Media Laboratory Colloquium Series 1999-2000

Speakers and Information



Terrence Sejnowski

Is the Cerebral Cortex a Time Machine?

September 22, 1999


The cerebral cortex contains around 100,000,000,000 neurons and 95% of the 1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the cortex are local connections between neighboring neurons. Recent discoveries about intrinsic properties of cortical neurons suggest that they are capable of computing with single spikes on a much faster time scale than previously thought possible. I will show that fast recurrent cortical networks may implement a temporal difference learning algorithm that allows predictions to be made about future states of the world.


Terrence Sejnowski is an Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a Professor at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies where he directs the Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. He is also Professor of Biology and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Physics, Neurosciences, Psychology, Cognitive Science, and Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, where he is Director of the Institute for Neural Computation.

Dr. Sejnowski received B.S. in physics from the Case-Western Reserve University, M.A. in physics from Princeton University, and a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1978.

From 1978-1979 Dr. Sejnowski was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at Princeton University and from 1979-1982 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. In 1982 he joined the faculty of the Department of Biophysics at the Johns Hopkins University, where he achieved the rank of Professor before moving to San Diego in 1988.

Dr. Sejnowski received a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1984. He was a Wiersma Visiting Professor of Neurobiology at the California Institute of Technology in 1987. With Patricia Churchland, he wrote "The Computational Brain", published by the MIT Press in 1992. He was a Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at the California Institute of Technology in 1993-1994 and continues as a Part-time Visiting Professor. In 1996 he received the Wright Prize from the Harvey Mudd College for excellence in interdisciplinary research.

In 1988, Dr. Sejnowski founded Neural Computation, published by the MIT Press, the leading journal in the area of neural networks and computational neuroscience. He is also the President of the Neural Information Processing Systems Foundation, a non-profit organization that oversees the annual NIPS Conference. This interdisciplinary meeting brings together researchers from many disciplines, including biology, physics, mathematics and engineering.

The long-range goal Dr. Sejnowski's research is to build linking principles from brain to behavior using computational models. This goal is being pursued with a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches at several levels of investigation ranging from the biophysical level to the systems level. Hippocampal and cortical slice preparations are being used to explore the properties of single neurons. Realistic models of electrical and chemical signal processing within and between neurons are used as an adjunct to physiological experiments. Network models based on the response properties of neurons are studied to explore how populations of neurons code and process information and the dynamics of neural systems in states of alertness and sleep. These studies are aimed at elucidating how sensory information is represented in the visual cortex, primarily of form, motion, and binocular vision, and how sensorimotor transformations are performed. Recently, his laboratory has developed a new method for blind signal separation, called independent component analysis (ICA), and has used it to study the independent components of natural images and sounds as well as the sources for electrical and magnetic signals recorded from the scalp and hemodynamic signals from functional brain imaging. 

Martin Schmidt

Silicon MEMS and Microturbomachinery

September 29, 1999


This talk will discuss micromachining technologies based upon the silicon materials system, and the application of this technology to realize Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS). A detailed description will be given of the challenges faced in trying to realize a silicon microturbine generator which is the size of a shirt button, generates 50W of power by burning jet fuel, and has an energy density more than 10x that of the world's best battery.


Martin A. Schmidt received his B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981, and his S.M. and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 1983 and 1988 respectively. He is currently Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories at MIT. His research intersts include the use of novel microfabrication methods to realize sensing and actuating devices.

Irene Pepperberg

In Search of King Solomon's Ring: Researching the Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots.

October 6, 1999


During the past 20 years, I have used a modeling (M/R) technique to train Grey parrots to use an allospecific code (English speech) referentially; I then use the code to test their cognitive abilities. The oldest bird, Alex, labels >50 exemplars, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities to 6, 3 categories (color, shape, material) and uses "no", "come here", "wanna go X" and "want Y" (X and Y are appropriate location or item labels). He combines labels to identify, request, comment upon or refuse >100 items and alter his environment. He processes queries to judge category, relative size, quanity, presence or absence of similarity/difference in attributes, and show label comprehension. He semantically separates labeling from requesting. He thus exhibts capacities presumed limited to humans or apes. Studies on this and other Greys show that parrots given training that lacks some aspect of input present in M/R protocols (reference, functionality, social interaction) fail to acquire referential English speech. Testing effect of input on how parrot acquire an allospecific code may elucidate mechanisms of other forms of exceptional learning: learning unlike in the normal course of development but that can occur under certain conditions. 


Pepperberg received her SB from MIT (Course V) and her graduate degrees from Harvard. She is an associate professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona, and is an Affiliate in their Program on Neuroscience. This year she is a visiting associate professor at the MIT Media Lab. She won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for her 1997 sabbatical and was an alternate for the Cattell Award for Psychology. She has also received fellowships from the Harry Frank Guggenheim and Whitehall Foundations. She is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Association, and the American Ornithologists' Union, and presently serves as consulting editor for four journals. 

