reactive and disappears whenever it touches dirt, or a building, or a tree. “You are not going to detect it at any meaningful distance,” says Kemp. &nbsp;But the other byproduct, the dust-like aerosol, is another story.</p> <p><strong>A new way to track secret nuclear activity</strong></p> <p>The dust produced by uranium enrichment is an aerosol called uranyl fluoride (UO2F2), and it has a chemical form that is unique to uranium processing operations, says. Kemp. He is interested in working with his colleagues on the engineering faculty to develop detectors that can identify the molecule's distinctive chemical bonds. “There are many techniques for identifying molecules, but the sensitivity required in this case is exceedingly high, and the aerosol form presents a number of other challenges,” he says.</p> <p>“If we could come up with extremely sensitive detectors that are cheap enough to put around a country without a lot of fancy equipment or maintenance, we would make significant inroads into the problem of detecting clandestine uranium-enrichment programs.” Imagine, he says, something like small weather stations with a solar-powered box that has a tamper-proof seal on it. It has a tiny fan that blows air over a sensor that searches the telltale U-F bond, and then sends an alert signal if the molecule is detected.</p> <p>“After a localized detection, you could use weather data to project backward and estimate the most probable places this molecule came from. If you could eventually narrow it down to a few buildings or a couple city blocks, then it would be feasible for international inspectors to request access under existing legal provisions to see what is inside.”</p> <p><strong>A return to the politics </strong></p> <p>The ongoing presence of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Tehran’s most sensitive factories and research labs, is provided for by the long-established Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT, which Iran is unlikely to withdraw from, says Kemp. That means inspection teams can continue to check known nuclear facilities as before.</p> <p>However, a special provision, called the Additional Protocol, has allowed the IAEA to have wide-ranging access over the past three years, including the right to venture out to investigate tips about suspicious sites. This provision also permits the IAEA to deploy environmental sensors of the kind Kemp wants to build. It is these extra privileges that would be at risk if Iran withdraws from the 2015 accord, says Kemp. The IAEA has used these privileges to make at least 60 visits to facilities that are not part of Iran’s declared nuclear program.</p> <p>“But politics ultimately drives this in the end,” he adds. “If inspectors learned something, whether from intelligence or sensors, but were refused the additional access needed to follow up on the lead, then the international community would probably presume the worst. It would therefore still be in Iran’s interest to provide follow-up access even if they did not technically have to — that is, unless they were really hiding something.”</p> Covert nuclear-weapon programs, whether in Iran, North Korea, or elsewhere in the world, are a major unsolved problem, says Scott Kemp, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. He recently explained the technical challenges involved in the hunt for clandestine nuclear sites. And he floated a possible solution. Photo: Lillie PaquetteNuclear science and engineering, School of Engineering, Explained, Security studies and military, Nuclear security and policy 3 Questions: Vipin Narang on the North Korea summits http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-vipin-narang-north-korea-summits-0510 Nuclear strategy expert shares observations from the recent North Korea-South Korea summit and possible outcomes of the North Korea-U.S. summit. Thu, 10 May 2018 15:40:01 -0400 Michelle English | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2018/3-questions-vipin-narang-north-korea-summits-0510 <p><em>An historic April 27 summit between Moon Jae-in, president of South Korea, and Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of North Korea, has been lauded as a path to peace for the divided peninsula as well as a tipping point of the North Korean nuclear crisis. But what concrete actions should we expect from the meeting between Kim and Moon? And how will this affect the forthcoming summit between President Trump and Kim? MIT nuclear strategy&nbsp;expert Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science and a member its Security Studies Program, weighs-in with his observations, underscoring that rhetoric is key.</em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>How does the recent Kim-Moon summit pave the way for the upcoming meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The Kim-Moon summit achieved its main objective: to set up the main event between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. As expected, it was long on optics and bonhomie, but short on specific details. The joint statement pledged aims and goals that mirrored previous North-South summits. The language on “denuclearization” was vague enough that President Moon could tell the U.S. administration that the North reaffirmed the goal of “complete denuclearization,” while leaving enough ambiguity so that the North could claim that it reaffirmed goals such as the full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula (which would have implications for the American extended nuclear deterrence commitment to South Korea) or as lofty as global nuclear disarmament.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What should we expect from U.S.-North Korea summit?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The devil will be in the details in the upcoming Trump-Kim summit and whether they can agree upon a common definition of “denuclearization” and steps that concretely achieve whatever that may be. Unfortunately, with the Trump Administration’s continued insistence on unilateral complete, verifiable, irreversible North Korean disarmament — and nothing short of that — something North Korea is exceedingly unlikely to agree to, the prospect of meaningful progress short of that (such as freezes on certain missiles and nuclear weapons) may be dwindling.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What advice do you have for President Trump?</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The most important thing is to keep expectations realistic. If President Trump believes that he is going to go to the summit to be handed the keys to Kim’s nuclear kingdom, he may be in for a rude awakening. There is no reason that the summit cannot achieve progress toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, but it will have to be steps and over a long period of time. Implementation and verification will be difficult, but not impossible. There is a deal to be had that benefits both sides, and the world. But it is unlikely to involve the unilateral surrendering of nuclear weapons by North Korea. So if the Trump administration is open to a deal short of that — which will still require some concessions from the United States — but which is a win-win, then the summit may yield fruit. But if not, a spectacular failure can be equally dangerous and pave the way to conflict. In my view, both the extreme success — unilateral North Korean disarmament — and the extreme failure — the meeting blowing up — are unlikely.</p> <p>The most likely outcome is probably a nice photo-op and declaration which is long on rhetoric, pledging to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by some timeframe, but which commits neither side to anything immediately. This allows both sides to claim victory — Kim having met the president of the United States as an equal and as a nuclear weapons power, and Trump extracting some vague commitment on denuclearization — and kick the can down the road.</p> Vipin Narang (left), associate professor of political science and a member of the Security Studies Program, discusses the North Korean nuclear crisis at a Starr Forum event sponsored by the Center for International Studies.Photo: MIT Center for International Studies3 Questions, Security studies and military, Korea, North Korea, Asia, Nuclear security and policy, International relations, Faculty, Political science, Social sciences, Center for International Studies, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences For nuclear weapons reduction, a way to verify without revealing http://news.mit.edu/2018/nuclear-weapons-isotope-detection-method-0419 New isotope-detection method could prove compliance but avoid divulging secrets. Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:30:00 -0400 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2018/nuclear-weapons-isotope-detection-method-0419 <p>In past negotiations aimed at reducing the arsenals of the world’s nuclear superpowers, chiefly the U.S. and Russia, a major sticking point has been the verification process: How do you prove that real bombs and nuclear devices — not just replicas — have been destroyed, without revealing closely held secrets about the design of those weapons?</p> <p>Now, researchers at MIT have come up with a clever solution, which in effect serves as a physics-based version of the cryptographic keys used in computer encryption systems. In fact, they’ve come up with two entirely different versions of such a system, to show that there may be a variety of options to choose from if any one is found to have drawbacks. Their findings are reported in two papers, one in <em>Nature Communications</em> and the other in the <em>Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</em>, with MIT assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering Areg Danagoulian as senior author of both.</p> <p>Because of the difficulties in proving that a nuclear warhead is real and contains actual nuclear fuel (typically highly enriched plutonium), past treaties have instead focused on the much larger and harder-to-fake delivery systems: intercontinental ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and bombers. Arms reduction treaties such as START, which reduced the number of delivery systems on each side by 80 percent in the 1990s, resulted in the destruction of hundreds of missiles and planes, including 365 huge B-52 bombers chopped into pieces by a giant guillotine-like device in the Arizona desert.</p> <p>But to avert the dangers of future proliferation — for example, if rogue nations or terrorists gained control of nuclear warheads — actually disposing of the bombs themselves and their fuel should be a goal of future treaties, Danagoulian says. So, a way of verifying such destruction could be a key to making such agreements possible. Danagoulian says his team, which included graduate student Jayson Vavrek, postdoc Brian Henderson, and recent graduate Jake Hecla ’17, have found just such a method, in two different variations.</p> <p>“How do you verify what’s in a black box without looking inside? People have tried many different concepts,” Danagoulian says. But these efforts tend to suffer from the same problem: If they reveal enough information to be effective, they reveal too much to be politically acceptable.</p> <p>To get around that, the new method is a physical analog of data encryption, in which data is typically manipulated using a specific set of large numbers, known as the key. The resulting data are essentially rendered into gibberish, indecipherable without the necessary key. However, it is still possible to tell whether or not two sets of data are identical, because after encryption they would still be identical, transformed into exactly the same gibberish. Someone viewing the data would have no knowledge of their content, but could still be certain that the two datasets were the same.</p> <p>That’s the principle Danagoulian and his team applied, in physical form, with the warhead verification system — doing it “not through computation, but through physics,” he says. “You can hack electronics, but you can’t hack physics.”</p> <p>A nuclear warhead has two essential characteristics: the mix of heavy elements and isotopes that makes up its nuclear “fuel,” and the dimensions of the hollow sphere, called a pit, in which that nuclear material is typically configured. These details are considered top-secret information within all the nations that possess such weapons.</p> <p>Just measuring the radiation emitted by a supposed warhead isn’t enough to prove it’s real, Danagoulian says. It could be a fake containing weapon-irrelevant materials which give off exactly the same radiation signature as a real bomb. Probes using isotope-sensitive resonant processes can be used to probe the bomb’s internal characteristics and reveal both the isotope mix and the shape, proving its reality, but that gives away all the secrets. So Danagoulian and his team introduced another piece to the puzzle: a physical “key” containing a mix of the same isotopes, but in proportions that are unknown to the inspection crew and which thus scramble the information about the weapon itself.</p> <p>Think of it this way: It’s as though the isotopes were represented by colors, and the key was a filter placed over the target, with areas that balance each color on the target with its exact complementary color, just like a photographic negative, so that when lined up the colors cancel out perfectly and everything just looks black. But if the target itself has a different color pattern, the mismatch would be glaringly obvious – revealing a “fake” target.</p> <p>In the case of the neutron-based concept, it’s the mix of the heavy isotopes that’s matched, rather than colors, but the effect is the same. The country that produced the bomb would produce the matching “filter,” in this case called a cryptographic reciprocal or a cryptographic foil. The warhead to be verified, which can be concealed within a black box to prevent any visual inspection, is lined up with the cryptographic reciprocal or a foil. The combination undergoes a measurement using a beam of neutrons, and a &nbsp;detector which can register the isotope-specific resonant signatures. The resulting neutron data can be rendered as an image that appears essentially blank if the warhead is real, but shows details of the warhead if it’s not. (In the alternative version, the beam consists of photons, the “filter” is a cryptographic foil, and the output is a spectrum rather than an image, but the essential principle is the same.) These tests are based on the requirements of a Zero Knowledge Proof – where the honest prover can demonstrate compliance, without revealing anything more.</p> <p>There’s a further disincentive to cheating built into the neutron-based system. Because the template is a perfect complement of the warhead itself, trying to pass off a dummy instead of the real thing would actually do the very thing that nations are trying to avoid: it would reveal some of the secret details of the warhead’s composition and configuration (just as a photographic negative lined up with a non-matching positive would reveal the outlines of the image).</p> <p>Danagoulian, who grew up in Armenia when it was part of Soviet Union before emigrating to the U.S. for college (he earned his bachelor’s at MIT in 1999 and his PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006), says he remembers vividly the Cold-War days when both the U.S.S.R and the U.S. had thousands of nuclear missiles perpetually at the ready, aimed at each others’ cities. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he says, there was a huge amount of fissile material suitable for bomb-making left in Russia and its former satellites. This material “measured in tens of tons – which could be used for making thousands, if not tens of thousands,” of nuclear bombs, he says. Those memories provided a strong motivation to find ways of using his knowledge in physics to facilitate a reduction in the amount of such material and in the number of nuclear weapons at the ready around the world, he says.</p> <p>The team has verified the neutron concept through extensive simulations and now hopes to prove that it works through tests of actual fissile materials, in collaboration with a national laboratory that can provide such materials. The photon concept has been the focus of a proof of concept experiment carried out at MIT and is described in the PNAS publication.</p> <p>Karl van Bibber, professor and co-chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, says that an earlier paper from this team that outlined the concept "attracted much attention when it appeared, but as a theoretical work one could rightly reserve judgment regarding its feasibility in practice." This new paper, however, "goes far as a first scientific demonstration of the technique, particularly as the experiment was performed with the simplest and least favorable photon source available, ... simple enough for this methodology to gain currency in an actual verification program."</p> <p>Thus, van Bibber says, "Danagoulian and team have passed a major bar ... The challenge up next will be tests with higher fidelity surrogates for warheads and ultimately real systems."</p> <p>If a system does someday get adopted and helps bring about significant reductions in the amount of nuclear weapons in the world, Danagoulian says, “everyone will be better off. There will be less of this waiting around, waiting to be stolen, accidentally dropped or smuggled somewhere. We hope this will make a dent in the problem.”</p> At top, a diagram shows the configuration that could be used to verify that a nuclear warhead is real. At left, the key component of a nuclear weapon, called the pit, which consists of a hollow sphere of plutonium, is lined up with a specially made second component, called the reciprocal, which has the opposite characteristics. When the two are observed using a beam of neutrons, the resulting image (bottom left) is distinctive but reveals no details of the pit’s dimensions and composition. However, if an outwardly similar-looking object with a different shape or composition is substituted for the pit, it results in a distinctly different image, making it easy to tell that it’s a fake.Research, Nuclear science and engineering, Nuclear security and policy, Security studies and military, Cryptography, School of Engineering Southeastern European nations are latest to adopt emergency-response system http://news.mit.edu/2018/southeast-europe-nations-adopt-emergency-response-system-nics-0404 Lincoln Laboratory, in partnership with NATO, is modifying the system to help the region coordinate disaster response across borders. Wed, 04 Apr 2018 13:40:01 -0400 Kylie Foy | Lincoln Laboratory http://news.mit.edu/2018/southeast-europe-nations-adopt-emergency-response-system-nics-0404 <p>On a Google map of Modrac Lake, located near the city of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina, icons in the shape of boats move across the water. A commander, looking at the map on a monitor, watches their progress. Each boat in real life holds a disaster response unit that is heading toward the site of a disaster — in this case, a chemical spill. The same interface that provides the map also shows images from the scene, messages between responders, social media posts from observers, and other real-time information that the commander uses to direct people and resources. The interface is one big picture, created and viewed by everyone involved, of the scene as it unfolds.</p> <p>The platform enabling this coordination is called the Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS). NICS, developed nearly a decade ago by Lincoln Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&amp;T), is used today around the world for emergency response. In its latest development, NICS has been implemented in the southeastern European nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Through a four-year partnership with the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, Lincoln Laboratory and DHS S&amp;T will work with local and federal response agencies in these countries to adapt and enhance NICS for the specific needs of this multinational community.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are working with each country to best decide how NICS can be adapted to meet their disaster-response needs and also how NICS can improve communication across country borders,” says Stephanie Foster, a staff member in the Laboratory’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems Group and the program manager for the NICS NATO project. Foster notes that NICS will help the countries build a standardized method of response to large-scale disasters, such as the cyclone and ensuing floods that devastated the region in 2014.</p> <p>Modifications to NICS are building on what staff learned during the NATO Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre’s 17th&nbsp;Consequence Management Field Exercise between Sept. 24 and 29 in 2017. Close to 1,300 disaster-response personnel from 34 NATO member and partner nations participated in the exercise.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conveniently hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the exercise provided the southeastern European disaster teams a first road test of the NICS platform. Foster, joined by Laboratory staff members Gregory Hogan, Robert Hallowell, Greg Gianforcaro, and Christopher Budny, traveled to Tuzla to prepare NICS for the exercise. They created a new workspace in NICS where the exercise could be implemented and, importantly, analyzed afterward. They worked with the countries to prepopulate data and geospatial information into the system and to create a standardized communications workflow that teams from each country would follow. They also trained people to use NICS, although the system’s design makes it intuitively easy to use, which is one reason why NICS translates well globally.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>For three days, NICS was implemented during water-rescue missions conducted by teams from Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. The exercise began with an initial emergency request received at the base of operations. From there, teams were deployed to the incident site and given instructions to either lead or assist in different scenarios, such as extracting people from a car that had entered the lake, removing barrels of chemicals and assessing the risk, and saving people from cable cars hanging above the water.</p> <p>As soon as the emergency was reported, the incident was created in NICS and the information sharing began. At the base camp, commanders logged into the web-based interface using an ordinary web browser and internet connection. The onsite responders logged into NICS through an app on their cell phones. Together, they used NICS to observe the evolving situation and communicate.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We would get live input from the water-rescue teams that were responding,” Foster says. “They used the mobile app to upload images of the damage and to chat with users at base camp and in the incident command tent.” The NICS mobile app, which is a relatively new addition to the system, also enabled live-tracking of the teams’ locations — resulting in the boat icons moving across the map.</p> <p>Another new feature of NICS was the incorporation of social media analytics. At the NATO exercise, Douglas Jones, a senior staff member in the Laboratory’s Human Language Technology Group, led a research unit whose goal was to simulate social media activity during a disaster scenario and use the data to help responders gain situational awareness.</p> <p>“In a real disaster, people would use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to ask for help or give information, but we couldn’t use real social media during the exercise in case someone thought it was real. So, we built a closed system called SIMPOST,” Jones says. A group of local journalism students were trained to post messages in real time to SIMPOST, role playing as either journalists, observers, or victims. By the end of exercise, they had produced a dataset of about 2,000 messages, about half of which were in English and the other half in Bosnian and other languages.</p> <p>Pulling information from the social media posts is key. The SIMPOST team was supported by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called LORELEI, a human language technology that aims to provide domain-relevant, essential information from messages written in any language. Using the LORELEI framework, the social media posts from the exercise were categorized by need type (such as medical, water, or search and rescue), urgency level, location, and timeframe.</p> <p>To get this information out to the responders, the team added layers to the NICS interface that showed posts by need type and a color-coded heat map of social media activity around the incident locations. “We were able to improve this integration while at the exercise to allow the NICS users to search and filter the posts,” says Budny, who built the SIMPOST platform and led its integration into NICS. Users could now choose to see posts by specific need type, and the system could pinpoint on the map where those messages were posted from.&nbsp;</p> <p>“This integration required collaboration from staff working in different groups in a complex and challenging environment, but look what happened,” Jones says. “We were able to work together to bring a potential new capability to the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief space.”</p> <p>NICS also offers graphical tools, essentially virtual whiteboards, with which users can draw boundaries or circle locations directly on the map. This feature is especially useful for communicating across language barriers.</p> <p>NATO is looking for more opportunities to implement NICS internationally. In late September 2017, NATO opened a new center in Kuwait City, called the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Regional Center, in which NATO researchers can work closely with Persian Gulf partners on a number of important issues, including disaster response. Hogan, senior staff in the Laboratory’s Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control Division, joined NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme staff at the center to present the NICS capability.&nbsp;</p> <p>Another long-term goal of the NICS NATO partnership is to engage young scientists and engineers in further developing the NICS technology. The vision is to build an active community with the capability to evolve and contribute to the platform’s open-source software, which DHS S&amp;T released worldwide on GitHub last year.</p> <div> <p>The next three years will hold much more development for NICS. For the southeastern Europe project, a milestone each year will be a large-scale capability demonstration, like the NATO exercise, that will provide valuable data to learn from. The system archives all aspects of a created incident, so it becomes a powerful tool for analyzing past responses and informing future planning and execution.