Recent Science Diaries and Stories
The good news is that there won't be a federal helium shutdown
I don't know, ARE Militant Atheists Using Chemtrails To Poison Angels?
Green diary rescue: Deniers poke at IPCC report, hornets galore, where's high speed rail—China
by Meteor Blades
Historic SpaceX Launch Scheduled for Tomorrow Morning (+Sweet Rocket Pics)
This week in science: ISON on the cake
Likely, Very Likely, Extremely Likely
Boston University on YouTube: Walking Like a Cavewoman
In this video, anthropologist Jeremy DeSilva and physical therapist Kenneth Hold discuss how they unraveled the mystery of how a human ancestor walked.
Also see the story under Evolution/Paleontology.
Boston University on YouTube: Knapping Rocks
At Boston University, professors and students practice the ancient art of crafting ancient weapons and tools from raw slabs of stone.
Also see the story under Archeology.
University of Cincinnati on YouTube: UC Research on Lemurs, Fragmented Forests
UC research by Brooke Crowley on forest fragmentation in eastern Madagascar draws upon the connection between the plight of the native tree-dwelling lemurs and the health of the forests in which they live.
Also see the story under Biodiversity.
University of Alabama: Citizens Help Astronomers Classify 300,000 Galaxies, UA Researcher Co-Authors Description
Sep 25, 2013
More than 83,000 volunteer citizen scientists partnered with professional astronomers to examine more than 300,000 galaxies in an online project that would have taken approximately 30 years of full-time work by one researcher to complete, according to a paper co-authored by a University of Alabama researcher.
The project, named Galaxy Zoo 2, is the second phase of a crowdsourcing effort to categorize galaxies in the universe.
“Once again, I am stunned at not only the breadth but the depth of public interest in the Galaxy Zoo project,” said Dr. William Keel, University of Alabama professor of astronomy who co-authored a paper detailing the project that published Sept. 23 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Auburn University: Auburn University and Alabama Extension System researchers study harmful algal blooms
September 26, 2013
The head of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s aquaculture resources team and a fellow Auburn University faculty member are working to gain a deeper understanding of algal blooms, those prolific aquatic organisms that are increasingly causing headaches not only for water treatment facilities, parks and zoos but also for pond owners and others exposed to these blooms. The researchers will use this heightened understanding to educate people about how they can prevent the spread of harmful blooms and to reduce exposure to them.
This effort is made possible with funding from the U.S. Geological Survey.
Russell “Rusty” Wright, an Extension fisheries specialist, aquaculture resources team leader and associate professor in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, and Alan Wilson, an associate professor of Fisheries, are especially interested in blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, taxa known to produce off-flavors in public drinking water.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Researcher: Methane Out, Carbon Dioxide In?
September 26, 2013
A University of Virginia engineering professor has proposed a novel approach for keeping waste carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Andres Clarens, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, and graduate student Zhiyuan Tao have published a paper in which they estimate the amount of carbon dioxide that could be stored in hydraulically fractured shale deposits after the methane gas has been extracted. Their peer-reviewed finding was published in Environmental Science and Technology, a publication of the American Chemical Society.
The team applied their model to the Marcellus Shale geological formation in Pennsylvania and found that the fractured rock has the potential to store roughly 50 percent of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions produced from stationary sources between 2018 and 2030. According to his estimate, about 10 to 18 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide could be stored in the Marcellus formation alone. The U.S. has several other large shale formations that could provide additional storage.
University of Cincinnati: Four Decades Later, Meyer Finds Caribbean Complexities
Returning, after 45 years, to a Jamaican reef, University of Cincinnati paleontologist David L. Meyer finds a very different ecological habitat, with some inhabitants thriving while others are wiped out.
By: Greg Hand
Date: 9/18/2013 3:00:00 PM
The coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea have had a rough couple of decades, afflicted with coral disease, hurricanes, a die-off of algae-controlling sea urchins, over-harvesting of coral-friendly fish and the effects of global warming, according to paleontologist David L. Meyer, professor of geology in UC’s McMicken College of Arts & Sciences.
Surveying one coral reef in Jamaica after 45 years, Meyer found that some species are clearly distressed today, while others are flourishing in a very changed habitat.
