Political Science

Paul Jeng

July was an exhausting month for anyone paying attention to the current presidential election. Like many other Americans, I lived the weeks surrounding the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a news addict trapped in a cycle of abuse — cramming nearly every spare weekday hour with analysis, op-eds, and internet commentary, crashing under a wave of hopelessness by Friday, and finally tuning out the world for the weekend to binge-watch fifteen episodes of HBO’s Veep as a sort of politics nicotine patch. Come Monday, the pattern would start anew. In my mind I was fulfilling a civic duty to stay informed, but the entire experience was pretty harrowing.

It didn’t take long for my politics habit to start impacting my day job. I zoned out while counting cells to listen to Terry Gross’s interview with the New York Time’s Amy Chozick about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. I pretended to be reading protein expression data from Nature when I was actually reading polling data from FiveThirtyEight. Most notably, there was a distinct shift in mental priorities. After spending half a decade in graduate school studying only science, this suddenly-consuming focus on the executive branch of the United States government felt like an unpleasant fugue state. Most people who are in research at any stage are there in part because of a belief that the world can be improved by the accumulation of objective truths, or at least our best approximation of truths based on scientific evidence. In that regard, politics, —which is in some ways the exact opposite of “objective”—would appear to have no seat at the science table. We have yet to figure out a way to quantify patriotism.

In reality, the present and future of science are inextricably tied to government, both in terms of funding resources and research policy. The NIH invests over 30 billion dollars in medical research each year, financing roughly 300,000 researchers in more than 2,500 institutions throughout the nation. The recently-approved budget for fiscal year 2017 would increase this amount by $825 million, a welcome change after a decade of funding that saw budget cuts in twelve of the past fourteen years. It’s no secret that money for research project grants has been historically tight, especially following extensive sequestration of funds mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The only way for the United States to remain a leader in science is if Americans elect officials that continue to prioritize spending in research.

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The Science of Brexit

Johannes Buheitel

Brexit_use this one

Photo Illustration: Johannes Buheitel

David Cameron looked tired but determined, as he took on the short walk from his front door to the podium opposite a battery of journalists that had congregated in front of London’s 10 Downing Street. On June 24, England’s Prime Minister announced that he will be stepping down from his post October as a consequence of the British people voting to exit the European Union (EU). Even though David Cameron went on to ensure that he will do his best to “steady the ship over the coming weeks” but that he will not be “the captain that steers [the United Kingdom] to its next destination”, it is hard to shake off the feeling that he chose this metaphor for more reasons than he cares to admit in front of the cameras.

As the shockwaves of the Brexit decision rippled through the continent, they inevitably also reached the European scientific communities, which are left in shock and confusion about the future. Because, like so many others, they were not expecting this outcome. Three months before the referendum the renowned scientific journal Nature (based in London) reached out to over 900 active researchers in the UK to ask them about their feelings toward a possible Brexit. A whopping 83% wanted Britain to remain in the EU, a number that is almost double that of the polls among the general population at that time. Most of these researchers explained their vote with the belief that Brexit would harm UK science, which, given the extensive ties between European scientific communities and the EU, seems very likely. According to Times Higher Education, UK universities have received roughly 1.4 billion euros (1.5 billion US dollars) of funding from EU programs per year; funding, that is bound to dry up once Brexit has been completed. Whether this impending gap can be filled by the UK’s domestic budget is unclear. It is specifically this state of limbo that makes UK researchers worry the most. Not even the EU’s Science Research and Innovation Commissioner, Carlos Moedas, has many words of solace to offer and notes that “all implications […] will have to be addressed in due course”

But it’s not only funding that worries UK researchers. Brexit could pose new moving and working restrictions for non-British EU nationals, which make up about 15% of the UK’s scientific community. The upcoming Brexit negotiations will determine whether they will be allowed to stay and work in the UK but the more important question might be, do they want to? In addition to the worries about EU funding in the aftermath of the referendum, there have been reports about xenophobic incidents at British research institutions such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, where some of the staff were told to “go home.”

