November 3, 2004: Notebook
When W. Carlisle Herbert ’69 returned to campus for his 35th reunion last May, his aunt, Katherine Linton Eyre, made a simple request. She asked him to find out if her brother, Josiah Linton, had ever received a graduate degree from Princeton. Herbert was puzzled that his aunt did not know the answer to this question, but he agreed to check it out, beginning a brief but memorable journey into the history of the University and of his family.
Linton, Herbert discovered, was not listed in the alumni directory. But he knew that Uncle Joe had been at Princeton. After all, it was he who had introduced Herbert’s parents, on a fateful autumn day at the tennis courts near the Graduate College. T. Walter Herbert *35, Herbert’s mother would later recall, was “the most gentlemanly man” she had ever met.
Following the advice of Sandra Sussman, assistant to the dean of the Graduate School, Herbert went to Mudd Library to locate Linton’s student file. Inside, a transcript revealed that Josiah Linton *39 received his master’s degree in English in 1934 and returned to complete his Ph.D. in 1939. Linton died young, succumbing to colon cancer in 1941, and Herbert knew only basic information about his uncle: He was bright and energetic; he taught English and acted in plays. In the student file, Herbert caught a glimpse of Linton’s sense of humor. On a form asking what salary he expected to earn from teaching, he had answered, “a poor one.”
The file also revealed what Herbert believes was the reason Linton had never boasted to his younger sister about his Ph.D.: At the time of his death, he still owed the University $150 in student loans. Herbert’s grandfather, the pastor of a church in Philadelphia, wrote to the University to acknowledge the debt, just one week after his son’s death, and the University replied, offering sympathy and promising to hold the note in abeyance. “Princeton acted with a sort of graciousness, a sense of generosity,” Herbert says.
Photocopies in hand, Herbert returned to Reunions activities, but before he left campus, he made a decision. He would repay Princeton’s faith. He would repay the loan.
Herbert consulted New Jersey statutes to calculate a proper interest rate, and in early June, he mailed a check for $753, along with a letter of explanation, to the University treasurer. The payment will be used to aid graduate students in need. The University also corrected its oversight, adding Linton to its roll of graduates. And Aunt Kate received the answer she hoped to hear.
“My aunt is just delighted,” Herbert says. “Her brother got a graduate degree from Princeton! This is no small thing. She’s proud of her older brother.”
Emeritus professor David Gross and Frank Wilczek *75, one of his former graduate students, received the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics for explaining the force that holds the parts of an atomic nucleus together — a discovery first explained in a 1973 paper they published while working together at Princeton. H. David Politzer, a professor at the California Institute of Technology who published similar insights in 1973, shared the prize, which was awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Oct. 5.
In studying quarks, the particles that make up protons and neutrons, Gross and Wilczek found interesting properties in the “strong force” between the particles. When quarks are close to each other, the force is so weak that they behave almost as free particles. When the quarks move apart, the force becomes stronger as the distance increases. The property is comparable to a rubber band: The more the band is stretched, the stronger the force. The discovery, according to a Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences statement, “brought physics one step closer to fulfilling a grand dream, to formulate a unified theory comprising gravity as well — a theory for everything.”
At a press conference on the day of the announcement, Gross said that the defining experience in his work was seeing experiments definitively prove the theory that he and Wilczek had proposed. “The happiest moment in science is when you realize that nature has conferred an honor on you by confirming your predictions,” he said. “The Nobel committee is not as meaningful, to me at least, as nature. It comes close, though.”
Gross, the Thomas D. Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics, transferred to emeritus status in 1997 after 28 years on the Princeton faculty. He now serves as director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California—Santa Barbara. Wilczek, who taught at Princeton from 1974 to 1981 and later spent 11 years at the Institute for Advanced Study, teaches physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The two professors join an illustrious group of more than a dozen physics Nobel laureates with Princeton connections, including 1979 prize-winner Steven Weinberg *57; 1993 recipients Joseph H. Taylor, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, and Russell Hulse, principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory; and 1998 recipient Daniel C. Tsui, the Arthur Legrand Doty Professor of Electrical Engineering.