“It’s not a dead-zone situation,” Meyer said. “There is a diversity of life. It’s just very different from what it was.”
University of Cincinnati: UC Research Looks at How Fate of Tiny Lemurs Could Be Linked to Forest Health
Deforestation in Madagascar has possibly put these cute creatures in crisis.
By: Tom Robinette
Date: 9/15/2013 5:00:00 PM
Save the lemurs, save the forest ... save the world?
Though extreme, that theory isn't inconceivable to Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of anthropology and geology at the University of Cincinnati. Her research on forest fragmentation in eastern Madagascar draws upon the connection between the plight of the native tree-dwelling lemurs and the health of the forests in which they live.
Environmental consequences of forest loss are not isolated to Madagascar. Crowley believes that her work on this island could have broader implications. Forest loss could eventually have an effect on the health of the planet.
University of Alabama, Birmingham: Cell powerhouses shape risk of heart disease
By Greg Williams
September 26, 2013
Genes in mitochondria, the “powerhouses” that turn sugar into energy in human cells, shape each person’s risk for heart disease and diabetes, according to a study published recently by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Biochemical Journal. The findings may further explain why some people get sick and others do not despite their having the same traditional risk factors like aging, obesity and smoking.
Researchers have long sought to determine disease risk by looking at diet and variations in nuclear genes, leaving out differences in mitochondrial genes, the second kind of DNA in every cell.
Research in recent years revealed that miscues in mitochondrial energy production create too many particles called oxidants and free radicals that cause cells to self-destruct as part of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Auburn University: Pathobiologists at Auburn University receive $470,000 grant to study mitochondrial disease
September 27, 2013
Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine faculty has received a two-year, $470,000 grant to conduct research to study neuropathology associated with mitochondrial disease.
Mitochondrial disease is a rare and often misdiagnosed disorder. Mitochondria are the cell’s power producers. They convert energy into forms that are usable by the cell and are responsible for creating more than 90 percent of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell, which causes injury or even death of the affected cells. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to break down, and the life of the afflicted person is severely compromised. Diseases of the mitochondria appear to cause the most damage to cells of the brain, heart, liver, skeletal muscles, kidney and the endocrine and respiratory systems.
Depending on which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastrointestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, vision/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection.
Recent findings by the Auburn team illustrated the effects of a novel group of hybrid antioxidant compounds in animal models of aging, Parkinson’s disease and mitochondrial dysfunction.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Sleep Research Study Finds Daytime Naps Enhance Learning in Preschool Children
September 23, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst today offer the first research results showing that classroom naps support learning in preschool children by enhancing memory. Children who napped performed significantly better on a visual-spatial task in the afternoon after a nap and the next day than those who did not nap.
Research psychologist Rebecca Spencer, with students Kasey Duclos and Laura Kurdziel, say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning, based on their study of more than 40 preschool children. “Essentially we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children,” Spencer says. “Our study shows that naps help the kids better remember what they are learning in preschool.” Results appear in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
With an increase in publicly funded preschools, parents and administrators have questioned the usefulness of naps. “There is increased public funding for preschools and increased enrollments in preschools due to a surge of research showing the long-term health and educational benefits of early education. But there was no research on napping so they were a target for elimination in order to make more time for more learning. We offer scientific evidence that the midday naps for preschoolers support the academic goals of early education.”
University of Massachusetts, Boston: UMass Boston Researcher Finds Teen Obesity Rate Leveling Off
September 18, 2013
Scientists studying the huge increase in childhood obesity finally have some good news to report. Ronald Iannotti, chair of UMass Boston’s Exercise and Health Sciences Department, is the principal investigator of a new study that shows U.S. teens are eating more vegetables and fruit, exercising more, and watching less TV.
The study appears in the current issue of Pediatrics. Between 2001 and 2009, the research team surveyed more than 9,000 students between the ages of 11 and 16 about their behaviors and their body mass index (BMI). The results show that teens are making healthier eating choices and choosing exercise over sedentary activity.
The teens’ BMI did not increase significantly in the last four years of the survey, which indicates a possible “leveling off” of obesity among young people.
