The news of Jad Abumrad being selected as a MacArthur Fellow, the so-called “genius grant” in recognition of his accomplishments and his future contributions, was worthy of celebration. That defenestration reference led me back to that episode, which was a series of oddly connected sub-segments on the topic of Falling. I use the word odd at the same time that I think: these are clearly examples of structured relevance.
What’s more odd is the coincidence between the Jad news and the fact that I just recently had pulled out material from my doctoral dissertation that I had only looked at one other time since 1997. I pulled it out for the presentation I made to the students at Brown mentioned here. Some visual highlights of that presentation (more on my dissertation, which is more clearly linked to Seth’s post here, and this one too, another time) are in the slideshow above, and complement Radio Lab’s treatment of the same (cue up at just prior to the 35th minute of this episode if you can download it and listen to it on your own player).
Connecting a few other dots: the only other time I have looked at these photos was last year, when preparing my first lecture at Columbia University in preparation for the field course mentioned here. So there is something about the Niagara Falls story that seems to be speaking out recently. What is it?
While I think of that, another dot. I have followed the MacArthur Foundation’s annual announcement of their “genius grants” for many years. The genius part is fascinating, of course, but what keeps my attention year after year is that they choose people who seem to be good. Of course I do not know if they really are good, but I like the fact that they seem to be. I also like the fact that I never know anything about the people they choose, until they choose them. Jad is the first exception. But he fits the pattern of giving the sense of being a good person. Whatever it is, I hope the acknowledgement helps him keep it going.