October 7, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 2

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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/.

    Michael LaBarbera, Professor in Organismal Biology & Anatomy and the College, was an expert source for numerous stories that reported on the discovery of a 230-million-year-old reptilian fossil. The fossil helped paleontologists determine that this ancient marine reptile, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, is a member of the protorosaur species, and the function of its five-foot long neck was for feeding on prey. According to LaBarbera, Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, which had a small head, had likely been a diabolical hunter. He explained its predatory actions in the Chicago Tribune article. “It lived in mucky waters near the shore, where it would be an advantage to have your head and brain out on the end of a long spar. A fish swimming there would see something dark coming out of the gloom in the water but wouldn’t be alarmed because it would see that it was about its own size, not a predator.” The story on the long-neck protorosaur also was published in the Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other papers across the country.

    The University’s College Admissions’ essay questions were the focus of a story published in the Monday, Sept. 27 Chicago Sun-Times, which quoted Dean of College Admissions Ted O’Neill and students Maritza Mallek and Daniel Cadwell. The two College students also were photographed for the story that highlighted Chicago’s quirky essay questions, which have been used as part of the University’s admissions criteria since 1984. “The first time we asked one of these ‘weird’ questions, it was a revelation,” said O’Neill. “They gave us all kinds of answers. Some were scientific. Some were science fiction. Some were philosophical. It really opened doors.” The article also quoted Gerald Doyle, Associate Director of College Admissions and a Resident Head at Palmer House.

    Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, was quoted in a front-page Chicago Tribune article that appeared Sunday, Sept. 19. The article explored the current rise in the use of Internet blogs, where individuals create Web pages to voice their opinions on any given subject--often political in nature. Sunstein, who has written Republic.com, a book in which he asserts that getting news and information from the Internet creates a danger of getting unbalanced, biased information. “What worries me most is the fostering of extremism and sometimes, hatred. If left-wing people are just reading left-wing blogs, they will end up thinking that Bush is basically a criminal, which no reasonable view can sustain. Or if people are reading only right-wing blogs, they will think Kerry is a traitor, and there’s no plausible view of that. Millions of Americans are being led to unjustified extremism as a result of paying attention to inaccurate and distorted information,” said Sunstein.

    New research on the Social Security system conducted by Austan Goolsbee, Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was featured in a Wednesday, Sept. 22 article published in The Wall Street Journal. Goolsbee found that President Bush’s push to create individual investment accounts in the Social Security system would hand financial services firms a windfall totaling $940 billion over 75 years. The New York Times and the Associated Press carried similar stories quoting Goolsbee’s research. The Associated Press story appeared in more than 100 newspapers from coast to coast. Goolsbee also wrote an op-ed in the Friday, Oct. 1 New York Times about the future of the pension system, noting that taxpayers could face a large bill “from corporations’ failure to put enough money into their pension funds.”

    Daniel Drezner, Assistant Professor in Political Science and the College, was interviewed and photographed for a Sunday, Sept. 19 Chicago Tribune story about personal blogs that academics have created to gain further exposure for their theories and ideas to a growing Internet audience. “Being a blogger is an outlet that taps into some of the reasons people go into academia in the first place,” namely to exchange ideas and perhaps to create change in the world, Drezner said. “And to have people read [the site]--that’s not a minor thing. There’s no way I’m ever going to have 5,500 people read anything I write for International Studies Quarterly.” Drezner also wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Wednesday, Sept. 29 New York Times. While the presidential candidates angle for votes over the issue of outsourcing jobs overseas, Drezner provides an analysis showing the issue is not the major problem it is believed to be. Among other examples, Drezner offered this one: “In 2002, only about 4 percent of the money directly invested by American companies overseas went to the developing countries that are most likely to account for outsourced jobs--and most of that money was concentrated in manufacturing.”

    Ed Blucher, Associate Professor in Physics and the College, Richard Kessler, Senior Research Associate in the Enrico Fermi Institute, and two of Blucher’s graduate students, Elizabeth Worcester and Erin Abouzaid, were photographed for a Wednesday, Sept. 29 Chicago Sun-Times article on their recent research on the coupling interaction of quarks. Sasha Glazov also was involved in the study to unravel the mystery of this quark puzzle by looking again at data collected from an earlier experiment. “We made much more precise measurements, and they disagreed by large amounts with the ones made before,” said Blucher. “The model really does seem to hold together. It’s like building a circumstantial case in court. Our results get rid of a nagging inconsistency in the evidence.”

    Susan Mayer, Dean of the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, and Robert Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in the Harris School, were interviewed on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program on Monday, Sept. 27. Mayer and Michael discussed the life of Irving Harris, whose contributions to the University’s Harris School helped to found the school. Harris’ legacy includes contributions to countless other institutions and projects that have significantly and positively benefited the lives of many children.

    Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science, was interviewed on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight on Monday, Sept. 27, for a program that examined the U.S. Senate race in the state of Illinois between Alan Keyes and Barack Obama, Senior Lecturer in the Law School.