Technology: Caltech In 2021 – The Year In Review

In January, researchers developed a cage-like vaccine platform called a mosaic nanoparticle that could help protect against multiple strains of coronavirus; obtained new insights into human decision-making using AI-trained networks playing video games; learned how tiny plants changed the planet nearly half a billion years ago; and studied chaotic systems using a camera that can take up to 70 trillion frames per second.

Meanwhile, the Institute announced that it would remove the names of known eugenics proponents from its buildings, honors, and assets.

February saw the historic landing of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance on the Red Planet. The 2,263-pound rover, designed and operated by JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, will spend two years investigating Mars’s Jezero crater, and will collect and cache samples of rocks and sediment for recovery by a subsequent mission.

Here on Earth, seismologists worked with optics experts to develop a method to use existing underwater telecommunication cables to detect earthquakesphysicists advanced the use of exotic materials for future ultrafast computers; and engineers perfected methods to place molecules in particular orientations at specific locations—work that paves the way for the integration of molecules with computer chips.

In March, Caltech researchers announced a non-invasive method that uses ultrasound to read and interpret brain activity related to the intent to move, a major step toward the creation of noninvasive brain–machine implants that can restore movement to paralyzed individuals; located Mars’s missing water; described a long-sought solution to “one of the most stubborn problems in math”; and explained how bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics and how antibiotics help bacteria eat when nutrients are scarce.

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