</p> <p>“When it’s all over and you can take a step back and analyze the process — that’s when the real work begins,” Foster says.</p> </div> In the NICS command and control tent at the base of operations, Zeljko Sinkovic, who is working with the Laboratory to develop the Southeast Europe version of NICS, inputs information into the system. On the map, a car icon has been placed where responders have confirmed it has crashed, and the red dots represent the locations of responders.Photo courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate Lincoln Laboratory, Software, Social media, Disaster response, Natural disasters, Technology and society, Security studies and military Incorporating humanity into a systems mindset http://news.mit.edu/2018/incorporating-humanity-into-systems-mindset-elizabeth-bieler-0323 Grad student and Air National Guard officer Elizabeth Bieler combines systems design and management studies with engineering and volunteer projects. Fri, 23 Mar 2018 13:00:01 -0400 Bridget E. Begg | Office of Graduate Education http://news.mit.edu/2018/incorporating-humanity-into-systems-mindset-elizabeth-bieler-0323 <p>Elizabeth Bieler would like to complete her two-year MIT master’s degree program in one year, and she probably will —&nbsp;while also a dedicated volunteer and officer in the Air National Guard. In manners both public and personal, Bieler seems drawn to service.</p> <p>Normally completed in 18 months to two years, Bieler’s master’s program, Systems Design and Management (SDM), is administered jointly between the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT School of Engineering. Bieler was attracted to its unique interdisciplinary perspective: SDM prepares its students to apply “systems” thinking to both engineering and management. Essentially, it encourages viewing a system that has many subsystems (say, a hospital or an airplane) holistically, with attention to how altering a subsystem may impact the integrity of any other subsystem. When unexpected qualities arise from the combinations of such subsystems, they are referred to as “emergent characteristics.”</p> <p>Bieler’s own life similarly involves the coordination of many seemingly distinct roles: Since starting college, she has managed being a full-time student, a working civilian, a part-time officer in the Air National Guard, and a dedicated volunteer not only in STEM education initiatives, but at a veteran’s hospice — often all at once. Partly thanks to her military background, she does not struggle with procrastination.</p> <p><strong>Making her home at Hanscom</strong></p> <p>Bieler doesn’t live the typical graduate student lifestyle. Rather than making her home in Cambridge, she lives on the Hanscom Air Force Base near Lexington and Concord with her husband Greg, who is an active duty Air Force Officer. In her rare free time, she likes to run with her one-year-old Dalmatian, Hercules, read books, and try out healthy cooking recipes.</p> <p>While her 45-minute commute can be a burden, a bus runs to MIT every few hours, and Bieler has become close friends with many of the other military members that ride the bus to their programs at Harvard and MIT. In fact, many of those living on Hanscom are in degree programs in Cambridge: “We have a few neighbors, and actually quite a few of them go to MIT… I joke that I’ve gotten to know more of my neighbors from going to MIT and from the bus than from [military] work every day!”</p> <p>A morning person, she wakes up between 5 and 6 a.m. every day, making student commitments such as evening group meetings a challenge, especially with her accelerated course load. Despite her shifted schedule and distance from Cambridge, SDM-related activities such as the fall Sloan Olympics keep her feeling connected to MIT.</p> <p><strong>From the Air National Guard to SDM</strong></p> <p>Motivated by a desire to help others, Bieler joined the Air National Guard in college in her home state of Ohio: “I liked it that you get to be part of the homeland response. ...&nbsp;If there’s a hurricane or tornado, or something like that, you have the opportunity to go and help people.”</p> <p>Bieler has remained with the Air National Guard ever since, and is now an officer in its Bioenvironmental Engineering group. The division has a range of responsibilities, including measuring sound exposure and water safety, and even planning for a chemical or biological radiation attack. Most of the time, however, they’re keeping air personnel&nbsp;safe from occupational exposure on military jets. Due to her passion for helping others, Bieler most values the opportunity to be deployed to areas with local emergencies —&nbsp;for example, the recent flooding in Texas and Puerto Rico —&nbsp;which allow her to make an immediate impact with Americans in dire need.</p> <p>After completing an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and working at a manufacturing consulting firm, Bieler was awarded a Science and Engineering PALACE Acquire Fellowship. The fellowship fully funds one year of graduate school, which led Bieler to apply to the SDM program at MIT. She will complete her graduate studies between stints of work for an Air Force aircraft office as a government civilian.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bieler expects her thesis will be an evaluation of the Air Force’s use of Agile (a method of assessing and maximizing the efficiency of a system’s design) in development operations. For her thesis, Bieler will evaluate the use of this method in the implementation of new airplane software or equipment at the Air Force aircraft office where she plans to&nbsp;work after graduating. “I wanted to do something where I improved my own understanding, but also I liked the idea of a thesis that can hopefully have some impact.”</p> <p>Eventually, Bieler aims to be the director and chief engineer of a similar aircraft office, managing a single type of airplane —&nbsp;for example, an F-15 or JSTAR —&nbsp;used by the Air Force. Such a role is a perfect example of systems engineering and management, where Bieler would coordinate the interactions of many groups, including legislative liaisons, design teams, and engineers.</p> <p><strong>Seeing beyond herself</strong></p> <p>Bieler’s diligence and organization make her a remarkable fit for the SDM program and the military. However, she also leverages these skills while integrating her passion for helping others into every aspect of her life. Bieler particularly enjoys undertaking projects that reflect her interests; for instance, as a female engineer and military member, she often finds herself to be the only woman in the room, and so she enjoys educating girls about opportunities in STEM fields.</p> <p>In college, Bieler participated in an internship that included service to refugee families, solidifying her personal belief in giving back. Most of the refugees were fleeing from the Middle East. Bieler recalls spending time with one family in particular from Afghanistan; the father had been a translator for the U.S. military. On the days she helped the family by driving them around the area, they would have lunch on an elaborately printed cloth placed on the ground, and they would tell her about their family experiences. Even after making it into the U.S., the magnitude of the bureaucracy that they had to immediately navigate was daunting: “Going to apply for green cards, apply for food stamps, going to get initial vaccinations...&nbsp;It was overwhelming to me, the amount of paperwork and different offices to coordinate appointments with, and all I was doing was driving them!”</p> <p>Bieler says volunteering allows her to “give back for what we have here in the U.S.,” and to see beyond herself: “It changed my view and made me look at things a different way than I would have before.”</p> <p>Most recently, Bieler has spent time volunteering at a veteran’s hospice near Hanscom to provide end-of-life companionship to its patients. While she admits that this is difficult work — deliberately forming a bond with someone who will shortly pass away — she approaches it with deep empathy and sees her own grandmother in those she visits on Saturdays: “I especially found that I liked going early Saturday mornings, and just taking the guys down to the vending machine and getting their coffee or taking them out so they can go smoke a cigarette. ...&nbsp;I liked it because I don’t smoke, but my grandma does, and I know if she in were in some place like that that would mean a lot to her.” Soon, she’d like to integrate another aspect of her life into her visits: after she graduates, she’s planning on training Hercules as a therapy dog to join her.</p> <p>Emergent characteristics appear when a system is more than the sum of its parts;&nbsp;similarly, Bieler’s volunteerism, military service, and systems engineering, far from existing in isolation, bring humanity to the forefront.</p> <p><em>All opinions in this article reflect Bieler’s own&nbsp;and are not the opinions of the Air Force.</em></p> MIT grad student Elizabeth Bieler with her Dalmatian Hercules, who she plans to train as a therapy dogPhoto courtesy of the Office of Graduate Education.Systems design, Profile, Students, Graduate, postdoctoral, Security studies and military, Engineering Systems, Women in STEM, School of Engineering, Sloan School of Management, Volunteering, outreach, public service MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and Harvard Kennedy School launch collaborative international studies program http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-shass-and-harvard-kennedy-school-launch-collaborative-international-studies-program-1113 New initiative supported by $3.7 million in grants from the Charles Koch Foundation. Mon, 13 Nov 2017 12:00:01 -0500 MIT Resource Development http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-shass-and-harvard-kennedy-school-launch-collaborative-international-studies-program-1113 <p>The MIT Security Studies Program at the Center for International Studies in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs launched today a collaborative program to mentor the next generation of foreign policy scholars. The Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft is made possible with support from the&nbsp;Charles Koch Foundation: a $1,846,200 grant to MIT and one for $1,853,900 to Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>MIT Professor Barry R. Posen, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of the Security Studies Program, and HKS Professor Stephen Walt, the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs, will jointly direct the program, which will provide pre- or postdoctoral fellowships to young scholars from a variety of disciplines working in the broad area of strategy and statecraft, with particular emphasis on the U.S. and its role in the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Security Studies Program and the Belfer Center have a long-standing commitment to training security experts and publishing relevant research. Fellows in the Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft will each spend one year at MIT and one year at Harvard — providing an introduction to the senior security scholars, visitors, and graduate students at both institutions. A joint speaker series will further cement the cooperation between the two programs. MIT will also host visiting scholars from the policy community to better connect scholarship to statecraft.&nbsp;</p> <p>“So long as there is no world government to protect states from each other,” explains Posen, “conflicts of interest will occur and governments will compete for power and influence. Military force is one tool of this competition. In this environment, the United States and other major powers must mobilize different capabilities and devise effective strategies to protect their home territory and other vital interests, but without jeopardizing their long-term prosperity or compromising core political values.</p> <p>“The fellows program will build a community of scholars dedicated to fundamental research on the most critical security problems of our time, and to bringing the fruits of that research to public policy," Posen continues. “We greatly appreciate the contribution of the Charles Koch Foundation to this important endeavor, and the foundation’s recognition of the enduring importance of security scholarship.”</p> <p>According to Walt, “States are more likely to make sound strategic choices and learn from past mistakes if there is a well-informed and wide-ranging debate on these issues. A healthy democracy therefore requires a diverse and well-trained community of independent experts who understand strategy, security, and statecraft and whose work can inform elites and public debates on foreign policy, and especially decisions to use force. Military force and other instruments of national power may be essential to preserving national security, but understanding the limits of armed force and the complex consequences that accompany its use is equally important.”</p> <p>“The country is in a critical period of self-reflection about its proper role in the world and how the U.S. can best meet its security needs going forward,” said Charles Koch Foundation Vice President William Ruger. “We are excited to support Harvard and MIT’s world-class vision for engaging the next generation of foreign policy scholars as they develop the research and ideas that will inform this discussion.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, the foundation grants will support the research of graduate students in security studies at both institutions. Taken together, these features of the Project on Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft will significantly enhance the connection of the academy to foreign and security policy, and broaden the national security debate to include a more diverse set of views. The Charles Koch Foundation has made similar grants or awards to schools including Notre Dame, Tufts University, the University of California at San Diego, and other prestigious institutions.</p> Building 7 on the MIT campusImage: Patrick GilloolyGiving, Security studies and military, International relations, Political science, Center for International Studies, Collaboration, Classes and programs, SHASS Why we should welcome warnings http://news.mit.edu/2017/starr-forum-welcome-warnings-1103 At MIT event, experts call for a new approach to worst-case scenarios. Fri, 03 Nov 2017 10:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/starr-forum-welcome-warnings-1103 <p>Nuclear accidents. Sea level rise. Terror threats. The world is full of potential catastrophes, but most of the time, most of us are oblivious to them.</p> <p>Still, at times, experts warn the rest of us about these potential crises. Sometimes those warnings work, but many times they go unheeded. Why do we ignore information we could use to stave off a disaster?</p> <p>Prominent national security expert Richard Clarke SM ’79 weighed in on this issue at MIT’s latest Starr Forum event on Wednesday, making the case that we should be more receptive to the possibility of dire news, as well as more systematic about analyzing it.</p> <p>Clarke, the former chief counter-terrorism advisor on the National Security Council, expanded on ideas in his new book, “Warnings,” asserting that specialists in a range of fields can “see the thing buried in the data that other people don’t see. They see it first.”</p> <p>Clarke called these people “Cassandras,” after the figure in Greek mythology who could see the future, and described them as experts with accumulated knowledge and a willingness to explore worst-case scenarios.</p> <p>“It just can’t be any old person off the street saying the sky is falling,” Clarke said. “It</p> <p>has to be a recognized, acknowledged expert in the field they were giving the warning in. … They had to have studied it and been data-driven.”</p> <p><strong>Prove me wrong</strong></p> <p>Examples of this dynamic abound. Engineers warned that Japan’s nuclear power industry was vulnerable to natural disasters well before the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Experts stated that New Orleans was vulnerable to flooding before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Climate scientists, for decades, have warned the world that global warming could upend life as we know it.</p> <p>And Clarke, for his part, gained a significant public profile after being one of the U.S. security officials most concerned about the threat of the al Qaeda terror group before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.</p> <p>But plenty of dire-sounding warnings can also be unfounded and ultimately incorrect. So how can leaders — in government, business, or elsewhere — distinguish between legitimate fears and simplistic scare-mongering?</p> <p>To Clarke, a person with a legitimate warning to offer will be willing to have their ideas tested by others: “Cassandras repeatedly say, ‘Well, I gave my data to other experts in the field and said, prove me wrong, and none of them could. They could never prove my data wrong.’”</p> <p><strong>Why not act?</strong></p> <p>But if experts are often raising concerns, why do those warnings get ignored? Clarke emphasized that being quick to recognize concerns produces its own set of problems, starting with a lack of consensus. When experts are “yelling to a decison maker, ‘There’s a problem,’ the decision maker says, ‘Yeah? Who else believes you? What other experts in the field agree?’”</p> <p>Then too, Clarke said, data-based concerns over catastrophes can be ignored due to what he calls “first occurrence syndrome,” namely, the fact that many potential problems have “never happened before, in the memory of the people involved.” New Orleans, for example, had never previously flooded to the degree that it did due to Hurricane Katrina. It is easier to imagine that history will continue within its recent bounds. &nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, Clarke noted, there can be a “diffusion of accountability” in organizations. One data scientist repeatedly told the firm Equifax recently that it was vulnerable to being hacked, he said. But the responsibility for acting on that was essentially distributed among several people — which can lead to institutional inertia.</p> <p>Additionally, Clarke added, to stave off disaster, especially in matters related to climate change, “You might have to do something ideologically abhorrent to you. You might have to raise taxes or try carbon capture or enact regulations.” Thus solutions mean to pre-empt catastrophes of all kinds can languish.</p> <p><strong>See the sea rise</strong></p> <p>The Starr Forum consists of a series of public discussions, sponsored by MIT’s Center for International Studies, focused on global security issues and other matters of international politics. About 125 people attended the event Wednesday, which was open to the public.</p> <p>Clarke’s remarks were followed by a dialogue with counterintelligence expert and Center for International Studies Fellow Joel Brenner, as well as a question-and-answer session with the audience.</p> <p>In his remarks, Clarke observed that being a “Cassandra” can take a heavy psychological toll on experts who find their ideas marginalized.</p> <p>“A lot of these people get agitated when they are ignored,” he said.</p> <p>Brenner largely concurred, but wryly noted that “a lot of these people have a special talent for burning bridges” within the organizations they are serving. Still, Brenner noted, the complications of contemporary society and technology mean it is generally safe to assume, at any given time, that “something is going seriously wrong somewhere.”</p> <p>Asked to produce a hierarchy of issues for us to worry about, Clarke emphasized the vast problems that sea level rise, as a product of climate change, could create in the decades ahead. Rather than the consensus estimate of 3 meters of sea level rise by the year 2100, Clarke stated, we could see 6 to 9 meters of sea level rise by 2050 or 2075.</p> <p>‘Think about the economic, political, social implications of that,” Clarke said. “Some countries diappear. Mass migrations of people.” He also cited the potential for economic “collapse” in some areas.</p> <p>Still, Clarke did try to inject some hope into the proceedings.</p> <p>“I believe in good government’s ability to be rational and save the world from some of these disasters,” Clarke said, adding: “I think it’s an optimistic book, because it holds out the hope that if you had systematic thinking [and] rational analysis, systems thinking, if you want to call it that, we could see problems coming, and stop them from being really big problems.” &nbsp;</p> Left to right: Richard Clarke SM ’79, former national coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States; and Joel Brenner, former head of counterintelligence under the Director of National Intelligence for the United States and Senior Research Fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies and CSAIL. Courtesy of the MIT Center for International StudiesSHASS, Center for International Studies, International relations, Security studies and military, Policy, Government, Climate change, Books and authors, Special events and guest speakers, Alumnai/ae Nuclear and present danger http://news.mit.edu/2017/nuclear-and-present-danger-security-experts-us-north-korea-1004 MIT security experts discuss how to lower tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:59:45 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/nuclear-and-present-danger-security-experts-us-north-korea-1004 <p>Rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have an unsettling chance of escalating, MIT security experts said at a public forum on Tuesday — but are also manageable given the right approach by U.S. leaders.</p> <p>“I think you can get inadvertent war,” said Jim Walsh, a senior research associate in MIT’s Security Studies Program (SSP) and a nuclear security expert who has visited North Korea in the past. “It’s still an unlikely event,” he added. However, he also stated, “I would remind you that improbable events do happen. … I am more worried than I have been before.”</p> <p>To keep the situation under control, the panel of three nuclear-security scholars said, the U.S. would do well to seek further diplomatic talks with North Korea. The U.S. should also reconcile itself to the fact that North Korea does have nuclear weapons and, for a variety of reasons, it must not expect China to address the situation decisively.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We should certainly be talking to them,” said Walsh, who, like others on the panel, believes that North Korea’s nuclear capacity is almost certainly here to stay.</p> <p>“The bad news is that denuclearization is a fantasy,” said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, who has written extensively about North Korea’s nuclear program and gave a summary of the country’s current capabilities. “The good news is, deterrence can work.”</p> <p>Meanwhile China — who some U.S. leaders, including President Donald J. Trump, have sometimes cited as a key actor in this scenario, given its political alignment with North Korea — seems unwilling to play a larger role in the current state of affairs.</p> <p>“I think China believes that the North Koreans are developing nuclear weapons for perfectly [logical] reasons,” said Taylor Fravel, an associate professor of political science at MIT and interim director of MIT’s Center for International Studies (CIS). Fravel, a leading expert on China’s foreign-policy conflicts, added that Chinese leaders, who maintain their own nuclear arsenal, likely view North Korea’s weapons as “an insurance policy, one they [China] can see in their own history.”</p> <p>The event drew a crowd of at least 225 people, packing a lecture hall in MIT’s Building 34. The three panelists all delivered prepared remarks and responded to a series of audience questions. The discussion was part of the CIS Starr Forum, a series of public discussions on world politics. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>North Korea: New arsenal, familiar strategy </strong></p> <p>Narang gave the audience an overview of which types of missiles and nuclear payloads North Korea has developed, based on the best public knowledge available. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has publicly announced a lengthy series of tests over the course of 2017. &nbsp;</p> <p>“He acquired nuclear weapons to avoid a U.S.-led regime change,” Narang said, adding that the North Korean strategy is “risky, but it’s not irrational.”</p> <p>Indeed, Narang emphasized, the North Korean nuclear strategy is precisely the same one used by Pakistan and, to a large degree, NATO forces during the Cold War. North Korea has seemingly developed short-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs, and as of this summer, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching North America.</p> <p>Both types of missiles are necessary for North Korea to achieve a kind of mutual deterrence with the U.S., Narang pointed out. That is, if North Korea only had shorter-range missiles and used them to deliver a nuclear bomb in, for instance, a conflict with South Korea, then South Korea’s allies — namely, the U.S. — could respond by essentially wiping out North Korea in retaliation.</p> <p>However, the presence of North Korean ICBMs that could deliver nuclear weapons to North America stands as a deterrent to such a U.S. reply, hypothetically.</p> <p>“That’s why the ICBM is so important” to North Korea, Narang pointed out, adding that North Korea can now “put the U.S. homeland at risk.”</p> <p>On the other hand, Narang pointed out, the U.S. has experience and know-how at maintaining forms of equilibrium among nuclear powers with the same sets of capabilities — not only the former Soviet Union and Russia, but more recently, Pakistan, among other cases.</p> <p><strong>So: What should be done?</strong></p> <p>That leaves open the matter of what the U.S. should be doing, specifically. For starters, Narang said, “We need to tighten our message and be consistent and coherent.”</p> <p>Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, he pointed out, have both publicly stated that regime change in North Korea is not a U.S. goal. According to the terms of nuclear logic, that should settle the situation somewhat. However, Trump has used more belligerent language, both in a recent speech at the United Nations and in his Twitter messages.</p> <p>“Why would Kim think we might attack him? Because we keep saying that over and over again,” Walsh said.</p> <p>Additionally, Narang stated, the U.S. should almost certainly not attempt a military attack on North Korean military sites in an attempt to eliminate its weapons program, due partly to the extreme difficulty of identifying and hitting every relevant site.</p> <p>“Denuclearization by force is a very risky proposition and it’s not an experiment we want to run,” Narang said.