Here & There


THE TRUCKER AND THE PROFESSOR

Yossi Sheffi, co-director of the Center for Transportation Studies , is the professor referred to in a December 2001 Wired magazine article titled "The Trucker and the Professor."

The piece is a profile in parallel of Sheffi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Orlando Mitchell, a driver hauling 42,000 pounds of batter from Cleveland to seafood purveyor Gorton's of Gloucester, Mass. Author David Diamond refers to the two as "the twin engines driving the new math-based trucking industry." Mitchell "crisscrosses the country, hauling his cargo in an 18-wheeler," while Sheffi "crunches the numbers and starts software companies--five at last count."

Diamond reports on his ride in Mitchell's rig and on his long logistics talk with Sheffi, who is referred to as "one of the few gurus" in the field. Click here for the full story.

NOBEL ROUNDTABLE

Three Japanese Nobel laureates including MIT's Susumu Tonegawa joined the director of the Nobel Museum in a roundtable discussion that largely focused on how to spark Japanese children's interest--and creativity--in science.

The discussion, moderated by Professor Reiko Kuroda of Tokyo University, was reported in the Dec. 29 issue of the Yomiuri Daily.

In response to Kuroda's comment that "middle- and high-school students in Japan tend to regard science and technology as the main culprit behind environmental disruption," 2001 Nobel laureate Ryoji Noyori of Nagoya University remarked that "by encouraging children to think about what their study means to society, it is possible to ensure that the study of science benefits society."

Tonegawa brought up the larger issue that "people in many countries are becoming increasingly indifferent to science today." This trend, he said, can be found in both the United States and Japan. Why? For one, he said, in Japan "the system tends to place greater emphasis on the need to teach arts and humanities courses. In addition, some teachers of science courses are inadequate."

The panelists agreed on the importance of studying science in creative and "active" ways. Tonegawa said "at a school one of my children attends, teachers give individual ... students themes to study, and tell them to write essays about these subjects." Further stressing the importance of educators, he said that "this kind of education can be done only by capable teachers."

He went on to note that "it is also necessary to give young people incentives to become scientists." Leo Esaki, winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize in physics, noted that "that is why Nobel decided to give Nobel laureates prize money. It should not be forgotten, however, that the joy of studying science lies in the art of constructing theories and inventing things. This also should be taught to young people."

The panel concluded with a discussion of why about 70 percent of Nobel laureates are American.

Tonegawa: "The US system that governs colleges and universities tends to produce excellent researchers and accomplishments through competition ... [Young] researchers fiercely compete with each other under strong pressure. Nobel Prize-winning research conducted by those in their 30s and 40s accounts for three-quarters of the total Nobel winners in the United States.

"This contrasts with Japan, where research and education have long been governed by a hierarchical structure ... many Japanese researchers in their 30s are wasting their ability because the system does not allow them to carry out their studies without the intervention of others."

Tonegawa won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1987. He is a professor of biology and director of the Center for Learning and Memory.

CLIPS AND QUOTES

"A lot of people in various sectors are trying to do something about work/life balance, but they're not coordinated with each other, and what one does may work against the other. What is needed is for employees, employers, unions and government--all the stakeholders--to come together and approach this as a national problem."--Professor of Management Lotte Bailyn in a Dec. 10 Washington Post story about balancing work and home life.

"Argentina is completely bankrupt, so the notion that they have something left as collateral that they haven't promised to someone else is preposterous."--Professor of Economics Rudiger Dornbusch in a Dec. 28 New York Times story by Daniel Altman about the argentino, Argentina's new currency. He was referring to the country's pledge that the argentino will be backed by assets such as the president's residence.

"The trick here is storing the electricity in some kind of battery, so that the power doesn't stop if you're not walking around."-- Joe Paradiso , head of the responsive environments group at the Media Lab, in a Dec. 27 Los Angeles Times story by Dave Wilson titled "Unlocking the Power of the Body Electric." Paradiso was referring to power generation devices his group has incorporated into shoes. "Every step generates a burst of electricity," wrote Wilson. "That's the sort of thing that could power a radio."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 16, 2002.


Topics: Faculty, Global

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