News & Events


Dickinson Reveales that the Twirling Seeds of Maple Trees Spin Like Miniature Helicopters As They Fall to the Ground


Research by Michael H. Dickinson, the Zarem Professor of Bioengineering and David Lentink of Wageningen, reveals that, by swirling, maple seeds generate a tornado-like vortex that sits atop the front leading edge of the seeds as they spin slowly to the ground. This leading-edge vortex lowers the air pressure over the upper surface of the maple seed, effectively sucking the wing upward to oppose gravity, giving it a boost. The vortex doubles the lift generated by the seeds compared to nonswirling seeds. "There is enormous interest in the development of micro air vehicles, which, because of their size, must function using the same physical principles employed by small, natural flying devices such as insects and maple seeds," says Dickinson. [Caltech Press Release]

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Michael Winterrose and Brent Fultz Use High-Pressure "Alchemy" to Create Nonexpanding Metals


Graduate student Michael Winterrose, and Brent Fultz, professor of materials science and applied physics, and colleagues, describe the exotic behavior of materials existing at high pressures in a paper in the June 12th issue of Physical Review Letters. By squeezing a typical metal alloy at pressures hundreds of thousands of times greater than normal atmospheric pressure, the material does not expand when heated, as does nearly every normal metal, and acts like a metal with an entirely different chemical composition. This insight into the behavior of materials existing at high pressures becomes doubly interesting when you consider that some 90 percent of the matter in our solar system exists at these high pressures. [Caltech Press Release]

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Robert McEliece Wins IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal


Robert McEliece, Allen E. Puckett Professor and Professor of Electrical Engineering, has won the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal for exceptional contributions to the advancement of communications sciences and engineering. In particular, McEliece is being recognized for fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of error-correcting codes and to the design of deep space telecommunication systems.

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G. Ravichandran Elected Fellow of the Society of Experimental Mechanics


Professor G. Ravichandran, the John E. Goode, Jr. Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, and Director of GALCIT has been elected Fellow of the Society of Experimental Mechanics. Designation as an SEM Fellow is reserved to a select group of individuals that have made notable contributions to the Society and to the field of Experimental Mechanics.

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Caltech's 115th Commencement Ceremony


Caltech's 115th Commencement Ceremony was held on Friday, June 12th. The graduates were addressed by Steven Chu, renowned physicist, U.S. Secretary of Energy, and Nobel Laureate.

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Sheila Shull Has Won One of the Two 2009 Schmitt Staff Prizes


The Schmitt Prize recognizes a staff member of the Caltech community whose contributions embody the values and spirit that enable the Institute to achieve excellence in research and education. Sheila has been with Applied and Computational Mathematics (ACM) for almost 30 years and takes care of almost every aspect of the day-to-day activities in ACM, including proposal submission and grant management; management of staff members, visitors, and students; organization of international conferences; recruitment of students and instructors; utilization of space; and, most importantly, "care and feeding" of the ACM faculty, which is not without its challenges. As one of her nominators wrote: "It is people like her, in direct daily contact with faculty and students, that truly define the atmosphere in our Institute." Kudos Sheila! 

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DOE Names Harry Atwater as Director of EFRC Focusing on Light-Material Interactions


DOE Names Harry Atwater as Director of EFRC Focusing on Light-Material Interactions. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has announced that it will fund the creation of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years, including one that will be housed at Caltech. That $15 million EFRC will be headed by Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor and professor of applied physics and materials science.

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John Doyle Discovers the Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change


Scientists Discover Importance of Fire in Global Climate Change. Researchers including John Doyle, Caltech's Braun Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering, Emeritus, have determined that fire must be accounted for as an integral part of climate change. Their research shows that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide. According to the article, increasing numbers of natural wildfires are influencing climate as well. [Science Magazine article]

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Caltech Received Top Honors in Several Categories for Best Graduate Schools Rankings


U.S. News & World Report collected data from more than 12,000 graduate programs to determine their annual Best Graduate Schools rankings, and Caltech received top honors in several categories: number one in aeronautical engineering, chemistry, Earth sciences, geochemistry, geophysics and seismology, cosmology, and elementary particles/fields/string theory. Many other Institute programs also placed highly. The rankings are published in the April 28 issue of the magazine. For details, check the U.S. News website.

Antonio Rangel Pinpoints the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain


Caltech Researchers Pinpoint the Mechanisms of Self-Control in the Brain. Study of dieters shows how two brain areas interact in people with the willpower to say no to unhealthy foods. "A very basic question in economics, psychology, and even religion, is why some people can exercise self-control but others cannot," notes Antonio Rangel, a Caltech Associate Professor of Economics and the paper's principal investigator. [Caltech Press Release]

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