For Your Consideration – Crystal Ball Edition

By Jim Keller

The early part of the Oscar race is a moving target. There are a few awards stops along the way: Sundance, SXSW, and Cannes, to name a few, but by and large spitballing what may come down the slippery slope of the Oscar pike is tricky. For one, a lot of the films do not have distributors yet or have soft release dates. This makes it easy for films to be pushed to the following year. Second, the films discussed here haven’t screened, so it’s really impossible to know what kind of film they are—all we have to go on is the log line and the talent attached. Sometimes we get lucky and the films stick the Oscar nomination landing (FYC’s Crystal Ball Edition covered four of nine 2014 Best Picture nominees), but out of the eight 2015 Best Picture nominees only one was featured. Here are some films of interest debuting this year that could wind up in this year’s Oscar conversation.

The Danish Girl (director: Tom Hooper):

Why you might like it: Based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name, the film depicts the true story of Danish artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) whose marriage is tested after Lili becomes one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: Redmayne is on fire after his Best Actor Oscar win for last year’s The Theory of Everything. What’s more, early pictures of Redmayne as Lili are intriguing and the transgender topic has been gaining steam. After helming 2011’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech and winning Best Director for it, Hooper is always on the Academy’s radar.

Steve Jobs (director: Danny Boyle):

Why you might like it: This biopic of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs was adapted from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. It explores the modern day genius’s triumphs and tribulations and how they affected his family life and possibly his health. Michael Fassbender plays Jobs and could figure prominently in the Best Actor race.
Why I’ve got my eye on it: Like Hooper, Boyle is permanently on the Academy watch list ever since his go for broke Slumdog Millionaire swept the 2009 Oscars and won eight awards including Best Picture and Best Director. Here he is paired with Aaron Sorkin, an Oscar perennial since his 2011 Best Adapted Screenplay win for The Social Network. And of course, there’s the aforementioned Fassbender, who always gives deserving performances and who earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 2013’s 12 Years a Slave.

Joy (director: David O. Russell):

Why you might like it: The biopic chronicles the life of Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) the struggling Long Island single mom who invented the Miracle Mop and became one of the most successful American entrepreneurs.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: Russell has been after the Oscar since his Best Director nomination for 2010’s The Fighter. Jennifer Lawrence is amazing in almost everything she does (RIP 2014’s Serena) and with Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro on-board, the chemistry exhibited between the three since 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, which landed all three Oscar nominations, thrives.

The Witch (director: Robert Eggers):

Why you might like it: It’s a horror film that takes place in a devout, Christian 1630 New England homesteading community. When a series of strange events start happening a family begins to turn on one another. It’s a chilling portrait of family unraveling within their fear and anxiety, leaving them vulnerable to inescapable evil.

Why I’ve got my eye on it: This is one of my most anticipated films of the year. Eggers won the Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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Biography of an Amazing Artist

By Susan Russo

Based on a personal story from his granddaughter and the website

paintAvigdor Renzo Luisada was born in Florence, Italy, in 1905, third son of a secular Jewish family. His father was a prominent doctor and his older brother became a cardiologist in the United States. Luisada’s grandfather was an Italian painter, musician, and photographer, who told seven-year-old Avigdor, “Don’t be a painter! This is a hard life…” After high school, Avigdor served in the Alpinist unit of the army. On his discharge, at the insistence of his father, he studied engineering at university, but soon left for the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence.

In 1929, Luisada moved to Rome, continuing art studies at the Academia di San Luca, where he received a drawing award in 1931. Returning to Florence, he supported himself by illustrating children’s books, but continued his painting. He met his future wife, Paula Malvano, in Florence. After their marriage in 1933, the couple moved to Milan, where Luisada’s paintings were soon exhibited throughout Italy. In 1936 he was first invited to present his work at the Venice Biennale.

During the ominous rise of Hitler in Germany, members of the Northern Italian Jewish community formed an illegal organization, the Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants, for the difficult move to Israel. Avigdor Luisada was elected as the organization’s secretary, and later became president of the Milan chapter. During this time his daughters Daphna and Dina were born.

In September of 1939, Luisada and his family left for Israel on the last boat out of Trieste. In Israel, the Luisada family joined with other Italians to form a communal village (called a “moshav”), in the Sharon region, naming it Tel-Dan (after a respected Italian Zionist, Dante Lattes.) As farming was a struggle, Avigdor started teaching painting in regional elementary schools, continued illustrating children’s books, and drew images for magic lanterns.

After the war, Luisada and his family visited Italy to see relatives who had stayed there, and to meet with their artist friends. In 1947, they moved to Tel Aviv, where Luisada taught painting and art history at the Art Teachers Seminar and lectured at museums throughout Israel. His first solo exhibition was at the Katz Gallery in Tel Aviv. In 1948, with the assistance of Yossef Zaritsky, Luisada and his fellow artists mounted an Israeli group exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Members of this group created the beginning of a modern art movement called Ofakim Hadashim (“New Horizons”).

