Here and there


The Associated Press distributed a story nationally from Albuquerque on MIT's gone-to-seed "Volcano Ranch cosmic ray research station, in business from 1958 to 1972" and on efforts by a group of non-MIT scientists to resurrect the site for further cosmic ray research.

According to the story, the MIT site "was cutting-edge science for its time" and one of the earliest large cosmic ray air shower detector systems. It quotes Gene Loh, a University of Utah physicist, as saying the testing at Volcano Ranch "proved that we can look at the cosmic ray showers before they hit the ground. We can look at individual showers as they progress down the atmosphere."

The story said the station cost $134,000 to build and had 19 cosmic ray detector sites, some sitting as much as two miles apart.

The project was conceived, according to the AP, by the late MIT physics professor Bruno Rossi, who played a leading role in the study of cosmic rays and the development of space physics. He died in 1993 at the age of 88.

John Linsley of Albuquerque, a physicist, said he was given the assignment of leading the work in New Mexico but "always under the fatherly guidance of Rossi. a mentor to me."

In 1961, Linsley said, Volcano Ranch picked up a massive shower of remnant particles from a cosmic ray with a power of 100 billion billion electron volts. "It was 50 times the energy of any previous cosmic ray detected, and it held the record for many years," he said. The record is now held by the Fly's Eye cosmic ray research site near Salt Lake City, which in 1991 detected a hit of 300 billion billion electron volts.
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The advisory board of the Harvard Health Letter each year votes on the top basic science and medical advances published in peer-reviewed journals.

This year, research into ultrasound delivery of drugs led by Dr. Robert S. Langer, Germeshausen Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, [Tech Talk, Aug. 16] was selected as one of the ten most important medical advances for 1995.

Previously, the research received extensive coverage in the The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

"No needles needed," begins the entry pertaining to Dr. Langer's work in the Harvard Health Letter. The article, scheduled for its March issue, continues:

"Because nobody likes shots, regardless of which end of the syringe they're on, scientists have been working on needle-free transdermal drug delivery since the 1980s.

"Although skin patches can effectively deliver a few substances, large, water-soluble molecules are a problem because the outermost layer of skin, a tough plate of dead cells surrounded by lipid bilayers, is designed to keep them out.

"Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, have found a way to use ultra low-frequency ultrasound waves to jiggle the air pockets in these layers, creating cavities that offer low-resistance pathways into the body.

"In the August issue of Science they describe using this painless process to insinuate insulin, interferon and other large molecules into live rodents and human cadavers.

"Although more studies are needed to make sure that introducing drugs in this way doesn't provoke some unforeseen immune problem, the researchers hope to begin testing the technique in patients this year."
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An organization that grew out of an MIT program has made its annual "Teacher of the Year" awards to science teachers in New England.

The New England Science Teachers, or NEST, grew out of MIT's Science and Engineering Program for Middle and High School Teachers, an intensive week-long summer course that inspires teachers to generate greater interest in science and engineering among their students.

QUOTES:

"Obesity is a medical condition like depression, hypertension or diabetes. There's no reason to withhold obesity medication any more than you would withhold medication from people who suffer from those conditions. For people who have failed on traditional weight-loss methods, this will be an invaluable aid."-Dr. Judith H. Wurtman, research scientist in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, in a Boston Herald story on a decision allowing Massachusetts physicians to prescribe a new generation of diet drugs.

"We probably disagreed on as many things as two human beings can disagree on. But we liked each other personally. I thought he was a terrific provost. If we had a problem, we could go talk to him. He would listen to all points of view, and then make a decision-yes or no. What others called abrasiveness is what I liked as directness. He gets up and says what he thinks."-Dr. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor and professor of linguistics, in a lengthy article on Dr. John M. Deutch, on leave as Institute Professor and professor of chemistry, to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, in The Washingtonian magazine.

"It's pretty clear they have found a very important activity. There are lots of questions to answer before we go dancing. But it's nice to have something new to think about."-Dr. David Baltimore, Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Molecular Biology and Immunology and Institute Professor, on a report that scientists have identified four substances made by the human immune-system cells that have potential for halting the growth of the virus that causes AIDS, in the Houston Chronicle.

"There's a high possibility that CO2 emissions will be regulated sometime around the year 2000. We have no idea what those regulations will look like. They may be negligible and they may be serious, but managers are beginning to ask how they can prepare for them."-Stephen Connors, director of the Electric Utility Program in the Energy Laboratory, in a story in The Salt Lake Tribune on the efforts of America's electric ultilities managers to respond to global warming warnings by finding inexpensive ways to emit less carbon dioxide.

"Those unions that provide valued labor market services and maintain the allegiance of workers, as they move between employers and through different cycles of their careers, are more successful than those in which membership is contingent on being employed at a specific workplace."-Dr. Thomas A. Kochan, George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management, in a story in the Singapore Press Holdings on efforts by the National Trades Union Congress in that country to bolster membership by giving union members more personalized services.

CLIP:

A Wall Street Journal editorial, titled, "The Math Gap," said that math skills are more important than ever for the American worker and supported its case by referring to a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper written by three labor economists, one of them from MIT-Dr. Frank Levy, professor of urban economics in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

According to the editorial, the researchers found that males graduating from high school in 1972 with strong basic math skills earned 24 cents more per hour (in 1988 dollars) at age 24 than males graduating that in that year with average math skills. For 1980 grads, the wage differential between numerate and innumerate had widened to 53 cents an hour. Math was even more important for women. Female high school graduates from the class of 1980 who were good with numbers earned 74 cents more than comparable women with weaker math skills.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 31, 1996.


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