Blue-sky thinking and the next 150-year chair

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A major aspect of sustainability — a core component in many MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) courses — is considering the future effect of any given business practice or product. Sustainability was top-of-mind for Skylar Tibbits, associate professor of design research and director of MIT’s design major and minor programs, and Jeremy Carmine Bilotti SM ’21 when planning course 4.041 (Advanced Product Design) last spring.

Collaborating with the family-run furniture company Emeco, the discussion eventually landed on its famous “1006 Navy” chair. Designed in aluminum for U.S. Navy warships in 1944 and tested to last 150 years, the chair is meant to defy trends.

“The question arose: What’s the next version of this?” says Tibbits. “Historically, when we talked about sustainability in design, we designed things that are supposed to last forever. That works well, but there are many other challenges, such as how do we make the furniture industry more sustainable, or how do we increase speed and efficiency in manufacturing?”

Emeco has a reputation for seeking out designers — such as Philippe Starck, Naoto Fukasawa, and Frank Gehry — to re-imagine some of its products. But, says Emeco’s head of product development and sustainability Jaye Buchbinder, they wanted to work with MIT for another reason. Their goal, says Jaye, was to look to the students “for a fresh take on what it means to be sustainable, and thoughts and processes on sustainable manufacturing.”

Emeco provided funding for the course and insight in sustainable furniture manufacturing for the students who would develop prototypes inspired by the iconic chair. The course would culminate in an exhibition of the students’ work.

Constraints and creativity

To produce a prototype that demonstrates what future furniture may consist of and the technology to manufacture it, the five students explored a variety of paths while accounting for function and materials. Classroom and studio work were augmented with a visit to Emeco’s factory in Pennsylvania, where students received an in-depth tour of its manufacturing process.

“Going to a real functioning factory was exciting for the students,” says Bilotti, a lecturer in the design program and instructor for the class. “We were all like kids in a candy shop. They had an opportunity to see things they never would have had any exposure to.”

Emeco chairperson Gregg Buchbinder says the tour provided a dose of reality for the students who, with the ease of computers, are used to creating things quickly.

“When you go to a factory and see every component being bent, welded, round down, heat treated, and hand finished, you realize that to get to a point where you end up with a product that lasts 150 years, it’s complex and takes time,” he says.

For their part, the students brought new perspectives. “These students approached manufacturing, sustainability, and product design just ‘blue sky,’” says Jaye Buchbinder. “They kind of peeled it back to the level of ‘What does furniture even mean?’ and ‘Why do we have these things and how should you interact with them?’”

Tibbits and Bilotti were also delighted with the creativity and thought the students brought to the project. Says Tibbits, the students’ work wasn’t “constrained by the realities of today” even though their work was informed by the factory tour and the experience of making furniture.

“There were able to open their lens up a little bit and give space to dream,” he says.

What is a chair?

Although many students designed seating, all types of furniture were allowed as course projects. As a result, the reinterpretation of what “furniture” will mean in the future became a driver for creativity.

Maria Risueño Dominguez ’22 says her first step in the design process was to ask herself what she really needed.

“I don’t need a chair,” she says. “I need a place to sit. That may be a chair, a stool, or some type of typology that we don’t even know about today.”

Considering her core need, looking at objects nearby, and thinking about how she could reuse these objects provided the basis for her approach. Benefiting from sessions at MIT’s Hobby Shop, foundry, and International Design Center, Risueño Dominguez learned how to cast metal, ultimately designing a part of a piece of furniture, shaped like a disc, that connects to a variety of different materials and forms. The user determines if the piece is a chair, table, vase, or something else by adding found or designed elements in reach. The central joint, “la junta” in Spanish, is the basis for her furniture system.

“Part of the magic of this project was that I was able to get input from so many different departments at MIT and from all my teammates,” says Risueño Dominguez. “It was not my project, it was everyone’s.”

Flexibility and adaptability were also a focus for Zain Karsan MA ’18, a graduate student in architecture who used liquid metal printing to create several metal chairs with wood seats. The process is fast — a single chair can be produced within a few minutes — and completely recyclable.

Jo Pierre ’21 approached the idea of flexibility using a simple medium: water. Recognizing that living spaces may be getting more compact, Pierre created room partitions using lightweight thermoplastic polyurethanes. When filled with water, the partitions support a private and visually interesting space. The user can drain the wall, roll it up, reuse it elsewhere, or store it.

“It creates an interesting visual screen between two spaces,” says Tibbits. “Normally when you have quick screen walls, you often don’t get great visual or acoustic or thermal separation. Something like water that everyone has access to allows for beautiful and functional division between spaces.”

Using recycled high-density polyethylene, commonly used to produce plastic containers, Amelia Lee, a Wellesley College cross-registered student, designed a piece of furniture for children. Called the “Wable,” the hard plastic sheet is folded origami-like into an ambiguous shape and can be used as a chair, sled, or even a table.

Faith Jones ’22, who majored in mechanical engineering with a concentration in industrial design, explored the concept of the user customizing a chair. Starting with a basic metal frame, Jones used recycled yarns and, employing a variety of knotting and braiding techniques, created an upholstery around the frame. The knots for the “ReWoven” chair can be unknotted and the chair reupholstered in a different manner by the user.

“Faith took the least sustainable part of the chair, the textile, out of the equation and made it separable from the frame,” says Bilotti. “That’s a fundamental rethinking of the way things should be designed, making things separable that previously weren’t separable.”

Venice exhibition

Emeco House, a new community exhibition space in Venice, California, exhibited the students’ work in November 2022. At the opening event, a steady stream of visitors examined the work and watched videos of the students explaining their processes. Gregg Buchbinder was encouraged to see guests linger over the pieces, saying that if attendees just walked through the exhibit, they’d “miss the point” of the work.

“What’s really interesting is when you learn about the process and the thinking behind the work,” he says. “That’s where the ideas are really exciting because that’s what will be applied to products 10 years from now.”

