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 spotlight: MIT neuroscientist, cryptologist reverse Red Sox curse

Last spring, the Boston Red Sox honored 2 MIT faculty members with the chance to throw the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway. Did it play a part in last night's triumphant win? We don't know for sure, but Rivest and Tonegawa both have their theories.

  Home - MIT Susumu Tonegawa
Susumu Tonegawa, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, and director of the Picower Center for Learning and Memory, admits to being "a pretty avid Red Sox fan. In fact when people ask me whether I am a baseball fan, I tell them 'No, I am not a baseball fan, I am a Red Sox fan!'--the implication being I don't care so much what happens in baseball other than in relation to the Red Sox."

"I thoroughly enjoyed this once in a lifetime occasion," Tonegawa said. "But the greatest thing that happened that evening in May was that the Red Sox came from behind and [won] in the bottom of the ninth inning. Do you know why this was possible? Because I sent my secret waves from the top of the grandstand!"

Read the full article, May 19, 2004 issue of MIT Tech Talk

Ronald Rivest
MIT cryptologist Ron Rivest can lock up a secret -- but can he lock into baseball's strike zone? That was the question last April before the Red Sox took on their arch-rivals, the New York Yankees.

"It was really very exciting to be pitching the first ceremonial pitch for this first Red Sox-Yankees game of the season. I was of course, hoping, that this will be the pitch that 'breaks the curse,'" said Rivest, referring to the legend that a curse has prevented the Red Sox from winning the World Series since 1918.

Rivest's son Alexander, a graduate student in brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, took photos from the stands and posted them on the web. The sequence of pictures is interspersed with tongue-in-cheek mathematical musings about the baseball's motion -- "helping me to figure out what angle to pitch the ball," Rivest said. "But they are quite likely in error, anyway. I wasn't actually thinking about math at all while I was pitching, of course!

Rivest got a souvenir of his moment on the Fenway field of dreams: the baseball he threw, stamped with his name and the date.

Read the full article, April 29, 2004
  Susumu Tonegawa
Susumu Tonegawa: Tonegawa says the key to victory was his "secret waves"



Ron Rivest
Ron Rivest: Rivest aims to "crack the curse"



Ron Rivest
Rivest's baseball memento serves as a reminder of the historic victory