</p> <p>Walsh added that he was “not a big believer that sanctions are going to solve this problem,” given North Korea’s current capabilities, and Fravel emphasized that China is also not likely to be interested in having regime change occur in North Korea. Among other reaons, he noted, “the collapse of any more communist countries would be a great concern for China.”</p> <p>Instead, Walsh and Narang concluded, further talks with North Korea might help limit the extent of North Korea’s arsenal and reduce the possibility that U.S.-led military exercises around the Korean peninsula could trigger a military incident that escalates to nuclear use — which, the scholars observed, seems by far the most likely route to a catastrophic exchange between the countries.</p> <p>“Giving up on denuclearization doesn’t mean you give up on nonproliferation,” Narang said.</p> <p>However, observers have concerns about many types of things that could unsettle the situation in North Korea. Scott Sagan, a Stanford University professor and leading nuclear-security expert who was in the audience for the event, pointed out during the question-and-answer period that false news reports circulated last weekend, stating that the U.S. was advising nonessential personnel to depart the Korean peninsula. That kind of report, Sagan noted, could be mistakenly interpreted as a prelude to military action.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I’m worried about this, even though I think it is unlikely,” Sagan said. And, as Walsh added, “Certain leaders in the world pay more attention to news reports than to their advisors.”</p> <p>With so many unresolved issues at stake, Walsh said, “That uncertainty makes me nervous, and gnaws at me.” &nbsp;</p> Left to right: Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science and a member of the Security Studies Program; Jim Walsh, senior research associate at the Security Studies Program; and Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science, a member of the Security Studies Program, and acting director of the MIT Center for International Studies. Photo: Courtesy MIT Center for International StudiesSpecial events and guest speakers, Nuclear security and policy, Center for International Studies, Political science, International relations, Security studies and military, Policy, Government, Asia, SHASS New mass spectrometer will help develop better training for bomb-sniffing dogs http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-lincoln-laboratory-mass-spectrometer-will-help-develop-better-training-for-bomb-sniffing-dogs-0914 Researchers advance quantitative canine training evaluations. Thu, 14 Sep 2017 14:40:01 -0400 Liz Sheeley | Lincoln Laboratory http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-lincoln-laboratory-mass-spectrometer-will-help-develop-better-training-for-bomb-sniffing-dogs-0914 <p>Canine teams have long been considered the gold standard for finding concealed explosives. To validate this reputation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&amp;T) remains diligent in their pursuit of continuously improving canine performance as part of their public safety mission. With support from the DHS S&amp;T, researchers at MIT Lincoln Laboratory have developed a new mass spectrometer that may help DHS S&amp;T improve canine training standards and materials.</p> <p>Currently, canines are taught to recognize odors that correspond to specific objects they are trained to locate. In this process, the strength of the training odor is assumed to be proportional to the mass of hidden explosive used with smaller threats presumed to produce weaker odors. However, this is a broadly accepted assumption that does not always prove to be true. As a result, future training methods that can record the strengths of the odors used will provide an added dimension to the tests — an important capability that is provided by Lincoln Laboratory's new spectrometer.</p> <p>The mass spectrometer, roughly the size of a copy machine, can identify chemicals on the basis of their mass and charge after it ionizes the vapors given off from solids or liquids comprising a sample. A sample can be anything from a few drops of liquid to a piece of paper to a large explosive charge. The mass spectrometer can detect chemicals found in the liquid, on the paper, or within the explosive charge, and provide a data readout that displays what chemical vapors emanated from the sample. The spectrometer possesses two modes that can, in less than one second, detect a potential threat vapor at the parts-per-trillion, and sometimes even the parts-per-quadrillion level, a performance level that is thought to be comparable to canine performance.</p> <p>Roderick Kunz, assistant leader of the laboratory's Chemical, Microsystem, and Nanoscale Technologies Group, and group staff members Ta-Hsuan Ong, Thomas Mendum, Geoffrey Geurtsen, Jude Kelley, and Alla Ostrinskaya developed this mass spectrometer to verify the canines’ responses to explosive materials. Because this instrument instantaneously detects vapor plumes produced from the training materials or aids (such as a treated piece of paper placed within a can), a trainer can be made aware of the scent produced during the test and thus has added information when deciding to reward the canines’ response to the odor. This can lead to more accurate and consistent behavioral reinforcement and, ultimately, better performing canines and a safer public.</p> <p>“We have heard from canine handlers their desire to better understand the canine odor environment,” Kunz says. “This instrument provides that capability and, for the first time, allows the handler to experience what the canines themselves are experiencing. Creating the capability for handlers to know the true odor environment has the potential to be a powerful training tool for making handlers more ‘plume aware.’”</p> <p>“One of the biggest challenges [in detecting vapors from explosive devices] is that many explosives have extremely low vapor pressure and the vapors are not detectable at room temperature by anything other than canines. Our challenge to Lincoln Laboratory was to devise a system that can validate the presence of odor without heating [the sample], which can degrade it, thus confirming that canines are detecting these substances at levels less than one part per trillion,” says Don Roberts, DHS S&amp;T Explosives Detection Canine Program manager. “We now can validate with scientific certainty that the canine detection threshold is well below many of the commercially available explosive systems currently in use.”</p> <p>Bomb-detecting canines are trained specifically for their jobs by specialists. Once the canines are deployed to agencies such as a public-transit police force, continued training known as maintenance training is provided throughout their deployment by the home agency. Maintenance training is typically performed on a set test course on which handlers plant training aids that emit vapor plumes from different explosive materials. The handlers are typically only aware of the most general information, which might consist of a simple layout indicating the locations of training aids on the course. The dogs then walk the course with the handlers and are tested to see how they react to the planted materials, during which the canines’ desired behavior is positively reinforced.</p> <p>Sometimes, however, training aids degrade over time or are contaminated by other training aids if they are not stored properly, causing the association between the threat environment and the resulting odor environment to deviate from that expected by the handler. Before the development of this mass spectrometer, no method could corroborate the dogs’ decisions when they informed the handler of the presence or absence of explosives. With this instrument, the handlers can now provide more consistent maintenance training because they are able to test and verify the odor environment during training.</p> <p>To demonstrate the value of the new instrument, the researchers used seven active-duty canines across two training events and compared their performance as determined by the threat object placement (i.e., the “ground truth”) with their performance as determined by the odor environment (i.e., the “plume truth”). By comparing these two performance metrics, the researchers were able to determine the odors eliciting the canines’ responses and correlate that information to training aid placement. If a handler placed a training aid on the course and the canine found it, this was counted as correct based on the threat environment criteria. When a non-threat “decoy” object had been inadvertently contaminated by an explosive trace, the handler failed to recognize what had elicited the canine response. However, the spectrometer was able to corroborate the canine response and provide the handler with information needed to respond to the behavior.</p> <p>During these trials, the research team was also able to show that the canines’ performance varied with odor strength. This correlation showed that canine performance wasn’t only linked to the size of the object or training aid; thus, with the mass spectrometer, handlers now have an alternative method for performing evaluations based on vapor concentration rather than the just the object size.</p> <p>The ability to know the true odor environment will create an improvement in the training process by allowing the handlers to correct the canines’ actions when they react to an inappropriate scent. It will also help the handlers learn how to improve their training aid storage and test administration methods, even after the Lincoln Laboratory mass spectrometer has moved on to assist other canine units.</p> <p>“At present, the capability the spectrometer provides is limited to research applications because of its size and complexity,” Kunz says. “However, other laboratories are considering adapting it for tactical field use as a means to replace canines. Our feeling is that such a tool is better directed at improving the already best detectors in the world — canines.”</p> <p>Ta-Hsuan Ong will present the laboratory’s work on the spectrometer at the 12th International Symposium on the Analysis and Detection of Explosives, which is being held Sept. 17-21 in Oxford, England.</p> Ta-Hsuan Ong, technical lead on the development of this ultrasensitive vapor detection system, operates the equipment during its first field deployment at Hanscom Air Force Base.Photo: MIT Lincoln LaboratoryResearch, Invention, Lincoln Laboratory, Safety, Security studies and military, Chemistry, Animals Making sense of nuclear threats http://news.mit.edu/2017/faculty-profile-vipin-narang-0911 MIT political scientist Vipin Narang explains the strategies of new nuclear powers. Mon, 11 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/faculty-profile-vipin-narang-0911 <p>About a decade ago, when Vipin Narang started writing his doctoral dissertation on nuclear strategy, he encountered a little problem: People around him thought his thesis would be irrelevant.</p> <p>“Everyone told me, ‘Don’t do it,’ because nuclear weapons were supposedly a Cold War relic,” Narang says. Graduate students in international relations were more typically studying globalization, human rights, and ethnic insurgencies. “Those were hot topics, and nuclear weapons were considered old-school,” Narang adds.</p> <p>If only. Today, Narang is an associate professor in MIT’s Department of Political Science and a member of its Security Studies Program. Nuclear dangers are again an urgent political topic. And Narang’s particular focus — the acquisition of nuclear weapons by countries beyond the traditional superpowers — is something that keeps people awake at night, as they contemplate rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.</p> <p>“Now it’s back with a vengeance,” Narang observes. “And we’re worried about regional proliferation now. We’re not talking about Cold War nuclear strategy any more. We’re talking about small states with small arsenals and itchy trigger fingers. It really changes how we think about nuclear risks and nuclear dangers as a result.”</p> <p>Narang’s work also represents an intellectual shift in nuclear security studies. During much of the Cold War, the logic of “mutual assured destruction” explained why the U.S. and the Soviet Union had acquired massive arsenals — but might not use them.</p> <p>But now 10 countries have nuclear weapons, linked to a variety of military strategies. India and China have largely retaliatory postures; they pledge not to use nuclear weapons first but are virtually certain to retaliate if they are attacked. France and Pakistan have relatively small arsenals but deploy what Narang calls an “asymmetric escalation” strategy, threatening nuclear use if attacked by conventional means. Israel and South Africa have adopted what Narang terms a “catalytic” posture, with the nuclear threat intended to get larger allies to intervene for them.</p> <p>Until recently, North Korea seemed to be in the “catalytic” category, with China as its protector — yet it has now distanced itself from China.</p> <p>“Today it’s very clear North Korea has an asymmetric escalation strategy,” Narang says. “We’re in a very unstable phase right now.” To be sure, the U.S. and North Korea could arrive at a safer equilibrium, a bit like India and Pakistan have — but still, Narang says, it would help if the U.S. clearly understood North Korea’s strategic situation.</p> <p>“Nuclear weapons can be stabilizing under a very specific set of conditions,” Narang observes. “But accidents happen, humans are fallible, and nuclear use is a real possibility. The reason we have to stay abreast of this topic and not get complacent is so states don’t ever have an incentive to use [nuclear weapons], and all the risks that come with them don’t ever manifest themselves.”</p> <p><strong>Going full circle</strong></p> <p>Narang did not decide to pursue security studies until he was winding down his undergraduate work. At Stanford University, he majored in chemical engineering, with a minor in international relations.</p> <p>Scott Sagan, a Stanford political scientist, helped spur Narang’s interest in the subject, as did a Stanford teaching assistant named Taylor Fravel. After college, Narang spent two years on a prestigious Marshall Scholarship at Oxford University, digging deeper into nuclear security studies, then got his PhD at Harvard University.</p> <p>Looking back, Narang says his career trajectory owes much to the encouragement of people such as Sagan and Fravel — who is now a China expert and associate professor at MIT, with an office just down the hall from Narang.</p> <p>“As with everything, it’s the role of individual teachers and mentors that really keeps you going,” Narang says. “If not for Scott and Taylor, I probably wouldn’t have tried to go to the U.K. or entered into this field. Taylor and I reuniting here is kind of going full circle.”</p> <p>Narang joined the MIT faculty in 2010 and was promoted to associate professor in 2014, the same year his first book, “Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era,” was published by Princeton University Press. In it, Narang lays out his typology of the different strategies used by countries in this “second nuclear age,” as he terms it in the book. The book won the 2015 International Security Section Best Book Award from the International Studies Association.</p> <p>Narang has also written over a dozen published articles and book chapters on nuclear weapons, and is writing a second book, “Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation,” which is under contract with Princeton University Press. For his research and teaching, Narang was awarded tenure earlier this year.</p> <p><strong>Wanted: Proliferation of nuclear scholars</strong></p> <p>In the book he’s working on now, Narang examines the different ways countries go about acquiring nuclear capabilities in the first place. Some, such as Iraq and Libya, have tried to acquire nuclear weapons in secret, and failed.</p> <p>“In a lot of ways, the pressure on these countries to hide [their activities] works to the international community’s advantage, because hiding weapons programs forces inefficiencies into the process,” Narang says. “And it gives you time to detect an illegal new weapons program.” Even so, North Korea’s secretive development process succeeded.</p> <p>Other countries, meanwhile, employ what Narang calls a “hedging strategy,” building some technical capabilities, but not weapons.</p> <p>“A lot of states may not want a bomb today,” Narang observes. “But they may want one tomorrow. And so they put the pieces in place to be able to culminate acquisition and shorten the window to weaponizing. Japan is probably the world’s best example.” Japan has processed plutonium, for example, but has no weapons program.</p> <p>“For all intents and purposes, Japan is a virtual nuclear state, but it has not made the decision to acquire or organize its capabilities … yet,” Narang adds.</p> <p>Narang’s interest in nuclear security may have been unusual in his student days, but at MIT, he notes, he has found an ideal setting for his career. The Institute has long had a deep bench of nuclear security experts — which is unusual even for other universities with major programs in security studies.</p> <p>“There is [still] a dearth of people who are recently trained in this area and have studied the regional powers,” Narang says.</p> <p>But as a professor, he has the ability to change that, by teaching undergraduates and training graduate students who want to enter the field. And Narang raves about the quality of MIT’s PhD students.</p> <p>“I’ve been fortunate to have great graduate students from the day I got here, and I’m very proud of how they’ve done,” Narang says. “I ride their coattails, because they’re so good. If I could pay forward a fraction of what’s been given to me, I’d be very happy.”</p> <p>Helping train future generations of scholars is important to him, he adds, in large part because of the seriousness of nuclear security. It is important to understand and inform everyone — citizens, policymakers, diplomats, world leaders — about nuclear weapons.</p> <p>“There is a very human side to this,” Narang says. “These are the most terrible weapons ever developed. The motivation to study it is so that they’re never used.”&nbsp;</p> "I’ve been fortunate to have great graduate students from the day I got here, and I’m very proud of how they’ve done," Vipin Narang says. Photo: Bryce Vickmark SHASS, Faculty, Profile, Political science, International relations, nuclear weapons, Security studies and military, Policy, Asia, China, India, Pakistan Gregory Falco: Protecting urban infrastructure against cyberterrorism http://news.mit.edu/2017/student-profile-gregory-falco-0905 PhD student works at the intersection of urban planning and computer science. Tue, 05 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400 Dara Farhadi | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2017/student-profile-gregory-falco-0905 <p>While working for the global management consulting company Accenture, Gregory Falco discovered just how vulnerable the technologies underlying smart cities and the “internet of things” — everyday devices that are connected to the internet or a network — are to cyberterrorism attacks.</p> <p>“What happened was, I was telling sheiks and government officials all around the world about how amazing the internet of things is and how it’s going to solve all their problems and solve sustainability issues and social problems,” Falco says. “And then they asked me, ‘Is it secure?’ I looked at the security guys and they said, ‘There’s no problem.’ And then I looked under the hood myself, and there was nothing going on there.”</p> <p>Falco is currently transitioning into the third and final year of his PhD within the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP). Currently, his is carrying out his research at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). His focus is on cybersecurity for urban critical infrastructure, and the internet of things, or IoT, is at the center of his work. A washing machine, for example, that is connected to an app on its owner’s smartphone is considered part of the IoT. There are billions of IoT devices that don’t have traditional security software because they’re built with small amounts of memory and low-power processors. This makes these devices susceptible to cyberattacks and may provide a gate for hackers to breach other devices on the same network.</p> <p>Falco’s concentration is on industrial controls and embedded systems such as automatic switches found in subway systems.</p> <p>“If someone decides to figure out how to access a switch by hacking another access point that is communicating with that switch, then that subway is not going to stop, and people are going to die,” Falco says. “We rely on these systems for our life functions — critical infrastructure like electric grids, water grids, or transportation systems, but also our health care systems. Insulin pumps, for example, are now connected to your smartphone.”</p> <p>Citing real-world examples, Falco notes that Russian hackers were able to take down the Ukrainian capital city’s electric grid, and that Iranian hackers interfered with the computer-guided controls of a small dam in Rye Brook, New York.</p> <p>Falco aims to help combat potential cyberattacks through his research. One arm of his dissertation, which he is working on with renown negotiation Professor Lawrence Susskind, is aimed at conflict negotiation, and looks at how best to negotiate with cyberterrorists. Also, with CSAIL Principal Research Scientist Howard Shrobe, Falco seeks to determine the possibility of predicting which control-systems vulnerabilities could be exploited in critical urban infrastructure. The final branch of Falco’s dissertation is in collaboration with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He has secured a contract to develop an artificial intelligence-powered automated attack generator that can identify all the possible ways someone could hack and destroy NASA’s systems.</p> <p>“What I really intend to do for my PhD is something that is actionable to the communities I’m working with,” Falco says. “I don’t want to publish something in a book that will sit on a shelf where nobody would read it.”</p> <p><strong>“Not science fiction anymore”</strong></p> <p>Falco’s battle against cyberterrorism has also lead him to co-found NeuroMesh, a startup dedicated to protecting IoT devices by using the same techniques hackers use.</p> <p>“The concept of my startup is, ‘Let’s use hacker tools to defeat hackers,’” Falco says. “If you don’t know how to break it, you don’t know how to fix it.”</p> <p>One tool hackers use is called a botnet. Once botnets get on a device, they often kill off other malware on the device so that they use all the processing power on the device for themselves. Botnets also play “king of the hill” on the device, and don’t let other botnets latch on.</p> <p>NeuroMesh uses a botnet’s features against itself to create a good botnet. By re-engineering the botnet, programmers can use them to defeat any kind of malware that comes onto a device.</p> <p>“The benefit is also that when you look at securing IoT devices with low memory and low processing power, it’s impossible to put any security on them, but these botnets have no problem getting on there because they are so small,” Falco says.</p> <p>Much like a vaccine protects against diseases, NeuroMesh applies a cyber vaccine to protect industrial devices from cyberattacks. And, by leveraging the bitcoin blockchain to update devices, NeuroMesh further fortifies the security system to block other malware from attacking vital IoT devices.</p> <p>Recently, Falco and his team pitched their botnet vaccine at MIT’s $100K Accelerate competition and placed second. Falco’s infant son was in the audience while Falco was presenting how NeuroMesh’s technology could secure a baby monitor, as an example, from being hacked. The startup advanced to MIT’s prestigious 100K Launch startup competition, where they finished among the top eight competitors. NeuroMesh is now further developing its technology with the help of a grant from the Department of Energy, working with Stuart Madnick, who is the John Norris Maguire Professor at MIT, and Michael Siegel, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.</p> <p>“Enemies are here. They are on our turf and in our wires. It’s not science fiction anymore,” Falco says. “We’re protecting against this. That’s what NeuroMesh is meant to do.” &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The human tornado</strong></p> <p>Falco’s abundant energy has led his family to call him “the tornado.”</p> <p>“One-fourth of my mind is on my startup, one-fourth on finishing my dissertation, and other half is on my 11-month-old because he comes with me when my wife works,” Falco says. “He comes to all our venture capital meetings and my presentations. He’s always around and he’s generally very good.”</p> <p>As a high school student, Falco’s energy and excitement for engineering drove him to discover a new physics wave theory. Applying this to the tennis racket, he invented a new, control-enhanced method of stringing, with which he won various science competitions (and tennis matches). He used this knowledge to start a small business for stringing rackets. The thrill of business took him on a path to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. After graduating early, Falco transitioned into the field of sustainability technology and energy systems, and returned to his engineering roots by earning his LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accreditation and a master’s degree in sustainability management from Columbia University.</p> <p>His excitement followed him to Accenture, where he founded the smart cities division and eventually learned about the vulnerability of IoT devices. For the past three years, Falco has also been sharing his newfound knowledge about sustainability and computer science as an adjunct professor at Columbia University.</p> <p>“My challenge is always to find these interdisciplinary holes because my background is so messed up. You can’t say, this guy is a computer scientist or he’s a business person or an environmental scientist because I’m all over the place,” he says.</p> <p>That’s part of the reason why Falco enjoys taking care of his son, Milo, so much.</p> <p>“He’s the most awesome thing ever. I see him learning and it’s really amazing,” Falco says. “Spending so much time with him is very fun. He does things that my wife gets frustrated at because he’s a ball of energy and all over the place — just like me.”