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Why don’t more women enter the male-dominated profession of engineering? Some observers have speculated it may be due to the difficulties of balancing a demanding career with family life. Others have suggested that women may not rate their own technical skills highly enough.

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For Tim Gutowski, advanced manufacturing is an opportunity not just to boost employment, but also to improve the environment.

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The loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs is a topic that can provoke heated arguments about globalization. But what do the cold, hard numbers reveal? How has the rise in foreign manufacturing competition actually affected the U.S. economy and its workers?

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Scott Stern doesn’t work in a laboratory or have a degree in the hard sciences. You’ll never find him using a genome sequencer or an MRI scanner. Yet he knows more about some aspects of science than almost any practicing scientist does.

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A team of MIT researchers has developed a way of making a high-temperature version of a kind of materials called photonic crystals, using metals such as tungsten or tantalum. The new materials—which can operate at temperatures up to 1,200°C—could find a wide variety of applications powering portable electronic devices, spacecraft to probe deep space, and new infrared light emitters that could be used as chemical detectors and sensors.

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Not long ago, MIT political scientist Suzanne Berger was visiting a factory in western Massachusetts, a place that produces the plastic jugs you find in grocery stores. As she saw on the factory floor, the company has developed an innovative automation system that has increased its business: Between 2004 and 2008, its revenues doubled, and its workforce did, too.

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When Microsoft’s Kinect—a device that lets Xbox users control games with physical gestures—hit the market, computer scientists immediately began hacking it.

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Contrary to common perception, the major automakers have produced large increases in fuel efficiency through better technology in recent decades. There’s just one catch: All those advances have barely increased the mileage per gallon that autos actually achieve on the road.

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The information age is also the age of information overload. Companies, governments, researchers, and private citizens are accumulating digital data at an unprecedented rate, and amid all those quintillions of bytes could be the answers to questions of vital human interest: What environmental conditions contribute most to disease outbreaks? What sociopolitical factors contribute most to educational success? What player statistics best predict a baseball team’s win-loss record?

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(MIT News: Cambridge, MA) -- Whatever your profession, systems thinking is critical for success in the global economy, according to speakers at the 2011 MIT SDM Conference on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges.