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While the November 2 election will determine who will occupy the White House for the next four years, it may also make another determination as well: namely, whether Americans will embrace the use of electronic voting devices.

Suffering through the Florida recount debacle in the 2000 presidential election may have raised America's consciousness as to the methods they use to cast votes. Since then, there have been lots of claims made by advocates about how comfortable people are with electronic voting, while opponents have argued just the opposite, that the confidence of all voters is now shaken by the thought of using electronic voting systems. Who's right, who's wrong?

Neither, says R. Michael Alvarez, a professor of political science at the California Institute of Technology, and codirector of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. "In fact, there appears to be a lot of indecision on the part of voters about the use of electronic voting devices," he says. Alvarez and Thad Hall, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Utah, and a collaborator with the Voting Project, just completed a study on American registered voters' attitudes about electronic voting devices. "Roughly one-third of the registered voters in our sample stated they had no opinion about any of the arguments for or against the use of electronic voting machines," notes Hall. "This might represent uncertainty about electronic voting machines, a lack of familiarity with them, or some ambivalence about their use."

That leads Alvarez to believe that public opinion is at a critical moment regarding their use. This November, voters in 42 states will use new voting systems, such as touch screen ballots and optical scan machines. As a result, says Alvarez, "The performance of these voting systems on November 2 will play a critical role in determining how American voters feel about using electronic voting technologies in the future." If things run smoothly with few glitches, electronic balloting will probably be here to stay. If there is another glitch-filled election, the controversy will go on.

The telephone survey, funded by the University of Utah's College of Social and Behavioral Science and Political Science Department, was conducted by International Communications Research between August 25 and 29. It interviewed a nationwide sample of 829 male and female registered voters. (The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.) While roughly one-third of voters in the sample expressed no opinion, a plurality of 38 percent of voters said they are most comfortable with using electronic voting machines to cast their vote, while 30 percent were most comfortable using optical scanning devices.

Not surprisingly, the survey shows a sizeable generation gap in attitudes about electronic voting. More than half of Generation Y registered voters, those between age 18 and 28 and a generation that grew up with computers and video games, expressed comfort with their use. But only a third of those 59 and older were comfortable with the newer electronic voting technology.

A plurality of registered voters in the sample--43 percent--also agreed with the statement that electronic voting equipment is prone to unintentional glitches, while 38 percent agreed that electronic voting increases the potential for fraud.

Other questions broke responses down by race and political affiliation (see http://vote.caltech.edu/Reports/fall04survey.pdf for complete results), but the scientists believe opinions will be strongly set by the November election. "The tenor of the debate over voting technology has been very argumentative over the past two years," says Hall, "but electronic voting hasn't been all bad." On the one hand, he says, there have been many cases of anomalies in the implementation of electronic voting systems that have resulted in votes being lost or problems at polling places. At the same time, there have been cases of electronic voting enfranchising voters, giving certain voters--such as people with disabilities--the chance to cast a secret ballot for the first time, or lowering the number of uncounted ballots. "Much of this debate has played out among media and political elites," says Alvarez, "and our goal was to determine how the public views these issues at this point in time, in particular the tradeoffs between possible increases in accuracy relative to potential increases in either glitches or outright election fraud.

"Overall, I'd say the electorate does seem inclined to favor some form of electronic voting, but it's weak. So it will be interesting to see how the November elections shapes this ongoing argument."

MEDIA CONTACTS: Mark Wheeler Caltech (626) 395-8733 wheel@caltech.edu

Ann Bardsley University of Utah Public Relations (801) 587-9183 abardsley@ucomm.utah.edu

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Caltech and MIT Propose Measures to Ensure Accuracy, Accessibility in Presidential Election

PASADENA, Calif.— Experts in voting technology from the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology say that four relatively simple and inexpensive steps can be taken to ensure that voting procedures in this fall's presidential election are as accurate and reliable as possible.

The recommendations are included in a new report prepared by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), an independent bipartisan agency that serves as a national clearinghouse for information on the administration of federal elections. The report also includes several steps that the group believes are necessary for avoiding lost votes in November.

"Between four and six million voters were disenfranchised in the 2000 election," said Mike Alvarez, a professor of political science at Caltech. "Although some progress has been made these past four years, we are still concerned that millions of votes could be lost in November--particularly if the popular vote is close."

