Skip to content ↓

Here and There

Phillip M. Bernard, program director for residence life, enjoyed some beach time in the Mediterranean during his July vacation in Spain-- and matter-of-factly rescued two young French girls from a powerful undertow in the process.

Mr. Bernard, a strong swimmer, heard the girls screaming and immediately swam toward them while shouting to another swimmer for help. The other man did not respond when he called out in Spanish and English, so Mr. Bernard tried French. "Parlez-vous Fran������ais?" he said, pointing toward the struggling girls. The man understood.

By then, Mr. Bernard had a girl under each arm and was pulling them toward shore. He handed one to the Frenchman. The girls, about 5 and 6 years old, were reunited with their parents on the beach at Alcossebre. "I don't think [the girls] told them what happened," said Mr. Bernard, who disappeared into the sunset like a nautical Lone Ranger and never found out their names. "Maybe they were afraid they'd be grounded."

World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee says he's disturbed by the recent lawsuit between Microsoft and Ticketmaster regarding Microsoft's unauthorized hyperlink to Ticketmaster's Web site. "The question, 'May I have permission to link to your site?' has got me really upset,'' he said in a September 10 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The freedom to link from one site to another should be a given; "you and I have a right to discuss something," regardless of whether that something wants to be discussed, he said. "You don't have to ask someone's permission to talk about them."

Eve Sullivan, senior editorial assistant in the Center for Theoretical Physics and co-founder of Parents Forum, will present a workshop at the second annual National Parents Day Coalition conference on "Strengthening Families-- Building Communities" October 22-26 in Washington, DC. Several other MIT support staff members are involved in Parents Forum. It was founded by Ms. Sullivan and Christine Bates, administrative assistant in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society; Mary McPeak, senior staff assistant in nuclear engineering, also serves on the board, and Cynthia Lewis, administrative assistant in the Nanostructures Laboratory, is the program's Web site advisor.


In an interview with Science published in the journal's May 16 issue, US Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) had praise for Professor Samuel C.C. Ting, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Physics and a 1976 Nobel prize winner. Mr. Sensenbrenner is chair of the Science Committee, which oversees many research agencies including the NSF, NASA and the Department of Energy's civilian science programs. In the interview, he described his plans and views regarding scientific research funding and pointed to the importance of good communication with the public about such work.

On his new role as committee chair, Mr. Sensenbrenner said, "I found it is a lot more work than I anticipated, but the types of people I have come in contact with are really awe-inspiring. [On a visit to CERN], my 15-year-old son got a power-physics lecture from Sam Ting. He's one of the few Nobel laureates I have come in contact with who is able to explain what he's doing in plain English."

Mr. Sensenbrenner was also asked about the Government Performance and Results Act which went into effect on September 30. "We will monitor each agency to make sure they're accomplishing their goals. This will be good for science, because it will very clearly show what the scientific agencies want to accomplish and will be able to measure how they are using taxpayers' dollars to [achieve] that. The best way to avoid Golden Fleece awards and investigative reports is to speak in plain English, say what you're doing, and show the taxpayers you are doing that."

The August issue of National Geographic features several striking color photographs of fluorescing coral taken by photographer David Doubilet, who asked Charles Mazel-- a research engineer in the Department of Ocean Engineering and assistant director of the Edgerton Center-- what exactly makes coral fluoresce. "Mazel is developing new systems to measure fluorescence and believes that it might some day be used to diagnose reef health," Mr. Doubilet wrote. "[Mazel's] reply: 'It's been suggested that fluorescence aids photosynthesis or that it protects against too much ultraviolet light. But there is a real possibility that corals fluoresce for no reason at all.'"


"It's a complicated matter. In general, plutonium's danger is enormously exaggerated. On the other hand, I think it's fair to keep people (at NASA and Defense) honest and concerned. There is a thinkable catastrophe."
-- Institute Professor Emeritus Philip Morrison of physics, on the controversy surrounding the plutonium that will power Cassini, a Saturn mission scheduled for launch October 13, in a Los Angeles Times article (September 24).

"There are some tougher, more important areas to conquer than chess."
-- William Neveitt, an Artificial Intelligence Lab graduate student, commenting on IBM's announcement that it will retire Deep Blue, the supercomputer that beat chess champion Garry Kasparov, from chess-playing and apply the machine to research tasks, in a September 22 Gannett News Service article.

"It's in a sort of hobbyist or ham radio phase right now. It's not quite ready for prime time."
-- Lee McKnight, associate director for the Research Program on Communications Policy (part of the Center for Policy, Technology and Industrial Development), on using the Internet for long-distance phone calls, in a September 14 Chicago Tribune article.

"The thing seniors are most passionate about is their grandchildren. The people who are most conversant with computers are young people. And so for seniors to have dialogue with their grandchildren, they have to understand computers and the Internet."
-- Visiting Scholar Jack Driscoll of the Media Lab's News in the Future Consortium, on the growing use of computers and cyberspace by older adults, in a Knight-Ridder Newspapers article (September 15).

"Research has indicated that RDAs [recommended daily allowances] alone are not sufficient for all of the uses that relate to nutrient requirements."
-- Professor Vernon Young of the School of Science, who led an Institute of Medicine nutrition study that suggested listing a "tolerable upper intake level" for some substances on food packaging, in an August 25 Detroit News article.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 8, 1997.

Related Topics

More MIT News