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MIT and Regional Interest

MIT and Regional Interest

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Case Studies from MIT

To many science and engineering students, the task of writing may seem irrelevant to their future professional careers. At MIT, however, students discover that writing about their technical work is important not only in solving real-world problems but also in developing their professional identities. MIT puts into practice the belief that “engineers who don’t write well end up working for engineers who do write well,” requiring all students to take “communications-intensive” classes in which they learn from MIT faculty and writing instructors how to express their ideas in writing and in presentations. Students are challenged not only to think like professional scientists and engineers but also to communicate like them.This book offers in-depth case studies and pedagogical strategies from a range of science and engineering communication-intensive classes at MIT. It traces the progress of seventeen students from diverse backgrounds in seven classes that span five departments. Undergraduates in biology attempt to turn scientific findings into a research article; graduate students learn to define their research for scientific grant writing; undergraduates in biomedical engineering learn to use data as evidence; and students in aeronautic and astronautic engineering learn to communicate collaboratively. Each case study is introduced by a description of its theoretical and curricular context and an outline of the objectives for the students’ activities. The studies describe the on-the-ground realities of working with faculty, staff, and students to achieve communication and course goals, offering lessons that can be easily applied to a wide variety of settings and institutions.

A Radical Works Beyond the Ivory Tower

“People are dangerous. If they’re able to involve themselves in issues that matter, they may change the distribution of power, to the detriment of those who are rich and privileged.”—Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has been praised by the likes of Bono and Hugo Chávez and attacked by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Alan Dershowitz. Groundbreaking linguist and outspoken political dissenter—voted “most important public intellectual in the world today” in a 2005 magazine poll—Chomsky inspires fanatical devotion and fierce vituperation. In The Chomsky Effect, Chomsky biographer Robert Barsky examines Chomsky’s positions on a number of highly charged issues—Chomsky’s signature issues, including Vietnam, Israel, East Timor, and his work in linguistics—that illustrate not only “the Chomsky effect” but also “the Chomsky approach.”

Chomsky, writes Barsky, is an inspiration and a catalyst. Not just an analyst or advocate, he encourages people to become engaged—to be “dangerous” and challenge power and privilege. The actions and reactions of Chomsky supporters and detractors and the attending contentiousness can be thought of as “the Chomsky effect.” Barsky discusses Chomsky’s work in such areas as language studies, media, education, law, and politics, and identifies Chomsky’s intellectual and political precursors. He charts anti-Chomsky sentiments as expressed from various standpoints, including contemporary Zionism, mainstream politics, and scholarly communities. He discusses Chomsky’s popular appealhis unlikely status as a punk and rock hero (Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is one of many rock and roll Chomskyites)—and offers in-depth analyses of the controversies surrounding Chomsky’s roles in the “Faurisson Affair” and the “Pol Pot Affair.” Finally, Barsky considers the role of the public intellectual in order to assess why Noam Chomsky has come to mean so much to so manyand what he may mean to generations to come.

Robert F. Barsky is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, French, and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent (MIT Press), Constructing a Productive Other, Introduction à la théorie littéraire, and Arguing and Justifying. He is currently completing a book on Zellig Harris, for The MIT Press.

The History of a Cambridge Landscape

Fresh Pond Reservation, at the northwest edge of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been described as a "landscape loved to death." Certainly it is a landscape that has been changed by its various uses over the years and one to which Cantabridgeans and Bostonians have felt an intense attachment. Henry James returned to it in his sixties, looking for "some echo of the dreams of youth," feeling keenly "the pleasure of memory"; a Harvard student of the 1850s fondly remembered skating parties and the chance of "flirtation with some fair-ankled beauty of breezy Boston"; modern residents argue fiercely over dogs being allowed to run free at the reservation and whether soccer or nature is a more valuable experience for Cambridge schoolchildren. In Fresh Pond, Jill Sinclair tells the story of the pond and its surrounding land through photographs, drawings, maps, plans, and an engaging narrative of the pond's geological, historical, and political ecology.