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How the approval of the “Against Mass Immigration” initiative threatens science in Switzerland

Juliette Wipf

Credit: Die Schweizerische Volkspartei

Credit: Die Schweizerische Volkspartei

Over the last decade, nationalist and anti-immigration parties have gained voters throughout Europe (Front National, Golden Dawn, Alternative für Deutschland, Lega Nord, and many more). Brexit is not the first case where citizens have decided in favor of legislation that jeopardizes international academic cooperation. In Switzerland, scientific collaborations are at stake after the passage of an initiative launched by the national-conservative and right-wing populist “Swiss People’s Party.” The initiative, entitled “Against Mass Immigration,” threatens the free-movement policy of the Schengen area (a group of EU and non-EU European countries with an agreement of free movement). In response, the European Union has expelled Switzerland from mutual science and exchange programs. To date, Swiss scientists are still in fear of the consequences resulting from the implementation of this initiative.

Free movement inside the Schengen area

Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not part of the EU, but have signed the Schengen Agreement. Together with the EU-member states, those countries therefore form the Schengen area. Inside this area, border controls have been abolished and the principle of free movement is pursued, which immensely aids scientific exchange in Central Europe.

Horizon 2020

As the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever created, Horizon 2020 made nearly 90 billion dollars of funding available to researchers between 2014 and 2020. The aim of the project is to further develop the European Research Area and to “break down barriers to create a genuine single market for knowledge, research and innovation.” Non-EU countries inside the Schengen area take part in EU projects such as Horizon 2020, and Switzerland plans to contribute 4 billion dollars to the project.

The “Against Mass Immigration” initiative

Switzerland’s semi-direct democracy is unique and practices direct democracy in parallel with the representative democracy voting system. A vote can be organized by the people to oppose any law newly accepted by the Federal Assembly, as well as to modify the existing constitution with a so-called initiative. In 2011, the “Swiss People’s Party” launched the “Against Mass Immigration” initiative, aiming to limit immigration through quotas. Even though no number was specified for such a quota, the idea stands in stark contrast to the free-movement policy of the Schengen area. The party’s arguments fueled the fear of unemployment, the financial crises and the refugee flow. These arguments are similarly exploited by many other nationalist parties in Europe or other people who would like to secure their countries by building walls. Unfortunately, Swiss citizens approved the initiative with a narrow majority of 50.3% in 2014.

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

Part XXI: Paul Nurse, 2001 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Joseph Luna

Nurse_2015v2.1446150713

Photo Courtesy of THE rockefeller university

All cells, in the end, are copies of copies. But unlike the loss of quality in the Xerox sense of making a copy, a cell needs to be perfect. It must faithfully and exactly duplicate its genetic information, gather extra membranes, energy and microtubules, and then begin a dramatic line dance to separate its two genomes during mitosis. This entire process—known as the cell cycle—ensures the timely and correct reproduction of cells that is crucial for the growth of any organism.

But from the time of Virchow’s famous 1850s epigram that all cells come from cells (Omnis cellula e cellula) through the birth of molecular biology in the 1950s, all a biologist could do was watch this central process of development. The awesome molecular logistics that made the cell cycle so precise and ordered were a mystery. Who, from a molecular perspective, was in charge? How did a cell know when to execute a particular phase of the cell cycle? These questions weren’t just idle puzzles, for by this time it already been suggested, that many cell proliferative diseases such as cancer might be manifestations of cell cycles gone horribly wrong.

In 1974, a young post-doc named Paul Nurse set out to explore the cell cycle in fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe). Fresh from earning his PhD, Nurse spent half a year learning the genetics of Sz. Pombe with Urs Leopold before joining the laboratory of Murdoch Mitchinson, a pioneer of fission yeast genetics in Scotland. Nurse was inspired by the work of Leland Hartwell, who devised a way to isolate mutants of budding yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that were stuck in their progression through the cell cycle. Because such mutations were lethal, Hartwell relied on a quirk of yeast genetics that permitted temperature sensitive mutations: the yeast divided normally at lower permissive temperatures, but at higher temperatures, mutations would become apparent, and were usually lethal. Through the painstaking work of taking time-lapse photographs of many yeast mutants, Hartwell identified dozens of cell division cycle (cdc) mutants, each displaying a distinct problem in their cell cycle.

