April 14, 2005
Vol. 24 No. 14

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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/.

    Sean Carroll, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College, was quoted extensively in a Sunday, March 27 Chicago Tribune story that featured the scientific legacy of Albert Einstein. The five revolutionary theories Einstein published in 1905—his miracle year—are being honored in 2005, as scientists across the globe observe the 100th anniversary of his breakthrough year. This year also is the 50th anniversary of Einstein’s death. “Einstein became famous not because he had fuzzy hair and was a likable guy, but because he really did have a tremendous influence on what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years,” said Carroll. “I often say without fear of being contradicted that general relativity is the most beautiful theory ever devised in the history of physics,” he added. “It was really Einstein’s theory that made contemporary cosmology possible.”

    Richard Rosengarten, Dean of the Divinity School and Associate Professor in the Divinity School and the College, was a guest on Spike O’Dell’s morning show, which aired Monday, April 4, on WGN-Radio. Rosengarten, who was interviewed by O’Dell about Pope John Paul II’s life and legacy, also took questions about the Pope from call-in listeners. Rosengarten also was interviewed the day after the Pope died, Sunday, April 3, on the WGN station.

    The research of Lawrence Grossman, Professor in Geophysical Sciences and the College, and Denton Ebel of the American Museum of Natural History, offers scientists a new theory that explains the chemistry of the asteroid impact believed to have killed off the dinosaurs and other species 65 million years ago. The Chicago Sun-Times featured that research in an article published Monday, March 28. Their research proposes that the asteroid’s molten droplets must have condensed from the cooling vapor cloud that girdled the Earth after the impact. Grossman described the fireball that rose into the stratosphere. “This giant impact not only crushes the rock and melts the rock, but a lot of the rock vaporizes. That vapor is very hot and expands outward from the point of impact, cooling and expanding as it goes. As it cools, the vapor condenses as little droplets and rains out over the whole Earth.” Their conclusions are based on the study of spinel, a mineral rich in magnesium, iron and nickel contained within the droplets.

    Richard Thaler, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Behavioral Science & Economics in the Graduate School of Business, and Richard Posner, Senior Lecturer in the Law School, were both quoted in an article that appeared in the Tuesday, March 29 New York Times. The article reported on the multitude of product choices American consumers have, from cell-phone services to toothpaste brands. While those who support free markets also value choices and a consumer’s “right” to make them, others argue that too many choices is not always good for people, and that the government should limit people’s choices. Posner disagrees that the government should have that authority: “The notion of entrusting a bureaucrat with the power over people’s choices is inauthentic in a particularly offensive way.” Thaler pointed out that people need to understand their options. “People have to know what their preferences are, and they have to know how the options they have map onto their preferences,” he said. The article also mentioned that Thaler and Cass Sunstein, the Karl N. Lewellyn Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, have suggested that an employer or the government should be able to set boundaries to choice in order to achieve desired social objectives, an approach they call “libertarian paternalism.”

    A new column in The Wall Street Journal called Giving Back featured the University’s recent gift from the estate of the late Katharine Graham (A.B.,’38), a former University Life Trustee. The $5.5 million gift, plus an additional undisclosed sum, came from a charitable trust Graham had set up before her death in 2001. The column mentioned that $4 million of the gift supports the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts program and will fund four new Katharine Graham Fellowships. (The Chronicle published a story on the Graham estate gift in the Feb. 3, 2005 issue.)

    Nicholas Rudall, Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures, was interviewed on the WBEZ-Radio program 848 about his production of Murder in the Cathedral at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Rudall also performed an excerpt from the play on the Friday, April 1 broadcast.

    James Schrager, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship & Strategic Management in the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed for a story published in the Wednesday, March 30 Chicago Tribune. The article reported on the pioneering company TiVo, which launched its digital video recorder in 1999 and quickly became the market leader. Now that leadership is threatened as TiVo faces increasing competition, which could result in the company’s product becoming a commodity. Schrager said that depends on how well a company has protected its technology. “If you can’t [protect your technology], you’re just educating the market about a great product,” said Schrager.

    A brief article and images about the splash research conducted by University scientists Lei Xu, a graduate student in Physics, Wendy Zhang, Assistant Professor in Physics and the College, and Sidney Nagel, the Stein-Freiler Distinguished Service Professor in Physics and the College, were published in the New York Times Tuesday, April 5, in the paper’s Science Times section. Following meticulous experiments recorded by stop-action photography, the scientists discovered that liquids dropped onto a flat surface at low air pressures do not splash, as they normally do, but rather flatten out and flow away.