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Counting L.A.’s Trees

07-27-16

Professor Pietro Perona, has developed a method using Google Earth and Google Street View to count the trees in the city of Los Angeles. The process of counting the trees using human tree counters is very expensive and would cost about $3 million today. The last time the city did such counting was more than two decades ago and at the time there were 700,000 street trees. Perona has tested the methodology in a section of Pasadena where the city recently commissioned a sidewalk survey. By comparing the results to the known inventory, he determined that the computer was about 80% accurate. [LA Times story] [KPCC story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Pietro Perona

A Microscopic Glowing Van Gogh

07-12-16

Paul Rothemund, Research Professor of Bioengineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have developed a technique that allows manmade DNA shapes to be placed wherever desired; to within a margin of error of just 20 nanometers. This technique removes a major hurdle for the large-scale integration of molecular devices on chips. As a demonstration of the technique’s capabilities the group has created one of the world's smallest reproductions of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Paul Rothemund

Community Seismic Network Detected Air Pulse From Refinery Explosion

06-30-16

The Community Seismic Network’s (CSN) tight network of low-cost detectors are improving the resolution of seismic data gathering and could offer city inspectors crucial information on building damage after a quake. On February 18, 2015, an explosion rattled the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, causing ground shaking equivalent to that of a magnitude-2.0 earthquake and blasting out an air pressure wave similar to a sonic boom. Traveling at 343 meters per second the air pressure wave reached a 52-story high-rise in downtown Los Angeles 66 seconds after the blast. The building's seismometers, which are part of the CSN, noted and recorded the motion of each individual floor. "We want first responders, structural engineers, and facilities engineers to be able to make decisions based on what the data say," explained Monica Kohler, Research Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering, and the lead author of a paper detailing the high-rise's response that recently appeared in the journal Earthquake Spectra. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Monica Kohler

Realtime Camera Planning

06-29-16

Yisong Yue, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, is working with colleagues at Disney Research to develop machine-learning algorithms to make automated cameras more human-like.  Professor Yue's research group is generally interested in building AI systems that imitate demonstrated behavior, including laboratory animals, basketball players, humans playing video games, etc.  In this recent work with Disney Research, they are developing an automated camera system that learns how best to film sports matches by watching how human camera operators behave at particular moments. Early testing shows that its shots are far smoother than other automated cameras. [Learn more about the applications] [Learn more about the theory] [techradar story] [Sports Illustrated story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Yisong Yue

Best Paper At Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence

06-28-16

Leonard J. Schulman, Professor of Computer Science, and postdoctoral scholar Piyush Srivastava have won the best paper award at the 2016 Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence for their paper, Stability of Causal Inference. [Read the paper]

Tags: research highlights CMS Leonard Schulman Piyush Srivastava postdocs

Microseismicity and Large Earthquakes

06-10-16

Nadia Lapusta, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and Caltech alumnus Dr. Junle Jiang, have linked the patterns of microseismicity to the depth extension of large earthquakes, both through modeling and observationally. They argue that fault segments which do not have concentrated microseismicity at the bottom of the seismogenic zone must have had deeper, larger earthquakes than currently believed. A number of segments on the San Andreas fault appear to fall into that category. The potential for such deeper earthquakes in the future would imply higher seismic hazard. [Science article] [KPCC coverage] [New Yorker Article]

Tags: research highlights MCE Nadia Lapusta alumni Junle Jiang

Smaller Chips May Depend on Vacuum Tube Technology

06-05-16

A recent New York Times article featured Caltech alumnus, Gordon Moore (PhD ’54), and the research of Professor Axel Scherer on ultrasmall vacuum tube as a candidate to replace the transistor. [Read the article]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights CMS Gordon Moore Axel Scherer

Engineering Nanodevices to Store Information the Quantum Way

05-27-16

Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is interested in creating a device that could harness the power of entangled particles within a usable technology. A large part of his research is focused on finding ways to store and process quantum information. Quantum information is very fragile and even the smallest amount of external noise messes up quantum states. There are various schemes that tackle this problem and postpone decoherence, but the one that he is most interested in involves Majorana fermions. Relatively recently theorists figured out how to engineer these particles in the lab. Nadj-Perge explains, “it turns out that, under certain conditions, when you combine certain materials and apply high magnetic fields at very cold temperatures, electrons will form a state that looks exactly as you would expect from Majorana fermions. Furthermore, such engineered states allow you to store quantum information in a way that postpones decoherence.” [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlight Stevan Nadj-Perge

DNA Origami: Folded DNA as a Building Material for Molecular Devices

05-20-16

Paul Rothemund, Research Professor of Bioengineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Computation and Neural Systems, explains how his group and groups around the world are using DNA origami in applications ranging from potential cancer treatments to devices for computing. [Caltech interview]

Tags: research highlights CMS Paul Rothemund

Thermo-Hydraulics of Nuclear Reactors

05-11-16

Christopher E. Brennen, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus, has written a new book, Thermo-Hydraulics of Nuclear Reactors, that provides a concise and up-to-date summary of the essential thermo-hydraulic analyses and design principles of nuclear reactors for electricity generation. [Learn more]

Tags: MCE Christopher Brennen research highlight