Two suicides to summer news
By Dave Watt
The suicides of two undergraduate students topped the news
on campus this summer. Other prominent stories included the Justice Department's antitrust suit against MIT, and the continuing controversy over cold fusion.
Edward B. Hontz Jr. '92, who lived at Zeta Beta Tau over the summer and at Senior House last year, died after falling from the roof of Building 66 on the evening of June 4. He left no note, but Head of Student Assistance Services Robert M. Randolph said there was some indication Hontz had been depressed. Hontz, a 21-year-old computer science major, was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, on June 12.
Douglas P. Rodger '93, who studied electrical engineering, died June 20 from carbon monoxide poisoning while in his garage at home in Harvard, MA. Initial reports held that Rodger, who was 20, died accidentally while working on his car, but his death was later ruled a suicide. Rodger's father wrote an angry letter to President Charles M. Vest decrying what he called MIT's "insensitive and uncaring" response to Rodger's death.
Overlap Group trial
proceeds in Philadelphia
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Philadelphia denied MIT's request for a change of venue in the antitrust suit against MIT for its participation in meetings of what has been called the Overlap Group of universities.
The members of the Overlap Group, which include the Ivy League schools, exchanged financial aid information on admitted students in an effort to offer similar financial packages to students admitted to several of the schools.
MIT asked for the trial to be moved to the US District Court in Boston, saying that such a move would decrease the time and expense of the trial.
In May, the Ivy League members of the Overlap Group except for MIT signed a consent decree in which they agreed not to exchange financial information.
MIT believes its activities were within the confines of the law. "We do not believe that our practices violated the antitrust laws," Provost Mark S. Wrighton said. "Our interest all along has been [in] providing the maximum amount of financial aid . . . in a way that allows students of modest means to have the kind of education that we offer."
Mallove resigns over
cold fusion controversy
The News Office's chief science writer, Eugene F. Mallove '69, resigned in June to protest what he saw as MIT scientists' "unethical" handling of the cold fusion controversy. Mallove has requested that MIT begin a formal inquiry into the Plasma Fusion Center's handling of data acquired by their scientists trying to verify or debunk cold fusion.
Mallove charged that PFC researchers "massaged" data Mallove viewed as ambiguous to make it appear that cold fusion was not occurring. He has sent a formal request to Vest to investigate the matter.
Mallove further claimed that an article he wrote for Technology Review supporting cold fusion was blacklisted from publication on the recommendation
of Institute Professor Emeritus
of Physics Herman Feshbach PhD '42, who opposes cold fusion. Mallove's book on the cold fusion controversy, Fire from Ice, was published just a few months ago.
In his book, Mallove argues that cold fusion is real, and that the controversy over cold fusion are in part the result of vested scientific interests, such as scientists who study high-temperature fusion, being unwilling to share their financial resources.
University of Utah Professors Martin Fleischmann and B. Stanley Pons first announced the discovery of cold fusion at a press conference in Salt Lake City in March 1989. They claimed to have seen gamma rays and heat emitted from an electrolytic cell containing hydrogen and palladium, in quantities much greater than could be explained by chemical reactions.
The announcement caused a flurry of attempts all over the world to replicate the results. Some of these experiments were able to replicate some of the effects of Pons and Fleischmann's original experiment, while others failed to do so. These mixed results have led many fusion experts to question the original experiment and deny that cold fusion could ever be usable for power generation.
Mallove will continue to work for the MIT Writing Program, where he is a lecturer.
Hurricane closes Institute
Hurricane Bob, which roared through Boston on Monday, Aug. 19, broke windows and knocked down trees, but otherwise caused no major damage on campus. Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci declared a state of emergency that morning, asking that workers throughout the state be sent home.
Most of MIT's staff left by 11 am, except for some physical plant workers and many graduate students. Damage from the hurricane was much heavier along Cape Cod and in the southern Massachusetts coastal town of Falmouth.