Says Bilotti, “A part of why I love teaching is seeing what students are going to come up with. Their ideas are just so much more exciting than what you would see come to fruition in industry.”

For Tibbits, the final products illustrated a new way for students to “see MIT, a school not historically known for the arts and design until more recently.

“It’s a different vision for design. It’s not the classic silos of product design. It’s a polymath designer bringing the mind and the hand — the creative and the technical. For this class, it’s a chance for students to see that we’re not just in this academic silo where we make fairy-tale stuff that has no relevance. We work directly with furniture manufacturers who come to MIT to re-imagine the future of their industry. We are working on very relevant problems and our students take unique, novel approaches that are tied to how they would actually manufacture a product. These ideas are not only realistic, but ambitious and unique.”

Source: Blue-sky thinking and the next 150-year chair

January 31, 2023 Marks gothamCulture’s 17th Year in Business

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Seventeen years ago, gothamCulture was formed with one goal in mind – to provide insights that help leaders improve organizational performance. Through solid work, integrity, and smart partnering, gothamCulture continues to serve a diverse array of organizations and government agencies.

gothamCulture Managing Partner and Founder Chris Cancialosi reflects on this milestone:

“For the last seventeen years, we have had the honor of creating a community of professionals who dedicate themselves to the success of our clients. The diversity of our team creates a dynamic where each member can bring their best selves to our work, can productively push each other to perform, and can design solutions that best fit the complex needs of our clientele.” 

As gothamCulture continues to grow and expand our capabilities, we realize the importance of never losing sight of the principles upon which we were founded: Committed to the Core, Unwavering Integrity, Maniacal Pursuit of Excellence, Relatable Expertise, and Authentic Community.

Thank you to our incredible staff, clients, and partners for allowing gothamCulture to celebrate 17 years in business!

The post January 31, 2023 Marks gothamCulture’s 17th Year in Business appeared first on gothamCulture.

Source: January 31, 2023 Marks gothamCulture’s 17th Year in Business

Chess players face a tough foe: air pollution

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Here’s something else chess players need to keep in check: air pollution.

That’s the bottom line of a newly published study co-authored by an MIT researcher, showing that chess players perform objectively worse and make more suboptimal moves, as measured by a computerized analysis of their games, when there is more fine particulate matter in the air.

More specifically, given a modest increase in fine particulate matter, the probability that chess players will make an error increases by 2.1 percentage points, and the magnitude of those errors increases by 10.8 percent. In this setting, at least, cleaner air leads to clearer heads and sharper thinking.

“We find that when individuals are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, they make more more mistakes, and they make larger mistakes,” says Juan Palacios, an economist in MIT’s Sustainable Urbanization Lab, and co-author of a newly published paper detailing the study’s findings.

The paper, “Indoor Air Quality and Strategic Decision-Making,” appears today in advance online form in the journal Management Science. The authors are Steffen Künn, an associate professor in the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University, the Netherlands; Palacios, who is head of research in the Sustainable Urbanization Lab, in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP); and Nico Pestel, an associate professor in the School of Business and Economics at Maastricht University.

The toughest foe yet?

Fine particulate matter refers to tiny particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter, notated as PM2.5. They are often associated with burning matter — whether through internal combustion engines in autos, coal-fired power plants, forest fires, indoor cooking through open fires, and more. The World Health Organization estimates that air pollution leads to over 4 million premature deaths worldwide every year, due to cancer, cardiovascular problems, and other illnesses.

Scholars have produced many studies exploring the effects of air pollution on cognition. The current study adds to that literature by analyzing the subject in a particularly controlled setting. The researchers studied the performance of 121 chess players in three seven-round tournaments in Germany in 2017, 2018, and 2019, comprising more than 30,000 chess moves. The scholars used three web-connected sensors inside the tournament venue to measure carbon dioxide, PM2.5 concentrations, and temperature, all of which can be affected by external conditions, even in an indoor setting. Because each tournament lasted eight weeks, it was possible to examine how air-quality changes related to changes in player performance.

In a replication exercise, the authors found the same impacts of air pollution on some of the strongest players in the history of chess using data from 20 years of games from the first division of the German chess league. 

To evaluate the matter of performance of players, meanwhile, the scholars used software programs that assess each move made in each chess match, identify optimal decisions, and flag significant errors.

During the tournaments, PM2.5 concentrations ranged from 14 to 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air, levels of exposure commonly found in cities in the U.S. and elsewhere. The researchers examined and ruled out alternate potential explanations for the dip in player performance, such as increased noise. They also found that carbon dioxide and temperature changes did not correspond to performance changes. Using the standardized ratings chess players earn, the scholars also accounted for the quality of opponents each player faced. Ultimately, the analysis using the plausibly random variation in pollution driven by changes in wind direction confirms that the findings are driven by the direct exposure to air particles.

“It’s pure random exposure to air pollution that is driving these people’s performance,” Palacios says. “Against comparable opponents in the same tournament round, being exposed to different levels of air quality makes a difference for move quality and decision quality.”

The researchers also found that when air pollution was worse, the chess players performed even more poorly when under time constraints. The tournament rules mandated that 40 moves had to be made within 110 minutes; for moves 31-40 in all the matches, an air pollution increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter led to an increased probability of error of 3.2 percent, with the magnitude of those errors increasing by 17.3 percent.

“We find it interesting that those mistakes especially occur in the phase of the game where players are facing time pressure,” Palacios says. “When these players do not have the ability to compensate [for] lower cognitive performance with greater deliberation, [that] is where we are observing the largest impacts.”

“You can live miles away and be affected”

Palacios emphasizes that, as the study indicates, air pollution may affect people in settings where they might not think it makes a difference.

“It’s not like you have to live next to a power plant,” Palacios says. “You can live miles away and be affected.”