In 1955, to be closer to relatives and other friends who had moved from Italy, the family moved to Ramat-Gan. Luisada continued painting and drawing in a studio near their new home. Then, in 1972, Luisada and his wife spent a year in Paris, where he had a solo exhibit in the Espace Gallery.

In 1970, the Italian government awarded Avigdor Renzo Luisada the Chivalry Medal, and the Ministry of Culture and Education in Israel presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1982, he was awarded the Dizengoff Prize for Painting and Sculpture from the Municipality of Tel Aviv.

Avigdor Luisada’s paintings and drawings have been on display in museums and institutions throughout Israel, in the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Torino, Italy, and in exhibits in Montreal, New York, San Paola, Brazil, and Frankfurt, Germany.

In 1972, Luisada suffered a heart attack, which left him partially paralyzed, but he continued to work in his studio. Avigdor Renzo Luisada passed away at the age of 82, leaving a memorable legacy for his family, friends and his life in art.

Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part VIII: Joshua Lederberg, 1958 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

 By Joseph Luna

“You say [it was] a wonderful scientific achievement?” said Paul Ehrlich. “My dear colleague, for seven years of misfortune I had one moment of good luck!”

Joshua Lederberg, then only 13 or so, read these final lines of The Microbe Hunters and closed his copy, exhilarated. Paul de Kruif’s semi-non-fictional account of twelve great microbiologists had inspired the young Lederberg and cemented his desire to be one of them. It was an odd life choice to make in 1941, but Lederberg was no ordinary teenager. After graduating high school at age 15, Lederberg headed straight to Columbia University. He graduated three years later with a degree in zoology just shy of his nineteenth birthday and continued on at Columbia for medical school as part of a wartime Navy program.

His precociousness had not gone unnoticed, for Lederberg also sought a scientific mentor as an undergrad, and found one in a young assistant professor named Francis Ryan. Having trained with George Wells Beadle and Edward Tatum for his postdoc, Ryan established his laboratory to study the bread mold Neurospora as a new model for microbial genetics. Within a year, Lederberg all but abandoned his medical studies to work in Ryan’s lab, partly due to a single paper that both stunned and spurred the young men to action.

Across town at Rockefeller in 1944, Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty established that DNA was the molecule of heredity in Pneumococcus bacteria. Suddenly the race was on to characterize the role that DNA played in other micro-organisms; Lederberg and Ryan leaped at the chance to try this out in their favorite fungus. Whereas the Rockefeller group established DNA as the key ingredient for transforming non-virulent bacteria to more deadly forms, Lederberg and Ryan aimed to uncover whether DNA could also be responsible for correcting nutritional mutants in Neurospora. In other words, they sought to confirm that manipulating genes as Beadle and Tatum had done was the same as manipulating DNA.

They started with Neurospora mutants that could not make the amino acid leucine. These bugs could only grow when leucine was present in the media, and would die otherwise. Next, they attempted to transform these mutants using DNA from normal Neurospora to restore leucine production. As they suspected, they were able to recover bugs that could grow in the absence of leucine. Yet there was a catch, they figured out that this was not due to the DNA they were introducing into cells, but instead because the mutant microbes had reverted to their parental, or prototroph, condition. But where they failed to show transformation, they succeeded in showing something else: Lederberg and Ryan had invented a prototrophic recovery method to isolate rare natural revertants (termed “back mutations”) to show that induced mutations could sometimes spontaneously switch back to their ancestral condition. Microbes, they discovered, were ceaselessly tinkering.

Their original hypothesis, to correct a mutation at will with DNA transformation in Nuerospora was a spectacular failure, but it got Lederberg to thinking that maybe transformation wasn’t all there was. Maybe there was a way for microbes to transform each other naturally and exchange genetic information. And maybe this might’ve gone unnoticed because it was such a rare event, just like back-mutations were a rare event.

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Culture Corner

Visiting Hemingway’s House in Key West

By Bernie Langs

viewViews of the Key West home of Ernest Hemingway (photos by BL)

After shopping on Duval Street in Key West, Florida on a hot and beautiful day in late April, my wife and I were guided by our closest friends through back roads to The Hemingway Home and Museum to visit the house where the famed author spent most of the 1930s producing some of his best written works. This was my first visit to Key West and the anticipated imaginings of how it would look had missed the mark. The closely placed houses on the streets leading to “Papa’s” abode all had beautifully manicured small yards boasting fabulous and unique trees. The local vegetation had a scintillating quality to it and the leaves of the palm trees swayed slowly, dancing to the beat of the occasional wind. The serene atmosphere primed us for the grounds where Ernest Hemingway had lived.

