E.O. Wilson awarded highest external honor by U.Va.

first_imgE.O. Wilson, the Pellegrino University Professor Emeritus at Harvard, has been awarded the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture, the highest external honor given by the University of Virginia.Best known for developing and popularizing the fields of sociobiology and biodiversity, Wilson has promoted the concept of “biophilia,” which suggests that, as humans co-evolved over millennia with nature, they needed direct contact with nature to thrive. This concept creates a challenge for designers and planners to look for effective ways to integrate green features and elements into buildings and neighborhoods of the future.Wilson is the author of more than 20 books, many of which have received national and international recognition. He has two Pulitzer Prizes for general nonfiction, one in 1979 for “On Human Nature” and the other in 1991, which he co-authored with Bert Holldobler, titled “The Ants.” In the study of ant behavior discussed in the latter work, Wilson argues for a sociobiological explanation for all social behavior on the model of the behavior of social insects.To read more, visit the University of Virginia Web site.last_img read more

Killer mushrooms!

first_imgIt is thought to have been responsible for the deaths of emperors. Inparts of California’s forests, it is everywhere.It is the deathcap mushroom, Amanita phalloides, so filledwith toxins that a single cap can kill anyone who mistakenly eats it anddoes not get medical treatment. Because it looks like an ediblemushroom, the deathcap is among those most involved in human poisoning,such as one that occurred in Newton, Mass., last fall. Through history,it has been a convenient tool for those interested in regime change,playing a key role in the Europe-spanning War of Austrian Succession inthe 1700s, which started when Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI died aftereating a plate of mushrooms, thought to be deathcaps.Though much is known about the deathcap’s toxicity — it kills byfostering liver failure — much less is understood about its generalbiology and its role in the environment. AnnePringle, associate professor of organismic and evolutionarybiology, is out to change that.Pringle has spent years in California’s forests, researching thedeathcaps that in some parts of the state make up as much as 80 percentof the local biomass of mushrooms. Pringle proved first that theCalifornia population was not native, but rather an introducedpopulation from Europe.She’s working now to understand the mushroom’s dispersal across thelandscape and its symbiotic partnership with trees. Its widespreadpresence begs the questions of whether it displaced native symbioticfungi and whether it spreads more easily as a mutualist (an organism in arelationship beneficial to both partners) than it would as a pathogen,which characterizes most known invasive fungi. She recently concludedthat it reproduces more readily through the spread of its spores, whichare released from the fleshy gills under its cap, than asexually throughfragmentation of its thready subterranean fungal body.Like most mushroom-producing fungi, much of the deathcap’s bodyactually lies under the Earth’s surface, and its mushrooms aretemporary, sent up from the underground filaments to release spores andthen fade. Even with the mushroom gone, the fungus still operatesunderground, decomposing old plant matter and, in the case of thedeathcap, partnering with tree roots, providing nitrogen in exchange forcarbon compounds.Pringle’s work, conducted through a combination of old-fashionedfieldwork and cutting-edge genetic analysis, has shown that the deathcapspreads slowly. It moves through either the slow creep of itsunderground body or the floating spread of its spores, which do notdrift far from their release point.Humans likely played a big role in the fungus’ spread. Because itlives in association with tree roots, researchers believe it wasintroduced here from Europe at least twice — once in California and onceon the East Coast — by hitching rides on trees transplanted from Europeto America.On the East Coast, Pringle and researchers from her lab haveidentified dozens of populations: in Newton, near the New Jersey PineBarrens, near Rochester, N.Y., and in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.Pringle says the populations on the East Coast are isolated, notwidespread as in California. Another difference on the East Coast is that deathcaps are associated with pine trees, not theoaks that they partner with in California and Europe. Pringle anddoctoral student Ben Wolfe said that may be because of a slightlydifferent strain being introduced on the East Coast, or it may bebecause of ecological constraints put on the population on the EastCoast by closely related native species, also from the genus Amanita.Though the deathcap may be the star of Pringle’s lab, her workincludes other fungal species, as well as lichens, a symbioticassociation of fungi and algae.Wolfe, who expects to graduate in December, is working with the U.S. Department ofEnergy to decode the genome of Amanita species related tothe deathcap. He hopes to understand the genetic roots of fungalsymbiosis with trees. A bonus of decoding the fungi’s genome, Wolfesaid, would be that, in degrading plant material, the fungi produces anenzyme called cellulase, of potential interest in biofuel processing.In talking about her work, Pringle emphasizes the importance offungal conservation. Fungi have not received the attention that plantsand animals have, so less is known about them. With the planetundergoing an extinction crisis, we may be losing fungal species beforewe even know they’re here, Pringle said.last_img read more

