March 31, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 13

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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/.

    Bruce Lahn, Assistant Professor in Human Genetics and Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, was interviewed for a story published in the Sunday, March 13 Chicago Tribune. The article described some of the recent advancements in genetics and how current research could lead to heightened human intelligence. Lahn, who has studied the human brain’s evolution and discovered a number of the genes that caused accelerated growth of this complex organ millions of years ago, noted that it will take many years before humans can genetically engineer intelligence. “I have no doubt that humans are someday going to muck around with their own genes, even by introducing new genes, but it’s going to take a while,” he said. Nevertheless, the human brain will naturally become smarter because of evolutionary pressures that favor survival of smarter brain genes. “These genes are still evolving in the sense that within human populations there are still mutations that are arising that make some people a little smarter than others,” said Lahn.

    A story about an excavation that Shannon Dawdy, Assistant Professor in Anthropology and the College, is conducting in New Orleans was published in The Times-Picayune Sunday, March 6. Dawdy, who currently is a visiting scholar at the University of New Orleans, is overseeing an archaeological dig on the city’s Conti Street in the French Quarter. Members of the Historic New Orleans Collection, which owns the property, knew that two successive 19th-century hotels had occupied the site and commissioned the dig. The site holds promise for possible clues about the New Orleans institution made famous in the song “House of the Rising Sun.” The items Dawdy found indicate that the structure is “looking impressively like a bordello.” She also found pieces of prehistoric American-Indian pottery that date between 1200 and 1700. She said the artifacts suggest a “sustained occupation” by Indians on the site, which has never been speculated prior to her discoveries.

    Barbara Schneider, Professor in Sociology and Director of the Data Research and Development Center at the University, appeared on NBC Nightly News Thursday, March 17, to comment on steroid use among teen-agers.

    Xiaobing Tang, Associate Professor in East Asian Languages & Civilizations, was a guest on the WBEZ-FM Radio program 848, Wednesday, March 16. Tang discussed themes in modern-day Chinese cinema and what they suggest about life in contemporary China. Tang was interviewed in conjunction with the film festival “China Through Her Own Eyes,” taking place that weekend in Chicago.

    Tanya Luhrmann, the Max Palevsky Professor in Human Development and the College, was quoted in a Thursday, March 24 New York Times article that reported on the grieving Chippewa Indians in Red Lake, Minn. Luhrmann, an anthropologist, commented on the cultural practices of the Chippewa tribe and how its withdrawal from the public eye contrasts with what many Americans view as the appropriate or expected way to grieve such a tragedy: a public, collective grief. “It’s thought to be important to cry, to explode—we think that that’s authentic, that that’s healthy,” said Luhrmann. “And the community response is less public and less dramatic than Americans have come to think people should be.”

    Mark Courtney, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and Director of Chapin Hall Center for Children, was quoted in a Friday, March 18 Chicago Tribune story about children under state care who run away repeatedly and how that behavior is increasing in Illinois. The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University conducted a study and released the results, which showed that the likelihood of repeat runaways doubled between 1998 and 2003. Courtney said many of these children in state care need to establish normalcy and autonomy. “Living in the child welfare system, under the best of circumstances, is not the same as being a ‘normal kid.’ There are things that the average teen-ager gets to do like participate in extracurricular activities, and sometimes foster youths aren’t part of it because they’re never in a place long enough.” The study also showed that girls are 40 percent more likely to run away than boys, and that black and Hispanic youths are more likely to run away than whites. WBBM-AM Radio, WGN-AM Radio and WBEZ-FM Radio also carried reports on the Chapin Hall study.

    Jacquelynne Corey, Associate Professor in Surgery, was quoted in an article in the Wednesday, March 16 Chicago Tribune. The article described a condition in which a person’s vocal cords atrophy, causing the person to have a weaker and breathier voice. Two surgical procedures, one requiring injections and another implants, often must be performed because voice therapy may not sufficiently solve the problem.

    Reporting on the environmental threat of global warming, a United Press International story carried on the news wire service Monday, March 21, quoted David Archer, Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the College. Archer has studied the physical processes around the life cycle of human-generated carbon dioxide, which he has calculated remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, while 25 percent will always remain. “I calculate a mean lifetime, from the sum of all the processes, of about 30,000 years. That’s a deceptive number, because it is so strongly influenced by the immense longevity of that long tail. If one is forced to simplify reality into a single number for popular discussion, several hundred years is a sensible number to choose because it tells three-quarters of the story, and the part of the story which applies to our own lifetimes.”

    Nathan Tarcov, Professor in Social Thought; Robert Pippin, the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor in Social Thought; and Danielle Allen, Dean of the Division of the Humanities, discussed the work of the Committee on Social Thought on the WGN-AM Radio program Extension 720 on Thursday, March 17. Leading the two-hour discussion was host Milton Rosenberg, Professor Emeritus in Psychology and the College.