From Ancient Games to Young Planets

Pat Harrison

The Radcliffe Research Partnership program gives undergraduate students a chance to learn from some of the world's best minds—and puts money in their pockets in the process. 

Rome in 1960 was the first host city to use a large-scale Olympic complex as part of an urban redevelopment strategy. Thereafter, the Olympic complex—including stadiums, gymnasiums, swimming pools, and athletes’ living quarters, as well as new highways, airports, and other types of infrastructure—was a mainstay. But not all Olympic complexes have been successful as long-term urban redevelopment. Most experts agree, according to Judith Grant Long RI ’12— the Joy Foundation Fellow at Radcliffe and an associate professor of urban planning in Harvard’s Graduate School of Design—that Barcelona in 1992 was an urban development success, while Montreal in 1976 was a failure.

Long and one of her Radcliffe Research Partners, Sergio Morales ’15, described their collaboration at the winter meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association’s board of directors.

Morales, who went to Mexico City to assist Long with her research on the Olympics of 1968, is fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish. He was drawn to working with Long, he said, because of his love of languages.

Ray Jayawardhana AM ’97, PhD ’00, RI ’12, the William Bentinck-Smith fellow at Radcliffe and a professor at the University of Toronto, described the revolution that’s occurred in the past 15 to 20 years in astronomy, with the discovery of more than 750 new planets beyond our solar system. He said when he started working on his PhD at Harvard in 1994, “we only knew of one planetary system, our own, and there were nine planets. Remember that?”

NASA’s 2009 launch of the Kepler Space Telescope dramatically accelerated the discovery of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. Data from Kepler has indicated the possibility of more than 2,300 planets, in addition to the 750. “It’s an incredible time in terms of discovery,” Jayawardhana said, “comparable to the time 400 years ago when Galileo turned his telescope to the heavens.” An award- winning science writer, Jayawardhana is the author of Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System (Princeton University Press, 2011).

Jayawardhana’s Radcliffe Research Partner, Natania Wolansky ’14, has worked with him on his next book, about neutrino hunters, to be published in 2013. Tiny particles that carry huge amounts of energy, neutrinos have been observed since the 1980s. “They hold the key to a lot of the big mysteries in the universe,” she said. “For example, if there’s a difference between the energy in a neutrino and an antineutrino it can explain why there’s so much matter in the universe, why the universe exists as matter.”

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