Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
Between now and the general election, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections. That written, tonight's edition features the science, space, health, environment, and energy stories from universities in the states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia (list from The Green Papers), and the cities of Boston, East Lansing, and New York.
This week's featured story comes from NASA Television.
Back to Mission on This Week @NASA
With the government shutdown over, Administrator Charlie Bolden welcomed employees back to the work of NASA's mission. Bolden visited Goddard Space Flight Center with Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski for an update on several projects, including the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft and the James Webb Space Telescope. Bolden also visited Mississippi to thank employees at Stennis Space Center for their critical engineering and testing work on the agency's next generation rocket engines and the staff of the NASA Shared Services Center for their support of the agency during the shutdown. Also, While we were away, Cygnus Completes!, MAVEN in Waiting, SLS Tests, and More Arctic Sea Ice!
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
Watch this space!
Green diary rescue: Saving snow leopards, fighting coal, struggling for food justice
by Meteor Blades
FTL -- Transporting itself from the Movies to the Research Lab
Teachers' Lounge: Zombies (no, really!)
This week in science: The singularity approaches
The Daily Mail (UK): That's it, it's coming down! Grumpy tiger fed up with Halloween tries to tear down pumpkin dangling from tree
- Keepers at Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire, stuffed pumpkins with treats
- Siberian tiger Soundari leaped into the air to bat the squash like a basketball
- Keeper Ian Turner: 'It’s become something of a tradition for us'
By Dan Bloom
PUBLISHED: 07:31 EST, 25 October 2013
We all get sick of decorations at this time of year - so this fed-up tiger took matters into her own hands.
Siberian big cat called Soundari was determined to bring down a carved pumpkin which her keepers had suspended from a tree at Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire.
The tiger was joined by her two sisters, Shouri and Svetli, but none were successful in bringing the seasonal squash to the floor.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Rutgers Today: Living EcoWall Installed at Rutgers
Students and faculty will now come face to face with a vertical garden when they enter the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Rutgers graduate Michael Coraggio and graduate student Ryan Burrows created the living wall as its own sustainable ecosystem. Not only is the wall an unusual sight, it also helps purify the indoor air. Take a look.
Virginia Tech: Biking as transportation - Virginia Tech
Ralph Buehler, associate professor of urban affairs and planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies' School of Public and International Affairs, studies bicycling and how North American cities plan for this kind of commuting.
Boston University: How Well Sharks Smell
Can sharks really detect odor as well as most people believe?
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: The Effects of Space Weather on Aviation
Astronauts aren't the only ones who need to worry about solar flares. Ordinary air travelers can also be exposed to significant doses of radiation during solar storms. A new computer model developed by NASA aims to help protect the public by predicting space weather hazards to aviation.
Boston University: Using Explosives to Move an Asteroid
Jeffrey Hughes explains how Hollywood's explosive solution to an asteroid may not be the best idea to avoiding destruction.
Boston University: Using a Laser to Save the World from Asteroids
Jeffrey Hughes explains how lasers may one day save the world from an asteroid doomsday scenario.
Boston University: Using Rockets to Save the Earth from Asteroids
Jeffrey Hughes explains how we might use rockets to save the earth from an asteroid impact--by pushing back.
Also see the article under Astronomy/Space.
WOOD-TV: Astronaut takes photo of Great Lakes.
Karen L Nyberg is currently on the International Space Station and she took a photo of the Great Lakes.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Astronomer Contributes to Study of Black Hole Ingesting Matter
Andrew Baker helped commission radio observatory in Chile that gathered black hole images; findings offer insights into galaxy evolution
By Carl Blesch
Friday, October 25, 2013
An international team of astronomers that includes a Rutgers professor has shared remarkably detailed observations of a black hole caught in the act of ingesting and expelling matter from the center of a galaxy. These observations, made with a powerful new array of radio telescopes in Chile, will give scientists new insights into how black holes and the galaxies that host them evolve together.
The Rutgers team member, Andrew Baker, an associate professor of physics and astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences, contributed to the competitive proposal that secured observing time for the black hole investigation, and to the paper reporting its results in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. He also spent part of 2009 in Chile helping commission the observatory, called ALMA.
