December 10, 2014

According to Princeton’s Health Officer, the Nassau Inn’s Yankee Doodle Tap room restaurant received a visit from health inspectors and the health nurse on Monday, December 1 after 30 individuals reported gastrointestinal illness (GI) over the weekend following Thanksgiving. The individuals had eaten at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room.

The inspection revealed only minor issues, which Mr. Grosser said did not cause the illnesses. About 70 percent of all norovirus outbreaks are spread by food workers.

“While we can’t say definitively what virus caused the outbreak, based on the symptoms and time of onset, we suspect that it was a norovirus,” said Mr. Grosser. “One specimen was taken to a lab as part of the investigation but since it is almost impossible to pinpoint the source of the virus, which can be spread through food or by a fork, it’s important to reinforce cleaning practices.”

The norovirus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness (GI) and is especially common during the winter months. Because of the incidents, the health department has increased its surveillance of retail food establishments and sent out a press release with advice on ways to avoid coming in contact with noroviruses: “The Princeton Health Department has been receiving reports of increased gastrointestinal illness, which has resulted in increased surveillance of retail food establishments. Laboratory testing has not yet confirmed a specific organism at this time. Due to the nature of the symptoms and rapid onset of illness, norovirus is suspected in the majority of reported cases. Norovirus also happens to be the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness and is especially common during the winter months.”

Interviewed by phone Friday, Mr. Grosser said that “While we can’t say definitively what virus caused the outbreak, based on the symptoms and time of onset, we suspect that it was a norovirus. At this point, the issue has been taken care of at the Nassau Inn but we felt it prudent to remind people in the community that these viruses are out there and of the cleaning practices that should be in place to make sure they don’t spread.”

Asked for comment, Nassau Inn’s General Manager Lori Rabon provided a response by email: “This was an unfortunate incident and one without precedent for our organization. The Nassau Inn had well over 1000 people pass through the Tap Room during the holiday weekend, so it is difficult to identify where a virus originated. However, upon learning of the situation, we immediately worked with the Princeton Health Department towards swift action.”

According to Ms. Rabon, the hotel implements stringent food safety management systems and has numerous employees who are “ServSafe® certified,” by the highly-recognized food and alcohol safety training program of the National Restaurant Association.

“We have also implemented every suggestion given by the Princeton Health Department, and have been vigilant in disinfecting every surface that may have been contaminated throughout the restaurant and common areas of the hotel,” said Ms. Rabon. “I am very proud of how my veteran management staff worked with the health department, staff, and the public during this urgent situation, as well their efforts this past week working with the health inspectors and nurse on reminding our employees of precautions and practices.”

The most important message is one that most mothers have instilled for decades: wash your hands with hot water and soap. “For restaurants we recommend the good old fashioned practice of soap and hot water, just like your mom told you,” said Mr. Grosser. Asked about the efficacy of antibacterial hand sanitizers, he said: “Hand-sanitizers are great for moms and dads out with their kids with no access to hot water and soap but they are not effective against most GI causing organisms, including norovirus. The best way to decrease your chance of coming in contact with such stomach viruses is by washing your hands frequently, especially after toilet visits and before eating or preparing food.”

The Health Officer advises thorough cleaning and disinfecting contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness by using a bleach-based household cleaner and immediately removing and washing clothing or linens that may be contaminated with a virus after an episode of illness (using hot water and soap).

According to Mr. Grosser people can become infected with the stomach virus in several ways, including: ingesting contaminated food or drink; touching surfaces or objects contaminated with the virus, and then placing their hand in their mouth; or having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

Persons who are infected with a stomach virus should try to minimize their contact with others while they are ill and should not prepare food during their illness. Food that may have been contaminated by an ill person should be disposed of properly.

For more information about the norovirus please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at Anyone who has had symptoms of gastrointestinal illnesses after eating at a Princeton restaurant recently should call the health department to report the illness at (609) 497-7610.


AND GAZELLES? AND GAZELLES: Titled in the manner of a “call and response,” this 2008 4.3 by 14.5 inch digital print on archival paper, image is one of a series that will feature in “Call and Response,” an exhibition of digital collages by Andrew Ellis Johnson opening at the Bernstein Gallery Saturday, December 13. The show runs through January 29 and there will be a public reception for the artist on Friday, December 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Bernstein Gallery is located in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.(Image Courtesy of the Bernstein Gallery)

AND GAZELLES? AND GAZELLES: Titled in the manner of a “call and response,” this 2008 4.3 by 14.5 inch digital print on archival paper, image is one of a series that will feature in “Call and Response,” an exhibition of digital collages by Andrew Ellis Johnson opening at the Bernstein Gallery Saturday, December 13. The show runs through January 29 and there will be a public reception for the artist on Friday, December 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Bernstein Gallery is located in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. (Image Courtesy of the Bernstein Gallery)

“Call and Response,” an exhibition of digital collages by Andrew Ellis Johnson opens at the Bernstein Gallery on Saturday, December 13 and runs through January 29. There will be a public reception for the artist on Friday, December 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

“Call and Response” presents two series of digital collages by Mr. Johnson. One series is in the scale and language of miniature painting, and the other of storefront advertisements. Each portrays the breakdown of communication, the rupture of cultural continuity, the inaccessibility of both shared and remote experience, despite (or due to) technological advances.

The title of the series “And Gazelles? And Gazelles,” is itself a call and response. As such, it emphasizes connection between parties, and direct causal relationships between events. It evokes the 1970 Art Worker Coalition’s My Lai massacre poster entitled “Q. And Babies? A. And Babies.” While this cycle’s images are more topical and allegorical, featuring attack helicopters in the Middle East and the quick and elegant animals for which they are named, their call is no less clarion.

“Airborne” visualizes call and response in the language of glossy cell phone advertisements, emphasizing communication by visualizing its lack through the muzzling motif of masks. Dust masks, common in Seoul and other cities, are social shells that conceal and reveal collective contamination and individual sacrifice. Indicative of social challenge when worn by protesters, personal vulnerability or pandemic infection when worn by the sick (as in the case of Avian Flu or Ebola), the mask is permeated by fear floating freely between peoples, countries, and continents.

Since 2004, Andrew Ellis Johnson has been an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon School of Art. Some past exhibition topics include: the Haitian grass roots movement; homelessness; predatory economics; hemispheric hegemonies; unabated sowing of land mines; crises in the Middle East; cultural eclipses; and meditations on labor and myth.

Venues for Mr. Johnson’s work have included museums, galleries, electronic arts and video festivals, public collaborations, conferences, books and journals in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.



A march by more than 350 students, faculty, and staff from Princeton Theological Seminary on Monday included a stretch of Nassau Street, where protestors lay on the ground for 4.5 minutes to symbolize the 4.5 hours that the body of black teenager Michael Brown was left on the street in Ferguson, Missouri after he was shot by a police officer last August. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Theological Seminary)

December 5, 2014

After investigating the reports of an intoxicated, freshman girl performing a sex act on a senior at the Tiger Inn, one of Princeton University’s eating clubs, the Princeton Police Department has closed the matter. “After conducting a thorough investigation that included the interviewing of all involved parties, the police department found no evidence to support criminal wrongdoing and we have closed the investigation with no criminal charges,” reads a statement issued Friday afternoon. “The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was consulted in this matter.”

The police department had been investigating whether there was an invasion of privacy. Princeton University has not yet concluded its own investigation of the matter. Since the eating clubs are private property, they fall under the jurisdiction of the local police.

Last October, a photo taken of the act was circulated by email to club members by the club treasurer. New Jersey law dictates that it is a criminal offense to distribute a photo of a sexual act without the person’s consent. The club treasurer and another officer have since stepped down.

December 4, 2014

breaking news

Students, faculty, and members of the Princeton University community gathered Thursday afternoon for a “walk-out and die-in” a day after a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer on Staten Island for the “choke-hold” death of a black man, Eric Garner. Hundreds lay for 45 minutes — to symbolize the 4.5 hours that Michael Brown, the man gunned down by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year — on the ground in front of Frist Campus Center. Others stood silently along the sidelines. The protest was organized by students who are part of the “Post-Ferguson at Princeton” movement organized by the Black Leadership Coalition, made up of student leaders representing the Black Student Union, Princeton African Students Association, and other campus groups. (Photo by A. Levin)

December 3, 2014
DURHAM BOATS AWAY: General Washington’s Continental Army will again cross the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey this Christmas Day. And if weather permits, there will be smooth passage as in this scene photographed a few years ago. But you don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to see the action. A full dress rehearsal of the reenactment is scheduled for this Sunday, December 7, at 1 p.m. Unlike the free event on Christmas Day, however, there is an admission charge for the dress rehearsal, with proceeds benefiting programs at Washington Crossing State Park, where the event takes place. For more information, visit: by L. Arntzenius)

DURHAM BOATS AWAY: General Washington’s Continental Army will again cross the Delaware River from Pennsylvania into New Jersey this Christmas Day. And if weather permits, there will be smooth passage as in this scene photographed a few years ago. But you don’t have to wait until Christmas Day to see the action. A full dress rehearsal of the reenactment is scheduled for this Sunday, December 7, at 1 p.m. Unlike the free event on Christmas Day, however, there is an admission charge for the dress rehearsal, with proceeds benefiting programs at Washington Crossing State Park, where the event takes place. For more information, visit: (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Several hundred soldiers clad in Continental military dress will reenact George Washington’s daring crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day, and even more viewers will be there to see the event. For those who find the outing a daunting prospect on the day itself, the dress rehearsal scheduled for Sunday, December 7 at 1 p.m. provides a less crowded alternative.

Essentially identical to the Christmas Day reenactment, the full dress rehearsal boasts a few extra activities and demonstrations for the public at the historic village on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Unlike the Christmas Day reenactment, however, there is an admission fee for the dress rehearsal: $8 for adults, $4 for children age five to 11. The Christmas Day crossing is free and also takes place at 1 p.m., although it’s necessary to arrive well before that time to find parking and a good spot along the viewing line either on the New Jersey or the Pennsylvania side of the river.

The reenactment, which has been going on for some 60 years, celebrates Washington’s original crossing in 1776 and now has a history of its own since it was first attempted in the first half of the 19th century. After history enthusiast John Davis gave a speech about the importance of Washington’s crossing, reenactors were inspired to try their hands at the oars in 1844. According to newspaper reports of the day, the event descended into a “sham” with “rowdy, drunken behavior.” At the next attempt, in 1876, behavior was not much improved. About 100 participants marched from Philadelphia to Taylorsville, with the Civil War General W.S. Truex portraying Washington. They crossed the river — although it’s unknown whether they boated or walked across the ice — and continued on to Trenton to take on the Hessians. As in Washington’s time, the weather was brutally cold and the reenactors encouraged themselves with alcohol. One critic noted “too much conviviality” and it looked like the end of the event.

However, on January 23, 1947, the forerunner of today’s reenactment took place. A group of Rider College students recreated the feat for pledges wanting to join the Phi Sigma Nu fraternity (a non-hazing initiation back in the day). This time 40 pledges crossed the river in four rowboats and then, after refreshments, motored on to Trenton. An article about the event appeared in the February 17, 1947 issue of Life magazine and gained national attention.

In 1952, National Geographic Magazine featured a story about Washington Crossing Historic Park and the historic crossing. The story included a photograph of park superintendent Granville Stradling rowing six young people across the river — one held a flag and one portrayed General Washington.

