Recent Science Diaries and Stories
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Green diary rescue: Petcoke chokes south Chicago, EPA going to Supreme Court again
by Meteor Blades
Why expiring Monsanto Protection Act is huge
This week in science: Adrift
Virginia Tech: Mussels Meet Wild Cousins
Imagine a lifetime spent clinging to a riverbed by one foot. This is the case for freshwater mussels, and their limited mobility makes habitat loss difficult to avoid.
Virginia Tech in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to repopulate sections of the Clinch and Powell Rivers.
University of Florida Extension: Reducing Candy Calories
University of Florida/IFAS Nutritionist Karla Shellnut provides nutritional facts of reducing candy calories for your Halloween trick-or-treaters.
The Washington Post: Hunter’s Full Moon, and a penumbral lunar eclipse this evening
The sky presents two lunar spectacles for the price of one tonight. The full “Hunter” moon rises, while at the same time, sections of it are darkened by the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, an event known as a penumbral eclipse.
EarthSky emphasizes the subtle aspect of the eclipse because, coinciding with evening twilight in the U.S., the sky will not yet be that dark.
“You may not notice any shading at all on the moon’s surface if you see the eclipse from the Americas,” Earth Sky writes. “Even as the eclipse is happening, you’ll be seeing the moon low in the sky, peering at it through more atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. This is a very, very subtle kind of eclipse. Will it be noticeable? Maybe to photographers! We’ll hope for some good photos.”
The Daily Mail (UK): Could life on Earth end on March 16, 2880? Scientists predict giant asteroid will collide with our planet at 38,000 miles per hour.
- Asteroid 1950 DA has a 0.3 per cent chance of hitting Earth in 867 years
- This represents a risk 50% greater than an impact from all other asteroids
- If it were to hit, it would do so with a force of 44,800 megatonnes of TNT
By Ellie Zolfagharifard
PUBLISHED: 05:42 EST, 11 October 2013 | UPDATED: 03:31 EST, 14 October 2013
Doomsday, it seems, has come and gone countless times.
But one particular prediction for the end of the world has been weighing on the mind of astronomers for more than half a century.
Scientists at Nasa have been watching an asteroid, named 1950 DA, which is currently on a path to collide with Earth on March 16, 2880.
University of British Columbia via Science Daily: Adaptability to Local Climate Helps Invasive Species Thrive
Oct. 17, 2013
The ability of invasive plants to rapidly adapt to local climates -- and potentially to climate change -- may be a key factor in how quickly they spread.
According to new research published in Science by University of British Columbia evolutionary ecologist Rob Colautti, rapid evolution has helped purple loosestrife to invade, and thrive in, northern Ontario.
"Factors such as escape from natural enemies including herbivores, predators, pathogens or parasites were thought to explain how species become invasive," says Colautti, an NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellow with the UBC Department of Botany, who started the research in 2007 as a PhD student at the University of Toronto. "The ability of invasive species to rapidly adapt to local climate has not generally been considered to be an important factor affecting spread.
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech partners with Smithsonian to discover deeper link between soil microbes and plants
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2013 – In a recent study published in the journal Plant and Soil, Mark Williams, an assistant professor of horticulture in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and his collaborators at the Smithsonian and other institutions discovered that microbes in soil function symbiotically with plants, much like the 3 billion microbes in the human gut interact with the body.
“The study is consistent with the idea that there are complex but fundamental feedbacks between these diverse systems of soil microbiota and plant species,” said Williams. “These plant-microbial-soil interactions ultimately determine how ecosystem’s breathe life into the earth’s biosphere.”
Some of the interactions that occur in the soil microbiome — the combined genetic material of the microorganisms in soil — have not always been as readily apparent until now.
University of Florida: UF faculty finds some mind-body therapies may reduce effects of functional bowel disorders
October 15th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although some health care providers may overlook alternative therapies when treating functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, University of Florida faculty members have found evidence that hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy may benefit patients suffering from these diseases.
Led by researchers Oliver Grundmann of the UF College of Pharmacy and Saunjoo “Sunny” Yoon of the UF College of Nursing, the study was published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, which highlighted it as the “Editors Choice” in its August issue.
“Our work being highlighted in this way indicates that we are able to raise awareness for the issue of a more integrative and holistic approach to medical care in the area of functional bowel disorders in the scientific community — a goal that both Dr. Yoon and I have been striving for in our professional endeavors for many years,” said Grundmann, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.
Cell Press via PhysOrg: Marmoset monkeys know polite conversation
Oct 17, 2013
Humans aren't the only species that knows how to carry on polite conversation. Marmoset monkeys, too, will engage one another for up to 30 minutes at a time in vocal turn-taking, according to evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 17.
