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). Tonight's edition features the science, space, environment, health, and energy stories from universities in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Vermont (list from Politics1.com), plus Michigan, where there will be a special primary election for the vacant 11th Congressional District seat.
This week's featured story comes from Science News.
Another potentially habitable world emerges
Planet orbits a common dwarf star, suggesting more may be out there
By Nadia Drake
Web edition : Friday, August 31st, 2012
BEIJING — A potentially habitable planet has been discovered orbiting the star Gliese 163, 50 light-years away. The planet is bigger than Earth — roughly seven times as massive — and resides near the inner edge of the star’s habitable zone, Thierry Forveille of France’s Observatoire de Grenoble reported on August 30 at the International Astronomical Union’s general assembly meeting. Depending on its composition and how insulating its atmosphere is, the planet could be capable of supporting life.
“I’d say that’s a habitable planet,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago. It’s unlikely the planet would experience any sort of runaway greenhouse effect that would heat it beyond the point of livability, he says.
Forveille and his colleagues found the planet by searching for wobbles in the planet’s host star with a telescope in Chile. Astronomers calculate that Gl 163c, as the planet is called, receives 30 to 40 percent more energy than Earth receives from the sun. Because the planet’s radius is unknown, it’s not yet clear what the planet is made of, but scientists speculate that it’s a mix of rock and water.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
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The Daily Bucket - Subtle Signs
by enhydra lutris
Collapse of Siberia's Coastline is Releasing Huge Amounts of CO2
University of Arizona on YouTube: Photo Slideshow: Defining the UA's Land-Grant Mission
The first Morrill Act establishing land-grant institutions was enacted in 1862. Since then, ways the act has been applied have changed with shifting social dynamics. The University of Arizona's land-grant mission is about providing a broadly accessible education to citizens while also creating new knowledge and translating discoveries in ways that are beneficial to the public from a context that is global in nature. Considering community-based benefits and demands at both the state and federal level, the land-grant mission becomes all the more dynamic and important.
University of Arizona on YouTube: Community Garden, Compost Cats Further UA's Land-Grant Mission
As a land-grant institution, the UA was built on a strong foundation of agriculture and education. Two campus endeavors, the UA Community Garden and Compost Cats, are keeping the land-grant mission alive by teaching students and community members how to grow food and care for the desert environment.
University of Arizona on YouTube: UA College of Engineering Materials Magic Show
The Materials Magic Show is presented by University of Arizona undergraduate students doing research with materials science and engineering assistant professor Erica Corral. The magic show is an integral part of Corral's undergraduate research program on high-temperature materials for aerospace and energy applications.
The Oklahoman: Weather conditions bring swarms of crickets to Oklahoma
Chirping crickets can be a nuisance indoors, but they don't pose a health threat.
By Robert Medley
Published: August 28, 2012
As if coming to life from a scene in a science-fiction film, swarms of black clouds are swooping down on Oklahoma.
Clouds of crickets, that is.
The state's cricket population is so high this year it reminds Oklahoma State University entomologist Rick Grantham of the 2007 outbreak.
“It was so warm and dry in the winter and then a warm, wet spring. So nothing (insects) died,” Grantham said. “When you have as warm of temperatures as we did this winter and the soil did not freeze, we have an inordinate amount of insects.”
Fortunately, crickets are harmless. Black widows aren't.
The Oklahoman: Oklahoma reports increase of black widow spider bites this summer
The number of people in Oklahoma bitten by black widows who have called the Oklahoma Poison Control Center is up this year, the center's Director Scott Schaeffer said.
By Robert Medley
Published: August 27, 2012
The number of people bitten by black widows who have called the Oklahoma Poison Control Center in Oklahoma City is up this year, Director Scott Schaeffer said.
And last summer, Schaeffer thought the number of calls was high.
Rick Grantham, an entomologist at Oklahoma State University, said the lack of a cold winter and a warm, wet spring have contributed to black widow invasion.
“There has certainly been more than enough insect food around this year to support a higher population,” Grantham said.
University of Vermont: What's on Your Plate?
By University Communications
If you missed UVM's food systems summit and public conference this summer, make sure you don't miss this video, premiered at the TEDx-style event. "What's On Your Plate?" challenges viewers to see and think differently about the food they eat, considering social, economic, environmental, diet and heath factors.
JPL on YouTube: What's Up Sept 2012 - Observe & "Wink" at the moon this month
Celebrate International Observe the Moon night on September 22, and honor the memory of Astronaut Neil Armstrong by looking up and winking at the moon this month.
