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Día Internacional de la Mujer 2011.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

Entrega de Silla de Ruedas.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

Compartiendo con nuestras socias y socios de la tercera edad de Molino Abajo, Temoaya, Estado de México.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

Visita la página de “Código Ayuda A.C.” Aquí

Entrega de Reconocimiento por la AMS a la labor de Gabriela Goldsmith Presidenta de \\\\\\\"Código Ayuda A.C.” Más »

Día de la Niñez 2011 con nuestras socias y socios de San Lorenzo Tepaltitlán, Toluca, Estado de México.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

Entrega de Silla de Ruedas.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

“Yo Me Declaro Defensor” de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos

Participación en la campaña “Yo Me Declaro Defensor” de los Defensores de Derechos Humanos por la Alta Comisionada de los Derechos Humanos de la ONU Navy Pillay. Más »

Entrega de Reconocimiento al Lic. Enrique Peña Nieto por su apoyo como gobernador a los grupos vulnerables de nuestra Asociación.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí. Más »

Compartiendo con nuestras socias y socios de la tercera edad en Molino Abajo, Temoaya, Estado de México.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" ¡Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí! Más »

Compartiendo con nuestras socias y socios de la tercera edad en Molino Abajo, Temoaya, Estado de México.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" ¡Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí! Más »

Compartiendo con nuestras socias y socios de la tercera edad en Molino Abajo, Temoaya, Estado de México.

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" ¡Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí! Más »

Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" ¡Visita la página de Madres Solas Aquí! Más »

Thelma Dorantes Autora y Actriz principal de la obra de Teatro \\\\

Visita de Thelma Dorantes a las oficina de la Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" en Toluca, Estado de México. Más »

Thelma Dorantes Autora y Actriz principal de la obra de Teatro \\\\

Visita de Thelma Dorantes a las oficina de la Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" en Toluca, Estado de México. Más »

Thelma Dorantes Autora y Actriz principal de la obra de Teatro \\\\

Visita de Thelma Dorantes a las oficina de la Asociación de Madres Solteras y Grupos Vulnerables para el Desarrollo Social \\\\\\\"Por un Trato más digno Yo Madre Soltera Aquí Estoy A.C.\\\\\\\" en Toluca, Estado de México. Más »

Premio Nacional del Trabajo 2012.

Entrega a los trabajadores de la Dirección de Organización y Desarrollo Administrativo de la Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México del Premio Nacional del Trabajo 2012 por la Secretaría de Trabajo y Previsión Social del Gobierno de México. Más »

 

Rihanna named Humanitarian of Year

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The popular singer Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year, and will come to campus to accept the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at a ceremony next Tuesday (Feb. 28).

“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“She has also created the Clara and Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program [named for her grandmother and grandfather] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, a multiyear campaign that will provide children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.”

An international musical phenomenon, the Barbados-born singer, actress, and songwriter — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — has sold more than 200 million records.

The Harvard Foundation recognizes prominent public-spirited leaders each year in honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes. Past honorees include physician-statistician Hans Rosling; actor James Earl Jones; Nobel Peace Prize Committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland; U.N. Secretaries General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar; gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai; anti-child-labor spokesman Kailash Satyarthi; tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe; former Health and Human Services Director Louis W. Sullivan; and farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

The award will be presented at 4 p.m. at Sanders Theatre on Feb. 28. Tickets are available free to members of the Harvard community at the Harvard University Box Office, 10 Holyoke St.

John Mather, remembered as a 'great mathematician,' dies at 74

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 John Mather
 
Photo by Mariana Cook
 
 

John Mather, remembered as a ‘great mathematician,’ dies at 74

Princeton University Professor of Mathematics John Mather, remembered as a “great mathematician” with a reserved and pleasant demeanor, died Jan. 28 of complications from prostate cancer at his home in Princeton. He was 74.

Mather specialized in differential topology and dynamical systems. After receiving his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton in 1967, Mather, as an associate professor at the Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies in France, soon distinguished himself when he proved a conjecture by renowned French mathematician René Thom. Mather and Thom went on to develop the Thom-Mather isotopy theorem, one of many influential theorems in topology and dynamics that bear Mather’s name. Others include the Mather-Thurston theorem and the Aubry-Mather theory.

Charles Fefferman, Princeton’s Herbert E. Jones, Jr. ’43 University Professor of Mathematics, knew Mather since they were both graduate students at Princeton in the 1960s. While they did not study the same field, Fefferman followed Mather’s work and appreciated his exceptional talent, he said.

“Most mathematicians feel about math the way musicians feel about music — when we encounter a masterpiece, it’s a great privilege,” Fefferman said.

“He was a great mathematician. If you were not well enough informed in math to know how much he had done, there was no clue from his behavior that he was a great man. He was modest and self-effacing,” he said. “Because of his introverted personality, one had to work hard to talk about John’s work with him. It was an effort amply repaid, but you had to put in the effort. I’m very happy to have put in the effort.”

