IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
LINK:  Research
Course Work  
Next Generation  
Original Source  
LINK:  Features
Unexpected Expertise  
Poetic Justice  
Survival of the Richest
Food-Court Press  

Clouding the Issues


LINK:  Class Notes
Alumni News  
Alumni Works  

LINK:  Campus News
Chicago Journal  
University News e-bulletin  

LINK:  Also in every issue
Editor's Notes  
From the President  

GRAPHIC:  ResearchInvestigations
Of sumo wrestlers and other mysteries
Steven Levitt uses economics to solve conundrums of human behavior.
Economist Steven Levitt delights in proving what others suspect but don’t believe can be confirmed. For years the Japanese tabloids accused sumo-wrestling matches of being rigged, but Levitt was the first to demonstrate it. Most studies are murky on whether more police actually reduce crime in U.S. cities, but it was Levitt who showed that the nation’s finest do, in fact, help protect its streets. And though some teachers have been suspected of helping students cheat on required standardized tests, no one knew the prevalence of such activity until Levitt quantified it.
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Muse and medium
What Helen Mirra calls her “complicated relationship to authorship” began in her childhood, when as the sole member of the “Steamer Club” she awoke many mornings to discover the latest chapter of a serial adventure story slipped under her bedroom door. “The Adventures of Helen and the Monster Baby” and other tales, tapped out on a manual typewriter by Mirra’s father, were illustrated with pop-culture images, such as the roughly cut-out monkey from The Planet of the Apes pasted onto chapter five of “Monster Baby.” The stories’ protagonist, who happened also to be named Helen, was a brave little girl who saved frightened babies and helpless animals from harm.
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Jellyfish jumping in your head
When Jack Cowan read about a theory of forest-fire dynamics, the professor in mathematics, neurology, and the Committee on Computational Neuroscience couldn’t help but notice similarities to his own research on how nerve cells function in the brain’s neocortex.
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An answer to the stem-cell debate?
Scarce, flexible forms of stem cells needed for medical research and treatment may become both simple to produce and plentiful with a new technology developed at Argonne National Laboratory—and the source is as close as your own bloodstream.
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An aspirin a day keeps the polyps away
When Chicago researchers and their colleagues saw how well aspirin helped to prevent new polyps in colorectal cancer survivors, they decided to stop their multicenter study after three years, about one year early, so the public could begin taking advantage of the findings. Published in the March 6 New England Journal of Medicine, the study showed that only 17 percent of patients who took 325 milligrams of aspirin a day developed new polyps—and the ones who did had fewer tumors than the placebo patients. Senior author and professor of medicine Richard Schilsky, MD’75, who chairs the national Cancer and Leukemia Group B research organization, which spearheaded the study, said that while many doctors already recommend aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease, this research suggests one more reason to do so. The best dosage, however, has not yet been determined.
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Course Work
Canon fodder
In Losers political scientist Bernard Silberman and his students learn from thinkers who ended up as also-rans.
Sitting in on the final session of Political Science 258, Losers, doesn’t exactly make the observer feel like a loser, although it does provoke the uneasy sensation of being a fair number of laps—and readings—behind. The 40-some College students parked elbow to elbow in a sunny Cobb Hall classroom have already read and written short papers on works by Baum, Bergson, James (William), Garvey, Luxemburg, de Maistre, Schiller, Spencer, and Sorel. All nine are counter-Enlightenment texts that aren’t often read or taught these days. Which is why Bernard Silberman designed the “anti-core” Losers in the first place.
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Next Generation
Hearts damaged by coronary artery disease or faulty valves may soon be mended with a polyester-mesh device resembling the net sack of grocery-store oranges. Made of the material used to patch abdominal hernias, the device—coinvented by Jai Raman (above), a cardiothoracic surgeon at the U of C Hospitals—is wrapped permanently around the heart to prevent or suspend enlargement, which can lead to fluid retention, hormone imbalances, and heart failure.
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Original Source
The art of versatility
Four Chicago faculty members have found reason to include Angelica and Ruggiero by Francesco Montelatici (known as Cecco Bravo) in Andrew W. Mellon exhibitions they’ve cocurated at the Smart Museum. One of the Smart’s earliest acquisitions, the 12 3/4 x 17 1/2–inch oil painting (circa 1640–45) depicts the moment in Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem the Orlando Furioso just after the paladin Ruggiero has rescued Angelica, princess of Cathay, from a sea monster. Eager to ravish the maiden, Ruggiero struggles with his armor while Angelica magically disappears and his winged steed flies away.
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Fig. 1
On the same page?
While the two leading online booksellers, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, are sensitive to pricing, B&N is much more so than Amazon. Extrapolating sales-quantity figures from the sales-based book rankings each outfit lists on its Web site, GSB economist Austan Goolsbee and Yale economist Judith Chevalier found that a 1 percent price increase at B&N reduces sales by 4 percent. The same price increase at Amazon, meanwhile, reduces sales by only 0.5 percent.
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