MAY 2022 DIGEST
MIT SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES, ARTS, AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
A SECTION OF SAID & DONE | SUBSCRIBE
William Nordhaus '67, Nobel laureate in Economic Sciences
THE WASHINGTON POST
New climate thinking from Nobel laureate, MIT alumnus William Nordhaus '67
In his latest book, The Spirit of Green: The Economics of Collisions and Contagions in a Crowded World, Nordhaus says there’s a better way to frame and solve the problems of climate change; he sees taxes, individual ethics, and corporate responsibility as important keys to solutions.
Story at The Washington Post | Related: 2018 Nobel Prize story
Americans are missing a key layer of modern knowledge | Kendra Pierre-Louis '16
There are several theories as to why more people don't study or practice Earth Science, but "part of the problem is that arguably the biggest science award in the world doesn’t recognize it. There’s no Nobel prize for Earth Science."
Story at The Atlantic | Kendra Pierre-Louis '16
THE BOSTON GLOBE
Solar plans in Wareham divide environmentalists | Emma Merchant
Merchant, a graduate student in our Science Writing program, writes that this cranberry country town has ~300 acres of solar farms, with another 500 acres in the works. The increasing solar acreage is putting renewable energy and land conservation goals in some tension.
Story at The Boston Globe | Follow Emma Merchant
Orange County fire magnifies truths about climate | John D. Sutter, KSJ Fellow
In this opinion piece Sutter writes, "The concerned public must not sit back and wait...We have all the evidence we need."
Essay at CNN | John Sutter
TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY
Expanding the vision for Artificial Intelligence | Daron Acemoglu
MIT economist Acemoglu advocates for an AI that is "a tool for the selection and presentation of the right type of information, for leveraging the skill, judgment, creativity, and the social and situational learning of humans."
Story at Forbes
Does A.I. advance colonialism? | KSJ at MIT
Scholars and journalists at MIT are aiming to make the case that the answer is yes. This three-part series begins with a grand assertion: Artificial intelligence is creating a new world order.
Coverage at Fortune (subscription required)
THE BOSTON GLOBE
A book all about Cambridge | Karen Weintraub
Weintraub, an instructor in Comparative Media Studies, has co-authored Born in Cambridge: 400 Years of Ideas and Innovations (MIT Press, 2022). The book is a celebration of "The People’s Republic" and the energy, innovation, and creative crackle of our city.
Coverage at the Boston Globe | Karen Weintraub | About the book
SHOW DON'T TELL
The Personal Is Philosophical | Review by Kieran Setiya
In Setiya's lively review of Private Notebooks, 1914-1916, the first English translation of Wittgenstein’s early private notebooks, he writes: "If we can live with the fact that Wittgenstein’s theory of logic is inexpressible — it can only be shown, not said — we can live with our inability to express life’s meaning.'"
Essay at Boston Review | Follow Setiya on Twitter
RECONSIDERING: A PODCAST ABOUT LIFE
Navigating midlife with philosopher Kieran Setiya
Recognizing the inevitability of regret, Setiya says "the fact that it's just a feature of the human condition, and in fact, a side effect of something wonderful about the human condition — like the diversity and plurality of values — is a way that I found helpful in coming to terms with it."
Podcast + Transcript
A researcher in a molecular virology laboratory, Rio de Janeiro. Andre Coelho/EPA, via Shutterstock
NEW YORK TIMES
The vanishing variants | Emily Anthes '06
Studying the coronavirus variants that have faded away (e.g. Gamma, Iota, Mu), could help us prepare for what comes next, scientists say.
Story at The New York Times | Emily Anthes '06
THE WASHINGTON POST
Prolacta Bioscience | Sushma Subramanian, KSJ Fellow
Subramanian tells the story of Elena Medo: "Prolacta Bioscience, the breast milk product company she founded in 1999 and then parted ways with in 2009, was instructing her new company, Medolac, to stop using its trade secrets."
Story at The Washington Post | Sushma Subramanian
WAR IN UKRAINE
Russian troops during a rehearsal for the Victory Day parade; photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters
Russia: What is Victory Day, and why is it important? | Elizabeth Wood
“It’s hard to do a general conscription: I think that that’s when Russians would come out and protest,” said Wood, professor of history at MIT.
