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Modular-space-telescope
Modular Space Telescope Could Be Assembled By Robot

09-28-16

Professor Sergio Pellegrino and colleagues including Professor Joel Burdick, are proposing a space observatory with a 100 meters diameter primary mirror. Their design calls for the use of more than 300 deployable truss modules that could be unfolded to form a scaffolding upon which a commensurate number of small mirror plates could be placed to create a large segmented mirror. In this concept, a spider-like, six-armed "hexbot" would assemble the trusswork and then crawl across the structure to build the mirror atop it. [Caltech story]

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Jose-andrade
Counting on Grains of Sand

08-24-16

José E. Andrade, Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering; Executive Officer for Mechanical and Civil Engineering, and colleagues have developed a new method that measures the way forces move through granular materials—one that could improve our understanding of everything from how soils bear the weight of buildings to what stresses are at work deep below the surface of the earth. [Caltech story]

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Logic-gate
The Utility of Instability

08-08-16

Professors Dennis M. Kochmann and Chiara Daraio along with colleagues from Harvard have designed and created mechanical chains made of soft matter that can transmit signals across long distances. Because they are flexible, the circuits could be used in machines such as soft robots or lightweight aircraft constructed from pliable, nonmetallic materials. "Engineers tend to shy away from instability. "Though there are many applications, the fundamental principles that we explore are most exciting to me," Kochmann says. "These nonlinear systems show very similar behavior to materials at the atomic scale but these are difficult to access experimentally or computationally. Now we have built a simple macroscale analogue that mimics how they behave." [Caltech story]

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Robosub
Richard-murray
Richard Murray Named to DOD Panel on Innovation

07-28-16

Richard M. Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, has been named to the Defense Innovation Advisory Board by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Professor Murray joins 14 other scholars and innovators who will focus on new technologies and organizational behavior and culture. Secretary Carter has asked them to identify technology and practices from the private sector that could be used by the Department of Defense (DOD). [Caltech story]

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Kaushik-bhattacharya
Professor Bhattacharya Named Vice Provost

07-14-16

On July 15, 2016, Kaushik Bhattacharya, Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science, will take over from Professor Morteza Gharib as Caltech vice provost. His research group studies the mechanical behavior of solids and uses theory to guide the development of new materials. He has made contributions on a wide array of topics, ranging from the fundamental mechanics of materials, to active materials and devices, to multi-scale and multi-physics scale simulation of materials. Though trained as a theoretician, he is well known for live demonstrations of shape-memory materials in action.  "Kaushik's technical strength, deep knowledge of the Institute, energy, and enthusiasm will serve him and us well as he takes on this important role," said EAS Division Chair G. (Ravi) Ravichandran. [Caltech story]

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Richard-murray
Professor Murray Receives IEEE Control Systems Award

07-05-16

Richard M. Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, is the recipient of the 2017 IEEE Control Systems Award, for outstanding contributions to control systems engineering, science, or technology. Professor Murray is receiving the award, “for contributions to the theory and applications of nonlinear and networked control systems." [List of award recipients]

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Monica-kohler
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]

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Atul-gawande
122nd Commencement Ceremony

06-10-16

Caltech’s 122nd commencement ceremony was held on Friday June 10, 2016. The commencement speaker was surgeon, writer, and public health researcher Atul Gawande, MD, MPH. He reminded the graduates that, “today, you become part of the scientific community, arguably the most powerful collective enterprise in human history. In doing so, you also inherit a role in explaining it and helping it reclaim territory of trust at a time when that territory has been shrinking.” He also cautioned them and explained, “the mistake … is to believe that the educational credentials you get today give you any special authority on truth. What you have gained is far more important: an understanding of what real truth-seeking looks like. It is the effort not of a single person but of a group of people—the bigger the better—pursuing ideas with curiosity, inquisitiveness, openness, and discipline.” [The Mistrust of Science]

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Nadia-lapusta
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]

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Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering