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November 1, 2010
Researchers at a number of institutions, including Charles Raison of the Department of Psychiatry at Emory, say that meditation can change brain circuitry, according to the CNN Belief Blog.
Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation, told CNN that he and his team have evidence that meditation permanently changes the brain for the better. “We all know that if you engage in certain kinds of exercise on a regular basis you can strengthen certain muscle groups in predictable ways,” said Davidson. “Strengthening neural systems is not fundamentally different. It’s basically replacing certain habits of mind with other habits.”
Davidson and his team have scanned the brain activity of scores of Buddhist monks and other meditators. In one recent study, they found that novice meditators stimulated their limbic systems – the brain’s emotional network – during the ancient practice of compassion meditation. Davidson said that was not a big surprise, because one aim of compassion meditation is to produce the specific emotional state of intense empathy. Buddhist monks who have meditated for more than 10,000 hours showed much higher limbic system activation.
Contemplative neuroscience, the field of neuroscience that studies the effects of meditation, is not without controversy. The article stated that “scientists have scanned just a few hundred brains on meditation do date, which makes for a pretty small research sample.” And some scientists say researchers are over eager to use brain science to prove the that meditation ‘works.’
Recently, the field has gained increased funding from the National Institutes of Health, some of which has gone to Emory. “This is a field that has been populated by true believers,” says Emory's Charles Raison, who has studied meditation’s effect on the immune system. “Many of the people doing this research are trying to prove scientifically what they already know from experience, which is a major flaw.”
To read the entire article, click here.
October 14, 2010
Baby boomers appear to be driving a dramatic rise in suicide rates among middle-aged people, according to a study co-authored by Emory sociologist Ellen Idler.
“The findings are disturbing, because they’re a reversal of a long-standing trend,” Idler says. The findings were published in the September/October 2020 issue of Public Health Reports.
The overall suicide rate for the U.S. population has been declining for decades, according to Idler. People aged 40 to 59, in particular, have long had a moderate suicide rate. But the baby boomers, people born between 1945 and 1964, have broken that pattern. By 2000, most people aged 40 to 59 were baby boomers and the suicide rate started climbing steadily in that age range.
The authors found significant increases of more than 2 percent per year for men and more than 3 percent per year for women from 1999 to 2005. (By 2005, all middle-aged people were baby boomers.) The post-1999 increase has been particularly dramatic for those who are unmarried and those without a college degree, the analysis showed. Middle-aged people with a college degree appeared largely protected from the trend.
The baby boomers also experienced higher suicide rates during their adolescence and young adulthood, doubling the rate for those age groups at the time. Their suicide rate then declined slightly and stabilized, before beginning to increase again in midlife.
“You might think that the higher rates in adolescence would lead to lower rates later because the most suicide prone people would be gone but that doesn’t appear to be the case,” Idler says. “Clinical studies often show that knowing someone who committed suicide is considered a risk factor for later doing it yourself, and that may be one factor here. The high rates in adolescence could actually be contributing to the high rates in middle age.”
Traditionally, midlife has been considered a time when people are at their peak of social integration. “We need to pay attention to this new increase in suicides during a period of life previously thought to be stable and relatively protected from suicide, and in an age group now occupied by extraordinarily large numbers of people,” Idler says.
September 24, 2010
In the August 31 issue of The Washington Post, Manoj Jain, an infectious disease specialist an adjunct assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health, wrote about his experience of being sued for malpractice. Right after he read the notice that a malpractice suit was being considered, Jain was stunned: “My white coat, which held the daily tools of my profession — my list of patients, the Sanford antibiotic manual, a black stethoscope — felt extraordinarily heavy.” The patient had died about a year earlier, but Jain couldn’t recall him or his own “alleged misdeed.”
He wondered if he “had I missed a lab test among the hundreds that I order each week? Had I failed to read a blood culture report? Had some error of mine resulted in his death?” He pored over the charts, his pulse racing and his palms moist. But he couldn’t find anything that suggested negligence. Yet he still stood accused.
Jain noted that, according to a 2004 review in the New England Journal of Medicine, most malpractice suits are filed against doctors who were not at fault, and that “some researchers have likened our malpractice system to a traffic cop who gives out a hundred tickets to nab seventeen drivers who have run a red light, in the process ticketing eight-three who drove through a green light quite properly.”
Almost immediately, the threat of being sued had an impact on Jain’s clinical decisions: “The next day, I was considering whether to order a CT scan for a hospital patient experiencing abdominal pain. On the one hand, I did not think the scan would reveal anything significant, and I try to avoid ordering unnecessary tests. But then I thought about a potential lawsuit. . . .The fear of a lawsuit trumped all other thinking: I ordered the scan; it was negative.”
To read the complete article, click here.
September 9, 2010
Emory researchers have found evidence that an ancient culture added antibiotics to its beer, according to an article on the Discovery website. George Armelagos, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology, found that the bones of 2,000-year-old African mummies contained large doses of tetracycline. In addition, the antibiotic probably made it into their bodies from beer.
“While the modern age of antibiotics began in 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, the new findings suggest that people knew how to fight infections much earlier than that – even if they didn't actually know what bacteria were,” the article says. It went on to say that, according to Armelagos, the first people who may have used antibiotics may have lived along the shores of the Nile in Sudanese Nubia, now the modern border region between Egypt and Sudan.
“Given the amount of tetracycline there, they had to know what they were doing,” Armelagos told Discovery.com. “They may not have known what tetracycline was, but they certainly knew something was making them feel better.”
Armelagos “was part of a group of anthropologists that excavated the mummies in 1963,” said the article. “His original goal was to study osteoporosis in the Nubians, who lived between about 350 and 550 A.D. But while looking through a microscope at samples of the ancient bone under ultraviolet light, he saw what looked like tetracycline – an antibiotic that was not officially patented in modern times until 1950.”
He likened the shock of the discovery to “unwrapping a mummy, and all of a sudden, you see a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses on it.”
To read the entire article, click here.
August 25, 2010
Hank Klibanoff, newly appointed James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism, wrote about the glacially slow pace of U.S. justice in the August 8 Washington Post.
He focuses on the Justice Department’s attempts to solve 109 racially motivated murder cases in the South during the 1950s and 1960s. The Justice Department prosecuted only two of those cases, while closing fifty-four without prosecution.
“The Justice Department has a good track record of putting Klan terrorists behind bars when they get into court,” wrote Klibanoff. “But it has had trouble turning long-standing pleas and evidence from victims’ families, as well as the hundreds of thousands of civil rights cold-case records in its files, into active investigations, witness and evidence development, and courtroom showdowns.”
In fact, not a single one of the 109 crimes, nor many other murders, has generated a single case by the Justice Department or the FBI.
“Every case that Justice has successfully prosecuted has been the result of work by investigative reporters,” Klibanoff continued. “The killers of Medgar Evers; the four little girls in the Birmingham church; Vernon Dahmer; Ben Chester White; and Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman would not have been prosecuted and convicted without the discoveries made by reporter Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.”
Klibanoff goes on to discuss cases such as the 1965 killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson, which triggered Bloody Sunday and the Selma-to-Montgomery march. But that happened only after Anniston Star reporter John Fleming revealed that Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler admitted to pulling the trigger.
He concludes by calling for greater action in prosecuting these unresolved crimes.
To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.
August 4, 2010
In a recent article at CNN.com, Rudolph Byrd, Goodrich C. White Professor of African American Studies, disputed a colleague’s claims about James Weldon’s hymn “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” Some have called the hymn a Black national anthem.
