Faculty Digest


Meena Khandelwal has joined the department as a visiting assistant professor of anthropology. A specialist in female asceticism in India, she holds a doctorate from the University of Virginia. A new book by George McCarthy, Romancing Antiquity: German Critique of the Enlightenment from Weber to Habermas, was published in June by Rowman and Littlefield. It is the final volume in McCarthy's series on antiquity and German social theory.

Art and Art History

Melissa Dabakis has a book, Monuments, Manliness, and the Work Ethic: Labor and American Sculpture, 1880-1935, forthcoming from the American Visual Culture series of Cambridge University Press. She published an article, "Organized Labor and the Politics of Representation: The Samuel Gompers Memorial," in Labor's Heritage this summer. Dabakis participated in three conferences over the 1996-97 academic year. She organized and chaired a session entitled "Memory and Commemoration in the Late Twentieth Century" at the College Art Association Meeting in New York City in February 1997 and served as chair and respondent for two additional sessions, "Military Bodies: Gender and National Identity" at the Great Lakes American Studies Association (GLASA) meeting at Indiana University in March 1997 and "Exiles and Expatriates: Defining American Citizenship as a Woman Artist" at the Organization of American Historians meeting in San Francisco, California, in April 1997. Her participation in the GLASA conference was funded by a Kenyon Faculty Development Grant. In May, Dabakis participated in an American sculpture workshop in the art history department at Ohio State University and served as a specialist reviewer for the 1997-98 Getty Grant Program Postdoctoral Fellowship Grants and the Fulbright Scholar Awards. This year, she chairs the Department of Art and Art History and codirects the American Studies Concentration. Claudia Esslinger showed "Fragile Armors" at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in March. She was promoted to full professor at the April meeting of the board. Work by Greg Spaid was included in the National Photography Competition at the Soho Photo Gallery in New York City during the month of June. Pieces from "Plain Pictures, etc.," which was shown at the College during he 1996-97 academic year, will be shown at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in September. Spaid planned a research trip over the summer to study the origins of photography. With a teaching-initiative grant from Kenyon, he will visit several of the sites, in England and France, where photography was invented. In addition to Paris and London, Spaid will travel to Chalon-sur-Soane east of Paris, where Joseph Nicephore Niepce invented a process called the heliograph, and to Lacock Abbey near Bath, England, where William Henry Fox Talbot invented the negative-positive process he called the calotype. These early photographic processes preceded the tintype, invented at Kenyon in 1856 by Professor of Natural Philosophy Hamilton L. Smith. Kay Willens was awarded an OhioArts Council Individual Artist's Fellowship in interdisciplinary arts. During the spring, she exhibited work in Columbus at Roy G. Biv Gallery, re-Art Gallery, and Ohio State University.


Patricia Heithaus spent May and June working full-time (and overtime) in the butterfly garden and new woodland garden of the Kenyon Center for Environmental Study (KCES). She is applying her natural-history expertise in helping David Kysela '98 and Ray Heithaus identify and collect fish from the Kokosing River for a study of the population structure of rainbow darters in the watershed, and she is preparing the new Biology 9, 10 laboratory manual. The Heithauses spent part of July exploring tropical and marine habitats in Australia. Ray Heithaus worked over the summer with David Kysela on the project mentioned above and with Jeremy Bono '98 performing experiments on the social structure of ant colonies. A paper cowritten by Manuel Morales '94 and Heithaus will appear in the journal, Ecology, later this year. Heithaus continues to spend a good deal of time working with the KCES and the Kokosing Scenic River Association. Dorothy and Thomas Jegla have retired. They will continue to pursue their birding and botanical interests. Dorothy's position will be filled for the 1997-98 academic year by Visiting Professor of Biology Oscar Will, while Tom's position will be filled by Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Gillen. Gillen, who holds a doctorate from Yale University, is a specialist in cellular and molecular biology. Christopher Halsell, Theodore Lee, and Paul B. Wilson have joined the department as visiting assistant professors. Halsell, a specialist in neuroscience, holds a doctorate from the University of Connecticut. With a doctorate from Syracuse University, Lee concentrates his work in protein expression and assembly in bacteria. Wilson, a specialist in evolutionary and population biology, holds a doctorate from Washington University. Joan Slonczewski worked with Devin Johnson '98, Sarah McGeorge '98, and Bonnie Schutte, a biology teacher at Mount Vernon High School, on a Howard Hughes Teacher Summer Research Fellowship to study pH-regulated genes in Escherichia coli. She completed a paper with Lisa Lambert '96 on "Proteins Induced by Benzoate in Escherichia coli." Slonczewski served as cochair for two sessions of talks, on "Metabolism in the Archaea" and "Signal Transduction across the Membrane," at the American Society for Microbiology Annual Meeting in Miami, Florida, in May. At the Science Fiction Research Association Annual Meeting in Long Beach, California, in June, she was a guest author and presenter of "Microbes on Mars."


