Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, maggiejean, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, ScottyUrb, and Bentliberal, guest editors Interceptor-7 and annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, and the environment.
Between now and the general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in swing states for either the presidential election or competitive contests for the U.S. Senate, plus those states holding presidential or vice-presidential debates during the week. Competitive states will be determined based on the percentage chance to win at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times. Those that show the two major party candidates having probabilities to win between 20% and 80% inclusive will count as swing states.
As of November 3rd, the presidential swing states are Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia, while the states with competitive races for the U.S. Senate are Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Since my previous report last week, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Ohio have moved out of the competitive presidential state category with an 80+% chance of an Obama victory, while North Carolina has moved in with a 20+% possiblity of an Obama win. Also, Wisconsin has been added to the competitive Senate category because Tammy Baldwin's now has less than an 80% chance of being elected.
Tonight's edition highlights the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
This week's featured stories comes from the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University.
UW scientists track Sandy's fury
by Chris Barncard
October 30, 2012
Hurricane Sandy has earned it[s] reputation as a perfect storm, even among meteorologists.
But while Louis Uccellini, environmental prediction chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said, “This is the worst-case scenario,” the storm researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison weren’t so sure.
“The worst case would be a bad prediction,” said Chris Velden, senior researcher with the Madison-based Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS).
Without an accurate idea of when and where the storm system will dump rain, push ocean water and bend trees, emergency planning would be little more than guesswork.
“The models pegged this,” Velden said. “We know who is in the way of the storm and what should happen when it arrives.”
You can avoid being scammed in donating to Hurricane Sandy victims
October 31, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The many pictures and news reports of massive destruction and loss of life and property from Hurricane Sandy is triggering an urge for people to help. But it's important that donors know where their money is actually going, says a Purdue University cybersecurity expert.I used to give out a "Gene Spafford 'Usenet Samaritan' Award" to recognize the good guys online, so I found it a pleasant surprise to run across his name while looking for articles.
"We've seen it time and again, and con artists and scammers are continually coming up with advanced methods to take people's money through contributions - often online," says Eugene H. Spafford, professor and executive director of CERIAS - Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security.
Researchers at CERIAS know that criminals will take advantage of the most tragic of circumstances, counting on people's sense of urgency to "do something" to overcome their normal caution, Spafford says.
"Be alert to fraudulent but sincere-sounding appeals for aid from hurricane victims or from what appear to be charities," he says. "These solicitations may be sent as email to you or a group to which you belong, as postings or messages on a social newsgroup such as Facebook or Twitter, as a phone call from someone soliciting donations, or as a website to which you are directed or that pops up when visiting a site."
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
This week in science: Sandy
NASA Television on YouTube: Satellite Sees Global View of Sandy's Life to Landfall
An animation of satellite observations from Oct. 21-30, 2012, shows the birth of Tropical Storm Sandy in the Caribbean Sea, the intensification and movement of Sandy in the Atlantic Ocean along the U.S. East Coast, and the landfall of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey on Oct. 29. This visualization was created by the NASA GOES Project at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., using observations from NOAA's GOES-13 and GOES-15 satellites.
NASA Television on YouTube: Dragon's Safe Return on This Week @NASA
The SpaceX Dragon capsule that splashed down Sunday in the Pacific off Mexico's Baja California coast is back on dry land. Its recovery ship returned the spacecraft to San Pedro, California, laden with more than 3-quarters of a ton of cargo from the International Space Station, much of it related to science experiments conducted in space to benefit us here on Earth. Also, successful spacewalk; Endeavour's new digs; Atlantis' final move; KSC's future; Curiosity report; and more!
University of Arizona: Adam Block and the Cosmic Canvas
Adam Block, astrophotographer and astronomy educator with the UA's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, has been selected to receive the Advanced Imaging Conference Hubble Award to honor his work in "bringing the cosmos to the people."
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
October 29, 2012
Adam Block, astrophotographer and astronomy educator with the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, has been selected to receive the Advanced Imaging Conference Hubble Award to honor his work in "bringing the cosmos to the people." Block received the award at the annual Advanced Imaging Conference held Oct. 26-28 in San Jose, Calif.