The gym unlocker

first_imgEd Kelley doesn’t have your typical desk job. He’s got a computer, yes, though he readily admits he doesn’t much care for it. And he has a window, though it’s not for glimpsing the incoming spring, but rather the thousands of visitors to the Malkin Athletic Complex (MAC) or Hemenway Gym, where Kelley is dually employed. Those fitness seekers aren’t just strangers passing by. They’re his friends.“You call this a job?” says Kelley, who swipes IDs, makes sure the towels are folded and stacked, and opens the gyms most mornings at daybreak. “My main job is to tease everyone.”And he does. “I just want to warn you,” Kelley tells an incoming swimmer, “the water is wet.” Someone asks for a Band-Aid. “Fifty cents,” he says seriously, and then quips, “Harvard needs the money.”Kelley, who turned 78 on April 12, has a mind that’s sharp as a whip — “like a computer,” he says of his memory. “You remember all the good things and let the bad things fade away.”He greets everyone, remembers their names, jobs, and concentrations; he asks about newborn babies, family members. Gym-goers sometimes bring their children in to meet him.Kelley has worked at Harvard since 1959, where he started out running linotype machines on a job that was supposed to last just 90 days. But Kelley, it seems, was meant for Harvard. He quickly became full time, and then the computer came along.That milestone, according to Kelley, happened in 1982, when he was given the choice to leave or pursue something else. He became a foreman, overseeing Harvard’s grounds. That was a pivotal point in Kelley’s life. “Doing linotype, I didn’t see or talk to people,” he recalls. “When I came out on the grounds, it was a different world.” Kelley met students, faculty, and community members, and enjoyed talking to them until he retired in 1999.But then he got bored. “Real bored,” he says. And he couldn’t stay away from campus. One chance day strolling through Hemenway, Kelley was offered a job opening the gyms in the morning. He couldn’t refuse.“To me, it’s not a job, it’s an education. I talk to different people from all over the world every day. We have a saying over at the Hemenway Gym: When the kids come in the morning, we have to get a smile out of them to get them going.”Around the five o’clock hour each morning, you can find Kelley walking to work. “A mile and a half to the MAC” from his home in Somerville, he points out, “but it’s a mile and a quarter to Hemenway.”“I walk in the snow, rain — doesn’t matter to me,” he says. “When you get to be my age and these eyes open up in the morning, it’s a good day.”Kelley says all his earnings from his gym gigs go to spoiling his eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He has been married to the same woman for 55 years, a fact he proudly proclaims. Each summer the pair travel to Maine, and come September they jet away to Aruba, where they own a timeshare.“My wife always tells me to be quiet,” he laughs. “But no matter where I go, I talk to everyone.”last_img read more

