Author Archives: Jennifer Shyue

Helping Readers Understand the Labyrinth of Social Security Benefits

Philip Moeller ’68

Philip Moeller ’68

A guide to navigating your Social Security benefits may not sound like scintillating reading, but Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Philip Moeller ’68, and Paul Solman rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list a few weeks after its publication.

The book helps people figure out if they are taking advantage of all the benefits to which they are entitled. “You have been forking over payroll taxes your entire working life; you deserve to get what you paid for; and it’s the law,” the authors write. Continue reading

The Princetoniana Committee: Keepers of Traditions Old and New

ptoniana-jacketsIf you’ve ever noticed the quotations rendered in large block letters on the walls of Frist Campus Center, watched a freshman Pre-rade and Step Sing, or viewed the Reunion and beer jacket exhibits in Maclean House, then you’ve experienced the handiwork of the Princetoniana Committee.

“The Princetoniana Committee is focused around the history and traditions of Princeton, familiarizing people with those and constructing traditions as they go along,” said former committee chair Gregg Lange ’70. “One reason we do that … is to give people a sense of belonging, a sense of import, and a sense of context to what they’re doing and why.”

More than archivists, members of the Princetoniana Committee are actively contributing to the University’s traditions. Just 11 years ago, the committee inaugurated the Pre-rade as a way to welcome freshmen to the Princeton community. A few years later, the committee added a Step Sing on the steps of Blair Arch after the Pre-rade as a way to ensure that freshmen knew the words to “Old Nassau.”

According to current chair Sev Onyshkevych ’83, the Princetoniana Committee was founded in 1981 after the death of Frederic Fox ’39, who was the University’s recording secretary for 17 years and earned the title “Keeper of Princetoniana.” Fox’s classmate Hugh (“Bud”) Wynne established the committee under the Alumni Council as a way to continue Fox’s work in preserving Princeton traditions.

“What one person did, we now have a committee of 40 doing,” Onyshkevych said. Continue reading

Einstein and the Nazi Scientist Who Hated Him

Bruce Hillman ’69

Bruce Hillman ’69

Germany in the first half of the 20th century often is associated with the Nazi movement that ultimately ravaged the country. In the world of physics, however, it had become a battleground for opposing schools of thought: One side embraced experimental physics, which was based on the work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton and driven by the scientific method; the other believed in theoretical physics, which revolved around theories that sometimes were untested experimentally and was grounded in the work of Albert Einstein.

For Philipp Lenard, the recipient of the 1905 Nobel Prize for physics and an adviser to Adolf Hitler, the conflict between experimental and theoretical physics was personified in his hatred for Einstein. In The Man Who Stalked Einstein: How Nazi Scientist Philipp Lenard Changed the Course of History, Bruce Hillman ’69 and co-authors Birgit Ertl-Wagner and Bernd C. Wagner recount the events that led to Einstein’s rise, his rivalry with Lenard, and his eventual self-exile from his homeland, bringing to life the “smoldering, personal cold war” between the two men. The book’s publication coincides with the 60th anniversary of Einstein’s death. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Sarah Sherman ’08, Studying Earth From Space

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

Sarah Sherman ’08 (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dutch Slager)

When the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite launched smoothly on Jan. 31, Sarah Sherman ’08 had cause to celebrate. As the mission’s launch-phase lead at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Caltech-managed NASA center in Pasadena, Calif., Sherman was in charge of putting procedures and contingency plans into place, as well as executing dress rehearsals of the launch.

SMAP uses the radar and radiometer it has on board to gather soil moisture data, which can be used to monitor droughts, predict floods, and improve weather forecasts, among other things. Sherman is now doing operations for the satellite, which involves being on console as a systems chair and overseeing the 90-day commissioning phase that precedes the beginning of the three-year science, or data-collection, phase.

Perhaps that seems like a lot of responsibility for someone who hasn’t yet hit 30. In reality, however, Sherman has been working on SMAP for almost seven years, since the summer after she graduated from Princeton. Before that, she worked in the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a Caltech research fellow analyzing wind models of Titan and developing control algorithms to steer a hot air balloon in its atmosphere. Her next project will be as a mechanical engineer on the Sample Caching System of the Mars 2020 Rover. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Actor, Musician Valerie Vigoda ’87

Valerie Vigoda in 'Ernest Shackleton Loves Me' (photo by Jeff Carpenter for ACT Theatre, Seattle)

Valerie Vigoda ’87 in ‘Ernest Shackleton Loves Me’ (Jeff Carpenter for ACT Theatre, Seattle)

Ernest Shackleton Loves Me, which stars Valerie Vigoda ’87 and is now playing at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, has an unusual premise: Kat, a blue-haired video game composer and single mother, has been when for 36 hours when Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer famous for keeping his entire crew of 27 men alive for nine months after their ship Endurance sank in Antarctica, travels across time to reach her. Vigoda, who sings and plays her Viper electric violin as Kat, also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the show with her husband and partner Brendan Millburn.

“I’m passionate about all the work that I do and that I have collaborated on for the past many years,” she said. “But for me, this might be the one I’m most passionate about.”

Part of the reason is the nature of the story. Ever since she saw a museum exhibit about Shackleton’s harrowing adventures in Antarctica, Vigoda has been “sort of obsessed” with the explorer, she said. For her, the musical is “a combination of this inspiring story and the resonance of this modern character.”

Unlike Kat, Vigoda did not have blue hair or tattoos before she slipped into her role. She now embraces the head turns when she walks into a space. In addition to the musical, Vigoda is working on a solo album called Just Getting Good, which was fully funded through Kickstarter in the fall. Continue reading

Names in the News: Allen ’93 Nominated for PEN Award; Scheide ’36, McPhee ’53 on N.J. Hall of Fame Ballot; More

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Danielle Allen ’93 (Laura Rose)

Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, by DANIELLE ALLEN ’93, has been named a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. Our Declaration is a line-by-line commentary on the Declaration of Independence and an analysis of its contents. The ultimate winner of the award, which is available for nonfiction books of “notable literary merit and critical perspective” published in 2013 or 2014, will receive a prize of $10,000.

In a podcast for the scientific journal Nature, astrophysics professor NETA BAHCALL speaks to Kerri Smith about having her and her husband John Bahcall’s wedding rings travel to the Hubble Space Telescope. John Bahcall, who played a major role in the launch and maintenance of the Hubble, died in 2005. In 2009, astronaut John Grunsfeld traveled to Hubble for its final servicing mission, and he brought with him the couple’s rings as a way of honoring John Bahcall’s important contributions to the Hubble project. Continue reading