In the News: Emory’s Mars Real-time Distance Calculator

 

Emory comes in at #14 on a list of 39 “most interesting facts” about Mars in a U.K. news article (Destination Mars: The 39 steps, The Independent, Nov. 27) about Nasa’s latest venture.

#1? “Popular belief has held Mars to be the planet most likely to sustain life. In 1900, the French Academy of Sciences offered 10,000 francs to the first person to establish contact with an alien species. But so sure were they of life on Mars that they said contact with Martians wouldn’t count.”

#14? “You can see exactly how far Mars is from Earth in real time thanks to the physics department of Emory University in Atlanta, which has it displayed second-by-second on its website.”

#39 would definitely require a special person: “Nobody has ever landed on Mars, but the US is planning a manned landing for the mid 2030s. President Barack Obama gave his support last year, saying he expected to see it happen in his lifetime. But, because of the expense of sending astronauts there and back, it’s been proposed that whoever goes to Mars should stay there indefinitely.”

Turner 11C Awarded Prestigious Marshall Scholarship

 

Congratulations go to Garrett Turner 11C, a double major in creative writing and music, who has been awarded the 2012 Marshall Scholarship for graduate study in England.

See 2-22-11 QuadTalk blog post about Garrett and highlights from his production of “I Dream A World” about poet Langston Hughes

As a Marshall Scholar, Garrett intends to pursue two one-year taught masters of arts: first, an M.A. in theater and performance at Queen Mary, University of London, and second, the M.A. in creative writing with a concentration in scriptwriting at University of East Anglia. Following this work, Turner says he hopes to earn a Ph.D. in creative practice to prepare him for a career in teaching, writing and performance as a professor and scholar.

Emory news release (11-21-11)

Video interview with Turner

Speed Draw for the Arts at Emory

To show the range of artistic energy at Emory, junior Taylor Trew (Art History & Visual Arts major) illustrates some of the main areas of activity across the Emory and Oxford campuses. It would be impossible to capture everything in 2 minutes — for that you should check out the Arts at Emory website.

The project was sponsored by Emory’s “Creativity: Art and Innovation” and Emory College’s Center for Creativity & Arts (October 2011).

 

Leslie Taylor Receives Theater Award

Leslie Taylor, Professor and Chair of the Department of Theater Studies and Dance, has won a 2011 Suzi Bass award for best scenic design (play) for the Alliance Theater’s August: Osage County. She was also nominated for best costume design, Georgia Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Prof. Taylor is also director of the College’s Center for Creativity & Arts, as well as the resident set and costume designer for Theater Emory.

The Suzi Bass awards, Atlanta’s version of the Tonys, were founded in 2003 by Gene-Gabriel Moore and a small group of industry professionals to celebrate outstanding work in live theatre and the artists who produce it. Twenty-one professional theatres in Atlanta participate in the awards process. Each theatre season, volunteer judges choose nominees and recipients in 25 performance categories.

Related Video


Leslie Taylor talks about designing the costume for Emory Dance faculty member Anna Leo’s piece “Warrior Woman'” (September 6, 2011, Dance Studio, Schwartz Center for Performing Arts).

 

“Piedmont Divide” Project Brings Campus Together

In this YouTube video, Linda Armstrong, a senior lecturer in the Visual Arts Department and a sculptor who works in a wide variety of media, talks about the “Piedmont Divide” project by John Grade, a Seattle-based environmental artist, involving the Emory Quad and Candler Lake in the Lullwater Preserve.

See “Creativity” blog post and video of John Grade on the project

 

Arri Eisen on Teaching Science to Monks

Arri Eisen, a professor of pedagogy in biology and a faculty member in the ILA and the Center for Ethics at Emory University, wrote this wonderful piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education (“What Buddhist Monks Taught Me About Teaching Science,” Nov. 13, 2011) about what he’s learned from teaching science to monks after four years.

* * *

To teach my biology class today, I took three planes for a total of 9,000 miles nearly halfway around the world. My students have left their sandals at the door. As I walk in, they sit, maroon-robed and expectant, cross-legged on the floor. My body clock registers 11:30 p.m. the day before. I write on the board: “Are bacteria sentient beings?”

This is my fourth year coming to Dharamsala, India, home of the Tibetan government in exile, in the foothills of the Himalayas, as part of an unusual collaboration—the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative—between the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives and Emory University. About seven years ago, the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetans, invited Emory to develop and teach a contemporary science curriculum for the more than 20,000 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in exile.

The Dalai Lama realized that for Tibetan culture to survive, the education system for both laymen and monastics must engage modern science, to give them new tools for understanding the world. Over the past decade or so, he has become particularly fascinated by contemporary neuroscience and how it potentially complements Tibetan Buddhism’s two millennia’s worth of knowledge about the mind. He envisions a partnership with modern science that could provide deeper understanding of how the mind works and thus, perhaps, new insights and therapies.

