The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Andrei Haeff and the Amazing Microwave Amplifier

How history forgot this pioneer of the traveling-wave tube

11 min read
Photo of  Andrei “Andy” Haeff
Photo: The Andrei V. Haeff Papers

photo of Andy HaeffPatent Pending Recognition: The patent Haeff filed in 1933 for a primitive type of traveling-wave tube has been largely ignored.Photo,top: The Andrei V. Haeff Papers; Illustration, bottom: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

An intense-looking young man stepped out of his engineering lab at Caltech to watch what was happening. In the university’s nearby high-voltage laboratory, gigantic bolts of electricity were leaping eerily from outlandish equipment. It was 1931, and a Hollywood crew was filming the spark-filled special effects for the creation scene in Boris Karloff’s first Frankenstein movie. The serious-minded young engineer loved cinema, but as he walked back to his bench in the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory, he probably had no idea that a new kind of vacuum tube he was working on would in time revolutionize the movie business, enabling TV broadcasters to bounce Frankenstein and countless other films off satellites straight into people’s homes.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The World’s Largest Camera Is Nearly Complete

The future heart of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will soon make its way to Chile

3 min read
A large black cylinder with a glass lens in front rests on a sturdy white structure in a bright room.

The LSST camera, eventually bound for the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile, sits on its stand in a Bay Area clean room.

Jacqueline Ramseyer Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

The world’s largest camera sits within a nondescript industrial building in the hills above San Francisco Bay.

If all goes well, this camera will one day fit into the heart of the future Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. For the last seven years, engineers have been crafting the camera in a clean room at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif. In May 2023, if all goes according to plan, the camera will finally fly to its destination, itself currently under construction in the desert highlands of northern Chile.

Building a camera as complex as this requires a good deal of patience, testing, and careful engineering. The road to that flight has been long, and there’s still some way to go before the end is in sight.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}

Lab Revisits the Task of Putting Common Sense in AI

New nonprofit Basis hopes to model human reasoning to inform science and public policy

5 min read
ai hand and human hand touching pointer fingers
iStock

The field of artificial intelligence has embraced deep learning—in which algorithms find patterns in big data sets—after moving on from earlier systems that more explicitly modeled human reasoning. But deep learning has its flaws: AI models often show a lack of common sense, for example. A new nonprofit, Basis, hopes to build software tools that advance the earlier method of modeling human reasoning, and then apply that method toward pressing problems in scientific discovery and public policy.

To date, Basis has received a government grant and a donation of a few million dollars. Advisors include Rui Costa, a neuroscientist who heads the Allen Institute in Seattle, and Anthony Philippakis, the chief data officer of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass. In July, over tacos at the International Conference on Machine Intelligence, I spoke with Zenna Tavares, a Basis cofounder, and Sam Witty, a Basis research scientist, about human intelligence, problems with academia, and trash collection. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Keep Reading ↓Show less