NASA Television on YouTube: Remembering Neil Armstrong on This Week @NASA
History will remember Neil Armstrong, foremost, as the first human to step foot on another heavenly body. But his NASA family and many admirers worldwide will forever appreciate him for more than just that one, albeit world-changing, accomplishment.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: The Radiation Belt Storm Probes
Most spacecraft try to avoid the Van Allen Belts, two doughnut-shaped regions around Earth filled with "killer electrons." This morning NASA launched two heavily-shielded spacecraft directly into the belts. The Radiation Belt Storm Probes are on a two-year mission to study the Van Allen Belts and to unravel the mystery of their unpredictability.
NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Watch Out For The Blue Moon
The second full Moon of August--a "Blue Moon"--is just around the corner. It will probably look just like any other full Moon but, on rare occasions, the Moon really does turn blue. Could it happen this month?
Arizona Daily Star: 100 days of science: Finding pulsar was a milestone - and a barrel of laughs
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star
August 29, 2012 12:00 am
All science should be this easy and this much fun.
The team that made the first optical observation of a pulsar from a modest-sized telescope on Kitt Peak was led by a wisecracking theoretical astrophysicist who said he chose to look through a telescope just because he found himself at a university with a "real observatory equipped with real stars."
Mike Disney from star-starved England, joined the Steward Observatory crew at the University of Arizona at the same time as John Cocke, another theorist with no observing experience.
The two decided they'd have a go at finding a pulsar, a phenomenon that was all the rage when they arrived in 1968.
Arizona Daily Star: Jupiter-bound spacecraft makes key maneuver
August 30, 2012 6:21 pm
A Jupiter-bound spacecraft successfully fired its engine Thursday in the first of two crucial maneuvers intended to bring it toward Earth for a momentum-gathering fly-by.
NASA officials said the Juno spacecraft, which is about 300 million miles from earth, fired its main engine for just short of 30 minutes.
Along with another engine firing set for next week, the maneuver is intended to direct Juno toward Earth's orbit for a 2013 fly-by, where it will use the planet's gravity to accelerate toward the outer solar system.
Launched last year, Juno is zooming toward an encounter with the giant gas planet in 2016.
Arizona Daily Star: 100 days of Science: Catalina Sky Survey keeps watch for threats to Earth from afar
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star
August 26, 2012 12:00 am
It was a first for science when astronomer Rich Kowalski spotted a little asteroid from a Catalina Sky Survey telescope on Mount Lemmon less than 24 hours before it exploded in the atmosphere over Sudan on Oct. 7, 2008.
The survey, which operates two telescopes in the Santa Catalina Mountains and a third in Australia, wasn't set up to look for objects that small (about 6 feet long).
NASA's Near Earth Object Program funded it originally to look for objects one kilometer (five-eighths of a mile) or larger in diameter that would have global consequences if they hit Earth.
Michigan State University: Computer viruses could take a lesson from showy peacocks
Published: Aug. 29, 2012 E-mail Editor ShareThis
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Computer viruses are constantly replicating throughout computer networks and wreaking havoc. But what if they had to find mates in order to reproduce?
In the current issue of Evolution, Michigan State University researchers created the digital equivalent of spring break to see how mate attraction played out through computer programs, said Chris Chandler, MSU postdoctoral researcher at MSU’s BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.
“This is actually a big question that still generates a lot of debate,” said Chandler, who co-authored the study with Ian Dworkin, assistant professor of zoology, and Charles Ofria, associate professor of computer science and engineering. “People have some good ideas, but they can be hard to test really well in nature, so we decided to take a different approach.”
University of Vermont: A Fine Hive Mind
By Joshua E. Brown
In the fall of 1960, Dewey Caron was a freshman from Stamford, Vt., a chemistry major with a budding interest in insects. He points toward the crenelated towers of Converse Hall, “my first-year dorm,” he says, just a few hundred yards from where he stands today.
Now he is a honeybee specialist living in Oregon to be near his grandchildren. Professor emeritus of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, Caron is one of the world’s leading experts on Africanized bees (sometimes called “killer bees”) — and the program chairman of this beekeepers’ conference.
“Bees are vegetarians,” Caron says, noting that much of global agriculture depends on their habit of repeatedly collecting nectar and pollen from flowers of the same species. “They get fixed to a certain flower source,” he says, which, by accident, leads to the transfer of pollen — and, therefore, fertilization — in crops from Florida pumpkins to Maine blueberries.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: New Vision Needed to Restore New England River Herring to Healthy Population Levels, Say Researchers
August 29, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – Despite evidence from their recent study that populations of two river herring species are dangerously low, ecologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Stony Brook University say removing dams and adding fishways can still revive alewife and blueback herring numbers in New England and help to restore a long-neglected natural link between marine and freshwater ecosystems.