The first stage of our project is teaching a five-year curriculum in math, physics, biology, and neuroscience to around 100 monks and nuns. They meet for five to six weeks during the summer in Dharamsala. A team of Emory scientists in one discipline comes and teaches the monastics six hours a day for about a week, followed by a team in the next discipline. This past year, six of the monks spent a year at Emory taking science classes; they have returned there this fall for another year.

In the next phase of the program, these monks and others to follow will become science teachers back at their monasteries, using what they have learned as well as texts Emory scientists have written and had translated into Tibetan.

Before we started the project, the monks and nuns knew little science or math, and I knew little of Buddhism and Tibetans.

In my first year, the students’ faces looked nearly identical, but now I see individuals: Kalsang, a natural experimenter even before he knew a bit of Western science (he also leads the monks in prayer every morning); Kunjo, whom I met for coffee every Friday morning back at Emory to discuss science and life (to get from Emory to his village in Nepal takes him three plane rides and three days of walking); Ngawang, nicknamed Jupiter by the monks for his spaced-out questions (but this year his questions have transformed into a wellspring of insights).

Over the years, I’ve come a long way from thinking that teaching science to Tibetan monks and nuns is just a cool thing to do. The monastics, on the whole, are astoundingly open-minded and approach problems with a thoughtful rationality that is, ironically, often missing from my Western colleagues’ approach to science and the world. An ancient Zen koan goes something like: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. That is, destroy preconceptions, question everything—especially if you think you’ve figured it all out. Most of the monastics in my classroom embody that attitude.

They are busy integrating East and West at the cellular level, re-examining everything they thought they knew. For them, the question of whether bacteria are sentient has serious karmic implications. If these single-celled organisms are, indeed, sentient beings, then any other sentient being could be reincarnated as a bacterium. They face this question with calm, engaged clarity, ready to rethink and integrate whatever they may discover.

This is our entry into learning about genes and cells. The monks and nuns grow their own bacteria by taking swabs from doorknobs or their own ears and brushing them onto agar growth plates poured with the help of the cook and some cornstarch we found in his kitchen. The bacteria grow luxuriantly in Dharamsala’s warm climate, and the students design experiments to test the bacteria’s sentience. For example, they add what they postulate are attractants or repellents to the living bacteria to see if the organisms respond under the microscope in a measurable way.

As usual, we have a translator. Tsondue is Tibetan and once studied to be a monk; he earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Emory, is fluent in both Tibetan and English, and easily navigates both cultures. Once he grasps the concept that we Americans are teaching, he can answer the monks’ questions in Tibetan without having to translate everything back for us.

The process of translation has enriched my teaching tremendously. With the monks and nuns, we are translating not only across languages, but also across cultures, philosophies, and traditions. This has forced me not to take any prior knowledge for granted. I have to develop each concept, fact, and theory sequentially, from the most basic to the most complex, from the big picture to the microscopic and back again, constantly adjusting on the fly.

But teaching these monastics feels more like an opportunity than a hindrance. Each pause, as Tsondue translates, seems to enrich the development of the concepts and information we are attempting to teach. What seems important with these students is the process—how science happens, how experimental logic works, how the pieces fit together. This is what science actually is, what excites scientists, and how we should be teaching all our students. So much of traditional science teaching seems to dish out only information, formulas, answers—product rather than process.

These Buddhists are teaching me to slow down, to be more attentive, more deliberate, to learn from them as I teach them, and I think my teaching has improved as a result.

We have rigged up a microscope that projects the monks’ bacteria up on the wall for the whole class to see. The cells bounce and swim, revealing that astonishing microscopic world that humans have known about for only a few centuries. The monks perform their experiments and watch the cells respond.

I watch them, thinking: We have a lot to learn from these folks. When we visited the Dalai Lama earlier in the week to present him with our translated science texts, he stressed very forcefully that the way forward is not religion, not meditation, but education. Perhaps this is what globalization should be—a shared, translated learning experience, rather than one culture swallowing another. I think of what one of the monks, Lobsang, told me when I asked him why he was participating in our project: “I study modern science,” he said, “to help me better understand my Buddhism.”

At the end of the week, we put the issue to a vote: ‘Are bacteria sentient beings?’ Half the class raised their hands yes, half no.