Fresh Pond has been a Native American hunting and fishing ground; the site of an eighteenth-century hotel offering bowling, food and wine, and impromptu performances by Harvard men; a summer retreat for wealthy Bostonians; a training ground for trench warfare; a location for picnics and festivals for workers and sporting activities for all. The parkland features an Olmsted design, albeit an imperfectly realized one. The pond itself—a natural lake carved out by the retreating Ice Age about 15,000 years ago—was a center of the nineteenth-century ice industry (disparaged by Thoreau, writing about another pond), and still supplies the city of Cambridge with fresh drinking water.

Sinclair's celebration of a local landscape also alerts us to broader issues—shifts in public attitudes toward nature (is it brutal wilderness or in need of protection?) and water (precious commodity or limitless flow?)—that resonate as we remake our relationship to the landscape.

At its founding, Boston was a small peninsula; over the last 375 years the city has doubled in size by filling in the surrounding tidal flats—areas covered with water at high tide and exposed at low. In Walking Tours of Boston's Made Land, historian Nancy Seasholes outlines twelve walks that trace where and why Boston's man-made land was created, and, along the way, uncovers fascinating and little-known pieces of Boston history. In the course of these walks—around the central waterfront, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, the South End, Charlestown, and elsewhere—she shows us how Boston's past is always just below the surface of its present.

Each walk is accompanied by a map that shows the route and original shoreline. The walks are illustrated with historical maps, historical photographs and views, and current photographs. All walks are accessible by public transportation.

The Birth of MIT

The motto on the seal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, "Mens et Manus"--"mind and hand"--signals the Institute's dedication to what MIT founder William Barton Rogers called "the most earnest cooperation of intelligent culture with industrial pursuits." Mind and Hand traces the ideas about science and education that have shaped MIT and defined its mission--from the new science of the Enlightenment era and the ideals of representative democracy spurred by the Industrial Revolution to new theories on the nature and role of higher education in nineteenth-century America. MIT emerged in mid-century as an experiment in scientific and technical education, with its origins in the tension between these old and new ideas.Mind and Hand was undertaken by Julius Stratton after his retirement from the presidency of MIT and continued by Loretta Mannix after his death; Philip N. Alexander, of the MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, stepped in to complete the project. The combined efforts of these three authors have given us what Julius Stratton envisioned--"a coherent account of the flow of ideas" from which MIT emerged.

The Design and Construction of Frank O. Gehry's Stata Center at MIT

This stunning, lavishly illustrated book chronicles the entire planning and construction process of the Frank Gehry-designed Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT. Taking us from the historical background and architectural context at MIT through the interaction of the clients' needs and the architect's vision to the choice of building materials and construction methods, Building Stata offers a uniquely detailed look at the evolution of a major work by a master architect.

The purpose of the Stata Center is to bring the "intelligence sciences"—computer science, artificial intelligence, information and decision systems, linguistics, and philosophy—together into a space that emphasizes research-focused collaboration. Frank Gehry's design integrates flexible and interconnected workspaces and incorporates a series of steps from public to private space, with places for social and intellectual interaction on lower levels giving way to space for study and contemplation on the upper floors; thus a two-level warehouse-like space is topped by two towers. The Center is wrapped around a series of outdoor terraces visible from a central court in both towers. The characteristic Gehry curves are clad in metal, the more block-like elements in brick.

The architectural drawings and photographs—300 of them in color—in Building Stata document the making of the Stata Center from concept to concrete reality. The photographs by Richard Sobol portray a work in progress, evoking the beauty of its architectural form and capturing the telling detail—the building's sculptured shape against a clear blue sky, or construction workers perched on a massive curve of metal.

Memories and Memoirs
Edited by Judy Rosenblith

The recurring theme in Jerry Wiesner's varied and distinguished career was what Senator Edward M. Kennedy calls in the foreword to this book a "passionate involvement to make a better world, and a safer world." His odyssey as a public citizen included work as an acoustician for folklorist Alan Lomax in the Library of Congress, research at MIT's Radiation Lab and at Los Alamos, service as President John F. Kennedy's Special Assistant for Science and Technology, and his years at MIT as professor, dean, provost, and president. At Los Alamos he received what he called "a valuable education on issues that were to occupy a large part of my life." The lessons learned informed his later work on nuclear disarmament; he was a pivotal adviser on both the 1963 partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the 1972 ABM Treaty and an early member of the Pugwash group, an organization of scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain. His many accomplishments as president of MIT similarly reflected his conviction that science and technology cannot be separate from society.