Russell Batt spent the summer reviewing density functional theory in preparation for his sabbatical, during which he will be doing supercomputer calculations on the electronic states of transition metal complexes with Bruce Bursten of Ohio State University. Scott Cummings did research over the summer with Karen Downey '98 and Cindy Deal, a Carolinas-Ohio Science Education Network research student from Ohio Wesleyan University. He also attendeda workshop on Computational Chemistry at Georgia State University. John Lutton directed the summer research of Thomas Worrall '98 and Matthew Goldman '98. Rosemary Marusak gave two poster presentations at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco, California, in April. Two of her research students, Sarah Hobert '97 and Elizabeth Boon '97, gave poster presentations, too. Also in April, Marusak accompanied eleven Kenyon students to the National Council on Undergraduate Research Conference in Austin, Texas. This summer, she directed the research of Julia Boon '98, Sarah Glick '98, and Ndeye Diop '99. Paul Arnold, a Mount Vernon High School chemistry teacher, also worked in her laboratory, supported by the College's Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant. Marusak has had a research paper, cowritten with her research students Tom Magliery '96, Lizabeth Vitellaro '97, and Ndeye Diop '99, accepted for publication in the journal Metal-Based Drugs. As a member of Kenyon's recently formed Curricular Review Committee, Marusak attended this summer's Asheville (North Carolina) Institute on General Education. Jeffrey Mathys, who did summer research with David Mandich '99, will develop laboratory projects supported by a Kenyon teaching-initiatives grant. His proposal was entitled "To Put 'Experiment' Back into Experimental Organic Chemistry." Elizabeth Ottinger has joined the department as an assistant professor of chemistry. A specialist in bio-organic chemistry, she holds a doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Dudley Thomas did summer research with Justin Thomas '98. He also codirected the chemistry portion of the School-College Articulation Program's summer program. Thomas is developing chemistry laboratory projects using instrument-control and data-acquisition software purchased with the HHMI grant.


Michael Barich has completed the first draft of his translation of the Argonautica by Valerius Flaccus. Robert Bennett will continue to serve as associate provost at Kenyon for the 1997-98 academic year. Jennifer Dellner has left the department to become a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the humanities at the University of Houston. Clifford Weber will return from a sabbatical year, during which he wrote a long paper to be delivered in lecture form, with the possibility of subsequent publication. From mid-April to late May, Weber was abroad in Japan, except for a brief trip to Italy. He has published an article, "Roscius and the roscida dea," in Classical Quarterly '96. He will be teaching a new course during second semester entitled "Classicl Civilization 17: The History and Literature of the Age of Augustus."

Dance and Drama

Balinda Craig-Quijada and Stacy Reischman attended the annual American College Dance Festival at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville in March. They were accompanied by Corinna Cosentino '97, Ondine Geary '99, Meida McNeal '97, Melonie Nance '97, and Mila Thigpen '97. The dance works selected to representKenyon's program included The Wakening, choreographed by McNeal, and The Briar and the Rose, choreographed by Craig-Quijada. Both pieces received favorable feedback from a panel of respected adjudicators in the field of dance. The Briar and the Rose was given the special honor of being selected to be performed in the final gala concert, the culminating event of the five-day festival. Wendy MacLeod received an Amblin Entertainment commission from Playwrights Horizons, an Off-Broadway theater, to create a new play, which the theater group has decided to produce. The play, The Water Children, concerns a pro-choice actress who does a pro-life television commercial and has a love affair with the leader of the pro-life movement, a Randall Terry-like figure. Harlene Marley directed and cohosted the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF) Winner's Circle gala in the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center in April. The evening comprised the presentation of the national awards to student playwrights, designers, and critics and the "Evening of Scenes," performances by student actors from across the nation competing in the finals for Irene Ryan Foundation scholarships, as well as other acting awards. Harlene's cohost was Jeff Koep, dean of fine arts at the University of Las Vegas and national chair of KC/ACTF. KC/ACTF, which is presented and produced by the Kennedy Center, is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Education, Kennedy Center Corporate Fund, and the National Committee for the Performing Arts. Maggie Patton made her debut as a director for the Columbus Light Opera (CLO), directing Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance, which opened in June in Columbus, Ohio, at the Leo Yassenoff Community Center Theater. She also choreographed the CLO July production of Rose Marie by Rudolf Friml. Linda Pisano and Jonathan Tazewell have joined the department as visiting assistant professors. Pisano, who holds an M.F.A. from Ohio State University, specializes in costume design. Tazewell, a 1984 graduate of Kenyon with an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts, is a specialist in film, theater, and video direction.