Story at Al Jazeera | Elizabeth Wood
THE WASHINGTON POST
In an abnormal atmosphere, ‘normal’ radioactivity at Chernobyl | Kate Brown
Brown said containment buildings at nuclear plants have not been stress-tested for heavy artillery, “certainly not for the bombs the Russians have been deploying."
Story at The Washington Post | Kate Brown
MAKING A JUST SOCIETY
M. Amah Edoh, photograph by Jon Sachs/MIT SHASS Communications
Anthropologist Amah Edoh featured on Chalk Radio
In this episode, Edoh shares how she engages learners and activists in thinking about contemporary movements for justice, looking specifically at reparations for slavery and colonization.
Chalk Radio | M. Amah Edoh
Native mascots do not bring honor to Native Americans | David Shane Lowry
“The primary goal, which was a goal when I was a student...is to humanize American Indian people,” said Lowry, a member of the Lumbee Tribe and a distinguished fellow in Native American studies at MIT.
Story at Boston.com | David Shane Lowry
ECONOMICS FOR THE PANDEMIC & BEYOND
Airline passengers post mask-ruling; photo via STAT; Getty Images
In mask mandate case, judge ruled on wordplay, not public health | Jeffrey E. Harris
Harris, an MIT Professor of Economics emeritus, writes, "When a Tampa-based federal judge voided the nationwide mandate on wearing masks in transportation venues this week, her reliance on wordplay rather than public health principles may well have prolonged the Covid-19 pandemic."
Story at STAT | Jeffrey Harris
How Covid-19 transformed the U.S. economy | David Acemoglu
[Automation] technology can augment human labor...Still, Acemoglu says he’s worried it will end up limiting job opportunities for people without degrees, and making America’s income and wealth gaps even worse.
Story at Bloomberg | Daron Acemoglu
What happens when the government stops buying Covid-19 vaccines? | Jon Gruber
Any [vaccine] price increase would still increase patients’ insurance premiums and force taxpayers to pay more through Medicare and Medicaid, said Gruber. “The government should be paying for the vaccine. The private market isn’t going to get it right."
Story at STAT | Jon Gruber
Jon Gruber on federal pandemic support
Gruber makes the economic case for additional federal investment funding in treating the pandemic.
Conversation at WGBH
Chance to expand economic opportunity slipping away | David Autor cited
Autor, a leading authority on the economic shifts that have kept many Americans from getting ahead, fears the window for major action may be closing again. "We've been doing this for four decades: underinvesting in ourselves, cutting taxes and running away from the future," Autor said.
Story at CNN | David Autor
Do MBA graduates make worse managers? | Daron Acemoglu cited
A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research is causing a stir. It suggests that executives with MBAs oversee a decline in employee pay while failing to increase company profits or sales. Acemoglu and coauthors point to “practices and values acquired in business education” for these managerial shortcomings.
Story at Bloomberg
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The secret ingredient in economic growth | Thomas Philippon PhD'03
Philippon, who wrote The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets, argues that his fellow economists have been looking at total factor productivity all wrong.
Story at The New York Times
Disney clash | Jon Gruber
Gruber explained the economics behind Disney’s special tax status, which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is targeting after the company lambasted the state’s recent "Parental Rights in Education" bill, nicknamed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Commentary at WGBH
How would an energy embargo affect Germany’s economy? | Daron Acemoglu
The shutdown of a company altogether is one way in which a jolt can create a much bigger economic hit, according to a paper by Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi of Northwestern University, as well as another study by Mr Baqaee.
Story at The Economist
INTERNATIONAL AND SECURITY STUDIES
M. Taylor Fravel; photo by Dominick Reuter
U.S. turns the screws on Solomon Islands to counter China | M. Taylor Fravel
“I would suspect we will see greater U.S. focus and attention on this part of the world than has been the case in a very long time,” said Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at MIT.
Story at Politico | M. Taylor Fravel
THE IRAN PODCAST
The Iran Podcast hosts John Tirman
Negar Mortazavi interviews Tirman, Executive Director of Center for International Studies, on the four decades of animosity between the US and Iran.
Conversation at The Iran Podcast | John Tirman
Social capital's impact on COVID-19 at local levels | Data by MIT Election Lab
A new study controls for partisanship by measuring by the share of residents who voted for the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, according to data from the MIT Elections Lab.
Paper at Nature | MIT Election Data and Science Lab
Meadows texts reveal the Fox News-Trump embrace | Heather Hendershot cited
Hendershot, a professor of film and media at MIT who studies conservative media, says the advent of cable TV news, which began in the 1980s, has prompted a change in acceptable, or permitted, journalistic standards.
