Meatspace

Philosophical ruminations.
Nov. 23 1999 3:25 AM

Meatspace

News from academe.

{{Cowheads#56476}}Godzilla vs. Frankenstein
Researchers at the Tokyo University of Agriculture have drawn the ire of the Japanese government for their aggressive cloning experiments. The team transplanted the nuclei of human white blood cells into the egg cells of cows and applied electric shocks to fuse them. The cells began segmenting but stopped after three cycles. Had the cells continued segmenting, as normal cells do, they could have (theoretically) been implanted into a human uterus and potentially produced a human clone. The Japan Economic Newswire reports that the experiment may have violated a government policy that forbids university and ministry-related research institutions from creating human clones and transplanting nuclei into human egg cells.

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Meat Is Murder

"Organ Watch" has been formed to monitor what UC Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes calls "modern cannibalism"--the theft of body parts from corpses--which occurs predominantly in impoverished areas around the globe. Researchers from Berkeley and Columbia University will investigate the global distribution of human organs and look into urban legends, such as the one in which a drugged party-goer wakes up in a bath of ice water with his kidneys extracted. Next to them is a phone and a note that says, "Call 911 immediately or you will die."

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Anarchy in the U.S.

Letters sent to the imprisoned Ted Kaczynski--from admirers and foes alike--are bound for the anarchist papers collection at the University of Michigan. Photocopies of letters and other writings by the Unabomber himself will also join the archive (all slightly abridged for the protection of privacy, that is). A university spokesperson told the Michigan Daily that the library is also interested in acquiring evidence from Kaczynski's trial but that it won't be available until after he "has exhausted his appeals options."

First Stone

Hillsdale College President George Roche III, nationally known for decrying a moral crisis in higher education, resigned from his $188,000 post. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the precipitating event was the suicide of Roche's daughter-in-law amid rumors of an affair between her and Roche. After resigning, Roche only said, according to the Chronicle, "I am nearly 65 years of age and have no wish to continue." Hillsdale, located about 100 miles from Detroit, held an all-school convocation to discuss the future direction of the college.

Goddard Damn the President

The last time Goddard College went shopping for a new president, its advertising copy quipped, "We need someone who is prepared to lead us through a process that questions the necessity of a president in the first place." Questioning the necessity of the current president is the newly unionized faculty, which recently filed a vote of "no confidence" in President Barbara C. Mossberg over her management style. The chairman of Goddard's board of trustees dismissed the faculty wrath as "labor negotiations tactics" and described the call for a new president consistent with Goddard College tradition: The school has had six presidents in the last decade.

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Victorious Couch Potatoes

Ohio University students cleaned off their porches last February when the Athens, Ohio, city council outlawed the use of indoor furniture out-of-doors. But today, the couches are back. Led by OU neurobiology professor Scott Hooper, students beat back the law with a referendum that won by a 46-vote margin (1,506 in favor, 1,460 against). OU senior Jennifer Ciganko saluted the return of the Athens decorating tradition. "My mom went here 30 years ago and there were couches on the porches," she said.

The Fittest for Science

The nation's top scientific journal is getting a new top editor. Donald Kennedy, a biologist, former president of Stanford University, and once commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, will take the reins at Science in June. (Current Editor Floyd S. Bloom will return to Scripps Research Institute.) Kennedy resigned from Stanford in 1991 after reports circulated that he had acquired extravagant personal items at the expense of the federal government.

A Bad Shot in the Arm

The government wants to bust the drug policy professor. The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the John Jay College of Criminal Justice a $2.6 million grant in 1996 to support Professor Ansley Hamid's five-year study of heroin use in New York City's toughest neighborhoods. But a federal complaint, filed in late October, accused the much-celebrated Hamid of misappropriating grant funds for personal use--to take trips, buy CDs, and work on an unrelated book manuscript--and to buy heroin for his research subjects. Hamid faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and losing his job, all over what he calls "really trumped-up charges." Joy Settembrino, who refused Hamid's requests to purchase items unrelated to the research, says of Hamid: "It almost seemed that he acted as if the check for the full $2.6 million was written out to him to do as he pleased."

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Higher Learning

The 100 best spiritual books of the last 100 years were announced this month. Compiled for the new-agey publisher Harper San Francisco by Smith College religion professor Philip Zaleski, the list includes books from all major religious traditions as well as novels, essay collections, letters, and confessions. Malcolm X, Mother Teresa, Franz Kafka, and Jack Kerouac made the cut. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man received the most votes from the nominating committee. Zaleski thought people might be surprised that The Lord of the Rings made the list. "I do think it's the quintessential tale of good and evil, a deeply moral tale. And that seems to be a spiritual subject," he told the Dallas Morning News.

Why Johnny Can't Do Differential Equations

College mathematicians are overhauling the undergraduate math curriculum now recommended by the Mathematical Association of America. Many professors complain that students don't understand the concepts and theories underlying their number crunching. "I want students to think--and that's not what we get out of our math programs today," says Ernst Breitenberger, an Ohio University physicist. The MAA's new curriculum, which will be voluntary, is due in two years.

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