Institute for Science and Interdisciplinary Studies


ISIS Institute Home
Institute News
ISIS Institute History
The INSTITUTE's Mission
Staff and Board

ISIS Publications
Contact us

Projects Overview
  MilWaste Program
  Amazon Project
  Quantum Physics
  Science Dialogue
  Recoding Life
  ISIS Fellows

Check back here for updates to this website and the latest Institute news!

Update February 2007

With great respect and sadness we are sorry to report that Marion Wadsworth died on January 22 2007, after a lengthy period of declining health. Marion was a fine champion of cleaner environments and a founder and sparking spirit of the ISIS work -- in collaboration with concerned citizens -- on military waste cleanup centered around Westover Air Reserve Base. It was a pleasure and honor for ISIS staff, scientists, volunteers and students to work with her over the years. With her passing, Valley Citizens for a Safe Environment lost one of its founders and certainly its best organizer. Click here to read about her amazing accomplishments.

Update October 2006

ISIS Institute proudly co-sponsored the Amherst Earth Charter Summit, which took place on Saturday, October 14th, at Hampshire College. The summit was one of twenty-two simultaneous summit meetings held that day ALL around the country, in addition to six being held abroad.

The Earth Charter is an international people's (not governments', UN's, or NGO organizations') agreement for a compassionate, just and sustainable world that was written by thousands of folks in 78 countries over the course of 12 years and was launched at the Hague Peace Palace in June 2000. It has the core value of interdependence and calls for economic and social justice, peace, democracy and ecological integrity.

The Earth Charter Community Summits initiative began in 2001 as a means to inform, educate and engage people (including youth) of diverse backgrounds with the Earth Charter through music, arts, enlightened speakers and meaningful dialogues. As such, the stated objectives for the Summits are:

* To mainstream the Earth Charter by reaching ordinary folks who may not belong to organizations but are aligned with the principles of the EC.
* To connect via webcast round-robin all the summit cities to generate a collective excitement for the Earth Charter.
* To build coalitions and/or partnerships with existing groups and organizations that are fulfilling principles of the Earth Charter
* To integrate EC into personal lives, community policies and institutional practices.
* To launch such grassroots initiatives as Earth Scouts and Earth Charter Community Initiatives.

For more information, please visit the Earth Charter's website.

On Tuesday, June 13th the Institute's MilWaste project's work cleaning up Westover Air Reserve Base was featured on the Enviro Show.

The Community Co-chair of the restoration advisory board at Westover, David Keith of VCSE (Valley Citizens for Safe Environment), joined ISIS president Herb Bernstein and the show's two hosts at WXOJ_LP. Listeners on FM103.3 phoned in to have their own questions answered on the air!

They do many interesting progressive programs, not all related to the Science & technology foci of ISIS's work and webstream it all at:

Updates, Spring 2006

On Thursday, April 6th Brian Tokar gave a talk on "Biotechnology, Globalization, and Community Democracy" co-sponsored by ISIS at Hampshire College.

Based on his experience of activism in Vermont and around the country Tokar spoke on how, in the face of corrupt corporate-dominated regulatory systems, communities have stood up to "Big Biotech." For a CD of the talk and discussion, mail your request to ISIS Institute staff and they will forward an mp3 disk to you for a nominal cost. Dr. Tokar is the long-time director of the Institute for Social Ecology's Biotechnology Project. He is an excellent detailed, compelling speaker who also serves as a faculty member at the Institute. In addition, he is the editor of two books on the subject of biotechnology: "Redesigning Life" and "Gene Traders."

Mother Tongue opened a new show on March 17th at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning in Jamaica, Queens (New York City). Mother Tongue describes their work as an "ongoing art dialogue" and viewer participation and interaction are strongly encouraged. Mother Tongue is an organization that has a long-standing relationship with ISIS; their emphasis on community dialogue often leads to discussion on science and society. The show will remain up at JCAL until June 10, 2006. Gallery hours: Mon-Sat 10A to 5P.

On Monday February 27th, Institute president Herb Bernstein addressed the Five College faculty seminar on New Epistemologies and Contemplation, speaking on connections between spirituality, Spirit, and the sciences. When scientists say "God only knows where that came from!" after lots of effort working out a new idea yields a 'breakthrough' achievement, what do they mean? Bernstein picked up where his 1984 article on Nuclearism as a system of knowledge in Religion & Intellectual Life left off -- suggesting ways to get at this question. And looking for help investigating the dificult topic of Science and Spirit. The audience eagerly contributed, adding their own ideas and parallels in a variety of fields, ranging from clinical psychology of stuttering to technology-&-communication to art history. For a CD of the talk and discussion mail to ISIS Institute staff and they will forward an mp3 or audio compact disk to you for a nominal cost.

