Lehigh University
Lehigh University


Selected Media Coverage: September 29, 2005

Pack a powerful lunch
10/01/2005 - Better Homes & Gardens (cir. 7,611,005)

Buddy System
10/01/2005 - Entrepreneur (cir. 570,869)

'The Apprentice' more than just a TV show
09/26/2005 - Christian Science Monitor, The (cir. 60,723)

More to 'The Apprentice' than a TV show
09/26/2005 - Sacramento Bee (cir. 295,921)

Why scientists dismiss 'intelligent design'
09/25/2005 - MSNBC (cir. )

Invisible poor still out there
09/19/2005 - Patriot-News, The (cir. 102,060)

Big & bendable
09/01/2005 - IEEE Spectrum (cir. )

Pack a powerful lunch
10/01/2005 - Better Homes & Gardens (cir. 7,611,005)

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Lehigh University mentioned in an article for Better Homes & Gardens magazine. For a complete view of the article, please click on the paperclip above.

Buddy System
10/01/2005 - Entrepreneur (cir. 570,869)

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So you're thinking of starting a business with one of your very smart, very cool college friends. Maybe he's your roommate, or perhaps you met her in a business class. It might even be a group of your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters who all want to start a business together. While it sounds like the perfect kind of partnership, is going into business with a college buddy (or buddies) really a good idea?

For the co-founders of Chili Willy's, a quick-serve Mexican restaurant in Hamilton, New York, their friendship proved to be a perfect recipe for entrepreneurship. Chris Nordsiek, Preston Burnes and Matt Brown, all 21-year-old students at Colgate University in Hamilton, became friends during their freshman year. The three initially came up with the restaurant idea for a business plan competition during their sophomore year. Because Nordsiek, Burnes and Brown have different strengths and skills, going into business together seemed natural for the friends. "For the three of us, our strengths are very different," says Nordsiek. "We all have a different perspective, and between the three of us, we can [identify] any hole or problem [in the business]." Being in the same fraternity for a full year before starting the business also helped the team really get to know each other.

But partnering with your college friends isn't always a smart idea. Two pitfalls of the strategy are ruining friendships and giving friends with shaky credentials key positions in your company. According to Graham Mitchell, director of the Program in Entrepreneurship at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, "Clearly, there has to be a good sort of chemistry with people on a personal level, and it helps if there's a natural division of capabilities and talents."

Working with someone on a class project is one way to get to know a potential partner better; you'll get a good idea of his or her strengths, weaknesses and ability to commit to a real-world business. Choosing someone only because she's your friend isn't wise, so always consider someone's knowledge and business skills as honestly as possible.

Mitchell also suggests studying the partnership dynamics of other successful entrepreneurs: "Students and young teams need to experience that and be exposed to the ways teams work from a theoretical point of view."

Learning to deal with conflict is key to making any partnership work--especially if you're roommates in addition to being co-founders, like Nordsiek and Burnes. "If two of us are disagreeing about something, we'll bring in the third guy, and he'll be the one to make the call or [arbitrate] what's going on," says Nordsiek. "We're not going to stick to our guns and be wrong. We're all rational human beings, and if we sit down and discuss it, we can come up with a solution." Putting ego aside when solving problems is imperative. As Nordsiek says, "We put the success of the restaurant before everything else."

Fine-tuning that communication style took the better part of a year for the Chili Willy's team. But since opening their doors in February 2005, the trio has clearly managed to make friendship and entrepreneurship work hand in hand: First-year sales are projected to hit $200,000.

'The Apprentice' more than just a TV show
09/26/2005 - Christian Science Monitor, The (cir. 60,723)

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More to 'The Apprentice' than a TV show
On-the-job-training is making a comeback, with 63,000 completing programs this year - up 68 percent from 2000.

By Patrik Jonsson | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

With the mills shutting down all around him, job security seemed a taunting anachronism to Jake McGee. Too broke for college, Mr. McGee tried his hand at a few odd jobs down at Myrtle Beach, S.C., but came back to Rockingham, N.C., to join a once-derided practice that is regaining its standing as a hot job-training tool--the apprenticeship.