Story at The Guardian | Heather Hendershot
In early primaries, voters favor polling places over mail | Charles Stewart III
In the Virginia governor’s election last year, the percentage of mail ballots cast was slightly larger than four years earlier but noticeably lower than in 2020, said Charles Stewart III, an elections expert and professor of political science at MIT. “Elections are kind of going back to where they were," he said.
Story from the Associated Press | Charles Stewart III
Detail, Illustration by Nicholas Konrad, via The New Yorker
THE NEW YORKER
DeafBlind communities may be creating a new language of touch | Michel DeGraff cited
In the course of the eighteenth century, a new language, today known as Haitian Creole, or Kreyòl, emerged. Of the early speakers of Hatitian Creole, MIT linguistic scholar DeGraff said, “They’re learning and innovating on the go.”
Story at The New Yorker | Michel DeGraff
TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION
Defining the student experience post-pandemic | Meghan Perdue
In Perdue’s experience as a digital learning scientist at MIT, one outcome catalyzed during the pandemic is a stronger sense of faculty connection with students.
Story at Times Higher Education | Meghan Perdue
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Pre-K is powerful, but only if you do it right | Parag Pathak
Economists Guthrie Gray-Lobe (University of Chicago), Parag Pathak (MIT) and Christopher Walters (U.C. Berkeley) tracked more than 4,000 students from preschool through high school, comparing the outcomes of those who won a pre-K seat to those whose lottery number wasn’t high enough.
Story at The New York Times | Parag Pathak
Activision's video game diversity tool draws backlash | Mikael Jakobsson
"The idea was to slow down time a little bit and have a little bit more discussion and reflection at that crucial point of creation,” MIT Gamelab research coordinator Jakobsson tells Axios.
Story at Axios | Mikael Jakobsson
In Memoriam: Arthur Richard Steinberg, 1937-2022 | Legendary educator and mentor
Steinberg, 85, professor emeritus of anthropology at MIT, died April 3, 2022. A cofounder of the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology as well as the founder of an innovative interdisciplinary program for MIT’s first-year students, Steinberg’s commitment and skill as a teacher were legendary.
Tribute via MIT Anthropology
NEW YORK TIMES
Philip J. Hilts, 74, Dies; Reporter Exposed a Big-Tobacco Cover-up
In one of many scoops for The New York Times, Phil Hilts revealed how the tobacco industry had kept secret its own research showing that nicotine was harmful and addictive.
The New York Times
Philip Hilts, former Director, Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT
We join colleagues in the KSJ program and the science journalism community in sorrow at the passing of Phil Hilts — and in gratitude for his life and contributions to MIT. We were honored by his time in the SHASS Community as he led KSJ from 2008-2014, "improving the program's international outreach and mentoring and encouraging scores of KSJ fellows. Hilt was himself a talented investigative journalist and the author of such acclaimed books as Smokescreen and Memory's Ghost." Books by Philip Hilts
Philip J. Hilts
HONORS, AWARDS, AND NEW POSITIONS
Amy Moran-Thomas, Hayes Career Development Associate Professor of Anthropology; photo, Jon Sachs
Amy Moran-Thomas receives MIT's 2022 Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award
Recognized for her interdisciplinary work on health, climate, and equity. The Edgerton Award Selection Committee writes that anthropologist Moran-Thomas “stands out in [her] field by bringing a humanistic approach into dialogue with environmental and science studies to investigate how bodily health is shaped by social well-being at the community level and further conditioned by localized planetary imbalances."
Story | Amy Moran-Thomas
Per Urlaub to serve as new Director of MIT Global Languages
Urlaub, who is currently Associate Dean of the Language Schools at Middlebury College, will assume this role on July 1, 2022. His academic home will be MIT Literature. Urlaub has a distinguished career as a leader in humanistic language instruction. He will succeed Emma Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations, whose leadership, Dean Rayo writes, "has been a paradigm of thoughtfulness and integrity."
MIT Global Languages | Per Urlaub | Emma Teng
GLOBAL LANGUAGES + HISTORY
SHASS faculty win Teaching with Digital Technology Awards
Takako Aikawa, Leanna Rezvani of Global Languages, and Emma Teng, of History and Global Languages, have received 2022 awards for innovative teaching using digital technology. Now in its seventh year, the Teaching with Digital Technology Awards are student-nominated awards for instructors who have effectively used digital technology to improve teaching and learning at MIT.