Perhaps the most famous of the Washington impersonators was St. John “Sinjin” Terrell, a fire-eating circus man and actor with a penchant for showmanship. In a presentation to a women’s organization in 1953, Mr. Terrell expressed his hope of someday reenacting the General’s famous crossing. After a half-scale Durham boat costing $800 was constructed, Mr. Terrell and six others crossed the icy river in what would become the first dress rehearsal for the reenactment. That was on December 20, 1953. Five days later, on December 25, 1953, Mr. Terrell and his crew made their way across the river in about eight minutes. After the crossing, “George Washington” signed autographs before packing up the boat and heading home. More than 700 people came out to witness the event and an annual tradition was born.

This year, General Washington will again take a Durham boat across the river, weather permitting, from the Pennsylvania bank of the Delaware River to the New Jersey side, at Washington Crossing Historic Park, at Routes 532 and 32 (River Road).

For more information, visit:


BEHIND THE DRYWALL: What goes into the making of truly “green” home? Baxter Construction and DEC Architect David Cohen provide the details with tours of this house being built on Linden Lane. The home is a duplex, attached to the client’s existing dwelling.(Photo by A. Levin)

BEHIND THE DRYWALL: What goes into the making of truly “green” home? Baxter Construction and DEC Architect David Cohen provide the details with tours of this house being built on Linden Lane. The home is a duplex, attached to the client’s existing dwelling. (Photo by A. Levin)

With two LEED-certified houses located on the same side of Linden Lane, Princeton’s “tree streets” neighborhood is taking the lead, no pun intended, in the town’s efforts toward sustainability.

Architect Kirsten Thoft’s home at number 45 earned the coveted LEED platinum certification this past fall. Just down the street at number 85, a home designed by David Cohen of DEC Architect is being built by Baxter Construction, and platinum designation is anticipated.

“This neighborhood will become the hub of green building in Princeton by virtue of having these two projects,” said Mr. Cohen, who led several “Behind the Drywall” tours of the house under construction earlier this month. More tours are planned for this Saturday, December 6.

The house is being built as a duplex attached to the client’s existing home because the site is too small to subdivide and is zoned as a two-family dwelling. The project is participating in both the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification process and New Jersey’s Climate Choice Homes program, to make it so energy efficient that “you can heat it with a toaster,” said James E. Baxter of the construction company.

“The idea of the tours is to educate the public about green building,” he added. “I probably had four or five people who came up and thanked me for providing this to the folks in Princeton. They weren’t necessarily interested in a job, but just in learning about what is green, what is LEED, what is platinum, and so on. So it was a lot of fun.”

Mr. Cohen wasn’t surprised by the enthusiasm for the tours. “I had been involved a number of years ago when the Princeton Environmental Commission sponsored green home tours,” he said. “The turnout at that time was really amazing. My own home was on it. I know the level of interest in Princeton is really high.”

The tours of the Linden Lane home are more structured and specific than the earlier ones to which Mr. Cohen referred. On the November 22 tours, many people expressed interest in the basement system, a waste water heat recovery unit that reduces the piping diameters and conserves the energy used to heat water. “I had people coming up and asking if they could put one of these in their houses that were already built,” he said.

Another attention-getter has been the windows, which are triple-glazed Energy Star that maximize daylight on the north and south, and minimize heat gain on the east and west.

The goals of the project are to improve energy use, make use of recycled resources, and have a healthy impact on the building’s users and the larger environment by reducing pollution and the use of toxic materials. While the site had its challenges, its orientation was actually favorable, according to Mr. Cohen. “The existing trees were fine for solar considerations. And the location is considered desirable because it can support and encourage walking, mass transit, and biking.”

“Other advantages are that you’re using existing infrastructure rather than building new, which leads to resource efficiency,” said Mr. Cohen. “And then there is open space preservation, because you’re on a site that is already being used. There are points for all of these things.” The U.S. Green Buildings Council requires 80 or more points for platinum status.

Additional features of the house include a sleeping porch for the master bedroom, allowing outdoor sleeping during warm months; walls with more than twice the conventional insulation; a photovoltaic array for on-site energy production; and the use of LED bulbs in nearly all of the light fixtures.

“I love talking to people who are interested in this,” said Mr. Baxter, who added that his company’s project for the Whole Earth Center was the first commercial project in Princeton to get LEED silver designation. “It just makes sense.”

To register for this Saturday’s tours, call (609) 466-3655 or email


ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA: The cover of the new American edition of “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges from Princeton University Press makes much of the connection to the new feature film, “The Imitation Game,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The book has been described as the definitive source on Alan Turing. Mr. Hodges will discuss his work on Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, visit:

ALAN TURING: THE ENIGMA: The cover of the new American edition of “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges from Princeton University Press makes much of the connection to the new feature film, “The Imitation Game,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The book has been described as the definitive source on Alan Turing. Mr. Hodges will discuss his work on Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library. For more information, visit:

Oxford mathematician Andrew Hodges will discuss his classic 1983 biography of the mathematical genius and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) as part of the Thinking Allowed series co-sponsored by the Princeton Public Library and Princeton University Press in the Library’s Community Room this Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m.

Currently on a U.S. book tour, Mr. Hodges is the authority on his subject. His 500-page biography, Alan Turing: The Enigma has been re-issued with a new preface and a foreword by Douglas Hofstadter, timed to coincide with the new British-American movie on Turing’s life that has just come out.

But don’t ask Mr. Hodges to comment on the movie. He’s in Princeton to talk about Alan Turing rather than Benedict Cumberbatch.

Nonetheless, the new film, which also stars Keira Knightley and Charles Dance, is causing quite a stir. Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson has interviewed the actors about their work. Titled The Imitation Game, the film combines elements of tortured genius, gender, and romance against the backdrop of World War II and the race to break the German Enigma code at Britain’s Bletchley Park.

Its unlikely hero is the British mathematician, codebreaker, and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing, the man Winston Churchill said had made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany. Given Mr. Turing’s accomplishments, one might wonder why he is not a household name.