The backdrop on retirement funds

first_imgDavid Laibson, who serves on Harvard’s Retirement Investment Committee, spoke with the Harvard Gazette recently about upcoming changes to the University’s retirement investment options. Laibson is the Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.Gazette: On Nov. 12, Harvard will reduce the lineup of mutual funds offered through its retirement plan. “Lifecycle funds” will now be the automatic, or default, choice for employees who do not actively choose to manage their own investments. What are some of the benefits of these changes, in your view?David Laibson: With the new lineup, we’ve stripped out the funds that are really not appropriate and included only those that are people’s best options, so it’s a lot easier for them to choose wise investments. That’s one benefit.A second benefit is that lifecycle funds are easier to use in the long run. For instance, the funds automatically reduce your exposure to stocks as you approach retirement, so you don’t suddenly lose half your wealth on the brink of retirement because the market plummets. They also rebalance, as asset classes perform well or perform poorly. Let’s say your fund held 50 percent of its assets in stocks. Then prices double, and now stocks are a much larger percentage of your portfolio. Lifecycle funds automatically rebalance so that you aren’t overwhelmingly weighted to stocks just because prices went up. That’s another benefit.Another benefit has to do with fees. Funds charge an annual fee — maybe a percent or two of your total account balances — as compensation for managing your money. As the University reduces the number of funds it offers, we end up with more assets in the ones that remain. That allows Harvard to demand lower fees from the fund companies [Fidelity, Vanguard, and TIAA-CREF]. It might be only half of a percent extra return each year. But if you can get that for 40 years, it’s like increasing your final wealth by as much as 20 percent.Gazette: How are lifecycle funds better than, say, picking stocks on my own?Laibson: If you pick stocks, you could be very lucky and put your money in the Google IPO and get rich. You could also be very unlucky and put your money in a company like Enron and lose all your wealth when it entered bankruptcy. Saving for retirement should not be like buying a lottery ticket.Finance professors and economists generally believe that a diversified portfolio — one that holds foreign and domestic stocks, corporate and government bonds, and money market assets — is the best way to invest. Lifecycle funds are fully diversified. Their goal is to get the best tradeoff of risk and return.Gazette: Lifecycle funds do a lot of work for the investor. Is that a good thing? Take automatic rebalancing: If stocks are doing well, wouldn’t I want more of my money in stocks?Laibson: There’s a lot of academic work — including my own — that shows that human psychology goes in just the right way for people to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to investing. They think, “Stocks went up a lot. I want even more stocks. Stocks went down a lot. I want to dump whatever I have.” Pretty soon, their portfolio is no longer diversified. They end up doubling their exposure at the height of the tech boom — just in time for the crash. They also end up exiting stocks in 2008 and early 2009 when stocks reach their bottom, and they miss the rebound. That’s why giving people something that’s going to automatically do the right thing for them is a big plus.Gazette: The new lineup will also include a number of “core funds.” Why is Harvard offering them, and how were they chosen?Laibson: It’s all about giving people choice. If they want to be in the driver’s seat, the core funds give them that option. We’ve made sure that these funds are low cost, that they are diversified, and that they span the universe of assets that are appropriate for retirement savings. If people want even more choices, they can open a brokerage account and get access to thousands of funds. They can hold undiversified mutual funds if they really want to. I don’t recommend it, but they have that freedom.You can visit the Compensation & Benefits section of the HARVie website to get other answers to questions about the new retirement investment choices, to find out about on-campus information sessions, and to learn how to make appointments with fund representatives.last_img read more

The influence of neighbors

first_imgRyan Enos is out to prove that how people naturally organize themselves in the space they live in can have huge political significance.According to Enos, an assistant professor of government at Harvard, the space you live in and who is around you could affect your political behavior. “It’s not just where people live, it’s who else lives there with them. People spend a lot of time studying how diversity affects behavior, but we’re paying little attention to how we conceptualize the space around that diversity and that behavior.”But Enos is quick to point that this new diversity may not be all it’s chalked up to be. “People have preconceived ideas about how the diversifying of cities is going to affect interracial ideas and relations,” he said. “We have to stop and say that just because a new minority is moving into the same city doesn’t mean they’re actually going to be in the same space in that city as the old residents.”“My claim is that these neighborhoods, this natural segregation into which people separate themselves, has political significance. Who you live near can affect whom you vote for and how often you vote.”Enos put his claim to the test in 2008 and 2009 in the field of Los Angeles, where he was living at the time. “It’s a fascinating city to study,” he said enthusiastically. Los Angeles was a particularly good testing ground for Enos’ hypothesis because the population is not only rapidly diversifying but also has “meaningful levels of racial segregation.” Enos began by studying mixed neighborhoods, asking people what they thought of their new neighbors. “I had a good awareness that something was going on between the minority groups, and you didn’t have to dig far below the surface to feel the tension,” he said. “Many of the African Americans I interviewed said they vote because of fear of immigration from Latinos. Latinos are the new incoming competition for work.”Enos wanted to see how this tension would manifest itself politically. After accessing the voter files of residents in significantly African-American and Latino census “block groups” (meaning they were from the same area), he sent letters to both groups, highlighting areas on the map of the recipient’s block and the block nearby, and indicating the average frequency of voting on both these blocks.“I said nothing about race in these letters,” he said. “I made an assumption that these people would have a good enough mental image of their area to know which blocks were dominated by which ethnicities.” Enos checked the same residents’ records after the next election to monitor changes in voting behavior.Ultimately, the effect he found was that when African Americans received a letter that highlighted a Latino block close to them, and thus were more aware of the Latinos in their area, the African-Americans’ voting numbers shot up 10 percentage points. The same effect was not found in reverse; Latinos did not vote in higher numbers in either condition.“To me, this kind of reinforces the idea that these groups aren’t in conflict, but African Americans feel they are being displaced. The change in voting numbers could be pushback due to economic competition.”To Enos, and to those who witnessed the changes, the influx of Latinos to the cities closely parallels the process in the ’60s when African Americans were moving into cities, and there was a “backlash” from the new working-class whites. However, this time around, according to Enos, there’s one key difference: “African Americans have a history of knowing what it’s like to be the oppressed minority. They seem to always place themselves between Latinos and whites. They have sympathy for the new minority; they’ve been there. But they’re still competing with them for jobs.”Enos says it’s hard to see how this is going to play out. “It could have big implications. For instance, since we only have two political parties in the United States, there are necessarily a lot of different types of people in both those parties, and as the U.S. becomes increasingly diversified, so will those parties. We might see a sort of coalition of minorities.”But again, Enos notes that history repeats itself. “We saw something similar in the ’60s: the fracturing of the New Deal coalition,” he said. “Southern whites, who had traditionally made up the Democratic Party, fled to the Republicans when African Americans began to join. The Democrats saw a lot of their regular voters replaced with racial minorities who don’t vote as often, and thus we saw the decline of Democratic dominance. From 1968 onward we’ve been in a period of Republican domination of electoral politics, even with Democratic presidents.”Enos predicts the Democrats could face a similar problem moving forward. “These two groups are in conflict now, but since the Republicans have driven them out of their party, they’ve both become increasingly Democratic voters. Can they coexist? Would Latinos ever stop voting Democratic? Would African Americans ever vote Republican? It might sound crazy now, but if you go back in time, no one would have ever predicted that blacks would leave the party of Lincoln to join the party of Southern segregation.”Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the question of race will not leave the political field for a long time. “Segregation is a social factor,” Enos said, “and it’s often interrelated with political questions.”last_img read more

