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Featured Courses

Each week we feature courses on OCW that relate to current events, highlight accomplishments of MIT's extraordinary teaching and research, or are just plain interesting.

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Photo of people enjoying the sun in Le Marais on
Bastille Day by Bolshakov on Flickr.

July 14, 2009: Le quatorze juillet

Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14, commemorating the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The day symbolizes the rise of modern France. In Enlightenment, Revolution, Napoleon, Prof. Ravel covers the unique French experience starting with the reign of the Sun King through the rule of Napoléon Bonaparte: Absolutism, Enlightenment, Revolution, and Empire.

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July 9, 2009: Can a cellphone change the world?

NextLab is a hands-on year-long design course in which students research, develop and deploy mobile technologies for the next billion mobile users in developing countries. This course features over 100 videos documenting the development of seven team-based projects, along with most class lectures and student-led discussions of assigned class readings.

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July 2, 2009: The Torch or the Firehose

MIT Mathematics Professor Arthur Mattuck wrote this guide to recitation teaching at MIT. During a typical recitation section, a teaching assistant meets with a small group of students to review the most recent lecture, expand on the concepts, work through practice problems, and conduct a discussion with the students. The title comes from the notion that getting an education at MIT is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

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June 29, 2009: Salt Water on Saturn's Moons

Scientists have found gas jets on Saturn's Enceladus that could signify an underground water supply: a possible hint of life on the moon.

Extrasolar Planets: Physics and Detection Techniques covers the basic principles of planet atmospheres and interiors, and an introduction to the feasibility of the search for planets with habitable conditions.

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June 25, 2009: Exploring Pharmacology

Pharmaceuticals have cured diseases, started wars and ended careers. This course explores how drugs can elicit a range of medicinal and recreational effects. Topics include over-the-counter drugs and "dietary supplements," drugs of abuse, treatments for neurological disorders, psychiatric medications, and many more.

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June 22, 2009: Building Earth-like Planets: From Nebular Gas to Ocean Worlds

What do we know about the formation of planets? This course looks at the compositional and physical processes of planet formation based on observations from our own solar system and those we've glimpsed beyond the reaches of our Sun.

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June 18, 2009: Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab's goal is to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is based on scientific evidence. OCW has just published a five-day executive training program on evaluating social programs. While the course focuses on randomized evaluations, many of the topics, such as measuring outcomes and dealing with threats to the validity of an evaluation, are relevant for other methodologies.

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June 15, 2009: Interrogative Design Workshop

MIT Professor Krzysztof Wodiczko opened a solo video installation last week inside the Polish pavilion at the Venice exhibition about the plight of immigrants in Europe. Wodiczko is using high-definition, large-scale images to give a voice to immigrants from Chechnya, Ukraine, Libya, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Morocco who seek work in Europe.

Wodiczko's Interrogative Design Workshop asks important questions about frank and open speaking, and how artists and designers can best partake of the practice.

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June 11, 2009: 40th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing

MIT is hosting a celebration to honor those who made the Apollo Program a success. On this anniversary, visit Engineering Apollo: The Moon Project as a Complex System, a course that explores the Apollo project in detail, including guest lectures from MIT-affiliated engineers involved in the missions.

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Photo by jl_noguer on Flickr.

June 8, 2009: MIT Class of 2009 Senior Gift

Generous donations by the MIT Class of 2009 and Martin Tang, SM '72 have made possible the production of new video lectures for 5.111 Principles of Chemical Science Fall 2008. These videos will be available on OCW later this summer.

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Photo of the Harvard/MIT Bridge by Andrea Mercado
on Flickr.

June 4, 2009: The Smoot

The 50th anniversary of the smoot is being honored with a new plaque on the Harvard/MIT Bridge in Cambridge. Named for Oliver Smoot '62, a smoot is a unit of length equal to approximately 66 and 11/16 inches. Using Smoot as a measure, the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity marked the entire length of the bridge in 1958. The bridge is 364.4 smoots, plus or minus one ear.

Of course, smoots can measure many things. In session 21 of The Art and Approximation of Science and Engineering, one learns how to find the length of the radius of a hydrogen atom. How many smoots is a hydrogen atom? The radius is 0.5 angstroms (0.5 e-10 m). A smoot is 1.6939 m. Thus, the radius of a hydrogen atom is about 0.3 e-10 smoots.

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June 2, 2009: New System Allows Earlier Monitoring of Fetal Heartbeat

A new system developed by Gari Clifford and colleagues could allow much earlier monitoring of the fetal heartbeat than is currently available, providing early indication of distress. Key to this success is digital signal processing, which Dr. Clifford covers in Biomedical Signal and Image Processing.

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May 28, 2009: William Wheaton on the Housing Recovery

The slow and painful recovery under way in the beleaguered U.S. housing market probably won't be complete for another two years, says Professor of Economics and Urban Studies William Wheaton, director of MIT's Center for Real Estate. His course Real Estate Economics focuses developing an understanding of the macroeconomic factors that shape and influence markets for real property.

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Photo by the MITRE Corporation.

May 26, 2009: Project Whirlwind Comes Home

A compilation of pioneering digital computing research conducted at MIT in the 1940s and 1950s has been transferred back to the Institute from MITRE Corporation. Project Whirlwind was a precursor to modern-day computers, first tackling parallel digit processing, random-access and magnetic core memory.

Take a look back at the early years of computing in The History of Computing, which covers the early use of computers as scientific instruments.


May 21, 2009: Global Climate Change

Researchers at MIT have completed the most comprehensive climate modeling to date, and the news is startling: without rapid and massive action, the Earth's climate will get much hotter. The study uses the MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, a tool described in Global Climate Change: Economics, Science and Policy, Spring 2008

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Photo by Neosis.