Mr. Turing, who gained his PhD at Princeton University before the war, is considered the father of theoretical computer science for his model of a general purpose computer, known as the “Turing machine.” His ideas formed the basis for the pursuit of artificial intelligence (AI) which makes the film’s title especially apt, “imitation” being the key question in AI, as in “can a computer simulate human behavior?”

In addition to being a mathematical genius, Mr. Turing was also gay, at a time when homosexual acts were subject to criminal prosecution. In 1952, he was charged with “gross indecency.” Rather than go to prison, Mr. Turing agreed to be treated with estrogen injections, a chemical method of castration. He committed suicide two years later.

In 2013, Mr. Turing received a Royal Pardon for his 1952 conviction. According to Michael Saler, writing in The Times Literary Supplement, the pardon was largely the result of Mr. Hodges’s “superb biography.”

If the film sends people to Hodges’s richly detailed and carefully researched book they will discover “one of the best scientific biographies ever written.” Britain’s The Guardian newspaper has listed it as one of the essential 50 books of all time and John Nash biographer Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, called it “one of the finest scientific biographies I’ve ever read: authoritative, superbly researched, deeply sympathetic, and beautifully told.”

Alan Turing: The Enigma has also been described as a “perfect match of biographer and subject.” Like Mr. Turing, Mr. Hodges is a mathematician; he is also gay. His book draws from primary sources and interviews with those who knew Turing. Hodges is able to explain Turing’s intellectual accomplishments in plain terms without recourse to heavy mathematical symbolism, explaining how Turing’s revolutionary idea of 1936 laid the foundation for the modern computer, realized in 1945 with his electronic design that helped to break the German Enigma ciphers. He also explores Turing’s sexual identity with understanding and compassion. In short, Hodges brings a mathematical genius to life, from his beginnings as a young man fascinated by science to his tragic end.

Besides the most recent movie, Alan Turing: the Enigma was the basis for the 1986 play Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore and starring Derek Jacobi, who reprised the role on British television in 1996.

Mr. Hodges’s book tour will include New York’s 92nd Street Y on Friday, December 5, before he travels to California and Washington. For more information, visit:



McCarter Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has become a welcome holiday treat for families across the region. This year’s child actors include (top row, left to right) Andrew Davis, Hope Blair, Russell Clark, Noah Hinsdale, Reyna Bae, Christopher Levine, Neha Kalra (bottom row, left to right) Madeline Fox, Aynisha McQuillar, Ivy Cordle, Jonas Hinsdale, Troy Vallery, Priyanka Nanayakkara, and Sophia Telegadis. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Princeton Public Library hosts a free screening of the documentary Girl Rising on December 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. The film is directed by Academy Award nominee Richard E. Robbins and features narration by Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Chloe Moretz, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys, and Kerry Washington. Girl Rising tells the story of nine girls from nine different countries (Sierra Leone, Haiti, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, India, and Cambodia). The stories reflect their struggle to receive an education, which often violates local social and cultural barriers. Get involved in the Girl Rising community by visiting

On Tuesday, December 24, Santa will arrive at 11 a.m. at Princeton Airport. Parents are advised to bring the children prior to then, as the Princeton Airport Flying Tigers will be serving cocoa and cookies, and local folk singer Pat McKinley will be leading the audience in holiday songs during the wait for Santa.

Parents who would like to have a gift waiting for their child should bring a wrapped gift with the child’s name on it in large print to the Princeton Airport lobby. Gifts should be no larger than 12 inches to accommodate Santa. If parents have more than one child participating, the gifts should be wrapped in the same paper and tied together to speed up the distribution.

In order to have their child participate, parents need to bring a gift for the less fortunate as well. This is the most important feature of this event. These gifts must be new and unwrapped, and will be collected by the Mercer County Board of Social Services. Personal checks made out to the “FoodBank Network of Somerset County,” as well as canned or boxed food will also be collected at the airport. Donations from non-participants are accepted as well.

Once Santa’s plane lands, he will head into the hangar, along with all the participants, to distribute each gift individually.

There is no charge for this event. The Princeton Airport is located in Montgomery Township, 3.5 miles north of Princeton on Route 206. For further information, call (609) 921-3100 or visit


The gallery at Princeton Brain and Spine Care is showcasing portraiture by eight Princeton area artists. Shown here is Paul Matthews’s 24 by 32 inch oil on canvas painting, “Anne and Peter.” The exhibition, titled “Face to Face,” runs through next June and there will be a public reception on Friday, December 5, from 5 to 7 p.m. Curated by Madelaine Shellaby, the exhibition also features work by Mic Boekelmann, Johanna Furst, John Hayes, Jeannine Honstein, Judith Lavendar, Walter Roberts Jr., and Gill Stewart. The artwork is for sale with a portion benefitting the Spinal Research Foundation. “Face to Face” can be viewed by appointment at Gallery ArtTimesTwo located at the Princeton Brain and Spine Care Institute, 731 Alexander Road, suite 200, Princeton, N.J. 08540-6345. For more information, visit: (Image Courtesy of the Gallery).


The Palmer Square tiger sported a festive garland for the annual tree lighting ceremony on the green Friday, November 28. Captured for Town Topics by photographer Charles R. Plohn, Princeton’s iconic feline exudes quiet dignity against a backdrop of 32,000 colored lights on the 65-foot Norwegian spruce. Santa Claus and characters from American Repertory Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” were on hand to celebrate as members of The Princeton High School Choir sang. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

November 26, 2014

POLYMATH MINDS: British mathematician, code-breaker and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) (left) was just 41 when he died. Widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science, he was cited Sunday at a conference on theoretical computation at the Institute for Advanced Study along with the Hungarian-born John von Neumann (1903-1957) who also died at the relatively young age of 53. While the conference speakers focused on current and future challenges, they paid homage to ground-breaking work of their predecessors.

In an age when four year-olds have their own handhelds and their grandparents are Facebooking and Tweeting, it’s astounding to think that the digital revolution has come about in just the last four decades. And it’s inconceivable to imagine future scientific progress without computers.