Rachel Strickland

Why Anyone Can Need to Look Out of the Window

October 13, 1999


Nowadays, when a camcorder that fits in your pocket can produce crisp images by candlelight, it's hard to remember that filmmaking was once a cumbersome affair. The evolution of the documentary genre in particular--from Lumi?re to Leacock--has been defined by techniques that the filmmakers contrived in response to the limitations on field recording practice that were imposed by available technology. Prior to 1960, this meant slow film, bulky blimped cameras, and sound recording equipment which required several burly porters to transport. For portraying actual situations and events, the early documentarians had to rely on dramatization and reconstruction. It was a matter of necessity more than choice that their soundtracks were dominated by narration and music.

In the 1950's, Germany and France inaugurated research and development efforts which yielded battery-powered tape recorders and lightweight crystal-controlled cameras, thus changing the techniques of making documentaries and paving the way for "Cinéma Vérité."

French anthropologist Jean Rouch coined this phrase to describe a kind of film that recorded life directly, without staging or reenactment. Rather than arranging and lighting and directing the action, the filmmaker's role became that of spontaneous observer. Interpretation and judgment was transferred from filmmaker to audience. In contrast to the old-style documentaries, with their voices of authority, sweeping social themes, and explicit ideological purposes, Cinéma Vérité was predisposed, both visually and thematically, toward intimacy, physical proximity, and a focus on personality. Yet a problem of documentary film in general, and of Cinéma Vérité in particular, was that no matter how honestly those filmmakers went around conducting their observations, in order to fashion movies that could be displayed on screens, they were left with the form of the fiction film. Techniques the skeptics cited as evidence for discrediting the genre's pretensions of authenticity included the construction of character, the manipulation of time, and the fabrication of suspense and plot through editing.

Until recently any film experience, regardless of content, recording approach, or the producer's intention needed to be monolithically constructed for one way linear playback on a single screen. Digital video technology holds potential for transforming cinematic construction into a process influenced by the unique interests and varying attention levels of individual viewers.

Is it possible to create an interactive experience that sustains viewers' emotional involvement with streaming media at the same time that it enlists their participation in determining the order of events? Is it possible to balance viewers' propensity for interactivity with their capacity for attentive reception? Is it possible to integrate the fluid continuity of cinematic experience with the kinds of choice and control that hypermedia affords?

This meditation on polylinear construction, winding streams, and the part of beholding, promises to raise more questions than it answers. The presentation will feature excerpts from Strickland's "Portable Effects" project.


Rachel Strickland describes herself as an architect practicing in motion picture media more than pencil and paper. Her work of the past 25 years has focused on cinematic dimensions of the sense of place and new paradigms for narrative construction in digital media. "Portable Effects" is a video work-in-progress, exploring peoples' designs of the miniature environments tht they carry with them in pockets, backpacks, briefcases, and handbags. Strickland earned a Master of Architecture degree at MIT, with a concentration in cinéma vérité filmmaking. She has taught film and video production at MIT, UC Santa Cruz, and Southern California Institute of Architecture. She worked as a research videographer at Atari and Apple prior to joining Interval Research Corporation in 1993. She has also conducted research as an Artist in Residence at Banff Centre for the Arts and the San Francisco Exploratorium. Her work has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and Ars Electronica.

Durrell Bishop

A designer who has enjoyed experimenting

October 27, 1999


A teacher of Product Design and Computer Related Design at the Royal College of Art, a product and installation designer, and a director of itch.


As a product designer I am interested in the vocabulary of form and my interest in electronics is in its potential to extend that language. In the early 1990s I proposed a series of designs which I would like to re-examine and discuss some of the issues they raised.
The question that interests me is how do you design electronic products that are descriptive of their behaviour?
How do you augment non-electronic objects giving them new properties? And more importantly, how do you perceive these properties? Do you keep your electricity bill in your light switch?
My method has been to build experimental hardware/software prototypes. I currently design installations, products and software in London.

Antonio Damasio

The Neurobiology of Emotion

November 3, 1999


Research on the neurobiology of emotions and feelings has been long-neglected in neuroscience but is now attracting much-deserved attention. In my talk I will review progress in this area, namely a theoretical framework which places emotion and feeling in an evolutionary perspective and discusses their biological role in homeostasis. I will also review recent experimental evidence regarding the neural systems involved in recognizing and experiencing emotions in humans. The evidence indicates that these phenomena are based, neurally speaking, on brain structures involved in regulating and representing the state of the body. 


Antonio R. Damasio is Van Allen Distinguished Professor and Head of the Department of Neurology at the University of Iowa; and Adjunct Professor at The Salk Institute in La Jolla.