And while the focus of this particular study is tightly focused on chess players, the authors write in the paper that the findings have “strong implications for high-skilled office workers,” who might also be faced with tricky cognitive tasks in conditions of variable air pollution. In this sense, Palacios says, “The idea is to provide accurate estimates to policymakers who are making difficult decisions about cleaning up the environment.”

Indeed, Palacios observes, the fact that even chess players — who spend untold hours preparing themselves for all kinds of scenarios they may face in matches — can perform worse when air pollution rises suggests that a similar problem could affect people cognitively in many other settings.

“There are more and more papers showing that there is a cost with air pollution, and there is a cost for more and more people,” Palacios says. “And this is just one example showing that even for these very [excellent] chess players, who think they can beat everything — well, it seems that with air pollution, they have an enemy who harms them.”

Support for the study was provided, in part, by the Graduate School of Business and Economics at Maastricht, and the Institute for Labor Economics in Bonn, Germany.

Source: Chess players face a tough foe: air pollution

Unnatural selection

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Across the U.S., about three-quarters of people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans — a form of private insurance following the rules of Medicare — receive free gym memberships. Why is this?

The answer, research has shown, is that it improves insurers’ client base: The promise of free workout time does not lure existing customers from the couch to the gym, but it does draw healthier-than-average new clients. For insurance firms, this matters. When their customers are healthier, insurers pay out fewer claims, and make higher profits.

“What you see in the data is these programs actually attract people who are healthier,” says MIT economist Amy Finkelstein, a scholar of insurance. “Things like mobility, or energy level, or pain are very hard for an insurer to observe about a potential customer. If you want customers who are in better physical shape, above and beyond what you can observe about them, finding people who want to go to a gym, who see that as appealing, is a very nice way to identify those new customers.”

In turn, the entire insurance industry revolves around a struggle over the kinds of customers it attracts. People want insurance in case something goes wrong. But insurers want customers who rarely need surgery or auto repairs or have their homes slide into the ocean. This makes insurance a distinctive industry.

After all, a supermarket chain or auto dealership is not overly concerned with who buys its products, as long as sales are sufficient. But for an insurance company, getting this issue right makes the business viable, while getting it wrong makes firms and markets fold. Attracting too many needy customers, from the insurer’s point of view, is the problem of “adverse selection” in the business

“Your insurer cares a great deal about which customers buy its products,” Finkelstein says. “Because the insurer’s profits depend not only on how much they sell, but whom they sell to.”

Finkelstein, the John and Jennie S. MacDonald Professor of Economics in MIT’s Department of Economics, has co-authored a new book on the subject, “Risky Business: Why Insurance Markets Fail and What to Do about It,” published today by Yale University Press. It is written with Liran Einav, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and Ray Fisman, a professor of economics at Boston University.

Everywhere we look, the issue of adverse selection

Finkelstein is a leading health insurance scholar and has often collaborated with Einav on research papers on that topic. However, “Risky Business” covers many insurance types — life, auto, dental, and more. In all these areas, companies go to great lengths to avoid adverse selection, which explains many frustrating or quirky features of insurance.

For instance: Why do health insurance companies have an “open enrollment” period lasting only a few weeks a year? Why is dental insurance “appallingly inadequate,” as the authors write in the book? If you sign up for auto or life insurance, why is there a waiting period before your policy takes effect? Why would auto insurers care about your GPA?

In every case, the answer involves selection. Open enrollment periods exist so that people do not wait until they have a specific medical diagnosis before choosing their insurance. When it comes to dental insurance, studies show that people are highly aware of their dental needs — and try to wait until they need more dental care before upgrading their plan.

This might seem exactly how insurance should work for consumers: Sign up for what you need, get reimbursed. However, the purpose of insurance as a system is to provide a buffer against the vagaries of fate. If people wait until things go awry to sign up for insurance, it can produce a vicious spiral. When enough consumers need help and payouts increase, premiums rise and insurance can become unaffordable. Companies and industry sectors can collapse in the meantime.

“One of the biggest problems with adverse selection is it can make a market disappear entirely,” Finkelstein says.

This is also why insurance waiting periods exist — often two years for life insurance, or a week for auto insurance. As the book recounts, when Finkelstein’s husband — MIT economist Ben Olken — was in graduate school, his car broke down. Waiting on the shoulder of the road for AAA to arrive, he called to upgrade his auto insurance so it would cover the long-distance tow he now wanted. To his delight, Olken was told he could increase his coverage. To his dismay, he was then informed the new policy would not start for a week. Blame adverse selection.

“We’re trying to show that there’s a common theme behind a lot of things out there in the world,” Finkelstein says.

Indeed, auto insurers want to know the academic records of prospective clients because, for whatever reason, people with more success in school file fewer auto insurance claims. And from time to time, firms figure out new methods — like gym-membership offers — to build up their base of consumers who only infrequently need insurance.

As “Risky Business” also shows, it has taken a while for insurers to reach this point. In the late 17th century, Edmond Halley, better known for the comet that bears his name, used German census records to develop the first systematic method for pricing annuities, a type of insurance that guarantees an annual payout until death. It was not a viable system though, precisely because Halley had not considered adverse selection.

Secret knowledge

For all that insurers do know about people in the age of big data, the industry still does not have everything figured out. People who acquire life insurance, research has shown, are more likely to die younger. But it is unclear why, based on available health metrics. 

“We still don’t really know what it is that people know but their life insurers can’t figure out,” Finkelstein says.

As the authors detail in the book, adverse selection leaves policymakers in a bind. Making health insurance the same price for everyone, even for those with observable problems, can seem fair and just. But the numbers may not add up for insurers, as shown by the collapse of state-backed health insurance exchanges in New Jersey and New York that required that all customers be charged the same price.

“In one sense it was fairer, in that nobody was being treated differently, but everybody was suffering from a lack of insurance,” Finkelstein observes. “We need to understand those tradeoffs and make more informed decisions.”