Timothy Askew, an associate professor of English at Clark Atlanta University, had written in a previous article that the song was not written specifically in reference to race or ethnicity. Byrd took exception to that claim, and wrote that it was “not only historically inaccurate but also are potentially harmful to Johnson’s legacy as a pioneering figure in the modern civil rights movement.”
After Johnson had agreed to address a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900, he also wrote, along with his brother, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”
“As Johnson composed his loving tribute to his race and nation, ” Byrd continued. “He wept: ‘I could not keep back the tears, and made no effort to do so.’" On the occasion of its debut, the hymn was sung by 500 African-American children. . . . The context then for the composition of ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ was an early Black History Month celebration organized by the black leadership of Jacksonville, Florida, decades before this tradition was institutionalized by the African-American historian and Harvard PhD Carter G. Woodson.
“Not only does Askew mistakenly claim that Johnson composed his hymn without any ‘specific reference to any race or ethnicity,’ but he applies this erroneous, ahistorical and decontexualized reading to the lyrics themselves.”
Askew, concludes Byrd, “performs a certain violence upon a hymn cherished by many as well as Johnson’s legacy.”
To read Byrd’s complete article, visit here.
To read the article containing Askew’s comments, visit here.
July 28, 2010
In the July 6 issue of The New Yorker, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Natasha Trethewey spoke about her series of poems, “Congregation,” the second installment of Virginia Quarterly Review’s In Verse multimedia collaboration with “Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen. Here are excerpts from that interview:
What inspired “Congregation”?
“Congregation” and the book it’s part of, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which is due out in September, is very much a pilgrimage, a journey back to my childhood home. My family story is interwoven with the larger story of the history of Gulfport; my brother’s story in particular is emblematic of the kinds of losses and devastation suffered by the people on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It’s a story I know intimately, and one that I believe sheds light on the larger story still unfolding in towns all along the coast.
The concept of “documentary poetry” is fascinating, and also somewhat counterintuitive. How does being tied to the truth affect your ability to make poetic leaps?
Well, sometimes you get lucky, and what people do is just poetic. What makes “Benediction” my favorite of the poems is its sheer observation of the day my brother [Joel] got out of jail. He was with his friends and fellow inmates waving and wishing him well, to go out and start that new life that he had ahead of him. That wasn’t so hard to do. It wasn’t hard to sit back and look at that and find what was figurative about it.
The hardest poem for me in “Congregation” is a contemplation of the meanings of words. I had been very concerned with the meaning of my name when I was writing my last book. My mother was murdered by my step-father, my brother’s father, who was also named Joel, twenty-five years ago. Whatever sadness or burden I’ve been living with since then, my brother’s also been living with, but he’s lived with the added burden of having the exact same name as our mother’s murderer. It had never occurred to me, the way he was imprisoned in his own name.
To view the entire interview, visit The New Yorker here.
July 16, 2010
China’s booming economy has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty. But according to a review co-authored by Emory researcher Justin Remais, air and water pollution still cause a significant number of deaths and diseases in the country. The review appeared in a special China issue of The Lancet (March 27), which examined the air and water quality concerns and the steps the nation has taken toward addressing the problems.
“Facing the overlap of traditional, modern and emerging environmental dilemmas, China has committed substantial resources to environmental improvement,” says Remais, associate professor of environmental and occupational health. “The country has the opportunity to address its national environmental health challenges and to assume a central role in the international effort to improve the global environment.”
Indoor air pollution from burning solid fuels is one of the main environmental health risk factors, and leads to about 420,000 premature deaths every year, Remais and his colleagues said. The major health problems associated with air pollution include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lower respiratory infection, and lung cancer.
The sources of outdoor air pollution in China include residential and industrial coal combustion, a growing transport sector, chemical releases from industry, outdoor burning of agricultural waste, and dust from construction, roads and deserts, according to the authors . The economic cost of mortality and morbidity that results from outdoor air pollution in a typical Chinese city was about ten percent of that city’s gross domestic product in 2000, and, depending on future technology and policies, that cost is predicted to range from eight percent to sixteen percent by 2020.
The review also noted that a high number of lakes and major rivers in China are classified as severely polluted, with only half of China’s 200 major rivers and less than a quarter of its twenty-eight major lakes and reservoirs suitable for use as drinking water after treatment.
July 12, 2010
In a June 22 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Rubin, professor of economics, describes the British Petroleum oil disaster and Hurricane Katrina as mirror images of each other. For example, Katrina harmed state land, and President Bush and the federal government’s powers were limited. But the oil spill occurred on federal offshore territory, for which the federal government has primary responsibility.
“As opposed to Katrina, state and local attempts to address the oil spill have been hindered by an ineffectual and chaotic federal response,” said Rubin.
Another contrast: “Mr. Bush was a Republican, and elected Democrats controlled Louisiana and New Orleans, the main victims of Katrina,” said Rubin. “Many claimed Mr. Bush neglected New Orleans for this reason. Mr. Obama is a Democrat, and the states affected by Deepwater Horizon—Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida—all have Republican governors. I have not seen anyone, even on the right, claim that the ineffectual response of the Obama administration is due to partisan politics.”
The final difference, he concluded, is how the press has handled the two disasters: “Mr. Bush responded quickly to Katrina but was handicapped by regulations giving power to the states. Nonetheless, the federal response was well coordinated and helpful overall. But Mr. Bush was rapidly and widely blamed for the result of Katrina and for failures that actually occurred at other levels of government.
“Now Mr. Obama has much more power than did Mr. Bush, but the federal response is ineffective and often stands in the way of those in the best position to know what to do. It is only in the last week or two that the mainstream press has voiced any criticism of Mr. Obama.”
View the complete article
June 28, 2010
Irish poet Eamon Grennan has placed his papers with Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL).
“We couldn’t be more pleased to welcome both Eamon and his papers to Emory,” said Naomi Nelson, interim director of MARBL. The collection contains poem drafts, poetry notebooks, academic papers and lectures, handwritten personal journals, and electronic records.
Grennan’s papers join a world-renowned Irish literary collection at MARBL, which includes the papers of writers and poets such as W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, and Paul Muldoon.
“Being a fellow inhabitant of what I feel is an Irish Village there in Emory pleases me very much, feels right to me in ways no other location could,” Grennan said by e-mail in early June.
Kevin Young, Haygood Professor of English and Curator of Literary Collections of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library at MARBL, announced the pending acquisition when Grennan was a guest reader in April.
Grennan said at the reading he felt that with his papers being placed at MARBL, he had another home at Emory. “I will, every so often, have to visit myself,” he said.
A Dublin native and Irish citizen, Grennan has lived in the United States for more than three decades. He was educated at University College in Dublin and Harvard University and taught at Vassar College for 30 years, where he was the Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Professor of English.
Grennan is considered one of the premier poets and translators working today. His books include Leopardi: Selected Poems, which earned the 1997 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and his own Still Life with Waterfall, which received the Lenore Marshall Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Poets. His next book, Out of Sight: New and Selected Poems, is due out in July.
June 11, 2010
Stella Lourenco, an assistant professor of psychology, has been awarded a $300,000 grant over four years by the John Merck Fund for her outstanding neurobiological and cognitive post-doctoral research.
“This program is an effort to encourage exceptional young individuals to focus on the problems of children who are mentally challenged and emotionally disturbed. We have made similar grants through the John Merck Scholars Program in the Biology of Developmental Disabilities in Children for twenty years, awards which we hope will add significantly to the knowledge base in this highly neglected and under-financed field,” said Dina Buechner-Vischer, John Merck Fund co-chair.
