Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

September 22, 2005

It’s Official! He’s a Genius!

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:45 pm

One of my professors from graduate school, University of Chicago , is now officially a genius. That is, he’s been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for 2005 by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Since this comes with a rather large amount of money, no duties, and no strings attached — and since you can’t apply for it; they have to come to you — it’s unofficially known as a “Genius Grant.” So Professor Murphy is now unofficially, officially, a genius.

Of course, any of us who were in his class or who saw him in seminars knew he’s actually a genius anyway. He went to college at UCLA, got his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago economics department, and then got hired by the University of Chicago business school, which was probably just a way of keeping him at Chicago without violating the tradition of departmens not hiring their own Ph.D. students right away. The joke at Chicago is that his one-line biography should read, “Kevin M. Murphy graduated from UCLA and was admitted to the Ph.D. program at Chicago as a full professor with tenure.”

Ironically, when Kevin M. Murphy was an undergradate at UCLA, there was another economics major there named Kevin J. Murphy — and Kevin J. Murphy went to Chicago for graduate school also! Kevin J. Murphy preceded Kevin M. Murphy by two years at each place, and is now the E. Morgan Stanley Professor of Business Administration at USC. The joke among students at Chicago was that when Kevin M. Murphy showed up and showed his genius, a professor used to razz Kevin J. Murphy by saying, “Not only are you not the smartest person in the Ph.D. program here, you’re not even the smartest Kevin Murphy in the Ph.D. program here!” I have no idea if the story is true or not, but that’s an insult in the same sense that it’s an insult to tell a basketball player he’s not as good as Michael Jordan. After all, both Kevin Murphys have endowed chairs now.

The Plane That Didn’t Crash — But confirms our stereotypes

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:42 pm

A JetBlue plane with a malfunctioning landing gear (the wheels were turned sideways) landed safely at LAX today. No one was hurt. From the AP story:

The landing gear trouble _ the front wheels were stuck in a sideways position _ was discovered almost immediately after the plane departed Bob Hope Airport in Burbank at 3:17 p.m., en route to New York City.

The Airbus A320 circled the Long Beach Airport, about 30 miles south of Burbank, before being cleared to land at Los Angeles. It stayed in flight for three hours to burn off fuel, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker.

The pilot finally brought the plane down, back wheels first. As he slowly lowered the nose gear, the stuck wheels erupted in smoke and flames, which quickly burned out.

Emergency crews from across the area met the plane on the runway. Spectators gathered on buildings and stood on parked cars to see firsthand as passengers walked down a stairway onto the tarmac with their carry-on luggage.

Some passengers shook hands with emergency workers and waved to cameras. One firefighter carrying a boy across the tarmac put his helmet on the child’s head.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who spoke with the pilot, identified him as Scott Burke and praised him for the calm he showed during the flight.

“He joked that he was sorry he put the plane down 6 inches off the center line,” Villaraigosa said.

This confirms two stereotypes: (1) that airline pilots are incredibly skilled, creative, and calm under pressure when something goes wrong, even though most of the time nothing goes wrong and their jobs are probably not that exciting, and (2) politicians, especially local ones, will do anything to get themselves in the public eye. Note that the mayor had absolutely nothing to do with the successful resolution of the problem, which was purely in the hands of the pilot, air traffic control, and airport personnel on the ground. But the mayor was there to bask in their reflected glory, perhaps implicitly taking some of the credit. I wonder if he would have chased the cameras if the plane had crashed and people been killed, or if he would have tried to avoid any association with the event.

By the way, a video of the landing is available here and another one is here.

Another weird thing is that since JetBlue has actual TV receivers on their plans (one in front of every seat), passengers could spend the three hours when the plane was burning fuel watching the drama unfold on live television.

Powered by WordPress