We entered the house and set out for a tour of the property. Our guide was a colorful character who had probably given the same prepared speech from room to room hundreds of times over the years. She had a peculiar, yet engaging, Southern drawl and although she was restrained, she exuded a continuous enthusiasm for her subject. I found her dry jokes about Hemingway and his antics truly engaging as our group learned about Hemingway’s life, his four wives, his children, and about his many passions for drinking, deep-sea fishing, travel, and general debauchery. I had learned a bit of this, as many of us do, in school, but the sense of the man as an individual was enhanced by being surrounded by the things he’d actually lived with and experienced.

A highlight of the visit was the up-close look at the beautiful swimming pool on the grounds, which is surrounded by various trees and shrubs. It was the first pool built in Key West and the largest at the time for many miles. Our guide told the story of Hemingway’s wife, Pauline, who had put the swimming pool in, to his distress, the costs ran up to $20,000 ($330,000 today adjusted by inflation). It is said he tossed a penny at her, angrily declaring that she’d take his very last penny. She retaliated by imbedding the penny in the still wet cement of the patio and it’s there to this day for tourists like myself to gaze at in amusement.

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The Union Forever!

Dedicated to the memory of Bruce Voeller

 By George Barany, Michael Hanko, and Paul Luftig

This puzzle is modified and updated from versions that went on-line in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election. We dedicate the puzzle to the memory of Bruce Voeller (1934-1994), a Rockefeller alum (1961) who later served on the Rockefeller faculty and raised some eyebrows when he asked for his office to be painted pink. As our modern society has shifted toward accepting same-sex marriages, the puzzle’s theme remains just as relevant today, and we note with sadness that Dr. Voeller was never able to experience this basic right with the man his New York Times obituary listed as “his companion.”

GB is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the faculty at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities; MH is a NYC voice teacher, writer, and performer; PL lives in Larchmont and is retired from a remarkable career in the world of finance. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit WILL PROVIDE IT. More Barany and Friends crosswords are at



  1. Sailors do it on deck
  2. Disciplines
  3. Prepares leftovers for a quick bite
  4. South American monkey
  5. ___ Lama
  6. Institution with its med. sch. named after David Geffen
  7. Non-traditional marriage of the gay pop icon who wrote “Candle in the Wind” to a war hero who ran for President
  8. Pen, in Montpellier
  9. Tenets of Flat-Earthers or Evolution Deniers, e.g.
  10. Epiphanies
  11. Valley where David slew Goliath
  12. Amenity at a high-end spa
  13. Like Napoleon while in Elba
  14. Suffix added to “Mercedes-Benz” in a joke told by a professor of organic chemistry
  15. “Then Again, Maybe ___” (Judy Blume young adult novel)
  16. Ex-Veep Agnew’s plea
  17. Non-traditional marriage of an ex-Veep/Nobel Peace laureate to a novelist who believed in the pan-sexuality of men and women
  18. When doubled, a Jim Carrey movie
  19. One who was more shocked than awed in March 2003
  20. “Yadda, yadda, yadda”
  21. ___ -laced (excessively strict)
  22. “Hamilton,” for one
  23. “___ I” from Gershwin’s “Lady, Be Good!”
  24. One of a papal dozen
  25. Exemplars of loveliness
  26. Too, in Toulouse
  27. Non-traditional marriage of “Atlas Shrugged” novelist to a pair of politicians, one a current Presidential candiate, the other who ran for Veep under Romney
  28. Manitoba native
  29. Traffic trouble
  30. Dope
  31. What a lumberjack does behind the woodshed
  32. Pink-slips
  33. Ball handler?

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Quotable quote

“Loblolly – A lout; a stupid, rude or awkward person

Blatherskite – A person who talks foolishly at length

Poltroon – A spiritless coward

Cacafuego – A swaggering braggart or boaster

Crepehanger – A killjoy; someone who takes a pessimistic view

Slubberdegullion – A dirty rascal; scoundrel….”

In Retrieved 4/15/15, from

Life on a Roll

By Qiong Wang

Segovia, a small town an hour away from Madrid, presents people with a magnificent Roman aqueduct that was well kept for almost two thousand years. It is said that no cement-like agent was ever used in between the giant stones that hold up this masterpiece. How did they do it? No matter from what angle you look at it, you will be awed by its majesty and mystery. Not too far from it is a fairytale-like castle standing on top of a hill. About six-hundreds years ago, the charming and ambitious Queen Isabella of Castile ensued her crown here, in the Alcazar of Segovia. Nowadays, life is rather simple here, like killing a random afternoon alone with a saxophone player.

aquaduct 2 aquaduct 1 castle saxphone

Zeena Nackerdien: From Rockefeller to Novelist

By Aileen Marshall

Not all Rockefeller University (RU) scientists have a traditional career path. Some go on to teach or continue research. But some expand their horizons while still keeping science in their life. One such Rockefeller alum is Zeena Nackerdien, a research associate in Joshua Lederberg’s lab from 2000 to 2008, who went on to a diverse career in medical writing and who has recently published a novel, The Heroine Next Door, with a science theme.