Lourenco is among only three recipients who were selected for their achievements from a pool of eighty applicants. Her research concerns the development of spatial perception and cognition, including representation of geometric information, sex differences, spatial reasoning in atypical populations, the influence of tool use in space perception, and the spatial nature of numerical representation.
The other recipients of the award are Yingxi Lin, an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is studying activity-dependent regulation of GABAergic synapses and neural circuit plasticity, and Adam Kepecs, an Assistant Professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, who is researching functional dissection of the central cholinergic system in cognition.
June 4, 2010
Rising obesity rates will cost the nation nearly $350 billion by 2018, according to a recently released report based on Emory research.
The report, titled “The Future Cost of Obesity: National and State Estimates of the Impact of Obesity on Direct Health Care Expenses,” relies heavily on work by Ken Thorpe, Woodruff Professor and Chair of the Rollins School of Public Health, and executive director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. It is the first report to estimate obesity prevalence and costs at the state and national levels ten years from now.
If current trends continue, the report says, 43 percent of U.S. adults will be obese and obesity spending will quadruple to $344 billion by 2018; however, if obesity rates are held at current levels, the U.S. would save nearly $200 billion in health care costs.
“At a time when Congress is looking for savings in health care, this data confirms what we already knew: obesity is where the money is,” said Thorpe. “Because obesity is related to the onset of so many other illnesses, stopping the growth of obesity in the U.S. is vital not only to our health—but also to the solvency of our health care system.”
The report projects that obesity will surpass 50 percent of the adult population in six states (Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota) with an associated increase in health spending linked to obesity of more than $1,600 per person.
Projected obesity rates will remain below 35 percent in only four states (Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Virginia) and the District of Columbia; nevertheless, obesity-attributable health spending will climb to more than $800 per person by 2018 in each of those places.
May 20, 2010
A rare type of fossil found in southwestern Wyoming has provided new insights into the ancient ecology of the former Fossil Lake. The fossil is not of the fish itself, but of the trail it made along the bottom of the lake. Such trace fossils are extremely rare.
To read more about the discovery, click here.
When the National Park Service identified about a dozen such fossils, they asked Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin to investigate. Martin specializes in trace fossils, including tracks, trails, burrows, and nests made by animals millions of years ago.
One of them intrigued Martin because it showed not only the apparent fin impressions of two wavy lines, but also squiggles, suggesting oval shapes.
“The oval impressions stayed roughly in the center of the wavy lines and slightly overlapped one another,” said Martin, a senior lecturer in the Department of Environmental Studies. “I realized that these marks were probably made by the mouth as the fish fed along the bottom,” Martin said. He then deduced that the trace was likely made by N. osculus – the only species found in the same rock layer whose fossils show a mouth pointing downward. “We’ve got a snapshot of N. osculus interacting with the bottom of a lake that disappeared millions of years ago. It’s a fleeting glimpse, but it’s an important one.”
The evidence is the first to show that N. osculus fed from the bottom of the lake, Martin explained. “Not only that, the fish was bottom feeding in the deepest part of the lake. Previous research had suggested that the bottom of the lake had such low levels of oxygen that it was hostile to life.”
May 10, 2010
Emory University researchers are participating in a groundbreaking clinical trial to treat patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) using human neural stem cells.
The Phase 1 trial, will assess the safety of stem cells, and the surgical procedures and devices required, for multiple injections of the cells directly into the spinal cord.
“This is the first U.S. clinical trial of stem cell injections into the spinal cord for the treatment of ALS,” says principal researcher Jonathan Glass, professor of neurology in the School of Medicin, and director of the Emory ALS Center. “Our main goal in this early phase is to determine whether it is safe to inject stem cells into the spinal cord and whether the cells themselves are safe.”
Three patients with ALS have received injections since the trial began in January. Up to twelve individuals will be enrolled at in this phase of the trial.
Nicholas Boulis, assistant professor of neurosurgery I the School of Medicine and a pioneer in developing surgical methods for delivery of therapeutics to the spinal cord, is performing the surgical procedures.
Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with no known cure. It causes the deterioration of specific nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord called motor neurons that control muscle movement. As the illness progresses, patients lose their ability to walk, talk, and breathe. According to the ALS Association, approximately 30,000 Americans have ALS at any given time and patients with the disease usually die within two to five years of diagnosis.
The stem cells used in the study may have the ability to mature into various types of cells in the nervous system, including the motor neurons lost because of ALS. They will not generate new motor neurons, but may help protect the still-functioning neurons and slow the progression of the disease.
To watch an interview with Jonathan Glass, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tln2i19wUs
May 3, 2010
Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science, described in a recent Washington Post article how polarization can actually benefit the democratic process. While it seems to be a matter of faith in this country that polarization and the lack of bipartisanship is bad for American democracy, Abramowitz contends that, when not taken too far, polarization invigorates the political process. “A certain amount of polarization and partisan conflict can actually be very beneficial in a democracy… And the evidence from recent elections indicates that far from turning off ordinary Americans, partisan polarization has led to increased levels of interest and participation among the public,” he wrote.
Abramowitz points to the high voter turnout in 2008 and expected similar enthusiasm in the upcoming midterm elections. In addition, citizens are displaying more yard signs and bumper stickers, and giving more money to candidates and political parties.
He also asserts that the gridlock that critics of polarization cite as evidence of its negative effects is not all bad: “The main reason for gridlock in Washington is not polarization but anti-majoritarian rules such as the Senate filibuster that allow a determined minority to block the will of the majority. “Polarization can actually help to overcome gridlock in government by increasing party discipline so that after an election the majority party can enact its policy agenda.”
Visit this link to read Abramowitz's entire essay.
April 22, 2010
Shoshana Felman, Robert Woodruff Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and French, has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary societies and a center for independent policy research.
“Shoshana Felman has pushed the boundaries of multiple disciplines through her writing, research, and teaching on the complex relationships between French and comparative literature, and on basic insights of the humanities at large,” said Provost Earl Lewis. “She has explored the links between literature and psychoanalysis, philosophy, theater, women's studies, Holocaust studies, testimony, trauma and the law.”
Felman is the author of ten books and dozen of essays. She recently issued new editions of her major books initially published in France: The Scandal of the Speaking Body and Writing and Madness: Literature/ Philosophy/Psychoanalysis. In 1993 she contributed to the fields of education and feminist reflection her collection of essays, What Does a Woman Want?
A center for independent policy research, the Academy celebrates the 230th anniversary of its founding this year. Its scholars, scientists, jurists, writers, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders include winners of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Shaw Prizes; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows; and Grammy, Tony, and Oscar Award-winners. Felman is among 229 new leaders elected in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs and the nonprofit sector.
Her recent work deals with law and its relation to fundamental ethical, psychoanalytic and literary questions – a continuing investigation that began with Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History (1992), and continued in The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century (2002). The Claims of Literature: A Shoshana Felman Reader (2007), gathers her most influential and exemplary essays, as well as short responses to her work by leading theorists.
April 15, 2010
In a recent opinion piece on CNN.com, Robert Schapiro, professor of law, recounted the distinguished career of retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. According to Schapiro, Stevens probably will be best remembered for his insightful opinions about cases of great national significance, but he “should also be remembered for his equally compelling commitment to justice in scores of other decisions that received little public notice.”
