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Qian Xuesen (Tsien Hsue-shen), a pioneer of both the U.S. and Chinese missile and space programs, died in Beijing on October 31, 2009. He was 97 years-old.
The engineer was born in China, received his Master’s at MIT and his doctorate at Caltech in the 30′s, and was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He developed missiles for the Army, consulted for the Air Force–earning a temporary rank of Colonel–and designed a space plane that served as an inspiration for the Space Shuttle.
He was obviously brillz, but also a victim of his time. After applying for U.S. citizenship in 1949, when the country was caught up in the Red Scare, he was accused of having Communist sympathies, falsely imprisoned, and put under house arrest for 5 years. Caltech rallied around Qian and appointed attorney Grant Cooper to defend him. Despite their efforts, Qian, his wife, and their two American-born children were deported in 1955 by the U.S. government back to China, where Qian went on to start the Chinese space program and where he’s regarded as a hero.
Cooper who would later say of the gross mistreatment of his client:
“That the government permitted this genius, this scientific genius, to be sent to Communist China to pick his brains is one of the tragedies of this century.”
Irony of all ironies, Qian eventually joined the Communist Party in 1958.
Filed under: Caltech, Chinese Space Program, Father of Chinese Rocketry, Geniuses, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, McCarthyism, MIT, NASA, Qian Xuesen, Red Scare, Rocket Man, Scientists, This is Bullshit, Tsien Hsue-shen
Names: L. Mahadevan, Lin He and Maneesh Agrawala
Hail from: While Mahadevan holds court at Harvard in Cambridge, MA, He and Agrawala both operate out of Cal in Berkeley, CA.
Occupations: Mahadevan is an applied mathmetician, He a molecular biologist, and Agrawala a computer vision technologist.
Known for: Being all smart and stuff. Mahadevan, He and Agrawala were three of the twenty-four (that’s 1/8, or .125 for all you math lovers) recipients of the 2009 MacArthur “Genius Award”–a $500k Fellowship grant awarded to 20-40 Americans each year who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.”
We’re with the MacArthur Foundation on this one–these remarkable folks’ repective fields of work show extreme promise. Mahadevan’s mathematical analyses of practical problems (like how cloth folds when draped) may overwhelm us a tad, but tickle our left-brain fancies almost as much as knot theory and fractals. We fully believe that He’s microRNA research will lead to great strides in cancer research (We all agree… cancer is wack), and are psyched that Agrawala understands how important it is to create visual interfaces in computers that enhance users’ ability to process tons of info (part of the reason we buy Apple ‘puters).
Bottom line: We love geniuses. But who the heck doesn’t?
Filed under: 2009 MacArthur Fellows, Computers, Genius Awards, Geniuses, L. Mahadevan, Lin He, MacArthur Foundation, MacArthur Grant Recipients, Maneesh Agrawala, Math Is Cool, Science is Sexy, Visionaries
Hails from: Bangalore, India (via Bihar and Patna)
Known for: Efficiency. Long recognized as a child prodigy (he completed high school by age 9, received a Bachelors degree at 10, and completed his Masters at 12), Tulsi–now just 21 years old–has just completed the six-year Physics doctorate program at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore to become one of the world’s youngest scientists. He is now potentially the youngest PhD in India. This basically means that he has successfully lived the collective wet dream of Jen’s and my fathers, making us seem all the more disappointing for pursuing careers in the liberal arts at an average American pace (Thanks, buddy!).
Worse Better still, Tulsi adds to the honorableness of his record achievements by humbly crediting his parents, saying, “I feel very lucky that I got proper environment in terms of my family members, particularly my father. He did his best to encourage my talent.”
Golly, we’d have to hate the kid if he wasn’t so freakin’ awesome. And accomplished. And adorable. And brilliant.
Hails from: Tokyo, Japan
Why He’s a Babe: For one thing, Miyazaki’s something of a recluse, and recluses are intriguing. Yet he still managed to brave Comic-Con this year, where he was the picture of a distinguished older gentleman, in his glasses, neatly-clipped white beard, and well-fitted suit. Oh, did we mention he’s a genius? Who’s made fantastical, wondrous animated movies like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, which are something like mushroom trips on celluloid?
Ponyo, Miyazaki’s latest work, opens this Friday, August 14:
Hails from: Los Angeles
Known for: Graduating (with a degree in astrophysics, natch), at his young age, from East Los Angeles College with an AA degree and a 4.0 GPA.
As if our parents didn’t hate us enough for waiting until our teens to finish high school: news that an adorable, dutiful kid can easily rocket through college while mastering martial arts techniques and displaying mighty charisma, citing “hard work” as opposed to “genius” for his achievements, is sure to fuel the fire.
Sigh. He’s even better in action. Check out video of the little bugger:
Occupation: Newly-appointed president of Dartmouth College
Known for: Leading the global fight against HIV/AIDS, receiving a MacArthur genius grant in 2003, getting interviewed by Madonna in Vanity Fair, becoming the first Asian-American president–the Brown and Harvard-educated Doc was born in Seoul–of an Ivy League university.
It’s a tricky time to lead any university, but if Dr. Kim can provide care to the world’s poorest, surely he can handle the world’s richest, plummeting endowment notwithstanding, no?
Filed under: Dartmouth College, Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, Doctors, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Geniuses, HIV/AIDS, Korean-Americans, MacArthur Grant Recipients, The Ivy League, World Health Organization
I’ll be honest you. I pretty much didn’t understand hardcore until I started playing Guitar Hero. It’s not that I don’t own Black Flag and Minor Threat records, that I didn’t vibe with straightedge kids in high school, that I don’t think Ian MacKaye is a damn genius. I just–yeah, I just didn’t understand it. Not much more to it than that. Eventually, of course, when I started fiddling around with my little plastic guitar, and realizing how insanely hard it is just to wrap my head around 8 measures of chugga-chugga-chugga…well, I learned my lesson.
I’ve come around. I love those lickety licks, I love the raging vocal energy, I’m down with music so intense and raw that it hurts you in the sternum. Hardcore is the shit. And I’ve gotta give it credit–hardcore has raged on while it’s sensitive little brethren, emo and indie, have clipped on ties and gone corporate-soft.
So bravo to King Ly Chee, a fuggin’ batshit hardcore band out of Hong Kong that rocks a stage so hard it makes my chest ache.
Enjoy more here. Protect your earnest organs while listening.
Happy Birthday to genius auteur Ang Lee, who turns 54 today! You are a special man with an incredible vision and balls of steel. Have a smokin’ year.
I was delighted and impressed, as I’m sure you are, by the incredible monkey/goat/red cup tightrope trick in the video above.
But what really, really, REALLY impressed me was the YouTube description uploaded by the user BucketHeadJunior, which will inevitably drive millions to the “2 Animals, 1 Cup” viral piece.
Here’s an excerpt:
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Say what you will about Jodie Sweetin, but I swear this kind of video tagging works. This guy is a genius! And let’s be honest, I’m Asian, I LOVE geniuses!