NASA regularly features his images on its "Astronomy Picture of the Day" website, such as this image of Reflection Nebula vdB1. Hundreds of Block's photos have appeared in magazines such as National Geographic, Scientific American, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Arizona Highways, Coelum, Astronomie and The Practical Astronomer. Space.com has featured a score of his images as its image of the day.
"Adam's pictures draw people in and facilitate their thinking about science," said Alan Strauss, director of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter. "One of the things that distinguishes our outreach efforts from similar public programs is that Adam's photographs are used so widely. The images are beautiful, and they awaken a curiosity and an appreciation of science in general, and astronomy specifically."
University of Arizona: Comet Discovered at Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
October 30, 2012
Dedicated only six months ago as the nation’s largest instrument of its kind devoted to public outreach and citizen science, the 32-inch Schulman Telescope at the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter has shown that it can do more than offer awe-inspiring glimpses into the universe to those who travel up the mountain to participate in a public program about objects in the night sky.
Taking advantage of the telescope’s ability to be operated remotely via the Internet, Tomas Vorobjov, an amateur astronomer in Slovakia, discovered a previously unknown comet hurtling along its orbit around Jupiter.
“It is the first comet discovered by Mr. Vorobjov, as well as the first comet discovered by observers using the Schulman Telescope,” said Alan Strauss, director of the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, a public outreach station run by the University of Arizona’s department of astronomy atop 9,157-foot Mt. Lemmon just north of Tucson.
Arizona State University: NASA's Dawn sees young face on giant asteroid
October 31, 2012
Like a Hollywood starlet constantly retouching her make-up, the giant asteroid Vesta is constantly stirring its outermost layer and presenting a young face. Data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a common form of weathering, which occurs on many airless bodies in the inner solar system like the Moon, does not age Vesta’s outermost layer.
Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta's surface over a long span of its history. The results are described in two papers reported on Nov. 1 in the journal Nature.
Indiana University: NASA rover’s first soil studies help fingerprint Martian minerals
October 31, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. -- Initial experiments completed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have shown the mineralogy of Martian soil to be similar to that of weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii. Investigators with Curiosity's Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) experiment, including Indiana University Bloomington geologist David Bish, discussed the results Tuesday.
"Much of Mars is covered with dust, and we had an incomplete understanding of its mineralogy," said Bish, CheMin co-investigator and the Haydn Murray Chair of Applied Clay Mineralogy in the Department of Geological Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We now know it is mineralogically similar to basaltic material, with significant amounts of feldspar, pyroxene and olivine, which was not unexpected."
The identification of minerals in rocks and soil is crucial for the Curiosity mission's goal to assess past environmental conditions. Each mineral records the conditions under which it formed, while the chemical composition of a rock provides only ambiguous mineralogical information.
Indiana University: STAR TRAK
October 31, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As the evening sky darkens during November, Mars will appear 10 degrees high in the southwest an hour after sunset for viewers around 40 degrees north latitude. The red-orange planet will show little detail in a telescope, and it will set an hour later.
The annual Leonid meteor shower will peak before dawn Nov. 17. The moon will set earlier in the evening, so in a dark sky, up to 20 meteors per hour may be visible. To see the most meteors, get away from city lights. The shower's radiant, the point from which the meteors appear to come, will be in the constellation Leo the Lion. The bright star Regulus is part of Leo and can serve as a marker for the radiant. The farther sickle-shaped Leo climbs above the eastern horizon, the more meteors there will be all over the sky. The Leonid meteors are caused by streams of dust particles from Comet Tempel Tuttle.
The first total eclipse of the sun in more than two years will happen Nov. 13-14. The sun's shadow will skim northern Australia and then cross the South Pacific and the International Date Line.
North Carolina State University: Analysis of Dinosaur Bone Cells Confirms Ancient Protein Preservation
October 23, 2012
A team of researchers from North Carolina State University and the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has found more evidence for the preservation of ancient dinosaur proteins, including reactivity to antibodies that target specific proteins normally found in bone cells of vertebrates. These results further rule out sample contamination, and help solidify the case for preservation of cells – and possibly DNA – in ancient remains.
