Emeritus Faculty Association news March -April 2009

Next Meeting:
The next meeting will be 10.30 am Friday, 3rd April in the usual place, Javits room, library second floor. The speaker will be Prof David C. Cassidy of Hofstra University, speaking on "Beyond Uncertainty: Writing the Biography of Werner Heisenberg." It will be an overview of some of the life and science and problems Heisenberg faced. Prof Cassidy will also discuss the new edition of his book, including the controversies and new materials that have arisen since the previous edition. The latter will include materials released in connection with the play "Copenhagen," as well as some of the issues raised by that play.
Bio: Prof Cassidy is a historian of physics specializing in 20th century Germany and the US. He is former associate editor of the Einstein Papers and biographer of Heisenberg and Oppenheimer. Another interest of his is science education for non-science undergrads. He has a PhD in physics and history of science (Purdue Univ with U Wisconsin-Madison), he did a post doc at UC Berkeley, and postdoc research and teaching in Germany before joining the Einstein Papers in Princeton. The new edition of the work on Heisenberg is called "Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb," published last month by Bellevue Literary Press, NYU. It incorporates new material and controversies arising since the first edition in 1991, and is directed to a more general audience. In particular, there is more emphasis on Heisenberg as a representative of the highly cultured German upper academic stratum. It explores the events, rationalizations, and moral decisions that enabled him (and others) to remain in Germany after 1933, to accomodate to the Nazi regime, to head the German atomic bomb project during the war, and to rationalize his actions after the war.

Last Meeting
The thesis of Prof Arens' talk was that the work of D. Carlton Gajdusek which earned him a Nobel Prize in 1976 was partly fraudulent. Gajdusek suggested in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that the Fore people of New Guinea practiced ritual cannibalism and it was this that transmitted the Kuru disease. Of the several pieces of evidence Arens presented the most important is a pair of photos shown by Gajdusek during the speech. The first shows a family surrounding a young dead woman of the tribe. The second photo shows a group presumably partaking of the "memorial cannibal feast". Arens uncovered the actual source of the second photo, which was not taken by Gajdusek and, in fact, not related to the first. The photographer told Arens that the group he photographed was having a pork feast. Arens' book on the myth of cannibalism appeared in 1979, and in a 1981 presentation which included these photos Gajdusek did not further mention cannibalism.
In another depiction of the cannibal myth, Arens showed a drawing entitled "Man's Place in Nature" from an 1863 book by Thomas Henry Huxley. In the background one sees a human body being prepared presumably for someone's feast. But Arens then showed the same scene from a drawing by a Theodore De Bry circa 1500, who had never traveled to the locale of the scene nor witnessed what is depicted. This, Arens asserts, is an another example of the perpetuation of myth, in this case from 1500 to 1863 to the 20th century.
Arens further asserts that what has gone un-, or under-reported until recently is the existence of institutional pedophilia in the highlands of New Guinea, and that based on other evidence as well, including other of his stays in similar places, Gajdusek was a participant. He took small groups of young boys to his home in Maryland for protracted periods, and after some years he would return them to New Guinea replacing them with other young boys. Eventually one youngster who wanted to remain and did not want to return to his homeland reported Gajdusek to the police. At his trial Gajdusek pled guilty, and after serving a one year sentence moved permanently to France.
Postscript: We might note that current reports of this matter such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuru_(disease) still emphasize the official story. However, as Bill pointed out, the Kuru disease might just as well have been spread among the Fore people by their practices of eating incompletely cooked pork and their pedophilia. Perhaps it also deserves emphasis that after much research Bill failed to find any hard evidence of (ritualistic) cannibalism not only among the Fore but anywhere in the world, including Africa, where he lived for a time.

Ground Level Ozone
This workshop was held in the Earth and Space Auditorium on Saturday March 7: http://www.geo.sunysb.edu/bad-ozone/. Good ozone is in the upper atmosphere where it protects us from UV radiation. Our bad ground level ozone is generated in a reaction between nitrogen oxide gases drifting our way from regional industry and automobiles and interacting with volatile organic compounds emitted by trees. As a result, during hot afternoons, as ground level ozone is actually declining in the city, it is rising east of Port Jefferson towards a peak after 5pm. The EPA "not-to-exceed" level is 75 parts per billion (ppb). In 2006 Suffolk county suffered 19 orange alert days ( > 85ppb), 7 red alert ( >105), and 1 purple alert ( >125), and the American Lung Association rated it the worst in NY state, which itself was the third worst state in the nation: http://lungaction.org/reports/stateoftheair2006.html. Bad as it is for asthma sufferers, it is actually worse for plants, which begin to suffer at levels above 10ppb. In our area some of the most affected native plants are blackberry, black cherry, and common milkweed, where you may see a brown stipple on older lower leaves. One speaker brought up the example of the dark days of 1952 London during 4 days of which 4,000 people died, followed by 12,000 others in the aftermath. Your correspondent can assure you that you do not want to repeat that. Nevertheless the LI forecast is for a steady worsening, to an expected background level of 60ppb in 2030.

Poem of the month
Madoff''s accountants were knowing too much,
of stock executions gone missing and such,
and no less involved in cooking the books,
So Feds are now coming and booking the cooks.

(with apologies to Calvin Trillin and condolences to all those like the SBF who lost their pants).