Ted Selker, associate professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, says, "Procedural improvements can still be made this year to ensure that we have only a fraction of the errors that we had in 2000."

Recommendations from the Caltech/MIT team include:

- Collect the information that would be needed to audit the 2004 election. This is essential. Currently, 11 states do not report total ballots cast, making it nearly impossible to track the performance of equipment and election procedures in these states. The EAC should require a report of total ballots cast and votes cast for each federal office from each election jurisdiction. These reports should also include the number of registered voters and absentee ballots cast. The secretaries of state should include these figures in their statement of certified votes.

- Fix common ballot problems. This includes some very basic design issues that were problematic in the last election. For example, the EAC should recommend that all jurisdictions using optical scanning use the term "Someone Else (write name)" instead of the term "Write In." If the ballot has a back side, the front side of the ballot should clearly state so in large, plain letters.

- Produce provisional voting guidelines. Many people went to the wrong precinct in 2000, and were unable to vote. New provisional voting guidelines need to be developed by mid-August that give uniform procedures for allowing provisional ballots to be used when a person's registration is in question.

- Develop common complaint procedures and election monitoring processes. The EAC needs to establish a procedure for managing complaints, and should be prepared to serve as an ombudsman to receive, investigate, and follow up on complaints.

The Caltech/MIT report also makes other recommendations that insure that every step in the voting process is checked and improved upon in multiple ways. Among these is the requirement that each stage of the election process have more than one person involved in all matters that can affect voting including equipment purchasing, ballot storage, and setting up polling places.

The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project was established shortly after the controversial 2000 presidential election. The goal of the partnership is to prevent disputed elections in the future by examining potential problems in the voting process and introducing technological improvements for voting procedures.

A copy of the report can be found at http://www.vote.caltech.edu/.

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Media contact: Jill Perry Caltech Media Relations (626) 395-3631 jperry@caltech.edu

Patti Richards MIT News Office (617) 253-8923 prichards@MIT.EDU

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The Whitewashed History of Los Angeles

PASADENA, Calif. — Los Angeles's booming rise out of the 1880s, roaring on through the 1920s and the coming of the Great Depression, is a historical marvel, writes Bill Deverell in his new book, Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. But, as the title suggests, this growth was interwoven with the city's often troubled relationship with Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

That relationship, writes Deverell, an associate professor of history at the California Institute of Technology, was expressed in the ways in which elite city-builders approached Mexicans and variously co-opted, appropriated, and even obliterated the region's connections to Mexican places and Mexican people. Published by the University of California Press and available in bookstores now, Whitewashed Adobe begins by describing the bloody years of the 1850s just after the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, in which ethnic hatred ran high, and hangings and shootings of Mexicans were not uncommon.

Yet within a generation, Deverell writes, the city's business interests, looking for a commercially viable way to establish urban identity in Southern California, borrowed Mexican cultural traditions to put on a carnival called La Fiesta de Los Angeles. Ethnicity came to bear as well on later efforts to corral and fill the tempestuous Los Angeles River with concrete. Proximity to the river had long been one marker of Mexican Los Angeles, says Deverell, just as the river itself had bounded (and continues to do so to this day) neighborhoods separate from the commercial districts of downtown. Concrete and fencing, he says, drove the point home.

City leaders turned to the resident Mexican population for workers to build the modern metropolis. Deverell also examines the ethnic dimensions to the official Los Angeles response to the nation's last major outbreak of bubonic plague, and concludes by considering the Mission Play, a famed drama tied to regional assumptions about history, progress, and ethnicity.

"Among the most important scholarly traditions in coming to terms with the history of this region are studies of urban growth and studies of ethnic relations," says Deverell. "My new book is a modest attempt to put those two concerns together in a scholarly investigation of Los Angeles history."

It was not that powerful Anglos were trying to render Mexicans invisible, writes Deverell. On the contrary, assimilation was specifically not the goal. Instead, he says, the goal was to keep Mexican peoples, newer arrivals as well as long-standing Californians, expressly visible on the landscapes of the burgeoning city but very much isolated within specific "containers"--containers created by discriminatory wage systems, increasing public segregation in schools and social spaces, and political exclusion.

