MIT model explains how the brain can learn novel tasks while still remembering what it has already learned.
Professor Samuel Jay Keyser, associate provost for Institute Life, has added to his accomplishments with his first book of poetry.
Titled Raising the Dead and published by Garden Street Press of Cambridge, it consists of a series of conversations between Professor Keyser and his dead mother as he sits on a cemetery wall near her gravestone.
Dr. Keyser, a linguist by profession, said he has been writing poetry for about two years. He is better known to the MIT community as a trombone player with local bands and for his wit. In fact, the chair he holds-as Peter de Florez Professor of Linguistics-is named for an alumnus who left a sizable bequest to MIT to keep humor alive at the Institute.
And so it is that MIT's unofficial "humor professor" has written a book essentially about death and dying. But, as one might expect, it is not without its wry insights. For example:
Today is cold and rainy, though it is still April.
I tell my mother that I sold my place next to her for six hundred dollars.
I have decided to donate my eyes to science, I said.
The blind leading the blind, she replied.
Another poet on the MIT faculty, Stephen J. Tapscott, professor of literature, offers these comments on the back cover of his colleague's book:
"The poems in Raising the Dead could be written only once: they are caught in grief and in blood and in motion, at the node of a life where mourning, memory, forgiveness, and the heritage of great wit lift the ground of being to a higher finer ground. These poems-this poem-lift the heart without raising the voice. They raise the body, in forgiveness and in elegiac clear-sightedness. As in raising an Offertory. As in raising Cain or hell. As in a rising storm, or tide, or hope."
The book is on sale at the MIT Press book store.
Still on the subject of books, Dr. Bruce Mazlish, professor of history, has three of them popping up this fall.
One is The Fourth Discontinuity: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines. According to the publisher, the Yale University Press, "Mazlish argues that just as Copernicus, Darwin and Freud overturned our illusions of separation from and domination over the cosmos, the animal world and the unconscious, it is now necessary to relinquish a fourth fallacy or discontinuity-that humans are discontinuous and distinct from the machines we make."
A second book is Conceptualizing Global History, edited by Dr. Mazlish and by Ralph Buultjens of the New School for Social Research in New York City and New York University. The book, part of a series, is summarized by its publisher, Westview Press of Boulder, CO, as offering "a new scholarly perspective, a new historical consciousness and a new subfield of history-global history-that will have a major impact on the way we write history and make policy in the future."
Rounding out the trio of books is the paperback edition, published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, of A New Science: The Breakdown of Connections and the Birth of Sociology. Writes Harry Liebersohn of the American Historical Review: "Although numerous able interpreters have attempted syntheses of the sociological tradition, Mazlish is the first to search so boldly for its ultimate intentions... Beginning students will find this a stimulating, wittily written introduction to the history of sociology."
Professor Mazlish, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is the author of many other books on subjects ranging from science to psychohistory.
And still on books... Dr. Loren Graham, professor of the history of science who is regarded as the world's leading specialist on the development of Russian and Soviet science and technology, is the author of The Ghost of the Executed Engineer: Technology and the Fall of the Soviet Union.
Its publisher, the Harvard University Press, describes the book as "the story of the Soviet Union's industrial promise and failure" as told through the life and work of visionary engineer Peter Palchinsky, a victim of the Stalin regime: "Palchinsky's ghost leads us through the miasma of Soviet technology and industry, pointing out the mistakes he condemned in his time, the corruption and collapse he predicted, the ultimate price paid for silencing those who were not afraid to speak out... a cautionary tale about the fate of engineering that disregards social and human issues."
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra made plain its admiration of Tod Machover, associate professor of music and media in the Media Lab, in a press release announcing the orchestra's world premiere performance of Professor Machover's Concerto for Hyperviolin, Forever and Ever:
"Within the last five years, Tod Machover-multi-talented composer, conductor, cellist and inventor-has emerged as one of the most visible and imaginative practitioners of new music forms... Machover is noted for compositions which wed his interest in computer electronics with classical structures, jazz improvisations and even rock rhythms."