Boston University: Alarm Bells over E-Cigarettes
SPH’s Seigel says concerns premature, overblown
September 27, 2013
The headlines were startling: “E-cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students Skyrockets, CDC Data Show,” from the Washington Post. And this from U.S. News & World Report: “Democratic Senators Pounce on E-Cigarettes After CDC Study Shows Teen Use Spike.”
E-cigarettes, for those who don’t know, are battery-powered devices that look like cigarettes, but don’t burn tobacco. Rather, they deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals in the form of a vapor. The recent media storm was prompted by a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found the percentage of high school students who said they had used one jumped from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012. Use also doubled among middle school students, according to the CDC. The report raised anew concerns about the long-term effects of these tobacco products. On Tuesday, 40 state attorneys general sent a letter to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products.
Meanwhile, around the same time as the CDC report, a small study of smokers published in the journal Lancet added to growing research suggesting that electronic cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking.
What to make of the conflicting reports? According to Michael Siegel, a School of Public Health professor of community health sciences, the negative effects of electronic cigarettes have been wildly overblown, clouding the important benefits of e-cigarettes as devices to help people quit smoking.
University of Virginia: Study: Moms Who Share a Bed With Baby Breastfeed Longer, But There Are Risks
September 26, 2013
Mothers who “bedshare” – sleep in the same bed with their infants – tend to breastfeed longer, new research suggests. The findings explore and quantify the relationship between breastfeeding and bedsharing, a much-debated practice associated with an increased risk of sudden infant death.
“Many experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend not to bedshare, because bedsharing can increase the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and suffocation deaths,” said researcher and family physician Dr. Fern R. Hauck of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. “On the other hand, breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, and this research has suggested that there is a positive association between bedsharing and longer breastfeeding. So you’ve got this tension for women who want to bedshare because they feel it helps them to breastfeed more easily, to keep an eye on their baby and to bond. All these are reasons people have for bedsharing.”
Even some physicians, Hauck noted, are conflicted on what to advise. So the researchers set out to find hard facts that would shed light on the debate.
University of Virginia: U.Va. Research Finds New Exercise Benefit
September 26, 2013
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have identified an important new benefit of exercise: It increases the ability of skeletal muscle cells to remove damaged components and other cellular debris.
The discovery should prove important in the battle against the effects of aging and diseases such as diabetes – and could help explain why some people see little benefit from exercise.
That cellular cleaning process, known as autophagy, appears vital for the muscle to adapt to exercise – and for the body to reap the health benefits of exercise.
Virginia Tech: Researchers develop model to study immune response to infections that cause peptic ulcers
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 24, 2013 – Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have developed a new large animal model to how the immune system interacts with the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori, the leading cause of peptic ulcer disease.
The discovery in the October edition of the journal Infection and Immunity may inform changes in the ways doctors treat patients. An estimated 4 million Americans have sores in the stomach lining known as peptic ulcers, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.
Although the bacterium is found in more than half the world’s population, most people do not develop diseases. However, some experience chronic inflammation of the stomach, or gastritis, which can lead to the development of ulcers or cancer.
In addition to its role as a pathogen, the bacteria have beneficial effects, preventing certain chronic inflammatory and metabolic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Virginia Commonwealth University: New technology may boost bone growth response for spinal fusion
Roughened titanium alloy surface provides enhanced environment for bone formation, implant stability and fusion
By Sathya Achia Abraham
Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013
A spinal interbody fusion implant with a roughened titanium alloy surface provides an enhanced environment for bone formation, implant stability and fusion compared to one with a smooth titanium alloy surface, according to a new preclinical study led by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering.
Spinal fusion may be a necessary surgery for patients with broken vertebrae, deformities of the spine, certain spinal disorders, herniated disks or chronic low back pain to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine to eliminate motion between them.
In order for spinal fusion to occur, an environment conducive to supporting bone formation and remodeling must be created. This is done through the use of spinal interbody fusion implants with specialized surfaces that are used to promote growth of bone and formation of blood vessels to provide nutrients and sustained bone health. Past research has focused mainly on bone growth factors and has overlooked blood vessel factors.
