Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors jlms qkw, Bentliberal, wader, Oke, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir and ScottyUrb, guest editors maggiejean 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 end of the primary/caucus season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections and caucuses during the week (or in the upcoming weeks if there is no primary or caucus that week). In addition, OND:SS will include stories from the University of Wisconsin system every weekend until the June 5 special election in Wisconsin. That written, tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.
This week's featured story comes from Accuweather and io9.
Solar Eclipse This Month!
May 6, 2012
On May 20th, an annular solar eclipse will take place. Andrew Baglini has the details.
Everything you need to know to catch Sunday’s rare "ring of fire" eclipse
By Robert T. Gonzalez
May 18, 2012 1:25 PM
This weekend, the Moon will pass between Earth and the Sun, giving rise to what sky-watchers call an annular eclipse. Also known as a "ring of fire" eclipse (for reasons that the top image should make clear), it's the first annular eclipse to be visible from the continental U.S. in close to 20 years. Here's what you need to know to catch a glimpse.
What is an "annular" eclipse?
Remember the supermoon from a couple weeks back? If you do, you might recall reading that one of the things that made the Moon "super" that night was its proximity to Earth. Because the Moon's orbit is elliptical, there are times throughout the month when it is closer to our planet than others. Two weeks ago, the Moon was at perigee, putting it closer to us than any other point in the month. In contrast, Sunday's Moon will be close to apogee, the point in its orbit at which it is furthest from our planet.
The Moon's distance from us means that its apparent diameter in the sky will be at its smallest for the entire month, so when it passes between the Sun and the Earth on Sunday night, it won't be able to cover the whole sun. As a result, some parts of the country will be able to witness a ring of sunlight like the one pictured up top, a defining characteristic of annular eclipses.
See the press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln under astronomy for an example of local coverage of this event.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
This week in science: Turtles all the way down
The Rebirth of America's Dreams in Space: Step 1 TONIGHT (Knock on Wood) (Liveblog - Updated)
NASA Television: Dragon's Demo on This Week @NASA
May 19, 2012
The scheduled May 19th launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the first commercial venture to the International Space Station was aborted with t-minus zero-point-five seconds left in the countdown. Early data shows that high chamber pressure in Engine #5 caused a cutoff of all nine engines at T- 0.5 seconds. SpaceX will continue to look at the data and inspect the engine before setting a new launch date. The next possible opportunity is May 22 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Meanwhile, the three newest residents of the International Space Station were greeted by their Expedition 31 crewmates after their Soyuz capsule docked safely with the orbiting laboratory following its two day-plus journey from Kazakhstan. Soyuz commander Gennady Padalka, NASA flight engineer Joe Acaba, and Russian flight engineer Sergei Revin are slated to spend the next five months on the station. Expedition 31 will conclude, and 32 will begin, when Oleg Kononenko, Andre Kuipers, and Don Pettit return to Earth on July first after spending more than six months aboard the ISS. Also, Extreme Temperature Heat Shield, More Tests for Orion's Launch System Component, The State of Alabama celebrates NASA and more.
NASA Television: ScienceCasts: The 2012 Transit of Venus
May 17, 2012
It won't happen again until December 2117. On June 5th, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun in an event of both historical and observational importance. The best places to watch are in the south Pacific, but travel is not required. The event will also be visible around sunset from the USA.
Accuweather: Less Summer Sea Ice Could Mean More Winter Snow
May 17, 2012
According to a recent study, there is correlation between summer Arctic sea ice cover and winter weather in Central Europe. Valerie Smock has the details.
Accuweather: Weather History: Mount St. Helens Eruption
May 15, 2012
On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens stunned the U.S. shooting an eruption column 80,000 feet into the atmosphere.
io9: SpaceX’s first bid at cab service to ISS is a bust
By Robert T. Gonzalez
May 19, 2012 11:30 AM
The first attempt to send a commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station was aborted less than a second before liftoff this morning, after an onboard computer detected a problem in one of its launch vehicle's nine engines.
It was anticlimactic to see the engines of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket ignite, rumble, and belch out billowing plumes of smoke in the final seconds of this morning's countdown, only to hear their booming cut short and watch the engine exhaust evanesce over the Cape Canaveral launchpad; but in a NASA press conference held about an hour after the unsuccessful attempt, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell insisted that deciding to scrub the launch was intentional, and for the best.
