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Elizabeth Thomson
Email: thomson@mit.edu
Phone: 617-258-5563
MIT Resource Development

An MIT professor was key to the October 24 season premiere of the Public Broadcasting System's NOVA series. The film, called Lincoln's Secret Weapon, is about the famous Civil War ship USS Monitor that sank off North Carolina only months after its famous battle with the CSS Virginia.

Professor David Mindell of the Program in Science, Technology and Society is the author of War, Technology, and Experience Aboard the USS Monitor. He consulted on the film and "is a bit of a talking head in it."

The program will be repeated late at night all this week. Check local listings for other PBS station times.

For more information on Professor Mindell's book -- or to order a copy -- go to his web site.

COMPUTING THE FUTURE

"Seth Lloyd has seen the future of computing, and it's bright. Blindingly bright. For, according to Lloyd, the ultimate computer will be nothing like an IBM ThinkPad and everything like a 'billion-degree piece of the big bang,'" writes Marcus Chown in the September 2 issue of New Scientist magazine.

Dr. Lloyd, an MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering, predicts that in 200 years the desktop computer will be powered by a nuclear fireball. He's referring to the ultimate result of Moore's law, which says that every 18 months computers' processing power doubles.

Computer Weekly also picked up on his comments. "Do I hear any takers for Microsoft Nuclear Office 2200?" the magazine asked in its September 7 issue.

TO FERTILIZE OR NOT?

Some scientists believe that fertilizing the oceans could solve greenhouse warming by spiking the population of microscopic plants; those plants, in turn, would remove significant amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Professor Sallie W. (Penny) Chisholm disagrees, and regularly talks and writes about why.

The issue came to the fore yet again with a paper in a recent issue of the journal Nature describing a fertilization experiment off the coast of Antarctica. The experiment did indeed prompt a population explosion among the plankton there.

Professor Chisholm, of the departments of biology and civil and environmental engineering, wrote an accompanying piece "about the (somewhat frightening) implications of the experiment."

For example, she wrote, "Although seductive in its simplicity, in practice the idea [of fertilizing the oceans to combat greenhouse warming] would threaten the whole ocean ecosystem. Artificial fertilization with iron would probably have many unintended side effects."

Professor Chisholm's comments appeared in several media stories about the Nature work.

BEST OF THE WEB

One of MIT's web sites was cited by Popular Science magazine as one of the 50 best science and technology sites on the Internet. Invention Dimension, the site developed by the Lemelson-MIT Awards Program, "enchants, inspires and entertains emerging Edisons and simple gadget fanatics alike," reports the magazine in its October 2000 issue.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 25, 2000.


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