Updates December 2005
On November 29, ISIS co-hosted outstanding scientist Lucy McFadden in a roundtable luncheon discussion at Hampshire College entitled "Planetary Science, Asteroids & Comets." As predicted by the poster Lucy's talk was lively, personal and inspiring! The room was packed to overflowing by a crowd that included Prof. Ralph Hexter, Hampshire College's new President.

Updates May 2003
In early May, ISIS collaborated with Hampshire College's endowed lecture series on Scence and Values to present Dr. Lee Smolin's talk entitled "Canada Leads the US (Again!): Perimeter Institute as Democratic Scientific Model." Lee, a long term ISIS supporter and former student of President Herb Bernstein, spoke to a large audience in the Main Lecture Hall about his experiences founding a new innovative Physics Institute in Ottawa. See the poster here.

Updates April 2003
ISIS breakfast talk with Evelyn Fox Keller on the 24th was a great event. More than twenty people came to discuss the Story of Feminism and its efforts to change science. In later developments that followed, ISIS has had three subsequent events in exploring a new Women & Science Project. And in early 2005, Evelyn (finally) agreed to join up officially as a Member of the ISIS Board of Trustees.

Updates February 2003
ISIS has been on the road quite a bit in early 2003, with Amazon Project Director Jim Oldham in Ecuador in February and MilWaste Project Director Dori Digenti and Coordinator Melissa Beaudoin at a conference in New Mexico. Visit the Projects' pages to learn more about what's in the works!

Updates December 2002
In honor of ISIS's ten year anniversary, we held a national seminar and celebration in Manhattan on December 8, 2002. Attended by a list of long-time ISIS friends and collaborators, the event was a great success. Thanks to all those who joined us and expressed support! Here's to another ten years of changing science.

Updates November 2002
The ISIS MilWaste Program just got back from Salt Lake City, where we participated in the annual Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry meeting, November 16-20. ISIS Fellow Emily Monosson and University of Maryland toxicologist Cal Baier-Anderson joined MilWaste staff in presenting a poster session and two talks on community-science partnerships and technical advising in the Military Waste field. MilWaste networked with scientists at the meeting by sponsoring a military waste science interest meeting. We also met with communities affected by cleanup activities in Utah, including the Hill Air Force Base Restoration Advisory Board, and community representatives working on the chemical weapons incineration issues in Tooelle and at the Skull Valley Goshute tribal reservation.

Updates October 2002
On Wednesday, October 16, ISIS's MilWaste Project sponsored Perchlorate and Human Health Effects, a seminar on Cape Cod with Dr. Thomas Zoeller, a UMass Professor of Biology. Perchlorate, used in solid rocket fuel, was discovered in high enough concentrations to shut down two public wells in the town of Bourne in July 2002. Perchlorate affects iodine uptake by the thyroid, in turn affecting brain development, especially in children. Check out the Cape Cod Times coverage of the seminar here.

Updates September 2002
The Amazon Project has released a letter to Congress as part of our Plan Colombia, critiquing the State Department's September 4th report on aerial spraying. The ISIS release coincides with the local speaking tour by Colombian activist Marylen Serna Salinas, of the Campesino and People's Movement of Cajibio, sponsored by Solidaridad Colombia and Witness for Peace. Events will be held Sunday, 9/29 at 7pm at the Amherst College Campus Center and Monday, 9/30 at 7pm at Smith College Nielson Library.

We've moved! Just across campus at Hampshire, but please make a note of our new mailing address and fax number.
Even better, we'd like to welcome Dr. Emily Monosson, a toxicologist who's working with the MilWaste project as the newest ISIS Fellow. She presented at our summer Workshop and has big plans in the works for this year.

Updates July 2002
Hampshire Computer Science Professor and ISIS collaborator Lee Spector is presenting a tutorial called "Quantum Computing for Genetic Programmers" at the 2002 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference in July. Spector will also present a poster on collaborative work with ISIS President Herb Bernstein on "Communication through certain quantum gates of interest, discovered in part by genetic programming" at the Sixth International Conference on Quantum Communication, Measurement and Computing in July.

