JUNE 2022 DIGEST
MIT SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES, ARTS, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
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THE POWER OF LANGUAGE
Lupe Fiasco at Supafest, Australia, 2012; photo by Eva Rinaldi, via Wikipedia
THE BOSTON GLOBE
Lupe Fiasco to teach the art and science of rap at MIT
Hosted by our Comparative Media Studies (CMS/W) program, Grammy-winner Lupe Fiasco, whose work is informed by his interest in cognitive science, linguistics, semiotics, and computing, will join MIT for the 2022-23 academic year. Lupe, whose off-stage name is Wasalu Jaco, will teach a combined CMS and Writing class in Spring23, and will be on campus this summer for research, recording, and events. Jaco's appointment is sponsored by CMS/W professor Nick Montfort and Literature professor Mary Fuller as part of MIT’s MLK Visiting Professors & Scholars Program.
Story at The Boston Globe | MIT Press Release at CMS/W | About Lupe Fiasco at MIT
THE NEW YORK TIMES
A story about Haitian history, in Haitian Creole | Michel DeGraff cited
For Haitians, the New York Times decision to offer Haitians the choice of reading in Haitian Creole (Kreyòl ayisyen) sent an “extraordinarily powerful signal,” said Michel DeGraff, an MIT professor of linguistics who is a co-founder of the Institute's Haiti initiative.
Story at The New York Times | Timeline graphic in the NYT
Analysis: Linguistics and economics in the Caribbean | Ianá Ferguson '24
An essay by Ferguson has been published in Searchlight. MIT's Linguistics newsletter describes the piece as "an extremely important analysis on linguistics and economics in the Caribbean—with lessons for the struggle against linguistic neo-colonialism worldwide, especially in former European colonies."
Essay in Searchlight
NEW BOOKS AND REVIEWS
Life Is Hard, by MIT Philosopher Kieran Setiya, forthcoming from Riverhead Books, October 2022
Life Is Hard selected as a top ten fall book about naviagting life | Kieran Setiya
There is no cure for the human condition: life is hard, says MIT Professor of Philosophy Kieran Setiya. But philosophy can help. In his forthcoming book, Setiya offers readers a map for navigating rough terrain. Drawing on ancient and modern philosophy as well as fiction, comedy, social science, and personal essay, Life Is Hard is a work of solace and compassion.
About the Book
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Elusive by Frank Close | Reviewed by Deborah Blum
Blum, head of Knight Science Journalism at MIT, calls Elusive "a clear, vivid...tale of how a relatively obscure Scotland-based physicist developed a stunning theory that would help illuminate the invisible, particulate web that holds our universe together."
Review at The New York Times | Deborah Blum
Life-Destroying Diagrams, by Eugenie Brinkema, MIT Associate Professor of Literature
LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
Life-Destroying Diagrams by Eugenie Brinkema | Reviewed by Jorge Cotte
"Brinkima's Life-Destroying Diagrams is a full-throttle elucidation of radical formalism. A critical method whose close attention to form upends aesthetic theory." Brinkema is an Associate Professor of Literature at MIT.
Review at LARB | Eugenie Brinkema
Detail: A Diego Rivera mural in Detroit; Photo by Sarah Rice for The New York Times
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Fight to Save the Town by Michelle Wilde Anderson | reviewed by Sherry Turkle
"I read this book, about the revitalization of dying American cities, as I was researching the tech community’s enthusiasm for space travel and life in the metaverse...In these realms, you don’t find hungry or homeless people or anyone without clean water to drink. But such conditions are the daily circumstances for many of the citizens of Michelle Wilde Anderson’s actual 'discarded' towns."
Review at The New York Times
MAKING A JUST SOCIETY
Clockwise from top left: Chad Womack, Elizabeth Wathuti, Ambroise Wonkam and Melissa Nobles
A journey to overcome a racist legacy
Four guest editors — including Melissa Nobles, MIT Chancellor and Professor of Political Science, embark on a series with the Nature editors, saying "We are leading Nature on a journey to help decolonize research and forge a path towards restorative justice and reconciliation."
Inaugural commentary in the series at Nature
"And this is what he did" | Article by Professor Emma Teng
In an article for Duke University's Prism, Teng explores how the category of “mixed race” helps us think about the recent spate of violence against Asian Americans, culminating in the Atlanta mass shootings of March 2021. Teng finds that the rise of a new white nationalism calls attention to a fundamental flaw in the premise of mixed-race theory.
Article at Prism | Duke University Press | Emma Teng
A LIVABLE FUTURE
William Nordhaus PhD'67: photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images
THE WASHINGTON POST
Nobel winner’s evolution from ‘dark realist’ to just plain realist on climate change
In new book, MIT alumnus William Nordhaus PhD '67 says there’s a better way to frame the challenges posed by global warming. He sees taxes, individual ethics, and corporate responsibility as important keys to climate solutions.
Article at The Washington Post
InfoGraphic diagrams by Paul Horn, Graphics Editor for Inside Climate News
INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS
Every hour, this gas storage station emits a half-ton of methane | Phil McKenna MS'06
The Petal plant in Mississippi emits the greenhouse gas equivalent of 87,000 automobiles — more than any other gas storage facility in the U.S. "The source of the emissions is well-documented: leaky isolation valves."
Story at Inside Climate News | Phil McKenna
Olivier Blanchard, Robert Solow Professor of Economics emeritus at MIT; IMT Photo by Stephen Jaffe
Markets tend to extrapolate from the present, forever | Analysis by Olivier Blanchard
Among the world’s most respected macroeconomists, Blanchard is the Robert Solow Professor of Economics emeritus at MIT, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, DC.
