04.11.13 VOL. XLIV, NO. 21
The Indy is unzipping its genes (and eagerly awaiting the release of the Sex Issue). Cover Design by ANNA PAPP
CONTENTS FORUM 3 Numbers or Letters 4 A Double Life 5 Pluralism NEWS 6 Spitting out SNPs ARTS 8 Testing the Waters 10 Science in the Darkroom SPORTS 11 From Right Field to Left Brain 12 Digging Your Anatomy
Destination of the week... Giverny
President Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Director of Production
Angela Song '14 Christine Wolfe '14 Sayantan Deb '14 Miranda Shugars '14
News and Forum Editor Arts Editor Sports Editor Design Editor Associate News Editor Associate Forum Editor Associate Arts Editor Associate Design Editor
Whitney Gao '16 Curtis Lahaie '15 Sean Frazzette '16 Alex Chen '16 Milly Wang '16 Kalyn Saulsberry '14 Sarah Rosenthal '15 Travis Hallett '14
Illustrator Designer Cartoonist Photographers
Anna Papp '16 Jerry Chang '16 John McCallum '16 Maria Barragan-Santana '14 Tarik Moon '15
Business Manager Albert Murzakhanov '16 Senior Staff Writers Michael Altman '14 Meghan Brooks '14 Whitney Lee '14 Staff Writers Xanni Brown '14 Terilyn Chen '16 Clare Duncan '14 Gary Gerbrandt '14 Travis Hallett '14 Shaquilla Harrigan '16 Yuqi Hou '15 Cindy Hsu '14 Chloe Li '16 Orlea Miller '16 Albert Murzhakanov '16 Carlos Schmidt '15 Frank Tamberino '16 As Harvard College's weekly undergraduate newsmagazine, the Harvard Independent provides in-depth, critical coverage of issues and events of interest to the Harvard College community. The Independent has no political affiliation, instead offering diverse commentary on news, arts, sports, and student life. For publication information and general inquiries, contact President Angela Song (president@harvardindependent. com) or Managing Editor Sayantan Deb (managingeditor@ harvardindependent.com). Letters to the Editor and comments regarding the content of the publication should be addressed to Editor-in-Chief Christine Wolfe (editorinchief@harvardindependent. com). For email subscriptions please email president@ harvardindependent.com. The Harvard Independent is published weekly during the academic year, except during vacations, by The Harvard Independent, Inc., Student Organization Center at Hilles, Box 201, 59 Shepard Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Copyright ÂŠ 2013 by The Harvard Independent. All rights reserved.
disciplinarians Scientifically Speaking By CHRISTINE WOLFE
A great man once said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Science is the way to know the incredible. I’d like to say I concentrate in science for some reason other than an undying love for Carl Sagan, astronomer and educator, but suffice it to say that I do. I don’t plan on going into research or attending medical school, though giving students a background in those fields is certainly one of science’s strongpoints. I concentrate in science because, as Sagan so elegantly puts it: “Science is much more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking. This is central to its success. Science invites us to let the facts in, even when they don’t conform to our preconceptions.” The scientific method allows us to know truth, in its purest sense, as best we can. We can know the makeup of the world and the makeup of ourselves. How could you keep yourself from that knowledge? I’ll tone down the exaltation. Maybe you’re more concerned with having to do math than having access to the universe’s most profound truths. One of the most fantastic elements of science is Plutonium — that and the ability to walk between the organic, the behavioral, the physical, and the mathematical. Not only will exposure to all of these fields guarantee you access to a number of post-graduate positions in health, research, business, law, education, and the like, but it rigorously challenges the way in which we as students can translate thought into action — experimental or technological. And I only have to take two math classes. I could go on about post-grad employers’ confidence in undergraduate science degrees, but we all know that already. The great thing about studying science is that, no matter how dumb you are, people think you’re a genius. But what about people who are interested in something outside research or med school? It’s true that science can be challenging, but when you’re in a supportive, academic setting, there are people to explain things to you that will change the way you see everything. I can read the great literary canons on my own and get a lot out of them with only a few classes in formal literary training, because I understand what it’s like to have feelings. I would never have bought a science textbook and taught myself molecular biology. I know that I, having studied science, now possess a background in something dynamic, something evolving, and something that will, as time goes on, change the way we live our lives. I’m going to end with another Sagan quote, because he was one of the most beautiful people who ever lived. Sure, he believed in aliens and liked smoking weed, but he saw the world as a true scientist sees it — with an excitement and appreciation for the wonders of the universe that lead to an unyielding curiosity. “In the last few millennia, we have made the most astonishing and unexpected discoveries about the Cosmos and our place within it, explorations The Harvard Independent • 04.11.13
that are exhilarating to consider. They remind us that humans have evolved to wonder, that understanding is a joy, that knowledge is prerequisite to survival. I believe our future depends powerfully on how well we understand this Cosmos, in which we float, like a mote of dust, in the morning sky.” Christine Wolfe ’14 (crwolfe@college) occasionally, most days, every second of every day wishes her homework were reading made-up stories. But the knowledge, you know?
Pre-Unemployment? By SEAN FRAZZETTE
“What are you concentrating in?” “Literature, so I’ll be taking mostly English and Russian courses.” “Oh…then…what do you want to do?” And thus begins almost every conversation with every person about my college choices. What do you want to do: the question that every humanities concentrator must be sick and tired of. People have labeled our type as pre-unemployment. They have scoffed at our studies of the theoretical, the cultural, the literary. But I stand by my choice to study Literature — a concentration where my only goals are to read books and to learn a second language. Why do I stand by my choice? Surely I do not have a pre-med path or some scientific route into the business or research world? No, indeed, humanities degrees may not have clear-cut pathways into the work force. I may not have a job lined up as a research assistant in some laboratory or a path to medical school. No, humanities aren’t even as closely tied to the work force as social sciences, some may say, which lead directly to public policy, human resources, and being one of those “good people.” But humanities is not for naught. The next three years here, I will be taking fourteen courses in which my job will be to read great works of English and Russian literature. I will analyze cultural changes across the world as found in the development of their arts. Others will study comparative religions, the development of philosophical beliefs, and the cultural stories told to the young. And these students will begin to understand people — not the genetic make-up or the chromosomal functions or the insert–scientific–term–I–will–never–understand–here — but the fundamental differences of people on a personal and cultural basis. We will read books, watch movies, scan artwork, and see how different media affect different people. We do not always claim to know what we want to do with this knowledge. Some do, some don’t. But we know that our four years, three years of concentration, in, well, humanity will be an enriching academic process of connection. People of different cultures will become closer as we travel throughout the world, engaging in a language once unknown, a culture once misunderstood, and a perspective once unseen. With these thoughts in mind, be sure to keep in mind the humanities,
from Classics to Visual and Environmental Studies. (And we promise, the label of “pre-unemployment” should retain a meaning only in jest and not in reality. Careers will be available. I hope.) Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college) wants to be a journalist. Or a teacher. Or a lawyer. Or a businessman. He just wants a house, okay?
