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Want to predict the future? Digital twins that model planes, climate—even cancer

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Doppelgangers.

Predicting the future is becoming easier with simulations called digital twins. Aerospace engineer Karen Willcox explains how they can be used in cancer treatment, fighting climate change, and more.

About Karen Willcox

Karen Willcox is director of the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, associate vice president for research and professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics at The University of Texas at Austin. She is also an external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute. Willcox spent 17 years as a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she served as the founding co-director of the MIT Center for Computational Engineering. Prior to joining academia, she worked at Boeing Phantom Works.Her work in developing scalable mathematical foundations for digital twins is leading to the next generation of intelligent computational tools that not only embed physical principles but also learn and adapt from data.

This segment of the TED Radio Hour was produced by Katie Monteleone and edited by Sanaz Meshkinpour and Manoush Zomorodi. You can follow us on Facebook @TEDRadioHour and email us at TEDRadioHour@npr.org.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Manoush Zomorodi is the host of TED Radio Hour. She is a journalist, podcaster and media entrepreneur, and her work reflects her passion for investigating how technology and business are transforming humanity.
Katie Monteleone is a producer for TED Radio Hour. She started out as an intern for the show in January 2019. After her internship, Monteleone began producing for Life Kit before returning to the TED Radio Hour team in October 2019 as a full-time producer.