'After four years you'll be kicking on pretty good,' says McGee, now a superintendent of 14 journeymen in a 20,000-customer electric co-op. 'What's more, someone can't just walk in off the street and replace you.' Promising high wages, longevity, and a fraternal spirit, apprenticeships - rookies attaching themselves to experts to learn the 'mystery and skill' of various professional trades - are growing in popularity as the nation looks for the next generation of workers to build its homes, run its dams, maintain its electric grids, and provide care for aging baby boomers. With a recognition that it takes cables as well as ideas to run a nation, the quiet shift toward the apprentice model may also mark a change in how American workers view the arc of their education. 'The mindset that everyone has to have that four-year degree before entering the workforce has been prevalent for a long time, but in fact it's not accurate at this point,' says Tim Eldridge, assistant director at the state's Apprenticeship and Training Bureau in Raleigh. 'Instead, 70 percent of workers need some sort of postsecondary technical skills training, which lends itself to apprenticeships.' In North Carolina, the trend has been particularly noteworthy, as the state wen up to $40 to $60 an hour - with the possibility of six raises in the first three years - is not uncommon for apprenticed trades.

Apprenticeship recruiters note that even college graduates are signing up. Like many in his generation, McGee, the lineman supervisor, dreamed of leaving his hometown for college, a nice-paying job, and maybe a life in the big city. But Plan B has worked out quite well. There's a lot of people like me out there, who can't afford college and who are looking for a way to learn a trade and get paid while doing it, he says.

Why scientists dismiss 'intelligent design'
09/25/2005 - MSNBC (cir. )

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In his highly influential book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," science philosopher Thomas Kuhn presented the idea that science is not a gradual progression toward truth, but a series of insurgencies, with scientific theories constantly usurping one another.

That is sometimes true. And proponents of intelligent design love Kuhn's argument.

They see intelligent design (often called ID) as a revolutionary new science and themselves as revolutionaries. They envision toppling Darwinian evolution – once a revolutionary idea itself – and erecting in its place a theory about life that allows for supernatural explanations, a theory that makes God, or some entity very much like him, not just possible but necessary.

But in order to attract converts and win over critics, a new scientific theory must be enticing. It must offer something that its competitors lack. That something may be simplicity, which was one of the main reasons the Sun-centered model of the solar system was adopted over the Earth-centered one centuries. Or it could be sheer explanatory power, which was what allowed evolution to become a widely accepted theory with no serious detractors among reputable scientists.

So what does ID offer? What can it explain that evolution can't?

To answer this, it is necessary to examine the two main arguments — irreducible complexity and specified complexity — that ID proponents use to support their claim that a Supreme Being is responsible for many or all aspects of life.

Irreducible complexity
Irreducible complexity asserts that certain biochemical systems in nature contain parts that are too well matched to be products of evolution.

Every part of an irreducibly complex system is necessary: take away even one, and the entire system will no longer work. Because their parts are so intricate and so interdependent, such systems could not possibly have been the result of evolution, ID supporters argue.

Irreducible complexity's main proponent is Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Among the systems that Behe claims are irreducibly complex are the bacterial flagellum, a microscopic whip-like structure that some bacteria use to swim, and the cascade of proteins that make up the human blood-clotting system.

Darwin himself admitted that if an example of irreducible complexity were ever found, his theory of natural selection would crumble.

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down," Darwin wrote.

Yet no true examples of irreducible complexity have ever been found. The concept is rejected by the majority of the scientific community.

To understand why, it is important to remember that Behe's main argument is that in an irreducibly complex system, every part is vital to the system's overall operation.

A necessary — and often unstated — flipside to this is that if an irreducibly complex system contains within it a smaller set of parts that could be used for some other function, then the system was never really irreducibly complex to begin with.

It's like saying in physics that atoms are the fundamental building blocks of matter only to discover, as physicists have, that atoms are themselves made up of even smaller and more fundamental components.