In the 1970s, Fefferman was part of a successful effort to lure Mather to Princeton from Harvard where he had been a professor since 1969. “We’re always on the lookout for first-rate talent and it was clear very early, perhaps from his days as a grad student, that John was so good it would be a coup to bring him here,” Fefferman said.

In 1975, Mather, then 32, joined the University faculty as a full professor. In the 2009 photo book, “Mathematicians: An Outer View of the Inner World,” Mather, who had lived in Princeton since age 2, said, “After four years at Harvard, I decided that I liked Princeton better.” His father, Norman Mather, was a Princeton professor of electrical engineering and they became the University’s first father-son professors since 1932.

John Mather and father, Norman Mather

Vadim Kaloshin, a professor of mathematics at the University of Maryland who was Mather’s graduate student, recalled weekly meetings with Mather at which they would freely share ideas and insights. During one session, Mather made a comment that became the crux of Kaloshin’s Ph.D. thesis wherein he solved a 30-year-old conjecture posed by American mathematician Stephen Smale.

“His questions and comments pushed me toward the solution to this conjecture. He made an important comment that later became a central part of my thesis,” said Kaloshin, who received his doctorate from Princeton in 2001. “Once he started talking, it was very interesting because he was extremely knowledgeable. He also would be wiling to listen, which to me is a great quality.”

Kaloshin had regular contact with Mather since leaving Princeton. He would email or visit his mentor a few times each year, and they would see each other at conferences where Mather would be revered for his work, particularly in dynamical systems. “His death is a big loss for our community worldwide because he was one of the leaders in this field,” Kaloshin said. “He leaves a big void.”

Mather’s daughter Mara, a professor of gerontology and psychology at the University of Southern California, said that her father was modest about his accomplishments and rarely discussed his work at home. (Mara said that when Mather was asked to speak after receiving the National Academy of Sciences’ 1978 John J. Carty Award, he reportedly stood and said, “Thank you.”)

Outside of work, her father loved and would readily discuss history and politics, she said. He was the kind of person that family members knew they could count on.

“It was great to get him engaged in conversation,” said Mara, who received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Princeton in 2000. “He knew an incredible amount about history and politics. He really enjoyed talking about those things. He enjoyed humor. He was a very pleasant person.

“He was a very sweet person, very kind and generous,” she said. “He was the kind of person who I absolutely knew would do the right thing. He was very helpful to family members in need.”

Mather was born in Los Angeles on June 9, 1942. He was a descendent of the Boston Puritan minister Richard Mather, grandfather to the famous Cotton Mather. Intrigued by logarithms at age 6, Mather excelled in mathematics at Princeton High School. During his senior year, Mather was accepted into and did perfect work in a college-junior-level abstract algebra course at the University taught by professor of mathematics Ralph Fox. Mather graduated from Harvard with his bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1964. As an undergraduate, he twice placed in the top 10 in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition.

Mather received numerous awards for his work, including the Birkhoff Prize in Applied Mathematics from the American Mathematical Society (2003); a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989); the John J. Carty Award from the National Academy of Sciences (1978); and a Sloan Fellowship (1970). Mather also was a member of the American Mathematical Society and the National Academy of Sciences, among other organizations.

Mather is survived by his wife, Naomi Mather, and children Mara Mather (Noah Mercer) of Los Angeles; Thomas John Mather of Princeton’s Class of 1999 (Karen Madsen) of Boston; and Frank Mather and Emily Mather of Princeton.

A memorial conference in Mather’s honor is being planned by the Department of Mathematics.

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Selected Articles: Humanity on Brink of Extinction, Syria: Fake US “Counter-terrorism”, Trump: Deep State Coup d’Etat

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Nuclear MushroomThe Cliff of Nuclear Annihilation: Humanity is on the Brink of Extinction! Thirty Seconds to Midnight

By Regis TremblayHelen CaldicottRay McGovernDavid VineChris Hedges, and Colonel Ann Wright, February 20 2017

Filmmaker Regis Tremblay states what few others dare to say. Humanity is on the brink of extinction! Nuclear power is not safe. 48 of America’s nuclear power plants are leaking and there is no way to get rid of nuclear waste. America’s reckless provocations of both Russia and China, two nuclear-armed countries, risk a nuclear holocaust from which no one survives. Climate change and global warming, if not mitigated immediately, will end the human experiment on earth sooner rather than later.

usa-syria-flags

The “Counter-terrorism” Campaign in Syria is Fake. “Dark State” Manipulations Serve as Barriers to Peace

By Mark Taliano, February 19 2017

The recently-disclosed story about the U.S using depleted uranium ordnances in Syria is suspect – not because there is reasonable doubt that the U.S used them – but because the story is being conflated with the notion that the weapons were used against ISIS.
Trump 3