Nurse decided to apply a similar approach to rod-shaped fission yeast, which on paper, seemed tailor-made for such studies. Unlike budding yeast, fission yeast grows at a fixed diameter, and cells partition automatically once lengthened to roughly double their size. Nurse figured that cell cycle mutants would be unable to separate, and so should yield lengthened rods that were whole multiples of a single cell. Reasoning that such mutant cells were heavier, Nurse had the bright idea of trying to isolate them with a centrifuge instead of laboriously screening with the microscope.

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Weightlifting at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Francesca Cavallo

Lasha_Talakhadze_Rio_2016-1

Photo Courtesy of Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was selected to host the 2016 Olympic Games, the first time the host nation has been in South America. The 2016 Olympic Games opened on the August 5 and closed on the August 21, to coincide with the start of the host country’s soccer season. These Olympic Games are the 31st edition of the Summer Olympics, and four competition zones were assigned as sporting venues: Barra, Deodoro, Maracaña, and Copacabana. Fourty-eight are track and field sports and twenty-eight the total sports; among them we have two new categories: golf and rugby sevens. 205 countries are competing for the 306 medals on offer.

In particular, weightlifting has been assigned fifteen medals: eight for the male category and seven for the female category.

During these Olympics, weightlifting has become a very controversial sport because of the prevalent doping issues involved. The Comité International Olympique (from the original French name CIO) had to ban over fourty athletes from various countries including Armenia, Ukraine, Moldova, North Korea, Cyprus, Turkey and Kazakhstan.

Unfortunately, this issue has been around for a while. At the last world championships, in 2014, there were twenty-four positive for doping tests in the first thirty positions.

A re-examination of Beijing’s 2008 and London’s 2012 Olympic weightlifting drug tests found 20 more doping-positive athletes, including four Olympic champions. The empty seats and the crowd’s displeasure, were therefore not a surprise at the current Olympics. The mistrust can be said to be warranted due to the previous examples of drug cheating.

August 16th was the last day of the Rio heavyweight competition. Georgian, Lasha Talakhadze, won the gold medal and he now holds the world and Olympic records of 473 kg, previously held by Iranian Hossein Rezazadeh since the Sydney 2000 Games. Talakhadze lifted 215 kg in the snatch and 258 kg on clean and jerk. He benefited from the disappointing performance of Behdad Salimikordasiabi, who was able to achieve the snatch world record (216 kg), but failed at 245 kg in the clean and jerk category in three attempts.

Talakhadze also beat Armenian Gor Minasyan, who lifted 451 kg in total (210 kg snatch and 241 kg on clean and jerk). In the meantime, the Georgian celebration was completed by Irakli Turmanidze who claimed the bronze medal (207 kg for snatch and 241 kg clean and jerk). In fourth position was Armenian Ruben Aleksanyan (440 kg), followed by Brazilian Fernando Saraiva Reis (435 kg) in fifth position.

Most of us are amazed by the strength and skill of weightlifters, but what exactly is weightlifting? What do they mean when they mention the snatch and the clean and jerk?

Weightlifting is a sport in which the athletes lift weights loaded on a barbell. Weightlifting competitions have been in existence since ancient times and have been a part of the modern Olympic Games since the first edition in Athens in 1896. From the 1950s to 1980s, most of the weightlifters originated from Eastern Europe, particularly from Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the Soviet Union. Since then, weightlifters from other nations including China, Greece and Turkey have dominated the sport and the nations with the best athletes at the current Olympic Games have included those of Russian, Bulgarian and Chinese heritage. Female weightlifting started to spread in the 1980s and was added to the Olympic program in the year 2000.

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Culture Corner

An interview with art gallery owner David Tunick

Bernie Langs

David

David Tunick, Photo by Bernie Langs

David Tunick Inc. is an art gallery located at 13 East 69th Street, specializing in fine prints and drawings from the 15th to the mid-20th centuries. The gallery boasts high quality and rare examples of works by Rembrandt, Dürer, Goya, Fragonard, Matisse, Picasso and many others. David Tunick, the gallery president, has been active in the field of works on paper since 1966. Mr. Tunick kindly agreed to answer email questions for Natural Selections.

BL: The information you provide for each Old Masters (and other) prints is detailed and exhaustive. Not only must you research the history of the physical print and the artist, but trace its provenance as well. How do you undertake such background work?