Priscilla Cooke has joined the department as an assistant professor of economics. A specialist in agrarian economics, she holds a doctorate from the University of Washington.


Jennifer Clarvoe reports she was happy to be back from a semester's leave, teaching in the M.F.A. program at the University of California at Irvine, in time to present poet Robert Pinsky with his honorary doctorate at Commencement. She taught poetry at Harvard University this summer for the fourth time. Ronald Sharp gave a paper on the poetry of Michael Harper this fall at a conference at Bowdoin College on Harper's work. This summer, he taught in the School-College Articulation Program and put the final touches on his book The Persistence of Poetry: Bicentennial Essays on John Keats, to be published next year by the University of Massachusetts Press.


Jeffrey Bowman has joined the department as a visiting instructor of history. A specialist in medieval studies, he is a doctoral candidate at Yale University. Roy Wortman recently won a Smithsonian Institution Short-Term Fellowship for research there in North American Indian history. In September, he will deliver a paper on Native autobiography at the Northern Great Plains Historical Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota. His article on American Indian civil-rights advocate John Salter Hunter Gray was recently published in the Encyclopedia of American Indian Civil Rights.

Interdisciplinary Studies

Lewis Hyde was awarded an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute in May for his contributions to art education. He also gave the commencement address at the institute. His new book, Trickster Makes This World, will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in January 1998.


Stephen Slack reports he is back, much invigorated, from a year-long sabbatical, looking forward to teaching topology, differential equations, calculus, and statistics. During his sabbatical, he completed work on a manuscript for a topology book to be used in the course. Topology is a branch of geometry that treats the properties of geometric figures that are left invariant by deformations and other continuous transformations. Once thought to be a very abstract subject, with only aesthetic and foundational utility, topology has proven to have many applications in biology, chemistry, economics, and physics. New to the department this year are Judy Holdener, Benjamin Shults, and Douglas Wolfe. Holdener, an assistant professor, is a specialist in algebraic K-theory with a doctorate from the University of Illinois. A visiting assistant professor with a specialty in automatic theorem proving, Shults is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas. Wolfe, a visiting professor whose specialty is nonparametric statistics, holds a doctorate from the University of Iowa.

