April 27, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 15

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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/. If you are aware of news articles that feature the University or its faculty, students and/or alumni, feel free to bring them to the attention of the Chronicle editor to be considered for In the News. News clips may be sent to ldavis@uchicago.edu.

    Research conducted by Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, both Assistant Professors in Geophysical Sciences and the College, was the subject of an ABC News article published Wednesday, April 19, at abcnews.com. Eshel and Martin studied the amount of fossil fuel energy required to support five different American diets, and concluded that a vegetarian diet is the least likely to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions in the environment. A red meat diet required the most energy, with the seafood diet, especially one that relies heavily on sword, shark and tuna fish, just slightly more energy efficient than the red meat. “The seafood portion of American diets is heavily skewed toward what is called charismatic predator fish. Sword, shark, tuna and so on require long-distance ocean journeys, and those efforts are not efficient. They require a lot of labor and a lot of fossil fuel,” said Eshel. How much of an impact would following a vegetarian diet instead of a red meat diet have on the environment? “It is comparable to the difference between driving an SUV and driving a reasonable sedan.”

    Edward Laumann, the George Herbert Mead Distinguished Service Professor in Sociology and the College, who led a study on sexual satisfaction of men and women living in 29 countries, including the United States, was interviewed about the study results for articles published Wednesday, April 19, in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune. In Austria, 71.4 percent of men and women reported sexual satisfaction, leading the 29 nations involved in the study. The United States came in fifth with 64.2 percent reporting satisfaction and Japan was last with 25.7 percent. The study also revealed that gender equity was a positive factor related to sexual satisfaction—the more equality between the sexes, the more satisfying the sex. Laumann said in the Chicago Tribune story that the results provide an important baseline for future studies. “Many more of us are going to have a life that goes into the 80s, so it behooves us to start asking these questions.”

    Shulamit Ran, the William H. Colvin Professor in Music and the College, was quoted in a Time Out Chicago story about the late composer Ralph Shapey, who died in 2003. Shapey’s music is becoming increasingly revered, as more contemporary players choose to perform his works, according to the article that appeared in the Thursday, April 6-13 edition. When Ran, an already successful composer herself, had approached Shapey for lessons while he was teaching at Chicago, she said he “dropped to the floor.” She said students had been raving about their lessons with Shapey, then a Professor in Music. “There was no reason for abstaining from an experience that would be enlightening,” she added. While many may still bemoan the 1992 dispute between the music jury and the Pulitzer Prize board over Shapey’s Concerto Fantastique receiving the prize in music—which it did not receive, many credit him for giving Chicago its jump start in the new- music scene.

    Mae Ngai, Associate Professor in History and author of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America, wrote an essay that appeared in The New York Times Tuesday, April 18. Ngai explained how San Francisco’s Chinese residents fought for Chinatown following the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Leading Chinese merchants voiced their intentions to rebuild on their property, and it was not until white city officials realized the potential economic loss in tax revenues that the opposition to Chinese rebuilding relented. “Perhaps more important, San Francisco risked losing the China trade, as Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle quickly offered their ports.”

    Charles Lipson, Professor in Political Science and the College, was a guest on WGN-AM radio Thursday, April 13, to discuss the prospects of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Lipson also was quoted in a Friday, April 14 Chicago Tribune story reporting on the situation in Iraq and how journalists are debating whether the “sectarian violence” there should be referred to as civil war. While they ponder giving the conflict such a potent label, there is little debate about the escalating violence. “There’s not a lot of debate between people calling it one thing and people calling it another about what’s actually going on there,” said Lipson. Pointing out that calling it a civil war implies it is uncontrollable, Lipson explained the political ramifications of using that term to describe the situation. “America does not want to be in the middle of a civil war. It will mark a kind of political failure of a long and expensive effort in both blood and treasure to restore stability because the more people think about what’s going on as a full-scale civil war, the less they will want to stay the course.”

    Young-Kee Kim, Professor in Physics and the College, was quoted in a Tuesday, April 18 New York Times story that reported on a subatomic particle called a neutral B meson that reverses its identity three trillion times per second. Kim told The New York Times: “Our real hope was for something bizarre.” An exciting discovery, the finding is one more step toward understanding why the universe is overwhelmingly matter and not anti-matter. A popular theory called supersymmetry would have the meson oscillating even more quickly than it does, but it showed no sign of supersymmetry. Kim noted that even though nature can be tough, physicists are just as tough in their search to understand the universe. “We keep fighting.”

    Douglas Lichtman, Professor in the Law School, was interviewed for a column published in MartketWatch, an online news and commentary Web site from DowJones. The columnist pointed out that as consumers garner more value from the Internet—with sites now offering the public streaming video of sporting events, movies and other services and freebies, those same consumers are willing to expose more private information on the Web. “There are more advantages of giving up privacy now than there used to be,” said Lichtman, who, 10 years ago, would not have given out information about the books he reads. “Today, if I let Amazon keep track of books, Amazon can suggest new books. My value is the same, but I’m willing to give up my privacy because I get an offsetting benefit.”

    Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics in the Graduate School of Business, was interviewed on CNN Headline News Friday, April 14, about his proposal to simplify the filing of personal income tax returns. He explained that since the Internal Revenue Service already possesses all the information needed to process the less-complex returns most taxpayers have, the IRS should send them completed tax forms that require their signatures. Goolsbee had described his proposal in an op-ed published in the Friday, April 7 New York Times. “For the cost of modernizing the computer matching system within the IRS and the Social Security Administration, we could eliminate the compliance burden for more than one-third of American taxpayers.” The Thursday, April 13 Wall Street Journal published a story on Goolsbee’s proposal, as well. With Peter Orszag of the Brookings Institution, Goolsbee is studying ways that the government could more easily prepare tax returns by using information technology. Their findings will be published later this year.