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December 2008 Archives

December 1, 2008

Art in science

Just off the elevators on the Gordon Center's third floor, Michael LaBarbera's Bay Scallop—Looking Back jumps out at visitors, displayed among other 20-by-26-inch prints. The photograph's neutral background—dirty white waves and jelly-like bristles—sets off eight of the organism's turquoise eyes, seven marching along a diagonal and one outlier at the upper right.


The animal has hundreds more eyes that the photo doesn't show—but what does an organism with virtually no brain do with so many eyes? "We know that the scallop can use its eyes to census the number of particles in the water, which it eats," LaBarbera says, "and it has been claimed that they can see predators like crabs approaching, but the evidence is pretty bad for the latter." He found the scallop—Argopecten irradians—in the northern Gulf of Mexico and used it while teaching Invertebrate Zoology this past spring quarter. The image shows a shell at the bottom, the eight eyes and sensory tentacles, and an opening where water enters for feeding and respiration.

One of about 40 pieces in the Science in Art exhibit, which is brightening the Gordon Center's sunny atrium through December 13, the photograph is an example of the beauty in science. The exhibit, in its second year, aims to show how "people incorporate art into science or science into art," says organizer Rebecca Ayers, a doctoral student in biochemistry and molecular biology who also paints.

So while some of the art, like LaBarbera's, comes from scientists at the University, Argonne National Lab, or Fermilab, other pieces are by local artists who meld science into their work. Chicago artist Vesna Jovanovic, for example, contributed Timekeeper, a self-portrait in which she overlaid several years' worth of full-body X-rays, then drew or painted clock gears over the heart and other systems. Near the arms she drew the beginnings of wings, showing what may come in thousands of years. "The piece is a record of the passing of time," she notes in her artist's statement, "not only a lifetime (illustrated by the medical scans), but also time through evolution, technology, and culture."


Photo courtesy Michael LaBarbera

December 2, 2008

Phoenix Pix: Dec. 1–5, 2008

Visitors to the Gordon Center's Art in Science exhibit walk past Paul Sereno's Giacomettisaurus sculpture.

Visitors to the Gordon Center's Art in Science exhibit walk past Paul Sereno's Giacomettisaurus sculpture.

Photo by Dan Dry.

December 3, 2008

Macroeconomics—with a local angle

“I’ve held hundreds of town meetings in towns of less than 100,” U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, AB’64, told hundreds of listeners in Kent Hall Tuesday night. “I’ve personally talked to every resident of the state of Vermont.” He wasn’t bragging, he said, but trying to convey a “dose of reality” that others might not get. “I’ve talked to people who have lost their jobs,” he said, “and people who work incredibly long hours and are further behind at the end of the week than they were at the beginning. I’ve talked to thousands wondering how they’ll stay warm in the 20- and 30-below temperatures in Vermont.”

Sanders, elected to the House in 1990 and the Senate in 2006, was on campus to register his protest against the University naming its new institute for economic research after Milton Friedman, a 1976 Nobel Prize–winner who taught at Chicago for 30 years. Sanders’s talk, sponsored by the Committee for Open Research on Economy and Society (CORES), Students for CORES, Chicago Society, Students for a Democratic Society, and Stand-Up for Progress, was funded in part by Student Government.


A self-described socialist and the longest-serving independent member of Congress, Sanders traced his constituents’ hardships to Friedman’s (AM’33) “right-wing ideology, which has caused enormous damage to the working people around the world.” The ideas propounded by the longtime Chicago economics professor aren’t “brilliant economic theory,” Sanders said, but “a wish list for the wealthy and the powerful”: removing the minimum wage, unions, and the “estate tax that affects three-tenths of one percent” of Americans. Friedman once termed Social Security “unethical”; Sanders called it “the most successful antipoverty program in the history of our country.”

Now that the economy is in crisis, Friedmanites “have changed their tune,” Sanders said, and are “lining up for their welfare checks outside Congress”—the $7 trillion bailout. Instead government should “start dismantling those financial institutions,” he argued. “Friedman’s ideas are dead wrong,” he concluded, “economically, morally, and philosophically. It’s a bad idea to start an institution that emblazons and propagates them.”

On Sanders’s way out, two other Vermonters and I introduced ourselves. He was excited to see us and noted how rare students from his state are at the University. He asked my field, and I told him I was studying public policy. “DC is a very exciting place to be,” he said, encouraging me to go into government or policy. “28-year-olds are making all the big policies!”

Shira Tevah, ’09

Bernie Sanders, AB'64, addressed a crowd of several hundred Tuesday night.