Nackerdien is originally from South Africa. She got her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Cape Town. She then earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa, studying chromatin structure.

In 1989 she was offered the position of guest researcher at The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and decided to take the opportunity. At NIST she helped to identify indicators in DNA associated with free radical damage, and learned to perform capillary electrophoresis of nucleic acids. She then worked as a post-doc at Memorial Sloan Kettering for a year. Nackerdien moved to RU in 2000, where she began her eight-year stint.   “Like many post-docs, I had a series of stop-and-go experimental projects that ended in frustration,” Nackerdien remembers. While in the lab she published a hypothesis with Professor David Thaler on the rearrangements of chromosomes in cancer and evolution. She also worked on bacterial growth. She described the experience as “tearing my hair out over an inability to explain the bursts of fast growth observed in rich media of a Gram-negative pathogen, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.” Vibrios are a genus of bacteria that often cause infection from eating undercooked seafood. Some strains give off light. “We showed that the growth rates of the light-emitting Vibrios could be impacted by bioluminescence-dependent- and independent-components. However, the buried headline is that some bacterial strains can double very quickly in a manner that cannot easily be attributed to artifacts,” Nackerdien said. She published a paper on this with Dr. Lederberg and Dr. Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University, an expert in quorum sensing. Nackerdien was working on cultivating other bacterial species of the microbiome not easily done by standard plating techniques. Sadly, Dr. Lederberg died in 2008. It was then that she decided to start a writing career, “I have always been a poet at heart. However, it has taken me many years, first as a medical writer, then a patient advocate, and now an author to come up with a blended style that articulates my unique spirit.”

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Tuning Attention and Focusing on the Moment

By Peng Kate Gao

A few years ago, my friend and I took a road trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a typical mid-fall afternoon, when warm autumn colors began to paint the pastoral landscape of the Appalachian Highlands. The drive was not a difficult one; we had little fear of tumbling over the few cliffs we encountered. Nevertheless, the road was often winding and tortuous with plenty of unexpected curves. As the drive and the scenery captured our full attention, all our worries and work issues faded away. Suddenly, the vibrant foliage became much more lively, the afternoon sun shone more brightly than usual, and the air was sweet with the smell of fall. Years later, the colors, sounds and smells of this experience still play vividly in our minds.

Looking back, my memory of that distant afternoon seems so much clearer to me than many more recent Saturday afternoons I’ve spent aimlessly roaming the streets or watching TV. Recent psychology and neuroscience research helps to explain why this is so: our experience and memory is shaped by what we attend to. It is thus tempting to think that if we can consciously tune our attention and focus on the right things, life will feel less like a series of random acts but more like a work of art that we create.

Unfortunately, tuning attention is not always easy. Do you remember a time when you knew you were supposed to be working on a project or assignment, but somehow your mind started to wander and you felt the urge to check e-mail or Facebook? Focus slips, time melts away, and work is left undone. If this lack of focus becomes a habit, we face the real danger of drifting along in life—passively reacting to circumstances or whatever happens to us. This is certainly a life that most of us try to avoid.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his widely influential book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience argued, “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” He named this fully engaged state as flow, during which the person feels “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.” We usually associate flow with creative endeavors of scientists and artists, but Csikszentmihalyi argued that in fact it could be achieved in everyday life too, such as reading a book or tending a garden. Those moments lift our spirits and make us feel that life is worth living. The key to living an engaged life, then, is to find a way to maximize our time in flow and minimize drifting.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part VII: Edward Lawrie Tatum, 1958 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

It started, on paper at least, with butter. The chemical microbiology of dairy products was “certainly getting hot” as one professor dryly wrote to George Beadle, who in 1937 was starting his lab at Stanford University. Beadle, a plant geneticist who had recently switched to the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism, was looking for a good biochemist to join him with genetics research. He offered the job to 28-year-old Edward Tatum, a University of Wisconsin-Madison Ph.D. who had just spent a year in Utrecht, Netherlands, to study the odd mix of genetics in flies and the chemistry of butter. Tatum had come from a science family (his father was a chemistry professor) and was interested in genetics, but both father and son were concerned with the hybrid role of Beadle’s offer: amongst microbiology, biochemistry and genetics, Tatum stood a good chance of ending up an academic orphan, disowned by each discipline. But with jobs scarce in 1937, there were few options, and Tatum, his wife June, and their toddler, Margaret, headed to California.