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in 2006 was one of those. Writing for the majority, Stevens said that the president must follow the law, regardless of a real threat of terrorism. “For Stevens, no person was above the law, and no person was below the law,” wrote Schapiro, who served as a clerk for Justice Stevens in 1991 and 1992.
One of Stevens’ defining characteristics was ensuring justice in all cases. In the 2000 presidential election decision, Bush v. Gore, he wrote a stinging dissent, “castigating the majority for undermining the ‘Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.’” His commitment to the rule of law, Schapiro continued, “transcended partisan boundaries.” In 1997, Stevens wrote that the Constitution did not shield President Clinton from civil suits.
Schapiro concluded: “Justice Stevens pursued justice in all cases, great and small. The rule of law has lost an important champion on our nation's highest court.”
Click here to see the entire article.
April 9, 2010
A significant number of Republicans have challenged the legality of the recently enacted health care bill. In a recent article on Politico, Joseph Crespino, an associate professor of history, explains some of the historical underpinnings of states’ rights, on which many opponents of the bill rest their arguments to repeal it, and why they are not likely to succeed.
“White Southerners invoked states’ rights to oppose a range of civil rights laws in the past century — anti-lynching measures in the 1930s, fair employment legislation in the ’40s, school desegregation in the ’50s and open housing in the ’60s,” writes Crespino. But, he adds,
Their objections “never stopped them from enjoying the fruits of federal dollars. Some of the most recalcitrant Southern states were the biggest beneficiaries of Washington largesse.”
He continues by saying that invoking states’ rights became more popular among white Southerners as the civil rights movement reached its peak during the decade beginning in the mid-1950s. For example: “In 1962, South Carolina joined Georgia in this show of support for states’ rights when it voted to fly the Confederate battle flag above its Capitol dome in Columbia.”
But, he adds, “There are notable differences between the current arguments and those of the civil rights era. . . . The big difference is that states’ rights defenders of the civil rights era were united by region, not party, as is predominantly the case today.”
For this and other reasons, concludes Crespino, the current campaign for states rights may be no more successful than previous efforts.
To view the entire article, visit http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0310/34948.html
March 23, 2010
Emory chemists have developed the most potent homogeneous catalyst known for water oxidation, considered a crucial component for generating clean hydrogen fuel using only water and sunlight. The breakthrough, to be published in Science, was made in collaboration with the Paris Institute of Molecular Chemistry.
The fastest, carbon-free molecular water oxidation catalyst (WOC) to date “has really upped the standard from the other known homogeneous WOCs,” said Emory inorganic chemist Craig Hill, whose lab led the effort. “It’s like a home run compared to a base hit.”
To be viable, a WOC needs selectivity, stability and speed. Homogeneity is also a desired trait, because it boosts efficiency and makes the WOC easer to study and optimize. The new WOC has all of these qualities, and it is based on the cheap and abundant element cobalt, adding to its potential to help solar energy go mainstream.
Benjamin Yin, an undergraduate student in Hill’s lab, is the lead author on the Science paper. The U.S. Department of Energy funded the work.
The WOC research is a component of the Emory Bio-inspired Renewable Energy Center (EBREC), which aims to mimic natural processes such as photosynthesis to generate clean fuel. The next step involves incorporating the WOC into a solar-driven, water-splitting system. View more information on sustainable energy research at Emory and EBREC.
The long-term goal is to use sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen becomes the fuel, and its combustion produces the byproduct water.
For decades, scientists have been trying to imitate Mother Nature and create a WOC for artificial photosynthesis. Nearly all of the more than forty homogeneous WOCs developed by labs have had significant limitations, such as containing organic components that burn up quickly during the water oxidation process.
Two years ago, Hill’s lab and collaborators developed the first prototype of a stable, homogenous, carbon-free WOC, which also worked faster than others known at the time. The prototype, however, was based on ruthenium, a relatively rare and expensive element.
Building on that work, the researchers began experimenting with the cheaper and more abundant element cobalt. The cobalt-based WOC has proved even faster than the ruthenium version for light-driven water oxidation.
March 10, 2010
Salman Rushdie’s recent announcement that he would write about his years in hiding after a fatwa was issued by the Supreme Leader of Iran has, not surprisingly, garnered substantial attention in the media.
Rushdie, Emory’s Distinguished Writer in Residence, revealed his plans during the public opening of his archives and accompanying multi-media exhibition, “A World Mapped by Stories: The Salman Rushdie Archive.” The exhibition will be on display in the Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Schatten Gallery through September 26, 2010.
The archive includes the author’s manuscripts, drawings, journals, letters, photographs, and digital materials. It also includes several computers, which hold the complete digital environments in which Rushdie worked. In addition to providing a searchable database of the files, Emory has developed emulations of the original machines that will allow researchers to see and experience the files as Rushdie did when he used them.
The Associated Press and a number of other news outlets recounted Rushdie’s time in hiding after the Grand Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 ordering Muslims to kill him because his book, “The Satanic Verses,” insulted Islam. In 1998, the Iranian government said it would no longer support the fatwa, but neither did it rescind it.
At a news conference, Rushdie said that “It's my story, and at some point, it needs to be told. That point is getting closer, I think. When it was in cardboard boxes and dead computers, it would have been very, very difficult, but now it's all organized.”
The exhibit will be on display in the Woodruff library through September.
February 24, 2010
Sidney Perkowitz would like Hollywood to break the laws of physics a little more selectively. Perkowitz, a Candler Professor of Physics, was featured in recent article in the Guardian.
For instance, the giant killer bugs in Starship Troopers would collapse under their own weight because their proportions did not scale up along with their size. Perkowitz told the Guardian that he liked the movie, aside from the faulty bio-mechanics of the big bugs. He didn’t like The Core, the story of scientists who plant and detonate a nuclear device at the center of the earth to start the core spinning again—over the top in so many ways.
Perkowitz said that sci-fi movies should be allowed only one major transgression of the laws of physics, and he created a set of guidelines in the hope that Hollywood curbs some its worst abuses by confining scriptwriters to plotlines that embrace the suspension of disbelief but stop short of demanding it in every scene.
“I am not offended if they make one big scientific blunder in a given film,” Perkowitz said. “You can have things move faster than the speed of light if you want. But after that I would like things developed in a coherent way.”
To see the entire article, visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/feb/21/hollywood-films-obey-laws-science.
February 19, 2010
An Emory researcher has found striking connections between a mid-1800s plantation diary and William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses,” and other Faulkner stories. One notable discovery was that the names of the slaves recorded in the diary matched those in the book.
To listen to the NPR interview, visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123614264
Sally Wolff-King, an adjunct professor of English and scholar of Southern literature, who uncovered the link between Faulkner’s work and the journal, said in a New York Times article that the discovery was a “once-in-a-lifetime literary find. The diary and a number of family stories seem to have provided the philosophical and thematic power for some of his major works.” Wolff-King also spoke about her findings recently on NPR.
John Lowe, an English, a professor at Louisiana State University who is writing a book on Faulkner told the Times that this was “one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades.”
The original diary manuscript was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy Mississippi plantation owner. According to the Times article, the document appears to be the basis for the ledger that Faulkner wrote about in the novel, as well as a source of many of the names in the fictional account of Yoknapatawpha County. The article reports that the names of the slaves owned by Leak — Caruthers, Moses, Isaac, Sam, Toney, Mollie, Edmund, and Worsham — all appear in some form in “Go Down, Moses.” Other recorded names, like Candis (Candace in the book) and Ben, show up in “The Sound and The Fury” (1929) while Old Rose, Henry, Ellen, and Milly are characters in “Absalom, Absalom!” (1936).