Dr. Mary Schweitzer, professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences with a joint appointment at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, first discovered what appeared to be preserved soft tissue in a 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex in 2005. Subsequent research revealed similar preservation in an even older (about 80-million-year-old) Brachylophosaurus canadensis. In 2007 and again in 2009, Schweitzer and colleagues used chemical and molecular analyses to confirm that the fibrous material collected from the specimens was collagen.
Schweitzer’s next step was to find out if the star-shaped cellular structures within the fibrous matrix were osteocytes, or bone cells. Using techniques including microscopy, histochemistry and mass spectrometry, Schweitzer demonstrates that these cellular structures react to specific antibodies, including one – a protein known as PHEX – that is found in the osteocytes of living birds. The findings appear online in Bone and were presented last week at the annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
University of Florida: Controlling invasive lionfish may best be done in targeted areas, UF research shows
October 29, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive lionfish may never be eradicated from Florida’s coastal waters, but it’s possible to keep them under control — in specific, targeted areas and using plenty of manpower, a new University of Florida study shows.
Native to the Indo-Pacific, the spiny, ornate fish began to turn up in small numbers in the mid-1980s along the Atlantic seaboard. Their numbers exploded in the last decade, and the fish can now be found in South American and Caribbean waters as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
They pose a significant threat to valuable native species such as grouper, snapper and shrimp because lionfish are voracious predators.
Northern Arizona University: Science of placebos seen from alternative point of view
November 1, 2012
With the perspective of a scientist trained in acupuncture, Alison Adams is well positioned to explain why placebos may be misunderstood—and why they should be understood in the first place.
“The placebo is a very powerful tool and the vast majority of people know absolutely nothing about it,” said Adams, associate professor of biology at Northern Arizona University. “People think it’s just trickery of the brain.”
Dispelling the popular notion of a useless sugar pill, Adams said that a placebo “could potentially be an effective agent in its own right.”
University of Florida: UF/IFAS scientists discover enzyme that improves flavor of ripening tomatoes
November 1, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The enzyme CXE1 will never be a household name, but a new University of Florida study suggests that tomato lovers owe it a debt of thanks nonetheless — without it, their favorite fruit might not be so tasty.
In a study published this week by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences announced their discovery of the enzyme and showed how the common tomato plant generates large amounts of it as the fruit ripens.
Chemical reactions triggered by CXE1 improve the fruit’s flavor profile by reducing the presence of acetate esters, volatile chemicals commonly associated with plant defense and plant-to-plant communication, said molecular biologist Harry Klee, an eminent scholar with UF’s horticultural sciences department.
“We do believe this phenomenon makes the fruit more palatable,” Klee said.
University of Florida: ADHD drugs do not raise risk of serious heart conditions in children, study shows
October 31, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Children taking central nervous system stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin do not face an increased risk of serious heart conditions during treatment, according to a new University of Florida study that confirms findings reported in 2011. Published in the British Medical Journal in August, the study contributes to a decade-long clinical and policy debate of treatment risks for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
"This is a question that has been lingering for about 10 years," said Almut Winterstein, a pharmacoepidemiologist and a professor in pharmaceutical outcomes and policy in the UF College of Pharmacy.
Stimulant drugs are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for children - after antibiotics and antidepressants, Winterstein said.
University of Florida: UF/IFAS research: Typical populations of bedbugs can cause harmful blood loss in humans
October 30, 2012.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For years, bedbugs have been turning up in sometimes odd and random places, such as subways, movie theaters, dressing rooms and schools, but scientists believed that to flourish, the insects would need more frequent access to human blood meals.
Turns out they don’t.
A new University of Florida study, published online this month by the journal Medical and Veterinary Entomology, shows the blood-sucking insects can do much more than survive — they can even thrive — with far less access to human blood than previously believed.
And the news only gets creepier. The three-year study also found that it takes only about 11 weeks for one pair of bedbugs to spawn a large enough population to cause harmful blood loss in a baby, and just under 15 weeks for adult humans. Just 3,500 bedbugs feeding on a single baby or 25,000 on an adult can cause problems.