The Deep State Goes Shallow. “Reality-TV Coup d’etat in Prime Time”

By Edward Curtin, February 21 2017

It would not be hyperbolic to say that overthrowing democratic governments is as American as apple pie. It’s our “democratic” tradition – like waging war. What is less well known is that elements within the U.S. ruling power elites have also overthrown democratically elected governments in the United States.
Israel_Palestine_Flag1

A Tale of Two Realities: Donald Trump and Israel

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark, February 20 2017

It was supremely wicked, and rapidly meandered into horse muddied waters. US President Donald J. Trump had openly expressed what many a US politician has felt but avoided for the sake of false decency: the two-state solution regarding Israel and Palestine was “a bad idea”. There was only one supremo in this fight, and it certainly did not entail the downtrodden in Gaza or the West Bank.

GLOBAL-ECONOMY

Analyzing the Emerging World Order: The Future of Globalism

By Levaughn Duran, February 19 2017

The global community today is clearly in a state of flux. This is not an aberration – we are in the midst of a normal and periodic global reordering. We shall briefly take a “big picture” look at this phenomenon and attempt to glean an understanding as to the direction that we are heading as citizens of a global society. It is my hope that these observations can foster a more in depth discussion between reasonable people; leading to the development of ideas which can then be implemented to improve the human condition.

Lettre de personnels de la NASA à leur administrateur concernant le changement climatique anthropique

The US Space Program and the Cold War, Historic Role of African American Women

By Abayomi Azikiwe, February 22 2017

Review: Hidden Figures – This feature film provides a glimpse into the role of African American women in the development of the United States space program during the early 1960s. These events coincided with the escalating struggle for civil rights and self-determination, a movement which dated back to the pre-Civil War era when even freed Africans were subjected to inhuman treatment despite their existence in a nation that professed equality for all men and later women.

NASA Telescope Reveals Largest Batch of Earth-Size, Habitable-Zone Planets Around Single Star

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This illustration shows the possible surface of TRAPPIST-1f, one of the newly discovered planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Scientists using the Spitzer Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes have discovered that there are seven Earth-size planets in the system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone.

“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”


Seven Earth-sized planets have been observed by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope around a tiny, nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1. Three of these planets are firmly in the habitable zone. Credits: NASA

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist’s concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature on Feb. 23, 2017. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, “snowball-like” world, but further observations are needed.

“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. “It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds.”

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth’s sky.

The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.

This artist’s concept shows what each of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may look like, based on available data about their sizes, masses and orbital distances. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations.

“This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations,” said Sean Carey, manager of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. “Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”

Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.

In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.


This 360-degree panorama depicts the surface of a newly detected planet, TRAPPIST 1-d, part of a seven planet system some 40 light years away. Explore this artist’s rendering of an alien world by moving the view using your mouse or your mobile device. Credits: NASA

“The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets,” said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star’s minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft’s observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.

Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet’s atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets’ temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.

For more information about Spitzer, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

For more information on the TRAPPIST-1 system, visit: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/trappist1

For more information on exoplanets, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/exoplanets

When bias hurts profits

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Researchers have long known that bias can have an impact on hiring, but a new Harvard study suggests that it may also affect workplace performance.

Co-authored by Amanda Pallais, the Paul Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy and Social Studies, the study, which is based on data collected from a French grocery store chain, found that minority workers were far less efficient in a handful of important metrics when working with biased managers.

That drop in performance, Pallais and co-authors Dylan Glover and William Pariente say, can create a self-fulfilling prophecy among bosses biased against minorities. Since such managers believe that minority workers are worse employees, that bias can result in poorer performance by the affected minorities, and so managers assure themselves that the minority workers are worse employees.

“We were able to use metrics — how fast cashiers scan items, how much time they spend between customers, number of absences — to track their performance,” Pallais said. “But unlike many other jobs, the same worker works with different managers on different days, so we were able to compare the same worker’s performance on Monday with one manager to their performance on Tuesday with another manager.

“When we compared the same worker’s performance under biased and unbiased managers, we found two things,” she continued. “First, minorities perform much worse under biased managers. With biased managers, they perform on average at the 53rd percentile, but with unbiased managers, they perform at the 79th percentile. Second, there was no difference in the performance of other workers under biased or unbiased managers.”

To measure manager bias, Pallais and colleagues borrowed the implicit association test (or IAT) from psychology literature.

The test takes place over two rounds, during which participants sort words — in this case, French and North African names, and both good and bad adjectives — to either side of a computer screen. In the first round, the test takers sorted French names and good adjectives to the same side, and North African names and bad adjectives to the other side. In the second round, the rules are reversed, with French names and bad adjectives sorted together. A biased manager taking the test, she said, would be faster to sort “good” adjectives — punctual, reliable, hard-working — and French names together, and slower to the do the same with North African names.

