For the first time in history, Dublin Jerome HS made it to the Ohio high school ice hockey final four, beating neighboring Olentangy Liberty HS 1-0 for their spot to represent Central Ohio.
In the state semifinal game, they played University School, a private school in Cleveland that had won the state championship twice, most recently in 2009.
The close game eventually went to overtime.
Jerome wins in dramatic fashion! (This clip ends up getting picked up by ESPN and makes it to #3 on the SportsCenter top 10.)
As the first Central Ohio school to make the ice hockey state championship game, the team had already accomplished a lot.
The game turned out to be an uphill battle, as Jerome played St. Ignatius high school, a private, all-boys school in Cleveland that has won 7 ice hockey state championships, including the last three (2016, 2017, 2018.)
The Jerome team made it close, but eventually came up short.
Despite the loss, the Jerome team has lots to be proud of, and the fourth consecutive championship for St. Ignatius raises questions about fair competition among Ohio high schools. After the fact, local news picked up the story.
In the recently published book, Educated, Tara Westover writes about her experience of how
education exposed to her immensity of the world after having grown up in an
isolated community with her family. As a child growing up in Idaho, she never
saw a doctor and didn’t learn about the Holocaust or the civil rights movement until
college. Our perception of the world is filtered by what (we think) we know. Besides
formal education, our knowledge can come from observation, experience, friends,
family, and media. Of those, media is what private individuals and
organizations can control. The power to control what we think is the reason
that Maggie Hughes, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, believes “media
has an immense amount of power”.
That power has been twisted and abused worldwide, leading to the popularly used term fake news. Although still rampant, knowledge of its prevalence is spreading through stories about Russia, China, climate change, the alt-right, online advertisements, and much more. One way to defend against misinformation is to know who publishes it. An analysis from 2018 by ad fontes media plots news source by partisanship and factfulness. Although one may disagree on exactly what source is considered neutral, it shows that as partisanship increases, so does fabricated information.
Another way to blunt the effects of disinformation is to encourage self-reflection of biases. Maggie works in the Laboratory for Social Machines which has the mission to “conduct analyses and build tools that promote deeper learning and understanding in human networks”. This results in projects such as the Electome, which analyzed Twitter for the popularity of campaign issues during the 2016 election, and Social Mirror, an interactive visualization to help twitter users identify the political polarization of their network. A third way to fight fake news is to change how news is made. Maggie has been working on a project to enable communities to create their own news and take control of their portrayal in the media. She hopes that this will build empathy between social groups that might be suspicious of each other.
At the same time, she’s “skeptical about the desire to bridge or to bring people together [because] … what’s the halfway point between moral and immoral”. Maggie clarified that statement, “not to say everyone on the right is immoral”, which was reminiscent of Hilary Clinton’s comment describing Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. The sentiment of finding the halfway point echoes the concept of journalistic objectivity. It’s important to show both sides of the story, but if one is clearly wrong, it doesn’t deserve equal credibility.
When thinking about the oft-discussed social divisions in the United States today, one question to ask is, what are we fundamentally divided on? Is it something irreconcilable like slavery was in the 19th century, which was one cause for the American Civil War? Or, is it a litany of issues including immigration, equal rights for women/minorities/LGBTQ, taxes, economic opportunity, and anti-establishmentism? Are our dividing issues something that we could discuss and work together towards an agreeable outcome? If not, what’s next?
The young woman on the subway holds a pair of tweezers. She looks at the seat next to her at a wad of chewed up gum. She glances furtively, then grabs the gum with the tweezers, which she drops with her gloved hands into a small plastic bag.
Once off of the train, she stops at a trash can in the subway station. She collects a hair from the rim of the can, placing it in another bag. She grabs a cigarette butt off the street.
Later, in a lab, she extracts DNA from the samples and analyzes the genetic material for traits. Caucasian, female. She uses the information to create a three-dimensional model of the stranger. Soon the wide blue eyes and slightly amused expression of a woman’s face is staring back at her from the computer screen.