University of Alabama, Birmingham: Telecommuting can be beneficial for a work/life balance
By Nicole Wyatt
September 27, 2013
There are mornings when getting out of bed may seem impossible, and the idea of spending the day at work is unappealing. If working from home is an option, one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert says perks of telecommuting go beyond working in pajamas.
In early 2013, a leaked memo to employees of Yahoo showed the company had reversed their telecommuting policy citing that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” But Scott Boyar, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems and Quantitative Methods at the UAB Collat School of Business, said it is hard to make a blanket judgment.
“The success of an employee working from home depends on the person, on the job and on the training the organization provides to do that role remotely,” Boyar said. “An organization has a lot of responsibility when letting workers go virtual, but the employee carries a lot of it too. There are questions they should ask themselves.”
Wayne State University: Followers' actions affect an organization's leadership capacity, Wayne State University education researcher finds
September 20, 2013
DETROIT - Members of an educational organization contribute to its leadership and can blend personal and social needs to help leaders encourage cooperation, a Wayne State University researcher has found.
Administrators of college preparatory programs - which are aimed at high school students but housed in colleges or universities - typically have been viewed as leaders, with students seen as followers. Recent scholarship, however, has begun to focus on the impact of followers on educational organizations' leadership and leadership practices.
Michael Owens, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies in the College of Education, used grounded theory to try to understand leadership from a follower's perspective. Grounded theory builds inductively from research data rather than formulating a hypothesis first and then testing it.
"Having a formal academic description of leadership may not be as important for the success of educational organizations as having a comprehensive understanding of constituents' knowledge and expectations of leadership and the leadership roles they play," Owens said. "This study makes a unique contribution to the field by using empirical data to describe concepts and relationships that define participation in educational leadership from the perspective of the led."
The Daily Telegraph (UK): 2,000-year-old German mummy is plastic dummy
A skeleton found in a German attic that was believed to have been a 2,000-year-old mummy was in reality a plastic dummy, scientists have conceded.
By Damien McElroy, Berlin
Officials said the dummy had been sprayed with a mysterious chemical that made the bones appear real to experts.
The discovery of 'The Mummy of Diepholz' by a 10-year old boy in an attic in the town of Diepholz caused a sensation in Germany. Officials had concluded that the boy's grandfather had brought the mummy back from travels in North Africa in the 1950s and tucked it away in the storage space.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Boston University: Knapping Rocks
BU archaeology students make stone tools with stone tools
By Rich Barlow
Eight people sit in a circle, mostly mute, intently cutting or chopping chunks of obsidian on their laps with tools—which, like the obsidian, are stone. Occasional banter and a chorus of chip-chip-chip-CRACK break the quiet, as the crew scrapes and smooths their stones, then whacks them to hew off larger pieces. Stone dust and chips litter the floor.
The group in the archaeology department’s Gabel Museum is practicing the ancient technology of knapping: fashioning stone artifacts with stone tools, variously obsidian, flint, and sandstone. David Carballo, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of archaeology, guides their progress.
“I’m very rusty,” Carballo says. “This is going to end in blood or something.” At one point, wielding a precision cutting tool—a deer antler tip—in his right hand, he cautiously cradles the obsidian in his left. “This is where you could really hurt yourself, driving a flake off into your hand.”
University of North Carolina, Charlotte: Mt. Zion Dig Reveals Possible Second Temple Period Priestly Mansion, Abandoned and Preserved
Quirks of history protect details regarding domestic lives of Jerusalem elites from the time of Jesus
JERUSALEM - Sept. 17, 2013 - In excavating sites in a long-inhabited urban area like Jerusalem, archaeologists are accustomed to noting complexity in their finds – how various occupying civilizations layer over one another during the site’s continuous use over millennia. But when an area has also been abandoned for intermittent periods, paradoxically there may be even richer finds uncovered, as some layers have been buried and remainundisturbed by development.
Such appears be the case at an archaeological dig on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where the 2013 excavations have revealed the well-preserved lower levels of what the archaeological team believes is an Early Roman period mansion(first century CE), possibly belonging to a member of the Jewish ruling priestly caste.