Updates June 2002
ISIS Research Fellow Rachel Massey's report, "Echoes of Vietnam," published in Rachel's Environment and Health News, has been selected as a finalist for the Project Censored "Top Censored News Stories of 2001" Awards. Nine hundred news stories were nominated this year and hers has been ranked in the top 25 most important under-covered of the year.
A synopsis of Massey's story will appear in Chapter 1 of the book Censored 2002-03: The News That Didn't Make the News, scheduled for release in August. It will include an update to give readers more information and suggest ways they could become involved. The Project Censored stories go on to receive national attention from the mainstream and alternative/independent press in the US and abroad.
Join ISIS and the Project Censored staff in thanking Massey for her courage and professionalism in investigative reporting and congratulating her top finish!

Updates May 2002
Amazon Project consultants Bolívar Beltrán and Antonio Almeida are representing the Project as observers at the congress of OISE (Secoya Indigenous Organization of Ecuador) this month. The Secoya will elect a new set of leaders and take important decisions regarding oil development in their territory and budgets for a variety of projects.

Updates April 2002
ISIS's Amazon Projects are helping spread the word about "Colombian Communitites Under Attack: the Plight of Afro-Colombians and Grassroots Responses," a talk Friday, April 5 by Afro-Colombian grassroots leaders Nimia Vargas & Marino Cordoba. For more information, read the flier.

ISIS welcomes Military Waste Project Coordinator Melissa Beaudoin to our staff! An exceptional UMass grad in Environmental Science with a Toxicology minor, Melissa will be the point person for organizing PEER Network events and administering other Network activities.

April 15 has much more in store than the tax deadline: ISIS's cutting-edge seminar from international nuclear proliferation expert Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. "Nuclear Terror: Could it be Real?" will start at 7:30 pm in Room 107 of Franklin Paterson Hall at Hampshire with a viewing of Dr. Hoodbhoy's video documentary, which includes interviews with government, military, and religious figures in both India and Pakistan on their hopes and fears for "the bomb." After the video, Dr. Hoodbhoy will give a short presentation and answer questions from the audience.

The Amazon Project's Indigenous Aquaculture Initiative was one of just two international projects featured in the annual report of MAZON, a Jewish response to hunger. A copy of the report will be available soon on this website; in the meantime, contact ISIS to receive a copy.

Updates March 2002
The Amazon Project recently held Aquaculture evaluation and planning meetings in three Secoya villages: Eno, San Pablo de Katëtsiaya, and Siecoya Remolino. Fish farmers are focusing their work on repairing and improving ponds, grow-out of the fruit eating cachama blanco (Piractus brachypomus), and producing and distributing native fish, particularly the cichilds they call soco huani and yaje huani.

The ISIS Seminar with Dr. Ron Scrudato, "Native Alaskans, Politics, and Toxic Waste: Environmental Cleanup at Remote Sites" on March 25th, was accompanied by a unique "call-in" hour during which people from around the country could reach Dr. Scrudato to discuss their technical questions relating to cleanup around military installations. MilWaste Project staff are presently assembling a concise synopsis of the critical technical matters addressed during the call-in session for wider dissemination. Check back on this site for the results!

ISIS President and Quantum Project Director Herb Bernstein is co-authoring a new paper with Hampshire professor and quantum computing expert Lee Spector and researchers from IBM labs on the power of two-cubit operations. The results of their work will be available on this site and through the soon-to-be-revived ISIS Occasional Papers catalog.

ISIS co-sponsored a lecture and reading by Amherst College alumnus, practicing doctor, professor of medicine, and poet Rafael Campo, MD ('87) entitled "Medicine and the Humanities: Healing with Poetry." Dr. Campo's exceptional interdisciplinary take on science and poetry made waves with a full room on Thursday, March 7. See the poster here.

GeneWatch, the publication of the Council for Responsible Genetics, just came out with installment number two of Mike Fortun's article "Open Reading Frames," available here but much more legible (and with pictures!) here. In other Mike-related news, he'll be giving the keynote address for the upcoming meeting of the New York section of the American Physical Society. More news on that coming soon!

ISIS intern Selby Cull has secured a paid summer internship with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Kitts Peak, Arizona. Ms. Cull was part of a student-led project at Hampshire to build a telescope, debuted on Feb. 28th.