Supply and demand
What does the public know about economic policy, and how does it know it? Economics professors Alan Blinder ’67 and Alan Krueger, who surveyed a random sample of more than 1,000 voting-age Americans, found that the public shows a strong desire to be informed about major economic policy issues, and that, on average, respondents have a reasonable grasp of the facts. Television is the most popular source of economic news, followed by newspapers and the Internet. But information, Blinder and Krueger say, does not necessarily translate to rational opinions on policy. With certain exceptions, the study found that ideology matters most in shaping opinions, self-interest matters least, and knowledge about the economy is somewhere in between.
Terror on the roads
Terrorist attacks in Israel generate a temporary lull in light traffic accidents, followed by a 35-percent increase in fatal car accidents three days after an attack, according to a study by Princeton sociology professor Joshua Goldstein and Guy Stecklov of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Oct. 5, suggest that terrorism has broad behavioral effects on the general population, at least in the short term. While drivers may be courteous shortly after an attack, the delayed reaction to psychosocial stress is often more forceful. Driving behavior, the authors note, is linked to aggression, stress, and frustration.
The University Art Museum is showcasing its vast collection in a major exhibition of American drawings and watercolors that runs through Jan. 9, 2005. The show includes 77 works by artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe (“Narcissa’s Last Orchid,” left), Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Benjamin West, Thomas Eakins, and Claes Oldenburg. Professor John Wilmerding, one of the organizers, described the show as a “solid survey of 200 years of art,” noting that it starts in 1780 and continues into the 1980s. Called “West to Wesselmann: American Drawings and Watercolors in the Princeton University Art Museum,” the exhibition marks the publication of the first volume of an illustrated catalog of museum holdings. For information, call (609) 258-3788.
“Portraits of the Lost Generation,” a show of photographs taken by Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Gisele Freund, and others, opens in the main gallery of Firestone Library Nov. 8. The photographs, taken in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, along with memoirs and manuscript items, illuminate the lives and times of the expatriate American artistic community following World War I. The exhibition runs through April 17, 2005.
The fall football lecture series, sponsored by the Alumni Council, concludes with two lectures this month. Assistant professor of history D. Graham Burnett ’93 speaks on “Mapping a Sea of Fire: Moby Dick and the History of Science” before the Penn game on Saturday, Nov. 6. On Saturday, Nov. 20, before the Dartmouth game, David Wilcove ’85, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, will lecture on “Putting Woodpeckers in the Bank ... and Other Strange, New Approaches to Protecting Endangered Species on Private Property.” Both lectures start at 10 a.m. in 101 McCormick Hall.
Robert L. Geddes, the first dean of the School of Architecture, will be honored Nov. 13 with a conference on the school and the future of architectural education. The free event will run from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the school’s Betts Auditorium; a reception follows. Call (609) 258-3641 for information.
If demography really is destiny, then Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies emeritus, has stirred controversy by pointing out the destiny that may be awaiting Europe: a Muslim majority by the end of this century.
Lewis made his remarks in a wide-ranging interview with the German newspaper Die Welt on July 28. Asked whether the European Union could become a counterweight to the United States, Lewis said no. While suggesting that China, India, and Russia might exert global influence over the coming decades, Lewis predicted that Europe would instead become “part of the Arab West, the Maghreb.” Noting the tendency of Europeans to marry late and have few children, combined with increasing immigration from Turkey and the Middle East, Lewis concluded by saying that, “according to current trends, Europe will have a Muslim majority in the population by the end of the 21st century.”
