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MIT Museum June 20, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in History, Science.
Tags: , , , ,

I recently visited the MIT Museum in Cambridge. This museum features a collection of science-themed exhibits – most of them are connected to MIT.

Here are five nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. The slide rule arose from an invention of John Napier, who is best known for inventing the logarithm. After several people improved on Napier’s invention, William Oughtred invented the slide rule itself. Interestingly, slide rules were used by the English to enforce their harsh 17th-Century tax laws; they were also used by the British to calculate the fines on Massachusetts colonists for the Boston Tea Party. In addition, James Watt actually invented the Soho slide rule.

2. Malaria can have a rather debilitating effect on red blood cells, which are normally pliable, allowing them to squeeze through narrow capillaries in the brain. In particular, malaria can decrease the elasticity of a red blood cell membrane, restricting its movement through narrow channels. Also, malaria increases the adhesiveness of a red blood cell membrane, resulting in capillary blockage.

3. Edwin Land became intrigued by optics at a young age, when a camp counselor showed him a block of calcite, introducing him to the concepts of reflection and refraction. Land would later drop out of Harvard to pursue his passion for optics. He invented the instant camera after a 1943 trip to Santa Fe, where his daughter asked him why she couldn’t immediately view the photos that he had taken. He would also spur the creation of MIT’s UROP with an impassioned 1957 speech.

4. John McCarthy is credited with organizing the first conference in the field of artificial intelligence in 1956; it was held at Dartmouth and had ten attendees. McCarthy persuaded those in attendance to refer to their new area of research as “artificial intelligence.” He would soon move to MIT to continue his research in AI. He is also credited with developing the LISP programming language.

5. The Kanchenjunga region straddles Nepal and India. The name “Kanchenjunga” means “Five Treasures of the Great Snow” in Tibetan. The tallest mountain in this region, Mount Kanchenjunga, is the world’s third-highest peak; it was actually believed to be the world’s tallest peak until the discovery of Mount Everest.

The museum contains an impressive collection of robots that MIT researchers have developed in the CSAIL, including the well-known Kismet robot. I also enjoyed the Gestural Engineering exhibit by Arthur Ganson, which consisted of many curious contraptions.

I don’t have any quibbles at this time.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in science.



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