Good Neighbor Policy
Wont You Be My Neighbor?
The Washington Park Association was pleased to see the excellently written Good Neighbors article in the September issue. President Jacksons communiversity initiative is making a positive difference in the Washington Park neighborhood. Ive spent some time with new faculty members and their families discussing where they can live and work in Troy. Two years ago, they would not have even considered Troy, let alone the more urban sections of the city. The energy that new faculty and staff are bringing to Troy is being felt throughout the community. More importantly, the opening of lines of communication between the school and the city is breaking down the barriers to a fully integrated college town.
Just as the term communiversity is a blend of two words, the implementation of the concept is a blend of two worlds. WPA is excited about the progressive merger between RPI and its host city.
President, Washington Park Association
In the September issue we read the article Good Neighbors about Rensselaers Neighborhood Renewal Initiative aimed to enhance livability and foster economic development in the city of Troy. This interesting project, working directly with the neighbors, will make the City of Troy a better place to live, improving as an added bonus the architectonic panorama surrounding the campus, a well-deserved achievement for the [oldest] engineering university founded in the United States.
During our last visits to the area, we have seen the improvement and the tremendous change of the City of Troy. This initiative of President Jackson may well become a model for other universities. The hiring of Allison Newman [director of community relations] has complemented and amplified the vision of communiversity.
From the Venezuelan Rensselaer Alumni Association we are sending our sincere congratulations for this action of mutual benefits. We are sure the neighbors as well as other residents of the Capital Region will prefer living next to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Napoleón Ferrer 55
Norberto J. Díaz 71
Under Secretary, Venezuelan Alumni Chapter
Cloning Presents Ethical Debate
I was dismayed by Michael Wests position on stem cell research (Bioethics Battleground, September 2002). He is quick to divert our attention to the status of individual embryonic cells which he studies. These he avers to be less human than a dandruff cell, and one may well agree. And it is indeed true that the cloned embryo, from which these cells are harvested, is not the union of sperm and egg. But all this is a straw man argument, for the real issue is the status of the embryo, which is admittedly killed at the blastular stage of development.
Consider for a moment that all life on this world comes from previous life, this being a foundational principle of biology. Now certainly a newborn is alive; hence all its previous stages of development must have been alive, back to the original first cell. Consider next that every living thing must belong to exactly one species, for transmutation of species by one being is not possible in nature. Therefore, all previous stages of development of a newborn must belong to the same species as the newborn, i.e., the human species. Finally, this applies regardless of the method of fertilization and sustenance, since species are ultimately distinguished from each other by their genetic content.
Thus, it is correct to call the therapeutically cloned embryo a member of the human species. In truth, terms such as blastocyst and embryo are often misused to distance ourselves from these astonishingly young humans.
It does not matter that the egg was manually fertilized by poking a nucleus into it, nor that it later looked like a microscopic tennis ball rather than a person. What is crucial is this: does that egg carry the human genome in it? Yes. And the cluster dies when stem cells are later harvested from it. Hence, a human dies in the process.
But alas, these beings are completely disenfranchised from the human race. This allows many in government and in Hollywood to promote the killing of one human being for the healing of another. I hope Dr. West will reconsider this ethical monstrosity and discover a better solution to the problem of stem cell reproduction.
Luis Moreno 73
A Racing Phenom: Rensselaers Best!
Sprint car racing is witnessing a true phenom as it watches Erin Crocker 03 win races and collect finishing points in the Empire Super Sprints (ESS) racing series (Driven to Succeed). For a rookie driver to have a number of good finishes during a season is a sign of promise. For a rookie to win a race and finish well in several races in a series is an indication of considerable talent, beyond good racing luck. To have a rookie win as many races (five at last count!) and finish with as many points (sixth in the standings!) is truly rare, and a clear sign that someone very special has shown up in the sport.
Erin Crocker is excelling in a game of inches of separation between 650-horsepower, 1,300-pound machines that lunge forward with a touch of the accelerator and need inverted wings to keep from going airborne at speeds approaching 150-plus mph (220 feet-per-second!) at the end of straights on half-mile tracks. She is excelling in a sport where the room between winning and potential disaster opens and closes in hundredths of a second! Fearlessness borne of self-confidence, intense concentration, and lightning-fast reflexesbalanced by good judgment and intelligence in an unquenchable desire to pass everyone else on the trackare the traits of a winning race driver. Crocker has all these traits, plus poise, class, and a refreshing humility.
Rensselaer should be very proud of Erins winning ways; as a driver, as a young woman, and as one of our own!
Robert Messler Jr. 65
Associate Dean, School of Engineering
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
May the Force Be With You
Nothing so impresses one with the toll the years are taking as coming upon a technical term from the very first years of college and not being able to understand the sentence where it appears. I had this unpleasant experience when reading the interesting article on the Noahs Flood Hypothesis in your September issue.
The article describes research by Professor Abrajano, challenging the theory of other researchers who argued that the Black Sea had been flooded suddenly, about 7,500 years ago. According to your writer, they argue that the Mediterranean broke through the land and inundated the Black Sea with more than 200 times the force of Niagara Falls. No matter how I read this sentence, I cannot figure what it is meant to say. I thought I knew the meaning of force, one of the first concepts presented in elementary mechanics courses. But what could possibly be meant by the force of Niagara Falls? Perhaps there are other alumni, like myself, who would appreciate a little refresher on the concept of force.
John Hawley 70
In reference to the letter Another Canal Connection in the September issue: David McCullough to the contrary, Aniceto Garcia Menocal was not a civilian engineerrather, he was (as I am) an officer of the Navy Civil Engineer Corps.
I have to guess that McCullough was misled by the Naval terminology of the time. In those days, officers of the various staff (specialist) corps of the Navy were addressed by functional titles, rather than military titles. Thus, a doctor who was a member of the Medical Corps was Surgeon Jones and Garcia Menocal was Civil Engineer Garcia Menocal. They also had military ranks which determined their pay grades and seniority relative to other officers. The usage shifted around the time of World War I to designate them by military titles, with the identification of their corps appended.
The name Aniceto Garcia Menocal should be added to the long list of Rensselaer grads who served in the CEC, regulars and reserves. (In the Seabee battalion with which I served in WWII, of the 10 commissioned CEC officers who formed it in 1942, no less than three of us where RPI alumni.)
Mark Jordan 41
Captain CEC U.S. Navy Retired
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