Like Science, but with Friends! By XANNI BROWN
As a senior in high school, I told my parents I would be attending Harvard University, and this news was received joyously and spread immediately to the very furthest branches of my family tree. A couple years later, I returned home for Thanksgiving as a sophomore and announced that I would be concentrating in Social Studies, expecting a similar, if slightly muted, fanfare. I was told that was nice, but I should really be concentrating in all my classes if I wanted to do well, and didn’t I finish up with social studies in fifth grade? I hastily explained the confusion, but noticed no significant upswing in enthusiasm. Which exactly are the “social” sciences? Was I sure I didn’t want to be a doctor? Despite having to constantly explain that my degree does not apply exclusively to teaching middle schools, I love being in the social sciences. Due to the exposure to and basic formal training in economic principles included in my social studies education, I can tell you that being in the social sciences maximizes my individual utility. Furthermore, I am prepared to contend that I’m at Pareto Efficiency, because I wouldn’t trade my concentration for the world! Were I to undertake a sociological analysis of the social sciences here at Harvard, I could diagram the openness and support of the social studies network, as well as accurately characterize the strong ties that bind us together. Similarly, it would take years of careful ethnographic study in order to come up with a sufficiently thick description of the ways in which studying anthropology brings you to a fuller understanding of peoples and cultures across the globe. Since “philosophy” literally means “love of wisdom”, it would be a tautology to point out that we social studies majors not only love what we study, but are ultimately all the wiser for it. The social sciences combine the best of scientific rigor with the fun of studying things we actually care about. And if that isn’t enough to convince you quantitative folks, just look at the numbers: both of the biggest concentrations on campus fall squarely under the social science umbrella, as do a high number of the runners up. You don’t have to be Aristotle to understand that here at Harvard, the social sciences are the good life. Xanni Brown ‘14 (afsbrown@college) wanted to work more social studies puns into this piece, but she was a-Freud they’d stick out at weird Engels. harvardindependent.com
Best of Both Worlds A clinical case of artistic fervor. By WHITNEY GAO
pon driving into the Yard about eight months again, my heart had been set on being the most fervent Life Sciences concentrator you had ever met. About two days in, I learned that was not to be the case — I do not even come close to having the accomplishments and resources half of these STEM children do. But, nonetheless, I was still pretty decided on being pre-med and MCB. After all, that’s what everyone does, and if it’s good enough and works for most people, it sure as hell is good enough for me. But, of course, my life had other ideas. I had taken Art History in high school and really enjoyed it. This feeling was reinforced on our senior trip to Italy, where I had the opportunity to experience everything in person — it was infinitely more powerful. If I had to pinpoint one moment on that trip that really drove this passion of mine home for me, it would be when I saw the Michelangelo’s David. The David, which is an incredibly intense and intimidating figure on its own (17 feet high and composed only of marble), was initially placed in the Palazzo della Signoria, a public square in Florence. However, in 1873, the statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence and a replica took its original space in the square. Despite the obvious presence it would have had in the square, isolating it and moving it to the Accademia Gallery really dramatized the entire experience. You leave the room before entering the space where the David is, and enter into a cooler and slightly dimmer space. You turn your head to the right in order to proceed down the hallway, and you’re instantly struck with a sighting of the massive sculpture. Then, as you walk down the length of that hall, the statue looms larger and larger until it encompasses your vision and you finally have to tilt your head back. Can it get more awesome than that? No, because I’m a huge nerd. Last fall, I took HAA1 on a whim and because it conveniently satisfied a GenEd
requirement. For any of you who don’t know what HAA stands for, it refers to History of Art and Architecture. Yes, it is a concentration here at Harvard. No, you are not the only person unaware of this. I’ve had this conversation many a time. It amazes me the lack of presence the HAA department has on this campus. It has some of the most amazing classes and offers its students some of the greatest resources. That’s the story of my art history experience. And thus far, it has lead me down an interesting road — interesting enough to have lead me to concentrate in it. Surprisingly enough though, I haven’t felt encouraged to leave the life sciences either. I’m still pre-med, and I’m quickly checking the requirements off my list (I have yet to fully tackle Orgo, so I’ll get back to you on the status of that). Biology still fascinates me to no end, and still have a passionate desire to enter into the medical field. However, given the brevity of my time here at Harvard, I would also like to entertain the idea that I won’t spend my entire life in Lamont. At this point, you may be confused with my choice. Why would I choose to study art history if I want to go to medical school at the end of my four years? Trust me, my parents had the exact same thought, so I’ll attempt to explain it here also. First, I only have four years at Harvard. So people should just leave me alone and let me study what I want to. On a more serious note, weighing the pros and cons of the situation has led me to conclude that I’m satisfied with my decision. Though there is much potential knowledge to be gained by concentrating in the life sciences, which would make the beginning few years of medical school much easier, I am not afraid of working hard. If I were, I most definitely should not be wandering down the road to being someone’s physician. Also, it should be noted that much of the more advanced science you might learn here is not completely applicable to medical school curriculum. And they most certainly do not benefit you greatly on the MCAT — many upperclassmen have noted that all the organic chemistry you need to know for the exam is learned in the first few weeks of the year-long pairing of classes, and the rest is all knowledge that is helpful but not tested. Second, concentrating in something other than biology or chemistry does not make it infinitely harder to being admitted to medical school. Whether it actually makes it easier to get into medical school is up for debate. A 2012 Forbes article noted that 51% of humanities applicants are accepted to medical school, while 43% of biological sciences majors and 47% of physical sciences majors are accepted. And medical colleges are currently seeing a shift in admissions to desiring more wellrounded applicants, one source of which is humanities majors.