This flipside makes the concept of irreducible complexity testable, giving it a scientific virtue that other aspects of ID lack.

"The logic of their argument is you have these multipart systems, and that the parts within them are useless on their own," said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "The instant that I or anybody else finds a subset of parts that has a function, that argument is destroyed."

Viewed this way, all of the systems that Behe claims to be irreducibly complex really aren't.

A subset of the bacterial flagellum proteins, for example, are used by other bacteria to inject toxins into other cells and several of the proteins in the human blood-clotting system are believed to be modified forms of proteins found in the digestive system.

Evolution takes pieces and parts and re-uses them.

Specified complexity
The second major argument for intelligent design comes from William Dembski, a mathematician and philosopher affiliated with the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based Christian think tank that serves as the nerve center for the ID movement.

Dembski argues that nature is rife with examples of non-random patterns of information that he calls "complex specified information," or CSI for short.

To qualify as CSI, the information must be both complex and specified. The letter "A," for example, is specific but not complex. A string of random letters such as "slfkjwer," on the other hand, is complex but not necessarily specific. A Shakespearean sonnet, however, is both complex and specific.

An example of CSI from nature is DNA, the molecule found in all cells that contains the genetic instructions for life. DNA is made up of four repeating chemical bases arranged into complimentary pairs. The bases can be thought of as "letters" in a four-letter alphabet and can be strung together to form genes, which can be thought of as the "words" that tell the cell what proteins to make.

The human genome is made up of some 3 billion DNA base pairs and contains about 25,000 genes. DNA is obviously complex. The fact that humans always give birth to humans and not chimpanzees or naked mole rats shows that DNA is also specific.

The fact that CSI exists in nature is evidence for design because intelligence is necessary to produce CSI, Dembski says. This is the part of Dembski's argument that many scientists have trouble with.

The nylon problem
There is a way to settle this, however, because like Behe's irreducible complexity, the concept of specified complexity can also be tested.

"If Dembski were right, then a new gene with new information conferring a brand new function on an organism could never come into existence without a designer because a new function requires complex specified information," Miller said.

In 1975, Japanese scientists reported the discovery of bacteria that could break down nylon, the material used to make pantyhose and parachutes. Bacteria are known to ingest all sorts of things, everything from crude oil to sulfur, so the discovery of one that could eat nylon would not have been very remarkable if not for one small detail: nylon is synthetic; it didn't exist anywhere in nature until 1935, when it was invented by an organic chemist at the chemical company Dupont.

The discovery of nylon-eating bacteria poses a problem for ID proponents. Where did the CSI for nylonase—the actual protein that the bacteria use to break down the nylon—come from?

There are three possibilities:

The nylonase gene was present in the bacterial genome all along.
The CSI for nylonase was inserted into the bacteria by a Supreme Being.
The ability to digest nylon arose spontaneously as a result of mutation. Because it allowed the bacteria to take advantage of a new resource, the ability stuck and was eventually passed on to future generations.
Apart from simply being the most reasonable explanation, there are two other reasons that most scientists prefer the last option, which is an example of Darwinian natural selection.

First, hauling around a nylonase gene before the invention of nylon is at best useless to the bacteria; at worst, it could be harmful or lethal. Secondly, the nylonase enzyme is less efficient than the precursor protein it's believed to have developed from. Thus, if nylonase really was designed by a Supreme Being, it wasn't done very intelligently.

‘Death of science'
After examining ID's two main arguments, the answers to the original questions — what does ID offer? And what can ID explain that evolution can't? — is not much and nothing, leading scientists say.

"The most basic problem [with ID] is that it's utterly boring," said William Provine, a science historian at Cornell University in New York. "Everything that's complicated or interesting about biology has a very simple explanation: ID did it."

Evolution was and still is the only scientific theory for life that can explain how we get complexity from simplicity and diversity from uniformity.

ID offers nothing comparable. It begins with complexity — a Supreme Being — and also ends there. The explanations offered by ID are not really explanations at all, scientists say. They're more like last resorts. And, scientists argue, there is a danger in pretending that ID belongs next to evolution in textbooks.