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Age of puberty among boys dropping in U.S., study finds
October 22, 2012
Boys in the United States appear to be entering puberty much earlier than in the past – a trend researchers caution may have important medical, psychosocial, public health and environmental implications, according to a new study.
The research, published online in the journal Pediatrics, was presented Oct. 20 at an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) conference and exhibition in New Orleans.
“Pubertal data are an important part of monitoring the health of our nation’s children,” said Marcia Herman-Giddens, Dr.P.H., lead investigator for the study and adjunct professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.
“Our findings suggest we need to reevaluate anticipatory guidance provided to boys – the famous ‘birds and bees’ talk may need to happen earlier – and examine what contributing factors might be behind this phenomenon.”
North Carolina State University: Study: Flame Retardant ‘Firemaster 550’ Is an Endocrine Disruptor
October 24, 2012
The flame-retardant mixture known as “Firemaster 550” is an endocrine disruptor that causes extreme weight gain, early onset of puberty and cardiovascular health effects in lab animals, according to a new study spearheaded by researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University.
Firemaster 550 is made up of four principal component chemicals and is used in polyurethane foam in a wide variety of products, ranging from mattresses to infant nursing pillows. The flame-retardant mixture was developed by Chemtura Corp., and was first identified by the research community in 2008. It was developed to replace a class of fire retardants being phased out of use because of concerns regarding their safety. This new study represents the first public data on whether Firemaster 550 has potential health effects.
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech researcher tries to knock out sleeping sickness
November 2, 2012
Not many people in the United States think about the tsetse fly, much less the sleeping sickness infection it carries.
But in 37 countries in sub-Saharan Africa — a footprint of land as big as the U.S. — the disease infects hundreds of thousands of people each year and puts a stranglehold on the impoverished region’s economy.
Domesticated animals also die from the parasite, which delivers a tremendous blow to the agricultural economies of these countries because they can’t raise livestock to sell.
“No other disease that I know of can affect the ecology of an entire continent the way this does,” said Zac Mackey, an assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an affiliated faculty member with the Fralin Life Science Institute. Mackey is investigating new ways to develop drugs to combat the sleeping sickness parasite.
If Mackey’s research is fruitful, it could help buoy an entire region.
University of Wisconsin: Cheap, simple bacteria test could spare newborns deadly infections
by Chris Barncard
November 1, 2012
For babies, the trip from the womb to the outside world is a transition from a blank, sterile slate to host for what will eventually be trillions of microscopic organisms.
Unfortunately, the demographics of a burgeoning microbial community can easily tip in favor of dangerous bacteria.
"While that microbial environment in the gut is still developing, the introduction of one of many of the wrong kinds of bacteria may cause a severe immune response," says Douglas Weibel, biochemistry professor at UW-Madison. "In an infant, the immune system could just ravage the intestines."
Purdue University: Organic status will make Purdue research more competitive
November 2, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University farm near the West Lafayette campus now has about 10 acres of certified organic land, putting researchers in a stronger position to help develop more effective organic farming practices.
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association certified the land in October at Meigs Farm, part of the Throckmorton Purdue Agricultural Center in Tippecanoe County.
Kevin Gibson, a Purdue weed scientist, said the land would help researchers do the type of holistic science needed to help farmers grow their crops organically.
"In order to evaluate management practices like crop rotations, pest management, the use of cover crops or how a particular variety will perform under organic conditions, we need to work within the same set of rules as organic growers," he said.
Purdue University: Warmer climates don't necessarily mean more fertile soils, study says
October 31, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Warmer climates won't necessarily speed the return of nitrogen to soils as scientists once thought, according to a Purdue University study.
Increased temperatures from climate change have been expected to speed decomposition of plant materials and the return of nitrogen to soils, making the soil more fertile for plants. But Jeff Dukes, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue, found that the microbes responsible for returning nitrogen to soils react differently to a range of climate scenarios.