One explanation for that change in performance could be that biased managers are simply poor ones, but Pallais said the evidence doesn’t support that. The workers who weren’t minorities on average performed about the same, regardless of whether managers were biased. Moreover, none of the negative effects that minorities experienced from working with biased managers could be explained by other managerial characteristics such as bosses’ age, gender, or ethnicity.

While the productivity changes can translate into lower profits, Pallais and colleagues found that the economic impact wasn’t limited to the stores. When minority employees are scheduled to work with biased managers, they are much more likely to be absent and less likely to stay late. Since workers are paid only for the time they spend on the clock, the minorities lose 2.5 percent of their pay when working with biased managers.

In their search for precisely why minority employees perform less efficiently when working with biased managers, Pallais and colleagues found a surprising answer.

“You might think that biased managers simply dislike minorities and treat them poorly, or assign them to the least pleasant jobs,” she said. “But we don’t find any evidence of that.”

Researchers surveyed workers about whether they liked their managers and whether they thought their managers liked them. Minorities didn’t say they disliked biased managers or that they thought biased managers disliked them. They did say they were less likely to interact with managers who were biased.

“It appears there’s evidence for what psychologists call aversive racism,” Pallais explained. “When you’re biased toward someone, you speak less to them, you’re more hesitant to speak to them, and you’re less friendly toward them because you’re uncomfortable with them.

“What it looks like is the biased managers just interact less with the minorities,” she continued.

Previous research has shown that manager interaction is a powerful predictor of performance, and in the case of grocery store clerks, Pallais said, “When workers know someone is watching, they put in more effort.”

It’s unclear, Pallais said, whether simply mandating more interaction between managers and workers might increase productivity among minority workers. Going forward, she hopes to explore what effect such policy changes might have.

3Q: Julien de Wit on the discovery of seven temperate, nearby worlds

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Today, an international team including astronomers from MIT and the University of Liège in Belgium has announced the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby star just 39 light years from Earth. All seven planets appear to be rocky, and any one of them may harbor liquid water, as they are each within an area called the habitable zone, where temperatures are within a range suitable for sustaining liquid water on a planet’s surface.

The discovery marks a new record, as the planets make up the largest known number of habitable-zone planets orbiting a single star outside our solar system. The results are published today in the journal Nature.

Julien de Wit, a postdoc in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, is heading up the team’s study of the planets’ atmospheres, the compositions of which may offer up essential clues as to whether these planets harbor signs of life. De Wit and principal investigator Michael Gillon of the University of Liège will be presenting the group’s results in a talk at MIT on February 24.

MIT News spoke with de Wit about the solar system’s new terrestrial neighbors and the possibility for life beyond our planet.

Q: What can you tell us so far about these seven planets?

A: These planets are the first found beyond the edge of our solar system, with the winning combination of being Earth-sized, temperate, and well-suited for imminent atmospheric studies. Temperate means that they can possibly harbor liquid water at their surface, while well-suited for atmospheric studies means that owing to the star they orbit and how close to the Earth it is, we will be able to get exquisite insights into their atmospheres within the next decade.

The planets are tightly packed around a small, cool, red dim star called TRAPPIST-1, located just 39 light years from Earth. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultracool dwarf star, estimated to be about 2,550 kelvins, versus our sun, which boils at around 5,800 kelvins.

The planets are so tightly packed that the seven of them are found within a distance of TRAPPIST-1 that is five times smaller than the distance from the sun to Mercury. This is so close that, depending on the planet, a year would last between 1.5 and 20 days. These planets are also most likely tidally locked, meaning that they always show the same hemisphere to their star, like the Moon does to the Earth, implying that the star never rises or sets, but stays fixed in the sky.

The small size of the star (about 11 percent the radius of the sun) is an essential part of the interest of this system. The planets were detected using the transit technique, which searches for a flux drop in a star’s brightness when a planet passes in front of it. As the flux drop is directly related to the planet-to-star area ratio, the smaller the star, the easier the detection of a planet. The signal of TRAPPIST-1’s planets is for instance about 80 times larger than what it would be if they were orbiting a star like our sun.

All of these planets are the best targets found so far to search for signs of life, and it is remarkable that they are all transiting the same star. This means that the system will allow us to study each planet in great depth, providing for the first time a rich perspective on a different planetary system than ours, and on planets around the smallest main sequence stars.

We have initiated a worldwide reconnaissance effort that spans the electromagnetic spectrum from the UV to radio, to study this system in more depth. Here at MIT, and with a large group of international experts around the world, graduate student Mary Knapp is co-leading the search for signs of planetary magnetic fields in radio, while I am leading the atmospheric reconnaissance with the Hubble Space Telescope. With observations of this system taken by Hubble last May, we have already ruled out the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres around the two innermost planets, which means that they are not “mini-Neptunes” that would be uninhabitable, but are terrestrial like Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. We are currently processing observations of the new planets and should gain new insights soon.