Class Day speakers cover comedy, politics

first_imgThe Class of 2012 will hear from one of popular culture’s rising stars and get a window into the way Washington works when “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) cast member Andy Samberg and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank speak on Senior Class Day, May 23, in Tercentenary Theatre.“The Senior Class Committee is thrilled to bring both Andy Samberg and Congressman Barney Frank to this year’s Class Day ceremony,” said Matt DaSilva, chair of the Class Day subcommittee of the Senior Class Committee.“Mr. Samberg’s impressive and multifaceted work has entertained the Class of 2012 throughout our time at Harvard,” said DaSilva. “We are excited to hear from one of SNL’s most talented and hilarious cast members. Congressman Frank has been one of the most important voices in Congress for a generation now. The contrast between them will make for a memorable afternoon.”Samberg, the Senior Class Day guest speaker, is in his seventh season as a cast member on NBC’s long-running late-night sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live.” Samberg’s “SNL Digital Shorts” have become YouTube sensations and have garnered hundreds of millions of views. His satirical music videos earned him an Emmy Award for best original music and lyrics in 2007, as well as Emmy nominations in 2009, 2010, and 2011.Along with his Lonely Island partners Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, Samberg teamed up with pop music icons Justin Timberlake, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna for the 2011 comedy album “Turtleneck and Chain,” which was nominated for a 2012 Grammy Award. The Lonely Island’s first album, “Incredibad,” was the top-selling comedy album of 2009 and 2010. Samberg recently wrapped production on the film “That’s My Boy,” which stars SNL alum Adam Sandler, opening June 15, and “Celeste and Jesse Forever” opposite Rashida Jones, in theaters in August.Frank ’61, the day’s alumni guest speaker in honor of Harvard’s 375th anniversary, has represented the 4th Congressional District of Massachusetts since 1980. In 2010, as chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, Frank helped author and pass landmark reform of the nation’s financial system in the wake of the 2008 global credit crisis. The Washington Post called the law ���the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory system since the Great Depression.”“Congressman Frank’s career in the House of Representatives speaks for itself,” said DaSilva. “His leadership and courage have made him one of America’s most important policymakers, and we are eager to learn from one of Harvard’s most distinguished graduates.”During his 30 years in Congress, Frank has helped to bring commuter rail services to Massachusetts’ south coast, supported the development of affordable rental housing, and worked to strengthen many local organizations and businesses. Frank is also known for his work on behalf of New Bedford’s fishermen.An opportunity for the College’s senior class to come together one final time before graduation, Class Day ceremonies will take place from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on the day before Harvard’s 361st Commencement. In addition to Samberg’s and Frank’s addresses, the afternoon’s festivities will include the Ivy and Harvard orations, a speech by Dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds, and an evening concert by the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Harvard University Band. For more information on Commencement, including its schedule, visit the Commencement Office website.last_img read more