"We were surprised by how reliably the marmoset monkeys exchanged their vocalizations in a cooperative manner, particularly since in most cases they were doing so with individuals that they were not pair-bonded with," says Asif Ghazanfar of Princeton University. "This makes what we found much more similar to human conversations and very different from the coordinated calling of animals such as birds, frogs, or crickets, which is linked to mating or territorial defense."
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
New York University: The cost of racial bias in economic decisions
October 17, 2013
When financial gain depends on cooperation, we might expect that people would put aside their differences and focus on the bottom line. But new research suggests that people’s racial biases make them more likely to leave money on the table when a windfall is not split evenly between groups.
“It has been suggested that race bias in economic decisions may not occur in a market where discrimination is costly, but these findings provide the first evidence that this assumption is false,” explain psychological scientists Jennifer Kubota and Elizabeth Phelps of New York University. “Our work suggests that after offers are on the table, people perceive the fairness of those offers differently – even when they are objectively identical – based on race.”
The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, and may be downloaded here.
The research was inspired by the debt ceiling debates that raged on in the summer of 2011.
National Environment Research Council (UK): Archaeologists rediscover the lost home of the last Neanderthals
17 October 2013
A record of Neanderthal archaeology, thought to be long lost, has been re-discovered by NERC-funded scientists working in the Channel island of Jersey.
The study, published today in the Journal of Quaternary Science, reveals that a key archaeological site has preserved geological deposits which were thought to have been lost through excavation 100 years ago.
The discovery was made when the team undertook fieldwork to stabilise and investigate a portion of the La Cotte de St Brelade cave, on Jersey's south eastern coastline.
University of Adelaide (Australia) via Science Codex: Mysterious ancient human crossed Wallace's Line
Scientists have proposed that the most recently discovered ancient human relatives -- the Denisovans -- somehow managed to cross one of the world's most prominent marine barriers in Indonesia, and later interbred with modern humans moving through the area on the way to Australia and New Guinea.
Three years ago the genetic analysis of a little finger bone from Denisova cave in the Altai Mountains in northern Asia led to a complete genome sequence of a new line of the human family tree -- the Denisovans. Since then, genetic evidence pointing to their hybridisation with modern human populations has been detected, but only in Indigenous populations in Australia, New Guinea and surrounding areas. In contrast, Denisovan DNA appears to be absent or at very low levels in current populations on mainland Asia, even though this is where the fossil was found.
Published today in a Science opinion article, scientists Professor Alan Cooper of the University of Adelaide in Australia and Professor Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in the UK say that this pattern can be explained if the Denisovans had succeeded in crossing the famous Wallace's Line, one of the world's biggest biogeographic barriers which is formed by a powerful marine current along the east coast of Borneo. Wallace's Line marks the division between European and Asian mammals to the west from marsupial-dominated Australasia to the east.
The Guardian (UK): Frogs' legs may have been English delicacy 8,000 years before France
Dig at Blick Mead, Wiltshire, a mile from Stonehenge, turns up bones of toad's leg dating to between 7596BC and 6250BC
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
Tuesday 15 October 2013
If you're French, asseyez-vous, s'il vous plait. Archaeologists digging about a mile away from Stonehenge have made a discovery that appears to overturn centuries of received wisdom: frogs' legs were an English delicacy around eight millennia before becoming a French one.
The shock revelation was made public on Tuesday by a team which has been digging at a site known as Blick Mead, near Amesbury in Wiltshire. Team leader David Jacques said: "We were completely taken aback."
In April they discovered charred bones of a small animal, and, following assessment by the Natural History Museum, it has been confirmed that there is evidence the toad bones were cooked and eaten. "They would have definitely eaten the leg because it would have been quite big and juicy," said Jacques.
University of Adelaide (Australia) via Science Daily: Ancient DNA Unravels Europe's Genetic Diversity
Oct. 10, 2013
Ancient DNA recovered from a time series of skeletons in Germany spanning 4,000 years of prehistory has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern-day Europeans.
The study, published today in Science, reveals dramatic population changes with waves of prehistoric migration, not only from the accepted path via the Near East, but also from Western and Eastern Europe.
"Our study shows that a simple mix of indigenous hunter-gatherers and the incoming Near Eastern farmers cannot explain the modern-day diversity alone," says joint-lead author Guido Brandt, PhD candidate at the University of Mainz. "The genetic results are much more complex than that. Instead, we found that two particular cultures at the brink of the Bronze Age 4,200 years ago had a marked role in the formation of Central Europe's genetic makeup."
Red Orbit: Living Relatives Of 5,300-Year Old-Mummy Located In Austria
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
October 13, 2013
A team of Austrian researchers have made a discovery that would put those genealogy websites to shame: they have located several living descendants of a 5,300-year-old human mummy.