Ecologists Adrian Jordaan at UMass Amherst, Michael Frisk at Stony Brook and lead author Carolyn Hall, an independent researcher, also say if numbers of these anadromous fish, which live in the ocean but spawn in fresh water, rebound it would be good news for their predators including striped bass, tuna, Atlantic salmon and cod––all human dining favorites that are experiencing declines.
Current management of predator fish species in isolation isn’t effective, the authors say. They call for a realignment of restoration goals to aid economically important fisheries and recognize the critical interdependence of ocean and freshwater ecosystems. Their work appears in a recent issue of the journal BioScience.
Arizona State University: A new look at proteins in living cells
August 27, 2012
Proteins adorning the surfaces of human cells perform an array of essential functions, including cell signaling, communication and the transport of vital substances into and out of cells. They are critical targets for drug delivery and many proteins are now being identified as disease biomarkers – early warning beacons announcing the pre-symptomatic presence of cancers and other diseases.
While study of the binding properties of membrane proteins is essential, detailed analysis of these complex entities is tricky. Now, Nongjian (NJ) Tao, professor of electrical engineering, and director of the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors at ASU’s Biodesign Institute, has devised a new technique for examining the binding kinetics of membrane proteins.
“This is a very important but very difficult problem to solve,” Tao notes. “We demonstrate a new method of approaching the issue, which provides a quantitative analysis of protein interactions on the surface of a cell.”
Arizona Daily Star: 100 days of science: Space-imaging expert turns sight on health care
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star
August 27, 2012 12:00 am
Rogier Windhorst managed to extract decent photos from a myopic Hubble Space Telescope and spectacular ones after NASA astronauts repaired it.
Now he's using the same software programs he used to refine those cosmic images to identify pre-diabetic conditions, map cancer spread and transform digital photos into 3-D form for the blind.
"It dawned on us 10 years ago that we could also use that software to do other things - detect diabetes or examine cancer-cell blobs. The doctors said how difficult it was to classify these images, and I said, 'Why don't you give it to us?'"
University of Massachusetts Medical School: Discovery points to new pathways, potential treatment for ALS
Team identifies gene that influences survival time
By Jim Fessenden
August 28, 2012
A team of scientists, including faculty at UMass Medical School, have discovered a gene that influences survival time in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The study, published in Nature Medicine, describes how the loss of activity of a receptor called EphA4 substantially extends the lifespan of people with the disease. When coupled with a UMMS study published last month in Nature identifying a new ALS gene (profilin-1) that also works in conjunction with EphA4, these findings point to a new molecular pathway in neurons that is directly related to ALS susceptibility and severity.
“Taken together, these findings are particularly exciting because they suggest that suppression of EphA4 may be a new way to treat ALS,” said Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, professor and chair of neurology and a co-author on the study.
ALS is a progressive, neurodegenerative disorder affecting the motor neurons in the central nervous system. As motor neurons die, the brain’s ability to send signals to the body’s muscles is compromised. This leads to loss of voluntary muscle movement, paralysis and eventually respiratory failure. The cause of most cases of ALS is not known. Approximately 10 percent of cases are inherited. Though investigators at UMMS and elsewhere have identified several genes shown to cause inherited or familial ALS, almost 50 percent of these cases have an unknown genetic cause. There are no significant treatments for the disease.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Helps to Bring Fresh, Locally Grown Ethnic Specialty Crops to Inner City Markets and Immigrant Families
August 28, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – Food from home is one of the things immigrants miss most, and newcomers to Massachusetts, host to an estimated 150,000 transplanted Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Mexicans, are no exception. Recently the Ethnic Crops Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which has brought dozens of crops popular among many ethnic groups to markets across the state, added chipilín, a leafy green loved by Latinos from many lands.
Frank Mangan, director of the ethnic crops initiative at UMass Amherst’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture, says farms in Methuen, Dracut, Lancaster and Amesbury shipped 2,000 pounds of chipilín in recent weeks to farmers’ markets, bodegas and supermarkets in the Boston area, particularly East Boston and Chelsea, where the fresh, locally grown greens are snapped up by immigrant families hungry for familiar vegetables and produce.
“Figuring out how to grow something that hasn’t been grown here before, especially crops that people want, the healthy home-country food they really miss, is exciting,” says Mangan. “It’s a challenge, and some crops have been a complete bust. But then we have a success like chipilín and it is really fun. Now we have several growers producing it at farms around Boston. We found the farms and the markets and set up all the connections. The farmer can rely on us for that.”