Third, I need some venue to stay sane. Someone recently said to me that, “Being pre-med isn’t about what classes you take or even whether you want to go to medical school in four years — pre-med is a lifestyle. You are definitely not pre-med.” Now, honestly, I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult. But what I do know is that I do see a difference between myself and what you might think of as the “typical pre-med.” You know, the kind that warrants a knowing eye roll followed by an “Oh, you’re pre-med.” Regardless of the feelings I have on that issue, I would agree that I am not a typical pre-med student. I’m not concentrating in Molecular and Cellular Biology or Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology. I’m not in Lamont long enough to see the sun rise every morning. Caffeine has not become part of my bloodstream. And I’m not going to stress about the difference between a 95 and a 96. If this describes you, I completely commend you. You clearly have much more emotional, mental, and physical tolerance than I do. I have all of my residency to be sleep-deprived and run ragged; until then, I think I’ll stick with Expos as my primary source of anxiety. But the bottom line is that there is just too much to learn. Nothing is useless. Many may think that studying humanities offers nothing for the scientific disciplines, and vice versa. I, however, feel differently. While admittedly being a good doctor does rely on a foundation of scientific specialty and precise knowledge, it also involves being able to work with people and think critically in areas that do not fall under the umbrella of science. There is a reason the humanities are named as they are — there is an emphasis on humanity itself instead of just human anatomy, which a 2010 article by Tarina Quraishi drives home. The ability to think of issues in a broad context instead of narrowly or in only a scientific context can offer its benefits. Whether HAA itself specifically can be applied to medicine, in ways other than knowing how the architectural construction and interior design of a building can affect patient mood and the general atmosphere and flow, is debatable. However, the lessons I have learned in the few humanities classes I have taken have definitively shaped my understanding and approach to the sciences. And the overlap goes both ways. From the sciences, I have learned to be succinct and direct. From the humanities, I have learned to be considerate and openminded. Plus, I have the rest of my life to acquire adequate knowledge, practice medicine, and dedicate my life to providing care for those who need my help. For now, though, I’m off to the Museum of Fine Arts between studying for Orgo exams. Whitney Gao ’16 (whitneygao@college) is really excited for the Michelangelo exhibit coming to the MFA at the end of April. 04.11.13 • The Harvard Independent
My Life on the Edge
Navigating concentrations at the crossroads between the Humanities and Social Sciences. By MEGHAN BROOKS
he Comparative Study of Religion, its undergraduate handbook writes, “draws upon social scientific and humanistic methods in order to interpret religious phenomena worldwide…it is a diverse, creative field in which scholars talk across disciplinary boundaries.” That’s understating it. The concentration’s methodological diversity is so vast that the Committee on the Study of Religion regularly holds events that attempt to explain what, exactly, scholars of religion do. This Advising Fortnight, the Committee found itself explaining its methodology oftener than usual for the benefit of curious freshmen. Tuesday night, the Committee held a panel on religion and ethnography. Last night, a panel called “Locating the Study of Religion” attempted to trace the common threads running through the field and distinguish Religion from the disciplines it draws from. And tonight, the concentration invites freshmen to a tea to discuss the “practicality” of a field that is simultaneously obscure and all encompassing. Such is the plight and privilege of a field that has one foot in the social sciences and the other in the humanities — and Religion is hardly the only Harvard concentration that mixes its methods. African and African American Studies, any permutation of area studies, and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, among other fields, are marked by their very unmarkedness, their willingness and need to appropriate the methodology of literary studies, anthropology, political science, sociology, history, philosophy, psychology, and anything else that suits their purposes. A given Comparative Religion paper might draw from ethnographical research, quantitative data from a bias study, and the close reading of an eighteenth century Sufi text; any given Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations concentrator might be taking classes in the departments of Linguistics, Government, and Anthropology simultaneously. While these fields’ flexibility is what makes them work, for undergraduate concentrators the lack of direction can be frustrating and The Harvard Independent • 04.11.13
confusing, and can lead to false starts and abrupt stops as one favorite methodology is displaced by another. In the Study of Religion, at least, our professors and the scholars we read are not just in the field of “religion.” They are sociologists of religion, philosophers of religion, experts in jurisprudence, specialists in South Asia, political scientists who happen to focus on religious conflict, and theologians. The sophomore tutorial is spent introducing new concentrators to the diversity of the field. The junior tutorial, held individually or in pairs, is spent focusing on the student’s favorite element of it. But how to choose? As a second semester junior with a thesis proposal due next week, I have spent my time in the concentration jumping back and forth over the line between the humanities and the social sciences in my field, falling in love with each method when I encounter it, and always wondering if the grass is indeed greener (or more fulfilling, or more useful, or easier) on the other side. I began by approaching Religion through literature — deep textual and historical analysis of poetry and fiction in particular. I had been good at English in high school, and like many freshmen began my college career, trying to replicate my high school one. After a summer school program in literature in France I decide to pursue secondary in the field, took the sophomore tutorial, and fully expected to spend the rest of college discussing epiphany in James Joyce and pain in the poetry of John Donne in the language of religious ecstasy. I perused the Journal of Religion and Literature, and wrote a junior paper on the creation of a Nation of Islam womanist theology in the poetry of Sonia Sanchez. As much as I enjoyed religion and literature, however, I felt myself more naturally drawn towards classes that allowed me to debate and discuss religion in my communities and in national discourse. I was particularly interested in fighting religious discrimination and promoting pluralism, and realized that social science work would be the best
avenue towards approaching this goal. I took courses in religious pluralism and evangelical Christianity in the United States as “electives,” and yet I found myself imagining theses focusing on political and sociological topics. I thought I was dabbling in the social sciences side of Comparative Religion; instead, I was crossing over, switching methodologies and finding myself in a concentration that suddenly felt unfamiliar. As I moved into courses in government and sociology I was expected to have an academic vocabulary I had not previously encountered, and to produce work similar to what I had read but very different from what I had ever written. It was my junior year, but in some ways I felt like a freshman again. Quickly, however, I began to recognize the common threads that run through Religion as a field. I began to see textual analysis in ethnographic work on the communication efforts of young Islamists in Egyptian cities and the political science behind some of the articles I had read for background while I was working primarily in literature. I had originally believed that, like the professors in the Committee, I had to find my specialty and stick to it. However, I found that by crossing over from a primarily humanistic approach to Religion to a primarily social scientific approach, I was actually better able to appreciate the field as a whole. At the moment, my project is finding a way to integrate the analytical methodologies I practiced in literature into what will be my social scientific thesis on the effects of “American civil religion” on the political participation of Muslim Americans. The beauty of my concentration is that such methodological integration is entirely possible, and I, along with the other scholars in my field, will continue to intermarry the humanities and the social sciences to produce the rich, multi-faceted scholarship our field allows us to create. Meghan Brooks ’14 (meghanbrooks@college) is looking forward to reading religious blogs like they’re Pushcart Prize novels. harvardindependent.com
23andMe: Still Waiting The genetic information service is fun and interesting, but its results need to be understood in context. By TRAVIS HALLETT
n many ways, the future is upon us. Science fiction is rapidly becoming science “fact” or science “possible,” and where there’s money to be made, there is most certainly a startup company looking to offer services. Enter: 23andMe, an online service utilizing the same techniques of molecular biology that were, until recently, too expensive for use in non-research avenues. Simply spit in a tube, mail the sample to the office in California, and, approximately eight weeks later, gain access to the analyzed results of thousands of data points extracted from the cells in your saliva. The findings can range from ethnic heritage all the way to the oft-sensationalized risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. While 23andMe does provide an interesting and informative service to the public, it relies on the public’s ignorance of science, a lack of understanding that can lead to harmful misinterpretations by those who fall victim to tabloid science. But, it’s important not to mistake 23andMe for a gimmick. When I heard that the price of their kit dropped to $99, I knew the time had come, and had the little pink and green box in which I would find my spit kit rush delivered. One of my favorite things in life is when scientists organize things because they tend to do it correctly, and the folks at 23andMe certainly delivered – the box I got in the mail also served as the return box with postage prepaid. In it was a small tube for the saliva sample, which takes just a few minutes of intense cheek sucking to fill it up. A small cartridge deposits a buffer solution into the sample — not unlike what I would use in the lab I work in — for preservation until it is processed. Following these instructions, my box was ready to head back to California a few minutes later, beginning the waiting period that can best be estimated as a couple of months. In the meantime, two things happen. On the West coast, the contracted lab workers for 23andMe use some pretty standard lab techniques to extract DNA from cells in the saliva, make 6 harvardindependent.com
copies of it, and analyze it using a proprietary kit. On the East coast, I answered a seemingly endless list of survey questions from every possible physical trait to educational and ethnic backgrounds to personality tests. With such a huge data set from its customers, 23andMe works to find correlations between survey responses and genetic information. Two of their findings include the observation that cilantro tastes like soap to some people and back hair patterning. While 23andMe does not go to lengths to deceive the public about the scientific merits of their service, the average member of the public could easily be confused into believing 23andMe diagnoses or predicts the future, especially when considering the seriousness of many of the health factors for which they test. 23andMe claims to estimate probabilities of several physical traits of their customers. For starters, there are drug sensitivities, such as to the commonly used anticoagulant, Warfarin. They estimate chances of developing Type II Diabetes, agerelated macular degeneration, and hundreds of other conditions including the heavy hitters, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. While it is true that 23andMe will estimate the probability of one of their customers developing these conditions, it is important to understand the limitations of the accuracy of this service and of today’s science. 23andMe does not sequence your genome because such a process is still too expensive for the consumer market. Instead, they determine the value of approximately one million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are variances in a single data point of your genome that have been correlated with the different traits that 23andMe studies. SNP analysis does not determine what genes or alleles someone has, but merely whether they have a SNP that correlates with a certain gene or allele. It’s a correlation at best, and often it isn’t even that strong.