Damasio's work has focused on elucidating critical problems in the fundamental neuroscience of mind and behavior, at the level of large-scale systems in humans, although his investigations have also encompassed parkinsonism, and Alzheimer's disease. His contributions have had a major influence on our understanding of the neural basis of decision-making, emotion, language, and memory.

In collaboration with Hanna Damasio, a distinguished neurologist who is independently recognized for her achievements in neuroimaging and neuroanatomy, Damasio moved lesion studies away from clinical descriptions and placed them at the service of hypothesis-driven research. The laboratories that he and Hanna Damasio created at the University of Iowa are a leading center for the investigation of cognition using both the lesion method and functional imaging.

Damasio is a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine; a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; a member of the Neurosciences Research Program; a member of the National Advisory Council on Neurological Diseases and Stroke; a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology; a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Belgium; a member of the American Neurological Association, and of the Association of American Physicians, and a board member of leading neuroscience journals. He is a Past President of the Academy of Aphasia and of the Behavioral Neurology Society.

Damasio's distinguished lectureships include the Tanner Lecture (Michigan), the Wilson Lecture (Wellesley), the Steubenbord Lectures (Cornell University), the Public Lecture at the Society for Neuroscience, the Aird Lectures (University of California, San Francisco), the Nobel Conference, the Karolinska Research Lecture at the Nobel Forum, and the Presidential Lecture at The University of Iowa. Since 1981 he has delivered an annual series of lectures on the neurology of behavior at Harvard Medical School. Among others, he has received the William Beaumont Prize from the American Medical Association (1990); the Golden Brain Award (1995); the Ipsen Prize (1997); and the Kappers Medal of Neuroscience (1999). In 1992 he and his wife shared the Pessoa Prize.

Antonio Damasio's book Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (Putnam, 1994) has been published in over 20 countries. His new book The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness is published by Harcourt Brace.

Damasio was born in Portugal. He received both his MD and his doctorate from the University of Lisbon, and began his research in cognitive neuroscience with the late Norman Geschwind.

Calvin F. Quate

The Micromechanical Cantilever: A Tool for Studying the Domain of Nanoscale Structures

November 8, 1999


Microcantilevers are conventionally used for topographic imaging, In addition, they have been proposed for digital storage devices and for lithographic tools in the fabrication of nanoscale structures. But they, also, serve as a transducer for many signal domains. The deflection of the levers can be measured with sub-angstrom accuracy and this allows us to measure heat, charge, and molecular strength with sensitivities that are unprecedented. Recent work has provided us with: femtojoule calorimeters, tools for measuring induced stress, and probes for measuring the strength of molecular bonds. These topics will serve as the basis for our presentation.


CALVIN F. QUATE holds the Leland T. Edwards chair as a Research Professor in Electrical Engineering. He received his B.S. from the University of Utah, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. Returning to Stanford as a professor of applied physics and electrical engineering in 1961, he chaired the Applied Physics Department from 1969 to 1972. He was a senior research fellow at Xerox, Palo Alto Research Center, from 1983-1994. Professor Quate has made contributions in a number of scientific areas, most recently in scanning probe microscopy. Also, a pioneer in the field of ultrasonic microscopy, he introduced concepts and techniques that led to the development of the acoustic microscope, which produces images of a higher resolution than optical microscopes. For this work he received the Rank Prize for Opto-electronics, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Morris N. Liebmann Award. In 1988 he won the IEEE Medal of Honor. He has been elected to memberships to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering and as a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in London.

Peter Wagner

Silicon proteomics: From protein biophysics to protein biochips

November 15, 1999


Peter Wagner is Chief Technical Officer, Director of Physical Sciences, and a Founder of Zyomyx, Inc Ð a Silicon Valley based biotechnology company focused on the development of novel microfabricated biochip technologies. Over the past 12 years Dr. Wagner has pioneered a number of new methodologies in single molecule biophysics, thin film technology, and surface functionalization. He received his Ph.D. in Biophysics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich after earning M.S. degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry for studies at the Universities of Berlin, Stuttgart, and Tubingen. Following additional postdoctoral studies in Zurich, he joined the Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry at Stanford University in 1995 as a Humboldt Fellow where his work focused on the biophysics of molecular motors, the organofunctionalization of semiconductor materials, nanofabrication technologies, and the development of new ultrasensitive biosensors. 


The integration of molecular biology with materials science, automation and bioinformatics has enabled the development of valuable tools for high-throughput DNA sequencing and gene expression analysis. However, to achieve a fundamental understanding of biochemical pathways, high-throughput biology, which has to date been primarily applied to DNA array technology, has to be expanded to protein analysis, proteomics and multitarget screening. The major bottleneck in the construction of high-density protein arrays is a limited understanding of protein interaction with engineered materials. Novel approaches in surface chemistry, detection physics and MEMS processing are required to study simultaneously the presence, quantities, structures, functions and/or molecular interactions of a multiplicity of proteins in their native state. Recent achievements in the fields of nanotechnology, advanced materials synthesis, and surface-based single molecule protein biophysics could aid the development of macroscopic devices containing arrays of fully functional proteins. Selected examples will be presented ranging from ultrathin film based, site-specific immobilization methods to atomically flat micro- and nanofabricated substrates and their application in protein biophysics and protein chip development.

