The Great American Railroad with Mark Aldrich

by eea | Monday, February 19, 2018 - 12:40 PM

It is hard to think of another industry in which safety has taken such as roller coaster ride as it has on railroads. When I wrote Death Rode the Rails , which charted rail safety down to 1965, it was a great success story. I stopped in 1965 because that was the end of ICC safety regulation. Though I knew that safety had begun to fall apart by then, I didn’t know why. No one else has told more than parts of this story and so Back on Track is my effort at home schooling.

Until I began to dig I did not know how broadly and badly safety had collapsed. Like everyone else I had forgotten the hazmat accidents of the 1970s. Yet these were only the most spectacular instances of an upsurge in derailments that coincided with a rise in worker fatality rates and the growing slaughter at rail-highway crossings. One of the most important things I learned were the intimate connection between the railroads’ economic health and their safety, the second how difficult it was for those with a vested interest in economic regulation to grasp that. Many things caused the railroads’...Read More

When News and Education Meet

by bjs | Saturday, February 17, 2018 - 10:00 AM

Today marks the 147th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act, which established compulsory schooling in England and Wales for children between the ages of 5 and 12. A recent special issue of Victorian Periodicals Review took a look at the relationship between periodical culture and the changes in educational opportunities for men, women, and children. Guest editor Janice Schroeder, associate professor of English at Carleton University, joined us to talk about the issue and the connection between publications and education in the late 19th century.

How did this issue come about?

The history of education and schooling in 19th-century England and its colonies is a vast field of study that has received much attention from historians, literary critics, and education and child studies specialists. At the same time, the study of the Victorian periodical and newspaper press attracts researchers from a range of disciplines. I pitched a special issue on education to the editor of Victorian Periodicals Review because I was interested in both Victorian schooling and 19th-century newspapers and magazines, but hadn’t seen a great deal of attention in the journal to the way the “Education Question,” as it was called,...Read More

The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer

by eea | Friday, February 16, 2018 - 12:00 PM

When World War Two ended in 1945, Americans found themselves with a mysterious new weapon. They quickly learned that the weapon, which destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and effectively ended the war, had been built in the remote New Mexico desert, in utmost secrecy, by an assortment of physicists, mathematicians and other scientists many of whom were too young even to have earned their PhD's. The man whose photograph was displayed in all the newspapers and who was credited with leading this group was a slender, fragile-looking physicist by the name of Robert Oppenheimer. He became a hero, the man credited by many Americans for ending the war early and sparing their families the loss of a husband or brother or son.

Oppenheimer remained in the public eye. During the postwar decade he spoke out on the decisions facing the United States. And after the Soviet Union broke the American atomic monopoly by conducting its first test in 1949, Oppenheimer and other scientists were asked for their advice. Should the United States negotiate with the Soviet Union, led by Josef Stalin, or try to build a bigger bomb, the hydrogen bomb, a weapon said to...Read More

Mountain Lions of the Black Hills

by eea | Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 12:00 PM

Writing the book, “Mountain lions of the Black Hills: History and Ecology” was a great experience that allowed me to pull together aspects of research projects that my students and I conducted from the late 1990’s to about 2014. During that period, graduate students working under my direction and in close association with biologists of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks radio collared over 300 mountain lions for the purpose of answering a variety of questions about the species. The information gained was critically important to the successful management of the species. These were amazing experiences that allowed us to learn much about the species as we addressed these questions and objectives.

The experience of getting up close and personal to immobilized lions while we collected biological information was facinating. Even the thought of encountering marked mountain lions when out in the field was an exhilarating experience. Yet, these short-term projects missed long-term patterns that became evident when I linked data and observations collected over the duration of our work on the species for the book. Weaving these studies of the species together over for such a long period allowed me to envision how...Read More

What Makes Health Care Special?

by bjs | Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 10:00 AM

What makes health care special? That’s the question driving an essay by Chad Horne in a recent issue of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal . Horne, currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, joined us for a Q&A about his essay .

What is the difficulty of coming to a conclusion on why health care costs should get special treatment?

When I talk about treating health care as special, what I have in mind is just the fact that citizens in most wealthy countries pay very little of their own health care costs out of pocket. Instead, either the government or a very heavily regulated private insurer foots most of the bill. Now of course there are lots of important goods, like food or housing, where the state steps in to provide targeted benefits for the disadvantaged, and that’s very important. But what makes health care unique is that health care programs typically cover all citizens, rich or poor (the U.S. being something of an outlier in this respect). Health care is typically universal program,...Read More