This often grim history of racial exclusion has implications for how the future of Los Angeles will continue to be shaped, he writes. "If the city of the future is to work at all," he says, "we must look closely at how these containers were built, who built them, and how they got filled. Then we have to work together to make sure that we take them apart."

On May 26 at 7:00 p.m., Deverell will give a talk about his book at the Los Angeles Central Library, Fifth and Flower Streets, Los Angeles. Admission is free, although reservations are suggested. Please call (213) 228-7025.

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Internet voting will require gradual, rational planning and experimentation, experts write

PASADENA, Calif.--Will Internet voting be a benefit to 21st-century democracy, or could it lead to additional election debacles like the one that occurred in 2000?

According to two experts on voting technology, the use of the Internet for voting can move forward in an orderly and effective way, but there should be experimentation and intelligent planning to ensure that it does so. Michael Alvarez, of the California Institute of Technology, and Thad E. Hall of the Century Foundation write in their new book that two upcoming experiments with Internet voting will provide unique data on how effective Internet voting can be in improving the election process.

On February 7, 2004, the Michigan Democratic Party will allow voters the option of voting over the Internet when casting their ballots in the party caucus. Then, for the presidential election on November 2, voters covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act who are registered in participating states will be able to vote over the Internet thanks to the Federal Voting Assistance Program's Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE).

In their book Point, Click, and Vote: The Future of Internet Voting (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), Alvarez and Hall outline a step-by-step approach to moving forward with Internet voting. Their approach focuses primarily on the need for experimentation. Hall notes, "The transition to the widespread use of Internet voting cannot, and should not, occur overnight. There must be a deliberate strategy--involving experimentation and research--that moves along a rational path to Internet voting."

Alvarez and Hall base their conclusions on four key points:

= There should be a series of well-planned, controlled experiments testing the feasibility of Internet voting, targeting either special populations of voters--such as military personnel, individuals living abroad, or people with disabilities--or special types of elections, such as low-turnout local elections.

= Internet security issues must be studied more effectively so that voters can have confidence in the integrity of online voting.

= Legal and regulatory changes must be studied to see what is needed to make Internet voting a reality, especially in the United States. Election law in America varies at the state, county, and local levels, and it is likely that laws in many states will have to be changed to make Internet voting possible.

= The digital divide must be narrowed, so that all voters will have a more equal opportunity to vote over the Internet. Competitive pricing and market forces will help to lower barriers to becoming a part of the online community.

As Alvarez notes, "There were Internet voting trials conducted in 2000, but no meaningful data were collected, making it impossible to know whether they were a success. The 2004 Internet voting trials provide an opportunity to collect the data necessary to understand how Internet voting impacts the electoral process."

Alvarez is a professor of political science at Caltech and is co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. He was a lead author of Voting: What Is, What Could Be, which was published by the project after the 2000 elections. He has published several books on voting behavior and written numerous articles on the topic as well. In 2001, he testified before Congress about election reform and has appeared as an expert witness in election-related litigation. Alvarez has a Ph.D. in political science from Duke University.

Hall is a program officer with the Century Foundation. He served on the professional staff of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, where he wrote an analysis of the administration of the 2001 Los Angeles mayoral election, "LA Story: The 2001 Mayoral Election," that was published by the Century Foundation. He has written about voting and election administration for both academic and popular audiences and has testified before Congress on the topic. His forthcoming book examining the policy process in Congress, Authorizing Policy, will be published later this year by the Ohio State University Press. He has a Ph.D. in political science and public policy from the University of Georgia.

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Caltech Researcher Receives DoD Contract to Study Internet Voting

PASADENA, Calif. - A California Institute of Technology political science professor has received a contract for $1.8 million from the Department of Defense to study the viability of Internet voting for military personnel and overseas civilians.

R. Michael Alvarez, along with Thad E. Hall of the Century Foundation, in Washington, D.C., will head up the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE) evaluation project which will study the effectiveness of Internet voter registration and voting, and the costs of the system. They will consider the differences in cost and accessibility between Internet registration and voting and kiosk-based electronic registration and voting. They will also study security and administration of the system.

Internet registration and voting systems should greatly enhance the voting process for overseas civilians and uniformed military personnel.