One million SNPs may sound like a lot, but that sample is about 0.0003% the size of the entire human genome. Granted, using DNA sequencing to determine definitively that which SNPs seek to correlate would not require knowing all three billion nucleotides of the human genome, but even that would not drastically reduce the vast error and variance that 23andMe analysis inherently involves. In fact, not even sequencing the entire genome would bring us closer to a reliable method of estimating the probabilities of the traits that 23andMe wishes to analyze. Still exotic in the most cutting edge science laboratories, deep sequencing of the human genome, in an attempt to not only know the code but to understand it, would yield results just as unreliable. The emerging field of epigenetics can tell us more about what the genome does and how it acts than just sequencing can, but again, the reliability of these estimations would still be questionable at best for a very simple reason. First, and most importantly, is that while a look at someone’s DNA can tell you their eye, hair, and skin colors, disease risk is a very complex trait that involves both genetic information, which is not completely elucidated even in the most well-studied diseases, and environmental interactions. The relationship between these is not well understood, particularly as it regards the details of specific diseases. While environmental risk is hard to quantify, everything that science has discovered has determined that all of this is more complicated than we are yet able to grasp. So, an increased or decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease that 23andMe can tell you is based on the correlations they know exist, but the real underlying cause is as much a mystery as ever. It may well be that Alzheimer’s should be renamed “aging.” 23andMe is comprised of scientists who know all of this, but also of people who don’t, like businesspeople with dollar signs for eyes, and the website is a reflection of this. They do not
intentionally mislead, but they are indeed fast and loose with the science. Either way, it would be irresponsible to take any information learned in such genetic tests to heart, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t without merit. I knew all of this when I purchased my kit — that any data I receive is likely unreliable and should not be the sole cause of any life changing decisions. It is to everyone’s benefit that those with increased risk of Type II Diabetes should choose to eat healthier, but it should not be out of fear. It could be helpful to inform your physician if you have increased Warfarin sensitivity if that drug is being considered. And it’s important to not live in fear of the prospect of a 100% lethal, not survivable disease without a single treatment that makes any difference at all, like ALS, because, remember, the data are likely inaccurate and the individual experience serves as a source of infinite variables. On the other hand, learning where my maternal mitochondrial DNA estimates my ancestry, receiving various confirmations of what I already know because of my family background, and knowing whether I like cilantro despite what my genome indicates, are fun and interesting personal applications of science. It’s pretty amazing that this technology, which was still groundbreaking while we were infants, is now available for anyone to experience on a personal level. Everyone could use some more science education, and this is a really cool way to help. A man much wiser than any of us, the late Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University, Stephen Jay Gould, might say, “Contrary to current cynicism about past golden ages, the abstraction known as ‘the intelligent layperson’ does exist in the form of millions of folks with a passionate commitment to continuous learning.” Travis Hallett ’14 (travishallett@ college) is still anxiously awaiting his 23andMe results.
04.11.13 • The Harvard Independent
23and…Me? The Indy interviews Dr. Bill Anderson.
By ANGELA SONG
or many scientists, direct-toconsumer genetic testing services like 23andMe are fascinating toys and fountains of information. Dr. Bill Anderson is a Senior Lecturer and Advisor for the Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentration here at Harvard, and he recently did the basic spit kit to analyze his DNA. Working in stem cell biology, a field that moves incredibly quickly and constantly outdates itself, he is quite familiar with both the realistic capabilities of genetic testing today and the potential ethical concerns of the future. AS: My first question is, why genetic testing? BA: I always thought it was very interesting when I first heard of these services coming out. I’m one of those types of people — you know, sometimes people will ask if you were going to die tomorrow would you want to know or not — a lot of people say no, but I’m one of those people who wants to know. I always had a curiosity, as a scientist I’m just curious and want to know things. I held off because when it first came out it was pretty expensive and then their prices dropped considerably and I thought, well, this is pretty fun. I’ll try it. It’s clear that this isn’t genetic determinism: it doesn’t tell you for sure that something will happen. It helps in the following way. I have a family history of glaucoma. My eyesight is fine, thankfully, but I did 23andMe and sure enough, what comes up is that I have a higher than average risk for glaucoma. I think the nice thing about this is that it kind of reaffirms for me that I better take my eye exams seriously even though I despise going to the eye doctor, but it’s something I should do. So I think it helps a lot. I’m also at high risk for certain types of epithelial cancers, so if ever I had the desire to smoke, by knowing that information — if on my own I didn’t have the willpower to do it — this is a good reason not to do it. So I think it has its usefulness. AS: I guess that combination of knowing that it’s not determinism and the fact that you’re one of those people that wants to know if you’re going to die tomorrow, it wasn’t difficult for you to decide that you wanted to do this. I know that some people are on the fence for a while. BA: I think because at first when it came out people were really nervous — what if insurance companies find this out, am I going to be discriminated against. But it’s my understanding that there are laws now that protect you if you have genetic testing done, that you can’t be discriminated against. So I don’t feel that pressure. And again, especially because The Harvard Independent • 04.11.13
it isn’t absolute. AS: I noticed they split the categories, so are you more interested in ancestry or health? BA: Kind of a bit both, although honestly, I looked at health first, that was the peak of my curiosity. AS: Coming from a strong scientific background with a good knowledge of what’s feasible and what isn’t at this point in time with genetic data, do you believe that the image 23andMe is projecting to the general public is overly optimistic in terms of what they can “predict,” or do you think they are pretty realistic in stating what they can do? BA: I think it’s definitely not something advertised in commercials or anything, so I think, if I were to guess, most people that opt to do it are people who either have an interest in their genetic background, or — I don’t even know if the lay public might even realize these services exist. You hear some news reports about them, especially when they first came out, but it’s not flooding the media. AS: And now that their prices have dropped considerably and they’re a bit more available to people that might have a passing interest, maybe some scientific investment in it... BA: I know a lot more of my friends now who have done it, simply because the price dropped, and again, because they’re curious. It’s kind of like a scientist’s way of going to a fortune teller — you know the fortune teller’s not going to tell you what’s going to happen, but it’s fine. It’s kind of an interesting — and I think on the website, I thought they did a decent job of explaining — because there’s one part that would just give you how many times above average you are at risk of disorders, and then you can click on it and in some cases it gives you references and tells you why they came up with that number. And I think it’s also nice that for some of those diseases, you have to do some additional clicks before they give you that data. You really have to want to know this. Some have argued should companies really be doing this, that shouldn’t you access your results in the presence of a genetic counselor. I don’t know the right answer to that question because for me, I didn’t have a huge emotional response when I saw my data. But I can imagine that maybe some people might be a little freaked out. But I think they do a pretty good job. AS: Also coming from a scientist’s perspective, how do you think you interpreted the data differently than the average person would? I know you mentioned that given your scientific
background you know it’s not determined or set in stone, and personality-wise you’re the curious type. BA: Mostly, I was trying to figure out how they came up with their analysis. So I was a lot more in tune with the mechanism. The other weird thing is, on the ancestry side, people who are closely related to you can contact you. I got some odd emails.