DT: We work at it, but some discoveries are luck. If by provenance, you mean its actual meaning, the history of ownership, we go about it carefully and methodically. We take note of every collector’s stamp, mark, notation, scribble, etc. on the recto and verso of the sheet. Can we identify them if we don’t know them? To do that we go to Lugt, Les Marques de Collections de Dessins et d’Estampes both in the old two volume hard copy and the augmented online version. If a mark is in there—there are thousands— we read about it, and that may lead to other sources. We want to add to our description of every print and drawing that comes in as much in the way of ownership history as possible. Sometimes that means looking in old gallery or sales catalogues, or correspondence with a museum, more often with a former owner or gallery owner, to see if there are further records in old files. Here’s an example of the luck part: recently a man unknown to us called me from France. He had seen an important 1950 Leger gouache on our website that had turned up on the wall of old master drawing collectors here in NY. It had been “missing” since 1971, when it was last seen in public in an exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris.  The NY collectors asked us to sell it for them, and we were thorough in researching the provenance, but there were gaps. The man from France said he remembered seeing this Leger on his aunt’s wall when he was a child. He filled in all the blanks, which we went on to verify. It felt good, as if we had fulfilled a responsibility, in a way, to the work of art.

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New York State Of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Leslie Diaz, Associate Director CBC

Guadalupe Astorga

interviewHow long have you been living in the New York area? 

My entire life. I grew up in the old Williamsburg area, in the pre-hipster era. I’ve always been a New Yorker born and raised.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I currently live on the Upper East Side, and my favorite neighborhood is Williamsburg because I have so many fun memories from growing up there.

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

For me the most overrated is Times Square. I think there are too many tourists and it’s almost impossible to walk around. I also think the quality of the restaurants there is terrible. Underrated, I think, the Bronx Zoo in winter. This is the absolute best time to see in action all of the cold weather animals, such as the polar bears, Siberian tigers and Snow Leopards. The Siberian tigers playing in the snow are a MUST see. Best of all, the zoo is usually empty so you have the entire park to yourself and you can treat yourself to a hot chocolate at the Dancing Crane Café.

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

NY is the city that never sleeps, there is easy access to public transportation 24/7, access to restaurants, and even clothing stores are open until late hours. I’ve never been able to find this convenience in any other city.

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

There are many beautiful luxury apartments nowadays, but they are displacing many of the native New Yorkers due to the expensive living costs. So, it would be great if the city could support affordable housing so that NYC can continue to accommodate a diverse population.  

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QUOTABLE QUOTE

Harriet_Beecher_Stowe_by_Francis_Holl

 

“Let us all resolve: First, to attain the grace of silence; Second, to deem all fault-finding that does no good a sin…Third, to practice the grace and virtue of praise.”

 

(Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811 – 1896)

Stronger Together!

George Barany and Friends

This politically themed puzzle comes to you from a consortium of progressively-minded friends of Rockefeller alum (1977) George Barany, who is currently on the faculty of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. For more about this specific puzzle, including a link to its answer, visit here. More Barany and Friends puzzles can be found here.

Across

1. Guinness who played Obi-Wan KenobiPuzzle
5. Piece of Gail Collins’ mind
9. Controversial cab alternative
13. Bohr or Borge
14. Election contest, e.g.
15. Fear-mongerer’s feelings
16. Secretary campaigning in 2016 for a promotion
19. Word before and after “baby,” in a Sarah Palin slogan
20. They play ball in New York
21. “___ Got a Secret”
23. Magician’s cry
25. Rodeo ropes
28. “When there are no ceilings, ___” (optimistic vision from 16-Across)
32. José or Francisco’s leader?
33. Consigns, as the nuclear launch codes, say
34. Besides
36. It’s frozen in Frankfurt
37. Kids’ guessing game
41. Gourmet burger chain with a bird mascot
46. Dessert choice, especially on March 14
47. Kate Smith’s signature song (and patriotic closing words for 16-Across)
51. Bad atmosphere, as in a brutal political campaign
52. Innovative
53. Like a fox, it’s said
54. Force in the OJ trial spotlight
57. Faith for Ghazala and Khizr Khan
60. Apropos sound bite from 16-Across
64. Old Peruvian
65. Calculus calculation
66. Sikorsky or Stravinsky
67. Okla. or La., once
68. Give a little
69. ___ Le Pew

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Life on a Roll

Magic over St Lawrence river

Elodie Pauwels

Summer rhymes with sunny weather and long days. It also rhymes with vacations and no tight agenda. No matter if you are an early bird or a night owl, you might admire a magnificent sunrise such as this one in Sainte-Anne-des-Monts. Many of you have already been struck by the warm colors of a sunset, here over Montreal.