With Massachusetts cities home to many immigrant groups, Mangan and colleagues have taken the lead on collaborative projects to research and market crops used by Latino, Portuguese-speaking and Asian populations here and in the region. “With the growing diversity in the demographics of the state, growers are interested in taking advantage of these trends,” he points out. “This matches the needs of farmers who are searching for new marketing options.”
University of Michigan: Climate change could increase levels of avian influenza in wild birds
August 29, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, more intense rainstorms and more frequent heat waves are among the planetary woes that may come to mind when climate change is mentioned. Now, two University of Michigan researchers say an increased risk of avian influenza transmission in wild birds can be added to the list.
Population ecologists Pejman Rohani and Victoria Brown used a mathematical model to explore the consequences of altered interactions between an important species of migratory shorebird and horseshoe crabs at Delaware Bay as a result of climate change.
They found that climate change could upset the carefully choreographed interactions between ruddy turnstone shorebirds and the horseshoe crabs that provide the bulk of their food during the birds' annual stopover at Delaware Bay, a major estuary of the Delaware River bordered by New Jersey to the north and Delaware to the south.
Climate change-caused disruptions to the well-timed interplay between the birds and crabs could lead to an increase in the avian influenza infection rate among ruddy turnstones and resident ducks of Delaware Bay, the researchers found. Because Delaware Bay is a crossroads for many bird species traveling between continents, an increase in the avian infection rate there could conceivably help spread novel subtypes of the influenza virus among North American wild bird populations, according to Rohani and Brown.
University of Alaska, Fairbanks: http://www.uafnews.com/headlines/glaciologists-help-with-recovery-of-human-remains
It’s not often that glaciologists help with the recovery of long-lost human remains, but military officials recently enlisted Martin Truffer for that purpose. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute professor and graduate student Dave Podrasky came up with useful information on a Southcentral glacier that held plane wreckage and the remains of military men killed in a crash 60 years ago.
Colony Glacier, about 50 miles east of Anchorage, flows beneath the impact point of a military transport plane that crashed into 10,000-foot Mount Gannett in 1952. Because the accident site is so remote and rugged, no one had been able to recover the plane or the remains of its crew and passengers. Over time, Colony Glacier has churned the accident debris 14 miles downhill, close to the lake into which the glacier calves, Inner Lake George.
In June 2012, Army Air National Guard pilots flying over the glacier in a Blackhawk helicopter saw aircraft parts on the dirty, cracked-up ice. The wreckage was that of a massive C-124 cargo plane that went down on a flight from Tacoma to Elmendorf Air Force Base in November 1952. Forty-one passengers and 11 crewmembers died in the crash.
University of Michigan: Ocean drilling project illuminates 55 million years of the carbon cycle and climate history
August 29, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A study in the Aug. 30 issue of Nature provides, in unprecedented detail, the history of a crucial indicator of the relationship between the Earth's carbon cycle and climate processes over the past 55 million years.
Over this time period, when the Earth is known to have transitioned from "hothouse" to "icehouse" conditions, the oceans also experienced a dramatic shift in the carbonate compensation depth, or CCD. Defined as the depth below which carbonate minerals (such as calcite) dissolve completely, the CCD is known to fluctuate over time: it shallows during warm periods and deepens when ice age conditions prevail.
In the Nature paper, U-M oceanographer Ted C. Moore Jr. and his colleagues present a detailed and quantifiable record of just how much the CCD has shifted during recent geological history.
University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Steampunk Art, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Teen Sexting
Research Offers Insights from the Social Sciences
By Sandra Seitz
Three new social science research initiatives will provide insights on the mental health of youth in prison, the abilities of youth on the autism spectrum and other key issues of our society. The research and scholarship are funded by Joseph P. Healey grants, awarded by the UMass President’s Office and UMass Lowell’s Vice Provost for Research.
“Steampunkinetics: Building Art into Science” is an art and technology program for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Directed by Psychology Asst. Prof. Ashleigh Hillier, who conducts research and runs a number of programs for ASD youth, the program includes collaboration with working artists: Bruce Rosenbaum, head of ModVic, a steampunk design company; and Mauricio Cordero, executive director of Mill No. 5 in Lowell.
Youth are also the subject of a study by Asst. Prof. Stephanie Block and Prof. Doreen Arcus, both of the Psychology Department. They are undertaking a study to identify learning disabilities and other mental health issues among youth, ages 12 to 16, who are incarcerated in juvenile corrections facilities.