The prehistoric individual, known as Ötzi the Iceman, was originally found frozen in the Alps back in 1991, according to Steve Nolan of the Daily Mail. The so-called ice mummy suffered from the oldest case of Lyme disease recorded to date, and was also lactose intolerant and predisposed to cardiovascular disease.
Now, forensic scientist Walther Parson and colleagues from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University have identified 19 men who share a specific genetic mutation with Ötzi. These individuals were identified following an analysis of DNA samples from approximately 3,700 blood donors in the state of Tyrol, which is located in the western part of Austria.
Haaretz (Israel): Underwater archaeologists: Unlocking the mysteries of an age-old port
Who sailed from the harbor - or harbors - at Tel Dor? Haifa University students find clues on the Mediterranean floor.
By Alona Ferber
It's cold. It's silent. It's murky. It's the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and it's the hangout of choice for students of maritime archaeology, seeking clues to the dawn of modern man. Or in the case of participants on Haifa University’s new English MA in Maritime Civilizations, signs of a harbor at the ancient site of Tel Dor.
The Tel Dor expedition, some 30 kilometers south of Haifa, is a collaboration between Dr. Assaf Yasur-Landau and Dr. Ayelet Gilboa of the University of Haifa, and Prof. Ilan Sharon of the Hebrew University. Students of the new English-language program, which started its second year this fall, take part in underwater surveys of Tel Dor mostly in shallow waters but also at depths of up to 10 meters of water.
LiveScience: King Herod's Tomb a Mystery Yet Again
By Tia Ghose, Staff Writer
Herod the Great, the king of Judea who ruled not long before the time of Jesus, seems to have eluded historians once again.
In 2007 archaeologists announced they had found the great king's tomb, a surprisingly modest mausoleum that was part of the Herodium, a massive complex built by Herod on a cone-shaped hill in the desert outside Jerusalem.
But what everyone thought was his final resting place may not be. The modest structure is too small and modest for the ostentatious king; its mediocre construction and design are at odds with Herod's reputation as a master planner and builder, archaeologists now say.
Yorkshire Post (UK): Discovery that brings forgotten church back to life
IT IS a discovery which ranks as one of the most treasured finds to be unearthed yet in an archaeological dig spanning more than a decade.
Archaeologists carried out initial investigations at the Hungate site in the centre of York at the turn of the Millennium, but have only now managed to pinpoint the location of a forgotten church which gives a fascinating insight into life during the medieval era.
Dartmouth College via Science Daily: Wari, Predecessors of the Inca, Used Restraint to Reshape Human Landscape
Oct. 16, 2013
The Wari, a complex civilization that preceded the Inca empire in pre-Columbia America, didn't rule solely by pillage, plunder and iron-fisted bureaucracy, a Dartmouth study finds. Instead, they started out by creating loosely administered colonies to expand trade, provide land for settlers and tap natural resources across much of the central Andes.
The results, which appear in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, shed new light on how early states evolved into empires in the region that became the Inca imperial heartland.
Heritage Daily (UK)?: Archaeologists further knowledge of Palace in Sherwood Forest
Archaeologists have helped to prove the size and thus the importance of a Palace that formed the royal heart of Sherwood Forest in the medieval period, by discovering and excavating the previously unknown boundary ditch of the site.
The ruins of King John’s Palace in Kings Clipstone are a local landmark famous for their association with ‘Bad King John’, the enemy of Robin Hood.
In fact during the medieval period the site was known as the King’s Houses and was an extensive royal palace with an adjacent deer park, located at the heart of Sherwood Forest. The palace was favoured by the crown and visited by all eight monarchs from Henry II to Richard II from the second half of the 12th century until the end of the 14th century.
The Sun (New Zealand): Prehistoric Mount remains confirmed
By Luke Balvert
Posted at 12:32pm Thursday 17th Oct, 2013
Prehistoric human remains uncovered in a grave at Pilot Bay during the construction of the boardwalk have now been identified as two Maori adults and a child.
Archaeologists this week confirmed to SunLive the identification of three skeletons discovered alongside Moa bones, fish hooks and stone tools, on the foreshore of The Mall in July this year.
BBC: Northumberland shipwreck search finds forgotten cannon
Archaeologists exploring lost wrecks in British seas have discovered a collection of forgotten cannon off the Northumberland coast.
A team of divers are exploring 88 wrecks lost before 1840 in a bid to find the most important historic sites.
The Florida Times-Union via Jacksonville.com: Archaeologists discover rare 18th-century mission site in St. Augustine
By Marcia Lane
Posted: October 13, 2013 - 6:51am
The lot on Duero Street looks pretty much like any other slightly overgrown site to passers-by, but for archaeologists it’s a treasure trove.
There is no gold or silver here, but lots of fragments of Native American pottery and some European pottery, signs this is the remains of a farmstead that was once part of an 18th-century mission site known as Pocotalaca.