All Photos by Elodie Pauwels https://elodiepphoto.wordpress.com/

L1L2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The price of mistakes in clinical trials

By Guadalupe Astorga

Last January 11, a human clinical trial in phase I caused brain death in one healthy volunteer, while five others were hospitalized. Unfortunately, this is not the only case where healthy volunteers have died or been severely affected.

structure

Structure of Bial’s BIA-10-2474 as described in their Clinical Study Protocol N° BIA-102474-101, and referred to as Compound A in US patent # 20130123493 A1

The molecule (BIA 10-2474) produced by the pharmaceutical company Bial, is an inhibitor of the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), an enzyme that catabolizes bioactive lipids, including the endocannabinoid anandamide. The drug was developed as a therapy for anxiety and motor disorders associated with Parkinson’s disease, as well as chronic pain in people with cancer and other conditions. Other pharmaceutical companies have previously performed clinical trials to test the analgesic effect of other FAAH inhibitors with no signs of toxicity. However, these studies ended in phase II due to lack of drug effectiveness. Remarkably, the affinity of the inhibitor tested by Pfizer was 14,000 times higher than that of BIA 10-2474. This implies that the specificity of BIA 10-2474 to inhibit the FAAH enzyme is very low. Moreover, the molecular structure of BIA 10-2474 includes a highly reactive imidazole aromatic ring that can bind to other brain enzymes, including 200 other hydrolases with similar structure and whose activity is far from being understood. The investigation, led by the French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM), has also shed light on a series of irregularities that occurred during the preclinical trials and were kept secret by Bial, as part of trade secrets. Conceivably the most serious among these is that according to the chemical structure of BIA 10-2474, it is most likely to be an irreversible inhibitor, rather than reversible as the company claims. This implies that even very small concentrations of the drug can irreversibly inhibit, not only the activity of the FAAH enzyme, but also the 200 other hydrolases present in the human brain. Considering this crucial information, it is inconceivable to understand how the trial design could comprise consecutive administrations of high doses of the inhibitor. This piece of evidence seems to be clearly related to the brain damage induced by the drug, as the severely injured volunteers were those who received only the highest doses of the drug. From sixteen groups of eight volunteers administered with increasing doses of BIA 10-2474, only five people were hospitalized after receiving repeated doses of 50 mg (almost the highest tested concentration). According to the ANSM report, this concentration is 10 to 40 times higher than that required to completely inhibit the FAAH enzyme. Indeed, extrapolation of the data taken in animals to humans, suggests that complete inhibition of FAAH is achieved with doses 20 to 80 times smaller than the maximal dose planned to be tested in humans (100mg). Furthermore, even after the first person was hospitalized, the other 5 still received one more dose the next day. The Report of the ANSM states that the mechanism of toxicity of BIA 10-2474 is clearly beyond FAAH inhibition and evidence of this subject needs to be presented by Bial Laboratory in future months.

Another critical piece of information that was kept secret by Bial is the number of animal deaths (including dogs and primates) during the preclinical trial. How could the drug be considered safe and approved to be tested in humans, if closely related animals died? Had the volunteers known this information, would they have taken the risk to test the drug?

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

Part XIX: Günter Blobel, 1999 Prize in Physiology or Medicine

By Joseph Luna

Let’s start with a fantastical scene: picture a band of Neolithic humans in a hot air balloon overlooking modern New York City. What would they see and experience? Lacking a vocabulary and a mental model of twenty-first century life, our ancient friends would be awestruck at seeing miniscule specks and strangely ordered structures, lines and squares, in green and gray. Perhaps the occasional yellow rectangle from which specks would enter and exit would catch their attention. Or they might ponder a box with flashing lights, speeding its way across a grid. It’s near impossible to imagine being in their shoes, but it’s easy to envision the excitement as they try to describe and make sense of what they saw.