Q:  Take us back to the moment of discovery. What tipped you all off that all of these planets might actually be terrestrial, and possibly even Earth-like?

A: It was such an incredible day. On Sept. 19, 2016, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope had started its 20-day-long monitoring of TRAPPIST-1 to search for flux drops. On Oct. 6, the first part of the data corresponding to the first 10 days of observation were released on NASA’s secured servers. Now, the fun fact is that on that day, Michael Gillon was stationed in Morocco, with a very bad internet connection, and couldn’t start playing with the data. Fortunately for his nerves, four other researchers (Jim Ingalls, Brice-Olivier Demory, Sean Carey, and I) could access the data. When I downloaded it and performed a quick processing, we had a pure, jaw-dropping, “never-seen-before” moment: By eye, I could count five more transits than expected over a short 10-day window — simply insane. After a quick iteration with Michael, we thought then that the system was containing three more planets, one being a super-Earth. But we realized quickly that what appeared to be a super-Earth was actually two planets transiting at the same time.

Our verdict: four more planets, all Earth-sized. When the second half of the data arrived on Oct. 27, we all gathered online for a debrief and cheers (with Trappist beers!). It was such an exhilarating moment.

Q: What are the chances that there may be life on one or more of these planets, and what will it take to find out?

A: We have literally no idea, but we have a chance of figuring that out soon! So far, we know that the planets could be great candidates, as they have the size of the Earth and are temperate. We now need to determine their surface conditions. This requires (1) obtaining a tight constraint on their masses, (2) assessing the type of atmospheres they have, (3) determining if they (may) actually harbor surface liquid water, and (4) searching for signs of life (i.e., biosignatures). What this will take is a significant multidisciplinary effort over the next 20 to 25 years.

When planets are close together and their orbits are in a certain spacing, they interact with each other through gravity, causing the timing of their transits to change a little as the planets tug on each other. By measuring this change, we can determine the mass of the planets. By knowing precisely the size and mass of the planets, we can determine their bulk density, and geophysicists can then help us better understand their interiors.

We will also assess their atmosphere types with a scaled-up version of our reconnaissance programs. Over the next two years, we are hoping to leverage Hubble’s capabilities to search for the presence of water- or methane-dominated atmospheres.

In the future, upcoming observatories like the James Webb Space Telescope will help us constrain the planets’ atmospheric composition, temperature, and pressure profiles — all essential information for determining the surface conditions possible over their globes.

It is important to point out here that obtaining these constraints will only be possible if we have a complete and unbiased understanding of how the light of the star going through the planet atmospheres is affected by the different components as a function of the temperature, pressure, and other gases. Then and only then, will we be able to assess the habitability of the planet.

A key part in searching for signs of life on these planets will be to determine what exactly is a sign of life, or biosignature. This is where the insight of biochemists will be essential. Fortunately, here at MIT we are already tackling this question. Indeed, Professor Sara Seager, together with postdoc Janusz Petkowski and William Bains at Cambridge University, are currently investigating the chemical space that life can occupy, to create a list of biosignatures which we will use in the future to determine if the gases detected are indicative of the presence of life on these planets.


‘Moonlight’ reflection

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Nicholas Britell ’03 can connect his career ascent closely to the many friends he made at Harvard. The composer-pianist will celebrate with several of them this weekend as his score for “Moonlight” competes for the Oscar for best original score. The nomination is one of many successes for Britell since he got his entertainment start as keyboardist in the hip-hop group Witness Protection Program.  

Britell, who once considered becoming a concert pianist, said the collaborative environment at Harvard continues to frame his career. He spoke to us about campus connections, the class that changed his life, and how a film score can sound like poetry.

GAZETTE: How did “Moonlight” happen?

BRITELL: I was scoring “The Big Short” in 2015, which was produced by Jeremy Kleiner ’98, co-president of Plan B Entertainment. I had previously worked with him on “12 Years a Slave.” One night we were having dinner, and he was getting very emotional while discussing a screenplay he had read called “Moonlight.” He asked, “Would you like to read it?” I read it, and I was just blown away by it. It was so intimate and tender. It felt like a piece of poetry. I said I would love to meet [writer-director] Barry Jenkins, and he connected us. We got together for coffee in downtown L.A. That turned into glasses of wine and a wide-ranging conversation. It felt right away like we had similar mindsets of what the possibilities were for the film.

GAZETTE: The film is such a personal story for Jenkins. How does that inform you as an artist — knowing that you have these layers that need to be honored or acknowledged in the music?