This biologically inspired art by Heather Dewey-Hagborg highlights the ethical and moral concerns in using genetic material to surveil, and profile people. Two years after “Stranger Visions’ was completed, the Toronto police used DNA technology to try and solve cold cases, and another company started marketing genetic identification tools to police in the U.S.
Do we have dominion over nature, or it over us? This is a question fundamental to those working in bio-inspired design projects, said Wakanene Sebastian Kamau , an artist and scientist working at MIT’s MediaLab.
“I think that we, as humans, forget that nature is an integral part of our experience on earth, not something just to have dominion over,” Sebastian said.
Should we make leather goods from human tissue grown from biological samples? It’s legal currently to do so, a fact exposed in Pure Human by artist Tina Gorjanc.
Designers like Gorjanc push our understanding of the dilemmas associated with biotechnology. For a biochemist like Sebastian, Gorjanc’s and Dewey-Hagborg are asking vital questions. “(It’s) a speculative project that explores the future of fashion and the frank unpreparedness of our current legal infrastructure to handle the current and future suite of biotechnology products,” Sebastian said.
Synthetic biology — the human engineering of biological processes — will likely shape the future of design. The microbiome, the vast community of microbes that inhabit our bodies and world, is influencing design of building materials, our homes and cosmetics.
“Collaborative engagement with biology through design is an on-going recalibration of our status as species within nature,” Sebastian said.
Mechanical engineering student Seiji Engelkemier has faced many choices of what projects to work on, but since 2011 the influence of climate change predictions on his decisions seems ever-growing. Such considerations do not leave those decisions any easier to make. On the contrary: Seiji, like many of his generation, is caught between paradoxical ideals, and at each step of shaping his life has to ask: is it possible for my work to focus on societal needs without losing its transformative vision? As international order erodes into the rising seas, is it possible to balance the potential of a project with its feasibility in the world, or the potential of a career with its suitability for me?
Where do you decide to make a survivable world?
Seiji first encountered reports of global warming while in middle school, watching An Inconvenient Truth on pay-per-view; at the time he was surprised he hadn’t heard of global warming on the news, and did not imagine then the extent to which it would guide his later interests. He found more to read on the topic and discussed climate change with a father interested in the technical challenges and novel technologies more than in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Seiji then went to a residential private high school where he accelerated his readings on climate change but didn’t find many conversations on campus addressing it at a global scope; the school’s sustainability group, for example, was concerned mostly with local recycling.
Who can make a survivable world?
As a student at MIT, however, Seiji did find those global conversations, and followed some of them along branches that left the realm of technological solutions. In looking to the environmental consequences of diet he decided to become mostly (“like 95%”) vegetarian. In labs and internships he helped develop new technologies: he used optical fibers to grow algae more quickly (turning atmospheric CO2 into food), and made mushroom-grown materials to replace styrofoam, leather, and rubber foam. In groups of students, including the organization pressuring MIT’s endowment to divest from fossil fuel companies, Seiji joined discussions of how political decisions made by public institutions could determine feasibility or infeasibility of a technically perfect solution. This awareness that perhaps more of the problems underpinning climate change were political than were technical led Seiji to design visualizations of MIT’s funding sources, and to build a database of power plants for evaluating policy impacts.
What need you do to make a survivable world?
But while he recognizes the necessity of politics, Seiji feels that his next job will stay on the technological side because that’s where his skills and patiences are. (“I’m not the type of person for that [policy] work.”) He’s considering startups but also applying to graduate schools this semester, so I ask him how he’s evaluating the projects he visits: is he really comparing the environmental consequences he could have in each one? In a haha-but-serious tone Seiji says he prioritizes short-term impacts over long-term ones, proposing “a Net Present Value model of carbon abated”. But, I ask, it’s not like you’re going in sequence through Project Drawdown’s sorted list of impactful solutions and sending out job applications, right? It turns out he had a class project on refrigeration because it was at the top of that list – but no, he generally feels he’s read enough he can trust his gut to make informed decisions rather than doing the calculations by hand. How much does he value finding projects through which to express this internalized insight over those (like refrigeration) with a potentially larger effect but not much room for transformative creativity? For incremental technologies like refrigeration, Seiji says, more people besides him can and are working on it; for him it always comes back to “how good I think I could be at [these projects], how good I think everyone else is at them” and how many others are already working on them.