Ellen Lupton

Fluid Mechanics: Typography as Liquid Form

November 17, 1999


This talk draws on material from the National Design Triennial. The talk is a survey of recent developments in graphic design and typography, showing how designers today confront the conflict between such architectural structures as the page or the window and the organic, flowing nature of content. 


Ellen Lupton is curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. She is also chair of the graphic design department at Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. Current projects include the National Design Triennial, a major exhibition opening in March 2000.

Aaron Betsky

Architecture Must Burn

December 1, 1999


We live in a world of sprawl. Not only are our cities turning into carpets of humanity that erase the boundary between urban areas and nature and replace it with a continuous concatenation of "middle landscape," but ourinformation is sprawling all around us in the electrosphere. We wander through this sprawling landscape as urban nomads, identifying ourselves by the brands we buy. It does little good to try to control sprawl or make it look good. The real questions designers must answer are: how can we find our way through, maker ourselves at home in, and make sense out of a world of sprawl?


Aaron Betsky is Curator of Architecture, Design and Digital Projects at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He is the author of eight books, including the forthcoming Architecture Must Burn (Thames & Hudson, Spring, 2000). He is Editor-at-Large for Architecture Magazine and a Contributing Editor for Metropolitan Home, ID and Blueprint.

Eric Lander

December 8, 1999


Dr. Lander will give an overview of the Human Genome Project and its consequences for science and society in the next century. It will survey the history of genetics, the development of genomics, the technologies and applications of genomic analysis, and the social questions raised by the work. The talk will be aimed at non-biologists.


Dr. Lander is the Director of the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. He was trained as a mathematician, before becoming a human geneticist. He has developed many of the key tools of modern genomics and applied them to biomedical problems ranging from cancer to diabetes. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a MacArthur Prize Fellow.

John D. Mayer

February 2, 2000


Popularly, the term "emotional intelligence" is used to refer to everything from being persistent to possessing good character. The term can also be employed in a more restrictive and useful fashion, however, to refer to the ability to reason with feelings and to the potential for emotion to enhance thinking. The mental ability model of emotional intelligence divides the intelligence into the capacity to (1) perceive, (2) integrate, (3) understand, and (4) manage emotions. Ability-based measures of emotional intelligence, wherein people solve emotional problems as part of an assessment procedure, are the optimal method for assessing emotional intelligence. An ability scale that measures emotional intelligence is described. Finally, empirical findings are presented that are highly supportive of this ability concept of emotional intelligence.


Dr. Mayer received his B.A. from the University of Michigan, his Ph.D. in Psychology at Case Western Reserve University, and was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Stanford University. Dr. Mayer has published widely in the areas of emotional intelligence, cognition and affect, and personality psychology. He has served on the editorial boards of Psychological Bulletin, the Journal of Personality, and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, among others. 

Morton Subotnick

February 9, 2000


This talk is meant to celebrate the January 18th release of Caipirinha Music's album Early Modulations. Mr. Subotnick will reveal details behind the creation of his masterpiece "Silver Apples of the Moon", demonstrate the process behind the creation his work, and showcase his new compositions. Early Modulations, a collection of nine compositions covering a 30 year span from the late 1930's to the late 1960's, is an introspective look at some of the early pioneers of electronic music. Early Modulations finds an equilibrium between historical reference and musicality. It is a stylistic collection that takes the listener through musique concrĆte and the first traces of oscillating rhythms found in Morton Subotnick's work. The compilation aims to introduce early electronic music to an audience familiar only with the techno movement, while also attempting to introduce those already familiar with names like John Cage, Pierre Schaeffer and Iannis Xenakis to other influential pioneers like Vittorio Gelmetti and Luc Ferrari.