SpaceX's first bid at cab service to ISS is a bust"This is not a failure," she explained. "We aborted with purpose. It would be a failure if we were to have lifted off with an engine trending in this direction."
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Partial solar eclipse and transit of Venus for Lincoln, Nebraska
May 18th, 2012
Lincoln, Neb., — Of two significant astronomical events occurring in the next few weeks, only one will be visible from Lincoln, according to Jack Dunn, coordinator of Mueller Planetarium at the University of Nebraska State Museum.
Lincoln will experience a partial eclipse of the sun on May 20, but the Sun will only be 2 degrees above the horizon when the largest area of the Sun will be covered by the Moon -- which means that most people won't be able to see it. Due to the low probability of seeing anything of the eclipse, Hyde Memorial Observatory in Holmes Park will not open for a viewing of the partial eclipse.
On June 5, however, there will be an opportunity in Lincoln to observe the transit of Venus. When the planet Venus moves across the face of the Sun as seen from Earth, we experience a fairly rare phenomenon. These transits come in pairs, and there was one in 2004. This will be the last transit of Venus to be seen this century. Historically, astronomers used transits to help determine distances to the Sun and the planet. Today, the transit technique is used to discover extra-solar planets--planets around other stars.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: UNL research discovers metabolic adaptation to high altitudes
May 17th, 2012
Lincoln, Neb., — When mammals are cold, they can employ physical changes to stay warm -- such as intense shivering. Like any form of aerobic exercise, though, "shivering thermogenesis" is especially challenging at high altitudes because there is less oxygen in the thin mountain air. So how do high-altitude mammals maintain a constant body temperature in low-oxygen, extremely cold alpine environments?
In a publication this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from the lab of University of Nebraska-Lincoln evolutionary biologist Jay Storz, lead author Zachary Cheviron reports a discovery on how high-altitude deer mice have evolved to meet the combined challenges of hypoxia and cold exposure.
Cheviron, a former post-doctoral researcher in Storz's lab who recently became an assistant professor in the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the discovery reveals how evolved changes in gene expression (changes in the rate at which genes are transcribed) modulate aspects of energy metabolism.
Oregon State University: How do hatchery and wild salmon and steelhead interact?
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Genetic differences between hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead and fish born in the wild have sparked controversy and raised questions about future policies, overshadowing ecological interactions that may ultimately be of greater importance.
How hatchery and wild fish deal with competition, predation, disease and ecosystem effects will dictate fish runs of the future, yet the science on salmon has lagged behind management decisions.
That may be changing. The professional journal Environmental Biology of Fishes is publishing a special edition this May called “Ecological Interactions of Hatchery and Wild Salmon” that provides some of the latest findings on the topic. Edited by David Noakes of Oregon State University, the journal will include results from 22 studies conducted by scientists around the world.
The papers were presented at a conference organized by the Wild Salmon Center in Portland.
University of Wisconsin: UW plant breeders develop an even heart-healthier oat
May 16, 2012
University of Wisconsin-Madison plant breeders have developed a new oat variety that's significantly higher in the compound that makes this grain so cardio-friendly.
"The biggest thing that stands out about this new variety, BetaGene, is that it's both a high yielding variety and high in beta glucan. Beta glucan is a heart-healthy chemical that is exclusive to oats," says John Mochon, program manager of the Small Grains Breeding Program in the UW-Madison agronomy department.
BetaGene is 2 percent higher in beta glucan on average than other oat varieties on the market. That may not sound much, but it's huge from a nutrition standpoint. A 2 percent bump translates to a 20-percent boost in beta glucan levels in products made from the oat.
University of Kentucky: Annual Research Day Helps Move Diabetes from Laboratory to Clinical Care
By Ann Blackford
May 14, 2012
Some examples of current studies include:
- Research into the causes of obesity and why obesity promotes diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
- Research into the end-organ damage caused by diabetes, such as damage to the kidneys and the eyes.
- A collaborative grant to UK, Ohio State, West Virginia and others to look at the treatment of obesity as means to lower cancer. Obesity is a driving force for both diabetes and cancer.
- Research looking at the pancreas and the islet cells to better understand what causes them to make insulin, utilizing basic science to develop novel ways to trick the beta cells to make more insulin.
- Research into novel therapeutic approaches to treat diabetes and obesity, ranging from lifestyle approaches (exercise, behavioral interventions) to therapeutics.