How do you start making a survivable world?
Seiji, like many of his generation, expects himself to do the analysis of what everyone else is already doing and balance it against his potential contribution to an overarching societal goal. This analysis can be a burden; Seiji’s plan to invest 5-6 years in graduate school is informed by being “pretty sure we’re gonna overshoot 2 degrees” of global warming (the temperature rise at which, among other things, 98% of the world’s coral is expected to die). “My generation and the next generation are responsible for whether humans can make it; and we probably will, but as to whether that is a bleak future or a kind of better future, I think my generation will be largely responsible.” He says that sometimes that’s pretty depressing, but laughs and adds that the depression “is also motivating: ‘Oh, things aren’t going well’ means there’s all the more incentive to work harder and try to make it less bad.” Of course, this “sense of urgency/worry/stress pushes you, gives you drive, but it’s not necessarily sustainable mentally.”
When can we start making a survivable world?
Reflecting after our conversation, it seems to me that Seiji’s “from each according to their ability”-style choices have been made in a life where his understanding of and orientation towards climate change are seen always as a personal duty, where it is considered each individual’s responsibility to understand the entire world and change it despite the malices and negligences of our political institutions. This trap of individual responsibility and collective impotence is, I feel, a precise target of the Green New Deal. It asks of us “When can we start making a survivable world and how?”, then answers itself with a loud and public “Now, here’s how.” Whether or not it passes in any useful form, acting on the realization we can say such things powerfully, clearly, and together could transform some of these impossible ideals imposed on our individual decisions into a collective analytical ability to make a better world, or at least a survivable one.
Thanks to Jason Dearen for his guidance and expertise in researching this post!
In 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker passed signature energy diversity legislation to increase the state’s reliance on renewables, specifically hydro and wind power. The law requires Massachusetts to solicit long-term contracts, 15 or 20 years, to procure 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power and another 1,200 megawatts of hydropower or other renewable resources. Massachusetts regulators began a RFP process in 2017, collecting 5 bids from utility companies hoping to bring Canadian hydropower to Boston.
The policy benefits are clear: Between the retirement nuclear plants, decline of coal, and push for renewable sources of power for the significant needs of the Boston grid (especially during the Winter), the bill aims to provide a generation of Massachusetts residents with clean power. To put it plainly, the bill provides some indisputable economic (and environmental) benefits to Massachusetts residents.
In January 2018 Massachusetts regulators announced that Eversource’s Northern Pass had won the contract and would bring power from Hydro-Quebec dams to Boston via New Hampshire. However, by March 2018, political uncertainty in New Hampshire around the status of the project led regulators to announce that they had revoked their Northern Pass offer, and instead chosen Central Maine Power’s New England Clean Energy Connect to route Hydro-Quebec power through Maine. The only catch? CMP needs to get the power from the Canada-Maine border to their existing power lines along the coast.
Despite the clear economic benefits in Mass, like New Hampshirites, many Mainers are also opposed to the project. Why? Objections to the proposal generally fall in three categories:
It will disrupt the northern Maine ecotourism
industry (specifically whitewater rafting on the Kennebec river)
It will disrupt the delicate ecology of the Kennebec
There is no economic benefit to Maine residents
Interestingly, New England is not unique in grappling with the political realities of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables. Around the country, and especially in the West, we have seen several examples policy initiatives aiming to provide clean power run afoul environmental activists. Because often the best and cleanest alternative to burning fossil fuels is hydro, we are increasingly seeing politicians and regulators damming rivers. The downsides are the ecological disruptions, and associated political conflicts, with generating hydropower.