Günter Blobel

Photo Courtesy of the Rockefeller University

This totally novel experience wasn’t far off from what early cell biologists encountered, as they used the electron microscope (EM) as a sort of hot-air balloon to discover the cities inside cells. By the mid-1960s, they had plotted the geography of all sorts of cellular worlds, had given names to energy-making blobs and recycling vesicles, and with the help of radioactive amino acid labeling, had a basic sense of where proteins were made and where they ended up. But big questions remained such as how did a protein know where it needed to go? For a discipline built on EM observations from high above, this was a challenging question to answer, but it captivated a young German post-doc enough to dream as if he landed his hot air balloon and walked among molecules, where the view was much clearer.

Günter Blobel arrived in George Palade’s laboratory in 1967, shortly after completing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He joined a dynamic group of researchers who had stumbled upon an odd observation concerning the protein factories of the cell, its ribosomes: proteins destined to remain inside the cell were often made from a pool of freely cytoplasmic ribosomes, whereas proteins meant to be exported from the cell quickly associated with ribosomes attached to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). How a new protein made this decision to stay in the cytoplasm or go to the ER was a mystery.

Within a few years, and overwhelmingly without much evidence, Blobel and a colleague (and Rockefeller University alum) named David Sabatini formulated what became known as “the signal hypothesis” that might explain how proteins got sorted to their proper locations. It represented a truly imaginative and startlingly precise leap, as if one could envision a five digit postal code and a stamp authentication system simply by watching mail trucks from space. Blobel and Sabatini proposed that ER destined proteins contained a special stretch of amino acids that acted like a signal that became apparent the moment the protein was being made at a ribosome. This signal sequence, located at the head of a protein, would be recognized by a factor (or factors) that would, in turn guide the synthesizing ribosome to the ER, where the protein in question could finish being born as it translocated across the ER membrane. Once properly sorted into the ER, the signal sequence was no longer needed and could be removed by an enzyme, even while the protein was still being made. Once finished, the protein could then go and do its job.

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The Lowline

By Aileen Marshall

lowline-light-collector-demo-960x639

Photo Courtesy of Dan Barasch via Kickstarter.com

Have you heard of the Lowline? No? Well maybe because it doesn’t fully exist yet. And no, it’s not under the Highline, although its name was inspired by it. It will be an underground park in an abandoned trolley terminal under Delancey Street. The park will use new solar technology to redirect sunlight underground to grow plants and light the park.

The Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal opened in 1908 on Delancey Street.  Trolleys went back and forth to Brooklyn across the aforementioned bridge.  The station extends three blocks underground from Essex Street to Clinton Street, and has interesting architectural features, such as cobblestones and a 15-foot ceiling. It closed in 1948 and has been sitting empty ever since.

Then in 2009 architect James Ramsey, who used to work at NASA developing optics for satellites, heard about it.  He discussed it with his friend Daniel Barasch, a strategist for Google.  Ramsey thought he could use fiber optics to collect and redirect sunlight underground to make it into a park. They made a proposal to the city.

DSCN0943

Aileen Marshall/NATURAL SELECTIONS

Two feasibility studies were started in 2011. One was by HR&A Advisors, a real estate, economic and energy consulting firm. The other was from the engineering firm Arup. Both came up with positive findings, indicating that it would be helpful to the community. Since 2012 the Lowline organization has run a program called Young Designers. They offer educational programs to local schools and other groups, using the lab for lessons in science, technology, engineering and design.

By 2012, the pair had raised $150,000 on Kickstarter to build a laboratory exhibit of the solar technology that would be used in the Lowline. As of 2015, the Lowline organization has raised $155,000 to build the park. The exhibit lab uses what Ramsey calls “remote skylights,” the technology that would be used in the park. An above-ground parabolic disk collects sunlight, then a concentrator increases the light 30-fold and filters out the hotter rays. Protective tubes send light to a central distribution point via fiber optic cables, then to an aluminum canopy in the lab. That, in turn, reflects the light into the lab. This illuminates the lab and allows the plants to grow. Since it is reflected sunlight, it contains the full spectrum of sunlight, including the wavelengths needed for photosynthesis. Optic technology allows the outdoor disk to follow the sun during the day and maximize the amount of sunlight it collects. Mirror boxes would toggle the light between electric and sunlight to allow for variations, such as cloudy days.