What we would now call classical genetics was in full flower at the time. Pioneered at the turn of the century by Thomas Hunt Morgan, the fruit fly was (and still is) a powerful model organism to study inheritance, a concept just rediscovered through the long lost works of Gregor Mendel and his famous pea plants. Fly researchers at the time were interested in uncovering mutants, either natural or induced, that were different from normal flies, just as Mendel had done with peas. By crossing mutants with normal flies, or mutants with other mutants, early geneticists were able to track how a trait was transmitted from one generation to the next. In this manner, they figured out that inherited traits corresponded to physical entities on chromosomes, which they called “genes.” But what exactly a gene did was anyone’s guess. Things that could be readily observed or phenotypes such as changes in eye-color were clearly controlled by genes in the sense that they were inherited in predictable ways, they had genotypes. But for other, absolutely necessary things, like proper metabolism, there was really no path forward, since mutations were usually lethal. As a result, geneticists were thought of as having only uncovered how a subset of trivial phenotypes, like pea shape and fly eye color, were linked to a genotype. Whether critical traits like metabolism played by the same rules was an open and very contentious question.

Into this world, Tatum and Beadle (“Beets” to his friends) set up shop. They set their sights on Drosophila eye color, where they aimed to extract the pigment found in normal flies to characterize it biochemically. Using mutant flies that lacked the pigment, they wanted to perform what we would now call the rescue experiment, where the pigment could be restored in genetically deficient flies. It would have been a powerful demonstration of phenotype correction, were it not for problems encountered seemingly at the get-go. Tatum found that correcting the pigment defect could only work when cultures carried a bacterial contaminant, which presumably made a hormone or small molecule to get things going. They spent four years trying to isolate this hormone, only to be scooped by the competition. It was a major blow for such arduous work, but more importantly, it startled the young researchers as to how complex biochemical genetics would be with flies.

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Culture Corner

Theater Review: “LOVE” performed by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, February 16, 2015

By Bernie Langs


A Hofner bass guitar signed by all four Beatles displayed outside the “LOVE” theater at the Mirage Hotel (photo: B.L.)

When I told a musician friend of mine that I would be in Las Vegas for a few days in February, he insisted that while there I check out the Cirque du Soleil troupe’s interpretation of the Beatles’ music entitled “LOVE” that he had found to be an astounding theatrical tour de force. I knew some of the music from the show from the soundtrack released some years back produced by George Martin and his son, Giles. I’d even chanced upon a cable television airing of the film documentary chronicling the making of the show, but had quickly turned it off after witnessing the late John Lennon’s wife making strong suggestions to the show’s director during early rehearsals. Yoko Ono had already made far too many suggestions for Beatles’ affairs, in my opinion. Yet, I knew the music for “LOVE” to be a brilliantly conceived mash-up of Beatles’ tunes, taking a snippet from one song and tagging it to another or several others. In the case of the late George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” they added a lovely string arrangement to his melancholy demo of the song.

But Cirque du Soleil? Wasn’t it just high wire, trapeze tricks by pantomiming performers? I told my friend, whom I’ve known since the time when the Beatles were an active band, that I’d pass on going to the show. Knowing how highly I regarded the Beatles, he replied, “You will love it. If you do not go, I will find you and I will hurt you. You have to go.”

Thus so gently persuaded to attend, I am glad to say I have escaped that threat of bodily harm and even happier to report that “LOVE” as performed by Cirque du Soleil is a beautiful, exciting, musically profound, and dare I say, loving phenomenon. It is more than a show, it truly is an experience to behold in many ways. George and Giles Martin were instrumental in designing the sound system for the Beatles’ amalgamated music and I’ve read that there are over 100 speakers placed around the theater, including three in each of the individual, cushioned, high-back seats. I would sometimes shift in my seat to play the sound in my chair to the best effect. Beyond any studio album recorded by the group, beyond their television performances, or even the ballpark house speakers at their Shea Stadium show in 1965, this is the way Beatles’ music should be heard. The volume was loud, but not too loud. It surrounded one and became all encompassing, but not uncomfortably overwhelming, and for any Beatles’ fan, it could only lead to a state of bliss. It was like receiving wave after wave of pure joy.

How wrong I was about the mechanics of a live show by Cirque de Soleil. The performers are modern dancers, often undertaking straight out dance moves in various styles or doing their tasteful acrobatic feats in incredibly difficult fashions, including the use of high wires and trampolines. They are in complete tune not only to the beats and rhythms of the Beatles, but to their essence and soul, and very much on target with their original spirit. I was seven years old when the Beatles hit US radio and television, and thirteen when they split up. I was witness to their living spirit, which can never be completely captured again by anything produced since 1970. “LOVE” is as close to a witness of their time and unique manner as I have ever experienced.

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New York State Of Mind

This Month Natural Selections Interviews Carl Modes, Postdoctoral Associate from the Magnasco Lab.

By Melvin White


How long have you been living in the New York area? 
Three and a half years. I grew up in the Philadelphia area and have visited NYC many times over the years, so I wasn’t wholly unfamiliar with it before moving here.

