Said and Done

February 2014 Edition
Published by the Office of the Dean
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences




                   "The field of journalism plays a crucial role in helping
                   the public understand science. To get it right, journalists
                   need to get the science right, and then make it comprehensible
                   to the lay public. The Knight Science Journalism program at
                   MIT has been helping talented science journalists meet that
                   challenge for the past 30 years."                  




Keeril Makan's CD "Afterglow" named one of the 10 best classical recordings of 2013
TimeOut Magazine describes "Afterglow" as a "gripping collection of works by Boston-based composer Makan, whose music emphasizes color, timbre, sonority and space to rapturous effect." Makan is an Associate Professor of Music at MIT.  
Listen to works from "Afterglow"

 Keeril Makan, Associate Professor of Music, flanked by details from the cover of his new CD, Afterglow

PhD student Ben Morse receives $80K research grant from the International Growth Center
Morse recieved the award 
in collaboration with two graduate students (from Emory and Yale) to run a research project on Security Sector Reform in Liberia. Morse is interested in the comparative political economy of development and quantitative methodology. Prior to MIT, he worked for Innovations for Poverty Action in New York, Mexico, and Liberia, and as an evaluation consultant for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Liberia.
Ben Morse profile  | IGC

Four awarded the Smith Richardson Foundation World Politics and Statecraft Fellowship
Congratulations to political science graduate students Brian Haggerty, Mark Bell, Noel Anderson, and Alec Worsnop. The Smith Richardson Fellowships support the research and writing of policy-relevant dissertations, with preference to projects that could directly inform U.S. policy debates and thinking.
More  | Profiles: 
Brian Haggerty |  Mark Bell  | Noel Anderson | Alec Worsnop




Elevating the Discourse The Knight Science Journalism Fellows at MIT

Science journalism is the central way many of us learn how advances in science and technology are affecting and changing our lives — in everything from daily choices about food or health care, to issues that impact the planet as a whole. 

But crafting great science journalism is a formidable challenge. Science journalists must be schooled deeply in complex scientific and technological practices, theories, and information. They must have superb skills in writing, video, and other media that can convey the facts, import, and implications of new discoveries and data. They must be ace reporters, bringing critical thinking and hard questions to their investigations. They must have command of language that is both nuanced enough to do justice to intricate ideas, and clear and compelling enough to engage a broad public audience.

For the past 30 years, the Knight Science Journalism (KSJ) program at MIT, has been helping talented science journalists meet that challenge.

Story + Interviews





Research Portfolio 
Research is the engine for the School's capacity to help meet the world's great challenges. To name just a few areas of impact, MIT SHASS research helps alleviate poverty, safeguard elections, steer economies, understand the past and present, inform health policy, assess the impact of new technologies, understand human language, and create new forms at the juncture of art and science.
Research Portfolio


New understanding of an important property of language | David Pesetsky 
In Russian Case Morphologies and the Syntactic Categories (MIT Press, 2014), David Pesetsky, the Ferrari Ward Professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics at MIT, proposes a radical new view of case morphology, supported by a detailed investigation of some of the thorniest topics in Russian grammar.
About the book  |  3 Questions wtih David Pesetsky

The impact of democracy traditions in post-2001 Afghanistan | Fotini Christia 
Christia, an Associate Professor of Political Science, writes, "Our results relay a solid piece of advice: if development actors want to empower communities to sustain change, they should think twice about creating new institutions when options exist to strengthen the accountability of existing institutions. While democratic institutions like elected councils can improve outcomes, reformers must first clarify these institutions' relationship with existing bodies."
Story  | Christia webpage

The surprising story of Mongolian shamanism | Manduhai Buyandelger
Buyandelger, Associate Professor of Anthropolgy, finds that after Soviet domination, a rebirth of shamanism helped Mongolia rewrite its own history. “Shamanism is a historical memory for people who lost parts of their ancestral homeland, and who had been marginalized and politically oppressed,” says Buyandelger, It flourishes, she notes, where people have “no museums, no libraries, no cemeteries, no mausoleums. They don’t have anything to materialize their memories of the past.” 
Story | Buyandelger webpage

Cyberpolitics and international relations theory, policy, and practice | Nazli Choucri
In her recent book, Cyberpolitics in International Relations, MIT Professor of Political Science Choucri gives "an imaginative, skillful integration of the key concerns of international relations and the burgeoning scholarship on new communication technologies. A timely book that reveals how digital media are reconfiguring many of the classic themes of international relations theory.” 
About the book | Nazli Choucri Profile 


Two of our intrepid professors conducting research in the field
L: Anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger riding with nomadic shamans on the Mongolian steppe
R: Political scientist Fotini Christia interviewing tribal leaders in Afghanistan


Care to play with Einstein?
Check out "Open Relativity" from the MIT Game Lab, a research group of Comparative Media Studies/Writing. Modern games have brought the power of play to many endeavors — from entertainment to education, art to activism, science to socialization and more. The MIT Game Lab explores the potentials of play in all these relams, particularly as it is amplified by new technologies.  
About Open Relativity

Précis interview | Richard Nielsen 
Q&A with Associate Professor of Political Science Richard Nielsen about his research merging statistics, language, and fieldwork, to study Middle East politics, as well as his thoughts on independent religious institutions in Egypt and the broader Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Awakening.

Study shows emergency room usage rates by those with new Medicaid coverage
A unique study of Oregon’s citizens, co-authored by MIT Ford Professor of Economics Amy Finkelstein, sheds empirical light on the inner workings of health care in the U.S. 
Story  | Finkelstein webpage 

Water, water everywhere: But is there enough to drink?
Franklin Fisher, the Carlton Professor of Economics emeritus gave the opening remarks at MIT’s first-ever Water Summit, organized by the student-run MIT Water Club. At the event, MIT experts addressed the challenges of supplying clean, safe water to a growing world population.