“Thanks to ALMA’s power, this is among the sharpest such pictures ever made of a black hole that is actively feeding on a surrounding disk of material and converting it into electromagnetic radiation,” said Baker.
Boston University: How to catch an asteroid
BU astronomers ponder how to save the Earth
By Rich Barlow
Last February’s atmospheric blowup of a meteor over Russia injured 1,500 people, mostly from glass smashed by the blast, whose force was estimated at 30 times that of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A month later, the US Senate heard former astronaut Edward Lu advocate for beefing up asteroid detection, warning that the casualties in Russia would have been incalculably greater had the meteor exploded closer to a big city. The Russian rock, a NASA scientist noted at the hearing, snuck by Earth’s telescopes, whose sites are set on projectiles much larger than that 60-foot-diameter meteor.
Is NASA worried? Sufficiently so that it has announced an asteroid Grand Challenge, inviting ideas from the global scientific community about how to spot and stop asteroids that threaten our planet.
How exactly does one stop an asteroid? First, Hughes says, we should distinguish between planet-killers—asteroids so massive that we could kiss our posteriors good-bye—and smaller, potential city-killers like the Russian meteor. The former, he says, are hard to miss. Current scopes pick up 95 percent of those believed to be lurking near us, none of which currently threaten Earth, and improved technology will move that detection rate closer to 100 percent. Hughes and Andrew West, a CAS assistant professor of astronomy, concur that strikes from such monster rocks happen only once in tens of millions of years.
University of Virginia: NASA Selects U.Va. Spacecraft Design Class to Fly Experiment on High-Altitude Balloon
October 21, 2013
The Spacecraft Design Team from the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science is among 10 teams in the U.S. selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to design, build and fly a science experiment aboard a suborbital flight vehicle.
The U.Va. team – the only one chosen from Virginia – will fly its experiment on a NASA high-altitude balloon platform floated 23 miles into the stratosphere next September in New Mexico. The flight will expose the payload to space-like conditions and result in valuable data that will be used by NASA researchers to validate computer models for predicting radiation produced in the atmosphere by cosmic rays.
Until then, all 10 college teams selected will work with NASA researchers to prepare for their flights.
N.Y. Times: Pollen Study Points to Drought as Culprit in Bronze Age Mystery
By ISABEL KERSHNER
Published: October 22, 2013
TEL AVIV — More than 3,200 years ago, life was abuzz in and around what is now this modern-day Israeli metropolis on the shimmering Mediterranean shore.
To the north lay the mighty Hittite empire; to the south, Egypt was thriving under the reign of the great Pharaoh Ramses II. Cyprus was a copper emporium. Greece basked in the opulence of its elite Mycenaean culture, and Ugarit was a bustling port city on the Syrian coast. In the land of Canaan, city states like Hazor and Megiddo flourished under Egyptian hegemony. Vibrant trade along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean connected it all.
Yet within 150 years, according to experts, the old world lay in ruins.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
University of Colorado via Science Daily: Unprecedented Arctic Warming: Average Summer Temperatures in Last 100 Years May Be Warmest in 120,000 Years
Oct. 24, 2013
The heat is on, at least in the Arctic. Average summer temperatures in the Eastern Canadian Arctic during the last 100 years are higher now than during any century in the past 44,000 years and perhaps as long ago as 120,000 years, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.
The study is the first direct evidence the present warmth in the Eastern Canadian Arctic exceeds the peak warmth there in the Early Holocene, when the amount of the sun's energy reaching the Northern Hemisphere in summer was roughly 9 percent greater than today, said CU-Boulder geological sciences Professor Gifford Miller, study leader. The Holocene is a geological epoch that began after Earth's last glacial period ended roughly 11,700 years ago and which continues today.
Miller and his colleagues used dead moss clumps emerging from receding ice caps on Baffin Island as tiny clocks. At four different ice caps, radiocarbon dates show the mosses had not been exposed to the elements since at least 44,000 to 51,000 years ago.