The writing’s on the wall

first_img 5Sometimes there are only the remains of words, as indicated by these remnants of posters on a tunnel wall leading out of Harvard Yard. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 17“Enter to grow in wisdom” are the words Harvard President Charles Eliot had inscribed on Dexter Gate near Wigglesworth Hall. As you leave, the other side reminds us to “Depart to serve better thy country and thy kind.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 7Another tree near Loeb House holds the promise of love everlasting. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 14Over the summer, Quincy House began renovations, the first in a College-wide House renewal program. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer 15“On this moment hangs eternity” — these words are etched into a pedestal near Holden Chapel, a gift from the Class of 1870. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 1A plaque just outside Johnston Gate details the founding, funding, and naming of Harvard “ Colledge” by the General Court of Massachusetts Bay. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 6Winnie the Pooh’s home is now just a stump on the west side of the Science Center. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer 10More than 1.3 million bricks were used to build Sever Hall. Famed American architect H.H. Richardson designed the entrance so you can whisper directly into the bricks of the archway and be heard clearly by someone on the other side of the arch — about 12 feet away. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 2“Veritas,” meaning “truth,” is Harvard’s motto and is etched in a decorative marble molding on a mantelpiece in Loeb House. Veritas was a Roman goddess — the daughter of Saturn and the mother of Virtue. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer 9The names of Harvard alumni who died in World War I are engraved alongside a Malvina Hoffman sculpture called “The Sacrifice.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographercenter_img 12In 1890, when Henry Lee Higginson gave Harvard 31 acres of land across the Charles River near North Harvard Street, it was his hope that the land would become athletic fields for Harvard students and that the grounds be called “The Soldiers Field” and “marked with a stone bearing the names of some dear friends — alumni of the University, and noble gentlemen.” The men died in the Civil War, and, according to Higginson, “heaven must have sorely needed them to have taken them from us so early in their lives.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 11Words to live by, right fellas? This nod to sartorial etiquette still stands in Memorial Hall. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 4This web of words, “Interspecies Invitational,” was a project unveiled in the spring at Arts First 2012. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 13Love that dirty water? A sidewalk inscription near Lowell House begs people not to dump toxic liquids into the rainwater grates. The Standells, who wrote the Boston anthem “Dirty Water,” immortalized the place: “Down by the banks of the river Charles/ Aw, that’s what’s happenin’ baby/ That’s where you’ll find me/ Along with lovers, buggers and thieves/ Aw, but they’re cool people.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer From lovers’ pocketknife engravings to historical markers, the written word makes its mark on Harvard’s campus, whether tucked away in nooks and inconspicuous corners or emblazoned on Harvard’s Houses, gates, and walls.Need inspiration? Well, that’s easy. Just look around. 8This wall at the Harvard School of Public Health declares, “The highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.” Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer 3Magnetic poetry inspires at Quincy House. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer 16The snow eventually melted but not before this year was immortalized on Thayer Hall in Harvard Yard. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographerlast_img read more

Alumnus Donald Hopkins works to end the scourge of guinea worm

first_img Read Full Story A New York Times profile of HSPH alumnus Donald Hopkins, MPH ’70, describes his impressive efforts to battle guinea worm disease and his prior involvement with the eradication of smallpox. Former deputy director and acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1984-87), former assistant professor of tropical public health at HSPH, and currently vice president for health programs at the Carter Center, Hopkins has played a lead role in the guinea worm eradication effort since 1986. At that time there were 3.5 million cases of the disease worldwide; now there are fewer than 600.Another prominent HSPH alumnus—William Foege, MPH ’65, also a former CDC director and a major player in the war on smallpox—told the Times that Hopkins is “one of the most tenacious people you’ll ever find.”Hopkins, who won an HSPH Alumni Award of Merit in 2012, said he doesn’t get discouraged about the long years of fighting diseases. He recalled a man he met in India 25 years ago who said, “ ‘We’re never going to get rid of smallpox here.’ ”“But we did,” Hopkins told time Times. “So I’m sort of immunized against skepticism.”Read the New York Times article and watch a videolast_img read more

The people’s toll

first_imgThough their sound is quite clear, the origin of the Lowell House bells is quite convoluted. Charles U. Lowe ’42 extensively researched the Lowell House bells’ history here, but the short version is that Charles Crane gifted them in 1930. Hailing from the St. Danilov Monastery in Moscow, the 17 Russian bells were returned there in 2008 and a new set was installed in Lowell House thereafter. The bells toll every weekend, on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 1:30 p.m., and anyone may ring them.last_img

