QR and Anthropology (Fall 2014)
Paleoanthropology and the Fossil Record: Quantitative Reasoning with
Big Bad Data
Adam Van Arsdale – Associate Professor of Anthropology, Wellesley College. Oftentimes the data available for research is less than ideal. In these circumstances, the challenges posed by the data can often drive our analytical approach, potentially biasing the conclusions we might draw. These problems are exacerbated when the sample available for study is small. Prof. Van Arsdale’s talk focuses on how these issues can be examined in paleoanthropology, in which the data is not only complex – human fossils of variable preservation and temporal certainty – but limited in scope.
Anthropological Applications of Social Network Analysis: Focus on Food, Health, and Culture in the US South
Sarah Szurek, Medical Anthropologist at the University of Florida. Dr. Szurek discusses her ethnographic research on food, culture, and social networks in the southeast United States. Dr. Szurek specializes in the systematic investigation of cultural knowledge and uses social network analysis to examine individuals’ and groups’ understanding of food and the food environment. She presents research from recent projects on diabetes risk among Latinos in Alabama and a local food movement in Florida.
Prehistory by the Numbers: Remote Sensing and Numerical Models of Ancient Socio-environmental Dynamics in Southern Peru
Ben Vining, Visiting Professor of Anthropology, Wellesley College. As our concern for recent environmental change grows, archaeology offers invaluable insights into how cultural and environmental change intersect over the long-term. Palaeoclimatic and archaeological investigations in southern Peru show stable land use over the past several millennia, despite climatic changes. Using satellite imagery and geospatial modeling, Prof. Vining reconstructs cultural decisions that shaped land use. Sustained interactions contributed to strong mutualism between culture and environmental systems, which continue to be important today.
QR and Engineering (Spring 2013)
Designing for the Developing World: The Misconceptions, Challenges, and Adventure
Jodie Wu, founder and CEO of Global Cycle Solutions, a social enterprise that develops and distributes simple technologies that improve the lives of smallholder farmers, discusses and demonstrates some of the technologies developed while at MIT and at her company in Arusha, Tanzania, and highlights the various ways in which quantitative reasoning skills are essential in the design, testing, and improvement of these technologies.
Allometry Brings Together Engineers, Anthropologists, and Statisticians
Catherine Carneal, Biomechanical Engineer, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Brian Corner, Research Anthropologist in Biomechanics and Barry Decristofano, Chemical Engineer, both at the US Army Natick Soldier RD&E Center, explain how their search for information to confirm an assumption about potential scaling laws between internal and external anatomy - known as allometry - led engineers, anthropologists, radiologists, computer scientists, and statisticians to look for a way to draw conclusions about what we can't see inside a body from measurements we can make on the outside. Information gained from their research will enable development of highly accurate human models which can be applied in the fields of safety and protection, medical device development, and personalized medicine
Engineering at All Ages
Kristin Sargianis and Melissa Higgins, from the Boston Museum of Science’s “EiE: Engineering Is Elementary” Program, ask: What does engineering (and quantitative reasoning) look like in elementary school? What foundational engineering practices do students need as they move from elementary, middle, and high school into college? After engaging in a hands-on engineering challenge ourselves, we visit real elementary school classrooms via video, observe students in action, and discuss how what we see can translate to the university level and beyond.
Machine Learning and Data Mining: How BIG data is having a BIG impact in Medicine, Finance, Sports and More
Every day, vast amounts of data are collected more or less everywhere. What can we do with all these data? Learn! Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, is the study of computer programs for finding and analyzing patterns in data. Jenna Wiens, doctoral candidate at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, introduces us to the world of big data and the machine learning tools that computer scientists use to analyze it and learn from it. Together we explore exciting applications of machine learning and data mining in the fields of medicine, finance, sports and more. Recording of this talk on iTunes U.
From Grains of Sand to Asteroids: Using Engineering to Understand Granular Materials
Dawn Wendell, Assistant Director of Admissions at MIT, is fascinated by granular materials that occur throughout nature. Dr. Wendell, a mechanical engineer, discusses the underlying physics and special properties in granular materials that have implications in engineering systems from wheat farming to pharmaceutical processing and provides examples from her own research about digging in granular materials and implications for underseas exploration.