that maybe they have 0.5 times the risk of developing certain types of cancers that are screenable when individuals get older, but they don’t use that to stop doing any preventative care. You would hope that they wouldn’t say, okay, I’m at a lower risk for colon cancer, therefore I won’t get any colonoscopies in my older age. I would hope that this wouldn’t happen.
AS: Yes, they can contact you! So it’s like weird social networking. BA: So that part to me was the most freaky. Granted they can’t see that I’m Bill Anderson in Boston, but there’s somebody in the Boston area who’s related to you, and that’s kind of weird. So I didn’t respond to any of those emails. But otherwise I found it a lot of fun to go through all the data.
AS: And I suppose as 23andMe gets more data and they continue to update the surveys, is there anything that you think that they might be able to uncover that really hasn’t been done? BA: So I think what they’re trying to do is pair up with research universities. You as a user have the option to participate in research, where you would allow them to use your data for genome-wide association studies. In some cases you might have to answer a couple more questions, but for genetic studies, this is great. The nice thing is you get demographic information about the individuals, so you can really compare looking for different types of polymorphisms associated, so I think that just by people doing it, they’re going to get a lot of information about different types of markers used to screen for diseases and such.
AS: Do you think that newer consumer services like this help to educate the public or play to the public’s ignorance about science? BA: I would hope that people are not using this as genetic determinism. I would hope that if they did, if they were freaked out about something, that they would talk to a doctor and someone would explain to them that it’s not how it works. It is on the site but some people might be a little freaked out by it. I think that some of the harms that could come out of it is if someone realized that they’re not who they are through the ancestry data. That could lead to awkward conversations, you know, if someone’s adopted or things like that. Especially if their family does it as well, and there’s ways to be able to link to other people on the site. What I would hope that this process would do is instill an interest in genetics in the public. It would be nice if they said, wow, so this is why the human genome project was such a big deal back in the 2000s and got so much coverage. Or, oh, this is why when people talk about personalized medicine on the news, I never understood what that meant — things like that. So I think it’s an amazing educational tool if the information is conveyed the right way to the public. AS: What’s the most interesting thing you learned about yourself that maybe you didn’t know before or maybe confirmed something? BA: The glaucoma thing in particular, because I’m very freaked out about the eye. So it’s kind of like you have to suck it up. I don’t like getting my eye pressure checked, but it’s something I have to do. Also, it means nothing in the real world. Knowing that you’re at a lower risk for certain types of diseases, again, I would hope that in those cases people would see
AS: Do you think tests like this will become routine in the future? And do you have any concerns about that? BA: A lot of people thought about that when these services first came out. Does this mean that when you go to get your yearly physical, one of the things they would do at some point in your life is to sequence your genome and have it in your chart what they should be looking out for? I’ll look at it as the glass being half full. I think that having this data, especially if you could link this with having a particular SNP makes you respond to a particular drug for certain treatments better. I’m all for having more information available there. I would say that eventually, I can see this being an important part of medicine. We’re still a while away, but it’s kind of fun to think about. I think eventually we’re going to come to a time where everything about your medical record is going to be on some type of computer. That was a huge deal, you know, moving from paper to electronic medical records. And now there are tools like genetic information that can really aid in treatment. I don’t know how or at what point doctors will be able to look at this stuff for help, but I don’t think this is 100 years away. Angela Song ’14 (angelasong@college) is gene-uinely excited to see where the future will take us.
Photo of a grape by Tony Cho VES Concentrator ’14 who is interested in art and biology
Two Worlds Together Where art and science intersect. By ELDO KIM
am by no means an art connoisseur. Although my girlfriend drags me to art museums and underground art exhibitions, I tend to default to simple judgments of “complex” works of art. The woman in Mona Lisa is not that attractive. The Starry Night looks like an advanced work of finger painting. I am absolutely positive that Pablo Picasso was dropping acid when he drew the Guernica. But I’ve recently been fascinated with a movement in the art world that has been gaining momentum, one that integrates art and science. It builds a bridge between the right- and left-brains, allowing even the most ignorant viewers of art to understand the themes and intents behind the artwork. Artists, some who majored in subjects ranging from hematology to biochemistry, draw inspiration from scientific disciplines to establish the contexts in which their artworks take form. For example, bilateral symmetry in multicellular organisms is often used in art design as a form of pattern. If you think about Leonardo da Vinci and his drawings of anatomy of the human body, the collaboration between art and science makes perfect sense. Considering my illiteracy in all things art, I am more interested in what this movement means for the world of art and science in general. The majority of students are not interested in everything from mathematics to postmodern philosophy. While Harvard does endorse a comprehensive liberal arts program, most of my friends have developed a tunnel vision on the few areas of academics that they truly love to learn about and study. It is uncommon to see pre-med students in an advanced philosophy class about Jacques Derrida’s concept of deconstruction. Understandably so. Most concentrations require the student to heavily use only one side of the brain in favor of ignoring the other. The movement to merge science and arts into one collaborative project is an innovative way to emphasize the importance of giving equal weight to Credit: Speak Out Loud all fields of study. forces Graduate students to explore fields that they would not be Courtesy of the HarvardIt University School of Education 8 harvardindependent.com
motivated to explore otherwise. Because students do not have to study two entirely different fields independently, learning may be accelerated. It can also provide a new perspective for seeing traditional subjects. Drawing a golden stag beetle can allow the student to learn about anatomy in an intimate and creative fashion. Understanding how human muscles precisely move can help artists draw human expressions much more realistically. The real-world benefits of such a movement can be seen in James Balog, a professional photographer who combines the art of photography with the scientific study of glacial patterns. By highlighting the issue of global warming and melting glaciers through the creative lens of art, the message can reach a larger audience, especially those who have no interest in sifting through endless pages of numerical data about glacial patterns. The intersection of science and art can also be seen on Harvard campus. Several Visual and Environmental Studies students have taken it upon themselves to take part in the movement in their own individual projects. The Lab Cambridge is an upcoming art and design center that seeks to invest in ventures that establish an interactive relationship between science and art. I do not think that it is critical for us to dip into every subject imaginable and learn equally from them. Such an effort, while certainly having good intentions, would be inefficient and quite impossible. However, I do believe that students, in their academic careers, ought to explore all they can while they can. They should not be stubborn and refuse to go beyond their self-set interests. I may not know the deep meanings behind Piet Mondrian’s colorful squares, but I should at least give it a try. Eldo Kim ’16 (eldokim@college) thinks Carl Sagan and Bob Ross would have been wise to team up.