For example, the Klamath River on the California/Oregon
border has been dammed at six places, the earliest of which were built in the
1920s. Yet recently activists, arguing that the dams make it impossible for
salmon to spawn which adversely impacts the native river tribes, have
successfully secured four
of the dams decommission by 2020. Yet, the Klamath dams are a major source
of clean power for northern California. Clearly, there are no obvious
Part of what makes the CMP project so interesting is that
the issue here is not the creation of the dam itself, but rather the transport
of power from an existing dam to a needy market. No one is denying the necessity
of clean power in Boston; rather, the concerns of Maine residents are more
focused on the lack of benefits to residents of the state.
This raises some important questions to grapple with. What responsibility
does Maine have to help out its New England neighbor? What repatriations are
sufficient to compensate Mainers? (Note, after initially proposing $22m in
cut that to as little as $5m in 2018, while low-income ratepayers in Boston
will benefit greatly from reduced-price power.) How do we reconcile efforts to
reduce reliance on fossil fuels with the environmental and economic
implications of doing so?
If one thing is clear, it is that there are no obvious answers, and the fight is ongoing. CMP is continuing with plans to build the line while activists organize in opposition to it. Perhaps the CMP line counts as a sacrifice that we as a society need to make for the greater good – there is no doubt that we Bostonians need clean power. But who said northern Mainers should have a massive power line built in their backyard? Or that the value of rafting the Kennebec river is less than the value of supplying clean power to Boston? I know I don’t want to be the person who makes those decisions.
In the past twenty years, there has been a significant rise in the number of students following the homeschooling model all over the United States (Gould, 2011). This growth has fueled the debate about the pros and cons of the homeschooling model and how it compares to the traditional schooling model. These debates are often emotionally charged due to the strong beliefs of the proponents of each side. Many researchers attribute the growth of the current “homeschooling movement” to various reasons including the deterioration of the public schooling system, moral and religious beliefs that oppose the traditional schooling model, and the parents’ beliefs that homeschooling nurtures their children’s ability to achieve a prosperous future (Cogan, 2010). This week, I had an opportunity to interview Edward (Ned) Burnell who is a proud product of both systems. Burnell, a current Ph.D. student at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, attributes part of his success in academia to his upbringing in a homeschooling system.
AM: Can you tell
me more about your typical day when you were homeschooled?
EB: My parents
prepared a daily schedule for me and my sister that was divided based on the
subject. They would choose a workbook that matches a particular subject and
then ask us to go through it and complete some exercises. We were also allowed
to play a fair number of educational computer games that were mainly focused on
math and grammar. The important approach that my parents followed was giving us
the relative flexibility to decide what we wanted to learn and when to learn
it. For example, if we were provided with a workbook that was not interesting
to us, we would skip it and choose a different one. My sister (who is three
years younger) was mostly using the same workbooks and games I was using so
there was no grade level in the traditional sense.
AM: Why do you
think some parents choose to homeschool compared to the traditional schooling
EB: I believe
that there are three camps of homeschooling the Christian fundamentalist, the
camp that is morally opposed to the structure of the traditional schooling
model and believe that their children deserve better, and the camp that wants
to spend more time honing their children’s skills and knowledge so that they
can thrive in the real world.
AM: How did you
spend your summers during your homeschooling years?
EB: I generally
spent my summers hanging out with friends in my neighborhood. My mother would
also motivate me to draft a research paper every summer. This was not a
structured research paper in the academic sense, but it offered me the
opportunity to research a topic I’m interested in and visit the library in
search of answers to my research questions. A highpoint in middle school was
emailing a researcher on the Bubonic plague and getting a response about an
argument in his research paper that I did not understand.
AM: In what ways
do you think your homeschooling experience helped you during your transition to
the traditional public high school system?
EB: I remember in
high school, it was relatively easy for me to explain content to other students
as I was very comfortable explaining things to myself; this has been a valuable
survival skill. Also, the time I spent during my homeschooling learning about
diverse topics and nurturing different skills helped me during my high school
AM: Did you face
any challenges transitioning from the homeschooling to the traditional model?