If the mansion does prove to be an elite priestly residence, the dig team hopes the relatively undisturbed nature of the buried ruin may yield significant domestic details concerning the rulers of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus.
Boston University: Walking Like a Cavewoman
A chance BU collaboration sheds light on how a human ancestor got around
By Rich Barlow
They say that to understand another person, you must walk in her shoes. Jeremy DeSilva took that advice to the extreme, attempting to understand a prehistoric ancestor by walking in her feet.
It hurt: putting his foot down on its outer edge, then rolling it inward, step by excruciating step. “It is painful,” says DeSilva, who ambulated (or, more scientifically, hyperpronated) around campus, and occasionally still does. He believes that’s how Australopithecus sediba got around two million years ago, with an anatomy, unlike ours, suited to such a peculiar gait. The South African protoperson, a mixed bag of human and ape traits, could walk upright and also clamber up trees.
DeSilva, a College of Arts & Sciences assistant professor of anthropology, was lead writer on one of six papers published last April in the journal Science, describing in loving detail how this hybrid hominid—a woman, four- to four-and-a-half-feet tall, whose skeletal remains were excavated in South Africa by a team led by paleoanthropologist Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand—got around.
University of Cincinnati: Tapping a Valuable Resource or Invading the Environment? Research Examines the Start of Fracking in Ohio
At an international forum, preliminary research out of the University of Cincinnati examines groundwater resources near hydraulic fracturing operations in the Buckeye State.
By: Dawn Fuller
Date: 9/25/2013 9:30:00 AM
Amy Townsend-Small, a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of geology, will present on the study on Sept. 27, at the 10th Applied Isotope Geochemistry Conference in Budapest, Hungary.
The team of UC researchers spent a year doing periodic testing of groundwater wells in Carroll County, Ohio, a section of Ohio that sits along the shale-rich Pennsylvania-West Virginia borders. The study analyzed 25 groundwater wells at varying distances from proposed fracking sites in the rural, Appalachian, Utica Shale region of Carroll County. Because the region is so rural, the majority of the population relies on groundwater wells for their water supply.
“This is a major area for shale gas drilling in Ohio, and one reason is because shales in the area are thought to have a good amount of liquid fuel as well as natural gas,” says Townsend-Small.
University of Alabama: Particle Physics, Post-Higgs
By Chris Bryant
September 24th, 2013
Dr. Conor Henderson’s search for a tiny particle whose recent discovery thrilled scientists worldwide – while simultaneously puzzling the public – began in his high-school library in Ireland. Well, sort of.
Already drawn, as a younger child, to how science seemed like a “natural puzzle,” Henderson, now a University of Alabama physicist, remembers when he first encountered a book, written by Albert Einstein, on relativity.
“I found it in the school library when I was about 15,” Henderson says. “I remember just reading it and being completely blown away. I remember reading that book and thinking, ‘this is what I want to do.’”
He fulfilled his wish as did his colleague, Dr. Paolo Rumerio, also a physicist in UA’s College of Arts and Sciences. The two are among the thousands of scientists who were part of the successful international effort to identify the subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Engineer de Bruyn Kops to Study Turbulence Using U.S. Defense Department Computing Power
September 25, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Steve de Bruyn Kops, an engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, heads a team of scientists that will be using high-performance computing capacity and data storage available from the U.S. Department of Defense to study fundamental aspects of fluid turbulence. The results of the study will be used to reduce drag on underwater vehicles, improve sensors systems such as radars and advanced local-scale weather predictions.
The grant will provide the research team with 528 million hours of computing time, storage for several petabytes – one quadrillion bytes – of data, and technical expertise for managing large data sets. The team will use the high-performance computers to simulate turbulence in fluids and to understand the complex behavior it generates. The work is supported by a five-year, $750,000 contract and existing Department of Defense grants to each scientist on the team.
The grant has been awarded as one of two Frontier Projects, designed to solve science and technology problems that cannot be addressed without high-performance computer capabilities. The projects awarded are expected to be among the most computationally demanding projects the Defense Department will address. This is the first year Frontier Projects have been awarded.
Virginia Tech: Physics team finds particle, updates accelerator
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 23, 2013 – To answer the questions of how the universe works, physicists must solve a series of problems, such as how to best collect the data allowing them to discover and learn about the building blocks of our world.