Updates February 2002
MilWaste Project Director Dori Digenti's meeting with Dr. David Carpenter, a professor in the School of Public Health at RPI, has been postponed temporarily. Dr. Carpenter, introduced to ISIS by Dr. Ron Scrudato (who will give an ISIS seminar later next month!), is an expert on public health concerns from large installations.

ISIS President Herb Bernstein is in Baltimore the weekend of the 23rd for a FUDS (Formerly Used Defense Sites) conference with Lenny Siegel and CPEO, the Center for Public Environmental Oversight. CPEO supported our 1997 Federal Facilities Cleanup Workshop and continues to collaborate with ISIS's Military Waste Cleanup Project. Herb presented at the conference on the FUDS status at our local installation, Westover Air Reserve Base.

ISIS Quantum Information Project Director (and President) Herb Bernstein was part of a recent informal weekend seminar that IBM held in Wendell, MA. Herb was joined by Hampshire computing prof Lee Spector, quantum pioneer Charles Bennett, and two colleagues. In other Quantum news, we welcome Sean Echols back to the project team from his year away.

Updates January 2002
ISIS Board member Everett Mendelsohn gave a seminar entitled "Crisis in Bioethics: Stem Cells, Human Clones, and Social Issues" on Friday, January 18th at 1:30 pm in Hampshire's ASH Auditorium. Click here for more information.

Amazon Project Director Jim Oldham will be traveling to Ecuador this week to give a presentation with our Secoya partners on the Indigenous Aquaculture Project at a conference on Alternative Economic Development (Jan 21-23) organized by the Amazon Alliance ( and Confeniae (Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon). Watch here for news from his trip.

Meanwhile, ISIS President Herb Bernstein has also been on the road. His trip to San Francisco included components of planning, fundraising and physics research, with visits to the East Bay and Sonoma. His busy four-day tour netted some openings such as Mayor Jerry Brown (former governor of CA) as welcoming-keynote speaker for the upcoming MilWaste conference in Oakland this June.
His next trip is to IBM in New York for a conference on Qauntum Information Processing. QIP2002 is being hosted by the Bennett group with whom we have an ongoing research collaboration--most recently on the simulation of a given qubit interaction by any other. Work has involved contributions by Lee Spector (professor of computer science at Hampshire) and student Ben Lefstein (frequent seminar participant and ISIS supporter).

ISIS has renewed the appointment of Junior Fellow Rachel Massey, environmental writer extraordinaire. She and Jim have been putting together suggestions for a Witness for Peace delegation that leaves for Colombia this coming week. Their role has been to help develop questions the delegates can ask about environmental impacts of the conflict in Colombia (see the Winter 2001 issue of AFter the Fact for more information).
To find out more about Rachel's work, take a look at the following articles:
1) "Echoes of Vietnam"
Rachel's Environmental Weekly Issue 713 - December 07, 2000.
2) "Casualties of the 'War on Drugs:' Traditional farms destroyed with herbicides"
by Elsa Nivia and Rachel Massey (GPC, August 1999, Volume 9 No. 2).

Updates December 2001
The MilWaste Project has been very busy during the last month of 2001. With new Director Dori Digenti on board since the last days of November, project staff have finished their report on the first year of our EPA Superfund grant--a summary is available here. The project has finalized plans for the 2002 Workshop (in Oakland, CA in June) and plans to expand the Youth Forum component to connect young grassroots organizers with young environmental scientists, not just "grown-ups."

Our Administrator extraordinaire, Debby Nelson, is finally an official member of the ISIS staff! Debby had been working through a temp agency until the end of November, but that didn't stop her from being our best-ever admin type, coordinating the many facets of the Institute (including a whole-office makeover and expansion and new computers and phone lines (extra special thanks to Josiah Erikson and the Hampshire phys plant and IT hardware folks!)). Good to have you fully on board, Debby!

ISIS President Herb Bernstein has been invited to participate in a conference at IBM in January called "Quantum Information Processing 2002." Dr. Bernstein will share with other experts in the quantum world on his work with Hampshire professor Lee Spector and student Ben Lefstein on quantum computing.

Updates November 2001
ISIS is delighted that the invitation-only Romano Foundation has requested a proposal for a grant to support our new Junior Fellows program. Their support will be an important first step in the development of this exciting new direction in reconstructive science at ISIS. Said ISIS President Herb Bernstein, "we thank everyone involved for their help. I'm particularly happy with the recognition it implies for ISIS and our work." Contact ISIS for more on this project.