Modern Languages

Jianhua Bai delivered keynote speeches to the Association of Northern California Chinese Schools and the Association of Southern California Chinese Schools in Los Angeles in February. The summary of the keynote speech and an interview with the Sing Tao Daily correspondent, Tony Chang, was published in the February 23 issue of Sing Tao Daily. He traveled to Princeton University in April to present a paper on developing advanced listening skills to the university's conference on Chinese-language pedagogy. Bai presented a paper in May on "How to Design Individualized Instruction for a Diverse Group" at the New England Conference on the Teaching of Chinese. His summer activities included leading the advanced section of the Middlebury College Chinese Summer Language School in Vermont. Bai is working on a book project, Liang An Duihua. In additionto establishing and maintaining a World Wide Web page for teaching and learning Chinese, Bai has been awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium to develop a multimedia tutor for teaching about Chinese novels. His article entitled "Teaching Text Structures: Why and How?" will appear in the October issue of the Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers' Association. Linda Metzler advises us that the cocoa-leaf project mentioned in the previous issue of the Bulletin is available within Authorware on public microcomputers at Kenyon only. It is not accessible on the World Wide Web, as was indicated in the Bulletin, because of copyright issues. Natalia Olshanskaya has joined the department as a visiting assistant professor of Russian. She holds a doctorate from the University of Odessa. As a member of the Steering Committee of the Ohio Five project aimed at strengthening the teaching and learning of foreign languages, Clara Roman-Odio has been actively involved in the implementation of the objectives of the project and in discussions regarding its future direction. Within this effort, she has assisted in the planning of a new language-learning center and served as a faculty mentor to the Kenyon Intensive Language Model. In her mentorship capacity, Roman-Odio has coordinated three workshops offered by the Ohio Five language-technology specialist, Ming Yang; organized a presentation by Vicente Cantarino of Ohio State University and Cheryl Johnson of Kenyon, who is his technical specialist, on their multimedia project on Spanish culture and civilization; and initiated the training of students Jeb King '00 and Allison Riley '00 to assist the faculty in the development of multimedia projects. Roman-Odio also directed a multimedia project on Hispanic popular music, presented at Middlebury College in June. During the summer, she participated in an Ohio Five-sponsored World Wide Web workshop, where she created a Spanish web site. Hideo Tomita reports that, thanks to Donna Heady, head of acquisitions in the Olin and Chalmers Libraries, Kenyon will receive a $10,000 book donation from the Japan Foundation this fall. The program, with the Faculty Lectureships Committee, will bring Ohio State University Professor Richard Torrance, a specialist in modern Japanese literature, to campus to give a lecture on Japanese culture. The Japanese program has also been awarded Kenyon teaching-initiative funds for a project that intends to strengthen the advanced study of Japanese with the aid of the computer. Tomita headed the advanced level Japanese program at the Middlebury College Japanese Summer Language School, where he did follow-up research on testing he initiated there last year. Updates on the College's Japanese program may be viewed at www2.kenyon.edu/depts/mll/japanese/.


Benjamin Locke took the Chamber Singers on their longest spring tour ever, spending ten days in March on the road singing eight concerts in the cities of Boulder, Colorado, Crystal Lake, Illinois, Des Moines, Iowa, Lawrence, Kansas, Littleton, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, Quinter, Kansas, and St. Charles, Missouri. In April, he also set a record by assembling more thantwo-hundred musicians (the Chamber Singers, Community Choir, and Knox County Symphony) on the Rosse Hall stage for a performance of Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem. Christopher Goertzen and Valerie Goertzen have joined the department as visiting assistant professors of music. His specialty is ethnomusicology; hers is nineteenth-century music. Both hold doctorates from the University of Illinois.


Paula Turner worked with Kenyon Summer Science Scholar Shawn Huang '98 on engineering projects to improve the operation of the Miller Observatory telescope and CCD cameras. She also presented a paper on near infrared imaging of two merging galaxy systems at the June meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and a talk on the successful implementation of video-imaging techniques in Kenyon's physics laboratory program at the August meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in Denver, Colorado. Through part of the grant awarded to the sciences at Kenyon by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the department has updated two crucial experiments in modern physics now being taught in the introductory lab. Eight new sodium-iodide scintillation detectors and multichannel analysis boards allow students in the lab to detect the gamma-ray spectrum from radioactive decays of long-lived nuclear isotopes to aid in their understanding of the quantum mechanical nature of the nuclei of atoms. The other updated experiment is the famous photoelectric effect, the explanation of which garnered Albert Einstein his Nobel Prize. With the new apparatus, students are able to measure this effect with a precision of 1 to 2 percent, more than a tenfold improvement over results with older equipment.

Physical Education

Robert D. Bunnell cohosted a session on "Tailoring Sexual Assault Prevention Programs for College Athletics" at the National Association of College Directors of Athletics Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, in June. He collaborated with Alan Berkowitz, a counselor from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Political Science

A new book by Harry Clor, Public Morality and Liberal Society (reviewed in the Winter 1996 Bulletin), was reviewed favorably by Walter Berns in the summer 1997 issue of The Public Interest. Clor's book addresses the role of government in promoting public morality and decency. In June, Kirk Emmert visited the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It was the first of a number of leading schools of education he will be visiting in connection with his course on "School Reform" and his work as faculty advisor to students interested in careers in education. Over the summer, Emmert wrote an essay on Winston Churchill's Marlborough to be presented at a conference on the book in May 1998 at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England, the ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough. Paul Ulrich has joined the department as visiting assistant professor and BradleyFellow. A specialist in political thought, he holds a doctorate from the University of Chicago.


