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To Crack the Toughest Optimization Problems, Just Add Lasers

An odd device known as an optical Ising machine could route airplanes and help the NFL schedule its games

10 min read
Illustration: Chad Hagen
Illustration: Chad Hagen

Last December, a glitch in the crew-scheduling system for American Airlines threatened to disrupt thousands of flights over the holiday season. The error allowed pilots to drop flights without requiring another pilot to cover for them, imperiling as many as 15,000 trips. And while the airline managed to spot the problem and staff the flights, the snafu was a reminder of how much we depend on computers to schedule the vast array of services and functions on which our societies have become completely dependent.

All major airlines, for example, use sophisticated scheduling-optimization algorithms to assign crews to planes. And while the American Airlines incident was not caused directly by the failure of one of these algorithms, the end result was much the same. Such a failure would make it likely that hundreds of thousands of people would be stranded or seriously inconvenienced while the airline sought a solution.

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Medal of Honor Goes to Microsensor and Systems Pioneer

The UCLA professor developed aerospace and automotive safety systems

3 min read
Photo of a man in a blue jacket in front of a brick wall.
UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

IEEE Life Fellow Asad M. Madni is the recipient of this year’s IEEE Medal of Honor. He is being recognized “for pioneering contributions to the development and commercialization of innovative sensing and systems technologies, and for distinguished research leadership.”

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Video Friday: An Agile Year

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
Video Friday: An Agile Year

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far (send us your events!):

ICRA 2022: 23–27 May 2022, Philadelphia
ERF 2022: 28–30 June 2022, Rotterdam, Germany
CLAWAR 2022: 12–14 September 2022, Açores, Portugal

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.

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Learn How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Join Teledyne for a three-part webinar series on high-performance data acquisition basics

1 min read

Webinar: High-Performance Digitizer Basics

Part 3: How to Use a High-Performance Digitizer

Date: Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Time: 10 AM PST | 1 PM EST

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