BRITELL: The closeness of the project — it affects the way you connect to it. Early on, I mentioned how it felt like Barry brought such a sense of a poetry into the film. It was following those feelings, and exploring what is the musical analogue of this feeling of poetry: figuring out what’s the musical sound of that. So much of what I do is translating my internal feelings into these mysterious frequency vibrations in the air we experience as music. It’s a very abstract process. Among the first things I sent to him was a piece I called “Piano and Violin Poem.” That piece became “Little’s Theme.” [The character Little is the story’s protagonist.] It felt like a way into Little’s point of view. In scoring a film, my main goal is to find sounds, textures, and musical ideas that are woven into the fabric of the film. My hope is that the music feels like it is part of the film, not something placed on top of it.

Working closely together with a director is really the key to finding the right musical landscape for a film. [“Big Short” director] Adam McKay, editor Hank Corwin, and I spent the whole summer of 2015 more or less in the same room working together. It was an amazing artistic workshop. So when Barry said, “What’s the best way for us to work together?” I said, “For you and I to get in the studio and spend a lot of time together!”

GAZETTE: The film has already won many awards, and is up for eight Academy Awards. Is it gratifying to know the movie meant so much to people who were not so closely connected to the story?

BRITELL: My dream is always to make things people connect with. That’s the joy — the sharing of creative work. The premiere of “Moonlight” at Telluride Film Festival last fall was incredibly exhilarating. All of us who worked on the project were so profoundly moved by the film and connected to it. And the “Moonlight” team has become some of my dearest friends.

GAZETTE: Did you focus on music and film during your time at Harvard?

BRITELL: I concentrated in psychology. I was always fascinated with connections between music and the brain. I took wonderful one-on-one tutorial classes, including supervised reading on neuromusicology. That’s something that’s been so illuminating in many ways for my career. I did take some incredible music classes, including “Music 51” with John Stewart. That class was spectacular. It was inspirational for me. We studied so much, and took an in-depth look at Bach chorales primarily. In the final project, I wrote a tango for piano and violin. It was really special getting the chance to perform it. I still remember that being an influential moment.

My dear classmate and friend Nick Louvel ’03, who tragically died a little over a year ago, was the first person who ever said to me, “Have you ever thought about scoring a film?” He was a brilliant film director, and it was a truly formative experience for me to work with him. We made a film called “Domino One” during our years at Harvard. Although the film was never released, I wrote almost three hours of orchestral music for it from 2001 to 2003.

During college, I also played extensively with the Witness Protection Program. I had taken a year off after my freshman year while trying to decide if I wanted to be a concert pianist. After the year, I realized it wasn’t exactly the life I wanted. I really love collaborating with people, and being part of a creative team. When I returned from my year off — that’s when I joined the band. Being in the WPP was a fantastic experience. We were very serious and really thought about pursuing the band professionally. We toured a lot, playing all over New York, Boston, and other parts of the Northeast. We even opened for Jurassic 5 and Blackalicious. I wrote a lot of music for the band and played synthesizers and keyboards.

Harvard was really an incredible place to meet people who had similar artistic goals, things they wanted to explore. Certainly, my closest friends and collaborators I met at Harvard. Natalie Portman ’03 is dear friend and we met during freshman year. We’ve recently collaborated on many projects together, including recently on her feature-film directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”

GAZETTE: You were commencement speaker at Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, which you attended. Do you have advice for students today?

BRITELL: Many of the people I’ve worked with in the film industry I first met at Harvard, but a lot of musicians I collaborate with —including my wife, Caitlin, who is a cellist — I met at Juilliard. It’s such a blessing to meet all these people and to have the opportunity to form long-term friendships and artistic relationships from such a young age. It’s so important to really cherish those opportunities and moments together.

My main advice to students would be to let them know how there is no rulebook as to how opportunities come together. Things can seem very random. It’s really about being open to a lot of possibilities, like the experience I had when I first worked with Nick on “Domino One.” Over the years, I scored many short films all the time without really knowing where it would all lead. I was not planning too much. I just loved writing music for films.

Interview was edited and condensed.

Stuck in legal limbo

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When human rights clinical instructor Anna Crowe first began documenting the legal challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Jordan, she found a tangled system that put their lives on hold. Thousands of refugees, stuck in legal limbo, were vulnerable to risks ranging from statelessness to relocation to refugee camps.

In Jordan, Syrian refugees must register with the interior ministry to obtain identity cards, which allow them access to health care, education, work permits, and humanitarian assistance. But to obtain the cards, the refugees need to show their original Syrian identity documents, which many lost in transit. They are caught in a catch-22.

“In theory, everyone or most people should be able to get the card,” said Crowe. “But there are practical challenges refugees face, which means that tens of thousands don’t actually have those cards.”