To help solve the problem of how to collect data to study matter and anti-matter, faculty and students at Virginia Tech built some novel equipment in the basement of Robeson Hall in the late 1990s that continues to have a definitive impact on how physicists understand the universe. This equipment forms a key component of the Belle detector, a subatomic physics experiment located at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan.
The Belle detector, built in segments and assembled in Japan, has more than 400 collaborators who have been making discoveries ever since, including the latest, a new state of matter consisting of a four-quark particle with an electrical charge.
Science Crime Scenes
University of Massachusetts, Lowell: International Experts, Boston Police Commissioner Headline UMass Lowell Program
LOWELL, Mass. – Nearly two-thirds of Americans are more concerned about a terrorist attack in the United States since the Boston Marathon bombings in April and believe the threat of terrorism has increased in the last decade, according to a new national poll by UMass Lowell.
Half of those surveyed say the bombings made them think the United States is too involved in the affairs of other countries, according to the poll, released today at the opening event for the university’s new Center for Terrorism and Security Studies. The event, “New Security Challenges,” also included news that more than $1 million in research grants has been awarded to the center by the National Institute of Justice.
The program, which drew approximately 200 representatives of the counterterrorism, law enforcement and academic communities to the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, featured Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis; Nicholas Rasmussen, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center; Vincent Lisi, special agent in charge, FBI Boston Division; Roger Cressey, a UMass Lowell graduate and former National Security Council deputy for counterterrorism whose U.S. government roles included managing the responses to the Sept. 11 and USS Cole attacks; and Andrea Cabral, Massachusetts secretary of public safety. UMass Lowell’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences sponsored the event.
Boston University: BU Sues Leading Tech Firms for Patent Infringement
Dispute involves popular smartphones, tablets, other devices
By Rich Barlow
The University has filed a number of lawsuits against some of the brightest stars in the high-tech constellation—Microsoft, Motorola, Sony, and BlackBerry among them—to defend a College of Engineering professor’s patented material used in the production of blue LEDs (light-emitting diodes), which are components in many electronic devices.
The lawsuits, like several others filed earlier this year, claim that the companies made use of Theodore Moustakas’ invention without securing a license from the University. The ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering is the recipient of the University’s 2013 Innovator of the Year Award. BU alleges that the companies are making or selling products that have used Moustakas’ invention without permission and is requesting a jury determination of damages owed the University. The earlier lawsuits target such giants as Apple, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, and LG Corporation.
BU Provost Jean Morrison emphasizes the importance of the University’s protecting the research and invention of one of its faculty, particularly when unlicensed use has become so widespread. “We’re protecting our intellectual property,” she says. “We are an Association of American Universities research university and as such, the creation of new knowledge is fundamental to our mission. Ted Moustakas created a process that significantly improves the performance of these products. It’s incredibly important for a university to defend its intellectual property.”
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Alabama: UA Social Work Student Attends White House Roundtable
September 25, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sarah Young, a doctoral student from The University of Alabama School of Social Work, was invited to the White House for a roundtable discussion about issues facing the bisexual community at an event coinciding with international Bisexual Visibility Day, Sept. 23.
This is the second time Young, a McGraw, N.Y. native, has visited the White House. Last year, she attended a dinner with Vice President Joe Biden honoring the nation’s emerging LGBT leaders.
This is a first-time White House roundtable discussion about issues facing the bisexual community. According to the White House Office of Public Engagement, “participants and administration officials discussed a range of topics including health, HIV/AIDS, domestic and intimate partner violence, mental health and bullying.”
Boston University: MED Grapples with Major Sequestration Cuts
Centers bracing for cuts, layoffs as NIH budget slashed
By Susan Seligson
No one knows the ultimate toll that federal sequestration will take on the Boston University Medical Campus. But its research centers have already seen cuts of up to 100 percent for fiscal 2013, necessitating layoffs and a renewed, urgent push to secure nongovernment funding sources.