04.11.13 • The Harvard Independent
Riding that Big Blue By CHLOE LI
The Indy interviews Hey Ocean!
was lucky enough to snag the funny, quietly charming band members of Hey Ocean! — Ashleigh Ball, David Beckingham, and David Vertesi — for an interview just before their fantastic concert on March 31st in Cambridge. Sitting in a dark corner of a small, empty bar, Hey Ocean! lit up the stage with their genuine love of performing and down-to-earth humor. CL: First things first: how’d you guys meet? AB: David [Beckingham] and I met in the fifth grade – my sisters tried to set us up; they put mascara on me and dragged me over to the Beckingham house and shoved me in the basement with Dave. At the time, Dave was watching a TV show. DB: I was really more interested in hockey at the time! [laughter] AB: After that, Dave moved to Kenya for a few years, came back, and we ended up going to the same high school. CL: How did you first start making music together as a band? DB: Ash and I were both living in Victoria, British Columbia at the time, and there were some local open mics together. We both liked some of the same bands and liked harmonizing together, so we had a couple shows with a lot of acoustic guitar and vocals. AB: At first I just sang harmony on Dave’s songs, and I started getting into songwriting around the same time, so we started playing together. Hey Ocean! didn’t really start until we met David V. at one of those shows, and he picked up the bass. DV: I asked, “Do you guys need a guitar player?” and the answer was no, so I said, “Do you need a bass player?” even though I didn’t own a bass… AB: Yeah, Dave basically learned the bass the next day for us. CL: What’s the dynamic in your group like? DB: Dave [Vertesi] was the driving force when we first met him. DV: But at this point, we know what each other likes to eat, how they like to eat it, who they smell, how they sleep. DB: And their dirty secrets! CL: What genre do you consider your music a part of? AB: I always say “indie pop,” but I don’t know if we’re indie anymore since we’re signed to a label – but I think the word “indie” has always changed. There’s definitely a folk element to our songs as well. DV: We like to call it “classic pop,” but it’s hard to say because “pop” has changed into a different meaning now – I mean, The Beatles and Paul Simon were pop – they were writing popular songs with hooky choruses. You just want to write something that is meaningful to people and to yourself. CL: Tell me about the songwriting process in the The Harvard Independent • 04.11.13
band. From beginning to end, how is a song created? AB: It’s different every time. We each write individually. DV: But we also write together; what she means is that for every song there’s a different process. It’s every combination; sometimes it might be me and Ash, or Dave and Ash, or me and Dave, or it might be one of us individually. Every song has a different story. CL: One of my favorite songs of yours is “Big Blue Wave.” Can you tell me about how that song was written? DB: [Dave V] and I wrote it in my loft. DV: I’d had some riffs and ideas, and we were writing for the [IS] record at the time. Our manager suggested we work in the vein of that song, and we were trying to write this pop song and it was tough. We ended up having some internal battles during recording, with our producers and ourselves; there was a lot of finding ourselves as a band and as individuals. Actually, that was the process that helped us finish the song. AB: Lyrically, that song reflects a lot about where we were as a band. DB: It’s kind of like an autobiography of our band, and what do we do in this time of unknowns. DV: It was us tackling the issue of taking music very seriously; it was the challenge the producer put before us and the one we put in front of ourselves. The song starts with “I know all we do is mess around/but I know it’s love we found.” It’s meant to say that we’re all just having fun with this, but we all believe there’s more to it, and if you want to make it work you have to put your back into it. CL: What artists do you listen to? AB: Joni Mitchell, a lot of folk music – I just got a really amazing Emmylou Harris CD the other day! I think we all really love this group we saw at SXSW in Texas, HAIM, three sisters from LA. We love a lot of Canadian artists, too, like Arcade Fire, Half Moon Run, and We Are the City. DB: Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel. DV: We’re a band, so answers to that question will never end. We love music from almost every genre. CL: Where do you draw inspiration for lyrics? DB: Sometimes you just have to say what you’re thinking. I remember once I was working with David [Vertesi] and I was telling him, “This is what I want to say in the chorus,” and Dave said, “Why don’t you just say that?” DV: I remember one of our managers telling me on one of our songs, “Give,” “Just say what you mean,” and that’s when I wrote, “What are you waiting for? Reach out and grab her” in that song. Even bands, like Radiohead, where Thom Yorke has said, “I’m not saying anything; I’m saying the words that feel right with the music. It’s still the same concept, the concept of being genuine with the lyrics – whether
it’s genuinely this is what I feel like saying because it feels right, or this is genuinely the meaning that I’m trying to get across. DB: Jay-Z says it pretty amazingly: “I opened the door and then I got it.” If you’re in the right place, a song comes to you like a message. It’s not like making up thoughts no one’s thought about before, but sometimes these words hit you like a freight train. If you just don’t censor yourself, they’re the best songs. You’re almost turned off; it’s this beautiful stream of consciousness. DV: Even though it sounds cheesy, when you’re just singing from your heart, all of a sudden the record falls into place, and you’re kind of wondering, “Wow, why didn’t I think of this before?” AB: Songs come from experiences, missing lovers on the road, and, for me, from dreams. CL: What’s the big message you want people to take away from your music, or from one song? AB: Positivity! DV: We’re trying to inspire art. We’re trying to inspire others and ourselves, whether it’s a sad love song or a happy dance song or anywhere in between, you just want people to be inspired. DB: But I think [the inspiration] is the effect. I don’t think we go into it and try to inspire that; I think we just really enjoy good songs, and that’s the effect they have. If we’re singing something and it feels amazing, then we’re winning – and if other people think it’s amazing too, we’re double winning. DV: Sometimes it’s just about the three of us playing together, and it’s amazing because the harmonies are amazing or the lyrics are sad and beautiful, and you love it, or you can’t stop dancing. Whatever that emotion is, we want to share it. CL: What’s one amazing thing that’s happened to you as a band recently? AB: Gene Simmons called me when we were in Australia – I thought it wasn’t real at first and my manager said, “Ashley, pick up your phone!”So we really got in contact with him and played a showcase for him in Vancouver. He took us out to dinner for something like five hours [laughter]. DV: I think our Juno nomination is a milestone. You need to learn to appreciate the successes you have and be grateful, but you need to keep working and stay focused. CL: If you weren’t playing with the band today, what would you be doing? DB: I’d be an IHOP consultant…not really, I’m kidding. [laughter] I’d probably do something in tourism, become a dive instructor, maybe a guide – that’s what I went to school for. AB: I’d be a marine biologist and be in the ocean all the time. Or I’d be a full-time voice actor. DV: There’s a lot of other stuff I like doing, but the thought of not being in music kind of makes my brain melt. I think I’d still be involved in it in another form. Chloe Li ’16 (chloeli@college) suggests you check out Hey Ocean!’s newest album, IS, for dance-party-inducing songs such as “Big Blue Wave” and “I Am a Heart.” Photos by Curtis Lahaie harvardindependent.com
Photo by Yuqi Hou
Photo by Yuqi Hou
At the Middle East Hey Ocean! plays Upstairs.