“The thing that makes this site exciting as far as archaeologists are concerned is it’s a very rare find,” said Carl Halbirt, archaeologist for the city of St. Augustine. This is only the fourth such farmstead found; the other three were discovered across Lake Marie Sanchez at a mission site known as La Puenta.
Lexington Herald-Leader via Kentucky.com: Woodford distillery's past comes to light with archaeology dig
By Janet Patton
Published: October 14, 2013
VERSAILLES — One of Kentucky early distillers, Oscar Pepper, is making history again, this time about what early farm life was like in the Bluegrass.
Brown-Forman owns the Woodford Reserve Distillery near Versailles, on the site of the original Pepper distillery. Late this summer, archaeologists began excavating around the 1812 log cabin built by Elijah Pepper on a hill above Glenn's Creek, where the first distillery and grist mill were built.
Southern Daily Echo (UK): Rare Second World War bunker unearthed in Hampshire by sewage workers
By Rebecca Pearson, Reporter
12:00pm Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
IT is a reminder of the days when the south was in the front line of defending the country from the Nazis.
Thought to be one of just two in the country a rare Second World War bunker has been uncovered in Hampshire by sewage workers after being buried for half a century.
But after just a few days of it being unveiled, it has been covered up once more.
Contractors had been digging a new sewage route to pump wastewater between School Lane, Hamble and the Bursledon Wastewater Treatment Works, run by Southern Water, when they came across the red brick bunker with concrete roof.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Zurich (Switzerland) via Science Daily: Unique Skull Find Rebuts Theories On Species Diversity in Early Humans
Oct. 17, 2013 —
Paleoanthropologists from the University of Zurich have uncovered the intact skull of an early Homo individual in Dmanisi, Georgia. This find is forcing a change in perspective in the field of paleoanthropology: human species diversity two million years ago was much smaller than presumed thus far. However, diversity within the "Homo erectus," the first global species of human, was as great as in humans today.
This is the best-preserved fossil find yet from the early era of our genus. The particularly interesting aspect is that it displays a combination of features that were unknown to us before the find. The skull, found in Dmanisi by anthropologists from the University of Zurich as part of a collaboration with colleagues in Georgia funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, has the largest face, the most massively built jaw and teeth and the smallest brain within the Dmanisi group.
It is the fifth skull to be discovered in Dmanisi. Previously, four equally well-preserved hominid skulls as well as some skeletal parts had been found there. Taken as a whole, the finds show that the first representatives of the genus Homo began to expand from Africa through Eurasia as far back as 1.85 million years ago.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of the Witswatersrand (South Africa) via Space Daily: New evidence on lightning strikes
by Kanina Foss for Wits News
Johannesburg, South Africa (SPX) Oct 18, 2013
Lightning strikes causing rocks to explode have for the first time been shown to play a huge role in shaping mountain landscapes in southern Africa, debunking previous assumptions that angular rock formations were necessarily caused by cold temperatures, and proving that mountains are a lot less stable than we think.
In a world where mountains are crucial to food security and water supply, this has vast implications, especially in the context of climate change.
Professors Jasper Knight and Stefan Grab from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at Wits University used a compass to prove - for the first time ever - that lightning is responsible for some of the angular rock formations in the Drakensburg.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Virginia Tech: Nobel laureate talks about innovation in modern research world before capacity Burruss audience
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2013 – Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate and a former United States Secretary of Energy, talked about how to create a research and development environment modeled after the famously successful “Bell Labs” on Friday during the initial Hugh and Ethel Kelly Speaker Series presentation, hosted by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) and the College of Engineering.
Chu said researchers in today's research climate are forced to concentrate on their best ideas, work in small groups, and to collaborate with experts from different fields. In that respect, it reinforces the Bell Laboratories' philosophy to build small research groups containing usually just an investigator, a postdoctoral associate, and a lab technician, and to have active scientists fill the management roles.
"A small group makes you think hard about the most important things to work on, and being forced to share ideas may be a good thing," Chu said. "That's the lemonade from the lemons."
New York University: NYU-Poly's Rappaport to lay groundwork for future cellular networks under NSF grant
National Science Foundation Awards Grant to University Researchers Working to Open New Radio-Wave Spectrum, Speed up Wireless Data Transfer
October 14, 2013
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant under its extremely competitive Networking Technology and Systems (NeTS) program to two researchers working in the ultra-high frequency radio-wave spectrum to create much greater data rates for mobile networks of the future.
Professor Theodore (Ted) Rappaport, the David Lee/Ernst Weber chair of electrical and computer engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly), and Shiwen Mao, the McWane associate professor at Auburn University, received the $500,000 grant to help lay groundwork in the relatively newly explored 60 gigahertz band. This is the second recent NeTS grant supporting NYU-Poly research in the millimeter spectrum.