University of Oregon: Begin early: Researchers say water with meals may encourage wiser choices
May 14, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. — Water could change the way we eat.
That's the conclusion of new research by T. Bettina Cornwell of the University of Oregon and Anna R. McAlister of Michigan State University. Their findings appear online this week ahead of regular publication by the journal Appetite.
The paper featured separate studies. One involved a survey of 60 young U.S. adults (ages 19-23) about the role of food-and-drink pairings. The second involved experiments with 75 U.S. children (ages 3-5) to determine the role of drinks and vegetable consumption. The same preschoolers were tested on different days under differing scenarios involving drinks served with vegetables.
Older participants favored the combination of soda served with salty, calorie-dense foods rather than soda and vegetables. Preschoolers ate more raw vegetables, either carrots or red peppers, when accompanied with water rather than when accompanied by a sweetened beverage.
University of Texas, Austin: 2012 Texas Water Summit to Explore Options for State’s Water Security
May 18, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas — The Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) will hold the 2012 Texas Water Summit: Securing Water for Texas’ Future at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on May 20-21. This summit will explore the major challenges of ensuring future water resources including supply and demand, water science and conservation, surface and groundwater resources and developing new forms of water resources.
This event, hosted by The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Texas System, will include keynote addresses by state Rep. Mark Strama and Robert Mace, deputy executive administrator of water science and conservation at the Texas Water Development Board, as well as presentations by prominent experts from Texas industry, academia and government.
In 2011 Texas experienced the worst single-year drought in the state’s history, generating direct economic losses that exceeded $10 billion. As Texas begins to outgrow its water supply infrastructure, there are significant political, economic, technological and scientific challenges that must be met to ensure the state is prepared for future population growth.
University of Texas, Austin: Climate Engineering Report Ranked Among Top Government Priorities by Copenhagen Consensus Center
May 17, 2012
AUSTIN, TX — The effect of global warming could potentially be ameliorated by engineering ways to reflect more sunlight back into space, according to a report by a professor at The University of Texas at Austin.
The report, by Professor J. Eric Bickel and Hudson Institute Fellow Lee Lane, was selected by a panel of international experts as one of 16 areas of research that governments and philanthropists should prioritize to respond to the world’s most pressing challenges.
The panel included four Nobel laureates in economics and was organized by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a Denmark-based think tank that brings together the world’s brightest minds every four years to analyze the costs and benefits of approaches to tackling major societal problems. This is the second time Bickel has been asked to participate in the Copenhagen Consensus process. This year the consensus solicited reports from more than 65 researchers from around the world about topics such as fighting malnourishment, education shortages, population growth and climate change.
Bickel and Lane’s report ranked first among the four papers solicited on climate change, and 12th overall on a priority list released this week by the Copenhagen Consensus.
Oregon State University: Scientists document volcanic history of turbulent Sumatra region
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The early April earthquake of magnitude 8.6 that shook Sumatra was a grim reminder of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people in 2004 and 2005.
Now a new study, funded by the National Science Foundation, shows that the residents of that region are at risk from yet another potentially deadly natural phenomenon – major volcanic eruptions.
Researchers from Oregon State University working with colleagues in Indonesia have documented six major volcanic eruptions in Sumatra over the past 35,000 years – most equaling or surpassing in explosive intensity the eruption of Washington’s Mount St. Helens in 1980.
Results of the research have just been published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.
University of Wisconsin: Unsafe at any speed: Even for driving pros, distractions increase crash risk
by Renee Meiller
May 15, 2012
The ringing cell phone you’re reaching to answer. The text message that demands a reply now. The GPS you’re trying to program as you’re frantically rushing to your destination.
They’re just a few activities—among many—that divert drivers’ attention from the road and escalate their risk of having an accident.
And, an accident can happen in an instant, says driver distraction researcher John Lee, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“Studies dating back to the 1960s found the maximum time the eye can be diverted from a driving task without significant adverse effect is 1.5 to 2 seconds,” he says. “Attention to the road deteriorates the longer a driver looks away.”
University of Kentucky: UK Archaeologists Survey Ky. Revolutionary War Site
By Sarah Geegan
Published: May 15, 2012
Archaeologists at the University of Kentucky have broken ground on a new project, uncovering historical evidence from a Revolutionary War siege, right in the heart of the state.
