Here and There


Life magazine is the latest national showcase for the scientific photographs of Felice Frankel, artist-in-residence at the Edgerton Center, research scientist in electrical engineering and computer science and co-author of On the Surface of Things. The October issue of the magazine (on sale starting this week) reproduced several of her photos, including the greatly magnified surface of a compact disc (shown at right) and the soap bubbles in Building 6, an image that also graced the cover of the 1996-97 MIT faculty/staff directory.
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Christopher Morse, a graduate student in chemistry, recently placed himself in the crucible of a real-world experiment when he matched wits with opponents on the Jeopardy! TV game show.

Although the results were lower than expected -- he lost by $101 -- the experiment was by no means a total loss. Mr. Morse was pleased with the results he gathered -- a 35-inch TV, a game table with four chairs and two versions of Home Jeopardy! -- and he thinks his analysis of methodology may help researchers in future experiments. "All of us knew the answers to the questions, but it's all in the timing," he said. "If you buzz in too early, you're locked out for a half second delay. Once you get the rhythm down, you can run a category. The best way to prepare for it is playing a lot of Nintendo."

Mr. Morse was chosen as a contestant for the game show during tryouts in Boston in June 1996. He traveled to Los Angeles in February to tape the episode, which finally aired on July 7. He attributed his success in the tryouts to a lifelong love of trivia and watching scads of TV as a kid. "If you watch a huge amount of TV, you're bound to pick up a bunch of facts, and some of them are bound to stick," he said.

Apparently even TV and Nintendo can't fully prepare a player for the intensity of the 22-minute Jeopardy! match. While Mr. Morse's memory served him well during the game, the tension took its toll afterward. "I can do seating charts for classes I took years ago, but at the end of the game I couldn't remember what the categories were," he said.
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Nancy Killefer, director of the Washington office of McKinsey and Co., Inc., has been nominated by President Clinton for the post of assistant secretary for management and chief financial officer at the Department of the Treasury. Ms. Killefer, a Sloan School alumna (SM '79), will manage financial, budgetary, personnel and technology resources for the Treasury Department and serve as principal policy advisor to the secretary and deputy secretary on internal management of the department and bureaus.

CLIPS:

MIT faculty members were interviewed by several newspapers to provide some perspective on the recent UPS strike.Thomas Kochan, the George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at the Sloan School, noted in the August 17 issue of the Worcester Sunday Telegram that "the strike has become a lightning rod for a whole range of issues of concern to the public," such as downsizing, the loss of high-quality full-time jobs and lower wages.

While the economy is healthy and the number of part-time workers has increased only slightly, "the range of people in the labor force who are personally affected or who have a family member personally affected by the trend in the quality of jobs has grown enormously," Professor Kochan said.

"What used to be jobs at the bottom of the largest firms are now being done at a lower cost structure -- sometimes part-time, sometimes contingent [temporary] and sometimes contracted out. The new jobs are less likely to have health insurance and pensions, and take longer for people to move upward in terms of income. All of that, I think, resonates in the public reaction here."

In an August 16 article in the Arizona Republic examining the importance of the pension issue to the Teamsters, Robert McKersie, Society of Sloan Fellows Professor of Management, said it's "a make-or-break issue for the union. It's at the heart of the union and at the heart of their relationship with other trucking companies."

Noting that major strikes are rarer and more fateful than they once were, Professor Kochan said, "When you see a strike now, you know it's a signal of much deeper issues, and that those issues are harder to resolve." (Christian Science Monitor, August 15).

QUOTES:

"If a [high school] major is a way of getting a student interested in school work and through that, making sure they graduate with a good set of skills, that's fine. But if it so concentrates that the kid can graduate without knowing algebra, that's a disaster."
-- Professor of Urban Economics Frank Levy, commenting on a New York proposal to require high school students to select academic or career concentrations, in an August 4 Christian Science Monitor article.

"If you go back, the key stories we told ourselves were stories that were important to everyone and belonged to everyone. Fan fiction is a way of the culture repairing the damage done in a system where contemporary myths are owned by corporations instead of owned by the folk."
-- Henry Jenkins, professor of literature and director of the Film and Media Studies Program, in an August 18 article in the Austin (TX) American-Statesman about fan fiction, or Web and e-mail forums where fans create and share new stories based on popular TV shows such as "ER" and "The X-Files."

"Are we using computer technology not because it teaches best, but because we have lost the political will to fund education adequately?"
-- Professor Sherry Turkle of the Program in Science, Technology and Society, in a July 7 Quincy Patriot-Ledger article examining the educational effectiveness of spending money on computer technology in schools.

"What Pathfinder has learned so far is amazing; [the relatively simple spacecraft] wasn't designed to do a great deal of science. The weight doesn't allow for a lot of instruments. But it's making some of the most basic observations you can make."
-- Professor Maria Zuber of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences (EAPS), in a July 14 Raleigh (NC) News & Observer article on what scientists have learned from the Mars mission.

"It would be very expensive. You should do it for the best scientific reason, not for the popular press reason."
-- Assistant Professor Dava Newman of EAPS, responding to the idea of sending former astronaut Sen. John Glenn, 76, on a shuttle mission to study aging and space flight, in a July 10 Gannett News Service article.

"For years, IBM looked like a stodgy, bureaucratic giant that couldn't get anything done. Deep Blue is doing a lot to get rid of that look."
-- Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Charles Leiserson, in a July 17 Gannett News Service article on the effects of IBM's supercomputer's chess victory over Garry Kasparov on the company's image.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 10, 1997.


Topics: National relations and service

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