The exponential growth of wireless data traffic is depleting the spectrum and significantly stressing the capacity of wireless networks. The massive unlicensed bandwidth in the 60 GHz range holds potential to meet the surging wireless data demand in coming years. The goal of this NSF project is to gain a deep understanding of the 60 GHz propagation characteristics and to develop effective 60 GHz protocols that can be used in networks of the future.
Columbia University: Chemist Devises Optical Imaging Technique to Unlock the Mystery of Memory
October 9, 2013
In the search to understand memory, Wei Min is looking at cells at the most basic level, long before the formation of neurons and synapses. The assistant professor of chemistry studies the synthesis of proteins, the building blocks of the body formed using genetic code from DNA. “We want to understand the molecular nature of memory, one of the key questions that remain in neuroscience,” he says.
Proteins carry out almost every biological function, and protein synthesis is a crucial step in gene expression, determining how cells respond to pathological conditions caused by cancer, autism and the physiological stresses linked to disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Min’s lab examines the proteome (the sum of the cell’s proteins), a dynamic structure tightly regulated by both production and death of proteins that ensures that the body functions normally. The formation of long-term memory is dependent on protein synthesis at a specific location and time in brain tissues.
Min and his team recently developed a new imaging technique to pinpoint exactly where and when cells produce new proteins. The method is significant in that it enables scientists to create high-resolution images of newly synthesized proteins in living cells. The findings were published in the July 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research was done in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine.
Science Crime Scenes
The Times-Standard via Willits News: Are marijuana gardens destroying history?
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 10/10/2013 02:39:36 AM PDT
The recent discovery of a marijuana growing operation that disturbed an archaeological site has some wondering if this might be more common than anyone wants to think.
”I figured we'd find something like this, eventually,” said Scott Bauer, the California Fish and Wildlife coho recovery coordinator who discovered the artifacts at a grow scene near Bridgeville.
To hear Bauer tell it, the find makes perfect sense: Growers want locations with southern exposure, warm weather, and nearby water sources. American Indians looked for the same things when locating villages and camps, he said.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has identified 4,100 marijuana cultivation sites throughout the county this year alone, and those sites are sprinkled over an area with a very rich and populous American Indian history. In that context, Bauer said, last week's discovery isn't so surprising.
Haaretz (Israel): Ending a 7-year saga || Court: Israel must return biblical-era 'Jehoash's Tablet' to owner
State had held onto controversial artifact, despite that the antiquities collector beat charges of faking it and 'James Ossuary.'
By Nir Hasson
Oct. 17, 2013
An Israeli antiquities collector on Thursday bested the state in a decade-long wrestling match, regaining possession of Jehoash's Tablet, a unique stone inscription dated to 9 BCE that corresponds to biblical account of renovations to the First Temple by Jehoash, King of Judea.
The Supreme Court restored the sandstone artifact which the state had confiscated in 2003, charging collector Oded Golan with forging it and other antiquities, and dealing in them. For him, Thursday's Supreme Court decision was the cherry on the cake of the appellate ruling in August 2013 that the state couldn't prove its contention that the tablet was faked.
Washington Post: Egypt’s stolen heritage
By Mohamed Ibrahim
Published: October 18
Mohamed Ibrahim is Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities and a professor of Egyptology at Ain Shams University in Cairo.
Egypt’s future lies in its history, particularly its archaeological history. For hundreds of years the mystery and wonders of the pyramids, the sphinx and the Valley of the Kings have attracted visitors from around the world. Tourism is the lifeblood of Egypt’s economy and touches the lives of most Egyptians, whether they work as tour guides, restaurant owners, craftsmen or bus operators. Egypt’s history holds the prosperity of the country’s future generations, including that of youths — more than 40 million Egyptians are age 30 or younger — who are seeking opportunities.
But thieves are raiding our archaeological sites and selling their findings to the highest bidders. They are taking advantage of Egypt’s security situation to loot our nation’s economic future and steal from our children.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
The Daily Telegraph (UK): World's only surviving Bronze Age metropolis in Pakistan faces ruin
Archeologists say that 5,000 year-old city of Mohenjodaro, the world's oldest planned urban landscape, is being rapidly corroded by salt and could disappear within 20 years
By Dean Nelson, Mohenjodaro, Sindh
When archaeologists first uncovered the 5,000-year-old ruins of Mohenjodaro, they made one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century: the world’s only surviving Bronze Age metropolis.
That was in colonial India in 1924. Today, the most important site of the Indus civilisation lies in Pakistan.
Now the once lost city is in danger of disappearing again as its clay wall houses, grid system roads, great granaries, baths and drainage systems crumble to dust, a victim of government neglect, public indifference and tourists’ fears of terrorism.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Virginia: ‘Food Stamped’ Film, Meal and Discussion Set for Thursday
October 18, 2013
In celebration of National Food Day on Thursday, the University of Virginia Food Collaborative is screening a documentary film, “Food Stamped,” that follows a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on an average food stamp budget – $1.50 per person per day. Along the way they consult with members of Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts and people living on food stamps to take a deep look at what they describe as America’s broken food system.