His remarks were seized upon by European politicians as cause for alarm as the European Union considers the admission of Turkey as a member state and continues to wrestle with assimilating its already substantial Muslim population. In a speech at the University of Leiden in September, Dutch politician Frits Bolkestein cited Lewis’ remarks while warning that the EU would “implode” if it expanded too quickly. A few days later, the Financial Times printed a letter written by Franz Fischler, the European agriculture commissioner, in which he warned of a “fundamentalist backlash” should the EU admit Turkey, which he described as “far more Oriental than European.”
European consternation about its changing demography is rooted in its colonial history, says Jean-Toussaint Leca, a visiting professor of politics, which has instilled in Europeans a sense that Muslims are alien and unassimilable. While not disputing the current demographic trends, Leca says that the implicit argument, that Muslim immigrants to Europe will also import more radical, theologically based politics, need not come to pass. “That argument leaves out the important question,” Leca says. “What kind of Muslims will they be?”
Professor John G. Gager Jr. takes a break from the classroom to scale the climbing wall at the armory. The climbing wall, a 35-foot-high imitation rock face, was first built in 1983 and has been expanded over the years. It is managed by Outdoor Action, which offers introductory classes and instructors to help both novices and experienced climbers work on their technique. “I climb there regularly,” says Gager, the William H. Danforth Professor of Religion.
Broadcasting live from Ellipse Hall, it’s WPRB
After 56 years in the basement of Holder Hall, WPRB, the student-run radio station, has moved to new quarters in the basement of the ellipse dorm.
The move, made necessary by the renovation of Holder, had been in the works for several years and was completed in early June. At first the University considered closing the station altogether during the Holder renovations, and later hoped to house it temporarily in the armory, said Bill Rosenblatt ’83, president of the WPRB board of trustees. Once planners saw how much work would be needed to configure a usable broadcasting space, the decision was made to relocate WPRB permanently.
The new space was designed by Shen Milsom Wilke, which has designed facilities for TV and radio stations around the world, as well as the new recital hall at Carnegie Hall. At 2,700 square feet, WPRB’s new studios are slightly smaller than those in Holder, but better configured. “It’s a specially designed, contiguous space, not just a bunch of existing rooms up and down a corridor, so it’s much more useful,” Rosenblatt explained.
In addition to two on-air studios and a performance space for live bands, the station’s new home includes a sound production room, sales offices, lounge, and a new, silent cooling system that eliminates the heat and humidity that anyone who ever visited the Holder basement remembers with a shudder.
The greatest improvement, though, is one only a DJ could appreciate: a space-efficient music library, with rolling shelves that provide three times the storage space for the station’s huge music collection while taking up only a third of the room. “We were so crowded in Holder that if you wanted to add a new CD to the shelves, you had to take a couple of CDs off to make room for it,” said Dan Ruccia ’05, WPRB’s music director.
The basement of the ellipse dorm also houses rehearsal space for a number of campus musical groups, including several a cappella singing groups. DJs can see and be seen by their fellow students on the way to rehearsal or the laundry room, thanks to a large window at the front of the studio that resembles the sets for the Today Show or Good Morning America.
The move is the third in the station’s history. According to A Princeton Companion, WPRB (or WPRU, as it was originally known) was founded in 1940 by Henry G. Theis ’42 in his dorm room at 441 Pyne Hall, broadcasting for three hours a day. Shortly after the move to Holder in 1946, the studios were overrun one night by road-tripping students from New Haven who briefly seized control of the microphones and broadcast Yale fight songs until Princeton students drove them out.
Because the station was getting new equipment in its new Holder space, the biggest part of last summer’s move was transferring its collection of music — almost 15,000 record albums and a comparable number of CDs. According to Ruccia, the station signed off the air a few hours early on the night of the move, but was back broadcasting at its new location by the time the next shift started.
A few fleeting moments of nostalgia aside, though, Ruccia does not miss the cramped, damp rabbit warren the station had occupied for so long in Holder.
“It was great to have that sense of history, that this place had been there forever, “ he said, “but a change was necessary.”
