August 14, 2008
Vol. 27 No. 20

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    Chicago In the News

    The Chronicle’s biweekly column Chicago 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 University News Office Web site: http://news.uchicago.edu.

       Photo by Jason Smith

    David Galenson

    Paint, by the numbers

    The New York Times featured an economist’s spin on ranking the great artworks of the 20th century in a Monday, Aug. 4 article. David Galenson, Professor in Economics and the College, took a statistical approach to the value of art by measuring how frequently an illustration of a work appeared in 33 textbooks published between 1990 and 2005. To Galenson, 20th-century art is unique because it is the only art to enter the marketplace and become a commodity. He awarded the most value to artists who break the rules. “Important artists are innovators whose work changes the practices of their successors,” Galenson writes in an upcoming book. “The greater the changes, the greater the artist.” Based on his research, Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” came in at No. 1 with 28 illustrations.

    At Games, all that glitters …

    As the summer Olympic Games kicked off, The New York Times examined the choice of China as the host country in a Sunday, Aug. 3 story that featured Olympic historian John MacAloon, Associate Dean of the Division of Social Sciences. The International Olympic Committee members believed in the power of the Olympics, just as awarding the 1988 Games to South Korea helped it transition to democracy. The question now is whether protests over China’s involvement in Tibet will divide, rather than unite the nation. “What they are counting on is that 20,000 reporters wandering around and China’s experience having hosted the world, would perhaps lead the central authorities to realize they can afford greater tolerance and discourse without descending into chaos,” said MacAloon. The IOC claims it helped spur change before—it lauded its part in ending apartheid by banning South Africa from the Games from 1964 to 1992.

    Explaining “global weirding”

    A Tuesday, Aug. 5 Chicago Tribune article on local gardeners tracking possible “global weirding” reinforces research by Justin Borevitz, Assistant Professor in Ecology & Evolution. The article detailed Chicago suburbanites who have observed climate change from their homes and neighborhood gardens, where many have noticed species sprouting unseasonably early. Borevitz found wild mustard plants north of Madison, Wis., sprouting during a warm January last year. “That usually doesn’t happen unless it’s the southern varieties around North Carolina or Tennessee.” Area residents are part of a new nationwide research program called Project BudBurst, which asks “citizen scientists” to join scientists in tracking plants.

    Truth shrouded in secrecy

    Lindsey O’Rourke, a second-year Ph.D. student in Political Science, examined the recent spike in female Iraqi suicide bombers in an article published in the Saturday, Aug. 2 The New York Times. O’Rourke surveyed known female suicide attacks throughout the world since 1981 and compared that information with data from the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. O’Rourke found that the motives of female attackers are similar to men’s, and that there is no simple demographic profile for attackers. She also found that stories of young, psychologically disturbed women coerced into attacks are exaggerated, as is assigning blame to Islamic fundamentalists. “Moreover, since female attacks are considered especially shocking, they are more likely to generate significant news media attention for both domestic and foreign audiences,” she wrote. O’Rourke discovered that women suicide bombers are motivated by revenge against slain family members, or they simply are defending their home countries.

    Chilling children’s stories

    The Chicago Sun-Times talked to grade-schoolers and interviewed Michael Woolley, Assistant Professor in Social Services, about the effects of gun violence in city neighborhoods. The firsthand accounts illustrated the fear many students face daily, following a year in which 36 Chicago Public Schools students were killed. The interviewers found that students rarely left their homes to play with family members or friends, for fear of gangs or guns. Woolley said that, in turn, affects children in school. “Kids who are exposed to violence in neighborhoods perform worse in school, they get worse grades, they have worse behaviors,” Woolley said. The University recently announced it would team with the City of Chicago to help reduce youth crime through an initiative called the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

    Medical Center makes another first

    University Medical Center doctors became the first to perform a heart procedure using a device never before used on a human, according to the Sunday, Aug. 3 Daily Herald. On Monday, June 16, an 80-year-old suburban woman suffering from atrial fibrillation underwent surgery in which surgeons used the NRG Transseptal Needle, burning a small hole into the wall of her heart. The procedure could become the new standard of care. “In a few years, hopefully we’ll look back and think how silly it was the way we were poking needles through like that,” said Bradley Knight, Director and Professor of Electrophysiology and Cardiology. The estimated cost to a patient with private insurance is $40,000, but the cost could be even higher initially.

    Chronicling Latinos

    Emilio Kouri, Associate Professor in History, has started writing a bi-weekly column about Latinos and their history in the City of Chicago and the United States for the Chicago Tribune’s Spanish-language newspaper HOY. Kouri’s debut column on Friday, July 25, spoke to the importance of the rights afforded Latinos by their long presence in Chicago. His latest column, published Friday, Aug. 8, focused on earlier waves of repatriation and deportation of Mexicans, particularly during the Depression. Kouri also is the Director of the Katz Center for Mexican Studies at the University.

    Putting a cork in counterfeiting

    Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have created a device to prevent the counterfeiting of premium wines, according to an article online at physorg.com. Members of Argonne’s Vulnerability Assessment Team created a cap wired with a small circuit to indicate bottle tampering. “One of the biggest problems for buyers of very expensive wines at auctions is that they have no way of being absolutely sure if the bottle contains the wine it purports to without actually opening the bottle and taking a swig,” said researcher Steve Johnston. By connecting the cap to a USB cable, the consumer or auctioneer can check whether the bottle has been opened or “reconditioned,” a process in which a newer vintage is blended in to create longer shelf life.