Photo by Daniel Benjamin, '09.

December 5, 2008

Women's work


An 1895–96 course catalog was projected on the wall in the Rosenthal Special Collections Seminar Room Tuesday morning. One course in particular was highlighted: The Somatic and Psychic History of Woman was the first course on women at the University of Chicago, explained Monica Mercado, AM’06, and Katherine Turk, AM’07. The two history PhD students found the course catalog while researching women at the University for a course they taught fall quarter called Alma Mater: The History of Women at the University of Chicago, 1892–2008.

Like the teachers, the class’s 12 students, mostly women, are contributing their findings to a campus exhibit and shared their themes and items they’d found—to be final projects along with a seven- to nine-page paper—during Tuesday’s final class. Sarah Butler, ’09, examined mental-health services for female students from the 1940s to the 1970s. “The University seemed to think that mental health care was an optional thing to provide,” she said. Administrators were “patting themselves on the back” when they brought in humanist psychologist Carl Rogers to set up a counseling center, but students, Butler found through oral histories, “didn’t know about the services or didn’t think they were working.” The administration was particularly concerned about women’s psychological health, Butler said, because of the widespread belief that a woman’s “biological clock” and constant desire to be a mother “made it ten times harder to be mentally stable.”


Lauren Guerrieri, ’10, looked at women’s training in World War I. Although they were not “tied down to husbands and children,” the University’s female students “brought skills associated with wives” to contribute to the war effort. Guerrieri had found a photograph of the Green Hall Knitting Group; an advertisement for Liberty Loans, one panel of which featured a soldier abroad and the other a patriotic woman at home; a page from Marion Talbot's “Patriotic Program for Women”; and a Maroon article about a group of women who sewed uniforms, complete with vests and hats, for the 180-member men’s ambulance corps. “It sounds like the war definitely changed what women were doing on campus,” Turk interjected. “What were those changes?” They were doing the same things as before, Guerrieri responded, but the war effort “gave them the ability to be involved in something national.”


Other students researched famous female figures like African American anthropologist, activist, and dancer Katherine Dunham, PhB’36; the University’s first female trustee, Katharine Graham, AB’38; and child psychologist and pioneer of “popularity studies” Helen Koch, PhB’18, PhD’21. A few looked at radical women’s groups from the Sixties, such as the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, which performed underground abortions and inspired the documentary Jane.

Turk and Mercado’s exhibit, “On Equal Terms: Experiences of Women at the University of Chicago,” opens in Special Collections March 16. The students’ parallel exhibit begins later in March at the Gender Studies Center. The group also plans to get together after finals to watch Jane. “I’m looking forward to coming to the archives in winter to read feminist news,” Butler joked during a lull, “when I don’t want to work on my BA.”

Shira Tevah, ’09

Students present their findings on the history of women at Chicago; one student uses a poster advertising a radical women's group meeting; Emily Moss, '10, points out Katharine Graham's name on a trustee document.

Photo by Dan Dry.

December 8, 2008

To Reg or not to Reg

Mother Nature often brings one of the season’s first snowy bursts just in time for autumn-quarter finals week, which begins today. This weekend was no exception, and, as usually happens during a frosty reading period, students divide into two factions. One group frolics outside and extols the beauty of the snow-coated trees, often to the annoyance of the opposing bloc, which sees the constant chill of drifting snow as a good reason to stay in the library for an extra two (or three, or four) hours. And finals week is as a good a time as any—in fact, some might argue, the best time—to study ceaselessly.

Students line up for midnight breakfast

From early afternoon until late evening Sunday, nearly every seat in the Regenstein was occupied. This finals week I have to write too many long papers to appreciate the snow. But out the library windows I could see snowmen, stick arms and all, on the Bartlett Quadrangle. Students staged an impromptu snowball fight outside Max Palevsky, careful not to hit those headed to the Reg, identifiable by their heavy backpacks or armloads of books.

Eggs and books mingle in Hutchinson Commons

But even the most hardcore library sloggers need a study break. By midnight the temperature had warmed slightly, and both snow enthusiasts and study hounds met at the College Programming Office’s quarterly midnight breakfast in Hutchinson Commons. Students hugging the precious Marx-Engels Reader (Self, Culture, and Society) mingled with friends practicing Japanese characters and others who had come in from yet another snowball battle. After CPO and ORCSA staff had served hundreds of attendees eggs, pancakes, sausage, and hash browns, the crowds began to melt away. Some returned to perching in the all-night study spaces at the Reg or Crerar, and some went home to bed—or to write from the comfort of their living rooms. It seemed, at least briefly, that enough snowballs had been thrown to appease the revelers.

