Nov. 6, 2003 – Vol. 23 No. 4

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    In the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column In the News offers a digest of commentary and quotations by a few of the University faculty members, students and alumni who have been headlining the news in recent weeks. Chicago faculty members are some of the most frequently quoted experts, so space allows publishing references to only selected examples. To read many of the full newspaper articles mentioned in this column, visit the In the News column at the University News Office Web site: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/.

    Maria Spiropulu, Enrico Fermi Fellow in High Energy Physics in the Enrico Fermi Institute; Joseph Lykken, Professor in Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute; and Sean Carroll, Assistant Professor in Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute, were all quoted in an article published in U.S. News & World Report. The article focused on current cosmological research, specifically scientists’ search for extra dimensions, an area of research in which Spiropulu, Lykken and Carroll are involved. Spiropulu described experiments that can collect data that support the existence of extra dimensions and that are now being developed. Said Lykken: “There may be a whole new universe of large, higher dimensions beyond the ones we can see and every bit as big and rich.”

    Randall Krozner, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was a guest on CNNfn about a new report showing that specialists on the New York Stock Exchange earn consistently higher average pretax profits than financial firms. The interview with Krozner was broadcast Friday, Oct. 17.

    James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor in Economics, was interviewed for a Thursday, Oct. 23 Wall Street Journal story. The newspaper reported on China’s current spending on construction and equipment while not investing capital in the education of its work force. Heckman, who toured factories in China a few years ago, commented on the situation that continues today. “They buy fancy equipment and they can’t run it. There are a lot of skilled Chinese, but there are even more machines that need skilled workers.” According to the latest available data from the United Nations (1998-1999), China spent a sum equal to 2.2 percent of its gross domestic product on education and roughly 15 times that amount on physical capital. Heckman has been invited back to China for a December conference on human resources at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

    Catherine Brekus, Associate Professor in the Divinity School, who organized the first national conference on women in American religion, was interviewed and photographed for a Wednesday, Oct. 22 Chicago Tribune article on the conference. Brekus’ goal was to gather together historians to shed light on religious women’s often overlooked influence on American history and their absence from history texts. “Given that women have made up the majority of most Catholic, Jewish and Protestant congregations from the 18th century until today, their absence in textbooks is particularly surprising,” said Brekus.

    Christopher Faraone, Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures and the College, was quoted in a Sunday, Oct. 19 Chicago Sun-Times story that described the history of curses and how some people believe they have the power to manipulate events, such as outcomes of competitive sports. The story reported on some well-known curses issued against Wrigley Field and its Chicago Cubs, as well as a curse against the Boston Red Sox for having traded Babe Ruth. Faraone described how the ancient Greeks and Romans routinely cursed opponents in races or matches, and how his students, when asked to imitate the practice, are unable to force themselves to do it. “It’s uncanny. In every case, when these people were challenging me, they wouldn’t do it. Even though they rationally didn’t believe in it, it was creepy.”

    Leon Kass, the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College, was interviewed as a guest on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered program, which aired Thursday, Oct. 23. Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, was interviewed about the council’s recently released report on modern biotechnology and its future advances. Often speaking in hypothetical terms based on what biotechnology might be capable of providing humans, Kass described what he and the other council members view as the consequences of such biotechnological feats as anti-aging technology and genetic selection. “If it turns out that even a small number of people are engaged in selection of their children for genetic traits, you now live in a world which says that meeting a certain kind of standard is a necessary condition for being allowed to enter into life, and that has effects on a population even beyond its users.”

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, was quoted in a Monday, Oct. 27 Chicago Tribune article that covered the risks and expectations for people seeking financial backing for new businesses from family members. Schrager also provided advice to those considering borrowing from relatives, including this piece: “The key to whether family financing and family relationships end up successful is a very clear understanding on paper of what will happen before any money changes hands. If all goes well, here’s what’s anticipated. If it goes badly, this will happen. The looser it is, the more prone to disaster it will be.”

    Thomas Gunning, the Edwin A. and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor in Art History, Cinema & Media Studies and the College, commented in a Chicago Tribune story on contemporary horror films that appeared Sunday, Oct. 26. Gunning said he sees the return to the “no-holds-barred,” ’70s-styled horror films as more than political or as a reaction to complacency. “With genre films, particularly when the genre hasn’t disappeared, most of the things that determine the shape of the genre are actually inside the genre themselves,” said Gunning. “Certainly social and historical contexts are always a factor: In the 70s you can point to Vietnam, and that’s definitely a strong subtext. But in this period of the horror film, the main thing that drives it is trying to look new, which often means trying to look not like the last one did, but the last one before the last one.”