"More nitrogen being available is not something we can count on in all ecosystems," said Dukes, whose findings were published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Science News: Spanish quake linked to groundwater pumping
Draining aquifers probably triggered deadly 2011 tremor
By Alexandra Witze
Web edition: October 22, 2012
Farmers and other residents pumping groundwater from Earth’s crust probably triggered an earthquake that killed nine people last year in southeastern Spain, scientists have found.
Sucking up water for decades would have unloaded stresses within the ground and hastened a quake that was likely to happen anyway, says Pablo González, a geologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.
“Even without the groundwater extraction, the earthquake was overdue,” he says. But human activities provided “a kind of triggering or controlling.”
University of Arizona: UA Study: Could Your Relationship Be Contributing to Your Weight Gain?
UA researcher Emily Butler will look at how couples might use food to feel closer, avoid conflict or cope with tension in the relationship.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications
October 31, 2012
The obesity epidemic in the United States has been linked to a number of factors – environmental, political, economic. One University of Arizona researcher now is looking at how a person’s relationship with his or her romantic partner might also play a role.
Emily Butler, associate professor of family studies and human development, is leading a study that looks at how certain relationship dynamics in romantic couples might lead to unhealthy habits and ultimately unwanted weight gain.
“We’re looking at the kinds of emotional and interpersonal behavioral patterns going on in couples and to what extent those predict unhealthy versus healthy eating and activity habits and eventually weight gain or weight maintenance,” said Butler, who directs the UA’s Health & Interpersonal Systems Research Group.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is focused on romantic couples who recently moved in together and are just starting to establish shared lifestyle habits.
University of Colorado, Boulder: Social factors trump genetic forces in forging friendships, CU-Boulder-led study finds
October 31, 2012
“Nature teaches beasts to know their friends,” wrote Shakespeare. In humans, nature may be less than half of the story, a team led by University of Colorado Boulder researchers has found.
In the first study of its kind, the team found that genetic similarities may help to explain why human birds of a feather flock together, but the full story of why people become friends “is contingent upon the social environment in which individuals interact with one another,” the researchers write.
People are more likely to befriend genetically similar people when their environment is stratified, when disparate groups are discouraged from interacting, the study found. When environments were more egalitarian, friends were less likely to share certain genes.
Indiana University: Research reveals consumers will accept Internet paywalls if media explain the need
October 31, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The pay-for-access policies adopted by The New York Times and many other media outlets will succeed only if consumers believe they're justified by financial necessity, according to a new report from two social scientists.
Their research shows The New York Times lost readers by failing to fully explain the need for what's known as a paywall. Times readers must pay between $15 and $35 per month for Internet content that previously was free.
An article about the research by authors Jonathan Cook of Columbia University and Shahzeen Attari of Indiana University appears in the November edition of the peer-reviewed journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.
University of Virginia: Brain May ‘See’ More Than the Eyes, Study Indicates
October 31, 2012
Vision may be less important to “seeing” than is the brain’s ability to process points of light into complex images, according to a new study of the fruit fly visual system currently published in the online journal Nature Communications.
University of Virginia researchers have found that the very simple eyes of fruit fly larvae, with only 24 total photoreceptors (the human eye contains more than 125 million), provide just enough light or visual input to allow the animal’s relatively large brain to assemble that input into images.
“It blows open how we think about vision,” said Barry Condron, a neurobiologist in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences, who oversaw the study. “This tells us that visual input may not be as important to sight as the brain working behind it. In this case, the brain apparently is able to compensate for the minimal visual input.”
University of Virginia: U.Va. Study Links Prevalence of Bullying, Teasing to High Dropout Rates
October 31, 2012
Teasing and bullying is linked to the dropout rate of students, according to the latest report from the Virginia High School Safety Study, directed by Dewey Cornell, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education.
“This study suggests that teasing and bullying at the high school level is a noteworthy problem that is associated with the most serious negative outcome, failure to graduate,” he said.
The prevalence of teasing and bullying in Virginia high schools was assessed through surveying 7,082 ninth-grade students and 2,764 teachers in Virginia on their perceptions of school climate. Researchers measured the dropout rates of students who were high school freshmen in 2007 over their four years of high school.