Rose Schapiro, ’09

Students line up for midnight breakfast; eggs and books mingle in Hutchinson Commons.

December 9, 2008

Phoenix Pix: Dec. 8–12, 2008

Two students sneak in a nap while a third studies for a final around 5:10 p.m. Monday in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in Hutchinson Commons.

Two students sneak in a nap while a third studies for a final around 5:10 p.m. Monday in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in Hutchinson Commons.

Photo by Dan Dry.

December 10, 2008

Chicago Gothic

Steps from the Gleacher Center on Pioneer Court—right in front of 401 North Michigan Avenue, home of the Magazine’s office—warmly dressed art installers Nick Valenza and Doug Roberts spent the morning adding finishing touches to Chicago’s newest public-art installation: God Bless America (2005) by artist J. Seward Johnson Jr., grandson of the founder of Johnson & Johnson.

Workers install Johnson's God Bless America in Pioneer Court

Previously on display in Key West, Florida, the 25-foot-tall couple taking center stage reimagines Grant Wood’s American Gothic (1930), a popular painting in the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection, several blocks south. Only a few days earlier, tourists, office workers, and Chicago Booth students alike stopped to note the dethroning of Johnson’s King Lear, the previous tenant of the plaza’s pedestal.

Workers install Johnson's God Bless America in Pioneer Court

God Bless America dwarfs Pioneer Court’s other public piece: John Kearney’s permanent installation, a lonely moose made from chrome car bumpers that loiters near the Chicago River. A more familiar Kearney piece to many at the U of C may be his ram, nicknamed “Harold”—also made of car bumpers—that grazes in the grass outside the McCormick Theological Seminary.

The Hyde Park/Kenwood Community Conference has a virtual tour of public art in and around campus. A blogger at Public Art in Chicago tracks public art from all over the city.


Although Johnson has already done his last step creating the Styrofoam covered by urethane statue, two workers reassembling the piece still had to manually piece it back it back together.

December 12, 2008

Nambu's Nobel

Chicago’s downright Scandinavian weather on Wednesday provided a fitting backdrop for a little bit of Stockholm transplanted to Hyde Park—a special ceremony at International House to award the Nobel Prize in Physics to Professor Emeritus Yoichiro Nambu. Because the 87-year-old Nambu and his ailing wife couldn’t travel to Stockholm for the official ceremony that day, Jonas Hafström, the Swedish ambassador to the United States, brought Nambu’s medal to him.

The musicians of Millar Brass open up the ceremony

The Chicago event began with a trumpet flourish from the Millar Brass. President Zimmer welcomed the crowd (physics faculty and graduate students, University staff, and assorted VIPs) and then stepped aside for taped highlights from Stockholm, where Nambu’s corecipients, Japanese physicists Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, received their medals. After King Carl XVI Gustaf was shown presenting Kobayashi and Maskawa with their medals, Hafström presented Nambu with his.

Nambu took to the podium to explain spontaneous symmetry breaking—the concept he pioneered in the 1960s that won him the Nobel. A system in a symmetric state is like a crowd of people looking about aimlessly, he said, favoring no particular direction. But when everyone in the crowd turns and looks in one direction—“as you are doing right now”—then that symmetry has been broken. Applying this concept to particle physics helped physicists to unify electromagnetism with the strong and weak nuclear forces, a milestone in the history of particle physics’ Standard Model.

Hafström presents Nambu with his diploma and medal

After a toast to Nambu at the post-ceremony reception, fellow Nobel laureate and professor emeritus of physics Jim Cronin said that Nambu’s prize wasn’t merely well deserved but also well overdue. (He speculated that the gap between Nambu’s Nobel-winning work and the announcement of the award—48 years—might be a Nobel Foundation record.) Nambu, for his part, thanked the University for treating him “like family” when he arrived in Hyde Park in 1954. Raising his champagne glass, he announced another toast: “Here’s to the University of Chicago!”

Benjamin Recchie, AB’03

The musicians of Millar Brass open up the ceremony; Hafström presents Nambu with his diploma and medal.

Photos by Dan Dry.

December 15, 2008


The etching revival of the 1850s and the medium’s early 20th century popularity showed the growing breadth of everyday life. Etchers captured landscapes from pastoral Britain to colonial India, and occupations from trench-bound soldier to lime-burner. The Smart Museum exhibit The "Writing" of Modern Life (through April 19) makes an argument that etching’s range of subjects allowed it to capture modernity’s broad spectrum.