UK archaeologists Nancy O’Malley of the William S. Webb Museum of Anthropology and Philip Mink of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, are undertaking a geophysical survey and limited excavations at the site of Fort Boonesborough on the Kentucky River in May. The study aims to find archaeological evidence relating to the Siege of 1778, a prolonged engagement that pitted a large party of French Canadians and Indians against settlers living in the stockaded fort.
The project was made possible through a grant from the American Battlefields Protection Program and the cooperation of the Kentucky Department of Parks.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off as she attends a seminar in Hawaii.
University of Oregon: Electrons, like billiard balls, can alter course on bumpy 'tables'
May 14, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. — Tiny electrons moving along semiconductors and billiard balls on defective pool tables behave the same in the presence of unseen grooves or bumps. They easily are thrown off course, says an international team of physicists.
Richard Taylor and Ian PilgrimIn a paper published in Physical Review Letters, the 13-member team, which includes University of Oregon physicist Richard Taylor, report on experimental games of "semiconductor billiards." They studied electrons moving on a nanoscale pool table — in this case the semiconductor gallium arsenide. Such surfaces contain impurities from the manufacturing process, resulting in warping, a challenge that if eliminated could enhance the development of future computing technologies.
Earlier studies assumed such warping was negligible, with the electron paths determined only by the semiconductor's shape — such as square, circular or stadium-shaped. "We found that we can 'reconfigure' the warping by warming the table up and cooling it down again, with the electron paths changing radically in response,” said Taylor, director of the UO Materials Science Institute. "This shows that the warping is much more important than expected."
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: NSF award supports UNL physicist's nanoscale research
May 10th, 2012
Lincoln, Neb., - The key to making computers and other electronics smaller, faster and less expensive lies in overcoming the limitations of existing materials. University of Nebraska-Lincoln physicist Xia Hong said she believes her research on nanoscale materials will help break through current barriers.
Hong, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and a researcher in UNL's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, earned a five-year, $600,000 Faculty Early Career Development Program Award this spring from the National Science Foundation to continue her research. Also known as a CAREER award, it is NSF's most prestigious award for outstanding pre-tenure faculty to help them develop as teacher-scholars and researchers.
For decades, scientists have been squeezing more power out of today's silicon-based electronics, which are approaching the material's fundamental limits. To continue advancing, researchers are exploring existing materials for unique properties at the nano-level and fabricating new nanomaterials with multifunctional properties. Many materials exhibit unusual physical, chemical or biological properties at the nanoscale that are not found at the larger macro level.
University of Wisconsin: In chemical reactions, water adds speed without heat
by Renee Meiller
May 17, 2012
An international team of researchers has discovered how adding trace amounts of water can tremendously speed up chemical reactions-such as hydrogenation and hydrogenolysis-in which hydrogen is one of the reactants, or starting materials.
Led by Manos Mavrikakis, the Paul A. Elfers professor of chemical and biological engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Flemming Besenbacher, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, the team published its findings in the May 18 issue of the journal Science.
n their research, Mavrikakis and Besenbacher drew on their respective theoretical and experimental expertise to study metal oxides, a class of materials often used as catalysts or catalyst supports. They found that the presence of even the most minute amounts of water-on the order of those in an outer-space vacuum-can accelerate the diffusion of hydrogen atoms on iron oxide by 16 orders of magnitude at room temperature.
In other words, water makes hydrogen diffuse 10,000 trillion times faster on metal oxides than it would have diffused in the absence of water. Without water, heat is needed to speed up that motion.
University of Arkansas: APEI Team Wins 2012 Arkansas Small Business Award
Local company plans to grow, add 20 high tech jobs in coming year
Friday, May 18, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The four-member management team of Arkansas Power Electronics International has been named the 2012 Arkansas Small Business Person of the Year, in the team category, by the Small Business Administration. The APEI management team members are Alexander Lostetter, president and chief operating officer; Jared Hornberger, director of manufacturing; Sharmila Mounce, business operations manager; and Roberto Marcelo Schupbach, chief technology officer.
APEI's core business is to develop, manufacture and market state-of-the-art technology in high performance, high energy-efficiency power electronics systems. APEI's technology reduces energy losses of electrical power systems by more than 90 per cent and has the potential to save billions of dollars per year in wasted energy, when implemented on a mass scale.