Where do you currently live?
220 E. 70th Street. Three cheers for Rockefeller housing!

Which is your favorite neighborhood? Why?
The East Village, with its abundance of interesting restaurants, bars, and markets is probably my favorite neighborhood to hang out in, though I’m happy I live somewhere a bit more laid back.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Overrated: The hustle and bustle, which is really only noticeable in Midtown or touristy Underrated: So many great small and medium-sized parks besides Central (and Prospect) Park.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

Probably the energy and sense of opportunity, like you could do or buy or learn or accomplish almost anything just around the corner.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be? 

No so much a new change as wishing for the realization of a change already underway: the completion of the 2nd Avenue subway would do so much for Rockefeller’s neck of the woods, both in terms of accessibility and vibrancy. Its existence might even improve the 6 train!

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Free Spring Breaks in New York: An April Calendar

By Susan Russo


Macy’s Flower Show

When: April 1-4

Where: 34th Street and Seventh Avenue


Central Park Tour

When: April 4, 12-1:00pm

Where: 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue


Center Park Tour

When: April 4, 2:00-3:00pm

Where: 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenue


Center Park Tour

When: April 5, 10:00-11:30am

Where: 110th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenue


Center Park Tour

When: April 5, 2:00-2:45pm

Where: 61st Street and Fifth Avenue


Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival

When: April 5, 10:00am-4:00pm

Where: 49th to 57th Streets on Fifth Avenue


Fort Tryon Park Garden Walking Tour

When: April 5, 1:00-2:00pm

Where: Cabrini Boulevard and Fort Washington Avenue


El Museo del Barrio-Super Sabado! 2015 “A, B, Cuentos!”

When: April 18, 11:00am-6:00pm (event repeats on May 16)

Where: E104th Street and Fifth Avenue


Union Square Earth Day Celebration

When: April 18, 12pm-7:00pm

Where: 14th to 17th Streets between Broadway and Park Avenue South


Central Park: 59th Street Pond Discovery Walk When: April 19, 10:00-11:30am

Where: mid-park south of Sheep Meadow – enter at 66th Street (register at Chess and Checkers House 15 minutes before start of the walk – maximum three children per parent or guardian)

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Now He Belongs to the Ages

By George Barany and Marcia Brott

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977). Marcia Brott is a human genome researcher by day, wordsmith by night. Both are currently at the University of Minnesota. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to the answer, visit More Barany and Friends crosswords are at



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Three Weeks in Australia

By Natalia Ketaren

image1The Twelve Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia. Photo credit: Natalia Ketaren

After almost three years of being away, I was returning home for a summer Christmas. The last time I visited, my days were spent lazing in parks and beaches along Port Phillip Bay, dinners at trendy Melbourne joints with balconies where we could smoke and drink and of course, I did plenty of shopping. Coming home was all about catching up with friends and family, just… hanging out. However, this trip would be different. My American boyfriend was coming with me and he had never been to Oz. So this time around, it was fewer everyday indulgences and more sightseeing. Here’s a little of what we did and saw.

Week 1 Victoria

Melbourne is the most populous city in the State of Victoria and the second most populous city in Australia, behind Sydney. Melbourne is Australia’s business epicenter. It’s the fashion capital and the music capital of Australia. It is a sporting city, home to major tennis tournaments, the home of cricket Australia and the birthplace of Australian Rules football. Australia was declared a Federation under a tree in Melbourne’s botanical gardens. Five of the country’s most prestigious universities are located here, not to mention numerous others. Thus, it’s not surprising that the birthplace of Gough Whitlam carries a great worth in Australia and its citizens harbor abundant city pride. Whenever I visit my hometown, here are a few things I reacquaint myself with:

Food and Drink

Melbourne is known for its rich food culture, thanks to years of global immigration. My staples every time I visit are:

A good parma at Mrs. Parmas on Lt. Bourke Street or the Leveson Hotel in North Melbourne. Pho on Victoria Street, just after Hoddle Street in Richmond. It doesn’t really matter where you go, this street is lined with Vietnamese restaurants and you’re sure to get good pho and spring rolls when you’re here. Crispy pork at China bar near the corner of Exhibition Street. A souvlaki and chunky fries cooked in olive oil at Stalactites on Exhibition Street. Pizza at D.O.C pizza on the corner of Drummond and Faraday Street serves authentic Roman style pizza. Fish and chips down Acland Street in St. Kilda. Be sure to go to the shop closer to the Barkly Street end. Chips with gravy, dim sum, chunky spring rolls and potato cakes, available at Charcoal chicken chain stores all over Melbourne and coffee.

Coffee is a Melbourne institution, which serves some of the best coffee in Australia. The city is packed with little lane ways strewn with cafes and coffee houses, serving alongside coffee and tea, amazing desserts and delicious sausage rolls and meat pies.

