Solar eclipse caused bow waves in Earth's atmosphere

The celebrated Great American Eclipse of August 2017 crossed the continental U.S. in 90 minutes, and totality lasted no longer than a few minutes at any one location. The event is well in the rear-view mirror now, but scientific investigation into the effects of the moon's shadow on the Earth's atmosphere is still being hotly pursued, and interesting new findings are surfacing at a rapid pace. These include significant observations by scientists at MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts.

A simple solution for terrible traffic

Cities plagued with terrible traffic problems may be overlooking a simple, low-cost solution: High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) policies that encourage carpooling can reduce traffic drastically, according to a new study co-authored by MIT economists.

Cleaner air, longer lives

The air we breathe contains particulate matter from a range of natural and human-related sources. Particulate matter is responsible for thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year, but legislation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is credited with significantly decreasing this number, as well as the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere. However, the EPA may not be getting the full credit they deserve: New research from MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) proposes that the EPA’s legislation may have saved even more lives than initially reported.

Can computers help us synthesize new materials?

Last month, three MIT materials scientists and their colleagues published a paper describing a new artificial-intelligence system that can pore through scientific papers and extract “recipes” for producing particular types of materials.

Turning emissions into fuel

MIT researchers have developed a new system that could potentially be used for converting power plant emissions of carbon dioxide into useful fuels for cars, trucks, and planes, as well as into chemical feedstocks for a wide variety of products.

How cities can fight climate change most effectively

What are the best ways for U.S. cities to combat climate change? A new study co-authored by an MIT professor indicates it will be easier for cities to reduce emissions coming from residential energy use rather than from local transportation — and this reduction will happen mostly thanks to better building practices, not greater housing density.

Tracing toxins around the world

In 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Program called for a united, global effort to reduce persistent organic pollutants (POPs) — synthetic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT, and dioxins. The compounds were known to persist and accumulate far from their sources, polluting the environment and causing adverse health effects in humans.

Monitoring and mitigating mercury

Dispersal of mercury into the air has risen substantially since the industrial revolution, leading to increased mercury deposits in water and soil. Once there, it gets transformed by bacteria into methylmercury, a highly toxic form of the naturally-occurring heavy metal that can affect neurological and immune systems. Stored in the tissues of wildlife and humans, methylmercury concentrations are magnified with each step up the food chain. The mercury levels of a large predator fish such as trout, for example, may be more than one million times that of ambient water, potentially causing serious health consequences for human and wildlife consumers.

Establishing interdisciplinary approaches to agriculture and fundamental biological processes

From optimizing food production to feed a growing population to discovering the fundamental behaviors and processes of biopolymers, faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) are leveraging the interdisciplinary nature of the department to establish two new, innovative projects.

Gravitational waves from a binary black hole merger observed by LIGO and Virgo

The following news article is adapted from a press release issued by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Laboratory, in partnership with the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration. LIGO is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and operated by MIT and Caltech, which conceived and built the project.