Morton Subotnick, Co-Chair of Composition at California Institute of the Arts, co-director CEAIT, is one of the acknowledged pioneers in the field of electronic music and an innovator in works involving instruments and other media. He was the first composer to be commissioned to write an electronic composition expressly for the phonograph medium, Silver Apples of the Moon (Nonesuch, 1967). This now classic work and The Wild Bull (also an electronic commission for Nonesuch, 1968) have been choreographed by leading dance companies throughout the world and remain in permanent repertory. In addition to composing numerous works in the electronic medium, Subotnick has written eight works for orchestra, including a Bicentennial commission by the six major U.S. orchestra, chamber and ensemble works, music for the theatre and multi-media events. A recent work, The Double Life of Amphibians, was a collaboration between director Lee Breuer, visual artist Irving Petlin and composer Subotnick utilizing live interaction between singers, instrumentalists and computer in a staged tone poem, premiered at the Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival; a chamber version of that piece was premiered in Santa Fe in August, 1985. Another recent work, Jacob's Room, a monodrama composed for the Kronos Quartet and Joan La Barbara, received its premiere in San Francisco in January, 1985. A Key To Songs (based on Max Ernst's surrealistic novel in collage entitled "Une Semaine de Bonte") for chamber orchestra and synthesizer was premiered at the Aspen Music Festival. Subotnick's most recent work Hungers, for Joan La Barbara, computers, video, instrumental ensemble and dancer, was completed in collaboration with video artist Ed Emshwiller and commissioned by and premiered at the Los Angeles Festival, 1987. Subotnick tours extensively as a lecturer and composer/performer, is published by Theodore Presser, Universal Editions and Editions Jobert.

Alan Huang

March 1st, 2000


The joke about group theory is that the only practical applications are in high energy physics and card tricks. We will discuss how group theory can be used to increase the efficiency and robustness of the Internet. In particular, we will show how it can be used to build a router which is optimally scalable, fault tolerant via a fractional increase in hardware, and optimized for voice and video. We will also show how it can be used for yet another dumb card trick.


Alan Huang was born in San Francisco. He completed his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering at Cornell University (1970 and 1971). He completed a PhD in Electrical Engineering (1981) at Stanford University. After his PhD, he joined AT&T Bell Laboratories where he worked on signal processing, parallel processing, packet switching, broadband networks, optical computing, and photonic switching. He helped design Bell LabÕs first ATM switch and broadband customer interface unit. He lead the Bell Labs effort to develop an optical packet switch. He has published over thirty papers and has 26 US patents. As the head of Optical Computing Research Department, he supervised the development of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers, a pipelined digital optical processor, planar optics, inter-subband optical modulators, and all-optical fiber logic gates. He is now working on scalable, fault tolerant routers at Terabit Corporation

Paul Dourish

March 8th, 2000


In the last decade, a significant trend in HCI research has been the widening of context of interaction. Computation has moved out of the "box on the desk" and into the everyday environment. Two examples of these trends have been "tangible computing" -- the melding of computational and physical interaction -- and "social computing" -- the attempt to invest the design of interactive systems with sociological understandings of interaction. In this talk, I will argue that, although they are typically considered independently, tangible and social computing have a common foundation, in the notion of "embodiment". Embodiment is not a new idea; it has been central to a good deal of twentieth century thought, especially phenomenology. I will argue that by turning to phenomenology and related perspectives, we can find the means to understand tangible and social computing and their relationship, and to craft a foundational framework for design and analysis.


Paul Dourish is a member of research staff in the Computer Science Lab at PARC. His research in the areas of Human-Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work focuses particularly on the relationship of technology and everyday practice. He has studied multimedia communication, software infrastructures for collaboration, organisational workflow systems, and hacking the Microsoft Barney doll. Paul holds a BSc in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of London. 

Leo Hourvitz

March 15th, 2000


In making its animated films, Pixar uses rooms of computers, years of in-house software development, and a large crew of animators and technical directors. But what makes the films work is that these are all used to serve the story to be told and the characters that enliven them. I'll talk about how we make films at Pixar, in particular highlighting how each stage of filmmaking comes back to the interesting story about compelling characters at the heart of the film, and highlighting how almost all our work springs from design done in traditional art media.


Leo Hourvitz is a Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios. Prior to his work on effects in Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life, he was the Supervising Technical Director on Pixar's Oscar-winning short film "Geri's Game." Previously, he was a Producer in Pixar's Interactive division, Director of Systems and Technology at Broderbund Software, and head of the Graphics Software Group at NeXT Computer, Inc. Leo has an S.M.Vis.S. from MIT and a BSE from the University of Michigan.

Rebebcca Allen

April 5th, 2000


The exploration of new forms of art often involves the invention of innovative tools for art making. The best place to do this is in a research laboratory, but the best research labs are funded for the development of technology not art. How do you address the issues of art in such an environment? How do you combine the research of art and technology?

Examples of art as research will be presented and serve as a format for further discussion.


Rebecca Allen is an internationally recognized media artist, inspired by the potential of advanced technology and the aesthetics of motion. Her pioneering work is presented as immersive environments, computer animated films, interactive installations and live multimedia performance.

Allen received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and a MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a member of the Architecture Machine Group at MIT (now known as the Media Lab) followed by the Computer Graphics Lab at NYIT, a world renowned computer animation research center.

Rebecca was founding co-director of the Center for Digital Arts at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and founding chair of the newly formed UCLA Department of Design | Media Arts, where she is currently a professor. She was Creative Director and 3D Visionary at Virgin Interactive Entertainment where she investigated the creative possibilities of cutting-edge interactive game technology while producing games.