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Manhattan Spring and Summer Fun

By Susan Russo

Museum_of_Math

Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Mathematics

Consider these (mostly) FREE events in NYC Parks, many falling between June and October:

At Bryant Park (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, from 40th to 42nd Streets) check out http://bryantpark.org/ for days and times of events. For adults and kids, there are games to play, such as chess, checkers, mah jongg, and board games, plus active sports, which include petanque (much like bocce or lawn bowling), ping-pong, and a putting green. Under a tent is the outdoor “Reading Room,” stocked with books and magazines for all ages. In addition, there’s an “Art Cart” in June, August, and September, with free supplies to use and artworks to take home. The park has three restaurants, food stands, and crafts and souvenir shops. There are coffee, pastry and deli shops all along 40th Street. If it’s too hot or it rains and the outdoor Reading Room is full, duck into the magnificent main library building, http://www.nypl.org/locations/schwarzman (for open hours), which has a very large but comfortable Children’s Library (with books, CDs, and DVDs for kids, and seven PC terminals), as well as a beautiful Map Room, a great shop, and a small café. And the youngest ones will thrill to the many, many inviting stairs to climb.

Madison Square Park (between Madison and Fifth Avenues, from 23rd to 26th Street) http://madisonsquarepark.org/

In addition to a great playground and a “water wheel,” there are concerts, workshops in horticulture, and outdoor art for all ages, and, for kids, story times and “Art in the Park.” There is also a large outdoor plaza with tables and seating. Vendors are set up all around the park. (If it rains, I’ve heard good things about the Museum of Math at the north end of the Park (11 East 26th Street) http://momath.org/.

imagination playground

Photo Courtesy of NYC Parks

Their website says it has “a special emphasis on activities for 4th through 8th graders,” but it’s expensive – free for toddlers, $9 for children, students, and seniors, and $15 for adults.)

Besides local parks in Manhattan there are “Art Parks,” playgrounds for kids with works they can climb on:

“The Tom Otterness Playground – Silver Towers” on 42nd Street between 11th and 12th Avenues;

“The Real World” in Rockefeller Park between Chambers and Warren Streets in Lower Manhattan;

“The Imagination Playground” at the South Street Seaport at Berling Slip on John Street between Front and South Streets.

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Culture Corner

Sacred and Profane Images in Venice and Padua

By Bernie Langs

CC_Bernie2The laws and edicts are laid out in the Old Testament in exacting terms specifying the ornaments, utensils and measurements for these objects utilized in the holy temple and for the division of spaces designated as sacred from those places for mortals. The biblically assigned priestly caste was left to minister the negotiation between man and God. Only he could physically enter the area behind the curtain or veil beyond the altar separating the congregation from the Holy Spirit.

The Jewish religion prohibits graven images of God, forbidding representational sculptures or paintings of biblical stories and heroes. There are examples of Jewish burial tombs and other remains that had been decorated with the symbols for rituals and life in the ancient world that were later mutilated or chiseled away by disapproving rabbis as a reminder of these edicts. Early Christian images, after co-opting ideas from those previously of service to ancient Roman and Greek gods or from secular life, accelerated into the early medieval time with flourishes of astounding profundity and beauty. Lives were lost over the iconoclast notion that to pictorially represent Christ and the Holy Spirit was a dangerous trespass on the immaculate and omniscient ideal since no picture could or should imitate or approximate the Divine.

At the culmination of the middle ages and into the early and High Renaissance there was no holding back the master illuminators, sculptors and painters in Italy and in the northern areas of Europe. Great religious art peters out by the mid-seventeenth century at which time there was no longer room for innovation and the power that such images had previously attained was lost.

Today we live in a time of hyper self-awareness. As many people abandon notions of a God who is aware of mankind’ actions and is capable of direct intervention in human affairs, there remains a void to be filled for a higher purpose in life. From some perspectives, a desirable end of ritualistic and avid dogmatic doctrine might relieve a great deal of worldly tensions since fanatics and zealots hold strong so-called inspired revelations. Equally profound and illuminating might be a more objective and scientific study of those in the past who, in the written word or through the plastic arts, drew inspiration on the notions and ideas of their times of what was holy and greater than human endeavor. Some might find interest in a religion that reluctantly winks at the thought of a Primary Mover and nothing else, yet still finds fascination in what was revealed by others who had taken a different, mystical path as they groped for understanding a higher purpose.