Previous bullying studies have focused on the effects of bullying on individual victims, but this study showed a school-wide impact. “It adds new evidence to the importance of school climate for academic success in high school,” Cornell said.
Arizona State University: University anthropologist receives Ecological Society of America Award
October 30, 2012
As an environmental anthropologist, Shauna BurnSilver is concerned with people’s relationships with their environment, how these relationships are changing, and what this means for vulnerability and well-being. She joined Arizona State University’s faculty last year and has already earned accolades for her research. Most recently, one of her research collaborations was recognized by the Ecological Society of America with a Sustainability Science Award.
The awarded research developed out of many discussions BurnSilver had with her fellow researchers and community collaborators about how to do better science. They wanted to implement a new collaborative method that could help alleviate poverty and support sustainable livelihoods and conservation in East African pastoral regions.
“As somebody who really cares about outcomes in terms of poverty and well-being – you can’t help but begin to really think about what your research means and how it is used,” says BurnSilver, a senior sustainability scientist in the Global Institute of Sustainability and faculty member in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off.
Science News: Hunting dark matter with DNA
Particle physicists propose a new way to detect dark matter using the molecule of life
By Tanya Lewis
Web edition: October 31, 2012
RALEIGH, N.C. — Physicists racing to detect the mysterious substance known as dark matter are thinking outside the box by looking inside the cell. A new proposal for tracking dark matter particles relies on strands of DNA.
All the ordinary stuff in the universe, from the atoms in people to the hot plasma in stars, makes up only about 5 percent of the universe’s mass and energy. Nearly one-quarter of the universe is composed of dark matter. (The rest is an even more puzzling entity known as dark energy.) Though several experiments claim to have detected dark matter, the results don’t agree and aren’t definitive.
Katherine Freese, a theoretical physicist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, proposed October 28 at the New Horizons in Science meeting that a new kind of DNA-based detector could not only spot a leading candidate for dark matter, called WIMPs, but could also determine incoming particles’ direction of flight.
University of Colorado, Boulder: CU-Boulder professor inducted into American Academy of Arts and Sciences
October 26, 2012
Veronica Vaida, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences this month.
She was elected to the academy in recognition of her exceptional achievements in scientific research. Among the other 218 new members elected this year were U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor and director Clint Eastwood, journalist Judy Woodruff and Amazon.com founder and chairman Jeff Bezos.
Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs.
University of Arizona: Biofuels From Algae Hold Potential, but Not Ready for Prime Time
UA biofuel expert Joel Cuello explains how future innovations could help realize algal biofuels' full potential.
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
November 1, 2012
Scaling up the production of biofuels made from algae to meet at least 5 percent – about 10 billion gallons – of U.S. transportation fuel needs would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients, says a new report from the National Research Council, or NRC. However, these concerns are not a definitive barrier for future production, and innovations that would require research and development could help realize algal biofuels' full potential.
"Algal biofuels are not quite ready for prime time," said NRC committee member Joel Cuello, a professor in the UA department of agricultural and biosystems engineering who co-authored the report. "In other words, if scaled up today, the resources that have to go into production would not be sustainable. However, in our report we say that this not a show stopper, because there are technology combinations that can be designed and developed to make the production process more environmentally sustainable."
For algal biofuels to contribute a significant amount of fuel for transportation in the future, the committee said, research and development would be needed to improve algal strains, test additional strains for desired characteristics, advance the materials and methods for growing and processing algae into fuels, and reduce the energy requirements for multiple stages of production.
Colorado School of Mines: Engineering a Quantum Leap in Solar Power
Oct 25th, 2012 | By Lisa Marshall | Category: 2012 Fall, Feature Stories, Lead Story
Over the last 25 years, a series of incremental improvements to photovoltaic cells have raised efficiency levels from around 15 percent in the early ’80s to 20 percent today. However, after recent research at Mines helped confirm the effectiveness of quantum dots, scientists believe this new technology could elevate efficiency to 40 percent over the next 10 years.
Take a look at a solar panel on a sunny Colorado day and, if you’re like most people, you won’t see much more than a blinding glare. Mark Lusk sees wasted opportunity.