EB: I think
discipline was something I had to learn. For example, I never learned to write
about something I didn’t care about. I had to learn that in high school and
college. I was very confident. If I had something to say, I said it. This was
really challenging when I was forced to write about a topic that I wasn’t
I was also never pushed to challenge myself in ways that I
didn’t want to, and I was never punished by an external source or by myself for
failure to overcome a certain challenge. Another challenge was sometimes
suffering from social anxiety, especially during my first year.
AM: Do you feel
that your upbringing in a homeschooling model helped you garner your current
passion for using design to improve human experiences?
EB: I think the freedom offered to me within the homeschooling environment helped me learn how to experiment with objects and think about answers to questions that are interesting to me. When I grew up, I realized that those experiences had supported how I handled design challenges and made me more comfortable in experimenting with unconventional methods.
AM: Having had
the chance to learn through both models, what do you think are the benefits of
the traditional schooling model compared to the homeschooling model?
EB: I think the
traditional schooling model offers children more opportunities for developing
their social skills. It also makes them more comfortable adhering to the
traditional rules of schooling academia which may support their success within
the system. Traditional schooling is also essential for parents who have jobs
and cannot afford to homeschool.
AM: What do you
think are the main challenges of the traditional schooling and the
EB: I think that
the traditional schooling model has several challenges. First, schools force
students to fit into certain archetypes and molds, and this limits children’s
creativity and freedom to express themselves. I also think the “factory model
school” may force children to learn certain topics without spending time
understanding them and applying them. People often think of school, as unpaid labor.
We have these kids perform for us certain tasks; these tasks are called
“Homework,” even the name is problematic. The school helps students prepare
reports that will never be used which is a preparation for a white-collar
As for the homeschooling system, I think that the difficulty
with homeschooling is that takes it a lot of time and attention from the
parent, it might be hard to homeschool if you have to pay rent and have jobs.
So, I believe it is circumstantial. The parents’ presence for a significant
portion of a child’s day may also impact the children’s interest in their
parents’ experiences since by time parents have fewer stories and experiences
to share due to their constant presence in their children’s lives.
Homeschooling may also make it hard for students to follow
the traditional academic system and to follow its rules as they were not
exposed to it from a younger age. For example, it was hard for me to get used
to the taking exams, but I was lucky enough that I had a photographic memory
that helped me achieve high scores with less effort.
When I asked Ned about the system he would choose for his
children, he mentioned that he might be more inclined towards a traditional
system that has some of the merits of the homeschooling system such as freedom
of expression and the ability of children to learn by performing activities and
tasks that they are interested in. It was fascinating to get to learn more
about Ned’s experience when Ned asked me about the schooling system I would prefer;
I found myself struggling to make a choice. I guess it is hard to choose an
educational system that might significantly influence the future of another
Cogan, M. F. (2010).
Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students. Journal of College Admission, 208, 18-25.
Martin-Chang, S., Gould, O.
N., & Meuse, R. E. (2011). The impact of schooling on academic achievement:
Evidence from homeschooled and traditionally schooled students. Canadian Journal of
Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 43(3), 195.
CAMBRIDGE, MA— The Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School hosted Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for a lecture titled “The Environmental Activism, American Economy, and Democracy.” Kennedy, the President of the Waterkeeper Alliance and one of the most prominent environmental attorneys in the US gave an impassioned lecture on the importance of protecting the environment as a means to achieve economic prosperity and protect ideals of democracy.
Kennedy started with the story of how he began his career as an environmental attorney by working with the fishermen communities living along the Hudson River. After many members of the community grew tired of the government indifference regarding the pollution caused by corporates along the river during the 1980s, Kennedy worked with other lawyers to galvanize these communities to protect their fishing resources by pursuing a legal solution. Kennedy and his team brought several lawsuits against New York City and several corporates including Consolidated Edison, and General Electric. According to Kennedy, the success of his team in winning several major lawsuits, and their ability to close all the major factories contaminating the Hudson River had a significant impact on saving the Hudson River and in helping them establish the Riverkeeper non- profit environmental group.