Hyperinstruments, as the release explained, "are played conventionally but are electronically transformed through computer link-ups," a "complex interaction between live performer and computer technology... designed to enhance the work of the human performer, providing for new realms of powerful musical possibilities."
Laboratory for Nuclear Science editorial assistant Eve Sullivan has begun a monthly column called "Parents Forum" in the Cambridge Chronicle. The column takes its name from an organization, Parents Forum, Inc., that Ms. Sullivan formed with a group of local parents.
She reports that the peer-led parent education group group has received MIT support and encouragement in a number of ways. "The program's development attests to MIT's business incubator climate, although this is a case of low-tech, nonprofit entrepreneurship," she commented.
For example, in the spring of 1992, Sean Barrett, then an MIT undergraduate, received a Lord Fellowship through the MIT Public Service Center to help the group with its first year's activities.
Shirley G. Lai, a '93 Sloan graduate, was the lead person involved in the program's prize-winning business plan submission. The Entrepreneurs Club awarded Parents Forum a Social Venturing Award in their 1993 $10K Competition for its "distinguished socially responsible business idea."
Douglas C. Ling, an alumnus, and Richard D. Shyduroff of the Entrepreneurs Club were others who provided key support over the past two years.
Currently, Daniel J. Dangler, an administrator in the Center for Space Research, is helping direct program planning with Ms. Sullivan and other board members. Also, Julie H. Coiro, secretary for the Sloan Annual Fund, is involved in program planning and is writing her thesis for an undergraduate degree at Lesley College on Parents Forum.
"It is amazing how rapidly the program has grown in two years," Ms. Sullivan said. "It would certainly not have come this far without the support of many individuals at MIT and others outside MIT. Mr. Rogers-the Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood-and Congresswoman Pat Schroeder have written us letters of encouragement!"
Parents Forum has a fall discussion series open to individuals age 16 and over. For information call 617-864-3802.
PS: Ms. Sullivan is the daughter of an MIT alumnus (the late Richard L. Odiorne `36) and the mother of an MIT student (Luke W. Sullivan, Class of 1995.)
CLIPS AND QUOTES:
"The Internet almost certainly will change as it grows up. But hopefully it will keep some of the same characteristics that it had as a child: the unstructured nature, the informality, the qualities that make up its basic nature."--David D. Clark, senior research scientist in the Laboratory for Computer Science, in a Boston Globe article on the rapid growth of the computer network Internet.
"Unfortunately, we have found ourselves so wrapped up in a defensive posture over issues [like indirect cost reimbursement] and keeping costs down that we haven't been as forceful and articulate on these topics as perhaps we should have been."-MIT President Charles M. Vest, in a column by Michael Schrage on the slowness of academia to take a leading role in defense conversion.
"The anti-NAFTA people are telling malicious whoppers. The pro-Nafta side is telling little white lies."-Dr. Paul R. Krugman, professor of economics, summing up the war of words on the North America Free Trade Agreement, in The New York Times. (Although he views the agreement as "economically trivial," the article said, he supports it because he thinks it will help keep free-market reformers in power in Mexico.)
"It's a very different kind of problem now, not amenable to short-term fixes. It's a long-term process that will have many ups and downs, and we can affect a very small part of it."-Dr. Stephen M. Meyer, professor of political science, in a Boston Globe article describing a sharp division among scholars about the shape of US foreign policy in regard to former Soviet republics.
PHOTO CAPTION: A hardy group of adventurers from MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering and Sea Grant competed aboard the yacht Allegro in a 635-mile sailboat race from Buzzard's Bay to Bermuda. In the photo, the crew is shown with Sir John Swan (center), Bermuda premier, at a reception at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. From the left are Captain Donald Atwood, a postdoctoral associate in the Sea Grant program; his wife, Carol; Swan; Noah Eckhouse, a research specialist in Ocean Engineering; and Charles Mazel, a research engineer in the department. Dr. Atwood owns the 35-foot Allegro, which completed the June race in five days, putting it "solidly in the middle of the pack," according to Mr. Eckhouse.
A version of this article appeared in the October 6, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 9).