Karen Klinger

Cambridge MA
I'm a career journalist who has worked at the San Jose Mercury News, United Press International and Agence France Presse and as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers. I came to Cambridge originally for a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT and loved the city.
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Recently posted by kmklinger

June 22, 2011 - 7:44pm To mark the opening of the rebuilt Kendall/MIT station in 1987, the MBTA installed a three-piece musical sculpture by Groton artist Paul Matisse between the outbound and inbound platforms, where it provided entertainment for tens of thousands of passengers who could activate it by moving wall-mounted handles. But years of heavy use and the sculpture's intricate mechanics eventually rendered each piece silent, despite Matisse's painstaking efforts to keep his creation working. In 2010, a commuter named Seth Parker decided the music needed to be heard again, and set in motion a series of events that led to the formation of the "Kendall Band Preservation Society," a group of MIT students under the leadership of instructor Mike Tarkanian, who spent a year disassembling, cleaning, fixing and reassembling the largest and most complicated of the pieces, a set of pipe-like bells and mallets Matisse named "Pythagoras." On April 30, 2011, a rededication ceremony marked the first time in years that its tones could be heard ringing out again, to the accompaniment of musicians from MIT. Tarkanian's students still have to restore the other two parts of the set, "Kepler" and "Galileo," a task... read more
June 16, 2011 - 2:43pm By Karen Klinger Long before celebrities such as actor Alan Alda and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson became hosts of science programs on public television, there was John Fitch. From 1963 through 1966, the understated, deep-voiced Fitch provided introductions and interviews for one of the world's first televised programs devoted to exploring science and technology, a co-production of MIT and WGBH called MIT Science Reporter. In over 100 programs produced on a relative shoestring, he interviewed some of the most prominent figures in their fields of the mid-20th Century for the now little-remembered National Educational Television (NET), the forerunner of PBS. In half-hour segments shot in black-and-white videotape in a single day, Fitch asked scientists and engineers to provide explanations of their work that could be easily understood by a general audience. Among his interview subjects were Harold "Doc" Edgerton, the "father of high-speed photography," hydrogen bomb co-developer Stanislaw Ulam, psychologist Jerome Bruner, a leader of the "Cognitive Revolution" of the 1960s, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes, architectural designer and futurist Buckminster Fuller and... read more
May 17, 2011 - 5:08pm By Karen Klinger He was a fervent orator and abolitionist, civil rights visionary, best friend of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, victim of a notorious near-fatal beating on the floor of the U.S. Senate by a fellow member of Congress and a man historians call one of the foremost champions of African Americans before, during and after the American Civil War. When he died in 1874, thousands attended his funeral and walked alongside his casket from King's Chapel in Boston to his gravesite in Cambridge's Mount Auburn Cemetery. Today, in the bicentennial year of his birth, a statue of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner occupies a place of prominence in Harvard Square on Massachusetts Avenue. And yet, despite being one of the most famous Americans of his time, Sumner in the 21st Century is so little known that it's probably a safe bet that few people passing his bronze visage could name the man or what he did to deserve such an honor. In an effort to change that, a number of organizations in Cambridge and Boston have sponsored events in the past several months celebrating Sumner's life, slated to culminate May 19 with a rededication of his statue, followed by a discussion of his relevance... read more
May 8, 2011 - 4:58pm By Karen Klinger A brightly-colored inflatable sculpture on the Charles River spelling out "MIT," glowing orb-shaped seats along the riverbank and a devilishly clever "mood meter" that reflects the mindsets of passersby, as well as stars floating above the university's Great Dome, were just some of the attractions May 7 in a spectacular culmination of MIT's months-long arts celebration coinciding with the last two days of the Cambridge Science Festival. Called FAST Light for the school's "Festival of Art+Science+Technology (FAST)," and intended as a highlight of MIT's 150th anniversary celebration, the event--free and open to the public--continues through May 8 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (To accommodate the activities, a portion of Memorial Drive will be closed from 6 p.m to 10 p.m. For information including a map of locations, a schedule of evening guided tours and brief descriptions of the artwork and names of their creators, go to: http://arts.mit.edu/fast/fast-light/). Sky Event by Otto Piene The centerpiece of the first night was "Sky Event," featuring two huge, brightly-lit inflatable stars that slowly lifted up over MiT's dome and Killian Court to the beat of a band of... read more
May 6, 2011 - 2:42pm By Karen Klinger Owlchemy Labs cofounder Yilmaz Kiymaz swears he never anticipated the media storm unleashed by the recent release of his company's first video game, Smuggle Truck, which requires players to act as drivers of a virtual truck carrying illegal immigrants to go over, under, through and past obstacles including tunnels, hills and explosives, any of which could result in the occupants being tossed to their deaths. "We thought the satirical nature of this would be obvious. But then Fox News brought it into the spotlight and everything happened from there," Kiymaz said, showing off his company's creation as he stood in the MIT Museum on May 5 at an event called "Video Games 101," part of the 2011 Cambridge Science Festival. Among the things that happened was that Apple Computer rejected the game as an application for its popular iOS systems, which include iPhones and iPads. And immigrant rights groups, among others, criticized the game as insensitive, at best. To his dismay, Kiymaz found his tiny Watertown-based company, established with a small amount of "bootstrap" money, to be tabloid fodder. "We never imagined this would happen," he said. " We were trying to get out... read more