Lack of documentation is an aspect of the Syrian refugee crisis that doesn’t grab the same headlines as the harrowing scenes of people rescued from the rubble of a bombed city or drowned in the Mediterranean while fleeing to Europe. But the consequences for stranded refugees can be crippling.

Without legal status in Jordan, some refugees live in fear on the fringes of society, risking poverty and exploitation, or even deportation back to their war-torn country. If they don’t have documents that authorize them to leave a refugee camp, they’re stuck there. If they do leave camp without authorization, they cannot obtain work permits or access public health services or move freely. Especially vulnerable are Syrian refugee children who lack birth certificates, and are at risk of becoming stateless.

“Documentation is the gateway to a variety of human rights, rights to health, education, nationality, and so on,” said Crowe, who teaches at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School (HLS). “But by and large, documents give refugees a feeling of safety, a recognition that they’re allowed to stay there, and a proof of who they are.”

Crowe, LL.M. ’12, traveled to Jordan with HLS students in 2015 and 2016 to document the situation for two reports done in collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council, a major humanitarian organization. Launched last November in Amman, the second report urged the Jordanian government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to come up with new policies to regularize the legal status of the undocumented Syrians.

Of 515,000 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR as living outside refugee camps, more than 370,000 have obtained identity cards from the interior ministry, but around 145,000 who should have the cards do not. An additional 17,000 refugees who have left the camps without authorization cannot be eligible to obtain identity cards.

There are too many obstacles for refugees to prove their legal status and not enough pathways to mitigate their plight, said Crowe.

While working on the report, Crowe listened to refugees’ stories. One family was stopped by the police and separated when the father was sent back to a refugee camp because he lacked documents. A pregnant woman used her sister-in-law’s documents to give birth in a hospital and received a birth notice under her relative’s name, placing the mother in a precarious legal situation. And if refugees are exploited or are victims of a crime, they may not contact the police because that could lead to deportation or being sent back to the camps.

Alexandra Jumper, J.D. ’18, one of the students who traveled with Crowe, said that working on the report gave her a close-up look at real-world problems. The report’s main contributions, Jumper said, involve mapping out the complex process for the refugees to obtain documents, offering recommendations, and putting human faces on the problem.

“The voices of refugees helped us explain the problem and the emotional and psychological toll that takes on people when you are in a country that is not your own, as a refugee, and you don’t have documentation,” said Jumper. “Maybe with this report, people might pay more attention to the refugee crisis and the way national policies can affect people’s lives.”

Anna Crowe will discuss her visit to Jordan and the resulting report on the plight of refugees on Friday (Feb. 24) at a panel called “Documentation in the Middle East Refugee Crisis,” to be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Wasserstein Hall 2012 at the Law School.

Why are there different “flavors” of iron around the Solar System?

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A scanning electron microscope image of one of the experiments in Elardo and Shahar’s paper that shows a bright, semi-spherical metal (representing a core) next to a gray, quenched silicate (representing a magma ocean). Image is courtesy of Stephen Elardo.

New work from Carnegie’s Stephen Elardo and Anat Shahar shows that interactions between iron and nickel under the extreme pressures and temperatures similar to a planetary interior can help scientists understand the period in our Solar System’s youth when planets were forming and their cores were created. Their findings are published by Nature Geoscience.

Earth and other rocky planets formed as the matter surrounding our young Sun slowly accreted. At some point in Earth’s earliest years, its core formed through a process called differentiation—when the denser materials, like iron, sunk inward toward the center. This formed the layered composition the planet has today, with an iron core and a silicate upper mantle and crust.

Scientists can’t take samples of the planets’ cores. But they can study iron chemistry to help understand the differences between Earth’s differentiation event and how the process likely worked on other planets and asteroids.

One key to researching Earth’s differentiation period is studying variations in iron isotopes in samples of ancient rocks and minerals from Earth, as well as from the Moon, and other planets or planetary bodies.

Every element contains a unique and fixed number of protons, but the number of neutrons in an atom can vary. Each variation is a different isotope. As a result of this difference in neutrons, isotopes have slightly different masses. These slight differences mean that some isotopes are preferred by certain reactions, which results in an imbalance in the ratio of each isotope incorporated into the end products of these reactions.

One outstanding mystery on this front has been the significant variation between iron isotope ratios found in samples of hardened lava that erupted from Earth’s upper mantle and samples from primitive meteorites, asteroids, the Moon, and Mars. Other researchers had suggested these variations were caused by the Moon-forming giant impact or by chemical variations in the solar nebula.

Elardo and Shahar were able to use laboratory tools to mimic the conditions found deep inside the Earth and other planets in order to determine why iron isotopic ratios can vary under different planetary formation conditions.

They found that nickel is the key to unlocking the mystery.