Research funding for the School of Medicine has fallen 16 percent from last year, says Karen Antman, MED dean and provost of the Medical Campus and the John Sandson Professor of Health Sciences. Virtually all of the drop is in funding for centers. “Big center grants are being hit hardest,” Antman says. And a conversation with MED researchers makes it clear the cuts are having a large ripple effect already.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) “is making the right choices given the terrible position the Congress put them and us in, but it’s awful for researchers and for the country,” says Joseph P. Mizgerd, a MED professor of medicine, microbiology, and biochemistry and director of the Pulmonary Center. Mizgerd says the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) did not renew funding for a multiproject lung development center grant, now in its 20th year, a decision being appealed by principal investigator Wellington Cardoso, a MED professor of medicine and pathology. Sequestration “is only the latest event in a decade of fading congressional support for biomedical research,” Mizgerd says.
University of Alabama: UA Engineering Student Selected for U.N. Climate Change Conference
September 26, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A chemical engineering student at The University of Alabama was selected to attend a United Nations climate change conference this fall.
Emily Bloomquist, a sophomore from Tucker, Ga., was chosen by the American Chemical Society Committee on Environmental Improvement to attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, Poland, Nov. 16-22.
She is one of only six students chosen nationally to represent ACS at the conference. Students were chosen under the criteria of demonstrating academic preparedness, awareness and enthusiasm in representing ACS.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Dasgupta to Study How Peers Influence Teens’ Interest in Studying Math and Science
September 23, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – The American workforce is losing out on precious human capital because too few women and racial minorities pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics––the so-called STEM subjects, says psychology researcher Nilanjana Dasgupta of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
She recently received a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to identify solutions to this problem. Women and minorities represent untapped human capital that could enhance the STEM workforce because together, they comprise more than 50 percent of the American population, she adds.
Dasgupta says her goal is “to test what types of classroom dynamics and peer relationships in math and science classes get girls hooked on STEM subjects, increase their confidence, interest and motivation to aspire higher. Middle school is an important period in development during which peer relationships make a big difference. My goal is to identify solutions to that so-called leaky pipeline, when we lose too many girls and minorities.”
Wayne State University: WSU Graduate School, Dean Mathur awarded $1.8 million by NIH to address America’s shortage of research professionals
September 27, 2013
DETROIT—Wayne State University today announced that the Graduate School was one of 10 institutions selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to lead a five-year, $18.5 million initiative aimed at strengthening the research workforce in the United States, where there is a shortage of non-academic research scientists.
The WSU Graduate School will receive $1.8 million over the next five years through the NIH’s Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) award to implement a bold new program that prepares graduate and postdoctoral students to enter research careers outside of academia.
WSU President M. Roy Wilson is pleased with the school’s success in such a competitive field, which included several Ivy League schools and other Michigan universities.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Alabama: Polar Marine Biologist to Give UA’s Darden Lecture on Climate Change
September 23, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A University of Alabama at Birmingham author and polar marine biologist will present “Lost Antarctica – The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on the Antarctic Peninsula” as the 14th Annual William Darden Lecture Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m. in the Biology Building, room 127 on The University of Alabama campus.
A book signing will follow in the auditorium foyer at 7 p.m. Dr. James B. McClintock’s lecture is free and open to the public.
McClintock, an endowed professor of polar and marine biology at UAB, will discuss the consequences of global climate change.The Antarctic Peninsula is considered by many to be the most rapidly warming region on the planet, and extensive research has been done there on shrinking sea ice, declining populations of sea creatures, and other signs of climate change.
McClintock has published more than 200 scientific publications and co-authored several books focusing on this region. His latest book, “Lost Antarctica: Adventures in a Disappearing Land,” was published in 2012.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Environmental Health Scientists Cry Foul Over Journal Editors' Views on Regulating Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals
September 18, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Two environmental health scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, both experts in endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC), have joined an international scientific outcry this week over a recent editorial in which prominent toxicology journal editors attempt to influence European Union (EU) policy on EDC regulation using what their critics say is “inaccurate and factually incorrect” information.
In a commentary published simultaneously today in Endocrinology and five other journals, researchers Laura Vandenberg and Thomas Zoeller of UMass Amherst join dozens of their colleagues around the world to express concerns about an editorial titled, “Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission’s recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science and risk assessment principles.” It appears in an early online edition of Food and Chemical Toxicology.
