Quick–name one physicist to whose calculations you would entrust Hyde Park. In honor of the 60th anniversary of the first controlled atomic chain reaction–on the University of Chicago campus on December 2, 1942–the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November/December) recalls that the chain-reaction pile “was not supposed to be built in the city. No one wanted a meltdown in Hyde Park….The pile was to be built in a forest preserve 20 miles southwest of Chicago’s Loop and to be completed by October 20. But union workers at the site went on strike, and the building designed to house CP-1 would not take shape in time. [Physicist Enrico] Fermi told [his boss Arthur Holly] Compton: ‘I believe we can make the chain reaction work safely right here in Chicago.’ And Fermi’s calculations seemed to be in order.” Compton considered asking permission of university president Robert Hutchins–but didn’t.

Bad news comes in bunches. From a recent survey of minority college students sponsored by Catalyst Chicago and Future Teachers of Chicago/Illinois (Catalyst Chicago, October): “While students expressed a relatively strong interest in teaching, few aspiring teachers want to teach the subjects where the biggest shortages exist….Only 8 percent said special education is their main area of interest, and only 5 percent said science….Aspiring teachers were more likely than the rest of the group to score below the state average on the ACT.”

Freedom’s just another word for cost-benefit analysis. Seventh Circuit appellate judge Richard Posner, reviewing Alan Dershowitz’s new book Why Terrorism Works (New Republic, September 2): “The scope of our civil liberties is not graven in stone, but instead represents the point of balance between public safety and personal liberty. The balance is struck by the courts, interpreting the vague provisions of the Constitution that protect personal liberty; and it is constantly being re-struck as perceptions about safety and liberty change. The more endangered public safety is thought to be, the more the balance swings against civil liberties. That is how it is and that is how it should be….Terrorists are more dangerous than ordinary criminals, and so, as [Dershowitz] points out, the dogma that it is better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to be convicted may not hold when the guilty ten are international terrorists seeking to obtain weapons of mass destruction. American history and legal practice show…that curtailments of civil liberties to meet national emergencies are temporary, ceasing when the emergency ceases.”

When sunflowers go bad. According to an August 8 press release, Ohio State University professor of evolution, ecology, and organismal biology Allison Snow reported to colleagues that cultivated sunflowers genetically engineered to resist pests can crossbreed with wild sunflowers, and “the resulting hybrid sunflowers that contained the transgene had 50 percent more seeds than control hybrids without the gene.” Genetically engineered sunflowers are not approved for sale in the U.S.

How many CHA residents have been placed in jobs through the Service Connectors Program? According to CHA CEO Terry Peterson in a letter to the Sun-Times August 19, “more than 2,500.” According to CHA officials questioned by Brian J. Rogal of the Chicago Reporter (October), the true figure is 1,228. “The city does not know how many of the 1,228 who got jobs are still working,” Rogal writes, adding that the CHA “does not set goals on job retention.”

Last word on the faux-populist campaign to repeal the federal estate tax. According to a November 1 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign press release, U. of I.’s Richard Kaplan points out in the Elder Law Journal that even if the estate tax is ultimately repealed, this will have no impact on 98 percent of estates–because the tax is levied only on estates worth over $675,000.