May 25, 2006
Vol. 25 No. 17

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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.

    Yali Amit, Professor in Statistics, Computer Science and the College, commented in the Friday, May 12 Chicago Tribune on the phone call records the National Security Agency has been collecting and whether or not that information is useful for finding potential terrorists. The calling patterns NSA officials say they are looking for in the data may not be enough information to determine terrorist activity, say some computer science experts, because artificial intelligence is not the same as human detectives. “They have records of millions of innocent people and perhaps a few thousand terrorists who might make phone calls. The size of the data set of interest—the terrorists—is too small. You get reliability rates that make the whole endeavor pretty ridiculous,” said Amit.

    Richard Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Monday, May 15 Wall Street Journal. Epstein wrote about the Institute of Medicine’s recent report on reforms in the organ donation system, calling it narrow-minded, unimaginative and a big disappointment. Epstein argued that financial incentives for organ donors would meet the organ demand and save many lives. But the IOM and other similar groups that make recommendations to the government dismiss such incentives, wrote Epstein, because they believe altruistic motives for donations would end and people would view organs as commodities. “Only a bioethicist could prefer a world in which we have 1,000 altruists per annum and over 6,500 excess deaths over one in which we have no altruists and no excess deaths,” Epstein wrote.

    Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science in the Graduate School of Business, was quoted in a Tuesday, May 16 USA Today story about the rising fuel prices and the possibility of Americans conserving gasoline. The article pointed out that some psychologists report that Americans are unlikely to conserve and two human behaviors affect that outcome. Epley explained: “In many ways, this is an insurmountable problem. There is no simple solution to get people to change their driving. People adapt to all states of affairs, positive and negative, and more quickly than they think If gas were to go up from $2 a gallon to $3 a gallon overnight, we’d be up in arms. But it goes up a couple of cents each time you go to the pumps, and pretty soon it’s $3 and we think, ‘Yeah, that’s what gas costs.’ And conservation of any kind is tough for people to take. It requires losing something, cutting out part of their lifestyles,” he said.

    Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, Philosophy and the Divinity School, was a guest on Philosophy Talk, an hour-long public radio show that airs in California and Oregon. Nussbaum discussed justice, intervention and international borders on the program, which aired Tuesday, May 9.

    Research conducted by Dario Maestripieri, Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and the College, was the subject of stories reported by the Associated Press, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune and published Wednesday, May 10. Maestripieri led a study that revealed women subconsciously pick up cues from men’s faces that indicate men’s levels of interest in infants as well as their testosterone levels. The women’s attractiveness judgments about the men in the study showed they were attracted to the males interested in infants for long-term relationships and to the more masculine men for short-term relationships.

    Erik Hurst, Associate Professor of Economics in the GSB was quoted in a Thursday, May 11 Chicago Sun-Times article that reported on the increase in the U.S. interest rate by the Federal Reserve Bank. Hurst said the increase serves as a brake on inflation. “My belief is if oil prices keep going up, the Fed will keep raising interest rates. The primary bank’s job is to fight inflation. It’s important for the markets to believe the central bank is credible.”

    Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and the College, was quoted in the Monday, May 15 issue of Newsweek magazine. The article reported on the increasing high risk for HIV among African Americans (51 percent of newly diagnosed cases), and especially among African-American women who are diagnosed at 20 times the rate of white women. Cohen, the author of The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University Press, 1999), said that AIDS “is one of the greatest crises threatening the black community. It’s the life and death of black people.”

    Waverly Deutsch, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship in the GSB, was interviewed for a Tuesday, May 16 Chicago Tribune story about how entrepreneurs can successfully market their ideas and turn them into businesses. Deutsch discussed some of the common mistakes people often make as they work through the marketing process. Deutsch noted that the inventor first should recognize that he or she is the best person to pitch the product; second, the inventor should start out with smaller partners to work out pricing and production issues before considering licensing and larger distribution channels; and third, he or she should never underestimate the role of luck. “It really is a process that involves a little bit of luck. It’s so important to entrepreneurs.”

    The University’s WHPK FM-88.5 radio station was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s arts and entertainment section Sunday, May 14. Even with a low 100-watt signal that cannot compare to Chicago’s commercial FM stations, WHPK has had a strong impact on hip-hop music. According to the Tribune, WHPK’s rap programming, which began in 1984, has influenced the South Side’s deejays, producers, musicians and fans alike, going back to the days when legendary deejay JP Chill (John Schauer) began broadcasting his show. This year marks the deejay’s 20th consecutive year at the station. Said JP Chill: “I play stuff you won’t hear everywhere else, about 80 percent of it is new.”