Saturday, November 26

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Letters to the Editor

Call to theorists

The column "Drivers seat of a cadillac major" by Greg Ayres '99 (March 3), was so disjointed in its logic that a reply is necessary. Mr. Ayres states that all engineers can be divided into three groups: theorists whose "spasmodic arms write down silly equations all day," builders who chop off their fingers in the shop and designers like Mr. Ayres who are "interesting, engaging folks who desire to take a leading role in the advancement of society."


This statement is so silly, I wonder whether Mr. Ayres has actually been attending classes at Princeton. I have yet to figure out how to do any engineering without consulting the work of a theorist, nor have I been able to benefit from any engineering design without some builder (taking a break from maiming himself) to bring the design to reality.

If we are to be successful as engineers, indeed, as human beings in a group in any endeavor, we must use all available talents, whether or not they come from people whom one considers "groovy" individuals. Any other approach is foolish. If Einstein's theory of relativity does not convince you of the importance of theorists, may I call your attention to the Manhattan Project?

Mr. Ayres may look on it as the century's greatest congregation of scrawny geeks (Richard Feynman didn't even own a car at that time, let alone a car with personality) but the project stands as the beginning of the nuclear age. Whether it was an advancement for humanity or the beginning of Armageddon may still be within our ability to control, but I argue that its results stand as evidence of the power of the human mind. I pray that one day soon such an effort will be mounted with equal urgency in a peaceful and constructive direction.

If anyone doubts the vital importance of both theorists and builders, as well as designers, perhaps they could take apart the computer on their desktop or in their backpack and look at the integrated circuit inside – the physical realization of the work of millions of engineers of all kinds.

The advancements that engineers make today are achieved only by standing on the shoulders of the geeks who came before us. Faulty reasoning drives the decline in funding for theoretical and scientific work in our nation. Witness the recent closings, layoffs and planned dismantling of the Tokamac Fusion Test Reactor here at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, or the cancellation of the construction of the U.S. superconducting supercollider only a few years ago. Such shortsighted planning is driven by a population interested only in those inventions that will give them a more luxurious sport utility vehicle and better power windows.

How do you like this American drama: Our education system fails to prepare its students in basic science, math and English. Separately, Detroit gets lazy and sloppy, designing bigger cars for the gas-guzzling population.


Meanwhile, the Japanese are busy funding better engineering – theorists and designers together – and then use their superior engineering to kick Detroit right in the oversized seat cushions. Sound familiar? It seems to me that there is enough work to go around, for all kinds of engineers and scientists. Joshua Graver '98

Defending athletes

Thank you, John Kuhner. I did not realize I went to such a "seriously diseased and overrun university." I must be "caught up in an unending hymn of self praise." What a joke. Mr. Kuhner, I am just "talking about these things and taking sides." I am taking a firm stand against your nonsense about athletes ("The Crumbling Ivory Tower," March 3).

First, let me qualify this response by saying that I am a member of that "flood of unqualified athletes." So, if I don't make sense, it's because I am not on the same intellectual level as most of the people here, which helps to explain why I am not "deeply miserable" at Princeton.

Mr. Kuhner, how many athletes do you know? You seem to have a solid feel for our academic inabilities, but Mr. Kuhner you don't know me. For someone as enlightened as you it seems odd that you would apply a stereotype to hundreds of students here. Tell me, how am I "ill-suited and ill-prepared" for the work here?

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You deplore our student-athletes, yet the rest of the nation is holding up this university as a shining example of everything that is right with college athletics, thanks to our men's basketball team.

There are plenty of schools where your argument against athletes may be applicable, but I am not buying it here. Moreover, the work of athletic director Gary Walters gives us many other options beside "sloth and inebriation."

I can watch our women's field hockey team reach the NCAA finals, or go cheer for our defending national champion lacrosse team. But, aside from those teams, I can also root for the ones that don't get the recognition they deserve – the team's that may not be playing for an Ivy League championship, but rather for the love of competing. These players toil with little notoriety and yet have to deal with the scorn carelessly thrown at them by people like you, Mr. Kuhner. These are the people we should be applauding. These are the athletes who give their bodies and minds to this university.

Mr. Kuhner, there are too many things you simply do not understand about the athletes here. We are proud to be at Princeton. We compete in athletics and academics year round. It's not easy, but it's a challenge most of us rise up to.

Please do me and everybody else here a big favor, Mr. Kuhner. If, in this "series of oped pieces" that you plan to write, you feel the need to bash athletes, why don't you step away from your computer and go watch some of the people that are here "just to be put through a self-esteem grinder for four years."

Then "smile or make eye-contact" with them, and talk to them about what being an athlete means. Because I am a full-time athlete and a full-time student, I don't want to waste my minimal free time replying to your ignorant views. Danny Riley '00