“I see that glare and feel how hot the panels on my roof get and say, ‘What a waste! We’re losing energy!’” says Lusk, a Mines physics professor and solar energy researcher, who admits to checking out his panels and their energy output more than most. On a clear day, he explains, only a fraction of the photons hitting the photovoltaic cells on his roof are converted into electricity—the rest bounce off as light or are lost as heat. On a cloudy day, or as dusk approaches, the long-wavelength, low-energy particles of light are scarcely enough to produce any juice at all. On average, just 20 percent of the sun’s rays actually get converted to energy in a contemporary solar cell.
“In terms of efficiency, there is a lot of room for improvement up there,” he says.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Indiana University: IU researchers discuss fresh food access, sex and IVF, smoke-free workplaces and more at APHA
October 31, 2012
Indiana University researchers in public health, law, informatics/computing, sociology and other fields participated in the American Public Health Association's annual meeting Oct. 27 to 31 in San Francisco. Below are summaries of some of the studies discussed.
Moving local, fresh foods beyond 'privileged' consumers
In-vitro fertilization's impact on sexual relationships
Hoosiers support of indoor workplace smoking bans
Soda consumption, screen time, team sports at school influence students' weight
HealthyState: a mobile app to help with relocation decisions
Health impact assessment of Indy Parks usage
Sociologist Bernice Pescosolido honored with Carl Taube Award
Brian Dodge assumes chair of APHA section for HIV/AIDS
University of North Carolina, Charlotte: Gov. Perdue Tours UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center
October 25, 2012
During a visit to the UNC Charlotte campus on Thursday, Oct. 25, Gov. Beverly Perdue toured the University’s new Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC). During her visit, the governor met with students and faculty members and she also got a close-up look at some of EPIC’s cutting-edge sustainability features and technologies.
Chancellor Philip L. Dubois presented Perdue with a framed photo of the EPIC building and thanked the governor for her support of UNC Charlotte and leadership in efforts to grow the state’s energy cluster. Also on hand to greet Perdue were UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees Chairman Gene Johnson; Bob Johnson, dean of the William States Lee College of Engineering; EPIC Director Johan Enslin; and members of the EPIC Advisory Board.
EPIC is headquartered in a new $76 million building on the Charlotte Research Institute campus. EPIC also will further position Charlotte as the nation’s energy capital because of more than 240 energy-oriented organizations and more than 26,000 energy-oriented employees in its 16 counties. It is a partnership between UNC Charlotte, state and local governments, and corporations, including several energy companies with major footprints in the Charlotte area.
University of Arizona: Classroom on the Mountaintop
UA doctoral student Pacifica Sommers’ project has opened doors for elementary and middle school students to become acquainted with the sky islands and the sky itself, paving the way to developing multi-day natural science and astronomy immersion programs at the UA’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.
By Shelley Littin, University Communications
October 31, 2012
The stars blaze out of a sky darker than ever can be seen from central Tucson atop the 9,157-foot-high summit of Mt. Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains northeast of the city. The wind blows colder through the pine trees, the air is thinner and free of the smells of fast food and car exhaust, and apart from the wind, nights are almost silent.
Originally a U.S. Air Force outpost equipped with high-power long-range radar sets, the site atop Mt. Lemmon played an important role as part of about 200 radar stations along U.S. coastlines and borders, scanning the skies for potential enemy bombers and missiles during the Cold War.
Since 1970, the Mt. Lemmon Field Station has served a gentler purpose: University of Arizona astronomers and national and international research teams have turned its six telescopes to searching the skies.
Operating under permit from the U.S. Forest Service, the UA Steward Observatory launched the Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter in 2008, aiming to utilize the facility’s astronomical observing equipment and extraordinary location atop a sky island for public outreach and education purposes.
Science Writing and Reporting
Arizona State University: Building better humans? New book explores transhumanist scenarios
October 31, 2012
Imagine a situation in which a parent ignores the yells for help of a drowning child because the parent had been genetically “enhanced” as an embryo to be highly task-focused – a sort of permanent pre-birth “treatment” for attention deficit disorder. Could that parent be held responsible for the child’s death?