Andrew Niemiec and Jon Williams have ordered $127,000 of equipment using a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for the introductory laboratories in neuroscience and biopsychology. The equipment they have ordered will be used by students in two new laboratory and methods courses they are team-teaching during both semesters of the 1997-98 academic year, "Introductory Methods in Neuroscience" and "Introductory Methods in Biopsychology." The equipment will allow students to conduct hands-on research about learning processes and the principles of reinforcements; recording and interpreting autonomic responses, evoked potentials, and brain-wave activity in humans; and visual, auditory, and cognitive processing of information. The equipment is now up and running in two remodeled lab areas. There are ten new operant-conditioning (Skinner) boxes with separate workstations in one lab and six networked computers in the second, a human biopsychology lab, for recording physiological responses and conducting auditory, visual, and cognitive research.


Joseph Adler has returned from a year in Japan as resident director of the Great Lakes Colleges Association/Associated Colleges of the Midwest Japan Study Program at Waseda University in Tokyo. He spent a week in Taiwan and two weeks in mainland China, visiting temples and gathering materials for his courses. Royal Rhodes received a Kenyon faculty-development grant that he used over the summer to visit Ireland, continuing his work as coauthor with Professor of Sociology George McCarthy on a book, Justice Beyond Heaven, exploring the issue of social justice and economic democracy in Ireland, Germany, and the United States. He also made a short visit to Greece to gather materials for a future seminar on "Millenial Centers of Christianity: Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem."

Reality and fantasy in medieval history shape Jean Blacker's life and scholarship

W hen word came that she was to receive the James Randall Leader Award from the editorial board of the journal Arthuriana for the best article of 1996, Associate Professor of French Jean Blacker was ecstatic. A passionate scholar of Old French and the histories of the English kings written in that language and in Latin, she felt deeply honored to be the first recipient of this prize from so prestigious a journal. Blacker's eight-year-old daughter, Edwina Finefrock, immediately wanted to know if her mom would receive a trophy.

"I never imagined such a thing," says Blacker, "so I'm completely stunned by the beautiful, large, crystal vase inscribed with the insignia of the International Arthuriana Society--North American Branch--and my name and the year." Edwina is overjoyed.

Blacker received the award at a reception in her honor during the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo last May. Her article, "Where Wace Feared to Tread: Latin Commentaries on Merlin's Prophecies in the Reign of Henry II," tracks the delicate nature of political prophecy in mid-twelfth-century Norman contexts and texts.

It's just one of Blacker's scholarly excursions into the politics surrounding Merlin's prophecies. "The prophesies of Merlin were taken quite seriously, although Merlin himself is a fictitious character," she observes. Wace, a twelfth-century poet, refused to translate them, most likely for political reasons.

"It was in graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley that I really became interested in the medieval period," says Blacker. "I was captivated by the lack of distinction between fact and fiction in historical narrative of the Middle Ages. Often it's difficult to determine where history ends and fiction begins." This dichotomy is explored in her book, The Faces of Time: Portrayal of the Past in Old French and Latin Historical Narrative of the Anglo-Norman Regnum, in which she examines who the audience for early histories would have been and how those audiences' expectations of historical writing might have differed from our own. While the six historians Blacker surveys--William of Malmesbury, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Orderic Vitalis, Wace, Gaimer, and Benoit de Sainte-Maure--chronicle English kings and English history, they wrote in either Latin or Old French, indicating an audience of French-speaking aristocrats or Latin-literate clergy.

When it comes to sharing her enthusiasms with her students, Blacker offers challenges not often found in undergraduate environments. "Students must learn to read Old French," she says. "It really gives them an appreciation for the history and development of the language. But the texts are long and the reading is slow, so I do permit use of modern French translations to some extent."

Professor of Women's and Gender Studies Laurie A. Finke,Associate Professor of English William F. Klein, Associate Professor of Italian P. Lyn Richards, and Associate Professor of English Timothy B. Shutt share Blacker's interest in the medieval period, and together they have discussed creating a medieval and Renaissance concentration. However, staffing the senior capstone seminar is a sticking point. For the time being, they content themselves with letting students know, via e-mail, what is available across the curriculum. "We don't have a vast number of students interested in medieval studies," says Blacker, "but those who are, are very passionate about it."