Most recently, Allen has been exhibiting a series of interactive art installations, titled The Bush Soul, which explore areas of artificial life, behavior, avatars, haptic interface design and networked three-dimensional virtual environments. This work utilizes a PC-based software system called Emergence developed by Allen's research team with a grant from Intel Corporation.

Awards include an Emmy award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement" and Japan's Nicograph award for "Artistic and Technical Excellence".

H. Shrikumar

April 12th, 2000


Pervasive Computing requires Pervasive Communications. Simple and inexpensive computing nodes enable the dream of Pervasive Computing, but the complexity of interconnecting large numbers of such devices is an unprecedented challenge for Pervasive Communications. In this talk, I will rethink some of the fundamental issues behind the design of data communication systems serving a billion nodes, while peeling the seven veils off conventional wisdom in layered protocol design.

In a network of a billion nodes, managing node-identification and addressing is one difficult problem, while the complexity of forwarding and routing of data among them is only another -- both of which, I suspect, might have to ultimately seek assistance from the physics of the underlying signaling. These myriads of little nodes would often form distributed sensors; therefore new transport protocols would need to simultaneously grapple with much more demanding temporal consistency and coherence requirements while inescapably pitted against the significantly anemic computation capability of each node. Finally, issues concerning security, authentication and access control open up further challenges.

I will motivate the premise of the talk by including a review of some of the current research directions in mobile and ad-hoc networking for large numbers of nodes, and also insights gained from my work on minimalistic and scalable protocol implementations (including the "iPic" 256-byte wee-TCP stack with web-server, and the lightweight ALAP/GUT protocol suite).


H.Shrikumar is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, where his research is in the area of hard real-time scheduling for adaptive fault-tolerant systems. This work is being applied towards building a ``lean-and-mean'' real-time scheduling and communications architecture for a co-operating team of computationally anemic robots. His other areas of interest include data communication and networking protocols, networking applications, pervasive computing, and wearable computers.

Carlo Rubbia


A new method is discussed, under active development in collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), in which fission fragments are used to directly heat a low pressure (a few bars) hydrogen gas to very high temperatures (~10000 deg. K). A few kilograms of Am are sufficient to reach criticality. The fuel, in the form of a thin Am layer emitting the fission fragments, remains relatively cold while the heating process due to ionisation losses occurs progressively inside the chamber. The potentialities and the limitations of the method will be discussed, with special consideration for future missions to Mars.


Carlo Rubbia's work at CERN led to creation of the first proton-antiproton collider in 1981, where he directed the UA1 experiment. Significant discoveries stemmed from this work, principally detection of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction. For this work he shared the Nobel Prize in 1984 with Simon Van Der Meer. Prof. Rubbia is currently involved in several physics projects, including the ICARUS neutrino detector under the Grand Sasso in Italy, an "Energy Amplifier" (a novel and safe way of producing nuclear energy exploiting present-day accelerator technologies) and new approaches to nuclear propulsion. He has served as the Higgins Professor of Physics at Harvard University and the Director General of the CERN laboratory in Geneva.

Isaac Chuang

April 19, 2000


The world of the small is full of surprises. When bits of information are represented by objects as small as atoms, their behavior ceases to obey the usual classical laws of physics we are used to, and quantum mechanics takes over. This new realm of quantum information offers computational capabilities exponentially greater than classical computers, for certain problems. Quantum bits also inherently cannot be copied, and thereby provide new cryptographic protocols. Recent implementations of small quantum computers at IBM using molecules controlled by magnetic resonance techniques suggest schemes for realizing large scale quantum computers. These efforts have also lead us to discover how quantum states may be consumed as a kind of single-use software, providing fault-tolerance much like how robust natural systems metabolize and self-repair. Quantum computers may not be "thinking" machines, but they certainly have given us new ways to think of the physical world and how the physical world itself might think.


Dr. Isaac Chuang is a leading researcher in the creation of quantum computers, a radically new type of computer that may be able to solve quickly some important problems and simulations that would take years on conventionally designed machines. In 1996, Dr. Chuang co-invented, with Dr. Neil Gershenfeld of MIT, a quantum computer based on storing information within the nuclear spins of special molecules and controlling them using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques. In 1998, he demonstrated that the NMR technique could implement basic elements of a factoring algorithm and a database-search technique. He is currently exploring the prospects for scaling up the NMR approach to solve more complex problems. Dr. Chuang is a research staff member at IBM, and serves as a consulting professor at Stanford University.

Joachim Sauter

May 3, 2000


50% Design + 50% Research and Develpmet = 150% innovation. This equation drove for the past twelve years germany's first New Media Design and Development Group ART+COM. Joachim Sauter will discuss the role of Design in the realm of high-end R+D. This will be done by presenting three case study information-architecture projects from the three areas ART+COM is involved with: basic design research, application research and product development.