Wolff-King first saw the ledger while she was researching a book about people who Faulkner knew. She met with Leak’s great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr., an alumnus of Emory who lives in Atlanta. His wife suggested he show Wolff-King a copy of the ledger, which included a facsimile of a page listing dollar amounts paid for individual slaves.
“At that moment I realized this diary may not only have influenced the ledger and slave sale record in ‘Go Down, Moses’ but also likely served an important source for much of William Faulkner’s work,” Wolff-King told the Times.
To read the entire New York Times article, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/books/11faulkner.html?scp=1&sq=faulkner%20link&st=cse
February 15, 2010
Emory is expanding its portfolio of undergraduate programs, bringing the total number to fifty-seven undergraduate minors.
This fall, two new minors—Media Studies and Sustainability—will be available, according to the Director of Student Academic Services Operations, Lee Smith.
Sustainability continues to be an emerging discipline among students. Anthropology Professor and Faculty Liaison to the Office of Sustainability Initiatives Peggy Barlett says that “the new Sustainability minor will support students’ understandings of the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, environmental, and economic dimensions of contemporary sustainability challenges, as well as the cultural beliefs and political strategies emerging around the world. Students in literature, sciences, and social sciences will find rich cross-fertilization of their thinking as they learn analytical and ethical approaches through the minor.”
Students minoring in sustainability will be required to demonstrate their developing body of knowledge with an electronic portfolio, written over the course of the minor and reviewed by a faculty steering committee. Peter Wakefield, director of undergraduate studies in the Institute Liberal Arts department will help students interested in more information on the minor. “Another requirement of the new minor that lets students apply their sustainability interests,” says Wakefield, “is an approved Capstone Project that integrates classroom work with experimental learning through research, internship or other activity. This project will strengthen social and technical skills and offer experience with a hands-on project.”
Professor and Chair of the Film Studies department Matthew H. Bernstein explained that “the new interdisciplinary minor in media studies will draw on resources in thirteeh departments and programs to combine social science, humanities and performing arts perspectives on various media forms that pervade our world today.” The minor will allow students to explore the media’s social impact and its industrial organization, to evaluate critically many kinds of media texts, and to appreciate the nature of creativity in various forms, nationally and internationally. “We truly believe that equipping Emory students with the tools they need to become media literate, media savvy and media fluent is one of the vital roles of liberal education: creating an engaged citizenship in the twenty-first century,” says Bernstein.
With the new media studies minor, students can pursue one of two tracks—media arts and cultures or sociocultural approaches to media. Bernstein says “each track provides a seven-course structure that retains flexibility in terms of courses from several departments, including anthropology, film studies, interdisciplinary studies, journalism, sociology, visual arts, and area studies from around the college.”
More information on both minors can be found on the Emory College of Arts and Sciences website (http://college.emory.edu/minors).
February 10, 2010
Emory has received a $2.4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the reassessment, reconfiguration, and strengthening of the humanities across the university.
“Given the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of inquiry and the development of new methodological tools, the university has been anticipating the need for strategic changes in hiring, departmental intellectual configuration, research, publication and scholarly collaborations,” said Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
“At Emory and throughout higher education,” Lewis continued, “these changes are expected to accelerate further in the coming decade. Hiring in the humanities will need to be done very differently in the future. Emory is anticipating hiring a new generation in the humanities who will have both deep training in the humanities and broad training in other areas.”
He cited as an example the interdisciplinary collaborations surrounding this month’s opening of the Salman Rushdie archive, much of which was born digital material.
At the core of the program will be the recruitment of a cohort of junior and mid-career faculty across the humanities, said Claire Sterk, senior vice provost for academic affairs. These new faculty will form the core of a “Society of Fellows” who will work to help guide how humanities departments and faculty can export principles of humanistic inquiry across the university. They also will seek opportunities for transformation of the humanities themselves at Emory.
Sterk said that refocusing the humanities could have multiple impacts on higher education and help define the future role of the liberal arts at a research university: “Emory will have wonderful opportunities to show how research scholarship in the humanities really contributes to the common good.”
To read the full announcement, visit http://tiny.cc/humanitiesgrant
February 2, 2010
Andra Gillespie, an assistant professor of political science, recently spoke with the Atlanta Journal Constitution about her two new books on the history of Black politics, Whose Black Politics? Cases in Post Racial Leadership (Routledge) and Newark and the Class of Two Black Americas (working title, NYU Press).
In the interview, Gillespie described the younger generation of African-American politicians, which she calls the third wave of elected black leadership. She began to hone in on the differences between the old-style politics and the new while conducting research for her dissertation in Newark, New Jersey. While working on the election campaign of city councilman Cory Booker, Gillespie “witnessed this fight between young and old politicians,” she told the newspaper. The contest revolved around racial authenticity and who was the “blacker” candidate. To Gillespie, the revelation was far more interesting than the other aspect of her research about getting voters to the polls.
The second wave of black politicians was characterized largely by “deracialization,” which is what journalists often mean when they write “post-racial,” she said. It was a tactic first proposed in the 1970s in response to the Republican Party’s Southern strategy. “The argument was that the Republican Party had negatively tied race to the Democratic Party in a way that it was actually helping to defeat Democrats of all stripes,” she said. “Race needed to be separated from Democratic politics, and civil-rights issues needed to be recast not as racial justice issues but as issues that could benefit all people.” Barack Obama’s challenge to Bobby Rush for the U.S. House in 2000 is an example. Another example that’s closer to home is when Denise Majette challenged Cynthia McKinney for her seat in the U.S. House in 2002.
Atlanta’s new mayor, Kasim Reed, represents the third wave, though Gillespie pointed out that he differs from the mold in that he does not have an Ivy League education, which often characterizes politicians in the third wave. “One of the interesting things about Mayor Reed is that he may be the first example of somebody who wasn’t born into a political family who has strong connections to the black political establishment.”
To see the entire interview, visit http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/emory-professor-s-book-286870.html
January 22, 2010
Emory Professor of English and poet Kevin Young was the subject of a recent interview in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Young was a headliner at last week’s Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray Beach.
The article describes Young as one of the leading younger poets in America, with eight collections of poems since his 1998 debut, Most Way Home. He is a “a self-described heir to the ‘blues poetry’ tradition of Langston Hughes” and “writes poems widely praised for their musicality and storytelling.” He was a 2003 National Book Award finalist for Jelly Roll: A Blues, and he’s also earned a variety of other honors and prizes.
When asked about the popularity of poetry today and the possible influence of hip-hop on its resurgence, Young replied that “Hip-hop and spoken word are important, but I think reports of the death of poetry were always greatly exaggerated. It's always been diverse and varied, with lots of different forms of poetry being produced and read.”
He said also that “People turn to poetry in moments when they need it, and I think it's very much needed today. Especially after 9-11, people realized poetry is an essential part of our lives. But I also think poetry is intimate, it's you and the page, and that intimacy is sorely missed in some areas of contemporary life.”
To see the entire interview, visit:
January 15, 2010
A growing number of Emory faculty are stepping into the limelite as public scholars. Here are a few who were featured in various media over the holidays:
- Professors of psychology Barbara Rothbaum and Drew Westen appeared on “This Emotional Life,” the three-part PBS special that explores improving our social relationships, learning to cope with depression and anxiety, and becoming more positive, resilient individuals.
- Drew Westen also wrote an opinion piece for CNN on how the Obama administration has fumbled when attempting to communicate crucial information to the public.