The Affordable Care Act, famously, has addressed adverse selection by mandating that everyone — even the healthy — obtain health insurance, while providing subsidies for people to sign up. That approach has been the subject of much debate, but it does acknowledge the central tension of insurance.

“Sometimes even getting the policy right doesn’t mean making the world perfect, but deciding how to balance different types of problems,” Finkelstein says.

Experts have praised “Risky Business” and its approach to explaining the insurance markets. Nobel laureate economist George Akerlof PhD ’66 says, “The very human cat-and-mouse stories that animate ‘Risky Business’ are not only great fun; they also subtly reveal the basis of a great deal of economics.”

For her part, Finkelstein hopes the book will interest a broad audience of readers who, whether content or frustrated with their insurance, will at least take satisfaction in grasping why the whole industry has its current form and practices.

“We see our role as helping people to understand the world around them a little better,” she says.

Source: Unnatural selection

The weekend’s best deals: Apple computers, Kindles, 4K TVs, charging cables, and more

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The weekend’s best deals: Apple computers, Kindles, 4K TVs, charging cables, and more.


Another weekend, another Dealmaster. In this week's roundup of the best tech deals on the web, we have deals on a range of Apple computers―desktops and laptops alike. Co-headlining the Apple computer sale are the just-released 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros and the 2021 iMac.

We recently reviewed the new MacBooks and dubbed them "the best laptop[s] you can buy today by almost any measure." Aimed at power users who demand muscular performance and easy, varied, built-in port selection, the 2023 MacBook Pros only improved on an already impressive pair of laptops in the previous generation. If you already have one of those, there's no pressing need to upgrade. However, if you were on the fence or waiting for the next generation, you can snag the new laptops for $50 off full retail price and gain even more improved M2-Pro-powered chips.

Also on sale is the 2021 iMac. Perhaps most easily thought of as a MacBook Air in all-in-one desktop form, it provides plenty power for most users. It's not the Mac you want if you're going to be gaming, editing video, or creating much beyond documents. Still, it's a good-looking, nostalgic, simple, albeit brightly-colored desktop computer that will absolutely crush Zoom calls with great audio and video capture, and look good doing it. With a $150 discount, the iMac is a bit more attractive at $1,099 than its typical $1,250 price.

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Source: The weekend’s best deals: Apple computers, Kindles, 4K TVs, charging cables, and more

Adjusting Your Course

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“I’m making course adjustments,” a good friend and colleague told me the other day, smiling as he spoke. 

Fascinated, I listened as he went on to provide perspective on what “adjusting course” meant for him.  The genesis of the conversation had arisen from a chat we were having about strong convictions he once held which had been tested over time by his life experience.  “I’m not the same guy as I was then – I need to be open to seeing things from a different perspective,” he said, adding, “If I don’t do that, then I stop learning.”

As I am prone to do, I mulled his comments for a long time after we finished talking.  I thought about the many clients with whom I work who are constantly confronted with choices and decisions.  They adjust course in small ways every day, and then reflect on how those course adjustments work for them – and then they adjust again.  They cope with managing businesses and leading people – making nuanced and creative decisions along with critical financial judgments. 

The most successful leaders are those who recognize that their viewpoint is powerfully informed by their own experience and where they are in their personal and professional journey.  For instance, a new leader who is untried can make a decision early in a career that they might make differently later in life.  The key for that leader is to understand what they learned from the experience. Why did they make the decision in the first place and why was there a course correction later on?

A critical point is that we need to know how and why we are adjusting our course.  As complex as it might seem, adjusting a course when you’re piloting an airplane, for example, is easy to understand.  If you’re not going to arrive at the destination you planned, you can change speed and heading.  Adjusting course in life is infinitely more complex.  A leader’s decisions are not based on the same kind of data and understanding of navigational techniques used by aviators.  Instead, decisions are often informed by a variety of sepia-toned information analysis and intuition, which depends on both knowledge and experience.

But, as an aviator or a leader, course adjustments cannot be made in a vacuum.  And they need to be deeply understood.  Leaders can best serve themselves and their companies by asking personal questions:

  1. How has my perspective changed?
  2. Why am I feeling differently about my (or the organization’s) current course?
  3. Am I stuck in a way of thinking that no longer supports me the way it used to?
  4. What are my intentions?
  5. What do I want to change?
  6. What choices can I make?

Being curious about one’s own motivations and exploring the why, how, and what of our personal evolution can inform the adjustments we naturally make as part of growing.  Curiosity can also help us know where we can confront our own assumptions and realize that they may no longer serve us.  Andy Cohen explores challenging assumptions well in an article in Duke Corporate Education. 

Growing, learning, and expanding our range as human beings – and understanding how those concepts inform our own worldview and the course we set– are such fascinating parts of life’s journey.  Appreciating that adjustment to our course is such an important part of leadership – That is the joy and a challenge for each of us. 

My thanks to a dear friend who helped me with my own course adjustment!

The post Adjusting Your Course appeared first on gothamCulture.

Source: Adjusting Your Course

With Layoffs, Retailers Aim to Be Safe Rather Than Sorry (Again)

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Companies that ramped up hiring in areas like technology over the past few years are cutting back as customers slow their spending.

Source: With Layoffs, Retailers Aim to Be Safe Rather Than Sorry (Again)

Targeting cancer with a multidrug nanoparticle

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Treating cancer with combinations of drugs can be more effective than using a single drug. However, figuring out the optimal combination of drugs, and making sure that all of the drugs reach the right place, can be challenging.

To help address those challenges, MIT chemists have designed a bottlebrush-shaped nanoparticle that can be loaded with multiple drugs, in ratios that can be easily controlled. Using these particles, the researchers were able to calculate and then deliver the optimal ratio of three cancer drugs used to treat multiple myeloma.