</p> “The concept of my startup is, ‘Let’s use hacker tools to defeat hackers,’” PhD student Gregory Falco says. “If you don’t know how to break it, you don’t know how to fix it.” Photo: Ian MacLellanGraduate, postdoctoral, Students, Profile, Research, Urban studies and planning, School of Architecture and Planning, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), School of Engineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Computer science and technology, Security studies and military, Internet, Cyber security MIT hosts STEM boot camp for veteran students http://news.mit.edu/2017/warrior-scholar-project-stem-boot-camp-veteran-students-0811 Warrior-Scholar Project helps vets transition to college with intensive summer program. Fri, 11 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400 Jonathan Mingle | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2017/warrior-scholar-project-stem-boot-camp-veteran-students-0811 <p>“Force is a part of our everyday experience,” said Michael McDonald, assistant professor of physics in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “Gravity. Friction. What are some other forces?”</p> <p>The students in his Tuesday morning lecture on Newtonian mechanics were quick with suggestions: “Tension.” “Pressure.” “Torsion.”</p> <p>While the class was focused on the fundamentals of projectile motion and classical physics, the participants could claim more than the average student’s level of experience with pressure and tension. All 15 eager note-takers were veterans of the United States military, on day three of a weeklong “boot camp” on STEM subjects hosted by MIT last week.</p> <p>The 15 vets were participants in the Warrior-Scholar Project, a nonprofit that organizes one- and two-week-long intensive programs to help members of the military transition from active duty to academia. After a week studying humanities at Harvard University, the students spent July 30 to Aug. 5 immersed in all things STEM at MIT. With daily lectures on physics, independent research projects, afternoon tours of labs on campus, nightly reading, and problem sets due each morning, their days were packed from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m.</p> <p>“It’s a lot of information, and I’m trying to sponge it up as best I can,” Kyle Skattum, a former Marine Corps infantryman, told <em>MIT News</em>. “It’s been really awesome. Being engulfed into the culture on a college campus has been huge. But it’s almost a semester’s worth of material compressed into a week. The ‘boot camp’ comparison works.”</p> <p>Since 2012, the WSP has run these intensive courses, which are free of charge, on 15 different university campuses, but this year’s session was the first at MIT. The students stayed on MIT’s campus for both weeks. Each day of the STEM week included a visit to a different MIT lab focused on topics such as gravitational waves, medical imaging, astronomy, and engineering systems for the soldier of the future. After exploring force, mass, and acceleration in McDonald’s Tuesday lecture, the vets took a tour of the laboratory of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, a collaboration among MIT, the Army, and industry groups, to research and develop novel systems to protect soldiers in the field.</p> <p>The goal of the project, says Dan LaFlamme, a WSP fellow helping to coordinate the program, is to both demystify college science and help veterans build the confidence they need to succeed in a demanding academic degree program.</p> <p>“The hope is that by the end of this week they say to themselves, ‘I can do mathematics and physics. I can engage with this material that’s very mysterious,’” he says.</p> <p>LaFlamme participated in the WSP program in 2013 after leaving the Air Force, where he served as an aerial gunner. Today, he is nearing completion of a degree in mathematics at Rutgers University.</p> <p>“When I was coming out of the military, I was severely underconfident in myself” with regard to college academics, he recalls. “The WSP gave me the tools I needed to be successful.”</p> <p>Nelson Olivier, a former postdoc in the lab of Class of 1922 Professor of Biology and professor&nbsp;of chemistry Barbara Imperiali and now a student in the MIT Sloan School of Management’s executive MBA program, helped bring the Warrior-Scholar Project to MIT along with Bill Kindred, a fellow veteran and EMBA classmate, and human resources manager at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. A long-serving former Navy intelligence officer, Olivier experienced firsthand the unique social and cultural challenges during transition from military service to postsecondary education.</p> <p>“Even with all the background and training and experience you get in the military, it can be an ice-water bath when you step in to the civilian world and you need to translate these other skills you have,” Olivier says. “The WSP program helps veterans learn, or relearn, how to be students. From minute one, it’s teaching problem-solving.”</p> <p>The program emphasizes developing survival skills for the college environment, including efficient analytical reading skills (“ninja reading” in WSP parlance), note-taking, time management, structuring arguments, and academic writing.</p> <p>Skattum served in the Marines for four years, including stints in the Philippines, Japan, and South Korea. A chance encounter with a WSP alum while taking a military EMT course led him to apply for this summer’s course at Harvard and MIT. He’s planning to study fermentation science at Colorado State University, starting this coming semester, and hopes to one day become a master brewer.</p> <p>Sitting in class in Building 5, he took careful notes as McDonald went on to explain Newton’s laws of motion. The professor noted that what they were covering was the cornerstone of MIT’s first-year physics course: “The vast majority of human experience is in this realm governed by Newtonian mechanics, and that’s a worthwhile thing to understand.” Along the way, McDonald observed that, while in centuries past the study of projectile motion was motivated by a desire to better understand the trajectories of bullets and shells — a subject with which his students had some expertise — the field today is primarily driven by space exploration, his own field of expertise.</p> <p>“I would say 90 percent of the people here are going into a STEM degree,” Skattum said afterward. “No one will become an expert in physics in one week, but the goal of the program is to familiarize us with these equations and terms, so when I see them in the future they won’t be so foreign.”</p> <p>He praised the course’s focus on group problem-solving during the nightly physics problem-set sessions. “It’s a big thing, getting to work in groups, because nowadays in science you’re not going to work by yourself.”</p> <p>In addition to their deep experience with working in teams in a high-pressure environment, LaFlamme says vets such as Skattum have another asset that’s very useful in the pursuit of a degree. “They have a built-in skill coming into this course, that they often don’t realize they have: They don’t give up. We are relying on that. They are not going to quit and say, ‘I can’t do this.’ And they don’t. That has never happened.”</p> <p>MIT itself makes a concerted effort to attract and support students who have served in the military. There are currently five undergraduate veterans enrolled at the Institute and six more will arrive this semester, according to Emily Sheldon, senior assistant director of admissions. Approximately 125 graduate students will be enrolled in the fall as well.</p> <p>Sheldon leads initiatives to recruit veterans to apply to MIT, which partners with organizations such as&nbsp;<a href="https://service2school.org/vetlink/" target="_blank">Service to School VetLink</a>, a mentorship program for veterans looking to transfer to selective four-year institutions, and the&nbsp;<a href="http://usmc-mccs.org/services/education/leadership-scholar/" target="_blank">Leadership Scholar Program</a>, which assists Marines with the transition to four-year universities.&nbsp;Her efforts have also helped lead to a fivefold increase in the number of MIT Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students. She says that conversations are building across MIT on ways to better support veterans on campus.</p> <p>McDonald says the week’s schedule was designed to elicit feedback to improve future iterations of the course. “We don’t want to be ‘one-and-done,'” he says. “We’re learning lessons about what works, to hopefully repeat this here at MIT next year, and for running the STEM course on other campuses.”</p> From left: Nelson Olivier, veteran, former MIT postdoc, and student in the MIT Sloan School of Management’s executive MBA program; Sidney T. Ellington, executive director of the Warrior Scholar Project; and Bill Kindred, veteran, EMBA student, and human resources manager at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.Image: Bryce VickmarkROTC, Students, Security studies and military, Physics, School of Science, Admissions Investigating the dynamics of war and peace http://news.mit.edu/2017/student-profile-erik-sand-0808 Erik Sand brings a perspective shaped by eight years of service in the U.S. Navy to his doctoral studies. Mon, 07 Aug 2017 23:59:59 -0400 Dara Farhadi | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2017/student-profile-erik-sand-0808 <p>Before coming to MIT to pursue a PhD in security studies, Erik Sand served for eight years of active duty in the U.S. Navy as a surface warfare officer. His experiences during this time were memorable, to say the least.</p> <p>Sand and his fellow servicemen helped rescue a fishing boat off the shore of South Korea and traveled to Australia for the 100th anniversary of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_White_Fleet">Great White Fleet</a>. He had a part in escorting Neil Armstrong’s family for the famed astronaut’s burial out at sea, and he even attended the coronation luncheon of the King of Tonga.</p> <p>Along with the adventures came significant responsibility and hard work. At his various posts Sand was responsible for the safety and well-being of large numbers of sailors and for maintaining weapons, ordnance, and even a nuclear reactor aboard the ships where he was stationed. He spent his last three years of duty in Washington working as an admiral’s aide and then in the Pentagon for the Secretary of the Navy Advisory Panel.</p> <p>Throughout Sand’s service in the Navy, questions and ideas were sprouting in his mind about international relations, grand strategy, deterrence, escalation control, and maritime issues. Now a third-year doctoral student in MIT’s Department of Political Science, he is still in the process of solidifying a dissertation topic, but it will likely fall into one or more of these areas.</p> <p>One possible topic he is considering is based on his second-year paper on economic interdependence and isolation in wartime, and how these conditions affect states’ strategies and the outcomes of war. Sand is also interested in why the world’s great powers, such as the U.S., China, and Russia, rarely fight directly in smaller, limited wars, and what explains the cases when they do, such as the Korean War.</p> <p>“Understanding how these dynamics around war and peace work is imperative. If countries know how a war will turn out, we’re less likely to fight in the first place,” Sand says. “I think it’s really important that academic research gets done with international relations in mind, with an eye toward helping policymakers and scholars interact to seek better policy outcomes.”</p> <p><strong>“The best of what we want our country to be”</strong></p> <p>Before beginning his PhD studies, Sand studied history as a undergraduate at Harvard University. He was also a part of the naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). However, since Harvard did not have an ROTC, Sand went down the street to MIT where the program was based. When he graduated, Sand began his active duty commitment with the Navy as a surface warfare officer. For two years, he oversaw up to 30 sailors aboard USS John S. McCain, a destroyer based out of Japan. He was also the gunnery officer, which meant he was in charge of maintaining all of the weapons and ordnance on board.</p> <p>“That’s the stuff that explodes,” he says. “It’s a lot less glorious than it sounds.”</p> <p>Perhaps more glorious were Sand’s duties as a bridge watchstander, which involved navigating the destroyer as a direct representative of the captain when the captain wasn’t at the helm.</p> <p>After a year of training, Sand spent his fourth and fifth years in active duty as a nuclear reactor controls division officer aboard USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier based north of Seattle. During this time he was in charge of 50 sailors and the nuclear reactors that powered the ship.</p> <p>Sand eventually qualified to be engineering officer of the watch for the entire aircraft carrier, and was second in charge of a group of divisions that totaled 130 sailors.</p> <p>“The Navy is an organization that I think most of the time embodies the best of what we want our country to be,” Sand says. “I never worked or lived in any other place that was as diverse. It’s a place where you are ultimately judged by your ability to do your job. You are all part of a team, and if you didn’t have that team, you wouldn’t be able to do your job. There is sort of this mutual interdependence and desire to get things done when they need to be.”</p> <p><strong>Caring for others in distress</strong></p> <p>At MIT, Sand participates in iREFS (Institute Resources for Easing Friction and Stress), a program run by graduate students that trains volunteer students to provide their peers with support, coaching, and listening services, and to point them to the right resources during times of personal uncertainty, stress, or conflict. Sand is a facilitator in MIT’s Notice and Respond workshops, which help students learn to spot when someone else is struggling and to respond with the appropriate help.</p> <p>“My interest in this grew out of my time in the Navy. I had several sailors who had mental health issues and I always felt, as a division officer, that you’re responsible for your sailors,” Sand says. “A lot of the time you are the first person they come to and I always wanted to train as a mental health first-responder because I thought this would be very valuable.”</p> <p>During his time in the Navy, sailors would confide in Sand and turn to him for guidance. Although there we no traumatic events during his tour of duty, several sailors wrestled with mental health problems, and some of them had to leave the ship.</p> <p>“There wasn’t one defining event, but it was something that came up time and again that I had to deal with, and I wished I was better equipped,” he recalls.</p> <p><strong>War and peace</strong></p> <p>The summer before coming to MIT, Sand worked as a park ranger in Alaska, where from his office window he could see humpback whales breaching under blue skies, and landscapes of forest greens and snow-capped mountains.</p> <p>When he wasn’t processing permit applications and talking to park visitors about rules, Sand’s life on Glacier Bay’s 3.3 million-acre national park was filled mostly with patrols in the backcountry, kayak trips, and enjoying the scenery.</p> <p>For Sand, it was an ideal break from the Navy and office life. He has always loved to hike and camp, and was a Boy Scout as a child, later becoming an Eagle Scout.</p> <p>It could be said that his interest in security studies and his desire to acquire a PhD also began at a young age.</p> <p>“My mother has this story about how I asked about the quality of a history PhD at her alma mater, which didn’t offer PhDs, but I didn’t know that as a 6-year-old,” he says. “I was particularly interested in the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War.”</p> <p>He also recalls that as a kindergartner on weekly library trips, “pretty quickly I was asking where the science and history books were. There was this one book that I remember constantly checking out about Revolutionary War times, that I would bring home and demand that my mother read to me.”</p> Erik SandPhoto: Ian MacLellanPolitical science, SHASS, Students, Graduate, postdoctoral, Profile, Security studies and military, Policy, International relations, Government, ROTC, Navy Hybrid drones carry heavier payloads for greater distances http://news.mit.edu/2017/hybrid-drones-carry-heavier-payloads-greater-distances-0804 Startup’s gas-electric engines may pave way for package delivery and human flight. Fri, 04 Aug 2017 14:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/hybrid-drones-carry-heavier-payloads-greater-distances-0804 <p>MIT alumnus Long Phan SM ’99, PhD ’12 is a technology innovator and entrepreneur with several engineering “firsts” under his belt.</p> <p>In the mid-1990s, Phan helped build the Draper Small Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, the world’s first fully autonomous helicopter. While working on Wall Street in the early 2000s, he became an early pioneer of the high-frequency trading system, which consists of powerful computers that rapidly complete tons of trading transactions.</p> <p>As co-founder, CEO, and chief technology officer of Top Flight Technologies, Phan is now one of the first entrepreneurs to commercialize hybrid gas-to-electric drones. The drones offer an order-of-magnitude increase in range, payload size, and power over battery-powered counterparts.</p> <p>Coming to market this fall, the hybrid drones could help make drone package-delivery a reality, and enhance capabilities for crop imaging, military surveillance, emergency response, and remote infrastructure inspection, among other applications. As the startup continues to develop hybrid drone power sources, the technology could also pave the way for human flight.</p> <p>“The key is having an abundance of power and total energy. That’s what petrol and&nbsp; gasoline gives you,” Phan says. “Using a high-energy-density energy source like gasoline, and converting it to electric power, and doing it efficiently, gives you the equivalent of a ‘super battery.’”</p> <p>Many drones run on batteries, flying for 15 to 30 minutes between charges, with maximum payloads of 5 pounds. Top Flight’s drone can fly for more than 2.5 hours&nbsp;­— enabling ranges of up to 100 miles — while carrying up to 20 pounds.</p> <p>The drone can be customized for any number of industrial-strength applications. The engine weighs about 17 pounds and can generate up to 10 kilowatts of power. It uses gasoline to generate the power that drives the lift motors, keeps backup batteries charged, and powers onboard electronics including computing, sensors, and communications equipment. The onboard batteries never need recharging; users just need to refill the gas tank and fly again. Flight control can operate in fully-or semi-autonomous modes.</p> <p>With the hiring of several MIT alumni, the startup is quietly developing a 100-kilowatt hybrid drone that can lift 100 kilograms — enough to carry a human or two — for up to three hours. NASA, Uber, and many aerospace companies worldwide are currently working on building air taxis, small autonomous planes that will shuttle people around in big cities. But, Phan says, these can stay airborne for only about 10 minutes. Top Flight’s technologies will make them more practical for hauling people from hub to hub.</p> <p>“With a 100-kilowatt hybrid electric engine, concepts like air taxis become viable,” he says. “By 2020, you may see a drone fly a person.”</p> <p><strong>“A Toyota Prius for the sky”</strong></p> <p>Top Flight’s story began in the late 2000s, when Phan was recalled to MIT twice to solve different engineering problems — both times leading to startups.</p> <p>In 2009, Phan’s former advisor Sanjay Sarma, now the Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor in Mechanical Engineering and vice president for open learning, asked him to enroll in a PhD program to work on wide area thermal imaging. Phan’s research became a core of Phan and Sarma’s startup <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2015/startup-essess-heat-mapping-cars-0105">Essess</a>, which deploys cars with thermal-imaging rooftop rigs that create heat maps of homes and buildings to detect energy leaks.</p> <p>In 2014, Robert Shin, head of the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Tactical Systems Division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, approached Phan and asked him to help solve the payload and endurance problems for drones.</p> <p>Phan and other MIT researchers took a shot at the problem by conceptualizing and designing microscale hybrid electric-gas engines for drones. “We said, ‘What if we build a Toyota Prius for the sky?’” Phan says, laughing.</p> <p>Hybrid electric engines are easier to build in cars, because, among other things, there are fewer weight and volume restraints. Engines on drones must be small and lightweight while delivering the same amount of power. This produces major technical challenges with excessive vibration and heat. “Often the engine will literally melt because you’re running it so hot,” Phan says.</p> <p>Using various heat transfer and control techniques — such as strategically incorporating small fans, cooling fins, and rubber vibration dampeners — the team solved those issues and initially slapped a prototype hybrid engine on a generic drone. Their calculations predicted the hybrid drone would fly for an hour — but it flew for nearly 2.5 hours.</p> <p>“The lightbulb went off,” Phan says. “We were like, ‘What else can you do with a drone that can fly for hours?’”</p> <p>Phan founded the startup in 2014, along with Sarma and other MIT engineers, and set up operations in a remote-controlled helicopter hobby shop in Malden, Massachusetts, before opening a separate headquarters in that city in 2016. A couple of funding rounds pushed them past $2 million of early venture funding by 2015.</p> <p>Over the past several years, Top Flight has continued to develop major innovations for the microscale hybrid engine concept, called a “digital gearbox.” Engines for vertical takeoff aircraft, such as helicopters, are complex and difficult to manage, consisting of thousands of mechanical parts. Top Flight’s digital gearbox behaves like those systems but uses electricity to control everything. Gasoline runs to a small generator, creating electric power, which the digital gearbox controls and sends in pulses to the electric motors and electronics. This makes the powering flight much simpler and more efficient, Phan says.</p> <p>“By pulsing the electricity to the motors, we can control the amount of torque and revolutions per minute of the motor,” Phan says. “We can … achieve the same benefits as a traditional mechanical transmission system, but it’s much more efficient, cost-effective, and scalable.”</p> <p><strong>Cruising in agile aerospace</strong></p> <p>Today, Top Flight operates in what it calls “agile aerospace 2.0,” a term representing the valuable vertical range for drones and microsatellites starting from the ground level and rising to 400 feet. Flying closer to the ground means greatly enhanced imaging and sensing resolutions, and other capabilities, such as communications. “If you go outside today, there’s virtually nothing happening in agile aerospace,” Phan says. “But it makes the most sense [for] air taxis or inspecting power lines, or doing logistics or delivery.”</p> <p>Immediate applications for Top Flight’s drone capabilities may include inspecting infrastructure in remote areas. Some U.S. utilities companies are already tasking drones with inspecting power lines and pipelines that go without routine inspection due to their remote locations. Top Flight’s drones could greatly increase the range of those drones while reducing costs and improving worker safety. They could also help pre- and post-disaster recovery efforts by surveying damage to the networks after natural disasters.</p> <p>As for delivery drones, Phan says Top Flight can increase the overall value related to increased range. Amazon, Google, UPS, and other large international firms are developing drone-based solutions that can deliver packages to consumer doorsteps. But they’re restricted to carrying, say, a single textbook and maybe 30 minutes of battery life, limiting their range.</p> <p>“By increasing the range by an order of magnitude, you can capture 100 times more value, due to the increased area coverage, compared to traditional battery drone systems,” Phan says. “[Delivery drones] are not just a gimmick. They’re very feasible soon.”</p> <p>Top Flight’s drones also hold promise for improved military missions, Phan says. A flock of 1,000 small drones could be deployed for longer times to gather reconnaissance data at a cost similar that of a single large military aircraft.</p> <p>When Top Flight completes its 100-kilowatt hybrid electric engine, that same concept could also be used to haul, say, barrels of oil, divided into smaller amounts for military convoys in dangerous zones. Generally, this type of shipping is expensive and hazardous due to transportation costs and various risks on the road. “Instead of carrying really big loads in the tons, you use many drones to carry small loads in the 100-kilogram increments, like a pack of mules,” Phan says.</p> <p>Currently, Top Flight uses an internal combustion engine in its microscale hybrid power systems. Moving forward, the company aims to hybridize gas turbine engines, which are used to power jets and helicopters. “Heat and vibration issues will be magnified, but at the same time they’re much more powerful and almost 100 percent more energy efficient than comparably-sized internal combustion engines,” Phan says. “That’s our next challenge.”</p> New hybrid gas-to-electric drones from MIT spinout Top Flight Technologies offer an order-of-magnitude increase in range, payload size, and power over battery-powered counterparts. The drones may pave the way for package delivery and human flight. Courtesy of Top Flight TechnologiesInnovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Startups, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Drones, Alumni/ae, Energy, Design, Autonomous vehicles, Batteries, Security studies and military, Agriculture, Transportation, Industry, Lincoln Laboratory Hacking functional fabrics to aid emergency response http://news.mit.edu/2017/hacking-functional-fabrics-aid-emergency-response-0801 MIT and other innovators design novel solutions for the battlefield, disaster sites, and other dangerous environments. Tue, 01 Aug 2017 12:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/hacking-functional-fabrics-aid-emergency-response-0801 <p>Hazardous environments such as disaster sites and conflict zones present many challenges for emergency response. But the new field of functional fabrics — materials modified to incorporate various sensors, connect to the internet, or serve multiple purposes, among other things — holds promise for novel solutions.</p> <p>Over the weekend, MIT became a hotbed for developing those solutions.