That is just one of many interesting and controversial scenarios ASU faculty consider in a new volume of essays, “Building Better Humans? Refocusing the Debate on Transhumanism.”
Transhumanism is a movement that promotes advanced technology for the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual enhancement of the human species. It is the transition phase toward the posthuman age in which intelligent machines will substitute for and eventually discard biological humans, according to Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, a history professor at ASU who co-edited the book with Ken Mossman in the School of Life Sciences.
Indiana University: Book by IU informatics professor Medina earns two top technology publishing awards
'Cybernetic Revolutionaries' called 'remarkable study,' an 'insightful historical analysis'
October 31, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It started out as an intriguing footnote connecting two of Eden Medina's greatest interests -- technology and Latin America -- and then turned into a multiple award-winning book for the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing associate professor.
Cybernetic Revolutionaries Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile Eden Medina
Medina's "Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile" has been awarded both the Computer History Museum Prize and the Edelstein Prize for what critics called a "remarkable" and "compellingly written" book on the early computer network designed to regulate Chile's economic transition to socialism during the government of Salvador Allende. The book illustrates how political innovation can lead to technological innovation and how computers have been used historically to bring about social and economic changes in society.
This is the first time the Edelstein Prize, awarded to the author of an outstanding scholarly book in the history of technology published during the preceding three years, has been awarded for a book on computer history. Awarded by the Society for the History of Technology, the prize cited Medina's book as "a remarkable study of the intersection of technology and politics in Chile during the short-lived presidency of Salvador Allende, 1970-1973. ... Exhaustively researched, methodologically sophisticated, and clearly and compellingly written, Eden Medina's 'Cybernetic Revolutionaries' is richly deserving of the 2012 Edelstein Prize."
Indiana University: IU professor's new book: We live our lives within our media, rather than simply with it
October 29, 2012
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- With the introduction of every new multimedia device, such as handheld computers, smartphones, social media channels and game systems, pundits and researchers alike offer views on how using them increasingly affects our everyday life.
But to Indiana University professor Mark Deuze, they are another opportunity to discuss how we live our lives within this media, rather than simply with it.
"If anything, today the uses and appropriations of media can be seen as fused with everything people do, everywhere people are, everyone people aspire to be," Deuze wrote in the overview of his new book, "Media Life" (Cambridge Polity Books), which explores the interconnected and essential role of media in our daily lives.
Science is Cool
University of Arizona: Baseball Science Program Brings Kids Closer to Math, Physics
The new UA program gets students interested in math and science through the study of the physics and statistics of baseball.
By Steve Delgado, College of Engineering
October 30, 2012
A pilot program that uses America's favorite national pastime to get middle school kids actively interested in math and science is under way at the University of Arizona.
The Arizona Science of Baseball program engages middle school students with physics and statistics from the game of baseball to encourage classroom participation and help students with the challenges of science, technology, engineering and math – STEM subjects – in school. The inaugural program started in October.
"The program utilizes baseball to interest the left side of the brain of middle school boys and girls, to help them overcome intimidation from math and science," said Ricardo Valerdi, associate professor of systems and industrial engineering at the UA. "The goal is to develop future scientists and engineers by establishing a connection among baseball and statistics, geometry, human performance, nutrition and other technical aspects of the game."
Arizona State University: Moon and art go hand in hand
October 29, 2012
To patrons of fine art, space might seem like a foreign frontier but the monOrchid art gallery in downtown Phoenix will bring the two together when it hosts dozens of images taken from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA mission that is a precursor to the return of humans to the Moon. LROC, which is one of seven instruments aboard the orbiter, is run from the Tempe campus by principal investigator Mark Robinson.
This unusual exhibit will feature LROC images of the Moon depicting impact craters, ancient lava flows and the Apollo landing site where astronauts first stepped onto the lunar surface. The exhibit will premiere Nov. 2, during the First Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix, and remain open from 5 to 10 p.m. every Friday in November. MonOrchid is located at 214 E. Roosevelt St., in downtown Phoenix.
“The Moon is a really beautiful place,” said Robinson, creator of the exhibit. “These are like Ansel Adams images of the Moon.”