A Thousand Flowers Wilt
Chinese officials fired two leading academics from their positions last month and berated two others through their press proxies for dissenting from government policy. Economist Fan Gang and political scientist Liu Junning lost their jobs, and were lumped together with economist Mao Yushi and retired academic Li Shenzhi in a Guangming Daily editorial that berated this gang of four of advancing too many Western ideas, such as privatization and political reform. President Jiang Zemin has publicly campaigned against what he calls the foreign plot to divide and westernize China. None of the academics has been charged with a crime, however. "I've heard that I'm being criticized by the propaganda department," economist Mao said. "They say I'm advocating privatization and freedom. It's all nonsense."
God Doesn't Bowl Alone
The desire for independence is the key psychological difference separating religious and non-religious people, according to Ohio State University researcher Steven Reiss. Reiss arrived at this decision after surveying 558 students and professionals with his Reiss Profiles, which measure individual differences in 15 different desires and goals. "People who score high on independence want to make their own decisions," he wrote in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. "They don't normally enjoy having to rely on other people. In contrast, religious people seek strength by relying on the help of others, including God." (Click here for a press release on the study.)
See Me, Hear Me
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is developing a new video dictionary of American Sign Language. The project, led by assistant professor of ASL Geoffrey Poor, will offer both definitions of individual signs and examples of usage. The correct formation of a sign depends greatly on the meaning of the surrounding sentence, so the video dictionary will make it easier for students of ASL to learn to sign more precisely based on context.
I Can See Clearly Now
Columbia professor of mechanical engineering Shane Hong has found a way to eliminate the scratches—"scratchiti"—that mar and obscure subway windows. His scratchiti-buster works by melting the surface and dissolving the scratches. Then, as the glass cools, the surface becomes smooth again. The New York Times reports that the city's transit authority currently spends $3 million a year replacing scarred windows and hopes that the invention will save it money.
Campus Game Boys
With chalk in hand, University of Chicago math students celebrated Math Awareness Month this April by scrawling mathematical formulas and theorems on sidewalks and buildings across the campus. Speaking anonymously to the Chicago Weekly News, one student said, "The theorems of such great mathematicians as Euler, Stokes, and Van Kampen should not be hidden away in dusty textbooks." At Brown University, students transformed one exterior wall of the school's 14-story Sciences Library into a giant display of the computer game Tetris. Time magazine reports that setting up the game, powered by a PC running Linux, took more than five months of work and planning.