</p> <p>A three-day hackathon on campus brought together students and researchers from MIT and around Boston who developed functional fabric concepts to solve major issues facing soldiers in combat or training, first responders, victims and workers in refugee camps, and many others. The event was hosted by the MIT Innovation Initiative, the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) Institute, and MD5, a partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and a network of national research universities.</p> <p>Participants pitched their ideas on Friday night. By Sunday afternoon, more than 20 teams stationed around the MIT Media Lab’s sixth floor had design mockups drawn on poster boards, algorithms and brainstorming notes scribbled on large sheets of hanging paper, and even hardware and software prototypes on display.</p> <p>Two winning teams earned grand prizes of up to $15,000, courtesy of MD5. <a href="https://cambridgehack.md5.net/idea/BmAW9K8QSRjBKTdzk">Remote Triage</a>, formed by MIT students, designed an automated triage system for field medics, consisting of sensor-laden clothing that detects potential injury and a web platform that prioritizes care. The other team, <a href="https://cambridgehack.md5.net/idea/EknLYDYvDbXjFyaz3">Security Blanket</a>, designed a double-sided, multipurpose blanket for people displaced from their homes, based on an idea from a Drexel University student.</p> <p>Some other <a href="https://cambridgehack.md5.net/ideas">ideas</a> included smart belts that passively detect radiation exposure in submarines; military gear fitted with radio-frequency identification tags to manage materials and improve packing efficiency; biometric-monitoring stickers that detect potential post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms; lightweight body armor designed to better protect the heart and neck; stress-detecting shirts that improve military training exercises; and uniforms made with materials and tiny fans that deliver cool and hot airflow across the body. All teams were invited to continue working with MD5.</p> <p>“This is just the start,” Bill Kernick, technology and partnership development executive for MD5 told <em>MIT News</em>. “The idea of the hackathon is getting the sparks of these ideas moving and creating a relationship with these innovators, who may have not thought about working with DoD, to help solve some really hard problems.”</p> <p>In that regard, Vladimir Bulović, co-director of the MIT Innovation Initiative and the Fariborz Maseeh (1990) Professor of Emerging Technology, said the hackathon embodies MIT’s goal of developing innovations for real-world applications. “As long as we can deliver impact that leads toward productive next steps, we have succeeded in our mission,” he said.</p> <p>Through the hackathon, Bulović added, participants were also introduced to the newly launched AFFOA — a consortium of which MIT is a partner — and learned about the ever-growing possibilities of functional fabrics. “Fiber as a format that can deliver electronics, optics, photonics … is an entirely new platform that has not existed before,” he said. “It’s a new frontier.”</p> <p>On Friday night, hackathon participants listened to talks from various experts —&nbsp;including military officers, first responders, and government representatives — who described major challenges they face in their fields. Participants brainstormed solutions, pitched their ideas to all attendees, and ultimately formed a total of 22 teams. Experts and mentors, from MIT and elsewhere, were on hand all weekend to help teams shape their ideas. (Some experts also joined individual teams.) On Sunday, a panel of judges — including representatives from industry, AFFOA, and MIT — chose 10 teams as finalists to pitch ideas, with two teams emerging as the big winners.</p> <p>Some teams entered the hackathon with established ideas they wanted to refine. The finalist team OREverywhere, for instance, tweaked its augmented-reality (AR) headgear over the weekend to help field medics. The AR system displays biometric information collected from wearable sensors worn by soldiers and connects all medics on the field. A medic, for instance, can see when a soldier is injured, alert nearby medics, provide advice during care, and monitor everything via video feed — all while helping another soldier. During Sunday’s pitch round, the team presented a live demonstration.</p> <p>Other teams developed their concepts entirely over the weekend. The MIT students of Remote Triage, who are all friends, landed on their winning idea during dinner, after hearing from an expert about problems with battlefield triage efficiency. “We came in with literally nothing. We weren’t even planning on pitching,” team member Aditi Gupta, a PhD student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, told <em>MIT News</em>.</p> <p>In two days, the team of six, including a former military officer, designed a mockup of an automated triage system called VITAL. It includes a garment integrated with sensors that continuously monitor vital signs. Signals are sent to a machine-learning algorithm that determines the necessary order of care for injured soldiers, from least urgent to most urgent, color-coded as green, yellow, red, and black. Other features also help the medic determine the whereabouts of the soldier down and the location of their injury, among other things.</p> <p>With the prize money and other resources from MD5, Gupta said the team now aims to design sensor-laden clothing and further develop the machine-learning algorithm that will power their platform. They’re meeting with MD5 next week to discuss options for moving forward.</p> <p>Gupta was surprised at how much the team completed in a short time. Hackathons, she added, really help participants — especially tech-minded MIT students — find real-world applications for their ideas and people to help make those ideas a reality. “Hackathons are useful in opening your mind and seeing the bigger picture in terms of how your technology fits in society,” she says, “as well as meeting people out of your field that have knowledge and expertise you don’t.”</p> <p>Christina Kara, a Drexel University student who manages a lab that researches functional fabrics, had a similar experience. After hearing a first responder talk about working with Hurricane Katrina victims —&nbsp;who were in desperate need of tarps and blankets, and suffered from bacterial skin infections — she pitched the winning concept behind Security Blanket.</p> <p>Teaming up with that first responder and a few others, the group developed a multipurpose comfort blanket for refugee camps or disaster relief that consists of a waterproof, flexible, robust material on the outside. The inside is lined with antimicrobial, soft, and quick-drying microfibers. The blankets can roll out into a sleeping bag or fold into a backpack. Luminescent strips on the outside improve safety by increasing visibility at night, as well.</p> <p>“In the five minutes we’ve talked to you, 100 people have been displaced in the world,” Kara said during her team’s pitch. “This is not a problem that’s going away. When we have something that’s fairly affordable, multiuse tool to empower them in their everyday life … you’re improving the experience of these individuals.”</p> <p>After being announced a winner on Sunday, Kara was in shock, but excited to move forward with her idea, with help from MD5. “Being in a situation, where I have a problem to solve and think about was a new experience for me,” Kara told <em>MIT News</em>. “It was an amazing experience.”</p> A three-day hackathon on campus brought together students and researchers from MIT and around Boston who developed functional fabric concepts to solve major issues facing soldiers in combat or training, first responders, victims and workers in refugee camps, and many others. Photo: Lacey Seymour PhotographyInnovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Special events and guest speakers, Invention, Security studies and military, Medical devices, Sensors, Students, Materials Science and Engineering, Innovation Initiative, Industry, Technology and society, Collaboration, Government, Media Lab Jessica Myers: Liberté, Égalité, Sécurité http://news.mit.edu/2017/jessica-myers-liberte-egalite-securite-urban-studies-podcast-thesis-0710 A novel thesis in the form of a podcast gives voice to issues of security and identity in New York and Paris. Mon, 10 Jul 2017 09:00:00 -0400 Michael Blanding | School of Architecture and Planning http://news.mit.edu/2017/jessica-myers-liberte-egalite-securite-urban-studies-podcast-thesis-0710 <p>As an undergraduate at Princeton University, Jessica Myers MCP ’17 threw herself into writing a thesis on urban food markets in New Orleans. After many months of work, however, she was disappointed to see it filed away, virtually unread. For her graduate thesis in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), she was determined to resist that fate.</p> <p>Interested in writing about the urban fabric of Paris, she spoke with members of DUSP’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab), who suggested that she produce a podcast that could be disseminated online to a wider audience. She’d never created a podcast, Myers says, but as an avid podcast listener, she was excited about the challenge of figuring it out.</p> <p>The result is “<a href="http://www.htbdpodcast.com/" target="_blank">Here There Be Dragons</a>,” a two-season, 13-episode (and counting) exploration of urban life in New York and Paris through the themes of race, class, and security. “I basically wanted to ask questions about fear,” says Myers, “looking at how people prepare themselves to be in a city and create mental maps and strategies.”</p> <p>Myers isn’t from a big city herself; she grew up in the bedroom community of Plainfield, New Jersey. But she fell in love with Paris during a study abroad semester during which she held a number of jobs — washing dishes at a restaurant, translating poetry for a cabaret, and working as an archivist at the Centre Pompidou. “I was all over the city, working in a lot of different contexts, and that made me very interested in how it works socially and politically.”</p> <p>At MIT, she took a class with DUSP lecturer Jota Samper on “conflict cities” that examined how policies around security affect the use of public space. While other students studied Teheran, Donetsk, or Medellin, Myers chose to focus on Paris. “With older Western cities, we typically look at them as historical case studies, seeing them as ‘developed’ rather than ‘developing,’” says Myers. “But on a neighborhood level, they are dealing with the same social and cultural issues as the global south.”</p> <p>For her podcast, Myers honed her craft with a first “season” on New York, featuring interviews with seven people about how they constructed mental maps of where they felt safe and unsafe. “If I am a woman, where am I not going to wear a short skirt; if I am queer, where can I hold hands,” she says. “I wanted to look at all of these strategies people have and how they change over time.”</p> <p>After developing her interview techniques and tweaking the software she used to weave together the program, she set forth on a second season on Paris, starting with reactions to the terrorist attacks of November 2015. “What was interesting was that white men were very shocked at the prospect of having to feel worried in a public space,” says Myers. “Whereas women and LGTBQ interviewees were more like, ‘This is another thing I need to add to my running ticker tape of public stress.’”</p> <p>As she spoke to different groups — white, immigrant, middle class, and poor — about where they felt safe or unsafe in the city, the conversations took a surprising turn toward issues of gentrification. For middle-class Parisians, the introduction of a wine shop or brunch spot on a previously “unsafe” corner made them extend their mental map. For residents of poor neighborhoods, however, an influx of unfamiliar faces made them feel unsafe. “If you rely on the so-called ‘eyes on the street’ to keep your kids safe,” Myers says, “then all of a sudden that change breaks up your sense of community trust.”</p> <p>Later episodes of the podcast address the contradictions of the French policy of mixité, a social housing program based on the ideal of mixing social classes that relocates poorer people such as immigrants from North and West Africa into more affluent arrondissements. “But what exactly is the support offered to those families?” Myers asks. Often even second- or third-generation African-French citizens are referred to as “immigrants” by white French people. “If they cook food with strong peanut sauces and neighbors smell it, will it be a nuisance? Will they feel hostility in a place that is supposed to be their home?”</p> <p>For each episode, Myers created a script, transcribing the interviews in French and then translating them into English. She cast English speakers to closely match the original subjects in age, gender, and ethnicity, and overlaid the English audio onto the French. It’s an effective strategy in bringing the issues alive, says Myers’s advisor, professor of landscape architecture and planning Anne Whiston Spirn. “Hearing their voices and their words, it makes it so clear that the ideas are emerging from the data,” she says. “You often don’t get that as directly in a more conventional thesis.”</p> <p>Since DUSP first offered students the option of a media-based thesis four years ago, Spirn has overseen several other students with backgrounds in film and photography who created multimedia explorations of urban planning. She hopes that in the future, more students like Myers, who didn’t arrive with a media background, can take that approach. “I am interested in promoting these theses and in giving students the support they need in order to do them.”</p> <p>In telling the stories of her subjects, Myers had to balance between the academic demands of her thesis and the entertainment value of a podcast. “I think academics have lost a crucial audience because there is little emphasis on being engaging, and news has decided to become so much a part of entertainment, that there is no grounding in rigor,” she says. In addition to receiving guidance from Spirn, she’s worked with a producer from BuzzFeed France in maneuvering between those poles.</p> <p>Her formula seems to be working. “I would say it’s as rigorous as any thesis I’ve seen, and at the same time it’s enormously engaging,” says Spirn. In recognition of the achievement, Myers was awarded honorable mention for the department’s outstanding thesis award.</p> <p>Currently the podcast is downloaded 200 times a week by listeners in the United States and France, as well as from as far away as Iceland, Hong Kong, and Chile. “I hope that people take away from this the fact that Paris is still developing, and the conversation isn’t over about what it can become,” says Myers, who is thrilled with the wide reach of the work. “Someone in Medellin or Mogadishu might have something to contribute.”</p> Jessica Myers MCP ’17 completed a graduate thesis in the form of a podcast series entitled “Here There Be Dragons.”Photo: Billy NdengeyingomaAlumni/ae, Urban studies and planning, Research, Global, Cities, Students, Graduate, postdoctoral, France, Politics, Security studies and military, Conflict, Immigration, Arts, Technology and society, CoLab, School of Architecture and Planning 3 Questions: Justin Steil on the Trump administration travel ban http://news.mit.edu/2017/3-questions-justin-steil-trump-administration-travel-ban-0707 Assistant professor of urban studies and planning argues immigration is good for the U.S. and that President Trump&#039;s executive order threatens national security. Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:10:01 -0400 Michelle Nhuch | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2017/3-questions-justin-steil-trump-administration-travel-ban-0707 <p><em>On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments relating to President Donald Trump's recent executive order on travel, which limits individuals from six majority-Musliim countries and refugees worldwide from entering the United States. The court also <a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-1436_l6hc.pdf" target="_blank">ruled to uphold</a> a limited version of the travel ban, which went into effect on June 29. President Trump cited this as “a clear victory for our national security.” </em></p> <p><em>Justin Steil, assistant professor of professor of law and urban planning at MIT, firmly disagrees. Steil is a member of the The <a href="http://cis.mit.edu/programs/international-migration/" target="_blank">Inter-University Committee on International Migration</a> — a focal point for migration and refugee studies at six universities in the greater Boston area that's hosted by the MIT Center for International of Studies (CIS). He recently spoke with the CIS, arguing that such policies undermine our nation’s security and that immigration makes the U.S. more safe, not less.</em></p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What concerns you most about the Supreme Court decision to allow parts of the travel ban to go into effect?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A: </strong>The <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/06/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states" target="_blank">revised executive order</a> seeking to temporarily ban the migration to the United States of refugees worldwide and of individuals from six predominantly Muslim countries presents both foreign-born residents, particularly Muslim residents, of the United States and those seeking to immigrate here as a threat to national security, against the evidence. The Supreme Court’s decision to stay, in part, the preliminary injunctions issued by the <a href="http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/caseinformationefiling/cases-of-interest/details/2017/05/25/17-1351-intl-ref-asst-proj-v-trump-opinion-of-the-court" target="_blank">Fourth</a> and <a href="https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/content/view.php?pk_id=0000000871" target="_blank">Ninth</a> Circuit Courts of Appeal and preventing implementation of that executive order unfortunately lends credence to the administration’s political theater. The court’s decision continues to allow the entry of refugees or migrants from the six countries who have “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” but stays the injunction as to other affected foreign nationals.</p> <p>What concerns me most about the court’s decision to let part of Executive Order 13780 go into effect is the impact it will have on refugees who are fleeing persecution in their countries of origin and on immigrants hoping to build a new life and contribute to the vibrancy and growth of the United States.&nbsp;</p> <p>I am also concerned about the message the executive order, and the court’s validation of it, sends to the rest of the world, to the potential immigrants who have always contributed and who continue to contribute to the United States, economically, intellectually, culturally, artistically, and in other ways. Thousands of communities across the United States are eager to welcome immigrants, but the order sends a message of fear and division both at home and abroad, and makes it that much more difficult for immigrants to enrich the fabric of our local social and economic lives. In my research analyzing local government policymaking with regard to immigrants, I have seen immigrants scapegoated for political gain, and I have also seen that the targeting of immigrants often comes back to have negative social, economic, and political consequences for the rest of those in the locality, including increasing political polarization and fragmentation in social life, and even violence.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>The Trump administration consistently portrays immigrants as a primary threat to national security. Does this stand up to a fact check?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. citizens are descended from either voluntary or involuntary migrants, and the United States often represents itself as a nation of immigrants, it is also a place where, for centuries, some have represented the foreign-born as a danger to the nation’s values and its security.&nbsp;</p> <p>As described in an <a href="http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/general/2017/04/20/17-15589%20Former%20National%20Security%20Officials%20Amicus.pdf" target="_blank">amicus brief</a> by a bipartisan group of former national security officials, there is no legitimate national security rationale for the executive order, and it will instead disrupt existing counterterrorism partnerships, endanger U.S. troops in the field, and have a negative impact on U.S. citizens at home. Refugees — those individuals who have fled their country of nationality because of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion — are already some of the most carefully <a href="https://www.state.gov/j/prm/ra/admissions/" target="_blank">vetted</a> migrants to the United States and, since the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, <a href="https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/terrorism-immigration-risk-analysis" target="_blank">have not been associated with even a single terrorist attack</a> in the United States. Nor has a single citizen of the six countries targeted by the Executive Order killed anyone in a terrorist attack in the United States in at least the last four decades, if ever. In the past 15 years, more terrorist attacks have been committed, and significantly more Americans have been killed, by native-born attackers than by foreign-born ones.</p> <p>Beyond the executive order at issue here, the current White House has worked hard to paint a picture of immigrants generally as a threat to public safety, whether from crime or from terrorism. But overwhelming social scientific evidence has <a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/criminal_justice2000/vol_1/02j.pdf" target="_blank">consistently found</a> that immigrants (both <a href="http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/immigration-public-safety/" target="_blank">documented and undocumented</a>) are significantly <a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2004.037705" target="_blank">less likely</a> <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07418825.2012.659200" target="_blank">to commit crimes</a> than native-born Americans. And higher shares of immigrants have aggregate benefits as well: Cities with larger shares of immigrants have <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X05000104" target="_blank">lower crime rates</a> than those with fewer immigrants, and the cities that experienced the largest increase in their foreign-born populations between 1990 and 2000 experienced the <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00706.x/full" target="_blank">largest decrease</a> in murder rates over the same period.</p> <p>My own <a href="http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/675301?journalCode=ajs" target="_blank">research</a> at the municipal level has found that anti-immigrant policies are actually more likely to be enacted in cities where violent crime is decreasing than ones where it is increasing, but that immigrants in those cities are nevertheless blamed for crime and that anti-immigrant rhetoric is used for political gain.</p> <p>In short, immigration generally makes the United States more, not less, safe. Certainly careful review of those seeking to enter the United States is necessary, but neither bans on refugee admissions, nor bans on migration from certain countries, nor mass deportations will make America safer.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What’s your predicted outcome for the Supreme Court decision this fall?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> It is hard to say what the court will do. The Supreme Court has historically been hesitant to intervene in the Executive Branch’s power over immigration, especially when national security justifications are invoked. But reference to national security cannot exempt an executive policy from judicial review.&nbsp;</p> <p>The court asked for additional briefing on whether the case will be moot by the time it is argued in October, so the court may dismiss it as moot. If the court does reach the merits of the case, the most discussed legal argument against the executive order is that it violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on favoring one religion over another. A second argument is that parts of the order violate provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the provision prohibiting discrimination in the issuance of an immigrant visa on the basis of a person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence. There are numerous additional arguments, but I’ll just discuss those two.</p> <p>The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This clause prohibits the government both from establishing an official religion and from favoring one religion over another. The Establishment Clause claim is essentially a challenge based on the president’s intent when he enacted the executive order, and the court is very reluctant to strike down policies based on claims about the discriminatory intent of a policy’s enactor. Indeed, it is often hard to know the intent behind any policy outside of what is written in the policy itself. Some justices may evaluate the executive order based on the text of the revised order alone and, without an explicitly discriminatory classification in that text, argue to uphold it.</p> <p>Unlike in many cases where discerning intent may be challenging, however, Donald Trump has argued explicitly for a ban on immigration on the basis of religion. For instance, as a candidate, he released a statement on his campaign website calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” And just before signing the first version of the executive order he said, “This is the ‘Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.’ We all know what that means.” Further, the first executive order treated refugees differently on the basis of religion, by excluding from the ban refugees from religious minorities, which Trump explained in an interview to the Christian Broadcasting News would give preference to Christian refugees. Although the executive order does not prohibit all immigration by Muslim individuals to the United States, there is convincing evidence that it did not have a bona fide secular purpose of protecting national security and that its primary purpose instead was to enact a policy discriminating on the basis of religion, in violation of the First Amendment.</p> <p>The INA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence in the issuance of an immigrant visa — such as legal permanent resident visas — but does not apply to non-immigrant visas — such as tourist visas — and its application to the actual entry of any visa holder into the United States is unclear. What is clear is that this provision was enacted as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, influenced by the civil rights movement’s push to challenge the overt discrimination codified in the nation’s immigration system forty years prior. In 1924, Congress had enacted immigration quotas explicitly designed to return the United States to the racial and cultural composition it had in 1890, by excluding immigrants from Southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The current administration’s policies have disturbing parallels to these historic white supremacist policies. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s ultimate conclusion about the legality of the current executive order, its mean-spiritedness, short-sightedness, and damage it has done, and will continue to do, are already evident.</p> “This is not the first time that we have seen anti-immigrant sentiments surge in the U.S.,” said MIT Assistant Professor Justin Steil at a recent MIT Starr Forum, The Fight Over Foreigners: Visas and Immigration in the Trump Era. “Despite the fact that most U.S. residents are descended from either voluntary or involuntary migrants, all the way back to Benjamin Franklin there has been skepticism about the effects of migration.” Photo: MIT Center for International Studies3 Questions, Faculty, Immigration, Urban studies and planning, Security studies and military, Law, Center for International Studies, Middle East, International relations, Global, SHASS, School of Architecture and Planning Is the Pax Americana truly peaceful? http://news.mit.edu/2017/john-dower-book-pax-americana-truly-peaceful-0627 MIT historian John Dower’s latest book decries the militarism of the postwar years. Tue, 27 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/john-dower-book-pax-americana-truly-peaceful-0627 <p>As a series of widely publicized statistics compiled by scholars suggests, warfare and violence have declined dramatically over the last seven decades — constituting a period that historian John Gaddis once termed “the long peace.” Rarely, it seems, have most people been able to live lives of such normalcy. Who would argue with the state of affairs that has produced such results?</p> <p>John Dower would, for one.</p> <p>Dower is the Ford International Professor of History, Emeritus, and has won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award as part of a career spent writing about topics such as the extreme brutality of World War II combat and the reconstruction of postwar Japan. Today, when he looks at matters of war and security, Dower is skeptical that we have made much progress since then.</p> <p>“We’re in a perpetual cycle of violence in the name of preventing violence,” Dower says.</p> <p>Now in Dower’s latest book, “The Violent American Century,” published this spring by Haymarket Books, he questions the foundation of the entire postwar order. As Dower sees it, there may be less warfare today, but our apparent U.S.-led calm is heavily based on a hyperactive militarism. And the vast superiority of American armed forces creates an inherent volatility, Dower thinks, because the U.S. expects to bend international affairs to its will, by virtue of sheer strength.</p> <p>As such, Dower contends, the U.S. has mistakenly pursued an open-ended “war on terror,” supported too many proxy wars, and risked nuclear annihilation. Our postwar era of relative peace thus hinges in part on good fortune — in avoiding some accidental triggers of nuclear war, for instance — and may be more short-lived than some of us assume.</p> <p>“The sense that we must always have a dominant military posture means we must always be pushing the frontiers of military technology,” Dower observes. “But that means we are always pushing the edge of greater and greater destructiveness.”</p> <p><strong>New kinds of war </strong></p> <p>Dower’s book is a reference to the famous phrase used by <em>TIME</em> magazine founder Henry Luce, who wrote in a 1941 anti-isolationism essay that we were living in “The American Century.”</p> <p>Dower does acknowledge that, by the basic numbers — compiled by many scholars and research groups such as the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, at Uppsala University in Sweden — we have been safer over the last 70-plus years. On the other hand, Dower adds, the end of World War II would make almost any security regime seem tranquil by contrast. At least 50 million people were killed in World War II, by most estimates; The Correlates of War Project, an academic research inquiry, estimates that over 2 million battle deaths have occurred in almost every decade since then.</p> <p>“If you go back to World War II, when anywhere between 50 million to 80 million people were killed, of course we're not killing those numbers [of people] now,” says Dower, who also suggests such estimates are inherently imprecise.</p> <p>The core of Dower’s critique concerns three types of U.S. military activity: proxy wars, the “war on terror,” and the buildup of its nuclear arsenal. In each case, Dower contends, U.S. activity has not simply had deterrent effects; it has also escalated violence or, in the case of the nuclear arms race, the potential consequences of warfare.</p> <p>In the case of the Cold War-era proxy wars the U.S. led or backed, Dower contends in the book that those campaigns led to “unrestrained devastation” and the “unleashing of massive brute force” that we may still downplay. As he points out, during the Vietnam War, between 1965 and 1973, the U.S. dropped about 40 times the tonnage of bombs on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos than it dropped on Japan in World War II.</p> <p>The U.S. decision to respond to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Dower thinks, led to a wide-ranging “war on terror” that constitutes a “new kind of war” that has proven to be hydra-headed and has underestimated the political and military resistance in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East.</p> <p>“When we went into Iraq, with the ‘cakewalk’ rhetoric, with that came a real hubris and failure to look at human nature,” Dower says.</p> <p>Meanwhile the development of nuclear arsenals, Dower observes, is potentially more lethal than anything else people have ever attempted. In the book, he notes both nuclear near-misses and the tendency of some military planners to regard nuclear weapons as “simply the high end of conventional weaponry” when they clearly are in a category by themselves.</p> <p>“The nuclear arms race is terrifying,” Dower says. “It's a kind of terror, but built into that postwar system.”</p> <p>All of this, Dower argues, should give people pause about an international edifice that rests so squarely on militarism. But, as he writes in the book, “The myth of exceptionalism still holds most Americans in its thrall.”</p> <p><strong>Personally pessimistic</strong></p> <p>To be sure, there are other perspectives on the post-World War II order that give more relative credit to the U.S., and especially its application of “soft power,” the web of diplomatic and economic relationships that help bind other countries in largely peaceful international relationships.</p> <p>Still other scholarship emphasizes the role of the U.N., the European Union, NATO, and other oragnizations, in reducing intra-European warfare.</p> <p>However, numerous prominent scholars find Dower’s new contribution to be valuable. Andrew Bacevich, a professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University and a leading commentator on American security strategy, calls Dower’s new book a “timely, compact, and utterly compelling exposé of the myriad contradictions besetting U.S. national security policy.”</p> <p>Dower says his own experiences as a citizen have forged an intellectual habit of not giving his own country, however much he admires it in general, a free pass on security policy.</p> <p>“I'm of the generation that was a young adult during the Vietnam war,” Dower explains. “The fire of those years burned a certain impression and way of thinking upon us, and that has influenced me in thinking about violence.”</p> <p>That legacy, as well as the multitude of U.S. military engagements at the moment, Dower adds, leaves him skeptical that a new security paradigm will emerge any time soon.</p> <p>“I’m very pessimistic at the moment,” Dower concludes.</p> “The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II,” by John W Dower (Haymarket Books)SHASS, History, International relations, Books and authors, Humanities, Security studies and military, Nuclear security and policy, Faculty After MIT, new officers will serve their country http://news.mit.edu/2017/after-mit-new-officers-will-serve-their-country-0616 Following their MIT studies, graduates in MIT’s Reserve Officer Training Corps set off on new challenges in the U.S. military. Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0400 Meg Murphy | School of Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2017/after-mit-new-officers-will-serve-their-country-0616 <p>A few hours after they received their MIT diplomas on the Institute’s famed Killian Court, 12 young women and men stood on the deck of the USS Constitution to receive commissions in the U.S. military. “You embody the best of MIT,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif told the new crop of surface warfare officers, pilots, flight officers, reactor and developmental engineers, ordnance officers, aircraft maintenance officers, and medical physicians.</p> <p>Joined by family and friends, who would later assist in affixing the cadets’ newly minted <a href="https://www.defense.gov/About/Insignias/Officers/" target="_blank">insignias</a>, the graduates of MIT’s Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) took their oaths of service in one of three branches of the U.S. armed services: the Air Force, Army, and Navy. The ROTC program has been active at MIT since 1865, and typically graduates a dozen new officers every year. More than 12,000 officers have been commissioned from MIT since the program’s origin, and more than 150 have reached the rank of general or admiral.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>The guest of honor at this year’s ceremony was four-star Air Force General Darren W. McDew, commander of U.S. Transportation Command. “Our current environment is highly uncertain,” he told the cadets. “We need people who think critically and can bring clarity in crisis. Don’t be afraid to be bold. Lead. Don’t shy away from it. Just lead,” he said. “Do what you know is right.” McDew’s command has responsibilities for air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense and ultimately delivers national objectives on behalf of the president of the United States.</p> <p>As the sun set, flags whipped in the wind, and a military band played, the cadets pledged to faithfully serve and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Each cadet was then called “front and center” to receive a badge of military rank, pinned in place by parents or siblings, duty stations were announced, commissioning scrolls presented, and first salutes delivered to a mentor of the cadet’s choosing.</p> <p>Now they are off to new challenges.</p> <p>Air Force Second Lt. Martin York ’17, SM ’17 will head to Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas to begin training in a Euro-NATO joint program for jet pilots. “NATO has always been important,” said York, an aeronautics and astronautics graduate and <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2016/martin-york-named-us-air-force-cadet-of-the-year-1229" target="_self">the 2016 U.S. Air Force Cadet of the Year</a>. “It’s great that we train with people from different countries, such as the Germans and the Dutch. We build a joint atmosphere so that if we were to fly and fight together, we have a strong starting place and connection.”</p> <p>For Navy Ensign Natalie Shifflet ’17, the future involves a career as an electrical officer aboard the USS Gonzalez in Norfolk, Virginia. “I don’t know much about what that role is going to entail,” said Shifflet, who received the details of her posting the day before. “But I’m looking forward to new opportunities and working hard.”</p> <p>For Shifflet, who majored in nuclear science and engineering, the assignment marks the first major separation from her twin sister, Monica Shifflet ’17, who studied materials science and engineering. Monica has been assigned to flight school in Pensacola, Florida. “Just growing up we’ve done the same activities,” said Natalie. “It’s always been where the road has taken us. And now the road is taking us in two different directions.”</p> <p>The 2017 MIT graduates commissioned into the services include:</p> <p>Second Lieutenant Kyle Beeks, U.S. Air Force: A graduate of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Physics, Beeks will commission as a developmental engineer. He is taking an educational delay to complete a master of science in electrical engineering at MIT.</p> <p>Second Lieutenant John Graham, U.S. Air Force: Graduating with both a bachelor's degree from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a master's from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Graham will be a pilot. He will report to Euro/NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.</p> <p>Ensign Vardaan Gurung, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Gurung will be a naval reactors engineer reporting to the Navy Yard in Washington.</p> <p>Second Lieutenant Joseph Han, U.S. Air Force: A graduate of the Department of Biological Engineering, Han will join the medical service corp and begin medical studies at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.</p> <p>Ensign Sean Lowder, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Lowder will be a naval reactors engineer reporting to the Navy Yard in Washington.</p> <p>Ensign Colleen McCoy, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, McCoy will be a naval reactors engineer reporting to the Navy Yard in Washington.</p> <p>Second Lieutenant Jason Morrison, U.S. Army: A graduate of the Department of Political Science, Morrison will be an ordnance officer serving in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment in Fort Hood, Texas.</p> <p>Second Lieutenant Dayannara Munoz, U.S. Air Force: A graduate of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Munoz will join the 20th Maintenace Group at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.</p> <p>Ensign Julia Rubin, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Rubin will be a surface warfare officer on the USS The Sullivans in Mayport, Florida.</p> <p>Ensign Monica Shifflet, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Shifflet will be a naval flight officer attending Flight School in Pensacola, Florida.</p> <p>Ensign Natalie Shifflet, U.S. Navy: A graduate of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Shifflet will be a surface warfare officer on the USS Gonzalez in Norfolk, Virginia.</p> <p>Second Lieutenant Martin York, U.S. Air Force: A dual bachelor's and master's graduate in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, York will be a pilot at the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.</p> Officers surround honorable guest Air Force General Darren W. McDew (at center) and MIT President Rafael L. Reif during the 2017 commissioning ceremony for the MIT’s Reserve Officers Training Corps. More than 12,000 officers have been commissioned from MIT since the program’s origin, and more than 150 have reached the rank of general or admiral.Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of EngineeringROTC, Students, Undergraduate, Graduate, postdoctoral, Alumni/ae, Navy, School of Engineering, School of Science, SHASS, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Mechanical engineering, Physics, Biological engineering, Nuclear science and engineering, Political science, Chemical engineering, DMSE, Special events and guest speakers, President L. Rafael Reif, Classes and programs, Commencement, Security studies and military Batteries that “drink” seawater could power long-range underwater vehicles http://news.mit.edu/2017/batteries-drink-seawater-long-range-autonomous-underwater-vehicles-0615 Startup’s novel aluminum batteries increase the range of UUVs tenfold. Thu, 15 Jun 2017 11:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/batteries-drink-seawater-long-range-autonomous-underwater-vehicles-0615 <p>The long range of airborne drones helps them perform critical tasks in the skies. Now MIT spinout Open Water Power (OWP) aims to greatly improve the range of unpiloted underwater vehicles (UUVs), helping them better perform in a range of applications under the sea.</p> <p>Recently acquired by major tech firm L3 Technologies, OWP has developed a novel aluminum-water power system that’s safer and more durable, and that gives UUVs a tenfold increase in range over traditional lithium-ion batteries used for the same applications.</p> <p>The power systems could find a wide range of uses, including helping UUVs dive deeper, for longer periods of time, into the ocean’s abyss to explore ship wreckages, map the ocean floor, and conduct research. They could also be used for long-range oil prospecting out at sea and various military applications.</p> <p>With the acquisition, OWP now aims to ramp up development of its power systems, not just for UUVs, but also for various ocean-floor monitoring systems, sonar buoy systems, and other marine-research devices.</p> <p>OWP is currently working with the U.S. Navy to replace batteries in acoustic sensors designed to detect enemy submarines. This summer, the startup will launch a pilot with Riptide Autonomous Solutions, which will use the UUVs for underwater surveys. Currently, Riptide’s UUVs travel roughly 100 nautical miles in one go, but the company hopes OWP can increase that distance to 1,000 nautical miles.</p> <p>“Everything people want to do underwater should get a lot easier,” says co-inventor <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2011/student-profile-mckay">Ian Salmon McKay</a> ’12, SM ’13, who co-founded OWP with fellow mechanical engineering graduate Thomas Milnes PhD ’13 and <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2015/student-profile-ruaridh-macdonald-0902">Ruaridh Macdonald</a> '12, SM '14, who will earn his PhD in nuclear engineering this year. “We’re off to conquer the oceans.”</p> <p><strong>“Drinking” sea water for power</strong></p> <p>Most UUVs use lithium-based batteries, which have several issues. They’re known to catch fire, for one thing, so UUV-sized batteries are generally not shippable by air. Also, their energy density is limited, meaning expensive service ships chaperone UUVs to sea, recharging the batteries as necessary. And the batteries need to be encased in expensive metal pressure vessels. In short, they’re rather short-lived and unsafe.</p> <p>In contrast, OWP’s power system is safer, cheaper, and longer-lasting. It consists of a alloyed aluminum, a cathode alloyed with a combination of elements (primarily nickel), and an alkaline electrolyte that’s positioned between the electrodes.</p> <p>When a UUV equipped with the power system is placed in the ocean, sea water is pulled into the battery, and is split at the cathode into hydroxide anions and hydrogen gas. The hydroxide anions interact with the aluminum anode, creating aluminum hydroxide and releasing electrons. Those electrons travel back toward the cathode, donating energy to a circuit along the way to begin the cycle anew. Both the aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen gas are jettisoned as harmless waste.</p> <p>Components are only activated when flooded with water. Once the aluminum anode corrodes, it can be replaced at low cost.</p> <p>Think of the power system as type of underwater engine, where water is the oxidizer feeding the chemical reactions, instead of the air used by car engines, McKay says. “Our power system can drink sea water and discard waste products,” he says. “But that exhaust is not harmful, compared to exhaust of terrestrial engines.”</p> <p>With the aluminum-based power system, UUVs can launch from shore and don’t need service ships, opening up new opportunities and dropping costs. With oil prospecting, for example, UUVs currently used to explore the Gulf of Mexico need to hug the shores, covering only a few pipeline assets. OWP-powered UUVs could cover hundreds of miles and return before needing a new power system, covering all available pipeline assets.</p> <p>Consider also the Malaysian Airlines crash in 2014, where UUVs were recruited to search areas that were infeasible for equipment on the other vessels, McKay says. “In looking for the debris, a sizeable amount of the power budget for missions like that is used descending to depth and ascending back to the surface, so their working time on the sea floor is very limited,” he says. “Our power system will improve on that.”</p> <p><strong>Nailing the design</strong></p> <p>The OWP technology started as the co-founders’ side project, which was modified throughout two MIT classes and a lab. In 2011, McKay joined 2.013/2.014 (Engineering System Design/Development) taught by MIT professor of mechanical engineering Douglas Hart, a seasoned hardware entrepreneur who co-founded <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2013/brontes-technologies-0821">Brontes Technologies</a> and Lantos Technologies. Milnes, who was previously a systems engineer at Brontes and co-founded <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2014/3-d-scanning-with-your-smartphone-0131">Viztu Technologies</a>, was Hart’s teaching assistant.</p> <p>The class was charged with developing an alternate power source for UUVs. McKay gambled on an energy-dense but challenging element: aluminum. One major challenge with aluminum batteries is that certain chemical issues make it difficult to donate electrons to a circuit. Additionally, the product of the reactions, the aluminum hydroxide, sticks to the electrode’s surface, inhibiting further reaction. Continuing the work in 10.625 (Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage), taught by materials science Professor Yang Shao-Horn, the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy, McKay was able to overcome the first challenge by making a gallium-rich alloyed aluminum anode that successfully donated electrons, but it corroded very quickly.</p> <p>Seeing potential in the battery, Milnes joined McKay in further developing the battery as a side project. The two briefly moved operations to the lab of Evelyn Wang, the Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering. There, they began developing electrolytes and alloys that inhibit parasitic corrosion processes and prevent that aluminum hydroxide layer from forming on the anode.</p> <p>Setting up shop at Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 2013 — where the company still operates with about 10 employees — OWP further refined the power system’s design. Today, that power system uses a pump to circulate the electrolyte, scooping up unwanted aluminum hydroxide on the anode and dumping it onto a custom precipitation trap. When saturated, the traps with the waste are ejected and replaced automatically. The electrolyte prevents marine organisms from growing inside the power system.</p> <p>Now OWP’s chief science officer, McKay says the startup owes much of its success to MIT’s atmosphere of innovation, where many of his professors readily offered technical and entrepreneurial advice and allowed him to work on extracurricular projects.</p> <p>“It takes a village,” McKay says. “Those classes and that lab are where the idea took shape. People at MIT were doing strong science for science’s sake, but everyone was keenly aware of the possibility of bringing technologies to market. People were always having those great ‘What if?’ conversations — I probably had three to four different startup ideas in various stages of gestation at any given time, and so did all my friends. It was an environment that encouraged the playful exchange of ideas, and encouraged people to take on side projects with real prizes in mind.”</p> Open Water Power’s battery that "drinks" in sea water to operate is safer and cheaper, and provides a tenfold increase in range, over traditional lithium-ion batteries used for unpiloted underwater vehicles. The power system consists of an alloyed aluminum anode, an alloyed cathode, and an alkaline electrolyte positioned between the electrodes. Components are only activated when flooded with water. Once the aluminum anode corrodes, it can be replaced at low cost. Courtesy of Open Water PowerSchool of Engineering, Mechanical engineering, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Startups, Alumni/ae, Oceanography and ocean engineering, Drones, Autonomous vehicles, Security studies and military, Oil and gas, Batteries, Energy, Energy storage Sean Lowder: A path to naval nuclear engineering http://news.mit.edu/2017/sean-lowder-charts-a-path-to-naval-nuclear-engineering-0606 Nuclear science and engineering senior Sean Lowder is taking his expertise to Washington and the U.S. Navy. Tue, 06 Jun 2017 15:30:01 -0400 Elizabeth Dougherty | School of Engineering http://news.mit.edu/2017/sean-lowder-charts-a-path-to-naval-nuclear-engineering-0606 <p>Midway through this&nbsp;year, MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) senior Sean Lowder traveled to Washington, to interview for a job. He had three technical interviews scheduled, plus a meeting with the admiral in charge of nuclear engineering for the U.S. Navy. They’d told him that his entire transcript was fair game for questioning, so Lowder had hit the books to prepare.</p> <p>“I had to review everything I’d studied,”&nbsp;Lowder recalls. “When I looked back on classes that I thought I hadn’t enjoyed, it turned out I’d actually learned a lot and it was interesting stuff.”</p> <p>Among those classes was one about nuclear reactor physics and the study of how neutrons can interact with materials in a reactor and change the reactor’s energy output. “It was one of the most challenging courses, but also one of the most interesting,” Lowder says.</p> <p>He got the&nbsp;job he was gunning for. After graduation he’ll relocate to D.C. and join the engineering team responsible for&nbsp;the designs of nuclear reactors used to power the U.S. Navy’s fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.</p> <p>“Being part of the team that is responsible for the safety of all those subs and ships is such a cool responsibility to have,” he says.</p> <p>Just a few years ago, before he&nbsp;came to MIT, Lowder&nbsp;didn’t know much about engineering. But an influential teacher at his high school, Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts, got him interested in science and technology. That same teacher encouraged him to apply to MIT and to also consider the military academies.</p> <p>“I was pretty lucky growing up to have some really good opportunities, and thought joining the service was a great way of giving back,” Lowder says.