"It doesn't add anything to science to introduce the idea that God did it," Provine told LiveScience. Intelligent design "would become the death of science if it became a part of science."

Invisible poor still out there
09/19/2005 - Patriot-News, The (cir. 102,060)

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For weeks now, the news clips and photographs of people victimized by Hurricane Katrina have been shocking people all over the world and have generated a fresh wave of hand-wringing and finger-pointing in American politics.

We are still reeling from witnessing the poor, the handicapped, the ill, the elderly and predominantly people of color being left behind as flood waters surged through New Orleans.

People ask, how can this be happening in the United States, and why? The Bush administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the city of New Orleans have all come in for deserved criticism for their inadequate, sometimes callous response to this disaster.

Although this horrific event has been graphically catastrophic, we shouldn't be surprised. The poor, ill and elderly have been left behind in the country's approach to government and public policy for about 30 to 40 years.

It's quite clear that broader political forces led to the disaster. The Bush administration, and government in general, are, after all, the product of a 35- to 40-year history in this nation in which government has been widely attacked, belittled and stripped of legitimacy.

While they've been leading the charge in this campaign, right-wing Republicans from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to George W. Bush have not been alone in producing the situation we find ourselves in. The Democrats have been fully complicit, too. Americans, generally, have been living in a bubble of delusion for too long. Perhaps, finally, the bubble has burst.

Back in 1962, Michael Harrington published a book on The Other America in which he documented widespread pockets of severe poverty amid America's postwar affluence. Along with the growing civil rights struggle, Harrington's book was a wake-up call, one of the catalysts for the Kennedy and Johnson administration's "War on Poverty."

By 1965, however, at the behest of the nation's mayors, the federal government was beginning to pull back on some of its more controversial efforts to empower the poor. Simultaneously, America's inner cities were beginning to explode in raging riots.

By 1968, the Kerner Commission warned that the United States was rapidly becoming "two societies, separate and unequal," divided by race as well as poverty.

At the end of the 1960s, according to Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam's well documented study: "Never in our history had the future of civic life looked brighter." A few years later, however, the corporate-based Trilateral Commission concluded that the United States suffered from an "excess" of democracy.

According to the trilateralists, the demand for public goods needed to be reduced. Corporate-funded foundations backed social science "studies" that allegedly demonstrated the "failure" of Great Society programs, blamed government for the "dependency" of the poor, and celebrated the marketplace as the solution to the nation's problems.

By 1980, with the election of Reagan as president, the U.S. was well on its way into the school of thought that government was wasteful and bad, the market was productive and good. We have lived in this world ever since.

Our life-in-common and the ecological "commons" have continued to deteriorate.

Simultaneously, we've moved rapidly towards two Americas. The rich have gotten much richer, pursuing lives of staggering self-indulgence; middle class existence has become more tenuous; and the poor have become more desperate, forgotten, and invisible.

New Orleans had a "plan" for evacuating all its citizens. They assumed that people could escape in their cars if the hurricane caused significant damage. Privatization, after all, has been the trend in public policy. Citizens should be left to act on their own. Taken in by well-advertised myths of universal American affluence, these so-called leaders ignored the fact that most of the city's poor didn't own cars. The inner-city poor were once again invisible. PERHAPS, THEN, this disaster, so shockingly visible on our television screens, will be the kind of catalyst that The Other America was some 45 years ago -- only this time, perhaps we can get it right. Perhaps we can pull back together as a country and realize that the government really does belong to us.

We've got a long way to go, but this could be the beginning of a momentous journey. Eventually, you know, even the politicians will come along.

EDWARD MORGAN is a professor of political science at Lehigh University.

Big & bendable
09/01/2005 - IEEE Spectrum (cir. )

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Miltiadis Hatalis, professor, electrical engineering and computer science, was mentioned in an article in IEEE Spectrum magazine. For a complete view of the article, please click on the paperclip above.

Posted on Thursday, September 29, 2005

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