Teen “sexting” behavior is just one of the student-faculty collaborative research projects sponsored by the Emerging Scholars program, through which advanced undergraduate students have the opportunity to engage in yearlong research collaboration with a professor. Projects are interdisciplinary, providing students with real-world experience to extend their classroom learning, while the application and screening process ensures that advanced student provide real skill and support to faculty scholarship.
University of Alaska, Fairbanks: Signs of life in a place far away
August 28, 2012
ST. MATTHEW ISLAND — “Oh look, another tooth,” says Dennis Griffin, dressed in raingear and caked with wet soil.
Griffin, the state archaeologist with Oregon’s State Historic Preservation Office, has traveled to one of the least-walked hillsides in Alaska to search for evidence of his species. On a tundra rise with a gorgeous view of Hall Island and a nice panorama of St. Matthew Island, he has today found a fox tooth in a decaying jaw, chips of rock where someone made tools, pottery, a plate-size anvil stone and a yellowed walrus tusk cut with deep grooves.
“I’m very glad I extended this plot,” Griffin says.
In two days of digging into a square depression on soft ground near where someone long ago dragged the 20-foot jawbone of a whale, Griffin has unearthed the leavings of Native people who probably lived on this lonely island around the time the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. In foggy, wet weather typical for St. Matthew —more than 200 miles from the closest Alaska village — Griffin is gathering details that will help him flesh out why people lived in this place so far from any other known ancient encampment.
University of Oklahoma: Curator to Speak at James T. Bialac Exhibition Opening
Curator David Penney of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian will speak at Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.
By Public Affairs, (405) 325-1701
Internationally noted scholar and curator David Penney of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will give the keynote address for the opening exhibition of the James T. Bialac collection at The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art on Friday, Sept. 21.
The gift was given to OU by James T. Bialac of Arizona, who has built one of the most important private collections of Native American art in the country. The collection of more than 4,000 works reflects indigenous cultures across North America, especially the Pueblos of the Southwest, the Navajo, the Hopi, many of the tribes of the Northern and Southern Plains and the Southeastern tribes and represents major Native artists such as Fred Kabotie, Awa Tsireh, Fritz Scholder, Joe Herrera, Allan Houser, Jerome Tiger, Tonita Pena, Helen Hardin, Pablita Velarde, George Morrison, Richard “Dick” West, Patrick DesJarlait and Pop Chalee.
“The opening of the exhibition of the James T. Bialac collection gives the university the opportunity to celebrate Jim Bialac’s incredible generosity and his commitment to increased understanding and appreciation of Native American art,” said OU President David L. Boren. “We are especially happy that David Penney will keynote this special event.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off.
Arizona Daily Star: 100 days of science: UA professor guides understanding of forces that shape universe
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star
August 30, 2012 12:00 am
In a deep, dark universe sprinkled with billions of galaxies, it is not easy for astronomers to measure size and distance.
You know this yourself. Little Venus looks bigger than colossal Jupiter because of its proximity. That problem can be easily solved at the solar system level.
But imagine looking through a straw-sized tube of space with the mightiest telescopes - peering back through 13 billion years of cosmic time, galaxy upon galaxy, some bright, most faint.
You need a guidepost - a "standard candle" as it is called in the astro biz.
Arizona State University: New imaging technique homes in on electrocatalysis of nanoparticles
August 27, 2012
By modifying the rate at which chemical reactions take place, nanoparticle catalysts fulfill myriad roles in industry, the biomedical arena and everyday life. They may be used for the production of polymers and biofuels, for improving pollution and emission control devices, to enhance reactions essential for fuel cell technology and for the synthesis of new drugs. Finding new and more effective nanoparticle catalysts to perform these useful functions is therefore vital.
Now Nongjian (NJ) Tao, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, has found a clever way to measure catalytical reactions of single nanoparticles and multiple particles printed in arrays, which will help characterize and improve existing nanoparticle catalysts, and advance the search for new ones.
Most catalytic materials synthesized in labs contain particles with different sizes and shapes, each having different electrocatalytical activities, but the conventional methods measure the average properties of many nanoparticles, which smear out the properties of individual nanoparticles.
Arizona Daily Star: 100 days of science: ASU reasearcher among 1st to see single atom
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star
September 1, 2012
Sumio Iijima saw "buckyballs" with his own eyes, five years before they were discovered, and he was among the first scientists in the world to actually see a single atom.
He is best known for his later discovery of carbon nanotubes, for which he shared the $1 million Kavli Prize in nanoscience in 2008.