- Prairie voles are usually monogamous little critters. But Zoe Donaldson, a researcher at Yerkes National Primate Researcher Center and her colleagues found that genetic manipulation of the animals could result in more promiscuous offspring. Their findings shed a new light on bonding, trust, and decision making and humans. Their work was featured in Psychology Today and The Economist.
- Gary Laderman, chair of the Department of Religion, was quoted in a Newsweek article about finding spirituality at home.
January 4, 2010
Choosing a top-ten list of anything is of course highly subjective, but picking one that includes the best films of the decade that just came to a close would seem to require a Herculean distillation. That being said, who better to ask than the people who study film for a living? When the Atlanta Journal Constitution asked faculty in Emory’s Department of Film Studies were asked for their picks, here’s what they came up with:
(Faculty raters include Matthew H. Bernstein, chair of film studies, along with lecturers William Brown and Eddy Von Mueller.)
AMOROS PERROS (2000) (William Brown)
CACHE (2005) (Matthew Bernstein)
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003) (William Brown)
CITY OF GOD (2002) (William Brown)
DIVINGBELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (2007) (William Brown)
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004)(Matthew Bernstein)
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) (Eddy Von Mueller)
LIVES OF OTHERS (2006) (William Brown)
THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003) (Eddy Von Mueller)
MEMENTO (2000) (Eddy Von Mueller)
SPIRITED AWAY (2001) (Eddy Von Mueller)
To view detailed descriptions of the films and why they were selected, visit http://blogs.ajc.com/arts-culture/2009/12/28/the-decades-top-10-movies-emory-film-faculty-picks-their-faves/
December 16, 2009
The most recent mission of the space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station carried a musical representative from Emory: The album Renaissance, a tribute to jazz pianist Oscar Peterson by Gary Motley, Emory’s director of jazz studies. Mission Specialist Bobby Satcher, an orthopedic surgeon who happens to be Motley's cousin, took the CD with him on his first trip into space.
“I was more focused on what my cousin was doing than on the CD going up,” said Motley. “Here’s someone on a space mission that I’m actually related to, and oh yeah, he did take my music with him. That’s kind of cool too.”
Even better, Motley was invited to play at a reception for Satcher’s friends and family on the night before the launch, which he said was even more exciting than knowing his music was orbiting the earth. In the building that houses the last remaining 363-foot Saturn V moon rocket, which hangs from the ceiling, Motley played jazz on a solo grand piano to a gathering of about 300 people. Among his selections: “How High the Moon.” He watched the launch the following afternoon.
During the eleven-day mission, his cousin walked in space with colleague Randy Bresnick to install an experiment involving nanoparticles and to replace an oxygen tank. Motley plans to speak with Satcher soon and would like to know what the other crew members thought about his music. He added that he’s always been a big fan of science and even began his college career as an engineering major.
December 3, 2009
The collection and scope of brief podcasts developed and produced by the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE), is growing steadily, and all are easily accessible through iTunes U at Emory.
In a series of six podcasts, Emory faculty from various departments describe how they face the challenge of staying creative in their work, their own creative processes, and their generative highs and lows.
For example, Andra Gillespie, an assistant professor of political science, describes how her background as a political pollster and a fascination with the mayoral race in Newark in 2002, which pitted two black democrats against each other, inspired her to take creative risks with her academic career. Greg Berns, Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics, recounts how rock and roll helped him clear a creative plateau after he wrote first book.
Other selections include abbreviated versions of lively CFDE panel discussions, whose topics have included civil discourse in the classroom, the pains and pleasures of Wikipedia, and strategies for working with English as a Second Language students.
Future CFDE podcasts will address how to instill professionalism in students as they embark on their careers and the many ways of using technology to communicate with students and augment and enliven class work.
To listen to any of the CFDE podcasts, click here.
To visit the CFDE website, go to cfde.emory.edu.
November 13, 2009
Emory recently lost two eminent figures. Steven K. Strange, associate professor of philosophy and a member of the Emory faculty since 1990, died on October 28.
Professor Emeritus Frank Manley died on November 11.
Strange specialized in the history of ancient philosophy, especially Platonism and the Hellenistic schools. He was best know for his work on Plotinus and Neo-Platonism. He taught previously at Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, Princeton, and Harvard, and was one of the earliest graduates of the distinguished program in classical philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.
A book of letters in tribute to Strange can be found at http://www2.gsu.edu/~phltso/steve-strange-memorial.html. Anyone wishing to add to the book can send a hardcopy letter by Friday, December 4 to Catherine Hall, c/o Emory’s philosophy department.
Manley, an award-winning poet, novelist, and playwright, was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Renaissance Literature and the first director of Emory’s Creative Writing Program. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Carolyn Holliday Manley, for 57 years.
A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, November 14 at 11 o’clock at Sacred Heart Church in Atlanta.
To read an AE essay by Steve Strange on crises in scholarly publishing and library acquisitions, click here.
November 6, 2009
Emory faculty whose individual research papers have been cited at least a thousand times in academic literature are now being honored by the newly formed MilliPub Club.
According to Ray Dingledine, chair of the Department of Pharmacology, who came up with the idea and launched the group, papers that garner so much attention from peers reflect the highest in scholarly achievement and represent the equivalent of a pharmaceutical blockbuster.
“Creation of the MilliPub Club is one of several steps we’re taking to shift the way we view our path to success—away from an exclusive reliance on research dollars to incorporate more direct measures of research achievement,” says Dingledine. The Department of Medicine, as expected from its history and size, dominated the inaugural membership, with half of the twenty MilliPub investigators.
The club, whose membership recently increased by one, includes cardiology researcher and Woodruff Leadership Academy fellow Kathy Griendling, who has published four papers that qualify for MilliPub honors. The club is sponsored by the medical school, but membership is open to any qualifying Emory faculty member. A website featuring stories about the MilliPub Club members may be put up at some point.
MilliPub Club members and the number of papers with 1000+ citations:
Kathy Griendling (4 papers)
David Harrison (3 papers)
Steve Warren (2 papers)
Wayne Alexander (2 papers)
Mike Frankel (1 paper)
Haian Fu (1 paper )
Dean Jones (1 paper)
Ray Dingledine (1 paper)
Steve Traynelis (1 paper
Larry Phillips (1 paper)
Andrew Smith (1 paper)
Angel Leon (1 paper)
Rafi Ahmed (1 paper)
TJ Murphy (1 paper)
Paul Fernhoff (1 paper)
John Altman (1 paper)
Marla Luskin (1 paper)
Darryl Neill (1 paper)
David B DeLurgio (1 paper)
Dan Sorescu (1 paper)
November 2, 2009
Religion Dispatches, the online religion magazine based at Emory, has received a grant of $870,000 from the Ford Foundation to finance operations over the next three years.
The award is one of the largest single grants to the humanities in the history of Emory College, said Robert Paul, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
Officially launched in February 2008, Religion Dispatches already has passed the mark of two million page views and is on track to reach a million readers a year, said Emory’s Gary Laderman, who, along with Linell Cady of Arizona State University, is the publication’s co-executive editor. They attribute that success to growing demand for online analysis and commentary on religion and public life.
“Religion Dispatches meets a critical need for progressive expertise, public scholarship and informed perspectives at the intersection of religion, social justice issues, and policy debates,” said Cady. “It provides a platform for a variety of voices, from experts to journalists and activists, both secular and religious, to explore the religious dimensions of political and social issues.”