By YUQI HOU
he concert last Sunday (March 31st) at the Middle East Upstairs might be summed up best by one eager member of the concert audience who exclaimed at the end of the second opening act, “I didn’t come for you guys, but you guys are awesome!” While awesome is too strong a word to describe the bands that played at the Middle East Upstairs last Sunday night, this astute concert-goer did get the sentiment right: though most people in the audience came just for the headliner, Hey Ocean!, the opening acts We Are The City and Closer Than We Appear were energetic and earnest. None of the bands that night had a spectacular presence, but the music is worth checking out if you like bands like Arcade Fire and Two Door Cinema Club. The venue at the Middle East Upstairs is intimate, appearing half full with fewer than 25 people standing around, waiting for We Are The City to come on. More people filtered in throughout the night, so that by the time Hey Ocean! came on, the room was fairly full with at least 50 people in the audience. We Are The City hails from Vancouver and won a hefty prize from a 2009 talent-search contest sponsored by a Vancouver radio station. Their set lasted for less than half an hour and featured songs with heavy drum beats and a tempo that just seemed a little off-beat in a way that wavered between interesting and unsettling. They were much more charismatic when lead singer Cayne McKenzie spoke to the audience or when all three members of the band, Andy Huculiak on drums and David Menzel on guitar, bantered before leading into “Dark/Warm Air.” While the three band members were thrashing their heads violently in time with each beat of that song, the crowd stood back, less enthused save for two or three audience members who started fist pumping towards the end of the set. The band had better luck with their song “Happy New Year,” which got most of the room clapping. Closer Than We Appear came on at 9 p.m. with all four male members wearing black and white suits and the fifth, a female singer, in a black dress. 10 harvardindependent.com
Their formalwear set them apart from everyone in the audience and the band that preceded them. They looked like they had just arrived from a high school prom, and in some respects their look was on point. Closer Than We Appear was the second band of the night to have been a finalist in a battle-of-the-bands talent search competition. In 2012, Closer Than We Appear was a finalist in the 2012 SchoolJam USA Battle-of-the-bands contest sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants. While Closer Than We Appear had a more upbeat and rock-tempo set than We Are the City, the latter band threw more energy into their songs. Closer Than We Appear members ended up playing their instruments while standing in a line formation for most of the songs; they played technically more enjoyable songs but had less of a presence. The highlights of the set were when the lead singer grabbed a bag of band T-shirts, CDs, and a few personal mixes curated by the lead singer with names like “Real Gangsta Talk,” He then proceeded to toss tens of goodies out into the audience. The song highlights of their set were “Great Expectations,” which lead singer Gabe Goodman mentioned was one of his favorites, “Let’s Go Camping,” and a cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” The band closed on a brand new song “It’s Not Bad, Being Alone.” Hey Ocean! started a little after 10 p.m., though they’d been stirring excitement in the crowd since the beginning of the concert. In addition to the core band members — Ashleigh Ball as lead singer and flutist, guitarist David Beckingham, and bassist Dave Vertesi — the band also had John Andrews on drums that night. The band kicked off their set with “I Am A Heart.” After the first two songs, lead vocalist and flutist Ashleigh Ball thanked the audience for coming and admitted that this was the band’s first time visiting Cambridge. The third song, “Change,” was introduced by Ball as the story of a “one-sided relationship.” The song had Ball playing the tambourine and all the band members jumping on stage in time to the beat.
After “Change,” the music shifted more towards a jazzy tone with a rendition of “Fish,” another song about the ocean and needing water, which is becoming a stronger and stronger theme in their work, a fact we were reminded of when they transitioned from “Fish” to “Islands.” They’re taking their name very seriously in their lyrics, and with Ball’s Hawaiian dress, the songs feel too literal. At this point, Hey Ocean! invited the audience to sing along to “Islands.” The highlight of the show came after “A Song About California” when Beckingham revealed that Ball’s birthday was that day. Someone Ball knew handed her a shot of whiskey that Ball took one look at and after protesting was goaded into drinking anyway. A second highlight of the night was the band’s announcement that they had a camerawoman who would be filming the crowd as part of a music video for their song “Make a New Dance Up.” “You’re going to be in our music video,” she told the crowd, and everyone jumped around, dancing even more energetically than before. The band even included samplings of “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” by C&C Music Factory and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston. As the song built up momentum, We Are The City joined Hey Ocean! on stage and began dancing with them. The band ended with a chill rock cover of Arcade Fire’s “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” followed by a clear crowd favorite: “Big Blue Wave.” Overall, Hey Ocean! got the audience the most hyped up. None of the bands that night had a spectacular presence or particularly distinctive sounds. However, it was a chill, fun concert. Hey Ocean! is good to see live, and their album IS is worth a listen. We Are The City is skip-able, but their album High School is a better listen. Closer Than We Appear are better live, but still not that memorable. Yuqi Hou ’15 (hou@college) has been to better concerts. 04.11.13 • The Harvard Independent
Baseball: Statistics 101
Illustration by Anna Papp
How America’s pastime has drifted from humanity to a science.
