Barbara Grosz has a fantasy that every time a computer scientist logs on to write an algorithm or build a system, a message will flash across the screen that asks, “Have you thought about the ethical implications of what you’re doing?”
Until that day arrives, Grosz, the Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), is working to instill in the next generation of computer scientists a mindset that considers the societal impact of their work, and the ethical reasoning and communications skills to do so.... Read more about Harvard works to embed ethics in computer science curriculum
What secrets lie in the hearts of our ancestors? Signs of cardiovascular disease, for one, as a team of cardiovascular-imaging experts from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) recently helped discover.
Through a collaboration with an international team of researchers and anthropologists, BWH faculty and staff performed CT scans on five mummies from 16th-century Greenland in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center early last year. The team was looking for evidence of plaque in the arteries — also known as atherosclerosis — to see if the leading cause of death in the U.S. today was also prevalent...
In the late 19th century, the Spanish anatomist Santiago Ramón y Cajal laid the foundation for modern neuroscience with a microscope, a pen, and some paper. Applying a cell-staining technique to samples of brain tissue, he produced thousands of detailed illustrations that revealed for the first time the intricate complexity of neurons and neuronal networks. Based on his observations, Ramón y Cajal proposed that the neuron was the basic functional unit of the nervous system, a hypothesis confirmed when the electron microscope was invented in the 1950s.
Andrew Groover celebrates the complexity of trees, and makes it his life’s work to unlock how they adapt to their environments. It’s knowledge that’s critical for the U.S. Forest Service research geneticist — he works in California, where concerns about climate change have grown as wildfires there have increased in frequency and intensity.
Medicine is at a turning point, on the cusp of major change as disruptive technologies such as gene, RNA, and cell therapies enable scientists to approach diseases in new ways. The swiftness of this change is being driven by innovations such as CRISPR gene editing, which makes it possible to correct errors in DNA with relative ease.
Progress in this field has been so rapid that the dialogue around potential ethical, societal, and safety issues is scrambling to catch up.
This disconnect was brought into stark relief at the...
Cassiopeia A, the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way, is the remains of a star that exploded almost 400 years ago. The star was approximately 15 to 20 times the mass of our sun and sat in the Cassiopeia constellation, almost 11,000 light-years from earth.
Though stunningly distant, it’s now possible to step inside a virtual-reality (VR) depiction of what followed that explosion.
Jet engines can have up to 25,000 individual parts, making regular maintenance a tedious task that can take over a month per engine. Many components are located deep inside the engine and cannot be inspected without taking the machine apart, adding time and costs to maintenance. This problem is not confined to jet engines, either; many complicated, expensive machines like construction equipment, generators, and scientific instruments require large investments of time and money to inspect and maintain.
To make this upkeep easier, faster, and cheaper, researchers at Harvard University’s...
Prehistoric Earth, bombarded with asteroids, rife with bubbling geothermal pools, would seem an inhospitable place. But somewhere, the right chemicals combined in the precise sequence needed to form the building blocks of life. How? For decades, scientists have attempted to create miniature replicas of infant Earth in the lab. There, they hunt for the chemical pathways that led to life on Earth.
It’s attractive to chase our origin story. But this pursuit can bring more than just excitement. Knowledge of how Earth built its first cells could inform the search for extraterrestrial life. If...
Congratulations to Gustave Lester for being awarded the Michele Aldrich History and Philosophy of Geology Student Research Award and the Geological Society of America’s History and Philosophy of Geology Student Award!