East Side Night, Williamsburg Bridge, (1928) by Martin Lewis

The etching process allowed artists to reproduce individual works. An etcher would quickly draw through wax and expose the metal with a sharp scribe tool, then transfer the image to a metal plate, giving it an acid bath to eat away at the lines. Some artists applied the acid painstakingly with a feather; others would cover the plate entirely.

The exhibit’s variety shows the result of divergent artistic perspectives, in addition to difference in subject matter. Robert Sargent Austin’s The Bell, No. 1 (1926) shows a sharply etched bell in front of a broken wheel, with a richly depicted background. Other artists focus on details of modern architecture like bridges and cathedrals. Some etchings are dramatized; Clare Leighton, who immigrated to New York City from Britain in the early 20th century, made Bread Line, New York (1932), a stark, geometric representation of a crowd suffering beneath advertisements.

Hands Etching—O Laborum, (1865) by Sir Francis Seymour Haden

At the height of its revival, etching was regarded as the closest that art could come to writing—each artist had a singular style to transfer the image from mind to the final print. “Among the different modes of expression in the visual arts, etching appears the most literary,” wrote French poet Charles Baudelaire in 1862. According to the exhibit catalogue, an etching was considered tantamount to an artist’s signature, as distinct and identifiable as handwriting.

Rose Schapiro, ’09

Holiday hours: The Smart Museum will be closed on December 24–25 and December 31–January 1. In addition, the Museum will close at 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 18.

A detail view of East Side Night, Williamsburg Bridge (1928) by Martin Lewis; Hands Etching—O Laborum (1865) by Sir Francis Seymour Haden.

Etchings reproduced with permission from The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art.

December 16, 2008

Phoenix Pix: Dec. 15–19, 2008

Jonas Hafström (right), the Swedish ambassador to the United States, laughs with Professor Emeritus Yoichiro Nambu before awarding him the Nobel Prize in Physics at a special ceremony at International House.

Jonas Hafström (right), the Swedish ambassador to the United States, laughs with Professor Emeritus Yoichiro Nambu before awarding him the Nobel Prize in Physics at a special ceremony at International House.

Photo by Dan Dry.

December 17, 2008

Snow patrol

Campus snowfall Campus snowfallDespite a traffic-halting winter storm that had Chicago’s Snow Command fleet of 274 vehicles out on the streets by 3 p.m. yesterday, Magazine photographer Dan Dry braved the blustery weather to capture the campus blanketed by fresh, barely trampled snowfall.

December 19, 2008

Food for these times

MysteryCake.jpgIf you haven’t yet had your fill of sinful sweets and savory dishes this holiday season, feast on the University of Chicago Press’s always satisfying food and gastronomical offerings.

For a hearty main course, we recommend starting with an excerpt from Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations (Globe Pequot Press, 2008) by Chris Fair, SB’91, AM’97, PhD’04. If you’re hungry for more, why not order Sylvia Lovegren’s Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads and try out her depression-era canned soup recipe for Mystery Cake?

Bon appétit.


Photo courtesy of the University of Chicago Press.

December 22, 2008

Phoenix Pix: Dec. 22–26, 2008

Ruth Andrews builds a gingerbread house at the Family Resource Center.

Ruth Andrews builds a gingerbread house at the Family Resource Center.

Photo by Dan Dry.

Frosty the gargoyle

FrostyGargoyle.jpgWhile UChiBLOGo takes a break until January 2, we want to leave our loyal readers with some festive ways to have some online fun.

Read how Chicago-based stone carver and sculptor Walter S. Arnold created the Class of 1999’s Chicago Millennium Gargoyle or watch a movie by James Waters, AB’05, that highlights all of the grotesques, bosses, statues, and ornate decorations—many currently buried in snow—found around campus.

UofC-yeti.jpgDon your hand-knitted U of C scarf and listen to Louis Armstrong read The Night Before Christmas.

Mix up a drink—may we suggest a Phoenix?—and watch Alfred Brendel perform Beethoven’s 200-year-old “Choral Fantasia” at Carnegie Hall.

Remember your favorite Chicago traditions and then start a new one: shaving a Yeti so that he, too, shows some school spirit.


December 30, 2008

Phoenix Pix: Dec. 29, 2008–Jan. 2, 2009

Father Time

From the west end of the Midway Plaisance, the towering Father Time figure from sculpter Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time greets the new year, still quoting Austin Dobson: “Time goes, you say? Alas, time stays; we go.”

Photo by Jeremy Fisher.

About December 2008

This page contains all entries posted to UChiBLOGo in December 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2008 is the previous archive.

January 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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