APEI is recognized internationally in the development and marketing of state-of the-art technology in power electronics systems, electronic motor drives, and power electronics packaging. The company has filed for or been awarded more than two dozen patents on its high performance silicon carbide power module technology.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Huffington Post: The War on Sex for Pleasure
Law professor, University of Nebraska
May 16, 2012
Sure, the recent barrage of legal attacks on women's reproductive rights signifies a war on women. Women's ability to control their reproductive lives -- and therefore their lives more generally -- has never been subjected to more legal interference than it has in the first months of this year.
But what we are missing is that the latest attacks on reproductive rights are not just missiles launched in the war on women. This is also a war on consenting adults' right to have sex for nothing but sheer pleasure.
Portland State University: Sustainable Business Oregon: Korean delegation turns to Portland for green city expertise
Author: Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon
Posted: May 18, 2012
A high-ranking delegation from the South Korean government was in Portland Thursday to sign a memorandum of understanding with Portland Mayor Sam Adams formalizing a partnership to work together on sustainable city development.
The Korean delegation is from the Multifunctional Administrative City Construction Agency, charged with building a new capital city 75 miles south of Seoul. The new city, Sejong, is aiming to be the greenest, most high tech and most desirable city in the world.
Or at least second in the world. Su-chang Cho, director of the agency's urban strategy division, joked with Mayor Adams that he'd be willing to concede first place to Portland.
Portland State University: Sustainable Business Oregon: Portland's EV leadership stars in global report
Author: Christina Williams, Sustainable Business Oregon
Posted: May 15, 2012
Portland is featured among 16 cities around the world in an information-sharing report that highlights the early leaders in the adoption and promotion of electric vehicles.
The report, EV City Casebook, was published by the Rocky Mountain Institute and is the result of research by the institute, the U.S. Department of Energy, The International Energy Agency and University of California, Davis.
"We wanted to create something that would start a conversation among cities," said Ben Holland, program manager for the EV program Project Get Ready, which is run by the Rocky Mountain institute. "With the economic and political climate, it's tough to push this kind of change at the federal level, but you really see work going on at the city level."
"Cities," Holland said, "can be a test bed."
University of Arkansas: USPS to Ban International Shipments Containing Lithium Batteries
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Effective May 16, the U.S. Postal Service will revise its "Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service," Domestic Mail Manual section 601.10.20 to codify that primary lithium metal or lithium alloy (nonrechargeable) cells and batteries or secondary lithium-ion cells and batteries (rechargeable) are prohibited when mailed internationally or to and from an APO, FPO, or DPO location.
However this prohibition does not apply to lithium batteries authorized under DMM 601.10.20 when mailed within the United States or its territories. International standards have recently been the subject of discussion by the International Civil Aviation Organization and the Universal Postal Union, and the U.S. Postal Service anticipates that on Jan. 1, 2013, customers will be able to mail specific quantities of lithium batteries internationally — including to and from an APO, FPO, or DPO location — when the batteries are properly installed in the personal electronic devices they are intended to operate.
Until such time that a less restrictive policy can be implemented consistent with international standards, and in accordance with UPU Convention, lithium batteries are not permitted in international mail.
University of Arkansas: U.S. Department of Energy Uses Software Developed by University of Arkansas Statistician
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has recently started using a piece of software developed by Giovanni Petris, a University of Arkansas professor of statistics, to forecast natural gas prices.
The Energy Information Administration is the statistical and analytical agency within the Department of Energy. The Energy Information Administration collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment. In particular, the Energy Information Administration produces regular forecasts of energy production, consumption, and prices.
The software package developed by Petris is already used by businesses and in universities worldwide to analyze and forecast time series of varied nature. To get Energy Information Administration researchers up to speed with the fine nuances involved in the use of the software, Petris has been invited to the agency to give a workshop on his package in May.
University of Kentucky: DOE Highlights UK Design's Plan for Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant
By Whitney Hale
Published: May 18, 2012
The United States Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environmental Management is showcasing the work of University of Kentucky College of Design students on their website in their news spotlight section. The Office of Environmental Management News Flash describes the research and a 150-year plan for the future use of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant developed by UK.
"Students Imagine Paducah Site as Technical, Industrial Hub," issued May 14, discusses UK's proposal, a 150-year plan for the closure, clean up and future use of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, located near Paducah, Ky., one of the most contaminated sites in the United States. The plan was presented to DOE leaders at the National Chairs Meeting, held April 17-19, in Paducah. The national meeting held every two years brings together approximately 40 leaders associated with Paducah's Citizens Advisory Board and seven other Site-Specific Advisory Boards from around the nation.