As stories about their success started to gain traction, several
communities facing similar water contamination challenges started reaching out
to Kennedy and his team to find solutions to their contaminated water sources.
As a result, Kennedy founded the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-profit
environmental group that aims to protect rivers all over the US and around the
world. According to Kennedy, the Waterkeeper Alliance is now the fastest
growing water protection agency in the world, with three hundred- and
vs. Environmental policy
Kennedy argued that it is wrong to think that environmental
policy prohibits economic prosperity. “An investment in our environment is an
investment in our infrastructure, in our assets. These assets such as water can
help us achieve sustainable economic prosperity” Kennedy added. Kennedy believes that “The free market can be
used as a tool to solve all of our environmental problems if used in the right
way.” Kennedy believes that a free market system functioning in the right way
should punish pollution and promote efficiency. “If the cost of pollution is added
to the bills of the companies, they would find ways to pursue more
environment-friendly strategies. The problem is that those companies do not pay
the cost of their pollution, and at the end, poor communities
disproportionately shoulder the cost.”
Free marketers, not
The perception of the community towards environmental
lawyers is another aspect that Kennedy believes needs to change. Kennedy sees
his role as a “free marketer who helps improve the efficiency of the free
market capitalism and protects democracy.” According to Kennedy, because
democracy, the environment, and the economy are so intertwined, he believes his
role encompasses working on solutions that address all these fields together in
a way that supports the prospects of future generations.
The media’s role in
supporting our environment
In his opinion about the role of the media in promoting
environment-friendly policies and highlighting the atrocities of polluting
companies, Kennedy added “Unfortunately, most of our legal cases and
environmental campaigns do not get covered by the media except if they have a
direct impact on Wallstreet” Kennedy added. Kennedy believes that this is
because of the huge amount of money being poured by many polluting corporations
to control media coverage. Kennedy asserted his belief that of these
corporations, pharmaceutical companies currently “own the press.” “Currently
news shows air around 24 ads per show, 17 of these ads are for pharmaceutical
companies. These companies control the content, and they are doing so
unapologetically. Just look at Anderson Cooper’s show, it proudly mentions that
it is brought to you by Pfizer.”
The legacy for future
Kennedy believes that the fight for protecting our environment is “a fight for leaving a legacy for our children and future generations. They should not have to live in a miserable environment because we were selfish and were only thinking about making short term gain.” According to Kennedy, “We are facing a critical moment in time. The current president is anti-environment policy and is currently working on a bill that would kill the Clean Water Act. Not only that, but we also have the most anti-environment Supreme court in history. Kavanaugh’s mother clearly showed her position during her time as a prosecutor, and Neil Gorsuch’s mother reign as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator was filled with scandals.”
Kennedy concluded his speech with a call to action. “All
these challenges should drive us to organize and act to protect our
environment. We need more grass-roots organizations to work together to support
our environment and the future of our planet.”
My video dispatch of Joe Lunardi, a statistician famous in sports circles for his ability to pick who will make the NCAA March Madness tournament. He gave a talk in Cambridge about how billions in revenues from TV contracts has changed who gets in and who gets out, and what selection officials are doing to fend off concerns of favoring larger conferences who are more coveted by broadcasters.
On Sunday February 24th, MIT community members consisting of undergraduates, graduates, and employees presented their ideas to improve MIT to a panel of three judges. The participants’ ideas included websites to help students develop intuition for p-set problems, creating a hands-on volunteering room, and expanding capabilities of online learning platforms. These ideas were pitched for the semi-final stage of the weeklong BetterMIT Innovation Design Challenge.
Here is my diary, the second tab has some rudimentary analysis — there are deeper, more interesting ways to go at this I’m sure. This was a fun exercise, and I found a bunch of different ways to gather data on my media consumption. My iPhone’s weekly report showed me how many alerts I get per day (65!!), Google tracked my YouTube TV watching (daily Jeopardy habit). But most of all I realize that very few minutes go by in a day without me consuming some type of media: podcasts, music, books, etc… I’m constantly plugged in.