By SEAN FRAZZETTE
aseball season is upon us. Grab your glove, a ball, a bat, a bag of sunflower seeds, some hats and pinstripes, and enjoy the pastime of our country. Once upon a time, baseball was art. It was the imperfect practice of hitting a round ball with a round bat. If you could do that three times out of ten, you were good. Pitchers threw all they had, and if they left the game with a lead and few runs given up, they were good. Simple. Once upon a time, baseball was a historical tale. The greats were iconic names: Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Lou Gehrig; the list goes on. Kids collected cards of these men, idolized their artistic magnificence on the field. The plays they made were works of beauty. The iconic point of Babe Ruth and pressing question of his motive makes every baseball fan smile. The running, behind-the-back catch of Willie Mays before tossing out the tag-up runner at first base was athletic, striking, breathtaking. And Jackie Robinson’s stealing of home, right under the glove of everyone’s favorite quote book Yogi Berra, was a piece of art. Once upon a time, baseball was a cultural movement. Images of Robinson and Reese, standing arm around the other, edging on racial unity for the country, moved much of the country to tears, as equality — for a moment — did not seem so far off. The Harvard Independent • 04.11.13
On a much smaller level, Ken Griffey Jr. flipping his hat backwards during the homerun derby spiked a trend that resulted in the youth of America doing the same. Once upon a time, baseball was a literary tale. Gehrig’s address to the crowd upon retiring due to his fatal illness is considered to this day one of the greatest and most heartbreaking speeches delivered by an American. Meanwhile, the quips and remarks of the aforementioned Berra have become almost clichéd in today’s society as parts of our daily dialogue and satirical sayings. Baseball was a humanity. It had art, history, culture, and literary magnificence. It was more about the people and less about the numbers. But now, baseball is a science. Starting in the early 1990s, and gaining steam in the twenty-first century, Bill James and an army of statisticians coined the term sabermetrics, as baseball became a game for the Nate Silvers of the world to decipher complex formulas and numbers and formulate bold predictions based on the formerly ignored. Baseball is now a statistics class, aimed at figuring out who the best players are, not by watching and enjoying the art, but by calculating obscure numbers like Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Total Player Rating, and Range Factor. To the average baseball observer,
these words mean nothing. But to the format of the game — they mean everything. The concept of Moneyball engaged a nation with Michael Lewis’s book and the subsequent movie narrated the impact of playing behind sabermetrics. Teams now look for players with good Ultimate Zone Ratings (UZR) and that have strong On Base plus Slugging (OPS). The concept of watching a player, and acknowledging the beauty of his swing, the fluidity of his fielding, and the power of his fastball has left the field. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. On the contrary, the revelation of which statistics project greatness and which are only average predictors of success is clearly beneficial to the development of America’s pastime. Teams with less money can now find ways to compete through statistical analysis. Teams with more money, on the other hand, can better utilize the money in the acquisition of players that will do well in the ways necessary to win. In the end, sabermetrics is probably a net positive to the game of baseball. But what is now lost from the game is the mystical feel of our pastime, found in the greats who once played the game. Sure, we still have legends. But even those are diminished in some respects. Take Derek Jeter, for instance. Many call him one of the greatest players to wear a uniform.
But now, through advanced statistics, picking him apart for his below average UZR (which, in case you were wondering, measures the amount of space a fielder can cover). With sabermetrics, names like Ben Zobrist are thrown into the conversation as some of the most important players in baseball, while the Rays’ utilityman sports numbers that wouldn’t strike any onlookers as otherworldly. The art of the sport is mostly lost, as the scientific backing for greatness is what many now look towards, rather than the intuitive feeling of watching good players play a sport. This is not supposed to be a bitter, nostalgic rant against a movement that may indeed be improving how we think about baseball as a sport. Baseball is still America’s pastime. It is imbedded in the past, present, and future of our culture. That being said, it’s still worthwhile to embrace the beginning of spring and the sport the starts with it. Just know that it won’t be what your parents and parents’ parents were watching. Sean Frazzette ’16 (sfrazzette@college) tries not to think too much about numbers. They hurt his head. harvardindependent.com
Anatomy of the Athlete HMV’s genetic disposition for success. By SHAQUILLA HARRIGAN
fter a loss to the Princeton Tigers one month ago, the Harvard Men’s Volleyball (HMV) team was out for revenge last Friday when the two teams met again. HMV played an impressive game, winning three out of the five sets. This win secures the Harvard Men’s Volleyball team’s spot in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association’s tournament later this month. During the game, outside hitter DJ White ‘15, opposite hitter Nick Madden ‘14, and middle blocker Caleb Zimmick ‘15 lead with the highest number of kills. After the amazing win, Madden said it felt “awesome” and that he was “incredibly happy.” Chris Gibbons ‘14, a libero, gives more details on why the win means so much to the team: “We have this big rivalry because they are the only other Ivy League men’s volleyball team.” Gibbons went on to say, “We’ve been playing better volleyball in the past month.” After the game, the team won the coveted Ivy League Championship Trophy that is traded off between the two rivals.
Watching the game, it was obvious that the Crimson would defeat Princeton. There were several instances of epic athleticism, including Gibbons jumping over a row of chairs in an attempt to rescue the ball and middle blocker Kyle Rehkemper knocking over a Princeton player with his formidable serve. These athletic feats are evidence that the men that compose HMV are genetically pre-disposed to be superior to those toothless-tigers. Compared to the Princeton squad, HMV clearly had more musculature. They exercised their right to bare arms and worked the short-shorts. In addition, HMV never took their heads out of the game and participated in continual warm-ups, unlike Princeton, who just appeared to gossip with each other during the time-outs. On the mental aspect of the game, Madden noted, “I don’t really get nervous. I get really motivated and pissed.” Spiking the ball into Princeton territory served as an outlet for his aggression. After much observation, one can note that several key parts of the anatomy set the members of the
men’s volleyball team apart from the average male. One must note their impressive height. Other features of the men’s volleyball team are their broad shoulders, defined calves and quads, and bulging biceps. Madden prides himself on his shoulders the most because “for volleyball, they are functional muscles.” He also says, “Strong legs and calves, a tall skinny frame,” are trademarks features for a volleyball player. In particular, liberos, who are defensive specialists need “quickness and must be able to react,” according to Gibbons. “It’s crucial to have good forearms. The platform is key for passing.” In addition to having innate volleyball skills, the Harvard men’s volleyball team boasts an amazing fan base. As someone great once said, behind every amazing athlete, there are always dedicated fans. At this game, fans 600-strong came out to support HMV. The components of what makes an amazing fan base can be broken down into several key parts. First, there must be someone at the helm, leading the masses to perfectly timed chants. The captain of the fan
boat at this game was Bob Clemens, father to outside hitter Branden Clemens ‘16. Organizing “Let’s Go Harvard” chants, explaining the ins and outs of volleyball, and amping up the crowd, Mr. Clemens took his job very seriously. In fact, he was the leader of the entire Clemens Clan. An amazing fan base is not complete without a sarcastic group of hecklers. On the mezzanine and in the stands, Harvard supporters wittily voiced their disdain for Princeton. The group of hecklers even had two men dressed as birds among their ranks. And one of these furious fowl may or may not be an editor at the Indy. And at the end of the day, the team, through a perfectly functioning anatomy, dominated the smaller and quieter Tigers. To sum up the point, Madden closed with why he thinks Harvard is better than Princeton: “Sexy abs and great flow.” Shaquilla Harrigan ‘16 (sharrigan01@ college) may not dig volleyballs, but she sure does dig the boys that play.
SERRATUS ANTERIOR BICEPS
Members of the Harvard Men’s Varsity Volleyball team, Nick Madden, Alister Bent, Branden Clemens, Chris Gibbons, and Rob Lothman
Courtesy of Nicole Maloney 04.11.13 • The Harvard Independent