Iijima was a research scientist at Arizona State University from 1970 to 1982. He helped develop a high-resolution electron microscope that allowed him to rack up a series of scientific firsts.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Researchers Win $2 Million NSF Grant to Develop Self-folding Polymer Sheets for New Materials
August 23, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – A group of scientists and mathematicians led by physicist Christian Santangelo at the University of Massachusetts Amherst today received word that they have won a National Science Foundation (NSF) Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) grant for 2012, one of only 15 given to investigators at 26 institutions and totaling nearly $30 million.
Santangelo and colleagues including polymer scientist Ryan Hayward are experts in developing self-folding polymer sheets, which take advantage of origami principles to provide highly tunable mechanical responses. Their four-year, $2 million grant is part of EFRI’s Origami Design for the Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation (ODISSEI) program for developing new mechanical meta-materials.
Santangelo explains, “If successful, we will produce new polymer materials whose static mechanical properties can be tuned over a wide range of behaviors, and which can buckle and fold dynamically,” he adds. “Because the theoretical tools we will develop will also be broadly applicable to any material whose expansion and contraction can be made to respond to a stimulus, we expect our research to have broad applicability in many industries ranging from packing materials to artificial tissues and muscles.”
Phoenix Business Journal: UA, ASU part of $5 million solar research grant from DOE
by Patrick O'Grady, Reporter
Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2012, 11:42am MST
The University of Arizona will lead a group of researchers that includes some at Arizona State University to work under a $5 million, five-year grant to find new solutions for concentrated solar power.
The grant, announced Tuesday, is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, which is seeking to make solar power cost competitive.
UA researchers will team with those from ASU and Georgia Tech University to develop new fluids based on molten salt that would be used in place of traditional heat-transfer fluids.
The Oklahoman: Oklahoma researchers look to refuel ethanol
The extended drought has reduced the country’s corn supply and driven up corn costs, affecting the price of ethanol and gasoline. Oklahoma researchers are working to solve both problems.
BY ADAM WILMOTH Energy Editor
Published: August 24, 2012
Higher corn costs have cast renewed attention on the 5-year-old federal mandate that an increasing amount of ethanol must be produced and blended with gasoline each year. The standards call for 13 billion gallons of ethanol this year and almost 14 billion gallons next year.
Researchers in Oklahoma are leading the effort to produce ethanol without tapping the country’s food supplies.
“I don’t believe corn is the viable way forward for biofuels,” said Stephen McKeever, Oklahoma State University’s vice president for research and technology transfer. “It is an energy inefficient process and it is taking food out of the market. Corn will never be the solution.”
University of Vermont: 134 Solar Panels Installed at Spear Street Farm, Financed by Student Fund
Project an important outreach tool for Vermont agriculture
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By Jeffrey R. Wakefield
When students left the University of Vermont campus in May, the roof of the Ellen A. Hardacre Equine Center at the university’s research farm on Spear Street, the Paul Miller Research Center, was a familiar stretch of corrugated red metal.
When they returned last weekend, 134 gleaming solar panels, positioned in orderly rows, greeted them from the sloping rooftop. The panels will produce an average of 100 kilowatt hours of electricity per day, enough to power six medium sized homes and supply 8.5 percent of the research farm’s electricity needs.
The solar panels, installed between late June and early August, are the latest contribution UVM’s Clean Energy Fund has made to the university’s campus.
The story of how the panels were funded is told in Student Drive -- and All-Nighters -- Lit Way for Solar Panels
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth: MREC partners with NREL on marine renewable energy
Marine Renewable Energy Center partners with feds on energy of the future
Author: Robert Lamontagne
Date: August 27, 2012
The New England Marine Renewable Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (MREC) announced today it has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The three-year agreement creates a partnership to advance research and development of renewable energy captured from ocean waves, tidal currents and offshore wind.
MREC is leading an experimental marine renewable energy program in the Muskeget Channel off Nantucket, which commences this July with the testing of underwater turbines that generate electricity through tidal power.
University of Arizona: Stephen Jackson Named New Southwest Climate Science Center Director
The center aims to provide federal, state and local land managers access to the best science available on climate change and other landscape-scale stressors of the nation's natural and cultural resources.
By U.S. Geological Survey and Stephanie Doster, Institute of the Environment
August 27, 2012
Stephen Jackson has been selected as the center director for the Department of the Interior Southwest Climate Science Center, which is headquartered at the University of Arizona.
Jackson comes to the center from the University of Wyoming, where he is a professor of botany and founding director of the doctoral program in ecology. He will assume his new post on Sept. 10.
The center is an equal partnership between the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, and a UA-based consortium of six host research universities and institutions. As director of the center’s USGS pillar, Jackson will be working closely with Jonathan Overpeck, the center’s lead investigator who is directing the consortium, to establish and oversee the center’s research goals and projects.