The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant once provided several thousand high-paying jobs, which have diminished over the years and will soon be eliminated upon the plant's closure. As the point of origin for much of the fissile material bound for both energy and defense during the last 60 years, the site now finds itself with a four-mile long heterogeneous plume of contaminants running beneath it.
Rather than see job losses and legacy contamination as problems and causes for the region’s demise, UK students looked at those problems as the basis for a solution.
University of Louisville: Students win award for tree canopy plan
by Denise Fitzpatrick
May 15, 2012 02:14 PM
Ten University of Louisville graduate students developed a plan to enlarge Louisville Metro’s urban tree canopy that not only has received a state award but also has contributed to the city’s efforts to plant and better care for trees.
The students used aerial photos and other data to analyze the tree canopy in the Louisville Metro area inside the Watterson Expressway and recommended ways to increase it from 27 percent to 40 percent.
Their work received an outstanding student project award from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association.
“It also was a key factor in getting our tree advisory commission started,” said Katy Schneider, a mayor’s office volunteer who co-chairs the commission. The Louisville Metro Tree Advisory Commission, which Mayor Greg Fischer formed last fall, has set a goal of planting more trees and taking better care of existing ones.
ThomasNet: College Kids Strut their Green Stuff, Are Awarded $1M in EPA Grants
Author: Michael Lewis
May 16th, 2012
It may not be true that every generation is smarter than the one that came before.
But I think it is. Why? One big reason is that every succeeding generation has access to more knowledge, more technology and more resources than the one before it.
Especially in this age, when the world changes so fast every minute. So one thing I’m always fascinated by is what future environmental leaders are doing while they’re still learning in our schools and universities. There are many bright kids working on making the world more environmentally friendly and trying to come up with innovative solutions to problems many of us don’t even think about.
A good example of this was the recent Environmental Protection Agency’s 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
University of Wisconsin: UW–Madison launches online Sustainable Systems Engineering Graduate Program
May 14, 2012
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has introduced a new online Master of Engineering in Sustainable Systems Engineering (SSE) program, which will begin January 2013 with applications being accepted through October 15, 2012.
SSE is designed to prepare mid-career engineers with knowledge in sustainable engineering practices to be leaders in managing systems that impact the quality of water, land, air, energy, economics, and society.
In addition, SSE focuses on the technical aspects of three specializations-energy production and distribution, facilities and built environment, and public infrastructure.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 4-H's Robotics Program Continues to Grow
May 18, 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. — It started with a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation and has grown into a program that is reaching thousands of youth across the nation, getting them more interested in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
The program – Geospatial and Robotics Technologies for the 21st Century, or GEAR-Tech-21 (geartech21.org), – is based on the Nebraska Robotics and GPS/GIS in 4-H: Workforce Skills for the 21st Century program. It teaches robotics, GPS and GIS technologies through building and programming a robot, navigation and mapmaking activities.
Since its start, the program has expanded regionally to nationally with 60 programs across the country.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Nebraska Greenschool Honored Nationally
May 15, 2012
LINCOLN, Neb. — Lothrop Science and Technology Magnet Center in Omaha, a Nebraska Project Learning Tree (PLT) Greenschool, is among the nation's first-ever Green Ribbon Schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Green Ribbon Schools are honored for participating in activities that promote and encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly learning environment. These schools focus on reducing environmental impacts, promoting health, and ensuring a high-quality environmental and outdoor education to prepare students with the 21st century skills and sustainability concepts needed in the growing global economy.
"The Greenschools! program helps teachers facilitate student-led investigations on water, energy, the school's site, environmental quality and waste and recycling," said Jennifer Swerczek, Nebraska's PLT coordinator with the Nebraska Forest Service. "Through these investigations, students identify areas that can be improved and develop action plans to create a healthy school environment where they can thrive," she said.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Kentucky: Oxford Handbook Offers an Earthly Look at Alien Intelligence
By Sarah Geegan
Published: May 16, 2012
Visionaries often ask us to look skyward for signs of alien intelligence. A new book, "The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition," edited by Thomas Zentall of the University of Kentucky Department of Psychology and Edward Wasserman of the University of Iowa, suggests that we might more fruitfully explore and understand alien intelligence right here on Earth.
