Counting L.A.’s Trees


Professor Pietro Perona, has developed a method using Google Earth and Google Street View to count the trees in the city of Los Angeles. The process of counting the trees using human tree counters is very expensive and would cost about $3 million today. The last time the city did such counting was more than two decades ago and at the time there were 700,000 street trees. Perona has tested the methodology in a section of Pasadena where the city recently commissioned a sidewalk survey. By comparing the results to the known inventory, he determined that the computer was about 80% accurate. [LA Times story] [KPCC story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Pietro Perona

A Microscopic Glowing Van Gogh


Paul Rothemund, Research Professor of Bioengineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have developed a technique that allows manmade DNA shapes to be placed wherever desired; to within a margin of error of just 20 nanometers. This technique removes a major hurdle for the large-scale integration of molecular devices on chips. As a demonstration of the technique’s capabilities the group has created one of the world's smallest reproductions of Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night. [Caltech story]

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Community Seismic Network Detected Air Pulse From Refinery Explosion


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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Realtime Camera Planning


Yisong Yue, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, is working with colleagues at Disney Research to develop machine-learning algorithms to make automated cameras more human-like.  Professor Yue's research group is generally interested in building AI systems that imitate demonstrated behavior, including laboratory animals, basketball players, humans playing video games, etc.  In this recent work with Disney Research, they are developing an automated camera system that learns how best to film sports matches by watching how human camera operators behave at particular moments. Early testing shows that its shots are far smoother than other automated cameras. [Learn more about the applications] [Learn more about the theory] [techradar story] [Sports Illustrated story]

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Best Paper At Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence


Leonard J. Schulman, Professor of Computer Science, and postdoctoral scholar Piyush Srivastava have won the best paper award at the 2016 Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence for their paper, Stability of Causal Inference. [Read the paper]

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Smaller Chips May Depend on Vacuum Tube Technology


A recent New York Times article featured Caltech alumnus, Gordon Moore (PhD ’54), and the research of Professor Axel Scherer on ultrasmall vacuum tube as a candidate to replace the transistor. [Read the article]

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The Power of Entanglement


Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, studies how quantum computers may someday revolutionize computing and change the world's cryptographic systems. [Caltech interview]

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DNA Origami: Folded DNA as a Building Material for Molecular Devices


Paul Rothemund, Research Professor of Bioengineering, Computing and Mathematical Sciences, and Computation and Neural Systems, explains how his group and groups around the world are using DNA origami in applications ranging from potential cancer treatments to devices for computing. [Caltech interview]

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Caltech’s Smart Charging Network for Electrical Vehicles


Charging electric vehicles (EVs) can require a substantial amount of electricity (most EVs charge at 7 kilowatts, the equivalent of simultaneously running 70 desktop computers). Steven Low, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, has developed Caltech's adaptive charging network, which uses a smart algorithm to coordinate the charging schedule with the Institute's existing electrical infrastructure. This program helps minimize energy usage and about 30 percent of the electricity at each charging station is from carbon-free renewable sources. [Caltech story]

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Toward a Smarter Grid


The power network of the future—also known as the smart grid—will have to be much more dynamic and responsive than the current electric grid, handling tremendous loads while incorporating intermittent energy production from renewable resources such as wind and solar, all while ensuring that when you or I flip a switch at home or work, the power still comes on without fail. An interdisciplinary group of engineers, economists, mathematicians, and computer scientists, including Professors Steven Low and Adam Wierman are working to develop the devices, systems, theories, and algorithms to help guide this historic transformation and make sure that it is properly managed. [Caltech feature]

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