Our seminar with Dr. Alison MacFarlane, the leading US expert on high-level nuclear waste disposal, attracted an audience of about 35 people to hear about the Yucca Mountain long-term storage project and its many flaws. She covered the many reasons why Yucca Mountain is not appropriate, including infrastructural shortfalls (requiring the waste to be trucked from a small rail station through Las Vegas to the mountain) and geological features that make the site inappropriate. Ultimately, she says, there is a history of governmental decision-making which can't or won't account for the insights of geologists and other scientists, and the project is nearing implementation regardless.

ISIS has been invited to be part of a Sloan Foundation collaborative grant to study the history of science and technology in the preparations for the war on terrorism, both long- and short-term. Our participation is not yet committed, but we will make more information available as it comes.

It's a girl! ISIS Founding Fellow Mike Fortun and his wife Kim are the new parents of Cora Elizabeth Fortun, born Nov. 6. Congratulations to all three!

Updates October 2001
ISIS's Amazon Project is working with the Amazon Alliance and other environmental, environmental justice and human rights groups to publicize the facts about the environmental and health impacts of aerial herbicide fumigation as part of the US drug eradication program in South America--the so-called Andean Initiative (better known as Plan Colombia). The Senate is about to vote on funding for the program, and we are working to collect a review of the relevant facts for public consideration. We plan to have a draft available by mid-week for distribution--watch this site for more info in the coming days!

World-famous historian of science Robert Proctor speaks at Hampshire College Tuesday, Oct. 2 on "When Did Humans Become Human?" Dr. Proctor's study of Nazi medical research led him to a broad career with questions about how society influences science and vice versa, for better or worse. This talk will present three "reasons" that modern science have concluded that our humanity is a relatively very recent development. Read more here.

MilWaste news: the search for a new Project Director has attracted a number of promising applicants, and will decide on a candidate by the end of October. Meanwhile, we are compiling the findings report from the Federal Facilities Cleanup Workshop last July, which will be available around the end of October or in early November. Also in the works are plans for the next Workshop, to be held in early Spring 2002 in the greater San Francisco area. Watch the site for updates. Recently, we signed our latest Technical Assistance grant renewal (from the state DEP) with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, our new partners on another new year of local work helping citizens around Westover Air Reserve Base.

New this week on the Amazon Project site: a letter from Project Director Jim Oldham, written this past June during the Project's exchange visits with aquaculture groups in Peru. Not quite in time for the summer After the Fact, we offer it to ISIS readers here.

Updates September 2001
ISIS Founding Fellow Mike Fortun was at UC-Davis the week of Sept. 24 giving the keynote address (read it here) for a conference entitled "When Science Becomes Civic," organized by the California Communities Program of the Human and Community Development Department at UC-Davis. Mike was invited to speak based on the ISIS book Muddling Through and the ISIS presentations at the Taking Nature Seriously conference last February.

Please join us in congratulating the Amazon Project, and our Secoya collaborators, on the notification this week of a new $45,000 grant from the Public Welfare Foundation (up from $35,000 last year)! The grant supports increased and ongoing work on Indigenous Aquaculture in rainforest Ecuador.

The Quantum Computation Project is pleased to announce the appointment of Hampshire College student Ben Lefstein for work with Dr. Lee Spector on researching quantum computer gates: if one could build them, would they be able to work consistently for forward, backward, and entangling communications from and to discrete quantum states? This research grows from Spector's research on quantum computing with ISIS President Herb Bernstein as well as Bernstein's work at IBM with quantum physics pioneer Charles Bennett.

Updates August 2001
ISIS President Herb Bernstein spent much of the summer at speaking engagements around the world. In Sweden and Italy, Bernstein spoke to scientists at two quantum physics conferences, questioning the metaphors used in approaches to quantum information and how those metaphors lead to certain not-necessarily-desireable paradigms (e.g. the commodification of science). "Opportunities like these to talk to scientists about the unseen implications of their work are important steps toward building true reconstructive physics," Bernstein said.
Bernstein also spoke this summer to a Harvard International Medical School conference entitled "Health Care East & West." Over 500 Chinese doctors filled the Kresge Auditorium at MIT to hear about his book with Mike Fortun, Muddling Through: Pursuing Science & Truth in the 21st Century, and its relevance to the practice of medicine.

Updates July 2001
The FFCWTI (July 13-15 at Amherst College) was a success. Read more here.