Melbourne nightlife is forever changing. Drinks in Australia are expensive, where, on average, it’s $10/pint of beer and $20/cocktail. No tips required in the service industry, but the going is still quite dear. Rooftop bars in Melbourne can be quite fun. Our go to on the trip is Rooftop Bar on Swanston Street in the city center. They do very nice Pimm’s cups and champagne cocktails in the summertime.

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Twenty-four visits to Stockholm: a concise history of the Rockefeller Nobel Prizes

Part VI: Fritz Albert Lipmann, 1953 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

From Ra to Apollo to Huitzilopochtli, the ancients were onto something by worshipping the sun. Alongside water, no other entity was as important for the agricultural harvest or for predicting the seasonal movements of wind and life-giving rain. But the precise means by which the sun can be said to nourish took over two millennia to figure out, most of it concentrated in the past 200 or so years, when chemists began to ply their trade to biological problems. Why do plants need light? What happens when a caterpillar, a cow or a human eats them? In other words, how does “food,” for any organism, really work? The answers to these questions lie in the study of metabolism, and biochemists in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th century were wild about these problems.

Fritz Lipmann was among them. Born in the east Prussian capital of Königsberg in 1899, Lipmann came of scientific age during some biochemically exciting times. After receiving an MD in 1924, Lipmann changed course and joined the laboratory of Otto Meyerhof, the discoverer of glycolysis and 1922 Nobelist, at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. In the Meyerhof lab, Lipmann worked alongside Karl Lohmann (the discoverer of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP)) and Dean Burk (the co-discoverer of biotin). Working upstairs was Otto Warburg, who in 1931 would win a Nobel Prize for his work on cellular respiration. And in Warburg’s lab was Hans Krebs, for whom the citric acid cycle is named, and who would later share the 1953 Nobel Prize in chemistry with Lipmann.

The driving question for these biochemists at the time can be summed up succinctly: what was the chemical basis for energy production and consumption in living organisms? By the late 1920s, it was increasingly clear that ATP was a major energy currency in the cell, but the precise means by which it functioned, as both a fuel and as a building block besides how it was made in the cell, were unknown. After a year exploring this problem in P.A. Levene’s laboratory here at Rockefeller, Lipmann moved to Copenhagen to work with Albert Fischer where he studied the end product of Meyerhof’s glycolysis: pyruvic acid.

This “fiery grape” metabolite was interesting as a molecular fork in the road of sorts for an organism: in the absence of oxygen, pyruvic acid undergoes fermentation to make a limited but finite amount of energy before winding up as lactic acid. This is essentially what happens when yogurt or sauerkraut is made. But in the presence of constant oxygen, pyruvic acid does something different: it becomes oxidized and fed into the citric acid cycle to allow continuous production of ATP. In other words, energy production requires continuous breathing, or “respiration.” As a biochemical fulcrum between reactions associated with death (fermentation) or life (respiration), it’s easy to see how this molecule might’ve fascinated Lipmann in the 1930’s. Most of the above was known by then but questions remained. Lipmann noticed that in order for pyruvic acid oxidation to make ATP, some inorganic phosphate was always needed and biochemically used up. Where did this phosphate go? Using radioactive phosphate and adenylic acid, a precursor of ATP, Lipmann observed that pyruvic acid oxidation resulted in radioactive ATP. He had traced the movement of an inert phosphate to the main energy molecule in the cell. This process, now generally summarized as oxidative phosphorylation, is the means by which any organism on this planet that breathes makes energy.

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Culture Corner

Book Review: My Struggle Book 1, by Karl Ove Knausgaard

By Bernie Langs

For several months I had heard chatter about an extraordinary set of books written by an eccentric Norwegian chronicling his life in the minutest detail. There was even one nighttime commute home on New Jersey Transit where I sat and watched a man reading the book in the seat across from mine and I pondered questioning him if it was worth the effort and time to take it on.

My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard ended up being a fantastic book and the much-discussed overly detailed remembrances came across to me as the natural power of observation of an extraordinary, unique and creative mind at work. The dynamics of any family are complex, emotional for its members, and more often than not, extremely difficult, and the manner in which Knausgaard presents his family’s relationships teaches harsh and true lessons while keeping the reader absolutely glued to the page. By focusing on nuances and detailed moments occurring decades in the past, one begins to sense the writer’s blurring of fact and fiction, in this case, the loss of distinction between memoir and embellished storytelling. Knausgaard still remained true to the message he wishes to impart.

The landscape of obscure locations in Norway forms much of the backdrop to Knausgaard’s recollections. Fjords, the sea, and even watering holes are present as are the constant reminders of the cold and the snow of the Nordic region. Yet all of that is natural to its natives, while remaining fairly exotic to the readers of the book, who can marvel at names of people and places they can’t even begin to try to pronounce.