The publication is dedicated to the analysis and understanding of religious forces in the world through diverse and progressive voices and seeks to provoke a broad conversation about religion. It targets audiences both in and beyond academia. Religion Dispatches features a diverse group of writers in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religious identity, and professional expertise “who offer perspectives that have been marginalized in recent decades,” said Laderman, a professor of American religious history and culture.
In the cover story of the October/November issue of The Academic Exchange, Laderman spoke about the influence of online scholarship:
Younger scholars are more actively seeking out different kinds of outlets for their knowledge, which is a direct result of the digital revolution. All of these things are merging and have an impact on what it means to be a scholar, what it means to be engaged in public scholarship, and what your responsibilities as a scholar are. It’s such a challenge for young scholars who are concerned about getting tenure. We want to make sure where they get published is going to count in some way.
In coming months, Religion Dispatches will roll out a new design and architecture with an eye toward expanding multimedia content. Plans also include marketing its content to religion scholars as a resource for classroom use, and continuing outreach to other web and social networking sites. Religion Dispatches stories already have appeared on sites such as the Huffington Post and The Washington Post’s "On Faith" blog.
October 22, 2009
The Utne Reader’s second annual list of fifty visionaries who are changing the world includes Emory Professor of Women’s Studies Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. The publication cited her most recent book, Staring: How We Look (Oxford UP 2009), about why disabled people attract stares and why that attention sometimes transforms a would-be stigma into empowerment.
“The visionaries we were drawn to made the cut not for being revolutionary inventors, innovative environmentalists, vociferous outcasts, or intrepid reformers—although you’ll find all of these enviable character types on the following pages—but for the unwavering, inexhaustible sense of purpose they bring to their work,” the editors explained.
Garland-Thomson finds herself among some august company. The Dalai Lama tops the diverse list, which also includes experimental poet Christian Bök, sports columnist Dave Zirin, American Indian education advocate Julie Cajune, prosthetics engineer Jonathon Kuniholm, and animal rights activist Tom Regan.
“Quiet resolve does not fill tents at the circus,” the editors continued. “Selflessness, “unless it is exhibited by heroes in the heat of a crisis, is often presented as weakness. Yet it is only the strongest among us who can stay true to a vision.”
In her own description of her book, Garland Thomson says that she draws on examples from art, media, fashion, history and memoir to explore the factors that motivate staring and considers the targets and the effects of the stare.
To see the complete Utne Reader list of visionaries, visit http://www.utne.com/Politics/50-Visionaries-Changing-Your-World-Hope-2009.aspx
October 15, 2009
Our inner thoughts are ours and ours alone—an impenetrable refuge that no one else can breach. Do advances in brain imaging technology threaten that sanctum sanctorum? That’s what Paul Root Wolpe, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Bioethics and the director of the Center for Ethics at Emory, pondered in a commentary on the Forbes magazine website.
“The inner dialogue, which exists wholly in our heads, is, in some sense, our single most private possession . . . at least until now,” Wolpe writes. “Neuroscience has, for the first time, demonstrated that there may be ways to directly access human thought—even, perhaps, without the thinker’s consent.” He adds that the research is still preliminary but advancing quickly, and its implications will be profound.
Wolpe refers to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can monitor and brain activity while subjects perform various tasks. For example, in early research the scans were able to identify the orientation of stripes viewed by a subject and determine categories for the images a subject looked at. Later, scientists began to link personality traits with the brain activation patterns of fMRI.
More alarming is that “more recent studies seem to have taken significant steps toward what most would consider mind-reading,” Wolpe writes. While the technology cannot yet be used for practical applications, such as lie detection or extracting useful information—from anyone, Wolpe says that’s only a matter of time. “The time to think about the implications of this endeavor is now, before the technology is upon us. . . . What are the limits of the use of this technology? Should we ever allow the courts, or the state, to demand access to the recesses of our minds?”
No, Wolpe answers: “The skull should be designated as a domain of absolute privacy. No one should be able to probe an individual’s mind against their will. . . . We should forgo the use of the technology under coercive circumstances even though using it may serve the public good.”
To see the entire article, visi: http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/09/neuroimaging-neuroscience-mind-reading-opinions-contributors-paul-root-wolpe.html
To read the AE interview with Paul Wolpe from the December 08/January 09 issue, visit http://www.emory.edu/ACAD_EXCHANGE/2009/decjan/wolpeqa.html
October 5, 2009
Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory. After the 2008 publication of his most recent book, “The Dumbest Generation: How Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future,” Bauerlein has been interviewed by dozens of media outlets in and beyond the U.S. He writes regularly about the influence of technology on the social and educational development of young people in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and his work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. We asked him about his role as a public scholar.
Academic Exchange: How have you dealt with the repetition of so many interviews?
Mark Bauerlein: I’ve done about 160 interviews in the last 15 months. One of the things I learned working in the federal government when we had to do interviews about our programs at NEA is that you polish a message. You polish it and polish it and when you’re there you repeat it. So I repeat a lot of the same things. If it sells books that’s always a good thing, but if you feel you’re engaged in a battleground you’ve got to fight the war.
AE: Why did you decided to direct your work to a public audience rather than an academic one?
MB: The humanities in many fields, the biggest one being literary studies and cultural studies, have published themselves into insignificance. Who cares about the next book on Herman Melville? Who cares about the next book on William Blake? None of these things matter. Nobody reads them. The unit sales for books on literary studies from Harvard press are 300-350 copies, and 250 of those or a little more are standing library orders. If you look at the number of motivated buyers every year, and that includes other scholars, you’re down in the mid-two figures.
Humanities publishing, humanities research, in many areas, though not all of them – film is still lively, religion is still lively—you get ho hum. And you’ve still got an army of people out there who keep publishing. Why? Because the incentives are there. It doesn’t matter that you wrote a book that nobody read. What matters is that it’s down on your annual report, it shows you’re still being productive, active, so you get an extra one percentage on your salary because you published a book. Nobody is paying attention.
If you believe that what you’re saying is important, has some meaningfulness to the larger culture, and if you want your beliefs and values to have an impact, you have to go the public route.
AE: How has your own way of thinking changed about technology and its influence on young people as you’ve continued to discuss the topic in the public arena?
MB: What happened for me over the course of first bringing out the book and all the interviews and debates is I started thinking more about how the digital age affects the social lives of teenagers, and that this has an impact on their intellectual growth. I didn’t think as strongly about the social impact as the intervening step, I was thinking firmly about how the internet is a stupid thing for them to do by and large as a substitute for reading books, newspapers and good magazines. I didn’t realize the social factor of the internet as strongly at the time. Now I’m talking a lot about that and laying out in speeches some set pieces how social life has changed with the advent of the digital age.
September 24, 2009
Craig Hill, Goodrich C. White Professor of Chemistry, has been awarded the 2009 Herty Medal for his work on green energy. The medal is handed out each year to an outstanding chemist from eleven southeastern states.
Hill will accept the award during an Atlanta award celebration September 17-18, where he will be the featured speaker.
“This is a chance to talk to a lot of young scientists—both undergraduate researchers and high school students—about how exciting science is right now,” Hill says. “I derive great joy from teaching young scholars how to tickle out Mother Nature’s secrets and how to invent.”
Hill’s talk will center on green energy and include a description of his recent work on developing the first prototypes of stable, molecular water oxidation catalysts—a critical component in making solar energy cheap and efficient enough to go mainstream.
“People love the idea of doing chemistry with the sun to create a source of energy that is sustainable and not damaging to the planet,” Hill says. “It’s an idea at the nexus of need, scientific invention and creativity.” He added that solving the challenges of green energy will require the collaboration of scientists from many disciplines and perspectives.