Jerry Wiesner had long planned an autobiographical book that would combine personal experience and historical interpretation, covering the wide range of interests that he compared to "the many parts of a giant jigsaw puzzle," but the commitments of his postretirement life and a serious stroke in 1989 kept him from completing it. Jerry Wiesner, Scientist, Statesman, Humanist, conceived by Wiesner's longtime colleague and friend Walter Rosenblith, fills the gap between the unwritten autobiography and the still-to-be-written biography, assembling reminiscences of Wiesner by such friends as Alan Lomax, Theodore C. Sorensen, and John Kenneth Galbraith, and writings by Wiesner himself, including the autobiographical pieces that would have been the basis of his own book.

A History of Landmaking in Boston

Fully one-sixth of Boston is built on made land. Although other waterfront cities also have substantial areas that are built on fill, Boston probably has more than any city in North America. In Gaining Ground historian Nancy Seasholes has given us the first complete account of when, why, and how this land was created.

The story of landmaking in Boston is presented geographically; each chapter traces landmaking in a different part of the city from its first permanent settlement to the present. Seasholes introduces findings from recent archaeological investigations in Boston, and relates landmaking to the major historical developments that shaped it. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, landmaking in Boston was spurred by the rapid growth that resulted from the burgeoning China trade. The influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century prompted several large projects to create residential land—not for the Irish, but to keep the taxpaying Yankees from fleeing to the suburbs. Many landmaking projects were undertaken to cover tidal flats that had been polluted by raw sewage discharged directly onto them, removing the "pestilential exhalations" thought to cause illness. Land was also added for port developments, public parks, and transportation facilities, including the largest landmaking project of all, the airport.

A separate chapter discusses the technology of landmaking in Boston, explaining the basic method used to make land and the changes in its various components over time. The book is copiously illustrated with maps that show the original shoreline in relation to today’s streets, details from historical maps that trace the progress of landmaking, and historical drawings and photographs.

A Historian Confronts Technological Change

When Warren Kendall Lewis left Spring Garden Farm in Delaware in 1901 to enter MIT, he had no idea that he was becoming part of a profession that would bring untold good to his country but would also contribute to the death of his family's farm. In this book written a century later, Professor Lewis's granddaughter, a cultural historian who has served in the administration of MIT, uses her grandfather’s and her own experience to make sense of the rapidly changing role of technology in contemporary life.

Rosalind Williams served as Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education at MIT from 1995 through 2000. From this vantage point, she watched a wave of changes, some planned and some unexpected, transform many aspects of social and working life—from how students are taught to how research and accounting are done—at this major site of technological innovation. In Retooling, she uses this local knowledge to draw more general insights into contemporary society's obsession with technology.

Today technology-driven change defines human desires, anxieties, memories, imagination, and experiences of time and space in unprecedented ways. But technology, and specifically information technology, does not simply influence culture and society; it is itself inherently cultural and social. If there is to be any reconciliation between technological change and community, Williams argues, it will come from connecting technological and social innovation—a connection demonstrated in the history that unfolds in this absorbing book.

An Annotated Chronology

This is the story of forty years of MIT campus planning, told by the man who served as chief planning officer during that time. The goal of Robert Simha and his colleagues in the MIT Planning Office was to preserve the qualities that defined MIT while managing resources for the future; this effort, MIT President Charles Vest writes in the foreword, "constitutes an important part of MIT?s institutional memory."

The Planning Office was created in 1958 to provide long-range planning and to maintain a campus master plan. Its responsibilities included coordinating academic and administrative planning, developing capital budgeting techniques, implementing campus design criteria, and establishing a space inventory and management system—as well as a more rational procedure for allocating space.

Simha chronicles the work of the Planning Office in a series of short essays describing individual projects and overall campus development, including an account of the central role played by the Planning Office in the defeat of a proposed eight-lane, double-decked interstate highway that would have passed through the campus. Simha's department was also the catalyst for the development of Kendall Square from a defunct industrial district into a center for high-tech business and research. The Planning Office oversaw the growth of the campus from four million to nine million square feet; because of its thoughtful planning, the MIT community today enjoys green spaces and buildings of architectural distinction where there were once parking lots and factories.

Previous edition published by MIT's Office of the Executive Vice President (paper, 2000).

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