Of sumo wrestlers and
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
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.
Jellyfish jumping in
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.
An answer to the stem-cell
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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