Viva la science, ethics, humor ... and raccoons

Nancy Gould-Hilliard
Around the Island

Mercer Island’s Daniel Lottis collaborated in 1990-92 on the research of Albert Fert, who will be awarded the Nobel Prize in physics along with Peter Gruenberg for their discovery of “giant magnetoresistance” in December.

This big word (GMR) enables miniaturized hard disks for computers and music players, and allows us, for example, to watch a movie on an iPod. Such condensed-matter physics will ultimately provide for 1,000 gigs of information to fit within a square inch of magnetic media.

Lottis had the experience of a lifetime playing his small part within this team. His post-doctoral physics work helped develop experimental and computational tools for studying the role of temperature on GMR, which he applied to several new systems. He also co-authored a publication with Fert and co-advised two of his graduate students.

Since GMR senses large electrical resistance changes caused by weak magnetic fields, the key is the spin of an electron rather than its charge. Thus, the new field is called “spin electronics.” GMR is one of the first applications of nanotechnology, or molecular-sized devices.

Lottis is now a scientist for Radiant Optics, which makes high intensity infrared spot heaters. He is also part of the Eidon Foundation, a non-profit “technological innovation think tank.”

He, his wife, Myrna, and daughters, Leticia and Paulina, came to the Island to be closer to their family after living in the Midwest and Brazil. Daniel’s father, Ken, and his mother, Carol, live here. Brother, Kent, lives in Bellevue and is a software developer at Microsoft; other brother, Brian, lives in Portland.

Ethics in Action: FYI — you parents and teachers of Islander Middle School students are doing a great job! When 15 Rotarians visited with 60 such students last week, they put the kids’ social decision-making to the “Four-Way Test.” Rotary’s measuring stick: Is it true; is it fair to all concerned; will it build goodwill and better friendships; will it benefit all concerned?

The teens applied these concepts to potential dilemmas involving cheating, shop-lifting, drinking, harassing others and peer-pressure to go against the rules. Almost without fail, the groups agreed on what was right and wrong; some wanted to go further and influence offenders, seek authority figures, return stolen merchandise or defend the victims of unkind actions.

The kids came up with good one-liners: “Back off, would you feel if you were treated like that...not just “no” but “no, seriously.” One suggested using humor to avert the situation or better options for fun. All agreed to remove themselves from the scene if it gets out of hand, and were surprised to learn that even if they aren’t drinking beer at a teen gathering where others are, they could still be grounded from school sports teams.

First Harvest turns 25: About 20 Islanders worked up a sweat in the First Harvest cold storage warehouse Oct. 13, launching the 25th year of work parties for the volunteer organization.

They joined more than 100 others from the Puget Sound region packaging food for the needy in Washington — salvage onions, apples, carrots and non-perishables collected by food drives.

“We know this is necessary work to meet others’ needs,” said Rand Ginn, from the Mercer Island Rotary Club. “But it’s also fun and feels real good.” Chuck Maylin says this service activity is why he joined MI Rotary. “I just really like doing this every second Saturday.”

Jerry Burtenshaw, his daughter, Trina, and grandson, Calvin, say they like to see the end result of food drives. The boxed goods were out by the following Monday to 300 hunger programs of Washington. More than a million pounds of food is similarly distributed throughout the year.

“We’re Northwest Harvest’s largest donor,” says David Bobanick, who directs First Harvest. The larger Northwest Harvest distributes 19 million pounds of food a year and celebrates its 40th anniversary for feeding the state’s hungry.

Gleanings from Oct. 17 candidate forum: You now have your Voters Pamphlet and absentee ballots and have heard the issues debated. Other tidbits from the stumps: we must prepare our students for a much different future than ours — autism program for elementary students, international school experiences, homework as early as first grade, seminars, tutorials and gifted programs, high-tech learning, global influences. We also need $8 million to fix our sewers, incentives for developers to create work-force housing here, and must press for “quiet pavement” to reduce the noise when I-90 widens. Steve Litzow told us the No. 1 citizen outcry this year was about raccoons, versus years past when it was dogs and parking.

Gallows humor: Over a month ago, Jack McHale fell from a sequoia tree and needed extensive surgery. Wife, Laurie, reports he’s making great strides toward recovery at Mercer Island Care and Rehabilitation Center.

“We’re overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers, visits, meals, calls, cards, flowers, gifts, books, magazines, hugs, and even an anonymous spa gift for me. Jack’s workout buddy, Jeff Martine, wrote this poem for him (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer).”

Deceitful tree

I hope that I shall never see

Another #@%! Sequoia tree

A tree whose wicked limbs contrive

To trick poor Jack into a dive;

A tree that looks benign all day,

And lures aloft its arboreal prey;

A tree that may in autumn wear

A McHale to knock into the air.

To contact Nancy Gould-Hilliard, e-mail her at

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