Michigan State University: Mighty mouse uses scorpion venom as painkiller
October 24, 2013
The painful, potentially deadly stings of bark scorpions are nothing more than a slight nuisance to grasshopper mice, which voraciously kill and consume their prey with ease. When stung, the mice briefly lick their paws and move in again for the kill.
The grasshopper mice are essentially numb to the pain, scientists have found, because the scorpion toxin acts as an analgesic rather than a pain stimulant.
The scientists published their research this week in Science.
Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) via Science Daily: Neanderthals Used Toothpicks to Alleviate the Pain of Diseases Related to Teeth, Such as Inflammation of the Gums
Oct. 17, 2013
Removing food scraps trapped between the teeth one of the most common functions of using toothpicks, thus contributing to our oral hygiene. This habit is documented in the genus Homo, as early as Homo habilis, a species that lived between 1.9 and 1.6 million years ago. New research based on the Cova Foradà Neanderthal fossil shows that this hominid also used toothpicks to mitigate pain caused by oral diseases such as inflammation of the gums (periodontal disease). It is the oldest documented case of palliative treatment of dental disease done with this tool.
This research is based on toothpicking marks on the Neanderthal teeth related to periodontal disease. The chronology of the fossil is not clear, but the fossil remains were associated with a Neanderthal Mousterian lithic industry (about 150,000 to 50,000 years).
The research showed that the remains had maxillary porosity, characteristic of periodontal disease and alveolar bone loss (where the teeth are inserted), with a bone mass reduction of four to eight millimeters exposing the roots of the teeth, usually inside the alveoli.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Columbia University: Three Faculty Receive 2013 NIH High Risk-High Reward Research Awards
Oct. 23, 2013
Three Columbia professors were among the 78 recipients of awards in the National Institutes of Health High Risk-High Reward program. Recognized for proposing highly innovative approaches to major contemporary challenges in biomedical research, they are Rafael Yuste, Ozgur Sahin, and Christine Ann Denny.
“NIH is excited to continue support of visionary investigators, among all career stages, pursuing science with the potential to transform scientific fields and accelerate the translation of scientific research into improved health,’’ said Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
The need to better understand diseases that affect the cerebral cortex, such as epilepsy and mental illness, is the basis of Yuste’s cited work. A professor of biological sciences and co-director of Columbia’s Kavli Institute for Brain Science, he received the NIH Pioneer Award to help further his group’s research on the structure and function of the neuronal circuits in the cortex.
“The credit should go to my group, who have worked tirelessly rowing against the current in pursuing high-risk research projects,” said Yuste. “This award will help us to continue our work.”
Boston University: Focusing on Weight May Be Hazardous to Your Health
SPH Bicknell lecturer: what’s wrong with approach to obesity epidemic
By Lisa Chedekel
This summer there was much rejoicing in the public health community over the recently announced falling obesity rate among preschoolers in many states, the first time in decades the rate has gone down.
“Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had released the data. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation, they are going in the right direction.”
But for Paul Campos, a University of Colorado at Boulder law professor, concerns about obesity have been headed in the wrong direction for generations.
Campos, the author of the controversial 2004 book The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight Is Hazardous to Your Health, has been a vocal critic of what he considers a self-defeating war on fat that has no basis in science and can have devastating consequences for women.
Boston University: Living Near an Airport Could be Bad for Your Heart
SPH study links aircraft noise, cardiovascular disease
Ask anyone who lives near an airport and they’ll tell you how disruptive and annoying the noise from low-flying planes can be. But who knew that living near an airport could be bad for your health?
A study coauthored by researchers from the School of Public Health, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) earlier this month, found that older people exposed to aircraft noise, especially at high levels, may face an increased risk of being hospitalized for heart disease. For seniors living near airports, every 10-decibel increase in noise from planes was tied to a 3.5 percent higher hospital admission rate for cardiovascular problems, according to the study.
The study, by Jonathan Levy, an SPH professor of environmental health, Junenette Peters (GRS’94,’00) an SPH assistant professor of environmental health, and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health, is the first to estimate the association between residential exposure to aircraft noise and cardiovascular hospitalizations using national data on the US population age 65 and older and noise data from airports across the country.