The introspective Laurie Anderson

first_imgFor more than four decades, Laurie Anderson’s music and performance art have delighted and often mystified — so much so that even NASA took notice, offering her a gig as its first artist in residence.The collaboration with NASA spawned “The End of the Moon,” a sprawling violin concert interwoven with narrative fragments, including the blooper about Anderson hanging up on the NASA representative who’d phoned, out of the blue, to offer her the position.In the performance, as in her career, Anderson relishes life’s absurdities, explaining: “Finally I called someone at NASA, and he said that yes, I had been chosen to be the first artist in residence at NASA, and he wanted to see if I was interested. And I said, ‘Well, what does an artist in residence actually do? I mean, what does that mean with a space program?’ And they said they didn’t really know what that meant, and what did I think it meant? And I thought: Who are these people?”Anderson was at Harvard Thursday evening to discuss her career and her varied inspirations, giving the Music Department’s Louis C. Elson Lecture inside the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall.One of Anderson’s quirky performances earlier in her career, “Duets on Ice,” features her playing violin, donning ice skates, and standing on a mound of ice. The show concluded when the ice melted. But the performance was no twee mishmash of ingredients thrown together and stirred. Instead, it was born out of Anderson’s grandmother’s death. That day, Anderson remembered, she walked outside to a frozen lake where ducks were honking and flapping their wings. As she neared them, she realized their tiny feet had been frozen into the ice.Addressing the audience, Anderson was wry but sincere, her voice liquid but animated, as though she were casting a spell.Her art possess an untranslatable magic, but Anderson did her best to break down the very ordinary beginnings of her experimental body of work.Take, for instance, dogs, which Anderson loves.Anderson created a film about the death of her piano-playing dog, Lolabelle, as well as an exhibition imagining the dog’s journey through the bardo, a liminal sphere described in the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” which results in rebirth.Even a college graduation in Australia could spark an idea for Anderson. Seated at one next to cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, she recalled whispering to him during the ceremony: “Sometimes I look out, and I just imagine the whole audience is dogs … And he said, ‘I have that fantasy, too.’”That exchange inspired a concert for dogs, which Anderson produced at the Sydney Opera House.“Thousands of dogs showed up,” she said, prompting laughter from the audience. “A lot of the vets in Sydney had parked all around, expecting trouble, I guess … fainting dogs and whatnot.”The dogs were even invited to participate in the concert. “It was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard,” Anderson said. “Just dogs! Thousands of dogs, barking, just because they could.”Anderson’s anecdotes were punctuated with self-reflective gems about her methodology. And though her works are often elaborate and elaborately produced, “I don’t know the first thing about how to make music,” she revealed. “And I’ve found that to be my advantage,” she added, dubbing herself a “dedicated amateur.”This unrestricted space allows Anderson to make mistakes, she remarked, and, of course, to experience doubt, which is always there.Returning to her time at NASA, she proclaimed that artists and scientists are more alike than not. “You make something, see what it does, adjust it, and you have the same question in the end — is it finished?”For Anderson, revision is inescapable but can also be quite unexpected. Discussing one of her films, she read from a story about an accident she endured at the age of 12, when she broke her back diving into a pool but landed instead on the concrete. She spent months paralyzed in a hospital next to children in a burn unit, and the doctor told her she’d never walk again.“I remember thinking, ‘This guy is crazy. I mean, is he even a doctor?’”At the hospital, Anderson developed a fascination with President John F. Kennedy, “who had back problems, too.” She also developed a budding disdain for doctors and for long, pointless children’s stories like the ones she was read in the hospital.Anderson did walk again, and said this story is the one she always tells when people ask her about her childhood. Nonetheless, she had always felt uneasy telling it, she said, like something from the story was missing. One day, telling the story yet again, Anderson was suddenly transported. “I was back in the hospital, and I remembered the missing part. It was the way the ward sounded at night,” she said. “It was the sounds of all the children crying and screaming — the sounds children make when they’re dying.”Anderson said she had been unaware that the children around her ever died, and no one ever explained their abrupt absence.“I’d only ever told the part about myself,” she said. “I’d forgotten the rest of it. I’d cleaned it up, just the way the nurses had. And that’s the creepiest thing about stories. You try to get to the point you’re making … and you get your story, and you hold onto it. And every time you tell it, you forget it more.”last_img read more