"This will likely be one of the most significant studies of Internet voting, and we should learn a great deal about the effectiveness of the Internet for registration and voting," said Alvarez, codirector of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project. "In particular, as military personnel and overseas citizens find it difficult to vote, Internet registration and voting could make the process much easier for them. The SERVE project may mean that more Americans overseas can participate in our political process."

"Following the voting difficulties experienced in Florida in the 2000 election, Caltech and MIT joined forces to try to better understand voting technologies," said Caltech president David Baltimore. "This contract will greatly advance our goal, because the military voting population offers an ideal situation in which to examine the issues and opportunities in Internet voting. We are very glad that Dr. Alvarez has been provided this opportunity."

During the 2000 election cycle, the Federal Voting Assistance Program, which coordinates state and local elections overseas, conducted a small-scale Internet voting project called Voting Over the Internet (VOI) to study remote registration and voting for American citizens living outside the country. They found that it was feasible and worth further research and development.

"SERVE also presents a unique opportunity to understand better the way in which elections are administered. Analyzing how well administrators implement this new technology will help us learn how problems can be avoided in the future," remarked Hall.

SERVE seeks to study the scalability of VOI's Internet voting technology as well as the impact of Internet voting on voter turnout and on the local election officials who process the registration and voting materials.

The current project outline involves the participation by as many as a dozen states or more, hundreds of local election officials, and hundreds of thousands of voters in the 2004 election cycle.

Traditionally, voters must first register to vote, then request an absentee ballot. The local election official must send the ballot to the voter. The voter then fills out and returns the absentee ballot, after which the election officials must determine if the ballot meets legal requirements. Mail transit time and the mobility of military personnel have been the biggest barriers to the enfranchisement of these citizens.

In 2005, the findings of this project will be reported to the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Congress, and state legislatures, who will use these results for policy-making and legislative purposes.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jill Perry, Media Relations Director (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

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Caltech Professor to Help Implement Federal Election Reform in California

PASADENA, Calif.— Michael Alvarez, professor of political science at the California Institute of Technology, has been appointed to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) California State Plan Advisory Committee. The purpose of the committee is to seek public input and provide policy guidance to assist the secretary of state of California in drafting the state's initial plan for compliance with federal mandates contained in HAVA.

The 23-member committee is composed of "individuals who are selected for their expertise, knowledge, and because they are stakeholders in the elections community," said Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

The Help America Vote Act will fundamentally alter the way elections are conducted in California and across the nation. Signed into law on October 29, 2002, HAVA is creating a new federal agency, the Election Assistance Commission, to serve as a national clearinghouse on election information and to provide federal standards for voting systems. HAVA will require all states to implement sweeping changes by next year—during the presidential election cycle—to ensure preparedness and efficiency for future elections.

Alvarez was a team member and co-director of the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, which analyzed the voting technology system in the United States after the controversial 2000 presidential election, and made recommendations for improvements to the American voting system.

According to Alvarez, "The Caltech/MIT team was involved in the development of HAVA, and most of the recommendations in our 2001 report found their way into HAVA. It is exciting now to be part of the process that will make the provisions of HAVA a reality for California."

For more information on the Help America Vote Act, visit: www.ss.ca.gov/elections/hava.htm.

For more information on the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, visit: www.vote.caltech.edu.

Contact: Deborah Williams-Hedges (626) 395-3227 debwms@caltech.edu

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Three Caltech Faculty Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

PASADENA, Calif. — The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has elected three California Institute of Technology faculty members as academy fellows. They are Fred C. Anson, Elizabeth Gilloon Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus; Joseph L. Kirschvink, professor of geobiology; and Colin F. Camerer, Rea A. and Lela G. Axline Professor of Business Economics.

The 2003 class of 187 fellows and 29 foreign honorary members includes four college presidents, three Nobel laureates, and four Pulitzer Prize winners.

Among this year's new fellows and foreign honorary members are Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations; journalist Walter Cronkite; philanthropist William H. Gates, Sr., co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; novelist Michael Cunningham; recording industry pioneer Ray Dolby; artist Cindy Sherman; and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Donald Glaser.

"It gives me great pleasure to welcome these outstanding and influential individuals to the nation's oldest and most illustrious learned society. Election to the American Academy is an honor that acknowledges the best of all scholarly fields and professions. Newly elected fellows are selected through a highly competitive process that recognizes those who have made preeminent contributions to their disciplines," said academy president Patricia Meyer Spacks.