May 19, 2009: 1900 and Counting

We've just published SP.292 Writing Workshop, Spring 2008, which brings the total number of courses on MIT OpenCourseWare to 1,900!

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Photo by MIT Professor Lorna Gibson.

May 14, 2009: New tissue scaffold regrows cartilage and bones

MIT engineers have built a new tissue scaffold that can stimulate bone and cartilage growth when transplanted into the knees and other joints. The scaffold could offer a potential new treatment for sports injuries and other cartilage damage, such as arthritis, says Lorna Gibson, MIT professor and co-leader of the research team.

Design of Medical Devices and Implants covers design, safety testing, and clinical trials of implants and other medical devices.

May 12, 2009: Nano-to-Macro Transport Process

MIT researchers are finding many uses for graphene, a form of carbon first identified as a theoretical possibility as early as 1947. Institute Professor Mildred Dresselhaus and others first worked with multiple layers of graphene in the 1960s when many scientists were saying that such an ultra-thin sheet of matter could never be found or even made.

Dresselhaus gave two guest lectures as part of 2.57 Nano-to-Macro Transport Processes, a course that covers energy levels, energy transport, and applications of nano-and microtechnology.

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Image courtesy of NASA.

May 7, 2009: 3 Questions: Fixing the Hubble Space Telescope

Jeffrey Hoffman is a former space shuttle astronaut and professor of practice in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In "3 Questions," Hoffman talks about what the repair crew can expect during the fifth and final Hubble servicing mission on May 11.

For more from Prof. Hoffman, check out Aircraft Systems Engineering.

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May 5, 2009: Robots on a recycling rampage

More than 150 robots, in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and capabilities, will battle it out on May 6 and 7 to see which can collect the most soda cans and simulated bales of trash and return then to a recycling facility all in under a minute. The matchups are the culmination of 2.007, a required class for sophomores in mechanical engineering, and it's an MIT tradition that goes back more than two decades.

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Photo by Jan Michael Ihl.

April 30, 2009: The Dalai Lama Center For Ethics & Transformative Values

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's talk at MIT is among the inaugural events at the new Dalai Lama Center For Ethics & Transformative Values. Why MIT? WBUR's Bob Oakes asked just this question when he interviewed Tenzin Priyadarshi, MIT's Buddhist chaplain.

For a good look at the complex and important issues of ethics and politics, try American Science: Ethical Conflicts and Political Choices.

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April 27, 2009: Advanced Organic Chemistry

MIT chemists have synthesized a compound that could open the door to new drug treatments for cancer. Mohammad Movassaghi, associate professor of chemistry, said his team was drawn to the compound not just for its anti-cancer potential but also for its fascinating chemical structure. Learn more about Advanced Organic Chemistry from Prof. Movassaghi in 5.43 Advanced Organic Chemistry.

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Photo by Marcos Vasconcelos.

April 23, 2009: Marathon Mathematics

In this video from, MIT sophomore Keone Hon tackles some mathematical questions about the Boston Marathon. "A Fermi equation," Hon says, "is a kind of street-fighting mathematics technique." For more on the art of guessing results and solving problems, check out Street Fighting Mathematics.

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April 20, 2009: Laszlo Tisza, physics professor emeritus

Laszlo Tisza, physics professor emeritus and an expert in quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, died on Wednesday, April 15. He was 101. Earlier this year, OCW published materials from his 1976 course Applied Geometric Algebra after Samuel Gasster '77 rediscovered his notes from the course. Professor Tisza will be greatly missed by MIT and the physics community.

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April 16, 2009: Finite Element Analysis of Solids and Fluids

This rich course teaches the fundamentals of finite element analysis of solids, structures and fluids. It contains a full set of lecture notes as well as student projects created using ADINA. And we think the submarine model is pretty great.

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April 14, 2009: The Future of Energy

Policy makers gathered at MIT Monday to discuss promoting clean energy, combatting climate change, and creating new "green-collar" jobs. The forum comes ahead of what is expected to be a major debate in Congress over energy, global warming and economic policy.

MIT has long been a leader in energy research. We've organized courses on OCW that specifically address energy topics to make studying them along with us easy.

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April 10, 2009: MIT Professor Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

Associate Professor Patrick Doyle is among 180 artists, scientists and scholars awarded fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The foundation selects fellows on the basis of "stellar achievement and exceptional promise for continued accomplishment." Doyle reports he will use his fellowship to develop soft functional microparticles. You can learn about scaling laws and the methods of continuum mechanics from Dr. Doyle in Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Biomechanics.

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April 7, 2009: Connections

Connections is a new exhibit from the Sociable Media Group that explores the social potential of new communication technologies. The exhibit, which runs through September 13 at the MIT Museum, includes several panel discussions and lectures. The first happens Tuesday, April 7 at 6pm and features Judith Donath, whose course Techno-Identity: Who We Are and How We Perceive Ourselves and Others, looks at the mutable concept that is human identity and the ever changing impact on our identities by science and technology.

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April 3, 2009: The Beeline Festival

The Beeline Festival starts this weekend. Hosted at the Broad Institute, the Festival gathers an exciting variety of musicians from across the country (and sweetens the deal with ice cream, wine and local honey).

The festival includes a performance by Ensemble Robot and will feature pieces by Paul Lansky. Lansky's "Mild und Leise" is sampled in Radiohead's "Idioteque" on the album Kid A. Both tracks, notes on the use of the sample and an incredible variety of other resources such as these are available in the Listening section of Composing with Computers I.