In the past few decades many natural processes in biology and physics have been viewed as “information processes.” Examples include the workings of the cell and the immune system, even the flocking of birds.

A day-long conference at the Institute for Advanced Study on Sunday took a look at the impact of computational methods on a range of scientific disciplines including economics and social science. Titled “Lens of Computation on the Sciences,” it was hosted by Avi Wigderson, the Herbert H. Maass Professor in the Institute’s School of Mathematics.

According to Mr. Wigderson’s introduction in the conference brochure, “Interactions with biologists, physicists, economists, and social scientists have found that this computational lens on processes and algorithms occurring in nature sheds new light on old scientific problems in understanding, e.g., evolution and markets.”

Top theorists in computation from Harvard and MIT joined their IAS peers in examining the impact of their youthful discipline and to discuss the challenges and benefits of interactions between computation and other fields of study.

In turn, each speaker first paid homage to the founding fathers whose work brought about the current revolution: the British mathematician, code-breaker, and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing and the Hungarian born polymath John von Neumann.

Alan Turing (1912-1954) gained his PhD at Princeton University and is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science for his model of a general purpose computer, known as the “Turing machine.” During World War II, Mr. Turing worked at Britain’s code-breaking center, Bletchley Park. Winston Churchill said that Turing had made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany.

Prosecuted as a homosexual in 1952 and treated with estrogen injections as an alternative to prison (homosexual acts then being a crime in Britain), Mr. Turing committed suicide two years later. His life is the subject of a new film, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

John von Neumann (1903-1957) needs little introduction in Princeton where he was one of the first faculty appointed to the Institute for Advanced Study. He is celebrated for his electronic computer project there, and the IAS Machine it developed. Mr. von Neumann was a principal member of the Manhattan Project and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata. His mathematical analysis of the structure of self-replication preceded the discovery of the structure of DNA.

“It all began with Turing’s 1936 paper ‘On Computable Numbers with an application to the entscheidungsproblem,’ said Mr. Wigderson. “Turing gave birth to the computer revolution but unlike physics, computer science was born with the knowledge of its own limitations,” he added before introducing guest speakers: Leslie Valiant, Tim Roughgarden, Jon Kleinberg, and Scott Aaronson.

Such scientists study the mathematical foundations of computer science and technology. But it wasn’t fancy devices that were being discussed at the conference, rather it was the power and the limits of solving natural computational problems in fields such as cryptography (the field that gives us the Internet and E-commerce) and machine learning (the science that enables “big data” applications).

According to Leslie Valiant, the author of Circuits of the Mind (Oxford University Press, 1994) and Probably Approximately Correct (Basic Books, 2013), the idea that computation has its own laws and limitations emerged in the 1930s. “Some of the early computing pioneers, most notably Turing and von Neumann, already understood that this idea had far reaching implications beyond technology. It offered a new way of looking at the world, in terms of computational processes.”

Speaking on “The Computational Universe,” Mr. Valiant said that since Turing and von Neumann had pursued this new way of looking at the world in such areas as genetics, biological development, cognition, and the brain, there has been much progress. “The question now is how to exploit this increasing knowledge to obtain insights into the natural world that cannot be obtained otherwise,” he said.

Addressing the connections between computer science and biology, Mr. Valiant said: “Some natural phenomena are actually computational,” and went on to describe ways in which computation can be used to understand natural phenomena in the same way as physics, and with its own laws too.

Referencing the 19th century question of how evolution, which Darwin described as a slow process, could have achieved so much in so short a time, Mr. Valiant described machine learning to explain how complex mechanisms can arise by a process of adaptation rather than by design.

Tim Roughgarden of Stanford University looked at points of contact between theoretical computer science and economics with details of the challenges of auction design. He cited a flawed example from New Zealand which had brought in just $36 million when it had been expected to yield $250 million.

Social media and the possibility of gaining insight in social science from studying collective behavior was discussed by Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University. “The emergence of cyberspace and the World Wide Web is like the discovery of a new continent,” said Mr. Kleinberg, quoting the late 1998 Turing Award Winner Jim Gray. “The online world is a phenomenon to be studied with new computational perspectives on social science questions; online social systems are partly organic, partly designed,” he said.

“The collective behavior and social interactions of hundreds of millions of people are being recorded at unprecedented levels of scale and resolution. Modeling and analyzing these phenomena computationally offers new insights into the design of online applications, as well as new perspectives on fundamental questions in the social sciences,” said Mr. Kleinberg.

Scott Aaronson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology amped up the fun in his talk titled, “Computational Phenomena in Physics.” A popular blogger (www.scottaaronson. com/blog) Mr. Aaronson has written about quantum computing for Scientific American and the New York Times. His quirky style captured the IAS audience, even if this reporter was not always “clued-in” on the insider humor.

“I am a theorist not an engineer and this is one of the few places where I don’t have to apologize for that,” said Mr. Aaronson as his first slide showed cartoon images of some scientific advances that are the stuff of science fiction. “Why don’t we have Warp Drive, the Perpetual Motion Machine, or the UberComputer? Well, we know why we don’t have the first two but why can’t we have the third?” he asked, and launched into the quest to understand the limits of efficient computation in the physical universe. The quest, he said, has been giving us new insights into physics over the last two decades.

And questions such as “Can quantum computers be built? Can they teach us anything new about physics? Is there some new physical principle that explains why they can’t be built? What would quantum computers be good for? Can quantum computing help us resolve which interpretation of quantum mechanics is the right one?,” he said, would yield further insight.

As the last speaker of the day, Mr. Aaronson ended with panache. Something about Alice (yes, Lewis Carroll’s Alice) and black holes that brought the house down. To know more, see Mr. Aaronson’s first book, Quantum Computing Since Democritus, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.