Current SHASS research stories by the MIT News Office team
Archive of recent and past SHASS research and feature stories by the MIT News writers 


The research of MIT's School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences appears principally in the form of books and publications, and music and theater productions. These gems of the School provide new knowledge and analysis, innovation and insight, guidance for policy, and nourishment for lives.

Take a look 


Recent books
L to R: Cyberpolitics in International Relations, by political scientist Nazli Choucri; Russian Case Morphologies and the Syntactic Categories by linguist David Pesetsky; Tragic Spirits, Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia, by anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger.   


Introducing the MIT SHASS Online Publications Directory 

A convenient, one-page portal to all the print and online publications produced by the School's 20+ academic units, centers, and programs. 
From Audits of the Conventional Wisdom to Scope to LIT@MIT — these publications keep readers up-to-date on current research, news, community profiles, and commentaries in their respective fields. 

Take a look




Gruber outlines key upcoming moments in Affordable Care Act rollout
Jonathan Gruber, the Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, weighs in on the health plan’s status as legislation becomes reality. The closely watched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, which provides health insurance for all U.S. citizens, will have at least three key mileposts in 2014.
Story  | Gruber webpage 

SHASS researcher Thomas Neff's idea has turned 22,000 warheads into electricity
Neff’s idea and dedication, along with great cooperation by the Russian and U.S. governments, led to this success. The NYTs writes that "Millions of idealists, from President Obama on down, have sought a world without nuclear weapons. Dr. Neff, who has done more than almost anyone to advance that goal... said the lesson of the story 'is that private citizens can actually do something.'”
Story at the New York Times  |  About Thomas Neff

Videos from the J-PAL@10 anniversary symposium
Online video collection of the presentations at the 10th anniversary event for the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. 
Video Collection | Archive: Story about the symposium



"Ten Ways to Get Serious About Rising Inequality"
From point 4 of 10: "In a 2011 paper that sparked an interesting debate, Peter Diamond, Professor of Economics emeritus, and Emmanuel Saez of Berkeley [MIT PhD in Economics '99] argued that, based on the costs and benefits to society as a whole, [the top tax rate] should be set at seventy-three per cent—a bit below the level in the nineteen-fifties, but well above today's rate."
Article in The New Yorker


Time to get creative about helping the unemployed back into the job market | David Autor
Research by MIT's David Autor vividly shows how the program has become permanent welfare for some, discouraging those with limited disabilities from reentering the workforce. Large numbers of work-capable Americans voluntarily exit the labor force to collect disability, while others spend years at home trying to qualify for the rolls — while their work skills atrophy, he writes.
Story at CNN  | Autor webpage 

"American elections need help. Here’s how to make them better."
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration recently released its Report and Recommendations to improve the voting experience in the United States. The commission relied heavily upon the expertise of the nation’s top political scientists and election administration experts, including MIT Professor of Political Science Charles Stewart III. 
Story in the Washington Post + Recommendations
 | Stewart webpage

Brava! Praise for new work by MIT composer Elena Ruehr 
"Elena Ruehr's piece opens with a series of majestic, brightly colored chords in the brass, whose reappearance at various points delineates the piece’s architecture. Steady string figurations lay a groundwork as melodies unspool in the winds. The remarkable facet of the piece is the way motion and stillness work together: The music always seems to be moving ahead, yet the landscape, like O’Keeffe’s, remains the same. The brass playing was brilliant."
Story at The Boston Globe  | Ruehr webpage


L to R: Charles Stewart III, Professor of Political Science; MIT Composer Elena Ruehr; David Autor, Professor of Economics  

"Platonov, or The Disinherited" opens in NYC | Jay Scheib
MIT director and multimedia-theater pioneer Jay Scheib has created a live cinematic adaptation of Chekhov’s unfinished play. "An ambitious and technologically savvy director, Mr. Scheib has often integrated multiple video screens into his work. Recent excursions in theater, such as the pieces that comprise his 'Simulated Cities/Simulated Systems' trilogy, have explored the power of simulacra."
Preview at the NYT  | Story at Wall Street Journal  | MIT Spectrum feature on Jay Scheib


Scene from "Platanov, or The Disinherited," by MIT director Jay Scheib, Associate Professor of Theater Arts 


The Art of the Monger | Heather Paxson 
In this commentary, Paxson, the author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (University of California Press, 2013), writes that "Regular 'their' mongers to steer them toward the best cheeses, not just the ones that are overstocked or may be reaching the point of no return, which, with cheese, is always a possibility. For many cheesemongers, participation in this sort of economy of sentiment — more than the possibility of increasing profit — makes mongering a job worth doing." 
Commentary in Limn | Paxson webpage

On grand questions, numbers, and funding in physics  | David Kaiser
"Practical, interdisciplinary ways of working forged during the Second World War had a lasting impact on a generation of physicists and their findings.... that legacy now sits beside more recent breakthroughs born of the era that reclaimed more openly speculative and philosophical approaches to the deep mysteries of nature."
Article in in Nature | Kaiser webpage 

Between the lines with a linguist 
"Why is the tall man happy," a film about MIT Professor of Linguistics emeritus Noam Chomsky, began several years ago when Mr. Gondry was an artist-in-residence at MIT.  
Story at the Wall Street Journal


L to R: MIT physicists at work on a cavity magnetron, 1940s; American artisanal Cremont cheese; Detail,
from the film "Why is the tall man happy," about MIT Professor of Linguistics emeritus Noam Chomsky.  



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