University of Oklahoma: New Climate Science Center Director Announced
Kimberly Winton has been selected as the director of the Department of the Interior's South Central Climate Science Center.
By Jana Smith, Director of Strategic Communications for R&D
Kimberly Winton, Ph.D., has been selected as the director of the Department of the Interior's South Central Climate Science Center (SC CSC), headquartered at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. This is the sixth federally funded center on the OU Research Campus.
Winton will be the first permanent director of the new center, which is one of eight regional Climate Science Centers managed by the U.S. Geological Survey. The SC CSC is a collaboration among the Department and the University of Oklahoma, Texas Tech University, Oklahoma State University, Louisiana State University, the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
"The natural environment is changing, and the drought, high temperatures, and wildfires experienced in the south-central region are a case in point. Good science can help shape smart strategies to cope with these and other changes," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "Under the leadership of Dr. Kim Winton, the USGS has every expectation that the South Central Climate Science Center will achieve its goal of providing science information and tools to allow resource managers and citizens alike to anticipate, measure, and appropriately adapt to these changing conditions on the local and regional scale, where decisions matter most to communities at risk."
University of Vermont: Speaker Series: Responding to the New Normal
By Joshua E. Brown
An incoming tide of scientific data (and newspaper headlines) makes clear that sea-level is rising -- and that droughts, heat waves and flooding will become more common in the next decades as a result of a warming climate.
“Extreme and record-breaking weather has become the new normal,” notes UVM’s Rachael Beddoe.
She’s one of the organizers of a new climate action seminar series, “Responding to the New Normal,” that will meet each Monday until Dec. 3, from 4:05 to 5:20 p.m., in 207 Lafayette on the UVM campus.
Supported by UVM’s Clean Energy Fund and the Environmental Program, the seminars will bring in experts from around the country who are “engaged in identifying best practices as we navigate our climate future,” says Beddoe.
Speakers will discuss how communities in California, New Hampshire and Vermont are developing plans to increase resiliency as climate change unfolds. Others will discuss strategies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, “cap-and-trade” policy, and the use of so-called carbon offsets.
University of Massachusetts Medical School: UMass maintains position as national licensing leader
UMMS research generated 90 percent of total income
Aug. 30, 2012
The University of Massachusetts has placed in the top 15 nationally for the third year in a row in generating income from the commercialization of its academic research, announced UMass President Robert L. Caret. Approximately 90 percent of the income derived from research innovations was generated by the Worcester campus.
A new report from the Association of University Technology Managers found that UMass generated $35 million in income from faculty-derived discoveries and products during fiscal year 2011. It also signed 25 licenses, created one startup company, and filed 50 patent applications. The University of Massachusetts first cracked the top 15 list in fiscal year 2008.
Oklahoma State University: OSU leads the state in licensing revenue
Thursday, 30 August 2012 16:22
Oklahoma State University generated almost $1.7 million in revenue from licensed technologies for FY 2011, according to a new report from the Association of Technology Managers. That figure is up from $1.4 million last year and represents the highest licensing revenue of any university in Oklahoma.
"The revenue generated from licenses indicates the value and necessity the commercial sector places on OSU-developed technologies," said Dr. Stephen McKeever, vice president for research and technology transfer. "Since the creation and dissemination of worthwhile technologies are key to our land-grant mission, we see these numbers as indicators of our success in fulfilling that mission for the benefit of those in our state, nation and world."
McKeever said he is particularly pleased that among the 74 universities with research funding of $200 million or less, OSU ranks ninth nationally in royalty.
Arizona State University: ASU student finds inspiration at international entrepreneurship lab
Posted: August 31, 2012
Arizona State University engineering student Mark Huerta was among a select group of university students from around the world to recently get an immersive introduction to social entrepreneurship from prominent entrepreneurs and investors.
Huerta, a biomedical engineering major in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, joined 19 fellow students from 14 countries – including Australia and countries in South America, Europe, Asia and Africa – at the Summer Social Innovation Lab.
The students were invited to the three-week gathering at an oceanfront retreat in Massachusetts as a result of their participation in the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge earlier this year.
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston and Wipro Launch Fellowship Program on Science Education for School Teachers
Office of Communications
August 29, 2012
Wipro Ltd and the University of Massachusetts Boston today jointly announced the launch of a 12-month fellowship program in the US to train 120 school teachers over three years, with the objective of facilitating excellence in science education among students from disadvantaged areas of Boston and New York.
The one-year Wipro Fellowship program for teachers is focused on developing competencies and strengthening their leadership skills to make them agents of change in their schools and districts.