This 960-page volume, published in February by Oxford University Press, is a compendium of scientific research into the cognitive worlds of animals, a flourishing field of study that that was prompted by Charles Darwin’s provocative proposal that humans and animals bear striking resemblances to one another—if suitable comparative investigations are conducted.
In 45 chapters, authors from the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Russia, Japan and Australia share their latest research into the minds of animals—from invertebrates (ants, bees, crabs, spiders), to birds (pigeons, chickens, chickadees, corvids), to mammals (rats, dogs, dolphins), and to primates (monkeys, apes, humans).
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: 'Northern Cheyenne Exodus in History and Memory' wins book prize
May 14th, 2012
Lincoln, Neb., — "The Northern Cheyenne Exodus in History and Memory" by James N. Leiker and Ramon Powers is this year's winner of the Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize from the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Richard Edwards, director of the center, made the announcement this month at the center's annual fellows meeting.
The exodus of the Northern Cheyenne in 1878 and 1879, an attempt to flee from Indian Territory back to their Montana homeland, is an important event in American Indian history. It is equally important in the history of towns like Oberlin, Kan., where Cheyenne warriors killed more than 40 settlers. The Cheyenne, in turn, suffered losses through violent encounters with the U.S. Army. More than a century later, the story remains familiar because it has been told by historians, novelists and filmmakers.
Science is Cool
University of Arkansas: Researcher Develops Personalized Search Engines
Expertise will contribute to movement to annotate the web
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – With little more than basic information about Web users’ behavior – that is, the hyperlinks they click on daily and the content at those sites – Susan Gauch can build a better search engine. In information systems research, this work is known as “implicit” user profiling, meaning there are basic assumptions about user interest and intent based on the sites they frequent and the content they view.
Gauch, a professor of computer science and computer engineering at the University of Arkansas, has expertise in developing robust and personalized search engines, which she will contribute to the work of Hypothes.is, a project started by Dan Whaley, the coder and entrepreneur who built the first Web-based travel reservation system. Hypothes.is is trying to build a system of annotation for the Web. Based on a model of community peer-review, the system will be an open-source platform that will enable annotators to comment on individual sentences.
“Since the very beginning of the Web, there has been an issue of trust,” Gauch said, “because there has always been this ubiquitous ability for anyone to create and distribute information. What Hypothes.is is trying to do is build confidence and trust about information obtained on the Web. Yes, it is a form of peer review, but it won’t be hierarchical or purely academic. Many details haven’t been worked out yet, but the peer-review component will be determined by the annotator’s reputation, which will be based on many demographic factors and will be constantly under review by other annotators.”
University of Louisville: TV allows professors to reach millions with little-known history
by Janene Zaccone
May 16, 2012 01:56 PM
It isn’t often that university professors get to teach millions of people at once, but that’s what happened last semester for two University of Louisville professors.
Carol Mattingly, professor of English, and Daniel Krebs, assistant professor of history, were featured experts on separate episodes of the NBC TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” The show traces the family histories of celebrities, and its researchers and producers sought them for their expertise in little-known aspects of U.S. history.
Mattingly has researched extensively the writings of 19th century women and women’s groups. She helped actress Helen Hunt understand the importance of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in attaining the vote for women and in trying to improve the lives of 19th century women. According to the website “TV By the Numbers,” some 5.79 million people tuned in to watch the March 23 episode where Hunt learned that her great-grandmother, a WCTU leader in Maine, worked for women’s suffrage and for legislation to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the hope of improving the lives of women trapped in abusive marriages.
Krebs, a military historian who specializes in U.S. Revolutionary War prisoners of war, provided information about a Hessian regiment to actor Rob Lowe, who had just discovered that his five-time great-grandfather had fought in that unit and faced George Washington’s troops at the pivotal Battle of Trenton.
University of Nebraska Medical Center: Alumnus' HGTV appearance becomes an allied health recruiting tool
by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations
May 15, 2012
David Holt, program director of clinical perfusion education, missed seeing his former student on the show. But he heard about it. Not long after it aired, Holt got a phone call. The person on the line was calling to inquire about UNMC's perfusion program.
The guy had never heard of perfusion until just recently, he said, but it sounded like something he might be interested in as a career. And he knew UNMC was the place to go.
Holt always asks -- he knows no one grows up dreaming of becoming a perfusionist; outside of the medical community, you never hear about it. What made the guy become so interested in perfusion?
Well, he was watching his favorite show, when ...
"I heard about it on HGTV," the prospective applicant said.