Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 4 hours / session

Course Description

The sensing, thinking, moving body is the basis of our experience in the world; it is the very foundation on which cognitive intelligence is built. Physical Intelligence, then, is the inherent ability of the human organism to function in extraordinary accord with its physical environment. This class--a joint offering from the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (DAPER) and Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) for both PE and academic credit--uses the MIT gymnastics gym as a laboratory to explore Physical Intelligence as applied to Mechanical Engineering and design. Readings, discussions and experiential learning introduce various dimensions of Physical Intelligence which students then apply to the design of innovative exercise equipment.

Weekly sessions will include lectures, lab sessions in the gym, and assignments.

About the Instructors

Noah Riskin

Noah Riskin studied painting and trained in gymnastics at Ohio State University, 1981-86. In 1985 he shared the NCAA national title on the parallel bars with his identical twin, Seth, and led Ohio State to its first NCAA Team Championship. In 1986 he received his BFA degree.

Noah continued his athletic career to become a US Men's National Gymnastics Team member, and a national and international champion. In 1993, as a Merit Scholar, he received his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And, from 1994-97 he was a research affiliate and fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies. 1998-2000 Noah was Faculty in the Integrated Media and Dance Departments at The California Institute of the Arts where he developed and taught “Technology and the Body”, a three course curriculum exploring the meeting of technology and the body for performance.

Noah has presented his art and lectures at venues as diverse as the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland, the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University, and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He has taught at Tufts University, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Rhode Island School of Design, The California Institute of the Arts, and MIT.

Currently, Noah continues his art, research and teaching as the Head Men’s Gymnastics Coach, Physical Education Instructor, co-Director of the DAPER/Edgerton Center’s d’Arbeloff High-speed Imaging Grant Project at MIT, and creator of the Physical Intelligence Initiative.
This summer, as a resident fellow at the Northwood University Alden B. Dow Creativity Center, Noah is pursuing his artwork and research on the subject of twins, leading to the production of Gemini, a performance scheduled for November '96 at P.S. 122 in New York as part of a Franklin Furnace "emerging artists" performance series.

Alex Slocum

Alex Slocum is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, and a Professor of Mechanical Engineering. His areas of interest include precision engineering, MEMS, and nanotechnology. From consumer products (e.g. cameras and printers) to the machines that make them (e.g., diamond turning machines and wafer steppers), the ability to precisely control motion is critical to the success of any manufacturing based economy. Professor Slocum's research focuses on developing fundamental precision machine design principles and then proving them via experiments which serve as prototypes for consumer and industrial products. Current thesis topics are primarily driven by industry and range from new products to new machines to make products.