Related Videos

George Staib “Dance in Progress”

George Staib, senior lecturer in the Emory Dance Program and artistic director of Staibdance, talks about the ideas behind his choreography in this five-part Emory Dance Program series. Each video includes an introduction by Staib and a dance segment performed by Staibdance. [September 20, 2011, Dance Studio, Schwartz Center for Performing Arts]


Staib Dance in Progress Series (1 of 6)


Staib Dance in Progress Series (2 of 6)


Staib Dance in Progress Series (3 of 6)


Staib Dance in Progress Series (4 of 6)


Staib Dance in Progress Series (5 of 6)


Staib Dance in Progress Series (6 of 6)

 

Web Links

http://dance.emory.edu/events/season.html

https://sites.google.com/site/staibdance/

Anna Leo “Dance in Progress” Program

Emory Named ‘Best Value’ by Kiplinger’s

 

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has named Emory a “Best Value” for 2011-12, ranking the university 13th overall, up from 15th last year, in its annual Best Value survey of 100 top private universities that exemplify excellent academics while keeping costs to a minimum.

Each year, Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards, including the percentage of students who are admitted out of those who applied, the test scores of incoming freshmen, the ratio of students to faculty members, and the four- and five-year graduation rates.

This year, Kiplinger adjusted its criteria to better reflect the issues affecting families, giving more weight to the four-year graduation rate and to colleges that keep student debt down.

Saying Goodbye to Prof. Candace Lang

 

There will be a service to celebrate the memory of our colleague Candace Lang on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 from 4-5:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.  All members of the University community are welcome.  If you would like further information, please contact Kate Bennett in the Department of French and Italian (kate.bennett@emory.edu).

_________

From Dean Robin Forman, November 1, 2011

I write with the sad news that Candace Lang passed away last night, following a fight with cancer that lasted over a year. She died peacefully at home, surrounded by family and friends. Candace played a central role in the leadership of the Department of French and Italian and in the College; she served as Department Chair from 2006-2009 and again from 2010 until her recent medical leave. I had several opportunities to work closely with Candace over the last year. While others surely knew her better, I quickly came to admire her fierce enthusiasm for the scholarship and teaching of her colleagues, her wry sense of humor, and the grace and disarming candor with which she confronted her illness. Her devotion to French studies and to the department was evident in everything that she did, and she brought her wit, humor, and shrewd judgment to her work as Chair. I learned a great deal from her about the Department, about the study of literature, and about how we might face moments of great challenge with courage and dignity.

Participants Needed for John Grade Art Project

 

The Emory Visual Arts Gallery invites you to be a part of the monumental public art project at Emory University by Seattle-based environmental sculptor John Grade, whose work has gained accolades for its beauty, artistic impact, and non-invasive utilization of biodegradable materials.

Piedmont Divide will draw the public’s attention to water as a natural and often scarce resource through a temporary and non-invasive artistic intervention. Grade’s use of public sculptural art in combination with Emory University’s commitment to sustainability and strengths in science, health, social research, and public health will highlight important conversations between science and art and bring environmental awareness to students, the greater Atlanta community, and the Southeastern region.

There are several ways to get involved:

[1] VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

We need volunteers every day from Tuesday, November 8 through Saturday, November 19, including weekends, to help John Grade build the sculptures. Volunteer locations will include the artist’s studio (located in the Visual Arts Gallery), the Quadrangle and Lullwater Park.

POSSIBLE SHIFTS:

Morning: 9:00 AM – 12 NOON

Afternoon: 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM

Afternoon: 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Evening: 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Location: Emory Visual Arts Gallery

Wear work clothes and be prepared to work both inside the artist’s studio in the gallery and outside at the project sites. If you can, please bring at least 2 clear plastic bottles (or more!) to help with the bottle collection (see below).

Visit VOLUNTEER SIGN-UP WEBSITE

Or contact Volunteer Coordinator, Faith McClure (faith.mcclure@emory.edu, 404-727-6315).

This is a great opportunity for…

— local community members interested in volunteering for the arts in Atlanta;

— those interested in environmentalist initiatives;

— Emory classes and student organizations;

— fraternity/sorority community service fulfillments;

— art students and artists looking for experience working with an internationally renowned environmental artist.

[2] BOTTLES, BOTTLES, BOTTLES!!!

We’re collecting over 20,000 clear plastic bottles that will be repurposed to form large-scale sculptural installations in both the Emory Quadrangle and Lullwater Preserve.

Bring your recycled clear plastic bottles to the Emory Visual Arts Gallery.

[3] SPECIAL EVENTS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Please also join us for one or all of these events…

All events at the Visual Arts Gallery unless otherwise noted.

Welcome Reception for John Grade
Monday, November 7 from 7:30–9 pm
Open to the public; RSVP here.

Creativity Conversation with John Grade and Julia Kjelgaard
Wednesday, November 16 at 5 pm
Open to the public; no RSVP required.
Location: Carlos Museum Reception Hall

Dinner & Panel Discussion with John Grade:
The Intersection of Art, Science, and Sustainability
Thursday, November 17 from 6:30 – 8 pm
Open to the public; pizza will be served; no RSVP required.