The conference talks can be viewed on the IAS website at


With her thesis advisor, historian Sean Wilentz, seated only a few feet away from her spot on the Richardson Auditorium stage, Elena Kagan was nervous — or so she joked. Since graduating in 1981 from Princeton University, where she was a history major not necessarily planning a career in law, Ms. Kagan has amassed a stellar legal resume culminating with her appointment four years ago to the United States Supreme Court.

Last Thursday, Ms. Kagan took part in a conversation at Richardson with University president Christopher Eisgruber. “I’m nervous he’ll take out his red pen,” she said, eyeing Mr. Wilentz in the audience. This was Ms. Kagan’s first visit to the University since her 25th reunion. “Don’t worry,” Ms. Eisgruber responded. “We’ve repealed the grading process.”

So began a congenial discussion about justice, equality, and human rights that ended with a question-and-answer session between Ms. Kagan and students in the audience. “I loved Princeton,” she said. “I think all of you who go to Princeton are incredibly lucky, at least if it’s anything like it was then, and I suspect it’s better. I had fantastic professors.”

After graduating from the University, the native New Yorker earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford in 1983, and then graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. She was Harvard Law School’s Dean from 2003 until 2009. Along the way, she served as Solicitor General of the United States, Associate White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, and professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Ms. Kagan said her colleagues received her warmly when she joined the court, where she had clerked as a young lawyer for Justice Thurgood Marshall. At 54, she is the youngest of the nine Supreme Court justices. Writing skills are important in the job, which she called “a good gig,” and she attributes her proficiency to her Princeton education. Not surprisingly given the average age of 68, the court isn’t the most technically savvy group, she said.

Asked to characterize her judicial philosophy, Ms. Kagan said, “I don’t think of myself as a philosopher. The way it works is that it’s a very back and forth kind of thing. I’m a big precedent person. I think really hard about how due process has changed over time.”

Ms. Kagan said that despite their different political leanings, the Supreme Court justices actually agree more than people might think. “Last year, 60 percent of our opinions were unanimous,” she said. But the 10 or so high-profile cases of the approximately 80 they take on are split “on pretty predictable lines.”

Ms. Kagan is often part of the liberal end of the court, with opinions sometimes splitting 5-4 along conservative to liberal lines. “Four of us think one thing and then four of us think the other thing. And then we wait and see what Justice (Anthony) Kennedy does,” she said, to laughter from the audience. Mr. Kennedy has often been the swing vote in decisions.

When Mr. Eisgruber asked Ms. Kagan if justices think about how their decisions can create political backlash, she responded, “It’s super rare that justices do or that they should. For the most part, you have a job to do, and your job is to apply the law as best you can.” She added that judges do have to think about how their decisions will be taken and avoid making them too hastily.

Asked whether there is corruption in the Supreme Court, Ms. Kagan said, “There is not a day in my job when I have ever thought anybody was not doing everything that they do in utter, complete good faith. You can disagree with people, and you will disagree with people, but everybody is trying to get it right.”



HOLLYWOOD COMES TO PRINCETON: If the man on the left looks familiar, it might be because he is actor Charlie Bewley, who played a recurring role on TV’s “Nashville” as the love interest of Hayden Panetierre. If the woman on the right looks familiar, it’s because she is Cece King, who grew up in Princeton and has come back to town to shoot a film she has written and in which she co-stars. “The Broken Ones” has been filming around town, most recently at the Peacock Inn and an empty house on Cleveland Lane.

The circular driveway fronting 42 Cleveland Lane was clogged with vans on the unseasonably warm Monday of this week. Between the columns of the 194-year-old house’s graceful front porch, young cast and crew members of The Broken Ones, a movie being filmed at several locations in town, were carting in equipment as they prepared to shoot a scene.

Described by Cece King, who wrote and co-stars in the movie, as “a 24-hour love story,” the film tells the tale of two despondent, twenty-something strangers who meet one night and help each other overcome their near-suicidal fears. “It’s a coming of age drama, kind of like Blue Velvet meets Garden State,” said Ms. King, 27, the daughter of Princeton interior designer Judy King.

Co-starring with Ms. King in the film is Charlie Bewley, known to fans of the TV drama Nashville as Charlie Wentworth, a past, nasty lover of lead character Juliette Barnes; James Russo, who starred in Extremities and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, among other roles; Margaret Colin, of Gossip Girl and Chicago Hope, and Constance Shulman of Orange is the New Black. 

It is an impressive cast for someone who is something of a newcomer to filmmaking, but Ms. King had the right mix of talent and determination to get the project off the ground. She is a graduate of Princeton High School who started studying communications at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida but left at 20 to take courses in Italy. “I got very interested in doing something different once I went to Italy,” she said. “My mom had gone to school for set design, and I think it was always in my mind.”

During an ensuing summer in New York, Ms. King happened upon a book by Catherine Hardwicke, who was the production designer for the Twilight movies. Ms. Hardwicke’s writings inspired her to go to Los Angeles and pursue production design, which was followed by film school, where she learned about writing, editing, and reading scripts. She also had the opportunity to act.

“I really liked it,” said Ms. King, who had never played roles in school productions while growing up. “I knew it was something I wanted to pursue.” She found a manager and got a few small parts in films and on the television show All My Children. After spending part of last summer acting in a film shot in the Philippines (“I played a sociopath in the jungle,” she said), Ms. King started thinking about bringing together acting, writing, and design in a story that had been in her mind for some time.

“I shot a teaser that was directed by actor Martin Henderson, of the soon-to-be-released film Everest, and it got some attention,” she said. “I got the financing, and here we are. It’s kind of amazing.”

Local connections have come in handy. Marti Moseley, an agent with Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, arranged for Ms. King to use the empty house on Cleveland Lane to shoot several scenes. “I didn’t realize how hard it is to get locations,” Ms. King says. “I called Marti, who is a friend, and this house happened to come through. Of course, if she needs to show it, we have to vacate, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Other scenes have been shot in the woods near Education Testing Service, at the Peacock inn, at a barn at Digging Dog Farm on Rosedale Road, and at Ms. Moseley’s home. Future scenes are to be filmed in New York City. The crew will wrap up the Princeton portion of the shoot at the end of this month.