</p> <p>He ended up&nbsp;combining the two by accepting a Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship to MIT. He chose nuclear science and engineering as a major in part because he thought the field would be important going forward into the&nbsp;future, particularly for the Navy, which uses nuclear power for propulsion and energy. But he also knew it was a discipline that&nbsp;wasn’t taught everywhere.</p> <p>“I thought MIT would be a better place than anywhere else to study nuclear science,” he says.</p> <p>In addition to his studies and ROTC, which involves early morning training and leadership meetings, he also participated in nuclear science research as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). His first position, as a sophomore, was in the lab of NSE associate head Professor Jacopo Buongiorno. The research involved understanding more about the properties of CRUD, the corrosive particles that appear on fuel rods in a nuclear reactor. The team synthesized CRUD and studied how it conducts&nbsp;heat to learn more about how it might affect reactor&nbsp;efficiency.</p> <p>“Professor Buongiorno pushed us to do our best every single day,”&nbsp;Lowder says. “The research was fun and also painful at times.”</p> <p>As a junior, he joined the lab of NSE Assistant Professor Michael Short, who is working on understanding how materials change when exposed to radiation. For instance, when neutrons bombard materials, they displace atoms. In metals, which are made of atoms arranged in a tight, orderly crystalline array, displaced atoms create holes. Over time, depending on the metal, those holes might grow&nbsp;bigger, weakening the metal. But radiation also adds heat, which also rearranges the structure and can fill the holes back in.</p> <p>When Lowder joined the team, he had to learn on his own about the materials he was working on. “I didn’t know about damage pathways and the types of defects that can form,” he says.</p> <p>Now&nbsp;he is working on building simulations of material damage. The team’s short-term goal is to compare simulated damage to actual damage seen in controlled experiments as a way to predict the types of damage that could occur. Ultimately, the work could help engineers predict when components of a nuclear reactor might fail.</p> <p>“We don’t understand how radiation affects corrosion as well as we could,” Lowder says. “By doing this research, we hope we can predict problems at a reactor level.”</p> <p>The other highlights of Lowder’s MIT career were the summer weeks he spent on Navy submarines. “Coming from a technical background, I took in every little thing and kept thinking about the engineering and design,” he says.</p> <p>Lowder is currently wrapping up his work in the Short Lab so that he can write his thesis. ROTC has him up early, schoolwork keeps him up late, and club hockey helps him de-stress. He’s spread thin, but Lowder looks at all of his commitments as a source of strength.</p> <p>“I have a really good support network because of these groups. They’re there for me and help me out when I need it,” he says. “Everyone is teaching one another all the time.”</p> “I thought MIT would be a better place than anywhere else to study nuclear science,” says Sean Lowder, a senior in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.Photo: Gretchen ErtlSchool of Engineering, Nuclear science and engineering, Profile, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), ROTC, Nuclear power and reactors, Students, Undergraduate, Security studies and military, Navy Vipin Narang: On the brinkmanship beat http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-political-science-vipin-narang-studies-nuclear-brinkmanship-in-regional-contexts-0524 Department of Political Science assistant professor studies the strategic use of nuclear force as global tensions threaten to reach the boiling point. Wed, 24 May 2017 11:50:01 -0400 Leda Zimmerman | Department of Political Science http://news.mit.edu/2017/mit-political-science-vipin-narang-studies-nuclear-brinkmanship-in-regional-contexts-0524 <p>It’s a wonder that Vipin Narang gets any sleep these days. The Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Political Science, Narang specializes in nuclear security, proliferation, and deterrence. It is work that has never seemed more urgent.</p> <p>Today, Narang is closely monitoring the ongoing rivalry between India and Pakistan, and the alarming, increasingly bellicose sparring between North Korea and the United States and their respective heads of state, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.</p> <p>“If Kim Jong-un thinks the U.S. is coming after him, and Trump fires off a tweet that appears provocative, I can imagine the North Korean leadership seeing itself with no choice but to use its conventional and potentially nuclear weapons preemptively, because they would have to rightly fear that the U.S. could destroy most, if not all, of their nuclear forces,” he says.</p> <p>Narang's&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/NarangVipin" target="_blank">Twitter feed</a> provides a steady stream of nail-biting news, including on one recent evening when&nbsp;he was sharing real-time seismic information for the Korean peninsula&nbsp;while awaiting new underground nuclear testing by North Korea.</p> <p>For Narang, diligent maintenance of his social media feeds&nbsp;is part of the job. “I try to use my academic training and scholarship to make the pressing nuclear security issues of the day relevant and accessible to the public and policy makers,” he says.</p> <p>Narang frequently contributes to such newspapers as&nbsp;<em>The Hindu</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>Indian Express,</em>&nbsp;and to the journal&nbsp;<em>Foreign Policy.</em>&nbsp;<em>The New York Times</em>&nbsp;also routinely seeks his expert commentary, and he often engages in security meetings with government officials.</p> <p>Narang’s rigorous scholarship in the ways states wield nuclear force to achieve their interests fuels his&nbsp;engagement with the public, the policy community, and students. His current research focuses on his second planned book,&nbsp;“Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation.”</p> <p>“Understanding how states acquire nuclear weapons is important in terms of improving nonproliferation policy,” says Narang, who recently became an associate professor with tenure. He cites the recent Iran deal&nbsp;as a success story.</p> <p>“With Iran’s nuclear weapon program, we managed to move a state from a hiding strategy to a hedging strategy,” he says. “While Iran may not have fully given up on its nuclear aspirations, the deal pushed them back to a more ambivalent hedging position, which is a nonproliferation win.”</p> <p>Narang&nbsp;has adopted an unusual approach to nonproliferation research. “Most academic literature focuses on the why,&nbsp;whereas I focus on the how,”&nbsp;he says. “It gives the international community different things to look out for when trying to formulate new policy or strategies with an aspiring nuclear state.”</p> <p>He developed his singular take on security issues&nbsp;quite early in his career. In graduate school a decade ago at Harvard University, he received cautionary advice to steer clear of nuclear questions. “Most in my discipline thought it was a dead field,” he recalls. “They wondered if I had anything new to say about nuclear weapons that had not been said during the Cold War.”</p> <p>As it happened, he&nbsp;did. “That was because I was focused on regional nuclear powers, such as China, India, and Pakistan, not on U.S. or Soviet superpower strategy,” he says. “There were eight non-superpower states with small arsenals, many bordering each other, with a history of enmity and disputes — I had a good sense there would be something new to say about them.”</p> <p>Narang’s doctoral research investigated common nuclear strategies among these states, and whether their smaller arsenals deterred conflicts. His comparative study of regional nuclear powers, which included not just countries in South Asia, but also China, Israel, France, and South Africa, demonstrated that “nuclear weapons by themselves don’t confer automatic benefits,” he says.</p> <p>“Nuclear theology in the academy was that once a state acquires nuclear forces, other states are afraid to pick fights,” he explains.&nbsp;“But I showed that nuclear weapons don’t necessarily deter conventional attacks just by their existence.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>That&nbsp;research served as the basis for Narang’s first book,&nbsp;“Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict”<em>&nbsp;</em>(Princeton University Press, 2014), which won the 2015 International Studies Association International Security Section Best Book Award.</p> <p>As a child of Indian immigrants, Narang grew up as a South Asia watcher, and he says&nbsp;his keen interest in military conflict emerged when he was quite young. “We used to go to Punjab during the insurgency,” he recalls. “The army would take over our train when it crossed into the state and, as a 10-year-old, I was fascinated by the security situation.”</p> <p>That&nbsp;fascination blossomed during high school, when Narang was discovering&nbsp;policy debate. “While I was researching U.S. foreign policy toward China, what excited me the most was learning about Chinese nuclear strategy.”</p> <p>Even as a chemical engineering major at Stanford University, Narang managed to nurture his interest in foreign policy and security. His undergraduate thesis concerned India’s secret chemical weapons program. “It was a little piece of security history no one had known about, and I got into the nature of the weapons stockpile&nbsp;and India’s decision to reveal and ultimately dismantle it,” he says.</p> <p>Narang pivoted to his current field at Oxford University, where he spent two years as a Marshall Scholar. It was there, he says, that “I realized I cared about foreign policy, especially the security side and the technology of security.”</p> <p>Today, as he completes his next&nbsp;book on nuclear acquisition, Narang is also contemplating&nbsp;a future one about&nbsp;strategies of nuclear coercion. He says his research will focus on whether nuclear weapons successfully work as leverage for one state “to try to get another state actor to change its behavior.”&nbsp;Think 1962 Cuban missile crisis and the U.S.-Soviet standoff, he says. That&nbsp;crisis resonates in the context of the current tense situation with North Korea.</p> <p>Narang is not an optimist about how the Korean conflict, or other regional ones, will turn out.</p> <p>“The development of nuclear weapons was designed to prevent massive, conventional wars,” he says. “But we have traded the Cold War era’s lower risk of catastrophic global nuclear annihilation for today’s higher risk of serious but limited use of nuclear weapons by regional states.”</p> <p>As a relatively new father, weighing these options feels more than academic to Narang. He does not see a way to undo the existence of nuclear weapons, but he does believe there might be a way to better manage them. The central challenge, he says,&nbsp;is managing stable nuclear deterrence relationships at lower warhead numbers between states that have deep historical rivalries.</p> <p>“On the one hand, we want regional powers to avoid the arms race mistakes of the Cold War,” he says. “But on the other hand, we don’t want them to have such small and vulnerable nuclear forces that they believe that they may have to use them before they lose them.”</p> Associate professor of political science Vipin Narang specializes in nuclear security, proliferation, and deterrence.Photo: Stuart DarschFaculty, SHASS, Political science, Nuclear security and policy, Profile, India, Asia, Security studies and military 3 Questions: How political science contributes to national policies on immigration and military conflict http://news.mit.edu/2017/3q-john-tirman-how-political-science-contributes-to-immigration-and-military-conflict-policy-0522 Political theorist John Tirman discusses immigration and identity, and measuring the true costs of war. Mon, 22 May 2017 16:45:01 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2017/3q-john-tirman-how-political-science-contributes-to-immigration-and-military-conflict-policy-0522 <p><em>Science and technology are essential tools for innovation, and to reap their full potential, we also need to articulate and solve the many aspects of today’s global issues that are rooted in the political, cultural, and economic realities of the human world. With that mission in mind, MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) has launched <a href="http://shass.mit.edu/news/news-2015-the-human-factor" target="_blank">The Human Factor</a> — an ongoing series of stories and interviews that highlight research on the human dimensions of global challenges. Contributors to this series also share ideas for cultivating the multidisciplinary collaborations needed to solve the major civilizational issues of our time.</em></p> <p><em>The executive director of MIT's Center for International Studies (CIS), John Tirman, is author or coauthor and editor of 14 books on international affairs, including "Dream Chasers: Immigration and the American Backlash" (MIT Press, 2015) and "The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America’s Wars" (Oxford University Press, 2011). Earlier work includes "The Fallacy of Star Wars" (1984) and "Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade" (1997). SHASS Communications recently asked him to share how political science research can contribute to national debates on security, immigration, and armed conflicts. </em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>As an expert in security studies, your research has revealed many long-term and sometimes hidden costs of war — including impacts on human health, the health of the planet, innovation, and education. In your view, what are the best ways to approach both revealing and reducing these hidden costs of military conflicts?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong>&nbsp;It is remarkable that we do not measure the costs of war in any meaningful way. The costs come in many shapes and sizes: mortality and disability, loss of livelihoods and homes, displacement, the destruction of clean water resources and sanitation facilities, the disruption of education for children, ecological devastation, and many others. All wars produce these results, yet no country, including the United States, has the will to understand and calculate these costs. One long-term effect of that indifference is that problems fester in the destruction and sometimes yield new forms of violence — as has happened with ISIS in Iraq. And, of course, there’s the sheer human misery caused by war, and the moral debt that incurs.</p> <p>It’s worth noting that private actors — universities, NGOs, coalitions of governments, and the like — could take up the task of measuring the human costs of war. MIT CIS, for example, commissioned a household survey in Iraq in 2006 that measured mortality. Surveys, crowdsourcing, and satellite imagery can all provide data that can help fill the knowledge deficit.</p> <p>The U.S. military attempts to minimize civilian hardship during war — it is obligated to do so by the Geneva Conventions — but war is an exercise of destructiveness, and contemporary war has few or no fronts where militaries alone clash. So, we can’t expect the military to take care of this problem, although it does have an incentive to understand the extent of the destruction caused (to measure the effectiveness of military tactics, for example).</p> <p>I suggest that Congress establish a “conflict impact assessment” during or after each war to bring home the true costs of armed conflict. With an independent agency responsible for such an assessment, and congressional hearings to discuss the results, the public would learn the full extent of destruction. Other organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, could do the same. Sunlight may be the best disinfectant.</p> <p><strong>Q</strong>: You have also written extensively on immigration. Is there a relationship between America's immigration policies and the nation's ability to innovate, prosper, and thrive?&nbsp;How related are current anti-immigration views to American economic distress in some pockets of the U.S. economy, and how much do these views reflect anxieties and uncertainty about the accelerated pace of change?</p> <p><strong>A</strong>:&nbsp;No one can doubt the economic vitality infused into American society by immigrants. Between one-fifth and one-third of new business ventures are started by immigrants. At the same time, unauthorized immigrants contribute to the U.S. economy by taking jobs native-born Americans are reluctant to do.</p> <p>Economic anxiety is often cited as a key to anti-immigrant sentiment, but my study of the backlash against immigrants (legal or not) suggests that cultural factors are much stronger. The use of Spanish is one irritant, even though Hispanic immigrant families assimilate linguistically at the same rate as any other non-English-speaking immigrants (that is, by the third generation, English is used almost exclusively). Another cultural factor is “legality” — the fact that unauthorized immigrants are not present in the United States legally is a status that marks them as “the other.” A form of racism is at work here, and illegality is a proxy for that sentiment.</p> <p>These cultural anxieties reflect an identity crisis for white men and women, particularly those who have not received an education. The now-famous 2015 <a href="http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full" target="_blank">study by Anne Case and Angus Deaton</a> showing rising morbidity among white people due to “self-poisoning” confirms the view that American whites are despairing about a lost ideal of perhaps 50 years ago or more in which white, heterosexual men were socially, politically, and economically dominant. Non-whites of low educational achievement are not experiencing increased morbidity, so the sociocultural factors seem clearly to be more relevant.</p> <p>At the same time, remarkably, the public as a whole is more and more accepting of unauthorized immigrants, supporting legalization, including citizenship, for those who have been working, paying taxes, and obeying the law. This approval has long been at 60-70 percent and is gradually rising. So the backlash seems to be confined to a relatively small group that has managed, with the prompting of some in the news media, to create a narrative of widespread outrage at those who illegally cross the border or overstay visas.</p> <p><strong>Q</strong>: As MIT President L. Rafael Reif has said, solving the great challenges of our time will require multidisciplinary problem-solving — bringing together expertise and ideas from science, technology, the humanities, and social sciences. Can you share why you believe it is critical for any effort to address the well-being of human populations to incorporate insights from political science and security studies? Also, what do you see as the main barrier to more multi-disciplinary collaboration — and how do you think we can overcome it?</p> <p><strong>A</strong>: Problem-solving at its best involves many ways of seeing, sources of knowledge, and ideas about how to apply knowledge. Law, politics, social dynamics, history — these viewpoints and reservoirs of knowledge are necessary to address any public policy question. And, increasingly, the natural sciences and engineering are equally necessary to address issues such as climate change, health policies, and security.</p> <p>When my colleagues and I undertook our study of mortality in Iraq, I was very impressed with the public health professionals we were working with because of their innate interdisciplinarity. Even so, I took the results of that work further to derive its meaning for security, strategy, and the social dimensions (of compassion); to do so required borrowing from history, sociology, and social psychology, among other fields.</p> <p>In explaining U.S. foreign policy behavior, I find a cultural theorist like Richard Slotkin to be as important as anyone. In explaining communal conflict today, Isaiah Berlin’s intellectual history of the rise of fascism is entirely relevant and most insightful. I could cite several other examples of stepping out of one’s typical frames of reference to gain new knowledge and be able to reconsider the questions at hand.</p> <p>The academy rewards burrowing down rather than cultivating across fields of inquiry. Everyone knows this is a liability, and yet few have tried to remedy this narrowness. To counter this tendency, one might take MIT’s great strength — problem-solving — and purposefully tackle problems (as the Institute has done with energy) that must involve many different disciplines. Along the way, it might prove useful to undertake an investigation of how such collaborations optimally work, and, importantly, to reward junior faculty who participate in such endeavors.</p> <p><em>Interview prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Editorial team: Kathryn O'Neill (senior writer), Emily Hiestand (director, series editor)</em><br /> &nbsp;</p> "It is remarkable that we do not measure the costs of war in any meaningful way," says John Tirman, executive director and principal research scientist of the MIT Center for International Studies. "I suggest that Congress establish a conflict impact assessment during or after each war to bring home the true costs of armed conflict."Photo: iStockConflict, Immigration, International relations, 3 Questions, Faculty, Political science, Security studies and military, SHASS The U.S. and Mexico: What’s the way forward? http://news.mit.edu/2017/starr-forum-us-mexico-relations-0515 MIT event offers look at how U.S.-Mexico relations could revive. Mon, 15 May 2017 11:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office http://news.mit.edu/2017/starr-forum-us-mexico-relations-0515 <p>Over the past two years, U.S.-Mexico relations have taken a distinctive turn, largely stemming from the issue agenda President Donald Trump has brought to U.S. politics: Trump campaigned on building a border wall, perhaps to be paid for by Mexico, and says he wants to change the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which shapes the countries’ economic relations.</p> <p>The wall may not reach fruition, and it’s unclear whether NAFTA will be significantly altered, but these political stances have created a “fundamental tectonic shift in the relationship” between the U.S. and Mexico, observed Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican ambassador to the U.S., at a public forum at MIT on Friday.</p> <p>To find the last time the U.S. and Mexico were this far out of alignment, Sarukhan suggested, one has to go back to the Cold War, when the U.S. emphasized intervention in Central America as part of its policy of containment, and found itself and Mexico on opposite sides of multiple political struggles.</p> <p>“Not since this moment in the late 1980s has this relationship been this acrimonious,” Sarukhan told the audience of about 150 in MIT’s Bartos Theater.</p> <p>And yet, the two countries conduct about $1.4 billion in trade every day, with about 6 million U.S. jobs depending on trade across the border, as Sarukhan noted. So that presents a vital question: How can the two countries move their relationship forward?</p> <p><strong>From tension, a path forward</strong></p> <p>For Sarukhan, the answer lies partly in an adage he attributed to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel: “You shouldn’t let a crisis go to waste.” That is, when pressure for change occurs, it may actually present an opportunity to make needed policy revisions. And as Sarukhan outlined it, that means a more proactive role for Mexico in helping to shape the relationship.&nbsp;</p> <p>Consider NAFTA. In Sarukhan’s view, new trade negotiations could lead to advances in the pact. Laying out a protrade case, Sarukhan suggested that — first of all — Mexico should insist on including Canada in any new talks, to help update the entire pact.</p> <p>“There is a real possibility for the three North American countries to update the agreement,” he said. That would allow the negotiations to include issues considered in more recent trade talks, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.</p> <p>Reopening trade discussions might also allow the two countries to update their mutual infrastructure needs. The signing of NAFTA in the 1990s, Sarukhan said, prompted the U.S. and Mexico to build their first cross-border railroad line since the 1910s. The current connections between the countries, he added, are “not up to par with this huge flow of commerce.” He also suggested that a NAFTA update could help the energy industry in all three countries.</p> <p>Sarukhan noted that NAFTA had indeed created regional job losses, along with overall gains in GDP. “There is no doubt that in a free trade agreement like NAFTA, there have been winners and losers,” he said. In response to an audience question, he noted that an updated agreement could stand to include more support for diplaced workers.</p> <p>Sarukhan served as Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S. from 2007-2013; he is currently a strategic consultant and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a distinguished visiting scholar at the University of Southern California Annenberg Public Diplomacy School. Sarukhan’s remarks were followed by an on-stage question-and-answer session he conducted with Lourdes Melgar SM ’88 PhD ’92, the Robert Wilhem Fellow at MIT’s Center for International Studies (CIS) and Mexico’s former deputy secretary of energy for hydrocarbons.</p> <p>The event on Friday was part of the Starr Forum, a series of panels hosted by MIT’s Center for International Studies (CIS); it was also co-sponsored by the MIT-Mexico Program.</p> <p><strong>On the border</strong></p> <p>When it comes to a prospective wall, Sarukhan, like the Mexican government, opposes the project, and he voiced his skepticism about a barrier meant to cover 3,000 miles of terrain.</p> <p>Yet he noted that security was a real concern and offered that along with NAFTA, the event most shaping U.S.-Mexico relations in the last quarter-century was the September 2001 terrorist attack on the U.S.</p> <p>“It behooves Mexico to work hand in hand with the U.S. to prevent the border from being used to undermine security,” Sarukhan said.</p> <p>In current public discussion, though, the concept of a wall is more frequently debated in terms of immigration. And yet, as Sarukhan noted, there has been a net flow of immigrants from the U.S. to Mexico over the last several years. In turn, he suggested, this not only means a border wall would be nonessential for U.S. policy goals, but that Mexico should pivot, if necessary, to find room for residents returning from the U.S.</p> <p>“If Mexico is intelligent, this could be an injection of human capital,” Sarukhan said.</p> <p>Immigration discussion, he added, should revolve around policies addressing four areas: the overall flow of people across the border, the status of the millions of Mexican immigrants in the U.S., visa requirements, and regulating the flows of temporary workers.