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Alumni Letters

Letters from our readers.
April 22, 2008

Not So Fast
At a time when normally reserved scientists and engineers are gathering to discuss and protest the awarding of a Nobel Prize to Al Gore for the shoddy research backing his highly politicized book and movie, out comes an article in the highly respected Technology Review that seems to support Gore (“Wheel of Global Fortune,” January/February 2008). In actuality, it does not, because the article is a history of fine achievements by Professor Ronald Prinn but contains little in the form of research to indicate why one should not be happy with recent scientific publications relating temperature changes in the troposphere with solar activity. Nor does it mention research that shows rising temperatures preceding carbon dioxide increases rather than what we are being led to believe. I’m puzzled why you didn’t elect to depart from the political line and invite MIT’s distinguished professor Richard S. Lindzen to present his findings. The Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Professor Lindzen is a highly regarded contributor to the scientific community’s understanding of what some call global warming.

A petition supported by the late ­Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Acade­my of Sciences, requests that the United States government hold off on signing any agreement similar to the Kyoto accord until more convincing scientific evidence is available. It already has well over 20,000 signatures from scientists and engineers. There are many other reasons to have held off on “Wheel of Global Fortune” for a while. Of course, we may be able to use the title for a future article discussing how Al Gore has turned the subject into a livelihood.

Professor Prinn mentions that computers are purring away full time to do a new set of calculations that incorporate new findings. That is hopeful. However, he finishes the article by saying, “Young people are not climate skeptics.” Who is going to protect us?
Harmon A. Poole ‘48
Simsbury, CT

Hope for the Mathematically Challenged
I do not have a math brain (and obviously didn’t go to MIT). Recently, at 50, I revisited math when studying for the GRE in applying to a PhD program. My most decidedly math-brained, MIT-educated husband (Robert Markey ‘69) did his very best to help me think like a mathematician, but I could only stare at the numbers and symbols, hoping they would magically make sense. Instead, I had flashbacks to being 16, accompanied by the same burning tears of frustration. I actually did worse on the “after” practice test than on the “before.”

Reading Deborah Pan’s My View column (“After Dinner, a Tiny Slice of Pi,” March/April 2008), I couldn’t help but think, “Well, she inherited her father’s math brain and would have gotten it anyway.” But when I got to the punch line about pi r “squared,” I felt a surge of hope for all of us, if only high-school math teachers could do this too.

Meanwhile, I’m done with it. For the very little math I encounter, my calculator does most of what I need. For the rest, I call Bob.
Julie Orfirer
Ashfield, MA

MIT News Online
Visit to e-mail articles to friends and colleagues. The ­website includes all current MIT News stories and exclusive Web-only content.

■ Listen to Carlos Prieto ‘58 play works by J. S. Bach and Dmitri Shostakovich on his famous Stradivari cello.

■ Find out what happened when Yo-Yo Ma and Carlos Prieto ­­tried to set their historic cellos up on a date.

■ See more photos of Amos Winter, SM ‘05, in Tanzania, where he’s working on improving access to wheelchairs.

■ Get the inside story from MIT associate professor Norvin Richards, PhD ‘97, on how linguists go about reviving a long-unspoken language like Wôpanâak.

■ Browse the MIT News Archives to access past articles.

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