“There’s a lot of interest in finding synergistic combination therapies for cancer, meaning that they leverage some underlying mechanism of the cancer cell that allows them to kill more effectively, but oftentimes we don’t know what that right ratio will be,” says Jeremiah Johnson, an MIT professor of chemistry and one of the senior authors of the study.

In a study of mice, the researchers showed that nanoparticles carrying three drugs in the synergistic ratio they identified shrank tumors much more than when the three drugs were given at the same ratio but untethered to a particle. This nanoparticle platform could potentially be deployed to deliver drug combinations against a variety of cancers, the researchers say.

Irene Ghobrial, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and P. Peter Ghoroghchian, president of Ceptur Therapeutics and a former MIT Koch Institute Clinical Investigator, are also senior authors of the paper, which appears today in Nature Nanotechnology. Alexandre Detappe, an assistant professor at the Strasbourg Europe Cancer Institute, and Hung Nguyen PhD ’19 are the paper’s lead authors.

Controlled ratio

Using nanoparticles to deliver cancer drugs allows the drugs to accumulate at the tumor site and reduces toxic side effects because the particles protect the drugs from being released prematurely. However, only a handful of nanoparticle drug formulations have received FDA approval to treat cancer, and only one of these particles carries more than one drug.

For several years, Johnson’s lab has been working on polymer nanoparticles designed to carry multiple drugs. In the new study, the research team focused on a bottlebrush-shaped particle. To make the particles, drug molecules are inactivated by binding to polymer building blocks and then mixed together in a specific ratio for polymerization. This forms chains that extend from a central backbone, giving the molecule a bottlebrush-like structure with inactivated drugs — prodrugs — along the bottlebrush backbone. Cleavage of the linker that holds the drug to the backbone release the active agent.  

“If we want to make a bottlebrush that has two drugs or three drugs or any number of drugs in it, we simply need to synthesize those different drug conjugated monomers, mix them together, and polymerize them. The resulting bottlebrushes have exactly the same size and shape as the bottlebrush that only has one drug, but now they have a distribution of two, three, or however many drugs you want within them,” Johnson says.

In this study, the researchers first tested particles carrying just one drug: bortezomib, which is used to treat multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects a type of B cells known as plasma cells. Bortezomib is a proteasome inhibitor, a type of drug that prevents cancer cells from breaking down the excess proteins they produce. Accumulation of these proteins eventually causes the tumor cells to die.

When bortezomib is given on its own, the drug tends accumulate in red blood cells, which have high proteasome concentrations. However, when the researchers gave their bottlebrush prodrug version of the drug to mice, they found that the particles accumulated primarily in plasma cells because the bottlebrush structure protects the drug from being released right away, allowing it to circulate long enough to reach its target.

Synergistic combinations

Using the bottlebrush particles, the researchers were also able to analyze many different drug combinations to evaluate which were the most effective.

Currently, researchers test potential drug combinations by exposing cancer cells in a lab dish to different concentrations of multiple drugs, but those results often don’t translate to patients because each drug is distributed and absorbed differently inside the human body.

“If you inject three drugs into the body, the likelihood that the correct ratio of those drugs will arrive at the cancer cell at the same time can be very low. The drugs have different properties that cause them to go to different places, and that hinders the translation of these identified synergistic drug ratios quite immensely,” Johnson says.

However, delivering all three drugs together in one particle could potentially overcome that obstacle and make it easier to deliver synergistic ratios. Because of the ease of creating bottlebrush particles with varying concentrations of drugs, the researchers were able to compare particles carrying different ratios of bortezomib and two other drugs used to treat multiple myeloma: an immunostimulatory drug called pomalidomide, and dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory drug.

Exposing these particles to cancer cells in a lab dish revealed combinations that were synergistic, but these combinations were different from the synergistic ratios that had been identified using drugs not bound to the bottlebrush.

“What that tells us is that whenever you are trying to develop a synergistic drug combination that you ultimately plan to administer in a nanoparticle, you should measure synergy in the context of the nanoparticle,” Johnson says. “If you measure it for the drugs alone, and then try to make a nanoparticle with that ratio, you can’t guarantee it will be as effective.”

New combinations

In tests in two mouse models of multiple myeloma, the researchers found that three-drug bottlebrushes with a synergistic ratio significantly inhibited tumor growth compared to the free drugs given at the same ratio and to mixtures of three different single-drug bottlebrushes. They also discovered that their bortezomib-only bottlebrushes were very effective at slowing tumor growth when given in higher doses. Although it is approved for blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, bortezomib has never been approved for solid tumors due to its limited therapeutic window and bioavailability.

“We were happy to see that the bortezomib bottlebrush prodrug on its own was an excellent drug, displaying improved efficacy and safety compared to bortezomib, and that has led us to pursue trying to bring this molecule to the clinic as a next-generation proteasome inhibitor,” Johnson says. “It has completely different properties than bortezomib and gives you the ability to have a wider therapeutic index to treat cancers that bortezomib has not been used in before.”

Johnson, Nguyen, and Yivan Jiang PhD ’19 have founded a company called Window Therapeutics, which is working on further developing these particles for testing in clinical trials. The company also hopes to explore other drug combinations that could be used against other types of cancer.

Johnson’s lab is also working on using these particles to deliver therapeutic antibodies along with drugs, as well as combining them with larger particles that could deliver messenger RNA along with drug molecules. “The versatility of this platform gives us endless opportunities to create new combinations,” he says.