Anson has carried out pioneering work on the electrochemistry of polymers, on the catalysis of electrode reactions, and on electrochemical reactions that involve ultrathin coating of molecules on electrode surfaces.

Kirschvink, who has been honored by students for his excellence in teaching, studies how biological evolution has influenced, and has been influenced by, major events on the surface of the earth. His most significant contributions include the "snowball" earth theory—the theory that the entire Earth may have actually frozen over several times in its history, possibly stimulating evolution. Another original concept concerns the Cambrian evolutionary explosion that he believes may have been precipitated in part by the earth's rotational axis having moved to the equator in a geologically short interval of time.

Camerer's research in experimental and behavioral economics, integrates psychology with economics to explore the impact on decision sciences and game theory. His research uses economics experiments and field studies to understand how people behave when making decisions. Such research is helpful in predicting economic trends and in understanding social policy. Poverty, war, cross-cultural interactions--most social issues are affected by decision psychology.

The total number of Caltech faculty named to the academy is now 82.

The academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, James Bowdoin, John Hancock, and other scholar-patriots "to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people." The academy has elected as fellows and foreign honorary members the finest minds and most influential leaders from each generation, including George Washington and Ben Franklin in the eighteenth century, Daniel Webster and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the nineteenth, and Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill in the twentieth. The current membership includes more than 150 Nobel laureates and 50 Pulitzer Prize winners. Drawing on the wide-ranging expertise of its membership, the academy conducts thoughtful, innovative, non-partisan studies on international security, social policy, education, and the humanities.

A full list of new members is available on the Academy website at http://www.amacad.org/news/new2003.htm.

The academy will welcome this year's new fellows and foreign honorary members at the annual induction ceremony at the academy's headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., in October.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jill Perry, Media Relations Director (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

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Voting: Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going

PASADENA, Calif. - Americans are proud of their democracy. But the controversy over the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election revealed profound flaws in the way we vote. The smooth transition of government, a hallmark of American democracy, seemed to hang on the workings of antiquated voting technology--the punch card and the chad.

"America is on the verge of a profound transformation in the way people vote," notes Michael Alvarez, a professor of political science at the California Institute of Technology. As computer literacy and information technology become universal, the momentum is developing for an entirely new voting system: the Internet.

On Wednesday, April 23, Alvarez will discuss the ongoing transformation in how we run elections in his talk, "Voting: Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going." It is one of the ongoing Earnest C. Watson Lecture Series that takes place on the Caltech campus.

The problems in the 2000 election were even deeper, and more difficult to resolve, than just old voting machines. "As many as six million votes may have been lost in that election," Alvarez notes, "mainly due to problems in voter registration files, long polling place lines, as well as the faulty voting machines." Some transitions have begun, as many states and counties are replacing their old punch-card and lever voting machines with newer technologies. And in the near future, most states will grapple with significant changes in how they register citizens to vote. But these changes are unlikely to be lasting. The transition to Internet voting is already under way in the United States. and elsewhere in the world, says Alvarez. The Department of Defense is expanding its program, initiated during the 2000 election, to provide for absentee balloting for military personnel. The United Kingdom and Switzerland have employed Internet voting in their local elections.

Yet problems remain. There are, as yet, no standards for security--a problem made more difficult by the fact that the vote is secret and "receipt free"--and there is the prospect that the digital divide may create inequities in participation in America.

Alvarez's talk will focus on how much progress has been made in fixing the problems that were discovered following the 2000 presidential election, and then will consider how new information technologies like the Internet can be used to make voting more accessible and secure in the near future.

For over 81 years Caltech has offered the Watson Lecture Series, ever since it was conceived by the late Caltech physicist Earnest Watson as a way to explain science to the local community. The lecture will take place at 8 p.m. in Beckman Auditorium, which is located near Michigan Avenue south of Del Mar Boulevard, on Caltech's campus in Pasadena. Seating is available on a free, no-ticket-required, first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Parking is available in the lots south of Del Mar Boulevard between Wilson and Chester avenues, and in the parking structures at 341 and 405 South Wilson and 370 South Holliston Avenue.