Although this first book of many in the series of My Struggle focuses on periods of the author’s time as a boy and teenager, he does jump to other times of his life and we see how the characteristics he displayed early on take on permanence as an adult, and not always in a flattering way. Certain insensitivities as a youth grow into a manner of emotional coldness and removal as an adult that Knausgaard is all too aware of and in some way, ashamed to have allowed to have blossomed.

The underlying key to much of this is clearly revealed to stem from the personality of his father and their odd and complicated relationship. The book moves along and builds to become a flood of emotions based around this man, whom we first meet in the early pages as stern and confident, physically alive but in many ways “not there” emotionally. We then learn of the author’s father’s devolution into a broken individual who becomes an obese, out-of-work alcoholic who has lost contact with his sons and who dies a miserable death.

Here is Knausgaard early in the book discussing his father and “how great the difference was between our days. While my days were jam-packed with meaning, when each step opened a new opportunity, and when every opportunity filled me to the brim, in a way which now is actually incomprehensible, the meaning of his days was not concentrated in individual events but spread over such large areas that it was not possible to comprehend them in anything other than abstract terms.”

When reading My Struggle, I began to think to myself, “This is why I read.” Trying to explain why one chooses to read a difficult book for pleasure can be likened to trying to explain why one walks. You just do it. But it’s more akin to why one takes on a difficult walk or a hike through tough terrain for no real reason except to “get there” and “there” not being a physical destination, but an exhilarated or even spiritual state of mind. While reading books by writers like Knausgaard, Kraznahorkai or Vladimir Nabokov is a struggle, it is somewhat comforting in that they ponder the big questions that dog us all with impassioned urgency and dazzling creativity. The urgency is often driven by the belief that life is fleeting so we better get to pondering and figuring it out as soon as we can. The creativite portion remains, oddly and ironically, the fun and the adventure of it.◉

What is Traditional Irish Soda Bread for $100, Alex?

By Aileen Marshall

Saint Patrick’s Day is coming up and that means there will be sales for corned beef and cabbage and traditional Irish soda bread. I myself, of Irish decent, only became aware of Irish soda bread as a young adult. I went through several recipes given to me by friends and family, before I settled on one that got many good reviews from the recipients. Most of the recipes I’ve come across over the years call for raisins, caraway seeds, nuts, eggs, butter and sugar. I knew that the real Irish soda bread was very plain, that the sugar was to cater to American tastes. But as I did the research on the history of traditional bread for this article, I was surprised at how far off what we eat on Saint Patrick’s Day is from the original Irish soda bread.

Why is it called soda bread? This bread, and others known as quick breads, use baking soda instead of yeast to make them rise. Most recipes today use buttermilk, but the traditional recipe calls for sour milk. The sodium bicarbonate, which is the chemical name for baking soda, and the lactic acid in the buttermilk or sour milk combine to form a gas, carbon dioxide. The released gas bubbles are what cause the bread to rise.

The early American colonists during the 1700s noticed the Native Americans using what was known as potash to make bread. Potash is actually potassium carbonate, which works the same as sodium bicarbonate. This is the first recorded use of a carbon-ate in cooking. The first known soda bread recipe was published in the United States in 1796. The book, American Cookery, noted it as a way to make fast and inexpensive bread. In 1817, an editor of a London magazine was challenged to come up with a recipe that used poor wheat flour. Poor wheat flour is also known as soft wheat flour or cake flour. The flour mostly used in this country is hard wheat flour, which has higher gluten content than its counterpart. The London editor’s recipe called for soft or poor wheat flour, mealy potatoes, salt, water, baking soda and muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid). Without the potatoes, this is a basic traditional Irish soda bread recipe. Yet it was an Englishman who first published it.

The earliest reference to a soda bread in Ireland was printed in 1836 in the Farmer’s Magazine of London. It said a writer from the Newry Telegraph of Northern Ireland had sent in the recipe using, “wheaten meal, salt, super carbonate of soda, cold water and sour buttermilk.” The instructions were to make it in a covered Dutch oven or frying pan, over a moderate fire, putting some coals on top. This is the way most Irish remember traditional soda bread being made. So it seems it may not have started in Ireland, but it had developed as a means to make an inexpensive bread. It is very plain compared with the version most of us know today. Around 1840, baking soda became cheap and easily accessible in Ireland. In 1850, the Dublin Quarterly Journal of Medicine stated “Due to the failure of the potato crop, a large quantity of bicarbonate of soda was employed by the poorer classes in the preparation of bread.” The version we know today would more likely have been made for company and was called a tea cake. The addition of raisins make it what the Irish would call “spotted dog.”

If you are so inspired as I have been, here is a recipe for traditional Irish Soda bread, courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. A bastible pot was equivalent to what is known today as a Dutch oven, a large heavy pot. It was meant to be placed directly into the coals, since in those days very few Irish had an oven.

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