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56-Downed-Up Charges

By George Barany, Christopher Adams, Martin Herbach, and Alex Vratsanos

George Barany is a Rockefeller alum (1977) currently on the Chemistry faculty of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Christopher Adams is a graduate student in mathematics at the University of Iowa, Martin Herbach is a retired computer scientist living in Silicon Valley, and Alex Vratsanos is studying business and psychology at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.  For more information, including a link to the answer, visit here (http://www.chem.umn.edu/groups/baranygp/puzzles/twittercharges/). More Barany and Friends crosswords can be found here (http://www.chem.umn.edu/groups/baranygp/puzzles/).

Across

June2016NaturalSelectionsGRID1. Jeanne d’Arc, e.g.: Abbr.
4. Number of freedoms, to FDR
8. Mexican motel (and one-time Yankee catcher Jorge)
14. Punching tool
15. Recommend emphatically, as money to fight Zika
16. Beat Murdoch at his own game?
17. My follower in 1968?
18. Genuine, in Germany
19. Homophone for homophobe “Lyin’ Ted”
20. Hungarian short-haired dog
22. Narrow waterway
24. Metric weights: Abbr.
25. Live, as an interview
26. Self-important bureaucrat from “The Mikado”
28. Senator Sherrod (since 2007) or Scott (who lost to 3-Down in 2012)
30. Hide-hair connection
31. Disapproving sound
34. Goes too far
37. One-under bridge, in the Pledge of Allegiance
39. Staff member?
40. Turkish name that means “desire”
42. One-named Irish Grammy winner
43. Goddess with a spear and a national capital named for her
45. Seaweed product with a reduplicative name
47. Like FDR’s Deal
48. ___-cone
50. Minuteman Davis, memorialized through an iconic French sculpture
51. Sarah Palin, e.g.
54. Apple’s instant messaging software
57. Historic introduction?
58. Hit CBS procedural with three spinoffs
59. Star in Aquila
60. Mexican beer brand
62. Harmony, so to speak
64. Sch. in Monroe whose alumni include Bubby Brister, Tim McGraw, and Ben Sheets (anagram of NUL)
65. First game
66. “___ Smile Be Your Umbrella”
67. Highgate (London) or Père-Lachaise (Paris): Abbr.
68. With 56-Down, 3-Down’s Twitter antagonist
69. Decorative pitcher
70. Clairvoyance, e.g.

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Quotable Quote

john-adams21“It is to be a school of Political Prophets I Suppose — a Nursery of American Statesmen…I am making of it annual, for Sending an entire new set every year, that all the principal genius’s may go to the University in Rotation — that we may have Politicians in Plenty. Our great Complaint is the scarcity of Men fit to govern Such mighty Interests, as we are clashing in the present Contest — a scarcity indeed! For who is Sufficient for these Things? …You and I have too many Cares and occupations and therefore We must recommend it to Mrs Warren and her Friend Mrs Adams to teach our Sons the divine Science of the Politicks: And to be frank, I suspect that they understand it better than we.”

-John Adams, who had been appointed to serve as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, in a letter to James Warren, a legislator in the Massachusetts General Court, who was also to serve (June 25, 1774).

Life on a Roll

Musical Fountains Show in Versailles

By Elodie Pauwels

ElodiePauwels_Apollo_fountain1Imagine the magnificent Palace of Versailles under a clear blue sky. Imagine spring has just sprung. Imagine strolling in that environment, going from one statue to a pond, then turning left to discover a mysterious alley. Suddenly, as if by magic, classic music is played, and water is turned on at each fountain in the vicinity of the Palace. Welcome to the musical fountains show, every weekend afternoon from Spring to Fall! Here is my favorite: the Apollo fountain, representing Apollo on his chariot. More pictures are available on my photo blog: http://elodiepphoto.wordpress.com/ElodiePauwels_Apollo_fountain2