The event will include a post-screening panel discussion, led by U.Va. politics professor Paul Freedman, and a healthy meal prepared by Whole Foods on a budget of less than $1.50 per serving.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion of topics raised by the film, including health, food economics and politics, featuring Joe Caputi, the Charlottesville branch manager at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank; Stephen Hitchcock, director of The Haven, a day shelter for the homeless; and Galen Fountain, an instructor at U.Va.’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Virginia Tech: Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrate Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 18, 2013 – Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrated the important role that agriculture plays in the commonwealth’s economy and the designation of October as Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia with a ceremony at the Lynchburg Grows H.R. Schenkel Urban Farm and Environmental Center in Lynchburg on Oct. 17.
The ceremony included a presentation by delegates Kathy Byron, Ben Cline, and Scott Garrett of the Virginia General Assembly; a proclamation by Lynchburg Mayor Michael H. Gillette; and testimonials by Edwin Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and by members of the state Extension Leadership Council. Mayor Gillette praised Lynchburg Grows for making the city a better place.
Delegates Byron, Cline, and Garrett presented Jones and Michael Van Ness, executive director of Lynchburg Grows, with House Joint Resolution No. 758, designating October 2013 as Virginia’s first annual Urban Agriculture Month. The delegates were among the measure’s 27 legislative patrons.
American Geosciences Institute via PhysOrg: Groundbreaking report details status of US secondary Earth science education
Oct 17, 2013
The Center for Geoscience Education and Public Understanding at the American Geosciences Institute has released a landmark report on the status of Earth Science education in U.S. middle and high schools, describing in detail significant gaps between identified priorities and lagging practice.
The report, "Earth and Space Sciences Education in U.S. Secondary Schools: Key Indicators and Trends," offers baseline data on indicators of the subject's status since the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April 2013. Establishing clear aims for the subject, the NGSS state that the Earth and Space Sciences should have equal status with the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Technology, and Engineering. However, the report shows that school districts and other organizations fail to assign the Earth Sciences this status.
Oxford University (UK) via PhysOrg: Pupils 'held back' academically by their social background
Children of similar intelligence have very different levels of educational attainment depending on their social backgrounds, says a long-term study led by Oxford University researchers.
The research team studied 5,000 children born in Britain and Sweden from the 1940s to the 1970s. They found that the bright children from advantaged social backgrounds were twice as likely to achieve A-levels as similarly able children from the least advantaged social backgrounds.
The researchers from the University's Department of Social Policy and Intervention, and the Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm, studied the test scores measuring cognitive ability of children aged between 10 and 13, and found they had a strong effect on a child's subsequent educational performance. However, a child's social background was also found to have a strong effect over and above that of ability, with the parents' education being more important than their social status and social class, though the latter also count. The study finds that the effect of a child's social background on their attainment levels did not decline in Britain or Sweden, despite the introduction of policies over the years to promote a greater equality of educational opportunity.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Rutgers University: Are Your Doctors Ordering the Right Tests?
Rutgers in lead to enhance the role of laboratory scientists
Monday, October 14, 2013
Newark, NJ – The bulk of medical decisions made today are based on laboratory results. A misinterpreted result or misordered test has the potential to drastically elevate health care costs and negatively impact a patient’s health.
With so much riding on lab results, Rutgers is taking the lead to enhance the role of clinical laboratory scientists by implementing the country’s first advanced practice doctorate in clinical laboratory science (DCLS).
Beginning in 2014, the new degree offered by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences at its School of Health Related Professions (SHRP), will address an ongoing need to achieve greater accuracy and cost efficiency in lab testing services.
Rutgers University: Reimagining Middle School Math Class
An initiative to transform math education takes shape at Rutgers and local schools
Written By John Chadwick | SAS Senior Writer
Ah, middle school. It’s a time when students’ minds fill with thoughts about cool clothes, best friends, and the hottest video games.
But could they also get excited about math?
That question weighs on the minds of educators, policy-makers, and employers concerned over U.S. competitiveness in a globalized world.
University of Virginia: Study: High-Powered Incentives, Linked to Teacher Evaluations, Drive Improvements in Teacher Performance in D.C. Public Schools
October 17, 2013
IMPACT, the controversial teacher-evaluation system recently introduced in the District of Columbia Public Schools, appears to have caused hundreds of teachers in the district to improve their performance markedly while also encouraging some low-performing teachers to voluntarily leave the district’s classrooms, according to a new study from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and the Stanford Graduate School of Education.
