Emeritus Faculty Association #122, March 2007
Next Meeting: Friday March 2: The Geneva Game: Negotiating a Nuclear Weapons Agreement with the Soviets
Les Paldy, Distinguished Service Professor, Dept. of Technology and Society, has taught at Stony Brook since 1967. He served as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Nuclear Testing Talks with the Soviet Union in Geneva in 1989-90 and as a member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations at the 1991 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference. Negotiating lessons learned during the Cold War period may be useful in reaching an agreement over the seemingly intractable issues associated with the North Korean nuclear program. His illustrated talk will also review issues associated with the long-sought Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Karl Bottigheimer and Howard Scarrow have agreed to serve as joint chairs of the Emeritus steering committee starting in September. Retiring chair Homer Goldberg will be staying on as a committee member.
Last Meeting, Friday, February 2
Judith Wishnia gave an update on the situation with respect to the prosposed Stony Brook hospital privatization and separation from the university. The recommendations of the Berger Commision which included this provision offically cannot be broken up and have now officially passed into NYS law. Nevertheless Governor Sptizer and others realize the damage that this provision would do, and will probably arrange some face saving way of separating it.
More medical news:
In December enrollees in UnitedHealthCare were notified that Quest was no longer a partipitating provider of laboratory services and had been replaced by the LabCorp network among others. Some people have reported shoddy work and delays during the period that LabCorp has been ramping up its operation to supply the new workload. Members over 65 should be aware that Medicare is primary for lab services and still accepts billing from Quest.
David Smith introduced our speaker, Distinguished Service Professor of Geosciences Gilbert Hanson, to talk on a speciality of his of recent years: the geology of the North Shore area (for fuller bio, see February newsletter). Gil started by saying that he hoped that his efforts had put an end to the advice traditionally given to our students on field trips "to sleep in the van until they were out of L.I. because there was no geology". On display around the room were colorful DEMs (digital elevation models) which show very graphically and accurately the local moraines and other features to be discussed (except for the computed shadows from a sun shining at 45 degrees from the NE! ). The Harbor Hills and Ronkonkoma moraines were formed by the glacier pushing debris like a bulldozer. Without this there would be no Long Island -- it would all be under water.
Traditional wisdom was that the moraines were formed by two separate glaciations, but Gil's dating methods have not revealed any significant age differences. Thus it is possible that both were formed by advances and retreats of the last glaciation. By 24,000 BP (before present) this glaciation was advancing fast down through New England and by 21,600 BP it had arrived here. By 18,000 BP it was gone, although it took another 5,000 years before the ground was free of permafrost. As the glacier retreated, the climate was at first severe, with katabatic winds coming down off the 10,000 foot dome of the glacier at minus 70 degrees F and 100 mph. At first the area was tundra. By 12,000 BP we had spruce forest on permafrost and now we have pine forest. With global warming we are now returning toward conditions similar to the last interglacial era over 100,000 years ago when sea levels were around 20 feet higher than present.
By now our surrounding soil consists of glacial till topped by a layer of loess -- wind blown silt. Some of the groundwater problems during campus construction were caused by removal of the erosion-resistant top layer and its covering vegetation in areas where this was unnecessary and inadvisable.
Our surrounding topological features are all products of the glaciation,
most particularly moraines, tunnel valleys and kettleholes. Tunnel valleys
were formed by rivers at the base of the ice being driven by the pressure
sometimes uphill, much like the water pressure coming up into our houses
from a distant water tower. On the DEMs they are easily distinguishable
from regular stream valleys because they do not run together in an inverted
tree pattern. Many local roads have been sited in these depressions.
Audience members were invited to imagine the water running up the 25A
tunnel valley from the museum to the LIRR station at about the same speed as
they now drive that section.
Kettleholes are depressions formed by large chunks of ice that got
surrounded by debris and then gradually melted away. The nearest dramatic
examples are in Kettlehole Park which may be accessed from the hospital
loop road near to its junction at the top of the hill with Nicolls road.
One of these kettleholes is being used by the university as an illegal
More details on local geology including the DEM for the Stony Brook Port Jefferson area can be found at the following link:
As announced in our February issue Gil Hanson will lead a
walk through the nearby Weld preserve in Nissequogue at 10 am., Saturday,
February 24. Your editor has attended a number of these walks and can
recommend them. On this walk we will be looking at the development of a
woodland swamp in a tunnel valley and roots of trees in place below sea
level which give evidence of sea level rise. We will also see a range of
erratic boulder types along the shore line and a magnificent kettle hole.
All told we will walk a total of about two miles. More information can be
Updated directions: From Stony Brook go west on 25A. Turn right at the light by the Exxon-Mobil gas station in St James, (but before tanking up - see below). Then follow Moriches Road as it twists and turns, becomes Horse Race and then Boney Lane, and eventually ends at Smithtown Town Short Beach Park. We will meet there and car pool back to the David Weld Sanctuary. The parking plot at the sanctuary is very small, so please do not park there. Note: Our leader is intrepid, so although heavy rain cancels, all else, including snow and drizzle, does not!
On the very day of our last meeting, at a news conference in Paris, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) was releasing its dire fourth assessment, see: www.ipcc.ch. Soon after, former Vice President Al Gore and Virgin Group Chairman Sir Richard Branson announced the Virgin Earth Challenge, a $25 million global science and technology prize to encourage a technology that will remove at least one billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere per year, see:
Meanwhile it was reported in the Guardian that the American Enterprise Institute directed letters to scientists and economists in the US, UK, and elsewhere, offering $10,000 plus travel and expenses (funds from Exxon-Mobil) for any essay that questions the IPPC conclusions. The report is evidently true, despite AEI's efforts to explain and soften it, see:
For my part I have decided to pass it up. Instead I am going to Andalucia, Provence, and Tuscany. I will enjoy while I can their age-tested culture before the prophecies of Nostradamus and Jules Verne come true that the Mediteranian coast of Europe will become uninhabitable. Cynics out there note this: my air travel will be carbon neutral, via terrapass; see:
Provost McGrath stepping down:
Feb 13: It was announced today that Bob McGrath will be leaving the administrative position of Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs as soon as a replacement is named and ready to take over. He will continue his administrative role of Vice President for Brookhaven LaboratoryAffairs and looks forward to continuing building more links between the two institutions. Your editor believes he speaks for the entire membership in saying we will be sad to see him go. For our part we have enjoyed working with him in what we believe to be one of the best provostial administrations Stony Brook has had.