Born in 1959, Joachim Sauter graduated as a design student from the "Hochschule fuer Gestaltung" in Schwaebisch Gmuend. After receiving his MA in communication design at the 'University of the arts' Berlin he made further studies at the 'German Academy for Film and Television', Berlin.

Joachim Sauter has been using computers from the early stages of his work as a designer and filmmaker. Fueled by this interest, he founded Art+Com an indipendent design and research group in 1988 together with other designers, scientists and technicians. Today, Joachim Sauter is head of Art+Com e.V.

In the course of his work as a designer and researcher Joachim Sauter has received the 'Ars Electronica Interactiv Award' in 1992 and 1997, as wellas the 'Los Angeles Interactive Media Festival Impact Award' in 1995 and the Prix Pixel INA in 1997.

Examples of his work produced at Art+Com have been exhibited widely. Locations such as Ars Electronica Linz (1992, 1994 and 1997) and the Musee de l`Art Moderne, Centre Pompidu Paris (1992 and 1995). In 1992, exhibits were also shown at the 'Museum for Contemporary Art' Sidney, 1993 an exhibition at the 'Museum for Contemporary Art' Nagoya took place. The 'Interactive Multimedia Festival' and 'Siggraph '95' in Los Angeles aswell as the 'G7 Meeting' in Brussels and the 'Biennale' in Venice were all hosts to Joachim Sauters work during 1995. More recently he exhibited his work at the 'Kunsthalle' in Vienna and the 'Stejdilik Museum' in Amsterdam and the ICC Tokio.

Since 1991, Joachim Sauter has been a professor for Digital Media Design at the 'University of the arts' in Berlin.

Press-office, university of the arts, Berlin, 1999

Alice Isen

May 10th, 2000


A growing body of work indicates that mild positive affect can facilitate interpersonal processes such as helpfulness and generosity, and many cognitive processes, including creative problem solving and decision making. The processes and outcomes of negotiations have also been shown to be improved by induced positive feelings in the bargainers. In addition, physicians in whom mild positive affect was induced showed less anchoring (distortion of information to fit with a diagnostic hypothesis they were considering), compared with a neutral-affect control group. In part, these effects appear to be the result of increased openmindedness and flexibility in thinking among people who are feeling happy. This presentation explores the findings indicating that positive affect facilitates both flexible thinking and thorough, careful thinking. A new neuropsychological theory of the process by which this occurs will be discussed if time allows. 


Professor Isen received her B.A. degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Pennsylvania, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology from Stanford University. Her research concerns the influence of affect (feelings) on social interaction, thought processes, problem solving, and decision making, including medical decision making. Her work focuses primarily on the impact of positive affect (happy feelings) on these and related processes. She is a member of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, the Society for Medical Decision Making, the Society for Consumer Psychology, the Academy of Management, and the Association for Consumer Research, as well as of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology (Executive Committee, 1985-88), and the Psychonomic Society. She has been a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and a visiting scholar at Stanford University, the Ohio State University, and the University of Michigan. She has published many papers in research journals and scholarly volumes, and is the coauthor (with A.H. Hastorf) of Cognitive Social Psychology and (with B. Moore) of Affect and Social Behavior. She is the editor of the journal, Motivation and Emotion, and has been on the editorial board of ten journals in her fields. She is currently the S.C. Johnson Professor in the Johnson Graduate School of Management, and Professor of Psychology in the Arts College, of Cornell University.


May 12th, 2000


The gut is different from other organs of the body, in that it contains a complex intrinsic set of nerve cells, called the enteric nervous system (ENS), which functions like a second brain. The ENS is alone among parts of the peripheral nervous system (the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord, which are called the CNS) in that the ENS is able to control the behavior of an organ independently of commands issued by the brain. All other elements of the peripheral nervous system slavishly follow commands issued by the brain, either directly, or through its wholly owned vassal, the spinal cord. In fact, the ENS even regulates the behavior of neighboring organs, the pancreas and gall bladder and, via nerves that project to relays in the circuits carrying information from the CNS, the ENS can cancel messages that the CNS tries to send to it. The chemistry, physiology,and even the electrical activity of the ENS during sleep resemble those of the CNS so much that the ENS can be thought of as "the brain gone south". The ENS is thus subject to many of the diseases that affect the brain, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and autism. In order to regulate digestion, which is a complicated process, it is necessary for the ENS to know what the conditions are like within its lumen. Despite this need, no nerves enter the lumen of the gut.Instead, specialized cells in the intestinal lining are modified to act as sensory transducers. A subset of these cells (called EC cells) operates by secreting the neurotransmitter serotonin. Nerve cells communicate by means of a chemical language in which neurotransmitters are the words, and receptors are the detectors that respond to them. The serotonin that EC cells secrete stimulates both nerve cells within the gut, which activate the intrinsic circuits of the ENS and nerve cells outside of the bowel that pass signals on to the brain. The gut secretes over 95% of the body's serotonin. Serotonin also influences the development of the ENS. By activating serotonin secreting nerves and EC cells, the early experience of the gut can sculpt the nervous system that develops within it. The complexity of the ENS makes it possible for the bowel to exhibit its own brand of "psychoneurosis", which takes the form of the irritable bowel syndrome or functional bowel disease. These are disorders of sensation and motility for which no physical cause can be found. The irritable bowel syndrome is extremely common, affecting ~ 20% of Americans, about 70% of whom are women. Recent advances have been made in treatment. These have been made possible by the basic understanding that the receptors for serotonin on the nerves that pass signals to the brain are different from those that "turn on" the intrinsic circuits of the ENS. One can (with appropriate drugs) thus block signaling to the CNS, thereby freeing a patient from intolerable symptoms, without interfering with the ability of the bowel to function.