April 29, 2011 - 2:53pm By Karen Klinger Want to have lunch with a Nobel Prize winner? How about operating a robot with a design inspired by insects? Or taking part in a science trivia contest, learning about the "science of the perfect steak," peering through telescopes outside of Cambridge City Hall, chatting up science enthusiasts at a "Nerdnite Nerdtacular" or watching a light show on the Charles River? You can do all of that and much more during the nine days of the 5th annual Cambridge Science Festival set to run from April 30 through May 8. Touted as the first event of its kind in the United States (followed by numerous science festivals popping up in other U.S. cites), the festival is presented by the MIT Museum with the support of the City of Cambridge, universities, schools, community groups, museums and companies. This year the festival will feature over 200 events (for a schedule, go to www.CambridgeScienceFestival.org) with the kickoff coinciding with MIT's 150th anniversary open house celebration (http://www.cctvcambridge.org/MITOpenHouse). The first big event, though, will take place April 29 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Harvard University when 10 noted researchers are slated to give... read more
April 28, 2011 - 2:43pm As a centerpiece of MIT's ongoing celebration of its 150th anniversary, the university will throw its doors open April 30 with a day-long, campus-wide event featuring hundreds of activities for visitors of all ages who will be able to do everything from operating small space satellites to taking part in scavenger hunts, watching a scientist make a room glow with pickles, understanding the mathematics of origami, touring research laboratories, listening to hi-tech show and tell presentations, getting their golf swings analyzed with high-speed video and enjoying student performances ranging from folk dancing to gospel music. Called Under the Dome: Come Explore MIT the open house, free and open to the public, is the university's first such undertaking since 1978 and is part of the kickoff of the Cambridge Science Festival, which runs from April 30 through May 8. MIT is touting it as a chance to take an expansive look under the hood--or the dome in this case--and see "where tomorrow is being invented today." Said MIT President Susan Hockfield, "With Saturday's Open House, we're welcoming our neighbors of every age and from across Greater Boston to explore how we think and what we're... read more
April 13, 2011 - 6:42pm By Karen Klinger If cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness, then the volunteers who turned out on sunny day April 9 to clean up portions of Porter Square had every right to feel virtuous. Up and down both sides of Massachusetts Avenue, including the MBTA park and plaza, they removed the detritus of urban life carelessly cast aside, from fast food containers and newspapers to plastic shopping bags to--worst job of all--cigarette butts that had to be painstakingly picked up one by one. It was, to coin a phrase, dirty work but someone had to do it. The question, of course, is why? What is it in the human psyche that makes some people think its OK to toss aside their cigarette butts in public spaces when, presumably, they would never do that on their own property? Is it really that hard to carry a used coffee cup or Metro paper a few yards to a trash bin? Who do the litterers think cleans up what they've left behind? And at what cost to the environment and the taxpayers? First, kudos to the heroes of this story. About four dozen people drawn from the Porter Square Neighbors Association, the Ward 10 Democratic Committee, Lesley University and St. James's Episcopal Church (plus some... read more
April 6, 2011 - 5:35pm By Karen Klinger With its eclectic mix of small stores, restaurants, university-owned buildings and Victorian houses, many Cantabrigians consider the stretch of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard and Porter Squares to be the most interesting portion of the city's main thoroughfare. But that doesn't mean it can't be improved, and a report by residents suggesting how that could be done has been embraced by city officials who are holding a series of meetings seeking additional public input. In March, the city sponsored a public round-table discussion of the avenue's problems and some proposed solutions that included consultants and the authors of the report, titled "Massachusetts Avenue, Harvard Square to Porter Square: A Proposal for Sustainable Improvements" (http://www2.cambridgema.gov/cdd/cp/zng/psq_cc/psq_cc_proposal.pdf). The event included an overview of Mass Ave's strengths and weaknesses by Cynthia Smith of Boston's Halvorson Design Partnerships and suggestions from residents that ranged from making it more bike and pedestrian friendly to creating pocket parks, adding crosswalks, planting more trees and adding greenery to the median strip. Future Art Institute of Boston... read more
March 25, 2011 - 6:57pm By Karen Klinger For a man who has faced a seemingly unending string of problems since he became general manager of the MBTA 12 months ago, Richard Davey comes across as remarkably upbeat. "It is a pretty exhilarating experience to know that 1.3 million people count on us every day" to get where they need to go, Davey told an audience gathered at an event sponsored by the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston March 24 at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He may feel exhilarated, but the fact is that Davey faces a nearly Sisyphean task keeping the country's oldest public transit system operating to meet anything near the satisfaction of riders. Burdened by $8.6 billion in debt, the agency is facing a $136 million budget deficit in the upcoming 2012 fiscal year. There are an estimated $3 billion in repairs needed, but no funds to carry them out. Current worker pension obligations total $58 million. Of the $1.6 billion annual budget, about one-quarter goes right off the top to servicing the debt (or "paying off our credit card bill," as Davey put it). Richard Davey/Photo: MBTA And that's just the money side of things. Little more than a month after the youthful T chief took... read more