</p> <p>But regarding immigration, as with trade, Sarukhan suggested that Mexico’s best approach would be to help set its joint agenda with the U.S., rather than merely being responsive to U.S. politics. Indeed, he added, for countries such as Mexico that are not military superpowers, this is virtually a guiding principle for survival in a globalized world.</p> <p>“You sit at the table, or you’re on the menu,” Sarukhan quipped.</p> Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan (left), former Mexican Ambassador to the US (2007-2013), and Lourdes Melgar, CIS Wilhelm Fellow and Mexico's former Deputy Secretary of Energy for hydrocarbons. Photo: MIT Center for International StudiesInternational relations, Mexico, Latin America, Politics, Political science, Government, Business and management, Immigration, MISTI, SHASS, Security studies and military, Special events and guest speakers, Center for International Studies Prospects for nuclear disarmament in uncertain times http://news.mit.edu/2017/moniz-lee-prospects-nuclear-disarmament-0509 In conference on nuclear threat, former Energy Secretary Moniz and Rep. Lee call for diplomacy to defuse rising risks. Tue, 09 May 2017 14:30:00 -0400 Jonathan Mingle | MIT News correspondent http://news.mit.edu/2017/moniz-lee-prospects-nuclear-disarmament-0509 <p>From rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula to questions about the future of the Iran nuclear agreement, the specter of nuclear conflict has returned as a concern for policymakers and citizens alike.</p> <p>Two leading voices on nuclear issues, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee and former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, discussed the prospects for disarmament during a day-long conference on “<a href="http://masspeaceaction.org/event/mitconf/">Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War</a>” held on MIT’s campus on May 6.</p> <p>“Frankly, the possibility of a nuclear bomb going off is higher today than 20 years ago,” said Moniz, “in terms of the various regional conflicts we are facing.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Lee, a Democrat representing California’s 13th District and a prominent advocate in Congress for nuclear disarmament efforts, recently returned from a trip to South Korea and Japan, where she met with security officials and visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea.</p> <p>“I saw how volatile the region is,” she said.</p> <p>Lee is a co-sponsor of H.R. 669, a bill that would prevent the U.S. president from launching a first-use nuclear strike without authorization under a declaration of war by Congress.</p> <p>“We must continue to put pressure on this president to give Congress a comprehensive strategy for deterring North Korea, that puts diplomacy and nonmilitary strategies at the forefront,” she said.</p> <p>“It is incumbent on us to show this administration the value of diplomacy,” Lee said, calling on attendees to pressure their elected representatives to oppose the Trump administration’s proposed sharp increases in defense spending and planned expansion of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. “His budget puts forth a $1.4 billion increase for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to build more bombs, yet it doesn’t make our planet any safer, nor does it advance NNSA’s goal of nuclear nonproliferation,” she said.</p> <p>“After nearly a decade of persistence, the Obama administration, together with our allies, were able to negotiate a deal that put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program and created the most extensive and intrusive nuclear verification regime ever negotiated,” she said.</p> <p>Moniz described the key features of that agreement, reached in 2015 among Iran, the U.S., and five other world powers, and shared his perspective on its prospects for survival under the Trump administration.</p> <p>“This was an important example of diplomacy reaching critical security goals without a shot being fired,” he said.</p> <p>He reminded the audience of the long and difficult history of relations between the U.S. and Iran, stretching back to the U.S. role in a coup in 1953 and the hostage crisis of 1979. “The grounds of distrust are very, very deep,” Moniz observed. “This makes it even more remarkable this agreement could be accomplished.”</p> <p>Moniz outlined how the agreement has successfully halted the Iranian weapons development program, which had been “expanding very dramatically, with 20,000 centrifuges and [was] close to [finishing a reactor that would produce] one or two bombs’ worth of plutonium per year.”</p> <p>Moniz also pointed to “extraordinary transparency and verification measures,” which give inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to suspicious sites.</p> <p>“No other country has a fixed time in which to respond to inspector requests,” he said. Iran, however, must respond within weeks to IAEA requests. “This is completely novel.”</p> <p>Commenting on Republican criticism of the deal, he noted that quarterly reports to Congress have confirmed that Iran is complying with its requirements.</p> <p>“If the U.S. walks away from the agreement,” he said, “we get the worst of both worlds. Then Iran has no formal constraints. And some may say, ‘We’ll put sanctions back on them.’ It won’t work. It worked before because we had the entire international community on the same page enforcing those sanctions.”</p> <p>He expressed doubt that other countries would support reimposing and enforcing sanctions on Iran. “There is no reason to think that if we walk away, we don’t walk away alone. And the sanctions will not be effective.”</p> <p>Moniz said he is “reasonably optimistic” that all parties to the Iran agreement will continue their compliance — including the U.S. He cited the support of Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, who recently called for the agreement’s continued enforcement.</p> <p>“I can’t say that there’s no doubt that this deal will stick going forward, but I can say the logic is completely clear and compelling,” Moniz concluded. “And most people, including those who didn’t agree with the deal, have come to that [conclusion].”</p> <p>If there is continued compliance with the agreement, Moniz said, the international community should go even further, to improve transparency in nuclear programs beyond Iran. “We have got to think hard about what do we want to see in Iran and elsewhere in the region and beyond, in terms of nuclear fuel cycles.”</p> <p>In addition to returning to his role as a physics professor at MIT, Moniz was recently named the CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nonpartisan organization founded by former Senator Sam Nunn and Ted Turner in 2001, dedicated to reducing the threat of attacks with weapons of mass destruction and disruption.</p> <p>In that capacity, he said, he hopes to engage with members of both parties to work toward nuclear nonproliferation and increased support for the IAEA’s work.</p> <p>Lee and Moniz were introduced by John Tierney, former U.S. representative from Massachusetts and executive director of Council for a Livable World, which promotes policies to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons.</p> <p>During a question and answer session, Lee and Moniz addressed a range of other issues as well, including the risks of a cyber attack interfering with the U.S. nuclear command and control systems, and Lee’s ongoing efforts to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution passed by Congress.</p> <p>The conference was jointly sponsored by MIT Radius, American Friends Service Committee, the Future of Life Institute and Massachusetts Peace Action, whose nuclear abolition working group is chaired by MIT professor of biology Jonathan King.</p> Two leading voices on nuclear issues, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee and former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, discussed the prospects for disarmament during a day-long conference on “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” held on MIT’s campus on May 6. Photo: Jake BelcherSpecial events and guest speakers, Nuclear security and policy, Security studies and military, Policy, Government, Middle East, Asia 3 Questions: Jeanne Guillemin on the recent chemical attack in Syria http://news.mit.edu/2017/jeanne-guillemin-discusses-syria-chemical-attack-0420 Security Studies Program expert on biological weapons discusses the April 4 attack on Syrian civilians that killed at least 80. Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:00:01 -0400 Michelle Nhuch | Center for International Studies http://news.mit.edu/2017/jeanne-guillemin-discusses-syria-chemical-attack-0420 <p><em>On April 4, a <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/20/middleeast/syria-chemical-attack-sarin-opcw/" target="_blank">suspected nerve gas attack</a> killed at least 80 in Khan Sheikhun, in Syria’s Idlib Province. Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and the current UN Security Council president, stated shortly after the incident that members "are hoping to get as much information” as they can about the event.</em></p> <p><em>Jeanne Guillemin, a&nbsp;medical anthropologist and a senior fellow in the&nbsp;MIT Security Studies Program, recently answered a few questions on the attack. Guillemin is an authority on&nbsp;biological weapons&nbsp;and has published four books on the topic.&nbsp;Her latest, "Hidden Atrocities: Japanese Germ Warfare and American Obstruction of Justice at the Tokyo Trial," will be published by Columbia University Press in September.</em></p> <p><strong>Q. </strong>What do we now know about the attack?</p> <p><strong>A. </strong>The process of investigation will be difficult, given the ongoing war and secrecy on the part of Syria and others. It seems certain that the regime of Syria’s President al-Assad or some element thereof not only violated treaty obligations regarding chemical weapons but could be complicit in a major war crime.</p> <p>On a technical level, the chemical agent that caused more than 80 deaths and many injuries has been identified by the United Kingdom as sarin, which accords with medical records. The timing of the attack was April 4 at just before 7 a.m. local time, optimal for dispersal. Much less or nothing is reliably known regarding the munition and its source.</p> <p>The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the operational arm of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in The Hague, is the lead agency for investigating the nerve gas attack. The OPCW can count on assistance from the United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), created by the Security Council with all permanent members in agreement. OPCW investigations are kept secret until the final reports are released, which can take months, and their mandate does not extend to identifying perpetrators. The mandate of the JIM is broader and does extend to estimating perpetrators, which makes its eventual report important.</p> <p><strong>Q. </strong>Based on your expertise on the historical use of chemical weapons, why would Assad strike now? Is he likely to strike again?</p> <p><strong>A. </strong>The use of chemical weapons in war, starting in April 1915 with the German release of chlorine gas on Allied trenches at Ypres, has invariably been to break an impasse by targeting a defenseless enemy, those lacking protection such as gas masks or antidotes. For Syria, frustration with rebel holdouts in Idlib Province may have provoked the attack; one wonders, though, exactly what authorities reasoned that killing civilians with nerve gas could be carried out without controversy — and without jeopardizing the new potential for cooperation with the Trump administration.</p> <p>The political furor created by the social media images of the victims make it unlikely that President al-Assad, if he ordered or permitted the attacks, would venture any more. For years, though, Syria has been getting a pass from the international community regarding its less-than-complete compliance with the CWC, to which it acceded in October 2013. In 2014, the belief that Syria’s declaration of its chemical weapons contained gaps and inconsistencies prompted the Director-General of the OPCW to send a special team of technical investigators on 18 trips to Syria to do what proved impossible: to verify that Syria’s declaration was in accordance with the CWC. The UN Security Council was fully advised of OPCW reports, but no action was taken to bring Syria in line.</p> <p>Currently the Russian government is taking al-Assad's protestations of innocence at face value. At the same time, though, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken strongly in favor of UN investigations and asserted that Syria will be forthcoming about its military activities in the region at the time of the April 4 sarin attack. If evidence points clearly to al-Assad’s forces, which the U.S. government has already publicly blamed, Putin will have to address the difficult problem of regime change in Syria — or risk his own legitimacy by supporting a Syrian president many feel is at best a loose cannon and at worst the murderer of his own people. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Q. </strong>What are psychological and physical effects of this kind of attack, and how does one determine who was responsible?</p> <p><strong>A.</strong> Follow-up information from the 1988 chemical attack in Halabja, Iraq, and the 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria, illustrates the terrifying impact of aerial chemical attacks on defenseless populations already under siege.<br /> <br /> In Halabja, the attacks with blistering mustard and with sarin, combined with conventional bombings, were part of Saddam Hussein’s punitive objective to eliminate the Kurds from Iraq.<br /> <br /> The unusual strikes on Ghouta and Khan Sheikhun seem more intended to terrify Syrian civilians, that is, to frighten survivors and witnesses (even those watching on the internet) into submission to the enemy aggressor, whose power to rapidly asphyxiate hundreds must seem mythic, especially when done with impunity, without legal repercussions.<br /> <br /> Over time, the criminal responsibility for the April 4 sarin attack might be put on Syrian officials, who may well be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court’s statute contains language banning the use of poisons taken directly from the Geneva Protocol; the prosecution of murderous attacks on defenseless populations is, of course, central to the ICC mission, regardless of means. The broader responsibility for what has happened in Syria and for the extreme vulnerability of its civilian population throughout the war lies with the international community. This week, one hears the Chinese delegate to the United Nations calling for a political solution, rather than a military showdown between the United States and Russia. After this latest barbarism, is it too much to ask for international safe zones and a cease fire?</p> Jeanne GuilleminPhoto: Jean-Baptiste Guillemin3 Questions, Syria, Security studies and military, Staff, SHASS, Global, International relations, Center for International Studies Shaping public policy in the nation&#039;s capital http://news.mit.edu/2017/shaping-public-policy-in-washington-dc-0412 Alumni continue an enduring tradition of MIT service. Wed, 12 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences http://news.mit.edu/2017/shaping-public-policy-in-washington-dc-0412 <p>With an MIT degree in humanities and engineering fields, and a social science minor, <a href="https://about.me/srodarte" target="_blank">Samuel Rodarte ’13</a> could have found a top job in almost any enterprise, from startup to multinational corporation. Instead, he chose to join generations of alumni who have put their MIT skills to work shaping public policy in Washington.</p> <p>"Laws are written here. One little detail is changed, and millions of lives are transformed," says Rodarte, a legislative aide to U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.).</p> <p>The son of Mexican immigrants, Rodarte grew up in Brownsville, Texas, one of the nation's most economically challenged cities. He recognizes that federal policies on immigration and financial aid helped him get where he is today — writing bills and advising the congressman on higher education, tax policy, immigration, and science.</p> <p>"Even getting to MIT for me was an unbelievable occurrence," he says. "It makes me extremely happy to do this job because it’s an opportunity to give back for everything this country has done for me."</p> <p><strong>Making public policy </strong></p> <p>Rodarte credits MIT's humanities, arts, and social sciences requirement for inspiring his work in policy. "I ended up taking a class called Making Public Policy with Professor Andrea Campbell, and that class just opened my eyes to a whole different world. It put what I was learning on the engineering side into perspective," says Rodarte, who double-majored in aerospace engineering and Latin American/Latino studies, with a minor in political science. "After taking that class I caught the policy bug."</p> <p>Later, Rodarte participated in the MIT Washington Summer Internship Program, where he researched NASA's Earth and planetary sciences space missions portfolio and learned about "the essential role scientists and engineers have in advising lawmakers."</p> <p>The D.C. internship program, led by Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science, encourages MIT students from all backgrounds to explore policymaking at the national level through study and practical experience.</p> <p>“Our students who go to Washington are really excited, and in many cases, they are transformed,” says Stewart. “The encounter between MIT undergraduates and policymakers also shows Washington what a great resource MIT undergraduates are, how articulate and perceptive they are, and what hard workers they are.”</p> <p>Rodarte says, “I think if I hadn’t done that internship, I wouldn’t be in this position today. I feel now like I’ve come full circle — from being on campus learning how government works, to being able to work to bring effective federal policy to the District, Massachusetts, and the country.”</p> <p><strong>A history of influence and engagement </strong></p> <p>Rodarte is one of the latest in a long line of MIT influencers who have affected U.S. policy in myriad ways. People from across the five MIT schools have been important in D.C. for more than a century — from <a href="https://libraries.mit.edu/mithistory/institute/offices/office-of-the-mit-president/samuel-wesley-stratton-1861-1931/" target="_blank">Samuel W. Stratton</a>, who developed the plan for the National Bureau of Standards in 1901 (and went on to direct it), to physicist <a href="http://news.mit.edu/2017/us-energy-secretary-ernest-moniz-returns-0317" target="_self">Ernest Moniz</a>, who has just concluded distinguished service as U.S. secretary of energy for the Obama administration. Last month, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Goldman Sachs executive James Donovan ’SB 89, ’SM 89 as deputy secretary of the treasury.</p> <p>Among these dedicated public servants has been a steady stream of alumni rigorously trained in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), in fields including economics, political science, languages, security studies, and international relations. Nobel Prize winner and Institute Professor Emeritus Robert Solow served on the staff of President Kennedy's Council of Economic Advisors; George Shultz PhD ’49 was secretary of state under President Reagan; Larry Summers ’75 was secretary of the treasury under President Clinton; and Professor Esther Duflo PhD ’99 served on President Obama's Global Development Council.</p> <p>Other notable SHASS alumni who have served in the nation's capital include:</p> <p>• Ben Bernanke PhD ’79, chair of the Federal Reserve from 2006-2014;</p> <p>• Richard Harvey Solomon PhD ’66, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1989-1992;</p> <p>• Olivier Blanchard PhD ’77, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund from 2008-2015;</p> <p>• Nancy Rose PhD ’85, deputy assistant attorney general for economic analysis in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2014-2016; and</p> <p>• Paul Walker PhD ’78, director of environmental security and sustainability at Green Cross International.</p> <p>The SHASS-based Security Studies group even runs a special endeavor — Seminar XXI — focused on providing current and future leaders of the U.S. national security and foreign policymaking communities with the broad perspectives and analytical skills required to evaluate and formulate effective policies. Part of the Center for International Studies (CIS), and designed for high-ranking military officers, Seminar XXI boasts more than 2,000 graduates, many of whom work in Washington.</p> <p><strong>The research-to-policy pipeline</strong></p> <p>Another CIS group, the International Policy Lab (IPL), also works to hone the Institute's contributions to national and international policy. Working closely with D.C.-based think tanks and MIT's Washington Office, the lab helps MIT scientists, engineers, and other academics meet relevant policymakers, prepare policy briefs, and communicate with policy audiences about their research.</p> <p>Political scientist Chappell Lawson, faculty co-director of IPL, says, “MIT engineers, scientists, and scholars produce a great deal of research that has direct implications for policy. We have found that many faculty members want to have an impact on policy but don’t feel familiar enough with how the process works to do so efficiently. The IPL's work to connect the academic and policy communities is another way MIT is helping to make a better world."&nbsp;</p> <p>From his perspective on Capitol Hill, Rodarte adds, "MIT can play a critical role in guiding debate on issues because people — especially lawmakers — recognize the caliber of the research there."</p> <p>Key MIT influencers in D.C. also include political scientists and economists from numerous SHASS-based programs who contribute regularly to policy decisions through congressional testimony, briefings, counsel to officials, and frequent publications for academic, professional, and general audiences. To mention just three:</p> <p>Staff and affiliates at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (<a href="https://www.povertyactionlab.org/" target="_blank">J-PAL</a>) travel frequently to D.C. to share evidence about successful poverty alleviation efforts; the <a href="http://electionlab.mit.edu/" target="_blank">MIT Election Data and Science Lab</a>, led by Stewart, serves as a nonpartisan resource with the expertise necessary to improve U.S. elections; and the <a href="http://web.mit.edu/polisci/research/govlab.html" target="_blank">MIT GOV/LAB</a>, directed by political scientist Lily Tsai, focuses on innovation in citizen engagement and government responsiveness.</p> <p><strong>“Punching above our weight”</strong></p> <p>MIT alumni do well in Washington because the Institute's course requirements ensure that graduates gain a firm grounding in history and an appreciation for theories about how societies understand and grapple with major issues.</p> <p>"Those skills are foundational, yet many people in the security field don't come with them. If you can bring that kind of background to bear, it elevates the conversation," says <a href="https://www.csis.org/people/kathleen-h-hicks" target="_blank">Kathleen Hicks PhD ’10</a>, former principal deputy under secretary for policy in the Department of Defense.</p> <p>That's why Hicks says she is always delighted to connect with fellow alumni of MIT's acclaimed Security Studies Program. "The security studies community from MIT is an incredibly valuable network," says Hicks, who is now the senior vice president, Henry A. Kissinger chair, and director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a political think tank.</p> <p>Noting that she connects with fellow alumni not only in Washington but all over the country, she says, "We're punching above our weight. It's a small cohort, but it's very well-represented in people focused on security studies."</p> <p><strong>An international epicenter </strong></p> <p>Another hub of connection among MIT alumni in the nation's capital is the very active MIT Club of Washington, D.C. Established in 1899, the club serves a community of nearly 7,000 alumni, the third-largest concentration of MIT alumni in the world, and focuses on educational and charitable activities that help advance the Institute’s mission.</p> <p>Alumni who make their careers in the D.C. political world are likely to feel at home with the city's pace — at least if they are at all like Rodarte. “That MIT experience of drinking from the fire hose — it's the exact same feeling on Capitol Hill," he observes. "You have to think quickly, act on limited information, and always be on the move."</p> <p>And, Rodarte adds, the capital is simply an "amazing place" to live, especially for someone who loves politics. "D.C. is such an international epicenter, there is always something happening here — the next debate, the next big march, events with foreign dignitaries, you name it. What happens here changes the country."</p> <p><strong>MIT Campaign for Better World visits Washington </strong></p> <p>The many forms of MIT service in the nation’s capital will be in evidence on April 13, at an <a href="https://betterworld.mit.edu/events/washington-dc/" target="_blank">MIT Campaign for a Better World event</a> at the Newseum in Washington. Part of an ongoing celebration of MIT’s global culture and the Institute’s mission to build a better world, the event will be an opportunity to hear from President L. Rafael Reif, who will describe his vision for MIT’s future, and from featured speakers, including political scientist Lily Tsai, engineer-physician Sangeeta Bhatia SM ’93, PhD ’97, mathematics PhD candidate and NFL offensive lineman John Urschel, neuroscientist Stephen Allsop PhD ’16, and former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p><em>Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications<br /> Emily Hiestand (director, editor) and Kathryn O'Neill (senior writer)</em></p> MIT alumni and faculty have a long history of public policy service. Kathleen Hicks PhD ’10 (left) is director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Samuel Rodarte Jr. ’13 is a legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano. Hicks photo courtesy of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Rodarte photo: Stephen ReasonoverAlumni/ae, Economics, Government, Humanities, International relations, Immigration, Security studies and military, Political science, Policy, Poverty, SHASS, Campaign for a Better World, Center for International Studies, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, School of Engineering