In “Policy Decisions on Endocrine Disruptors Should be Based on Science Across Disciplines: A Response to Dietrich et al.,” Vandenberg and the other critics discuss in detail what they call the factual shortcomings of the editorial by Daniel Dietrich, editor of Chemico Biological Interactions, and 17 other editors. They say that the Dietrich editorial “argues for the status quo in the regulation of EDCs, despite the large volume of evidence indicating that current regulations are ineffective in protecting human populations from these chemicals.”
They conclude, “Policymakers in Europe and elsewhere should base their decisions upon science, not assumptions based upon principles that arose out of research on chemicals that are not EDCs.”
Wayne State University: Wayne Law student wins environmental writing competition
September 26, 2013
DETROIT – Nathan Inks, a second-year student at Wayne State University Law School, has won first place in the Michigan Environmental Law Journal writing competition.
He will be awarded $2,000 for his first-place essay, “Wetland Mitigation in Michigan: Working Toward the Goal of No Net Loss of Wetlands.”
The Environmental Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan publishes the Michigan Environmental Law Journal and sponsors the essay contest.
Science is Cool
University of Alabama: UA Professors Turn Zombies Into Teaching Tools
September 23, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Matt Payne and Adam Schwartz, University of Alabama telecommunication and film professors, have one thing on their brains: “BRAINS.”
Actually, that’s not entirely true, but Payne and Schwartz are each teaching a UA course this semester on zombies, cashing in on the monsters’ current popularity to provide students with culturally relevant instruction while teaching them the skills they need to succeed after college.
“What’s going to catch people’s attention is the subject matter,” said Payne, an assistant professor in telecommunication and film, who is teaching TCF 444: Zombies in Culture. “At the same time, pedagogical utility is vital. It’s very important to us to underscore what the learning objectives are.”
University of Massachusetts, Lowell: University’s Baseball Research Lab Featured in National Geographic
By Edwin L. Aguirre
As baseball fans know, nothing beats the sight and sound of a player’s bat solidly hitting the ball, sending it flying off into the bleachers and beyond for a home run.
But do you know what happens to the wooden bat when it strikes the ball?
“A 90-miles-per-hour pitch impacting a bat swinging at 70 miles per hour can exert a force greater than 8,000 pounds,” says Patrick Drane, assistant director of the University’s Baseball Research Center.
“This peak force is exerted for a small fraction of the 1,000th of a second that the ball and bat are in contact,” explains Drane. “When the ball impacts away from the bat’s ‘sweet spot,’ much of the energy goes into vibrating the bat. These vibrations can cause even the strongest of woods to break.”
WBUR: The ‘Truman Show’ Delusion: When Patients Think They’re On TV
Friday, September 27, 2013
Delusions, paranoia and hearing voices have long been signs of mental illness. But psychiatrists are reporting a new variation.
While patients in years past may have feared the CIA, some patients now believe they’re being watched and tracked, reality show-style.
It’s being called the “Truman Show” delusion or T.S.D., after the movie in which Jim Carrey plays a man who unknowingly stars in a reality TV show.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Celebrates Four MacArthur Award Winners
September 25, 2013
Meet the latest Rutgers "genius grant" winners – a public health historian, two alumni and a distinguished guest instructor in the Rutgers-Camden MFA program. The five-year fellowship by the James D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with a $625,000 stipend for use by the recipients without restrictions.
Columbia University: School of Arts Professor Donald Antrim and Two Alumni Named MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellows
Sept. 25, 2013
With a nod to his “tightly crafted works of fiction and nonfiction,” the MacArthur Foundation today announced that Donald Antrim, associate professor in the Writing Program at the School of the Arts, will be among the 24 “genius” fellows it named for 2013.
Also among the winners were two Columbia alums: writer Karen Russell (SOA’06) and physicist Carl Haber (GSAS’85).
Haber, an experimental physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, is developing new technologies for audio preservation. The MacArthur Foundation notes that he is “poised to revolutionize the preservation of rare, damaged, and deteriorating sound recordings of immense value to our cultural heritage.”
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