"The US is the cradle of innovation. This program is part of Wipro's efforts to align with the US' goal to create an environment that stimulates and nurtures scientific curiosity and innovative spirit among young people”, said T.K. Kurien, Chief Executive Officer of IT business and Executive Director, Wipro Ltd.
University of Massachusetts, Lowell: Training Tomorrow’s Research Leaders
Students Work in the Lab as Summer Interns
By Edwin L. Aguirre
Pharmaceutical drugs. “Green” polyurethane foams. Fire-resistant plastics.
These are just some of the materials that three young researchers — Tyler Harrison of Westford and sisters Samantha Cullum and Michaela Cullum-Doyle of Methuen — are working on at the Center for Advanced Materials as part of the University’s summer internship program.
Harrison is an incoming sophomore in the Chemistry Department. His study is funded through the co-op program of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.
Cullum and Cullum-Doyle are incoming senior and junior, respectively, at Methuen High School. Their works are funded through the Army’s Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP), which provides high-school students pursuing careers in science and engineering an opportunity to interact with some of the best faculty in the country.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Arizona: Back to the Future: A New Science for a Changing Planet
In a world that is changing on a global scale and faster than ever before, science should rediscover its roots of observing the natural world unimpeded by the strict protocols of experimental manipulations, UA ecologist Rafe Sagarin and co-author Aníbal Pauchard suggest in their book, "Observation and Ecology."
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
August 31, 2012
Mars rover Curiosity is doing it. School children strolling through the woods with binoculars are doing it. Charles Darwin was doing it. Observing the natural world around them was how the early naturalists started what would later become known as ecology – the science of how living things interact, depend on each other and how their habitats and communities change over time.
In their book, “Observation and Ecology,” ecologists Rafe Sagarin and Aníbal Pauchard make the case that if scientists are to tackle the enormously complex problems the world is facing, researchers and funding agencies have to leave their comfort zone of well-controlled experimental manipulations.
“We argue that observations of the world – whether handed down through the hunting stories of tribal elders, taken by citizens counting neighborhood birds, or compiled from millions of satellite observations of a rain forest – have enormous potential to help us understand a rapidly changing planet,” said Sagarin, an associate research scientist at the UA Institute of the Environment.
He called the book a back-to-the-future story in which the old and sometimes forgotten ways of doing science – through intensive natural observation and a sense that studies of the biological world have direct relevance to human societies – meet today’s enormous environmental challenges, modern observational technologies and greater openness in science to observers from all walks of life.
Science is Cool
Arizona State University: Exhibit explores Phoenix history through stories, science
Posted: August 31, 2012
Once upon a time, the Salt River flowed through southern Phoenix. Open canals lined with shady cottonwood trees carried water to farms. Families picnicked on the riverbank, caught fish and swam in the refreshing water.
It’s not like that anymore.
The area’s historic Hispanic and African American neighborhoods have changed dramatically over the past century. A new exhibit, “Environmental Memories of South Central Phoenix,” explores how and why those changes occurred.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: UMass Amherst Biologist to Discuss 'How to Build an Organism' at Science Café on Sept. 10
August 29, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – This fall’s Science Café series kicks off Monday, Sept. 10at 5:30 p.m. at Esselon Café in Hadley with “How to Build an Organism: a DIY Guide,” presented by Craig Albertson, assistant professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Albertson will discuss some of his work exploring the design and diversification of the animal body form, proceeding from the genetic blueprint to principles of animal development.
Light snacks are provided and drinks are available for purchase. All Science Cafe events are free and designed for a general audience.
University of Vermont: ECHO’s “OUR BODY” Exhibit Draws 37,000 Visitors, Wraps Up Sept. 3
By Jennifer Nachbur
Following a nearly five-month run that included close to 5,000 school group visitors, hundreds of University of Vermont medical student, graduate student and faculty volunteer hours, a successful six-part ECHO After Dark Speaker Series, and lively summer Family Scientist Lab program, the “OUR BODY: The Universe Within” exhibit at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center will come to a close on Monday, September 3, 2012.
Presented through a partnership between ECHO and the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the fascinating scientific exhibit opened April 14, 2012 and has had roughly 37,000 visitors to date. OUR BODY, which featured 200 organs, human bodies and other anatomical specimens organized in six body-system sections, was the first exhibit to be housed in ECHO’s new Lakeside Hall and Pavilion.
ECHO and the UVM College of Medicine’s shared commitment to teaching was key to the exhibit’s success. Visitors were able to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the body’s form, function and uniqueness, thanks in large part to the dozens of UVM College of Medicine faculty, medical students, and graduate students who helped provide anatomy expertise, served as special speakers, and volunteered with school groups.