Some 35 to 40 people make up the cast and crew of the film, with producers locally and in Los Angeles. Elyse Niblett is making her directing debut. Among the principal members of the cast, “I definitely have the more minimal of the resumes,” Ms. King said. “I’m learning so much as an actor and a writer. Everyone is on board and everyone is trying to make this work. We have high hopes. We want to send this to Indie festivals.”

Spending a week shooting in her home town has been a pleasure in some respects, and a challenge in others. “I tend to go into the work and stay there,” Ms. King said. “So it can be hard because my family is around and I want to enjoy being with them. But I’m not complaining.”


a dejected PHS #7 sits on the field after the loss to South Plainfield.

Princeton High boys’ soccer player Nick Kapp sits dejectedly on the field at Kean University last Sunday after PHS fell 4-3 to South Plainfield in the Group 3 state championship game. For more details on the team’s state tournament run, see page 35. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

November 25, 2014

A rally to protest Monday night’s decision not to indict the police officer who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri will take place this evening, Tuesday, at 6 p.m. A group of Princeton area residents are planning to gather at Tiger Park in front of Palmer Square.

The Coalition for Peace Action is co-sponsoring the rally, which was announced before the prosecutor revealed the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson. Similar protests are planned in Newark, New York, and Philadelphia.

The protest is designed to be peaceful, according to an announcement made at Monday night’s meeting of Princeton Council by resident Daniel Harris. Participants are asked to bring candles and flashlights.

New Jersey’s mayors have elected Liz Lempert to serve on the Executive Board of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. As such, Mayor Lempert will represent the interests and needs of New Jersey’s local elected officials to county, state and federal governments. The League is a voluntary association created to assist communities do a better job of self-governing through pooling information and resources. All 565 mayors and 13,000 elected and appointed officials of member municipalities are entitled to all the services and privileges of the League.

November 24, 2014

Less than a week after the new Dinky station opened on Alexander Road, New Jersey Transit issued an alert Sunday morning around 6:30 a.m. notifying travelers that the Dinky train would be out of service because of mechanical issues. Early this morning another alert was issued informing travelers that the train would again be out of service for the day. Meanwhile buses will shuttle Dinky users to Princeton Junction. The glitch comes just one day before the the ribbon cutting for the new station is scheduled to take place.

November 21, 2014

breaking news  wawa

Members of Princeton’s fire and police departments faced off Friday morning in a fundraising contest to see which could turn out the most hoagies. The fire department just made it with 22 compared with the police department’s 21, but everyone was a winner in the good-natured battle that was part of the grand opening celebration of the new Wawa market next to the new Dinky train station on the Princeton University campus. Wawa donated $1,000 each to the charity of each department’s choice — for the police, programs of the PBA 130, and for the fire department, the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Among the dignitaries on hand for the celebration were Mayor Liz Lempert, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Mercer County Freeholder John Cimino, and Princeton administrator Marc Dashield. Employees took part in a parade that detailed the company’s history, and longtime staff members Ari Shiner and Martin Maccarone, who are part of Wawa’s partnership with Eden Autism Services, were also recognized. The sleek, modern store, part of the University’s $330 million Arts & Transit project, was designed by architect Rick Joy. (Photo by Anne Levin)

November 19, 2014

United States Congressman Rush Holt will take the helm of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific organization, when he retires from the United States House of Representatives at the end of his eighth term. Mr. Holt will become chief executive officer and executive publisher of the AAAS’s Science family of journals.

Mr. Holt is a research physicist and former teacher who served as Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory from 1989 until 1998. His research into alternative energy earned him a patent for an improved solar pond technology for harnessing energy from sunlight.

The 66-year-old has represented Central New Jersey’s 12th District since 1999. He had an AAAS fellowship in 1982-83 while teaching at Swarthmore College. Mr. Holt will be the 18th chief executive of the 166-year-old AAAS and will be formally named at the association’s annual meeting in San Jose, California in February, according to a release issued by the organization. He will succeed Alan I. Leshner, who is stepping down from the CEO position after 13 years.

“Rush Holt will be a great leader of AAAS and a powerful spokesman for science both nationally and internationally,” said Phillip A. Sharp, chair of the AAAS Board of Directors, who serves as an Institute Professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “His career as a scientist, educator, and public servant, uniquely prepares him to take the reins of AAAS from another great leader, Alan Leshner.”

Mr. Leshner commented, “Rush Holt is an ideal choice to lead AAAS and Science into the future. His expertise, experience, and commitment to science and public service are sure to greatly enhance the association’s impact in all domains.”

On Tuesday, December 9 from 7-9 p.m., author and psychologist Ari Tuckman will speak on “Medication for ADHD: From Myths and Controversy to Understanding and Informed Decisions.” The talk is at John Witherspoon Middle School, 217 Walnut Lane. Admission is free.

Medication is probably the best known treatment for ADHD, but it is also the most controversial. Mr. Tuckman will explore what it means to treat a psychological condition and specifically what it means to take medication that influences thinking. He will also discuss the effects of other treatments such as therapy, coaching, and organizing, etc., as well as how to use certain tools and strategies.

The presentation will first explore the psychology behind accepting a diagnosis. Like many of the psychiatric diagnoses, there is a stigma and lack of credibility associated with ADHD that is different from the more “medical” conditions, such as diabetes. Other topics will include the psychology of medication, what it means to take medication for a diagnosed condition, the common reasons why people start medication or choose not to, and the reasons why people continue or terminate treatment.

Because the most effective treatment programs for ADHD tend to be ones that integrate medication with other modalities, Mr. Tuckman will also explore the use of psychosocial interventions such as therapy, coaching, and organizing.