Story via Open Learning
Alberto Abadie elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Abadie, professor of economics and associate director of the MIT IDSS joins six other MIT faculty members elected to the Academy this spring. Of Abadie and other new members, AAAS President David Oxtoby said: “These individuals excel in ways that excite us and inspire us at a time when recognizing excellence, commending expertise, and working toward the common good is absolutely essential to realizing a better future.”
Story at MIT News | Alberto Abadie
Alberto Abadie, Professor of Economics
WOMENS & GENDER STUDIES
Historian Lerna Ekmekçioğlu to head Womens & Gender Studies
Ekmekçioğlu, the McMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History and winner of the 2016 Levitan Teaching Award, will succeed Helen Elaine Lee, Professor of Writing, whose many contributions to MIT and MIT-WGS include co-founding the My Sister's Keeper Program. Warmest thanks Helen! Congratulations Lerna!
Womens & Gender Studies | My Sister's Keeper | Helen Elaine Lee | Lerna Ekmekcioglu
Lerna Ekmekçioğlu, MacMillan-Stewart Associate Professor of History; photo by Allegra Boverman
MIT DIGITAL HUMANITIES
Historian Catherine E. Clark to head MIT Digital Humanities Program
Clark, Associate Professor of History and French Studies, will serve as Director of MIT Digital Humanities starting 1 June, 2022. She is a cultural historian of modern Europe, whose research is concerned with how the visual produces knowledge. As Director of MIT Digital Humanities, she follows Stephanie Frampton, Associate Professor of Classical Literature, who we thank for superb leadership of the program over the past two years.
MIT Digital Humanities | Stephanie Frampton | Catherine E. Clark
Catherine E. Clark; Associate Professor of History and French Studies; photo by Maggie Shannon
Manduhai Buyandelger receives Seed Award from MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium
Professor of Anthropology Buyandelger's project, "Anthro-Engineering Decarbonization at the Million-Person Scale" is a collaboration with Michael Short, Class of ’42 Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.
About the MCSC Seed Awards | Manduhai Buyandelger
Manduhai Buyandelger, Associate Professor of Anthropology at MIT; photo by Casey Atkins
STUDENT HONORS AND AWARDS
Eleanor Freund; Photo courtesy via CIS
CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
Eleanor Freund receives Jeanne Guillemin Prize
Awarded by the Center for International Studies, the prize will help support the PhD candidate's dissertation research on Chinese foreign and security policy.
Story at MIT News
Tomás Guarna '22, Comparative Media Studies
COMPARATIVE MEDIA STUDIES
Tomás Guarna, SM'22, receives Knight Hennessy Scholarship
Guarna will participate in the King Global Leadership Program and receive funding for up to 3 yrs of PhD study at Stanford where he will explore the role of technology in civic life. Six other MIT students have also received Knight Hennessy Scholarships for 2022, including students with minors or concentrations in Global Languages, Philosophy, Political Science and Public Policy.
Story at MIT News
Valerie Chen '22 wins 2022 Sudler Prize
Chen EECS ’22 is a gifted cellist at home in almost any musical genre, from Brahms and Debussy to the theme from “Game of Thrones.” She is also a gifted musical arranger and an ambassador for the cello. “The point of music is to elicit a response,” says Chen, “to share, in expression and community.”
Story by MIT Arts
Valerie Chen ' 22; photo by Bearwalk
Winners of the Isabelle De Courtivron Writing Prize
The De Courtivron Writing Prize award is made annually to recognize high-quality undergraduate writing (creative or expository) on topics related to immigrant, diaspora, bicultural, bilingual, and/or mixed-race experiences. First place was awarded to Britney Ting ’22, from Alhambra, California, for “Ticket To Freedom.”
Full story and all winners
2022 FULBRIGHT SCHOLARS
Congratulations to all the MIT 2022 Fulbright Scholars
And a special bon voyage to the three MIT Fulbright Scholars with SHASS degrees: Prosser Cathey (Economics/MechE + Political Science), who will travel to Germany for research; Nailah Smith (Writing + EECS), who will travel to Colombia as an English teaching assistant; and Kiara Wahnschafft, Alumnus (Economics + MechE) who will travel to Greece for research.
2022 Fulbright Scholars, with MIT SHASS degrees: Prosser Cathey; Nailah Smith; Kiara Wahnschafft
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20 May 2022