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CHAMPION OF MANUFACTURING

I read Peter Dizikes’s profile of Professor Suzanne Berger (“Standing Up for Manufacturing,” January/February 2012) with deep interest.
I have long argued on similar lines, and it is my conviction that manufacturing skills need to be nurtured, as manufacturing has a profound effect on a country’s economy. I have also argued that it makes not only emotional but also economic sense to avoid mindless outsourcing. And there is hope—with increasing understanding of supply chains, managers will take a more holistic approach in determining the true impacts of their strategic decisions. As a result, such decisions will be put to more rigorous strategic and analytical testing, with possible retention or return of manufacturing jobs.
Professor Berger’s ideas and thinking deserve wide support and admiration.
Atul Agarwal, MEng ‘05
Sutton, England

I would like to remind readers of another facet of the outstanding career of Professor Suzanne Berger not mentioned in your article. To many of us in the “inside the Beltway” crowd, Suzanne, together with Jake Stewart and Mitzi Wertheim, founded MIT’s Seminar XXI, a unique public-­policy program. Seminar XXI brings together senior military officers and civilian executives once a month over an academic year to discuss critical national-security, economic, and public-policy issues, guided by MIT social scientists and those from other institutions. It began in 1986 with a curriculum focusing on alternative analyses of the cultural, economic, and political assumptions behind international discourse and events. None of us who participated in 1988–89 will ever forget the impact of Suzanne and her “paradigms” on our thinking about national-security issues. Suzanne was the MIT program director for Seminar XXI only until 1993, but her influence on the seminar continues to this day.
Frank Tapparo ‘60
Arlington, Virginia

EXERCISE AND ENDURANCE

I found Benjamin Rapoport’s story “Running the Numbers” (November/December 2011) interesting for three reasons: I just began a running routine, I have been looking for an app that logs my progress by various metrics, and I am involved in genome-scale data analysis.
I would like to better understand how available data could provide novel insights into the physiology of endurance using systems-­biology approaches. I have been working with NextBio for a few years, and we’ve processed, curated, and made searchable thousands of public genomic data sets. The system, which is free to academics at www.nextbio.com, includes more than 50 RNA expression and SNP data sets for “exercise.” To me, concepts of endurance also evoke thoughts on discovery of performance biomarkers and cures for muscular dystrophy. Your research has great potential.
James Flynn, husband of Monique
(Gaffney) Flynn, SM ‘90
Lexington, Massachusetts

MUDDY CHARLES MYSTERY

In the January/February 2012 issue there is a picture on page M17 of several graduate students in the Muddy Charles pub (“A Physicist Walks into a Bar … “). Date not specified. I am pretty sure that the guy on the far right with the light-colored sweater is James Logan Kirtley. I remember Professor Kirtley from the Electric Power Systems Engineering Lab in the basement of Building 10 back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Aaron Hirshberg, SM ‘81
Newton Centre, Massachusetts

Professor Kirtley responds:
The fellow closest to the camera could be me, but I don’t think so.
First, I don’t recognize any of the other people at the table. Second, it is dark outside but the door is open, so it is not winter. That means the picture must have been taken fairly late, and I didn’t stay terribly late. Third, I didn’t drink bottled beer at the Muddy. We always shared pitchers of draft beer. And I don’t play darts, or never did at the Muddy.

A FAVORITE WIENER STORY

I enjoyed the letters in the January/February 2011 issue concerning Professor Norbert Wiener. From 1944 to 1947 I did indeed see him walking the long corridors reading a book, tracking his position on the wall with the other hand so he would know when to turn. But I was surprised not to see my all-time favorite story.
They say that Professor Wiener would put differential equations on the board, study them for a moment, and then write down the answers. When finals came around, there were four differential equations to solve. One bewildered student didn’t have the foggiest idea how to solve them and just wrote down four answers. The paper came back marked 50 percent with a note from Wiener: RIGHT METHOD—WRONG ANSWERS.
James Prigoff ‘47
Sacramento, California  

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