IMPACT is a performance-assessment system linking high-powered incentives and teacher evaluations. It grabbed immediate national attention for its explicit dismissal policy for teachers it rated as ineffective, as well as for its substantial financial rewards for high-performing teachers. Specifically, high-performing teachers – as assessed by IMPACT – earn an annual bonus of as much as $25,000 as well as an opportunity for similarly large and permanent increases in their base salaries. In contrast, teachers who are unable to achieve an “effective” rating after two years are dismissed.
The new findings run counter to a spate of recent studies that found that incentives linked narrowly to test scores were not associated with a change in teacher performance.
University of Virginia: Hands-on Engineering Flourishing at Newly Dedicated Lacy Hall
October 14, 2013
It’s a perfect place for engineering students to get their hands on their work.
Lacy Hall – and the Ann Warrick Lacy Experiential Center that occupies the top two floors of it – was dedicated Friday as a place for students in the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science to gain hands-on experience.
“A growing number of our students participate in ‘experiential learning,’ which is a term to describe the process of creating meaning from direct experience,” Engineering School Dean James Aylor said during the ceremony. “We engineers solve societal problems by applying science and math fundamentals to real-world situations. The skills and abilities needed to do this cannot be learned exclusively in a classroom or from reading a text. They have to be learned firsthand.”
University of Virginia: U.Va. Student Team Advances to Global Genetic Engineering Championship
H. Brevy Cannon
October 14, 2013
A team of 13 students from the University of Virginia has advanced to the final round of an international genetic engineering competition. Starting Nov. 1 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., they will compete alongside the 14 other top collegiate teams from North America and roughly 40 other teams that advanced from three semifinal championships covering Latin America, Asia and Europe.
The International Genetically Engineered Machine (or iGEM) Competition is an annual undergraduate contest in synthetic biology, an emerging discipline at the interface of biology and engineering in which designed molecules, viruses and cells are engineered from standardized parts, known as “biobricks,” to solve human problems.
Team Virginia faced 63 other collegiate teams at the North America Regional Jamboree, the semifinal round of the competition, held Oct. 4-6 at the University of Toronto. They took home a gold medal, a trophy for “Best Human Practices” and an invitation to the Global iGEM Championship.
University of Virginia: To Meet Societal Needs and Student Demand, U.Va. Creates Kinesiology Department
Rebecca P. Arrington
October 15, 2013
The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia is elevating its kinesiology program to department status.
The expansion of U.Va.’s kinesiology program – the Ph.D. component of which is ranked ninth nationally, and the undergraduate component of which has the school’s most competitive admissions process – is the result of societal needs and student demand, U.Va. education professor Arthur “Art” L. Weltman said. According to the American Kinesiology Association, kinesiology is one of the fastest-growing majors across the country, with enrollment rising more than 50 percent between 2003 and 2008.
The academic discipline is growing in large part due the recognition that inactivity represents a major societal concern that expands the entire lifecycle, according Weltman, who will chair the new department.
“An emerging body of research indicates that sedentary behavior is associated with reduced quality of life and impaired health, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain forms of cancer, depression and cognitive impairment, and the increased risk of falls and other injuries, just to name a few,” Weltman said.
New York University: Research by Steinhardt's Yoshikawa offers roadmap for implementing quality preschool
October 16, 2013
Early childhood education can yield short- and long-term educational, economic, and societal benefits, underscoring the value of expanding publicly funded preschool education, New York University Professor Hirokazu Yoshikawa outlines in a research brief released today.
“Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education,” authored by Yoshikawa, a professor NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and other early childhood experts, reviews existing scholarship on why early skills matter, which children benefit from preschool, the short- and long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s school readiness and life outcomes, the importance of program quality, and the costs versus benefits of preschool education.
The findings, which offer a roadmap for broad, quality implementation of preschool programs, expand upon studies that have long served as barometers for the value of early childhood education: the Abecedarian Project, which traces back to the 1970s, and the Perry Preschool Project, which commenced in the 1960s.
Science Writing and Reporting
Wilts and Glochestershire Standard (UK): Bones found in the River Coln, Fairford are placed upside down for professional photo
By Megan Archer
9:30am Saturday 12th October 2013 in News
ARCHEOLOGISTS are scratching their heads over the photo of a skeleton found in Fairford and have pointed out that a number of bones have been placed upside down.
Since the Standard reported the carbon dating results of a skeleton found in the River Coln in June, a wave of emails have been sent from archaeologists all across the globe, asking to see the anthropologist’s evidence.