Mr. Tuckman has given more than 250 presentations and is the author of three books: Understand Your Brain, Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook; More Attention, Less Deficit: Success Strategies for Adults With ADHD; and Integrative Treatment for Adult ADHD: A Practical, Easy-to-Use Guide for Clinicians. His “More Attention, Less Deficit” podcast has more than 100 episodes and has had over 1,750,000 downloads. He is a psychologist in private practice in West Chester, Pa. and is a board member of CHADD National.

THANKSGIVING WITHOUT THE BLOAT: At a lunch held by Dorothy Mullen’s Suppers Program this week, health-conscious diners dove into a satisfying meal of turkey meatloaf, salsa flavored with oranges and cilantro, tangy greens with tamari, roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower, and lentil loaf for the one vegan at the table. Everyone cleaned their plate but no one complained of feeling overstuffed.(Photo by Anne Levin)

THANKSGIVING WITHOUT THE BLOAT: At a lunch held by Dorothy Mullen’s Suppers Program this week, health-conscious diners dove into a satisfying meal of turkey meatloaf, salsa flavored with oranges and cilantro, tangy greens with tamari, roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower, and lentil loaf for the one vegan at the table. Everyone cleaned their plate but no one complained of feeling overstuffed. (Photo by Anne Levin)

Like most Thanksgiving feasts, this one included generous portions, multiple side dishes, and lots of discussion about food. But unlike those traditional holiday repasts, the meal left no one desperate for a nap or moaning about how they over-indulged.

The table around which 11 members of the Suppers Program gathered Monday afternoon was in the Patton Avenue home of Suppers founder Dorothy Mullen. An advocate of avoiding processed foods as a path to well-being, she came up with the concept of using the communal preparation and consumption of a nutritious meal as a way to manifest healthy change. Ms. Mullen is also known locally for her work with the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative and other health-oriented community initiatives.

She is a proponent not only of eating well, but of the importance of families eating together. “It’s important for children, because so many of a family’s values get transmitted at the table,” she said. “It’s about so much more than good nutrition. The family table is a place where sibling rivalry and tensions are resolved in a safe and warm environment. If a family is not eating together, they are missing a huge opportunity to bond with one another.”

On this rainy afternoon, it was all about chopping, roasting, sauteing, and, finally, eating. Before long, the windows of Ms. Mullen’s homey kitchen were steamed up and some people’s eyes were burning from the strong spices and condiments that were part of the cooking. As members arrived, signed in, paid the $10 to offset the cost of the food, and washed their hands, Ms. Mullen put them to work.

She paired the two newcomers in the kitchen with experienced members. One first-timer peeled sweet potatoes while the friend who brought her, a two-year veteran, chopped them into small pieces. Soon the potatoes were ready for the roasting pan and a swish of olive oil and spices.

Julie Denny, who co-chairs the One Table Cafe at Trinity Church (temporarily operating at Nassau Presbyterian Church), got busy shaping ground turkey, vegetables, and almond flour into mini-meatloaves. “I met Dor about a year ago when she spoke at One Table Cafe, and I started coming here. Now, I look forward to it,” she said. “It’s fun, and there is a nice sense of community.”

While this luncheon was a general meeting of Suppers participants, other gatherings focus on specific healing themes such as lowering blood sugar, living with diabetes, alcohol dependence, and weight management. “This is not a club,” said Karen Baldino, a trained facilitator for Suppers, during her brief orientation for new members. “It’s a program of people who gather to cook, eat, and meet to talk about diet and lifestyle change.”

Members are asked to respect each others’ anonymity and not judge lifestyles or choices. While new products or foods might be discussed, nothing is promoted. Meetings are held at about 30 different facilitators’ homes, and at locations such as the YMCA, the Whole Earth market or Savory Spice.

Once the table was set and everything was ready to serve, the plating began. The white china plates were the perfect background for the crisp, green bok choy and tat soy, the red-and-orange-flecked salsa, and other vividly colored dishes that made up the meal. Ms. Mullen lowered the lights, asked members to join hands (or elbows if worried about germs), and breathe in and out. “Take a breath, and let it go,” she said. “Give your weight to the chair. Let go of tensions.”

The lights were turned up and everyone tucked into the meal. “I would serve this for Thanksgiving dinner with a pumpkin pie and no apologies,” Ms. Mullen said as members expressed approval for each dish. “And you can make a fabulous holiday meal just out of side dishes if you like.”

Ms. Denny said that while she enjoyed the meal, she wasn’t sure she could convince her family to forgo Thanksgiving staples such as mashed potatoes with butter, swimming in gravy. Others at the table commented that it takes time to switch over to healthier options, especially when a holiday tradition is involved.

But the group raved about a gravy concocted by Ms. Denny that mixed coconut oil, onion, salt, cilantro, chili powder, vegan broth, and some coconut milk, cooked down for thickening. “When food is this colorful and tastes this good, it’s do-able, it’s delicious, and it’s beautiful,” Ms. Mullen said.



When Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert toured the Community Options Inc. group home on North Harrison Street recently, she learned a great deal about the Hunger Games books, resident Vanessa’s favorite reading. She also saw firsthand the non-profit organization’s accomplishments in providing employment and housing support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Originally a one-story house with two bedrooms, the building was donated by the town in 2010. After a thorough renovation, it opened as a group home in 2012. “Community Options is helping individuals with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives,” said Ms. Lempert, who commended the staff and the residents for their volunteer work on behalf of the community. “The Princeton community will continue to work to make housing affordable for people with disabilities.” From left: Community Support Coordinator Awee Taylor, Mercer County Executive Director Teresa Snyder, resident Vanessa, Ms. Lempert, resident Lillian, and Regional Vice President for New Jersey J. Svetlana Repic-Qira. Community Options has developed housing and employment programs for people with disabilities for over 25 years. For more information, visit: