News & Events


A Microscopic Glowing Van Gogh


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


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


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]

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Best Paper At Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence


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

Microseismicity and Large Earthquakes


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


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

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


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]

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Caltech’s Smart Charging Network for Electrical Vehicles


Charging electric vehicles (EVs) can require a substantial amount of electricity (most EVs charge at 7 kilowatts, the equivalent of simultaneously running 70 desktop computers). Steven Low, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, has developed Caltech's adaptive charging network, which uses a smart algorithm to coordinate the charging schedule with the Institute's existing electrical infrastructure. This program helps minimize energy usage and about 30 percent of the electricity at each charging station is from carbon-free renewable sources. [Caltech story]

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Aliso Canyon, Methane, and Global Climate


The Aliso Canyon underground storage facility for natural gas in the San Fernando Valley—the fourth largest of its kind in the United States—had one of its wells blow out on October 23, 2015, leading to a large release of methane. In a recent conversation, Professor Paul Wennberg discusses enormous methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and their troubling implications for global climate. “If we could really knock the methane emissions back to what they were before people started emitting methane, it would be a large change. It would be a half a watt per meter squared. The total global warming would drop by around 25 percent,” Professor Wennberg explains. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg

Using Applied Physics to Explain How Accretion Disks Drive Astrophysical Jets


Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a new model explaining why astrophysical jets always originate from stars having accretion disks, the progenitors of planets. The relationship between jets and accretion disks has eluded scientists for many years and what happens to the angular momentum of accreting particles has also long been a mystery. Professor Bellan’s model explains how the disks power the jets as well as how angular momentum is removed from accreting material in the disks. The model involves peculiar inward spiraling trajectories of clumps of charged and neutral particles, and shows that the disk and jets together form an electric circuit where the disk is the battery and the jet is the load. [Read the Paper]

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