Under the conditions in which the Moon, Mars, and the asteroid Vesta’s cores were formed, preferential interactions with nickel retain high concentrations of lighter iron isotopes in the mantle. However, under the hotter and higher-pressure conditions expected during Earth’s core formation process, this nickel effect disappears, which can help explain the differences between lavas from Earth and other planetary bodies, and the similarity between Earth’s mantle and primitive meteorites.

“There’s still a lot to learn about the geochemical evolution of planets,” Elardo said. “But laboratory experiments allow us to probe to depths we can’t reach and understand how planetary interiors formed and changed through time.”

Worms farm germs: Discovery illuminates complex natural relationships

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Worms farm germs: Discovery illuminates complex natural relationships

A common roundworm widely studied for its developmental biology and neuroscience, also might be one of the most surprising examples of the eat-local movement. Princeton University researchers have found that the organisms have a sure-fire method of ensuring a steady supply of a bacteria they eat — they grow their own.

The researchers reported Feb. 9 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, carries a food source, the bacteria Escherichia coli, along with it as it tunnels through the rotting fruit and soil in which the worms and bacteria both naturally dwell. The bacteria adhere to the worm’s sticky skin when the roundworm crawls through a bacterial patch.

Studying this activity in petri dishes, however, the researchers discovered that the worms do more than simply take their meals to go. As the worms pushed through a gelatinous medium they dropped bacteria along the way to create thriving new colonies of E. coli that the worms would later return to “harvest” and eat.

“It can really be best described as primitive farming,” said co-author Sravanti Uppaluri, who serendipitously noticed the worms’ agrarian tendencies as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton and is now at Azim Premji University in Bangalore, India.

In a series of experiments, the researchers explored the ins and outs of the interspecies relationship between the worms and the bacteria. They found that new bacterial colonies formed mostly because of E. coli being cast off the worms’ sticky, approximately 0.04-inch-long bodies. But some bacteria also passed through the worms’ gut alive and undigested, and were thus able to establish additional outposts.

To examine how this dynamic affected organism populations, the researchers compared normal roundworms with mutant worms whose skin is harder for the bacteria to latch onto. With the mutants, the stationary E. coli failed to spread and proliferate like they did in the presence of normal roundworms. With fewer bacterial crops to harvest, the population of mutant worms was smaller than that of the normal worms.

Experiments also included mixed populations of normal and mutant roundworms in the same dish. The mutants were observed to be freeloaders that exploited the bacterial chow provided by the normal-skinned farmers. The observation led researchers to speculate that in the wild, farming roundworms might also pay a survival cost. This is because harmful bacteria can likewise attach to the worms and ultimately kill them, highlighting a potential evolutionary tradeoff of farming versus traits for hunting-and-gathering.

The C. elegans worms and the E. coli bacteria are darlings of biology labs, ranking among the most-studied organisms in science. Their relatively simple systems function surprisingly like those of more complex organisms but are easier to study. Given the deep understanding of the genetics, physiology and behaviors of C. elegans and E. coli, researchers hope to use the newfound interplay between the creatures to gain critical insights into a variety of natural relationships.

“We anticipate that the ideas presented in our work will pave the way for linking the ecological and evolutionary dynamics taking place at the population level with the genetics and neuro-behavioral factors taking place at the level of the individual organism,” said Shashi Thutupalli, who worked on the project as a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton and is now at the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research in Bangalore.

Research topics beyond worms and their microbial prey could benefit as well. For example, the bacterial “sowing” by roundworms bears a striking resemblance to other dissemination processes in nature, such as seed dispersal and the spread of epidemics. Again, the ease of experimentally working with C. elegans and E. coli should give scientists a handy platform for testing out theories in these diverse fields.

“The experimental tractability of this worm-and-germ system will enable us to ask pointed questions,” Uppaluri said. “C. elegans has already been responsible for so many discoveries, especially in developmental biology and even neuroscience, and our study suggests this organism is going to open up many more avenues of research.”

“The really interesting observation, of how worms can carry bacteria around, started the whole project,” said Clifford Brangwynne, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, who is one of the paper’s authors. “It’s something very simple that countless researchers have probably seen but never really thought about.”

Jeff Gore, a biophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was not involved with the study, likewise noted the richness of the worm-bacteria interactions. “This study highlights that even the simplest of organisms can have behaviors that interact in fascinating ways with ecology,” Gore said. The study also “elegantly demonstrates that the beginning of ‘farming’ can be quite simple,” he said.

In addition to Brangwynne, Uppaluri and Thutupalli, Princeton researchers on the study included: George Constable, a postdoctoral researcher in ecology and evolutionary biologySimon Levin, the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Howard Stone, the Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; and Corina Tarnita, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The paper, “Farming and public goods production in Caenorhabditis elegans populations,” was published in-advance-of-print Feb. 9 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The work was supported in part by the Human Frontier Science Program, the National Institutes of Health, the Searle Scholars Program and the Simons Foundation.

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