The Decline and Fall of the Humanities Major
The Greeks did not bother themselves with debating the worth of studying their myriad fields of inquiry. The enrichment of the mind, and clear societal benefits such enrichment fostered, was sufficient justification alone. Apparently, such is not the thinking during an economic crisis in modern times.
Dovetailing closely with Stanley Fish's red flag in the Times last month on perils facing the humanities, the Books section warns readers today that a liberal education may soon fall prey to the economic crisis. Professional opportunities are evaporating across the board. The MLA noted a 21 percent decline in English, literature and foreign language jobs in 2008, and prospects outside academia are equally grim.
Universities, especially ones without bottomless endowments, are increasingly asking humanities departments to justify their "practical and economic value." In short, institutions must prove to society a much stronger link between their schools of arts and sciences (arts especially) and the benefit they can deliver to the American people.
An Association of American Colleges and Universities conference at Clark University in March will address precisely this challenge. Still, detractors say making such links is a needless exercise. Former Harvard President Derek Bok noted, "there’s a lot more to a liberal education than improving the economy. I think that is one of the worst mistakes that policy makers often make..."
So big thinkers, how can we address the real challenges facing the humanities? How do we emphasize the "practical and economic value" of a foreign language degree in a nation that is largely monolingual—or where many of the most lucrative professional opportunities in foreign languages are leveraged by the military where many humanists do not quite fit in? And how do we convince universities, the final guardians of humanities at the institutional level to produce, and pay for, more humanists?
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
It's a "canary in the coalmine," said one climate scientist.
- A team of researchers discovered that permafrost in Northern Canada is melting at unusually fast rates.
- This could causes dangerous and costly erosion, and it's likely speeding up climate change because thawing permafrost releases heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.
- This week, Canada's House of Commons declared a national climate emergency.
One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".
- Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
- Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
- A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Not every part of a satellite burns up in reentry. Considering the growing number of satellites in orbital space, that's a big problem.
- Earth's orbital space is getting more crowded by the day.
- The more satellites and space junk we put into orbit, the greater a risk that there could be a collision.
- Not all materials burn up during reentry; that's why scientists need to stress test satellite parts to ensure that they won't become deadly falling objects.
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