Since joining Emory in 1983, Hill has mentored 100 graduate students and post-doctoral associates. He has also collaborated with top scientists from Emory and throughout the world on his innovative green chemistry solutions. His seminal work on processes needed to convert solar energy into hydrogen laid the groundwork for Emory’s Renewable Energy Center, established this fall.
Other honors bestowed on Hill include being elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; a Distinguished Fellow of the Victorian Institute of Chemical Sciences; and Chair of the National Science Foundation Workshop in Inorganic Chemistry for 2007-2009. He also served as a Nobel Prize in Chemistry nominator for sixteen years and as the editor of the New Journal of Chemistry and other journals.
September 17, 2009
To prevent emergency rooms from being overwhelmed by patients who have the H1N1 flu, or who just think they do, Emory faculty are developing an algorithm to help clinicians and patients determine who really needs to go to the hospital and who should simply stay home and rest.
The algorithm, which consists of a series of questions for patients and recommendations based on their answers, was conceived by Arthur Kellerman, a professor of emergency medicine and associate dean of public policy, and Alexander Isakov, an associate professor of medicine and executive director of Emory's Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response.
Kellerman described the algorithm at an Institute of Medicine workshop in Washington, D.C., in early September. It begins with questions that people can answer about their health via the Web or telephone. Depending on the answers, respondents are directed to either go to the an emergency room, call their doctor, or stay home and take care of themselves.
As the spread of H1N1 influenza accelerates, emergency rooms may find themselves overwhelmed by patients seeking treatment, as happened in several areas of the country last spring. Many of those patients did not need emergency care because they either had mild symptoms, were in groups at low risk for H1N1-related complications, or didn’t even have the H1N1 virus.
In fact, people who unnecessarily make the trip to the ER strain resources that could be used for very ill patients. They also increase risk of getting sicker or further spreading the disease. And people who don’t actually have the virus risk contracting it amid the confined space of a hospital waiting room.
Ideally, the new tool, if adopted and widely deployed, could reduce health system surge, relieve emergency department overcrowding, save time, prevent risk for symptomatic individuals, and free healthcare workers to focus on the most severely ill. Kellerman and Isakov believe the algorithm could be used in a variety of settings by individuals as well as by healthcare workers.
Kellerman discussed the need to keep flu-related ER traffic to a minimum in a September 11 National Public Radio report. Overflowing emergency rooms, he said, can be dangerous places: “It’s bad if you’ve got three hundred people at the triage desk, and the 301st person is severely ill,” because that 301st person may have trouble getting seen, he told NPR. He cautioned also that “if you didn’t have H1N1 when you got to the ER, you’ll probably have it when you go home.”
Ruth Parker, a professor of medicine at Emory and a health literacy expert, who also spoke at the Institute of Medicine meeting, told NPR that she tested the algorithm questions on her three children when she dropped them off at three colleges last month. She reached a conclusion: Don’t ask college kids if they have a fever of over 100.4 degrees, because they’ve thrown out the thermometers their parents so carefully packed.
Parker said she realized also that many people don’t know that the H1N1 flu and swine flu are one in the same. If she didn’t call it swine flu, a lot of people didn’t know what she was talking about. “Right now what we have is a lot of confusion mixed in with fear,” Parker said. “We’re always more scared of the unknown.”
To see or listen to the complete NPR story, visit
September 10, 2009
The British Royal Society journal, Proceedings B, contained an article by Emory scientists on their discovery that live chimps will imitate an animated image of a chimp yawning.
According to Matthew Campbell, a psychobiologist at Yerkes and lead author on the study, the findings could assist in the future study of empathy and how children might imitate what they see onscreen in computer games.
The researchers used animation, Campbell says, “because we can control all the features of what we show [the chimps].” Their evidence showed that chimpanzees “process animated faces the same way they process photographs of faces.”
The scientists also wanted to demonstrate the use of animations in behavioral experiments.
The Proceedings B article was reported on the BBC News website. To read the report, visit http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8244963.stm
September 4, 2009
Conservatives who are attacking health care reform because they say it will lead to rationing or end-of-life counseling, or waiting lists are taking aim at the wrong targets, according to David Howard, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Emory University.
In an August 31 opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Howard writes, “Just as concerns about the end-of-life care provisions are overblown, the health reform bills will not lead to rationing in other settings. The bills stipulate a fairly generous, some might say overly generous, benefit package, and do not give added authority to Medicare or other government programs to deny care. . . . In focusing so much on rationing, critics are deflecting attention from the real danger lurking in health reform, which is out-of-control spending and budget deficits.”
And it’s that spending they should direct their criticism, Howard goes on to say:
“In focusing so much attention on rationing, conservatives are gaining traction with the public. But they are selling future taxpayers short in the process. Whether reform passes or fails, the costs of the Medicare program will continue to grow on an unsustainable path.”
By taking sensible reforms off the table, conservatives are now in the position of advocating for higher government spending today and, implicitly, higher taxes down the road.”
To see the entire article, visit http://www.ajc.com/opinion/conservatives-hit-the-wrong-128162.html
August 27, 2009
Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) has issued an update about the H1N1 flu virus (formerly known as swine flu). Here are some key points:
- The H1N1 virus differs from the typical seasonal flu because it causes more illness in people age 5-24 than in older age groups, and because a vaccine for the new virus is not yet available (though one is expected this fall).
- Most cases of H1N1 flu have been mild, but there have been hospitalizations and deaths, just as there is every year with seasonal flu.
- The H1N1 virus has demonstrated an ability to cause serious illness not only among individuals with underlying medical conditions but also among young, previously healthy individuals.
- The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to seasonal influenza and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting. Like seasonal flu, anyone with underlying chronic medical conditions may be more seriously impacted by H1N1 flu.
- Most people who get H1N1 flu will recover without the need for medical care, but those who do develop signs and symptoms of the flu may be ill for a week or longer.
- According to CEPAR, when the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, Emory will work with State and local public health agencies to provide more information about obtaining this very important vaccine.
- For people who develop signs and symptoms of flu, the CDC recommends that individuals stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible; avoid going to school or work until twenty-four hours after your fever is down without use of medications (there are different guidelines for the healthcare setting); if you need to go out to seek medical care, cover your face with a facemask and cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
An August 20 article about the new virus in the Chronicle of Higher Education noted that more than fifty students each at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge have reported flu-like symptoms to the universities’ student-health centers. Flu outbreaks were also reported at several colleges’ summer programs.
“College-aged students are particularly vulnerable to this virus, and they are not necessarily seeing a doctor on a regular basis,” Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. “A lot of them have not had regular vaccination updates. They need to be encouraged to not only take care of themselves, isolating themselves when they are sick, but also to take advantage of the vaccine when it becomes available.”
The article went on to say that guidelines from the CDC urge colleges to make it easy for students, faculty, and staff members with flu symptoms to miss class or work. They also ask colleges to consider offering alternative housing for sick students who live with roommates and to consider telling students who have medical complications putting them at high risk for severe cases of the flu to stay home or in their rooms during outbreaks.
To read the complete CEPAR advisory, visit http://www.emory.edu/home/H1N1-flu/advisories/cepar-august26.html
For information about H1N1 from the CDC, (including interim guidelines for institutions of higher education), visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
For the complete Chronicle of Higher Education article, visit http://chronicle.com.proxy.library.emory.edu/article/Colleges-Get-Ready-for-Swin/48144/