Dr Kristina Kilgrove, who initially spotted the misplacement of the bones, is a bioarcheologist at the University of West Florida. She generated a lot of attention with her humorous blog post titled ‘who needs an osteologist?’ where she asked her readers to point out the mistakes in the photo.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Rutgers University: Meeting in the Middle: Why Political Compromise Can Be So Hard
Rutgers husband and wife team collaborate on a book about the history of cooperation
By Steve Manas
Monday, October 14, 2013
After years of denials by his predecessor, Iran’s new president acknowledged at the UN that the Holocaust, indeed, was a condemnable crime against humanity. Almost immediately, President Obama and Hassan Rouhani held a 15-minute phone chat, the first contact between leaders of the two nations in 34 years. Perhaps a hopeful sign of cooperation? Not so fast. Within days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped by the White House to caution against softening sanctions against the alleged nuclear wannabe and to remind who America’s BFF in the Middle East really is.
Meanwhile across town, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were playing their own game of hardball over funding Obamacare. Never mind the consequences for the American public: a pain-inflicting, partial shutdown of the federal government.
Cooperation, in Washington and elsewhere, is hard to come by, but two Rutgers professors – husband and wife team Lee F. Cronk, an evolutionary and cultural anthropologist, and Beth L. Leech, a political scientist, both in the School of Arts and Sciences – have collaborated to write, Meeting at Grand Central: Understanding the Social and Evolutionary Roots of Cooperation (Princeton University Press). Rutgers Today asked the pair about a subject many take for granted – until cooperation is imperative and there is none to be found.
University of Virginia: To Hell and Back: U.Va. Professor’s New Book Explores Cultural Map of Dante’s ‘Inferno’
October 14, 2013
Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” remains one of those rare artistic achievements that has become an enduring cultural touchstone. In fact, the “Inferno” section of Dante’s great poetic trilogy has essentially defined the Christian vision of hell.
On May 14, “Inferno,” a thriller by the popular American author Dan Brown, was published, the fourth book in his Robert Langdon series. It rose to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.
Brown’s novels are treasure hunts that feature the recurring themes of cryptography, codes, symbols and conspiracy theories usually fusing history and art. His books have been translated into 52 languages, and he is one of the highest-selling authors of all time.
Published last week, “Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown,” a companion book to Brown’s bestseller, was co-written by Deborah Parker, a professor of Italian at the University of Virginia, and her husband, Mark Parker, professor and head of the Department of English at James Madison University.
Science is Cool
The Daily Telegraph (UK): 'Yeti lives': Abominable Snowman is 'part polar bear and still roams the Himalayas'
Research by an University of Oxford scientist has found a genetic match between an ancient polar bear and samples said to come from the Yeti - suggesting the creature known as the Abominable Snowman is still living in the Himalayas
By Jasper Copping
It is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries, attracting both curiosity and fear.
Now, a British scientist may have finally solved the riddle of the yeti, the fabled apelike creature said to inhabit the upper ranges of the Himalayas.
Research by Professor Bryan Sykes, a geneticist from the University of Oxford, has not only uncovered a genetic match between samples thought to come from the elusive creature and another that lived more than 40,000 years ago, but also suggests the beast is still roaming the mountains.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Forensic Scientist Shares Zombie Survival Guide
ust in time for Halloween, Kimberlee Sue Moran peels back the skin on the science of dying
Monday, October 14, 2013
Kimberlee Sue Moran recalls that she was living in London in 2002 when she and her friend went to see the new zombie flick, 28 Days Later. The film turned everything that she thought about zombies on its head, depicting the animated corpses as fast and aggressive, rather than slow, plodding figures. “My friend and I clung to each other the whole way home,” recalls the Rutgers–Camden forensic scientist.
While admitting that she still has a “slightly irrational fear of zombies,” Moran knows full well that there is nothing really to be afraid of. “It all comes down to the science behind it,” says Moran, who serves as an instructor for the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice.
Just in time for Halloween, the Winslow resident shares her zombie survival guide, peeling back the skin on the science of dying, along with the cultural and religious traditions surrounding death. “Between rigor mortis – the body going completely rigid – and putrefaction – the body liquefying – any ‘true’ zombie, unlike the 28 Days Later variety, would be either too stiff or too sloshy to come after you!” declares Moran.
While apparitions of all forms – from wicked witches to friendly ghosts – have captivated people’s imaginations, she says that humans’ primitive fears and fascination with death can be boiled down to two simple reasons: it is a phenomenon that we don’t understand and one we can’t control.
Virginia Tech: Tech-or-Treat offers Halloween-themed activities infusing science, technology, engineering and math
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 15, 2013 – Children of all ages are invited to Tech-or-Treat, a family-friendly, Halloween-themed event featuring technologies developed by the affiliated faculty and students of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.
The free event, designed to give children the opportunity to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math, will be held in the Cube, Center for the Arts, 190 Alumni Mall, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. Costumes are encouraged.
Children are invited to experience a room full of research and technology-based activities, including “The Labyrinth,” a series of intersecting circles creating a variety of paths throughout the space for participants to travel. The installation features a forest with hanging interactive light and sound components created by Paola Zellner, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture + Design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Tom Martin, an associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering.
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