Blacker's own passion is evident in the sheer volume of her scholarly publications as well as her active participation in numerous professional societies and conferences. This summer she will publish "Gaimar's Portrait of a Lady and Her Books" in The Court and Cultural Diversity, and she is organizing a session on individual and cultural identity in Arthurian narrative for the Modern Language Association convention in December 1997. "They may not have used the term 'cultural diversity' in medieval times," Blacker remarks, "but the role of individuals within the society is evidently of great concern."

In addition to teaching about the mysteries of King Arthur and Merlin, Blacker offers a course entitled "Themes in Francophone Literature," which examines cultural and individual identity in the Francophone novel, primarily of the 1970s and 1980s. Works by authors from Africa, Belgium, the French Caribbean, and Quebec are included. "Ethnicity is a fascinating area by itself," says Blacker. "It's not just something under discussion in the United States."

The upcoming academic year will be Blacker's second of a two-year term as chair of Kenyon's Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. In this capacity, she will continue to implement plans for a new language-learning center, supported in part by grants awarded to the Five Colleges of Ohio consortium by the Charles E. Culpeper and Andrew W. Mellon foundations. A recently hired technical specialist in language will train faculty members and students to write interactive software and develop a World Wide Web page for the department.

"These programs are important because they add cultural context to language study," explains Blacker. "Students can listen, read, write, record, and answer questions, adding valuable practice and instruction to the already intensive classroom experience."

Whether or not the future holds more trophies for Blacker, it seems certain that her ardent interests in things medieval, things French, and things mysterious will continue, unabated.


Ben Schumacher and fellow researcher "hot-wire" theory to reality

A transformation is under way. Room-sized computers have been dwarfed by personal computers. Desktop models downsized to laptops. Laptops squeezed yet smaller. Information, it appears, is shrinking. Just how small can data be compressed? How little energy is needed to transmit information?

Two researchers now know some of the answers. And the implications of their research are immense.

Benjamin Schumacher, associate professor of physics at Kenyon, and Michael Westmoreland, a mathematician at nearby Denison University, are about to publish their findings in the journal Physical Review. What they have to report has created a stir. The media are abuzz.

"The Economist, Science, and Science News magazines, among others, have inquired about our research," says Schumacher. "And an editor at MIT Press asked us if we wanted to write a book." The buzz is best summed up by a reviewer at the American Institute of Physics who called the duo's research paper "one of the most important results of the year in information theory, and is likely to be considered a landmark in quantum mechanics and information theory." That, according to a July 6 article in the Columbus Dispatch.

So what's the buzz? The two researchers, who have collaborated on projects for about five years, have discovered "how information is encoded in any quantum system--be that a molecule, atom, nucleus, elementary particle, or whatever," explains Schumacher. Consider, for example, a single photon--a discrete particle with zero mass, no electrical charge, and an indefinitely long lifetime. The researchers have determined that by polarizing the photon and causing it to move in a specified direction, then "assigning" that direction a value such as 0 or 1 (or "yes" or "no"), the photon can "carry" data. (Schumacher previously coined the term "qubit" as the content of one photo polarization or electron spin. See the Bulletin, Volume 17, Number 2, August 1994, for coverage of his earlier research.) Moreover, by altering the photon's polarity and forcing it to move in another direction--a principle of quantum mechanics known as superposition--a second value can be assigned. In fact, the more directions the photon can be made to move, the more information it can convey. To a degree, anyway.

The challenge is in reading the data. "If too much information is squeezed into one photon," explains Schumacher, "the data are distorted and cannot be read back later. The maximum amount [of data] that the photon can bear is given by the photon's entropy, a quantum measure of its disorder." In the 1970s, a Russian scientist named Aleksandr Holevo showed that entropy was an upper limit to the information capacity; now Schumacher and Westmoreland have shown that "this limit can always be reached if the encoding and decoding are clever enough," says Schumacher.

One of the strategies that he and Westmoreland offer is to use only those states--that is, directions or polarity characteristics--of the photon that are most distinguishable. The greater the number of distinguishable states in the photon, the higher the entropy level and, correspondingly, the higher the data transmission level. So goes the latest theory.

While there are still theoretical and technical challenges ahead, the research offers great promise. Advances in cryptography and high-speed computing are only the beginning. As Schumacher stated in the Dispatch article, "We are increasingly thinking about the opportunities it provides . . . and less about the limitations."


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