One December night my family and my girlfriend both visited me in the small Missouri town where I went to college. As large flakes of snow fell, we walked to the school auditorium, where student jazz combos were giving a concert with a special guest. It’s thrilling to watch student performances, because there’s no guarantee it won’t be a complete disaster. In this case, it was far from that: the bands played perfect covers of “Dear Old Stockholm” and “Caravan.” The horn players launched into deeply felt, unpredictable solos—you could sense both the rigor of years of endless scales in the practice room and the need to prove they could do much more, the desire to surprise. Full Article »
posted May 19, 2016 at 10:07 am
I had been a vegetarian for three years, and a pescatarian for all of 14 days, when the lobster incident happened.
On my part, the decision to grill two languid, mottled-blue and orange lobsters on a pleasant July day was motivated partially by a sense of adventure and partially by pure stubbornness. My boyfriend, Matt, had recently moved to Cape Cod: shellfish country, a place where most of his neighbors would never set off for a day at the beach without their clam rake. I was converted to their worldview with little resistance, out to dinner one night, by a bite of littlenecks swimming in white wine and butter. Full Article »
posted November 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm
On April 16, 1964, Frank Press had just returned from the site of a tsunami. Three weeks prior, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2—the highest ever recorded in North America—had struck the southern coast of Alaska. The four-minute-long quake shook hundreds of miles of seaside sediment loose. Alaska’s shores tumbled into underwater mudslides, taking whole villages with them. Suburban homes sank into the sludge. Pavement cracked. Backyard bomb shelters crumbled. 131 people died. And with just two earthquake monitoring stations’ worth of data to go on, the young expert in digital seismology was summoned to the scene to attempt to sort out what had happened. Full Article »
posted November 2, 2015 at 9:48 pm
One hundred MIT students, faculty, and alumni marched across campus on October 2 in the name of fossil fuel divestment on behalf of 3,500 MIT petition signatories. Their destination? The Media Lab, where Reif was holding his annual meeting with MIT Corporation members, including David Koch, a multibillionaire in the fossil fuel industry. Read more in the Cambridge Day.
posted November 30, 2014 at 6:23 pm
The National Institutes of Health describes the childhood obesity epidemic as “a devastating public health crisis.” In just thirty years, obesity rates in American children in have doubled, reaching 18% as of 2012. An excess of body fat places these children at increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. But how did we get here? A controversial hypothesis published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings has proposed a new way to answer the question—and it doesn’t begin with the usual suspects.
posted October 21, 2014 at 5:12 pm
The Altamont Pass east of San Francisco holds a surprise for the unsuspecting driver. One moment, the hills appear bare except for a grazing cow or two—then the road curves and the wind turbines come into sight. As a child, I was always awestruck by these windmills, spinning away in eerie, majestic unison.
They represent a tiny slice of the country’s wind power, which generates enough energy to fuel 11 million American homes every year. Windmills as a whole are also only one player in a larger team, which includes steaming geothermal plants, solar panels in fields and rooftops, hydropower and biomass plants, and other renewable sources. Together, these sources produce about 13% of the nation’s energy, converting the power of nature into electricity that can be funneled into a power grid and to our lights and devices. Full Article »
posted October 18, 2014 at 4:19 pm
In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet that has since been repeatedly and widely discredited, claiming that the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine might cause autism. No such thing is true. It later came to light that Wakefield had violated ethics in many ways and deliberately lied about the results, and The Lancet retracted the paper in 2010.
Unfortunately, much damage was already done, as thousands of parents had decided not to vaccinate their children. In recent years, measles epidemics have been making a comeback, especially in Europe, where the MMR autism scare was greatest. In 2011 alone, measles outbreaks in Europe sickened 26,000 people and killed nine.
The irony of all this is that the MMR vaccine has been preventing autism all along, by protecting pregnant women from rubella. Full Article »
posted October 18, 2014 at 4:12 pm
You may have heard of New York City’s MoMA, an icon of modernity synonymous with art and culture’s bleeding edge. But there’s another MoMA you should know about: a small-town, redbrick museum in southwestern Virginia that lays claim to 15,000 years of North American history by virtue of that classic of tableside condiments: salt.
Located in Saltville, Virginia, a town of 2,000 tucked away in southwestern Virginia’s Appalachians, the Museum of the Middle Appalachians (MoMA) is a many-layered paean to good ol’ sodium chloride, which exists in mind-boggling concentrations underneath the local valley. The story of that salt—and the tiny town that mined it—provides the museum with “a staggering story from the Ice Age to the Space Age,” says Harry Haynes, the museum’s longtime manager, a story that’s forced several expansions over the last 15 years and a recent overhaul of the exhibit spaces.
posted September 28, 2014 at 8:32 pm
An underground guild of assassins roams MIT at night. Armed with brightly colored rubber dart blasters, they strategize against one another, resurrect at stairwells, form alliances, and make enemies.
It sounds fantastical, but the MIT Assassins’ Guild is a very real live action role-playing (LARP) society at MIT founded by Stephen Balzac (BS ’85 Computer Science; SM ’87 Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences) in the mid ’80s. At the time, Balzac had been playing interactive role-playing games and applied to MIT’s association of student activities (ASA) to form a group that would allow students to reserve rooms for gaming and to fund attendance at interactive gaming conferences. Full Article »
posted September 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm
MIT is a school that belongs to someone else, though to whom I’m not sure. When I got accepted here, I was fairly certain it was a mistake. Even days after the acceptance e-mails went out, when science writing program director, Tom Levenson, called to confirm that I actually got in, I had to put him on hold so I could freak out. Months later, I still haven’t told many of my friends, mainly because there’s a small piece of me that believes that a highly knowledgeable group of admissions reps somehow switched my application with someone else’s and will one day swoop down to take it back.
Here are some things I’ve learned about Impostor Syndrome since being at MIT—I.S. disproportionately affects women, it’s rampant at nearby Harvard Business School where about 75 percent of students felt like they were accidentally admitted, and it’s a thing that affects an almost intimidating number of top achievers in their field, from Fortune 500 CEOs to Supreme Court Justices to Pulitzer-Grammy-Tony Award-winning badasses. Even the phenoms feel like phonies. Full Article »