Here & There


Six MIT professors and researchers are among the 100 people chosen by Newsweek to form "The Century Club," so named because of the impact they are expected to have on life in the 21st century. According to the magazine's predictions, the list members offer a "snapshot" of the next millennium.

In the category of science and medicine, Newsweek cited Ian W. Hunter, Hatsopoulos Professor of Mechanical Engineering and co-director of the d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology, for his work developing remote-controlled surgical robots. It also named Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker for his work in linguistics and language development. Richard J. Wurtman, director of the Clinical Research Center, professor of neuropharmacology and Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor, and his wife, research scientist Judith Wurtman, were listed jointly for their development of the weight-loss drug, Redux.

Two professors from the Media Lab will also make a difference on life in the coming 100 years, according to Newsweek. Alex P. Pentland, academic head of the Media Lab and Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, was cited for his work in developing various components of the "smart house." Patricia E. Maes, Associate Professor of Media Technology and Sony Corporation Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, was named for the future impact of her "intelligent agents"--software that acts without being asked--and for her new Firefly Network, which will deploy the new agents via the Net.
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Two men from MIT gave some vital assistance during the Blizzard of '97 to Patricia Orr, but she doesn't know who they are. Ms. Orr, a stock clerk in electrical engineering and computer science, left work in the 24-hour-a-day stockroom late on the night of Monday, March 31, for her home in Dorchester, as the MBTA had stopped running. But her car, which was parked in the Albany Street garage, got stuck in front of the entrance.

"Some car could have come around the corner and creamed me. That's how thick the snow was--you couldn't see," she recalled. Neither a Cambridge police car nor a city plow could dislodge her vehicle. A young man who saw her plight also tried and failed, but he promised to fetch help. "He came back with another man and they worked for hours and finally they got my car out and we shoved it back into the garage," Ms. Orr said. She knew the men were from MIT because all three tried to use their ID cards to open the garage exit gate.

"Even though they had to go to Worcester that night, they stayed with me for two hours, until 1:30am," she said of her anonymous helpers. "Then they took me in their station wagon and found a cab for me. I just want to say thank you to those two MIT employees because they were God-sent. I don't know what I would have done without their help, for I was frightened, cold and very wet."
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Julius A. Stratton Professor of Physics and Nobel laureate Henry W. Kendall was the moderator at an April 7 "town meeting" on global warming sponsored by the Environmental Information Center in Washington, DC. The Boston meeting was one of a series held around the country since international talks on global warming resumed last year in Geneva.

At the meeting, which was held in the Boston Public Library, top scientists and government officials including Sen. John Kerry and US Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth predicted effects of global warming, including storms of greater severity, higher sea levels, coastline erosion, loss of wildlife habitat and forest decline.

"Unless we take action now to curb global warming, people in New England and all over the world could face serious consequences," said Professor Kendall, who is also chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
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William H. Ward, a retired Lincoln Laboratory staff member, is helping with the US Army's Military-History Institute survey project to acquire source material on World War II. The MHI is distributing a survey designed to elicit male and female veterans' thoughts and reflections on many different aspects of military service such as training in various fields, combat actions, occupation duty, demobilization and postwar experiences. The effort is a follow-on to earlier surveys of Spanish-American War and World War I veterans.

Mr. Ward, who provided technical communications and cryptography support on Iwo Jima, is distributing copies of MHI's questionnaire and postage-paid mailing labels from his Lincoln office, where he works part-time. Members of the MIT community who have friends or relatives who served during World War II, or who are themselves veterans, can contact him in Rm B-207 at Lincoln or by calling 981-7680.

QUOTES:

"Could you spend $2.1 billion some other way? Of course you could. But if we're ever going to be in the business of exploring the boundaries of Earth, we've got to do it." --Daniel Hastings, professor of aeronautics and astronautics and director of the Space Engineering Research Center, commenting on the amount of money the United States will spend on the international space station (compared to the $1.8 billion NSF annual research budget), in the Quincy Patriot-Ledger.

"When you get a fabulous picture back from the Hubble Space telescope, it doesn't get on the front page of every newspaper in the country because it's a pretty color picture. It gets on the front page because someone interprets the picture and tells you there is a black hole at the middle of that galaxy." --Claude Canizares, director of the Center for Space Research, in an April 16 Gannett News Service article on discoveries made by unmanned NASA machines.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 30, 1997.


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