Robotics Revolution? George Young

2013 oct umm YoungsWhere is R2-D2 when we need him? We won’t see a robot like that for a good long while, says George Young. He will speak on “The Robot Revolution: The Promises and Limitations of Collective Robots” at a breakfast sponsored by United Methodist Men on Sunday, October 6, at 8 a.m., in the Sanford Davis Room. Everyone — men and women — is invited. A $5 donation is requested. Email or call 609-924-2613

Industrial robots have reshaped manufacturing, domestic robots help maintain floors and lawns, and military robots and drones have been developed to help fight wars. “Despite these advances, ” says Young, “state-of-the-art robots remain far removed from the automated personal assistants, companions or enemies that science fiction writers have dreamed of for decades.”

A native of South Australia, Young has undergraduate degrees from the University of Adelaide. He is completing his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University, where his research focuses on understanding how the structure of interactions between individuals within a group (of robots, birds or people) affects the behavior of the entire group. In particular, he examines how groups manage uncertainty and how sharing information can lead to better or worse performance.

“Rather than attempting to build ever more complicated and sophisticated machines, today many researchers are attempting to expand our technological capabilities using an entirely different idea — building simple machines that can work together to achieve difficult tasks. These jobs could include monitoring the environment, growing crops, responding to natural disasters, building infrastructure and a host of other tasks.”

Before coming to Princeton he obtained undergraduate degrees in mechatronic engineering and pure mathematics from the University of Adelaide in his home state of South Australia. He and Elizabeth — who spoke to the UMM last spring — will shortly be moving to Memphis, Tennessee. We will miss them!


PUMC Family News: McCarty

political-bubbles-cover-art10Congratulations to Nolan McCarty on the publication of his book, “Political Bubbles: Financial Crises and the Failure of American Democracy.” He will lecture on Wednesday, October 9 4:30 p.m. , Bowl 016, Robertson Hall. A public reception and book sale/signing of his book will follow the discussion in the Bernstein Gallery.

From the Princeton University announcement: McCarty’s research interests include U.S. politics, democratic political institutions, and political game theory.  He is the co-author of several books, the most recent of which is “Political Bubbles: Financial Crises and the Failure of American Democracy,” with Howard Rosenthal of New York University and Keith Poole of the University of Georgia.  The book provides a full accounting of how politics produces financial ruptures, demonstrating how political bubbles helped create the real estate-generated financial bubble and the 2008 financial crisis.   The authors argues that similar government oversights in the aftermath of the crisis undermined Washington’s response to the “popped” financial bubble, and shows how such patterns have occurred repeatedly throughout US history.”

The McCartys are a PUMC family

Jeremy Lin: Christian ballplayer — October 11

Mo Chen invites everyone to see Linsanity, the documentary about Jeremy Lin on Friday, October 11, at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Garden Theatre.  Even the most casual basketball fan knows the story of Jeremy Lin,  as he and his New York Knick teammates created one dramatic win after another in a season that seemed to be going nowhere.  Lin is known as a committed Christian.
The Princeton Area Alumni Association (PA3) in association with the Asian American Alumni Association of Princeton (A4P)  sponsor these two showings, which may be the only two in New Jersey. Tickets must be purchased in advance online. Tickets are $15 and $7.50 for students.


Step Right Up and Spin the Wheel

2013-7-16 B and Iona chamberThough it was 100 degrees in the shade, PUMC’s Growth Committee took its message “Help Us to Help Others” to the Princeton Regional Chamber’s “Plaza Palooza” networking event on July 16. From 4 to 7 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library’s Hinds Plaza, folks “spun the wheel” at the PUMC table.

This was the third year that PUMC’s wooden wheel, crafted by Tim Ewer, had a workout at the chamber’s mid-summer marketing expo. Local businesses  (hotels, restaurants, contractors, laywers)  gave out all kinds of free stuff, plus a limited number of nonprofit members of the chamber (such as Morven, State Theatre, and Habitat for Humanity) were represented.

Iona Harding prepared the wheel this year to include six charities that the church supports: Womanspace, Crisis Ministry, Appalachia Service Project, Cornerstone Community Kitchen, and United Front  Against Riverblindness, with its sister organization, Women of Abundance. Also staffing the table were Elsie McKee (from Women of Abundance and UFAR),  Lindsey Donaldson, and  yours truly.

The wheel makes satisfying clicks, and we took the role of carnival shills. “Step right up and spin the wheel,”  we called, “wherever it stops, there’s where your money goes.” We told the spinners about the charity they “won” and they were invited to contribute  $1 to it. If it stopped on “Free Gift” they chose from the basket of UFAR T-shirts, cute fabric purses made by FEBA, UFAR bookmarks made by Susan Lidstone, or a bar of chocolate. Everybody went away with a brochure about the  charity they “won.” Kids got to spin for free and choose one of the beautiful bookmarks.

We met lots of folks we knew, made many new friends — and were heartened that lots of them already knew about UFAR and Cornerstone Community Kitchen. The word is getting out there!

Barbara Fox

PS: The Growth Committee can use volunteers — as Greeters and as Poster Put-er-upers — and more!. Talk to Iona.




Princeton’s Good Samaritans Nurtured Community After Superstorm Sandy

Written by Sarah Harris, Barbara Fox, and Robin Birkel

PUMC Serving Lunch after Superstorm Sandy

Hurricane Sandy caused havoc in New Jersey. Princetonians suffered downed trees, road closures, power outages, school and business closures, sporadic cell service, and no Comcast or FiOS phone service.

Princeton has long been one of the most wired towns in the nation. So when Sandy hit, and virtually all of Princeton lost power and phone service, lots of people were frantic, not just to notify family members that they were safe, but to conduct business. The next day Princeton United Methodist Church opened its doors. That day, and the entire week, Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash, Music Director Hyosang Park, and church members plugged in the coffee pot and posted a sign on the lawn. It read: Come in! Get warm! Charge and use our wi-fi!

We provided a safe and warm environment for charging cell phones and other devices, staying connected with family and friends, reading, studying, and working. Additionally, we served meals to those not able to cook.

Wednesday, two dozen passersby sought brief refuge from the cold, plus nearly 100 people spent the day. Church members hosted in the Sanford Davis room. Then at 4 p.m. the Cornerstone Community Kitchen team converted it into a dining room. The menu was roast pork, mashed potatoes, salad, and dessert for 73 hungry people.

Thursday, PUMC hosted 75 wi-fi users, everyone from entrepreneurs who stayed all day, to frustrated travelers needing a computer to update their itinerary, to families with children who just dropped by. Some were referred by the Princeton Public Library, which with thousands of visitors daily was having trouble meeting the enormous demand. Even PUMC’s wi-fi had faltered because of too many users, so two more wi-fi nodes were added. We served breakfast, lunch, and another Cornerstone Community Kitchen dinner. This time it was spaghetti for 100 people. At that point, many in Princeton still had no power, and it was getting quite cold.


PUMC hosted lunch again on Friday, and breakfast and lunch was offered on Saturday. Of course, all of these services were provided free of charge.

“You imagine that this is what a church should do, but you rarely ever see it done,” said Princeton resident Diana Rhodes, one of the grateful visitors. “What a wonderful service you have provided!”

Princeton United Methodist Church Youth Raking Leaves

Meanwhile, outside of the church, PUMCers were living their faith. More than a dozen in the youth group responded to a plea for help to clean the property of a church member living alone. Generators were brought to several families who are vulnerable to the cold, including someone new to the community.