The research was funded, in part, by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the U.S. National Science Foundation, The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Source: Targeting cancer with a multidrug nanoparticle

Top 10 AI Tools in 2023 That Will Make Your Life Easier

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top 10 ai tools in 2023 that will make your life easier

 In this article, we explore the top 10 AI tools that are driving innovation and efficiency in various industries. These tools are designed to automate repetitive tasks, improve workflow, and increase productivity. The tools included in our list are some of the most advanced and widely used in the market, and are suitable for a variety of applications. Some of the tools focus on natural language processing, such as ChatGPT and Grammarly, while others focus on image and video generation, such as DALL-E and Lumen5. Other tools such as OpenAI Codex, Tabnine, Canva, Jasper AI,, and Surfer SEO are designed to help with specific tasks such as code understanding content writing and website optimization. This list is a great starting point for anyone looking to explore the possibilities of AI and how it can be applied to their business or project.

So let’s dive into

1. ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a large language model that generates human-like responses to a variety of prompts. It can be used for tasks such as language translation, question answering, and text completion. It can handle a wide range of topics and styles of writing, and generates coherent and fluent text, but should be used with care as it may generate text that is biased, offensive, or factually incorrect.


  • Generates human-like responses to a variety of prompts
  • Can be fine-tuned for specific tasks such as language translation, question answering, and text completion
  • Can handle a wide range of topics and styles of writing
  • Can generate coherent and fluent text, even when completing a given text prompt.


  • May generate text that is biased or offensive
  • Can generate text that is not accurate or factually correct
  • May require large amounts of computational resources to run
  • The model can sometimes generate text that is not coherent or fluent, depending on the prompt given.

Overall, ChatGPT is a powerful tool for natural language processing, but it should be used with care and with an understanding of its limitations.


DALL-E is a generative model developed by OpenAI that is capable of generating images from text prompts. It is based on the GPT-3 architecture, which is a transformer-based neural network language model that has been trained on a massive dataset of text. DALL-E can generate images that are similar to a training dataset and it can generate high-resolution images that are suitable for commercial use.


  • Generates high-resolution images
  • Can generate images from text prompts
  • It can be fine-tuned for specific tasks such as generating images of a certain style or category


  • May generate images that are not entirely original and could be influenced by the training data
  • May require significant computational resources to run
  • The quality of the generated images may vary depending on the specific prompt

Overall, DALL-E is a powerful AI-based tool for generating images, it can be used for a variety of applications such as creating images for commercial use, gaming, and other creative projects. It is important to note that the generated images should be reviewed and used with care, as they may not be entirely original and could be influenced by the training data.

3. Lumen5

Lumen5 is a content creation platform that uses AI to help users create videos, social media posts, and other types of content. It has several features that make it useful for content creation and marketing, including:


  • Automatically summarizes text from a blog post, article, or another source into a script for a video or social media post
  • Offers a library of royalty-free videos, images, and music to use in content
  • Has a drag-and-drop interface for easy content creation
  • Can create videos in multiple languages
  • Has a built-in analytics tool to track the performance of created content.


  • The quality of the generated content may vary depending on the source material
  • The automatic summarization feature may not always capture the main points of the source material
  • The library of videos, images, and music is limited.
  • The analytics feature is basic

Overall, Lumen5 is a useful tool for creating content quickly and easily, it can help automate the process of creating videos, social media posts, and other types of content. However, the quality of the generated content may vary depending on the source material and it is important to review and edit the content before publishing it.

4. Grammarly

Grammarly is a writing-enhancement platform that uses AI to check for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors in the text. It also provides suggestions for improving the clarity, concision, and readability of the text. It has several features that make it useful for improving writing, including:


  • Checks for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors in the text
  • Provides suggestions for improving clarity, concision, and readability
  • Can be integrated with various apps and platforms such as Microsoft Office, Google Docs, and social media platforms
  • Offers a browser extension and a desktop app
  • Has a premium version with more advanced features such as plagiarism detection and more


  • The suggestions provided may not always be accurate or appropriate
  • The grammar checker may not always recognize context-specific language use
  • The free version has limited features
  • Limited to English language only
  • Overall, Grammarly is a useful tool for improving writing, it can help users identify and correct grammar and punctuation errors, and improve the clarity, concision, and readability of their text. However, it is important to review the suggestions provided by the tool and use them with caution, as they may not always be accurate or appropriate.

5.OpenAI Codex

OpenAI Codex is a system developed by OpenAI that can create code from natural language descriptions of software tasks. The system is based on the GPT-3 model and can generate code in multiple programming languages.


  • Can automate the process of writing code
  • Can help developers to be more productive
  • Can help non-technical people to create software
  • Can generate code in multiple programming languages


  • The quality of the generated code may vary depending on the task description
  • The generated code may not always be optimal or efficient
  • The system may not be able to handle complex software tasks
  • Dependence on the tool may lead to a lack of understanding of the code.

Overall, OpenAI Codex is a powerful tool that can help automate the process of writing code and make it more accessible to non-technical people. However, the quality of the generated code may vary depending on the task description and it is important to review and test the code before using it in a production environment. It is important to use the tool as an aid, not a replacement for the developer's knowledge.

6. Tabnine

Tabnine is a code completion tool that uses AI to predict and suggest code snippets. It is compatible with multiple programming languages and can be integrated with various code editors.


  • Can improve coding efficiency by suggesting code snippets based on context
  • Can complete entire code blocks
  • Can predict variables, functions, and other elements of code
  • Can be integrated with various code editors


  • The suggestions may not always be accurate or appropriate
  • The system may not always be able to understand the context of the code
  • May not work with all code editors
  • Dependence on the tool may lead to a lack of understanding of the code.

Overall, TabNine is a useful tool for developers that can help improve coding efficiency and reduce the time spent on writing code. However, it is important to review the suggestions provided by the tool and use them with caution, as they may not always be accurate or appropriate. It is important to use the tool as an aid, not a replacement for the developer's knowledge.

7. Jasper AI

Jasper is a content writing and content generation tool that uses artificial intelligence to identify the best words and sentences for your writing style and medium in the most efficient, quick, and accessible way.


