Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An Evening with Noam Chomsky

I've been studying at MIT for 3 years, but until last night had never seen Noam Chomsky. Last night, my class had a private question and answer dinner with him. For those that don't know who he is the:
  • Most cited person in the world that is still living.
  • The person who single handedly invented the field of linguistics, and the theory used by computers to understand computer languages
  • A well known political dissident -- especially of US foreign policy.
A lot of people hate him; while even more people see him as a hero. I recall listening to a debate on NPR between a supporter and a detractor of Israel. The pro-Israel debater kept responding to charges in Chomsky's book leading the other debater to say:
You keep quoting Chomsky.
Why are you quoting Chomsky?
He's not here.
*I* am here.
Such is the power of Chomsky: Love him or hate him; you simply can't ignore him.

At this evening, there was no planned agenda; just a night of questions from my classmates who had crowded into a tiny room. It was easily the most well attended event our class's society had organized all year -- because people like me, came out of their thesis cubby holes to see it. What surprised me was how mild mannered his voice was.

I gave him a copy of Hatcher's Love, Power and Justice, and Foad Katirai's "Global Governance and the Lesser Peace" and was excited by an invitation to "come by sometime" to his office to talk more about the books.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

How to predict divorce with more than 94% accuracy

John Gottman, has created a model that can predict whether a couple will divorce with 94% accuracy. I first heard about it at an Association for Bahai Studies conference in Toronto.

The model was created by studying more than 700 couples for more than a decade.

To apply model, Gottman videotapes a couple discussing a contentious issue for 15 minutes. A team then reviews the tape to identify all instances of pre-specified positive and negative behaviors.

For example, the introduction of humor during a tense moment, is given a score of +4, while the rolling of the eyes is given a score of -4. A nod, to acknowledge the other person's point is given a score of +1.

If the ratio of positive to negative scores isn't at least 5:1, the couple is predicted to divorce.

He has produced a number of interesting books accessible to the public including Why Some Marriages Succeed while Others Fail.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Movies that Matter: Trading Races

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A poster I designed for our latest Baha'i club event designed to facilitate a discussion on race. We viewed an Oprah episode discussing the experiences of two families -- one white, one black. By meeting a hollywood makeup artist they were given the unique experience of temporarily changing their race.