 

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Physicist and Writer Alan Lightman to be Writer-in-Residence

PASADENA, Calif. - Merging science and art is a tricky task, but one well worth the effort, notes the physicist, science writer, essayist, and novelist Alan Lightman. As he wrote in a recent essay in the New York Times: "When the science is integrated so that it is part of the human drama, part of the beauty and mystery of human existence, then science and art have achieved a perfect harmony."

Lightman, who has taught both physics and writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will give two public presentations during the week of April 7 as writer-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology. He will begin the week as a panelist in a Science Writing Symposium on Monday, April 7, at 4 p.m. in Baxter Lecture Hall (free and open to the public).

On Tuesday, April 8, Lightman will give a seminar on "The Physicist as Novelist," in which he will consider similarities and differences between how scientists and artists understand the world. The seminar will take place at noon in 315 Baxter Hall on the Caltech campus. The event is free and open to the public, but is primarily aimed at faculty across academic disciplines.

Then on Thursday, April 10, Lightman will read from a selection of his writings, including his new novel, Reunion, to be published this July. The reading, also free and open to the public, will take place at 8 p.m. in Dabney Lounge.

Lightman earned his PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech in 1974, and focused his scientific research on gravitation theory, the structure and behavior of accretion disks, stellar dynamics, radiative processes, and relativistic plasmas. His research articles have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals. For his contributions to physics, he was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society in 1989 and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science the same year.

Lightman's novels include Einstein's Dreams (1993), Good Benito (1995), The Diagnosis (2000), and the forthcoming Reunion. He has also published six nonfiction books and many essays in magazines such as Harper's, the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Review of Books. In 1996 Lightman was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The writer-in-residence program is part of Caltech's Words Matter project, which is intended to foster appreciation of writing in its many forms and to offer undergraduates opportunities for close contact with accomplished writers. Words Matter is coordinated by Steven Youra, director of the Hixon Writing Center. For more information, go to www.wordsmatter.caltech.edu.

Contact: Mark Wheeler (626) 395-8733 wheel@caltech.edu

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Author Reveals her "Gut Feelings"

PASADENA, Calif. – Merrill Joan Gerber, a lecturer in creative writing at the California Institute of Technology, maintains a prolific pace with her own writing. This month her 24th book will be published--Gut Feelings: A Writer's Truths and Minute Inventions, a collection of highly personal essays and powerful tales that verge on memoir. In these writings Gerber reveals the truths and inventions of a writer's vision, and the use of life as the raw material of art. Her personal essays range widely, from the mysteries of love and marriage to painful encounters with suicides and family deaths.

She writes of her apprenticeships with celebrated writing teachers Andrew Lytle and Wallace Stegner and recounts her ghostly (and ghastly) experiences during a month at Yaddo, the famous retreat for artists. Gerber includes three pieces in the book originally published as stories but which blur the line between fiction and memoir, demonstrating Gerber's contention that the deepest secrets in life beget the most passionate fictions.

About her fiction, Gerber says, "Most of my work comes from the close observation of family life. Of course, life is chaotic, and in fiction, you take control of the material and shape it, redesign it, to give it meaning."

"These pieces move back and forth across the boundary between memoir and fiction," says Janet Handler Burstein, a professor of English at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. "They are vivid and gripping, with memorable characters and events. One narrative moves deeply into a marital relationship suggesting a kind of paradigm for the systole and diastole of marriage that I found profoundly moving. And troubling. And satisfying."

Gerber has taught at Caltech since 1989. Gut Feelings: A Writer's Truths and Minute Inventions is being published this month by the University of Wisconsin Press. Her books include Botticelli Blue Skies: An American in Florence (a travel memoir), the novels Anna in the Afterlife (which was chosen as a "best book of 2002" by the Los Angeles Times), and King of the World, which won the Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award as an "important and unusual book of literary distinction. Another novel, The Kingdom of Brooklyn, won Hadassah Magazine's Ribalow Prize for "the best English-language book of fiction on a Jewish theme." Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic, Mademoiselle, and Redbook, and in many literary magazines. Her short story, "I Don't Believe This," was chosen for Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards 1986.

The author can be reached at gerber@hss.caltech.edu or via her webpage at www.cco.caltech.edu/~mjgerber.

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