  • User-friendly interface
  • Generates a wide variety of content types
  • Guarantees 100% unique and free-plagiarism content
  • SEO friendly
  •  Create articles of up to 10k words


  • Not the cheapest AI writer on the market

8. Surfer SEO

Surfer SEO is a software tool designed to help website owners and digital marketers improve their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. The tool provides a variety of features that can be used to analyze a website's on-page SEO, including:


  • A site audit tool that checks for technical SEO issues
  • A content editor that suggests optimizations for individual pages
  • A keyword research tool that suggests keywords to target
  • A SERP analyzer that shows how a website's pages rank for specific keywords
  • A backlink analysis tool that shows the backlinks pointing to a website.


  • Can help website owners and marketers identify technical SEO issues
  • Can provide suggestions for optimizing individual pages
  • Can help with keyword research
  • Can show how a website's pages rank for specific keywords
  • Can provide insight into a website's backlink profile


  • Some features may require a paid subscription
  • The tool is not a guarantee of better ranking
  • The tool can only analyze the data it has access to
  • The tool's suggestions may not always be applicable or optimal

Overall, Surfer SEO can be a useful tool for website owners and digital marketers looking to improve their SEO efforts. However, it is important to remember that it is just a tool and should be used in conjunction with other SEO best practices. Additionally, the tool is not a guarantee of better ranking.

9. Zapier

Zapier is a web automation tool that allows users to automate repetitive tasks by connecting different web applications together. It does this by creating "Zaps" that automatically move data between apps, and can also be used to trigger certain actions in one app based on events in another app.


  • Can connect over 3,000 web applications
  • Can automate repetitive tasks
  • Can create "Zaps" to move data between apps
  • Can trigger certain actions in one app based on events in another app.


  • Can automate repetitive tasks
  • Can save time
  • Can improve workflow
  • Can increase productivity
  • Can be integrated with a wide range of web applications


  • Can be difficult to set up
  • May require some technical skills
  • May require a paid subscription for some features
  • Some apps may not be compatible
  • Dependence on the tool may lead to a lack of understanding of the apps

Overall, Zapier is a useful tool that can help users automate repetitive tasks and improve workflow. It can save time and increase productivity by connecting different web applications together. However, it may require some technical skills and some features may require a paid subscription. It is important to use the tool with caution and not to rely too much on it, to understand the apps better.

10. Compose AI

Compose AI is a company that specializes in developing natural language generation (NLG) software. Their software uses AI to automatically generate written or spoken text from structured data, such as spreadsheets, databases, or APIs.


  • Automatically generates written or spoken text from structured data
  • Can be integrated with a wide range of data sources
  • Can be used for a variety of applications such as creating reports, summaries, and explanations
  • Provides an API and a user-friendly interface


  • Can automate the process of creating written or spoken content
  • Can help users create more accurate and consistent content
  • Can help users save time by automating repetitive tasks
  • Can be integrated with a wide range of data sources


  • The quality of the generated content may vary depending on the data source
  • The generated content may not always be optimal or efficient
  • The system may not be able to handle complex tasks
  • Dependence on the tool may lead to a lack of understanding of the data

Overall, Compose AI's NLG software can be a useful tool for automating the process of creating written or spoken content from structured data. However, the quality of the generated content may vary depending on the data source, and it is essential to review the generated content before using it in a production environment. It is important to use the tool as an aid, not a replacement for the understanding of the data.


AI tools are becoming increasingly important in today's business and technology landscape. They are designed to automate repetitive tasks, improve workflow, and increase productivity. The top 10 AI tools included in this article are some of the most advanced and widely used in the market, and are suitable for various applications. Whether you're looking to improve your natural language processing, create high-resolution images, or optimize your website, there is an AI tool that can help. It's important to research and evaluate the different tools available to determine which one is the best fit for your specific needs. As AI technology continues to evolve, these tools will become even more powerful and versatile and will play an even greater role in shaping the future of business and technology.

Source: Top 10 AI Tools in 2023 That Will Make Your Life Easier

MIT Gas Turbine Laboratory prepares to jet into the future

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In 1941, the National Academy of Sciences appointed a committee to assess the use of gas turbine engines — which use heat released during fuel combustion to produce thrust for propulsion — in aviation. The group of luminaries concluded that due to the temperature limitations of existing materials, gas turbines did not have much of a future in propelling airplanes.

However, “Unknown to the committee, the first jet engine was already successfully run in Germany in 1940: the Junkers Jumo,” says Professor Zoltán Spakovszky, director of the MIT Gas Turbine Laboratory (GTL) and the T.A. Wilson Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Although the committee had correctly identified the temperature limitations, “the German engineers and designers redefined the problem and introduced turbine cooling,” he explains.

The Junkers Jumo, the world’s first turbojet engine in production, was put in operation during World War II, while separately, Sir Frank Whittle had been leading progress on the development of the turbojet engine in Great Britain. With the United States falling behind Germany and Britain in developing turbojet engines, Professor Jerome C. Hunsaker had the vision of establishing a laboratory dedicated to gas turbine propulsion at MIT. Hunsaker, an aviation pioneer in his own right and member of the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, gathered funds and support from six U.S. industries and the U.S. Navy to get started.

On Oct. 7, 1947, the GTL, led by Professor Edward Story Taylor as its founding director, officially launched with all major U.S. aviation and aircraft companies of that time in attendance at the opening ceremony. Over the course of 75 years, the GTL, now housed in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, has been at the cutting edge of applied research. It continues to do so by delivering “new perspectives on integration of propulsion systems with new aircraft concepts and high-impact collaborative projects cutting across disciplines,” Spakovszky says.

To describe the work of laboratory, Professor Edward Greitzer, a former GTL director and the H.N. Slater Professor in Aeronautics and Astronautics, quotes former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew, who spoke of not “perfecting the known,” but rather reaching for the unknown. “That’s what we have always tried to do at the GTL,” Greitzer says. “We do our best to think strategically about things we could do that would not only be intellectually interesting but would also have an impact.”