The accessibility of the inside of the bowel, which is, in effect, outside of the body, makes it a fascinating organ to use to investigate the potential for future good that may be achieved by sensing technology.


Dr. Michael D. Gershon is a native New Yorker. He was born in Brooklyn on March 3, 1938 and grew up on the streets of the City. He received his early education from the New York City public schools and is a graduate of James Madison High School. Dr. Gershon received his BA. degree in 1958 "with distinction" from Cornell University and his M.D. in 1963, again from Cornell. As an undergraduate, he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honorary societies and in Medical School he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. Dr. Gershon interrupted his medical training after the second year for a year that he intended to devote to research; however, he was recruited to teach. As a result, he met and ultimately married his best student, Dr. Anne A. Gershon. Dr. Gershon won several awards upon graduating from Cornell Medical School, including the Polk Prize for the best academic record and the Borden Prize for undergraduate research. Dr. Gershon received postdoctoral training in Neuroscience with Dr. Leonard Ross at Cornell and, in Pharmacology, with Dr. Edith Bčlbring at Oxford University in England. Dr. Gershon then returned to Cornell in 1967, where he remained, first as an Assistant, then an Associate, and finally a Professor of Anatomy, until December 1975. Dr. Gershon finally left Cornell to accept his current position as Chair of the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology (then called Anatomy) at Columbia UniversityÕs College of Physicians & Surgeons. Dr. Gershon has three grown children and two grandchildren.. Each of his children are married. They are following careers in business (Perry), biology and medicine (Timothy) and law (Dana).

Dr. Gershon has pursued four themes of research during his career. One has been to try to understand the neuronal control of behavior on a cellular level by studying what he originally supposed was a simple nervous system. For this purpose, he selected the intrinsic innervation of the bowel, the enteric nervous system (ENS), because it is the only division of the peripheral nervous system that can mediate reflex activity independently of input from the brain or spinal cord. Although, Dr. Gershon soon realized that a simple nervous system is an oxymoron, he has continued to focus on the ENS. He was the first to show that serotonin is an enteric neurotransmitter and he has made important contributions to the identification of intrinsic microcircuits and individual neurons. Dr. GershonÕs second area of investigation has been to define serotonergic mechanisms and serotonin receptors. He has identified multiple subtypes of serotonin receptor in the bowel including one that is unique to the periphery. The third area of research concerns the development of the enteric nervous system. Dr. Gershon has established that the ENS is derived from multiple lineages of neural crest-derived precursors and he has shown that the differentiation of enteric neurons involves a complex interaction between lineage-dependent traits and the effects of signalling molecules provided by the enteric microenvironment (many of which he has identified). The last arena of study, a family collaboration with Dr. Anne A. Gershon, is to define the mechanisms by which the varicella zoster virus infects cells and then is assembled into infectious particles. Dr. GershonÕs honors and awards include: Markle Foundation Scholar in Academic Medicine; N.Y.C. Health Research Council Career Scientist Award; Grass Foundation Visiting Professor; Jacob Javits Award from the NIH; Camilio Golgi Lecture and Medal from the Fidia Research Foundation; State of the Art Lectures, American Gastroenterological Association; Tousimis Prize from the Association of Anatomy Chairman for Outstanding Research and Contributions to the Field of Anatomy; Visiting Professor at, and Medal of Francis I from CollĆge de France; Guest Editor, Special issue on The Neural Crest, J. Neurobiol.; Past President of the Cajal Club, American Association of Anatomists, and the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology and Neurobiology Chairman; DeanÕs Distinguished Lecture in the Basic Sciences (1996) at Columbia; Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The Henry Gray Award (The highest honor conferred by the American Association of Anatomists).Winder Lecture, University of Utah.

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