“Welcome to the land of the losers. … The only social justice movements worth fighting for are the ones where you first lose, and you lose and you lose until you win.”
Ralph Nader ’55, answering a question about why he chose to run in a presidential race he had no chance of winning. Nader’s Oct. 14 lecture was sponsored by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society.
“Those who dismiss George Bush as a poorly educated, deliberately lying, clueless boob, and those on the other hand who dismiss John Kerry as weak-willed and pandering, are violating a cardinal rule of politics: You have to be both passionate and dispassionate.”
Former Congressman Mickey Edwards, a Princeton lecturer in public and international affairs, at an Oct. 6 panel discussion on what was at stake in the 2004 presidential campaign. Bitterness between parties, Edwards said, may be the defining characteristic of this year’s presidential race.
Responding to rising costs and a disappointing lack of interest from faculty members and alumni, Princeton’s Education Technology Center (ETC) has decided to stop creating new programs for its free, online studies series, @Princeton courseware. Existing courses will continue to be available.
The @Princeton courseware programs, available at http://tigernet.princeton.edu/Education/, enable alumni to study game theory with mathematician John Nash *50 or take interactive walks in Rome with art and archaeology professor John Pinto, for example, all from the comfort of their living rooms. But Serge Goldstein, director of academic services in the Office of Information Technology, said the courseware was expensive to produce and distribute, and did not receive the anticipated level of faculty support. Younger faculty were reluctant to spend time developing courses they did not think would help them toward tenure and that were not recognized as serious scholarship within the academic community, Goldstein said, while tenured faculty found that the courses did not mesh well with what they were already teaching on campus. “There was little payoff for them,” Goldstein said. Nor was alumni interest as high as expected. “Many people would sign up for the courses but would not follow through,” Goldstein said.
Hoping to give alumni a greater taste of what takes place on campus, ETC plans to increase the number of lectures and special events streamed on the Internet. Those events, ranging from broadcasts of Princeton football games to lectures to coverage of Alumni Day and Commencement activities, can be viewed online at www.Princeton.edu/webmedia.
At the same time, the Alumni Council is planning some changes in its alumni-education programs. Alumni Studies courses – which in the past lasted 12 weeks – will be offered again in the spring, and are likely to include shorter programs, according to Council Director Margaret M. Miller ’80. The Council also has begun to expand its popular travel-education program, now known as Princeton Journeys, with a goal of conducting as many as 20 such trips each year, she said. Plans for 2005 include trips to Baja California, New Zealand, and Russia, as well as a tour of Civil War battlefields with history professor emeritus James McPherson.
The University’s Department of Public Safety reported modest decreases in several categories of crime in its annual campus-security report. Judicial referrals for liquor-law violations dropped from 46 in 2002 to 27 in 2003, but liquor-law arrests on public property rose from eight to 38. Burglaries and motor-vehicle thefts declined in the same period. Forcible sex offenses increased, from eight to 10. The full report is available online at web.princeton.edu/sites/publicsafety/CSR2004.
The Committee on the Freshman-Year Social Experience recently presented its report on how University programs relate to freshman social life, and several recommendations already have been implemented. According to Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan, who chaired the committee, focus groups voiced concerns about overloading freshmen. In discussing orientation, students said they wanted fewer lecture events and more interactive social functions. The committee’s final report is available online at www.princeton.edu/~vp/cpuc/Freshman_Year_Social_Experience_Report.htm.
Maria Chudnovsky *03, left, a Veblen research instructor in mathematics, and Claire Gmachl, an associate professor of electrical engineering, were named to Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” list of young scientists. Chudnovsky and her Princeton adviser, Professor Paul Seymour, solved a problem that had stumped generations of mathematicians, known as the strong perfect-graph conjecture. The problem concerns the fundamental properties of any network, such as a phone system. Gmachl came to Princeton in 2003 from Bell Labs, where she pioneered the development of a practical version of a device known as a quantum cascade laser, which could someday be used to detect biological and chemical weapons.