The GTL “is still going very strong, tackling new and different challenges,” Spakovszky says. “Today, we’re not only working on the propulsion system, jet engines, and power plants, we’re also working on integrating jet engines into aircraft and on forward-looking challenges like electrification of aviation.”

In the early years, projects focused on one discipline and addressed one specific problem, Greitzer points out, but today’s GTL works on “problems with larger scope and scale, cutting across disciplines and sometimes organizations.” For example, a project working on a conceptual design of a fuel-efficient aircraft led to a test in a large wind tunnel, at a NASA facility.

Equally important, Spakovszky adds, is the lab’s focus on industry. True to its roots, the GTL continues to work on “projects that don’t just go into theses and sit on the shelf; they actually move the needle and start with real applications in industry,” he says. Super-high-pressure ratio compressors for carbon sequestration and ultrashort aeroengine inlets to reduce fuel burn are examples of the many different industry-focused projects that the GTL has worked on.

Fostering excellence, passion, and collaboration

Over the past three-quarters of a century, close to 500 students have called the GTL their academic home. In addition to being steeped in academic rigor, students came away with technical communication skills, says Borislav “Bobby” Sirakov SM ’01, PhD ’04. The ability, “developed at the GTL, to summarize and explain a complex topic in simple words has served me well in my career,” he states.

Andras Kiss ’13, SM ’15, PhD ’21, worked at the GTL from his sophomore year in Course 16 until he completed his doctoral degree in aerospace engineering. “The first thing that Zolti or Ed would say when you wrote a report or made a presentation was 'answer the Heilmeier questions [a series of questions addressing risks, costs and more] in plain language,’ Kiss laughs, “It was all about distilling your work into very approachable, clear language so you know exactly what you’re trying to do. Otherwise it’s very easy to hide behind detail.”

Kiss has many fond memories of the GTL, including the time he spent designing the electrical and fuel systems for a turbofan engine and having it work smoothly after 18 months of effort. “It was a real thrill, seeing the engine start up for the first time,” he remembers.

Phil Mullan SM ’59, ME ’62, ScD ’64, who majored in mechanical engineering at MIT while working in the GTL, loved the academic rigor. “The lab environment was very invigorating for me because the other research assistants were really bright people,” Mullan says. “They came from different backgrounds and had lots of good ideas to share and were always willing to help.” He remembers looking forward to the midmorning and midafternoon coffee breaks in the library.

According to Spakovszky, ideas that pushed the boundaries of so-called conventional wisdom have been an important differentiator of the GTL. Two research initiatives in this regard have been Micro-Engines, shirt-button-sized gas turbine engines for portable power made using computer chip manufacturing, and the Silent Aircraft Initiative, focused on the conceptual design of an aircraft whose noise would be imperceptible outside airport boundaries.

This approach was also evident when approaching challenges earlier in the lab's history, like finding the original drive system for the De Laval wind tunnel and air system. Not to be confused with MIT AeroAstro’s Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel, the reconfigurable De Laval wind tunnel is located within Building 31 and provides air to various test facilities. “The logistical challenge was getting a motor to run the compressor,” Spakovszky says. “It turns out that the USS Halibut, a Gato-class submarine, had run ashore and was decommissioned in New Hampshire in 1945. Eddie Taylor bought the motor drive system out of that submarine and put it here in 1947. We operated that equipment until we renovated a few years ago (in 2017) and now have a new electric motor to drive the De Laval air system.”

According to Greitzer, there have been pleasant technological surprises along the way since he joined the GTL (from Pratt and Whitney) in 1977. One of these was the Silent Aircraft Initiative. “My expectation was that we’d have a trade-off of performance — fuel burn for noise,” Greitzer says. “But we found that if you think about opening up the design of the aircraft … you don’t have to make those compromises and you can get both less noise and improved fuel burn performance.”

Celebrating a roaring future

In his 1947 welcome speech inaugurating the lab, Taylor said: “It hardly seems necessary to stress the growing importance of the gas turbine as a prime mover.” In the speech he also referred to the GTL as a “a new laboratory specifically designed for research in problems encountered in gas turbines.”

On Oct. 7, 2022, 75 years later to the day, Spakovszky addressed a room full of more than 140 alumni, industry members, and academic luminaries who came together from all over the world to return to campus and celebrate the historic milestone for the GTL. Mullan — with his grandson, an engineer with Pratt and Whitney, in tow — Sirakov, and Kiss were among the laboratory alumni in attendance.

“The challenges are different now compared to 75 years ago, but the way we do research and the way we collaborate has not changed. Today, we’re looking at electrifying aviation and working with new fuels like hydrogen,” Spakovszky says. “The bottom line is that our name has not changed, we’re still the Gas Turbine Lab, but we’re doing more than gas turbines, and addressing different aspects of the field.”

The lab’s invigorating environment and a passion for gas turbine technology were on full display at the celebrations where attendees were delighted to catch up with old friends and mentors and go down memory lane while touring the GTL’s renovated facilities to learn more about the latest research and even view a Junkers Jumo 004 engine on display, an emblem of the field’s history embedded in the present.

While 2022 marked an important milestone in the history of the GTL, Sirakov believes that the lab will always be at the forefront of advancements.

“I was very happy to see so many new test rigs and experimental projects going on,” he says. “I am proud of the long history of the lab, the long list of contributions to the field, and the powerful beginning with all the aerospace leaders attending the [launch]. It’s remarkable that after so many years the MIT GTL lab is still very relevant to the fields of aeronautics, space, and automotive [research] and to all of the new and exciting horizons like electrification and clean energy.”

Greitzer agrees. “The feeling that came through at the 75th anniversary celebration is that the Gas Turbine Lab is a special place, it’s distinctive and it’s different,” Greitzer says. “We continue on our voyage of discovery to learn the unknown.”

Source: MIT Gas Turbine Laboratory prepares to jet into the future

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