Story at Financial Times
Detail, illustration for the NYTs by Naomi Elliott
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Is ‘Greedflation’ rewriting economics, or do old rules still apply? | David Autor
"Market concentration is a longstanding problem, yet we’ve had close to no inflation for two decades,” ssyd David Autor, an economics professor at MIT. “So it cannot be that market concentration suddenly explains inflation.”
Story at The New York Times
The peculiar economics of autonomous cars | David Mindell
Autonomous does not mean humanless. In Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy, MIT historian and aero-astro engineer Mindell explains why. “There are no fully autonomous systems,” he argues. “The machine that operates entirely independently of human direction is a useless machine.”
Story at Financial Times
THE WASHINGTON POST
There’s no reasoning with a GOP hijacked by disinformation | Brian Guay quoted
A new study shows how distorted disinformation has become on the political right in the Trump era. Researchers found that “the issue primarily seems to be a supply issue,” Guay said. “There’s just way more fake news on the right than the left.”
Opinion at The Washington Post | Brian Guay
THE WASHINGTON POST
GOP wants to hand-count ballots; that's less accurate | Charles Stewart III
"Computers — which ballot scanners rely on — are very good at tedious, repetitive tasks. Humans are bad at them. And counting votes is tedious and repetitive...While scanners haven’t yet been banned in any state, [my research shows that] support for hand-counting paper ballots has surged among closely attuned Republicans and plummeted among similarly attuned Democrats."
Analysis at The Washington Post | Charles Stewart III
Mortality gap between Republican/Democratic counties widens | MIT Election Lab
A new study found death rates are improving faster in Democratic counties than Republican ones. Experts are calling this phenomenon the "mortality gap," and say it may reflect state policies, individual health decisions, and a shift in party demographics.
Story at USA Today | MIT Election Data and Science Lab
Image via Politico
US NEWS & WORLD REPORT
Russia’s Ukraine failures shake China’s Taiwan plans | M. Taylor Fravel
“The U.S.-led Western response to Russia’s invasion was more rapid and robust than many in China and probably many other countries expected – including some in the United States,” says Fravel."
Coverage at US News & World Report | M. Taylor Fravel
As war drags on in Ukraine, is it time to talk compromise? | Steven Simon
"What is the U.S. interest commensurate with the possibility of nuclear escalation?" Simon asks. "There really isn't one."..."The U.S. has a track record of developing a serious case of fatigue with its support for these sorts of conflicts.”
Story at WBUR | Steven Simon
Will more weaponry for Ukraine lead to a widening war? | Steven Simon
The U.S. and Germany on Tuesday moved to send advanced weapons to Ukraine to blunt a Russian offensive in the east. Simon, who worked on the National Security Council staff during the Clinton and Obama administrations and a fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, joins Nick Schifrin to discuss the transfer of arms and the importance of diplomacy.
Conversation at PBS
Biden's weapons to Ukraine raise questions about U.S. role in the war | Jim Walsh
Host Peter O'Dowd speaks with Here & Now security analyst Jim Walsh, senior research associate at the MIT Security Studies Program.
Conversation at WBUR | Jim Walsh
Biden’s Taiwan defense pledge inflames U.S.-China relations | M. Taylor Fravel
“A question that must be on everyone’s mind in Beijing is whether the U.S. has already changed its [Taiwan] policy. After all, no one speaks with more authority on questions of foreign policy than the president,” said Fravel.
Story at Politico | M. Taylor Fravel
HONORS AND AWARDS
Robert Wilhelm '62, at celebratory MIT event in May 2022; photo by Jake Belcher
CIS hosts Robert Wilhelm '62 at event to honor his vision and generosity
CIS recently welcomed Wilhelm and his wife, Gena Whitten, to campus to express gratitude and to inaugurate a new conference room named in his honor. The prestigous Robert E. Wilhelm Fellows Program, conceptualized and funded by Wilhelm, brings real-world experience and new scholarship to CIS as a vital part of its research community.
Graham Jones receives a 2022 Bose grant for ambitious ideas
Jones and and Arvind Satayanaryan (of EECS) received the award for their collaborative project — “Magical Data Visualization” — which uses performance magic to create new visualizations that are responsive to the users’ intent, potentially impacting/reducing the spread of misinformation and disinformation.
Story at MIT News
Professor Aswin Punathambekar, MS '03 (CMS); photo via The Annenberg School for Communications
COMPARATIVE MEDIA STUDIES / SCIENCE WRITING
Professsor Aswin Punathambekar SM '03 joins Annenberg
A global communications scholar, Professor Punathambekar has been appointed Annenberg's newest Professor of Communications and will direct the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication, effective 1 June 2022.
Story | CMS/W Profile of Dr. Punathambekar
A supermassive black hole launching gigantic jets of plasma; illustration by Sophia Dagnello, on Carlisle's Black Holes Blog
Camille Carlisle SM ’10 receives David N. Schramm Award
Carlisle, a graduate of the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing, received the Schramm Award from the High-Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society for her article “Gravitational Wave Detectors Find Mystery ‘Mass Gap’ Object” (Sky & Telescope, 25 June 2020.) "I'm honored and delighted to receive [this award]" said Carlisle, "especially for a story about black holes, objects that I'm terribly fond of."
Camille Carlisle | Press Release | Article | MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing
Andy Halterman and Minh Trinh win the Lucien Pye Award for outstanding dissertations
The annual award honors PhD dissertations in MIT Political Science that exmplify a high level of original and rigorous scholarship.
Andy Halterman | Minh Trinh
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29 June 2022