Boston University: ENG Counterfeit Drug Screener Promises to Save Lives
Device for use in developing countries wins national award
By Mark Dwortzan
Get ready for a surprising number: 50 percent of medicines distributed in developing countries are either counterfeit or significantly substandard. Those fake and tainted products are responsible for countless medical complications and deaths.
Muhammad Zaman, a College of Engineering associate professor of biomedical engineering, postdoc Darash Desai (ENG’12,’12), and graduate student and ENG research fellow Andrea Fernandes (SPH’10, GSM’16) are doing something about it. They have developed PharmaCheck, a fast, portable, user-friendly detector for screening counterfeit and substandard medicines. To test a medication, a user places a pill in a small testing box that instantly reports the amount of active ingredients found in the pill.
The device’s clear potential to dramatically improve health outcomes in resource-limited countries has attracted significant funding over the past year, and now its developers have received one of nine $18,500 Entrepreneurial Team (E-Team) Stage Two grants from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), which promotes technology innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education. The grant package includes an intensive workshop to help the team further develop its business strategy, followed by six monthly sessions of business coaching—and eligibility for up to $50,000 in additional funding.
Virginia Tech: Veterinary scientists track the origin of a deadly emerging pig virus in the United States
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 22, 2013 – Veterinary researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech have helped identify the origin and possible evolution of an emerging swine virus with high mortality rates that has already spread to at least 17 states.
A team of researchers led by Dr. X.J. Meng, University Distinguished Professor of Molecular Virology, has used virus strains isolated from the ongoing outbreaks in Minnesota and Iowa to trace the likely origin of the emergent porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) to a strain from the Anhui province in China. The virus, which causes a high mortality rate in piglets, was first recognized in the United States in May of this year.
“The virus typically only affects nursery pigs and has many similarities with transmissible gastroenteritis virus of swine,” said Meng, who is a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology. “There is currently no vaccine against porcine epidemic diarrhea virus in the United States. Although some vaccines are in use in Asia, we do not know whether they would work against the U.S. strains of the virus.”
University of Virginia: Could a ‘Trojan Horse’ Better Identify Traumatic Brain Injury?
October 25, 2013
Accurately diagnosing traumatic brain injuries and concussions is difficult, as standard CT or MRI scans can’t see most changes to the brain caused by these injuries.
Clinicians must rely on patients accurately and candidly describing their symptoms, which many patients – such as soldiers and athletes – are hesitant to do for fear of being removed from action with their unit or team.
Borrowing a tactic used to identify lung infections, University of Virginia School of Medicine researchers have discovered a potential method to identify traumatic brain injuries that uses positron emission tomography scans and the body’s immune response to a brain injury.
University of Virginia: ‘Tip-of-the-Tongue’ Moments May Not Signal Age-Related Memory Decline, U.Va. Study Shows
October 22, 2013
Despite the common fear that those annoying “tip-of-the-tongue” moments are signals of age-related memory decline, the two phenomena appear to be independent, according to findings by University of Virginia psychologists published in the journal Psychological Science.
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remains unclear, according to U.Va. psychology professor Timothy Salthouse, the lead researcher.
“We wondered whether these self-reports are valid and, if they are, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia?,” he said.
University of Massachusetts: UMass Amherst Researcher Quantifies the Effectiveness of Video Ads
October 24, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Online video is a “killer application” of the Internet, predicted to soon make up 86 percent of consumer traffic on the web, says computer science researcher Ramesh Sitaraman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But advertisers who want to capitalize on it face a huge question: How effective are video ads?
“Video usage is growing so rapidly,” says Sitaraman, “but making online videos economically sustainable and profitable is a burning question of key importance to the future economics and evolution of the Internet.” He and research partner S. Shunmuga Krishnan of Akamai recently completed perhaps the largest-ever scientific study of the effectiveness of video ads, a fundamental question for business. Sitaraman will present their findings at the ACM Internet Measurement Conference in Barcelona on Oct. 24.
Sitaraman, who led the study, says a simple, well-accepted measure of ad effectiveness is whether viewers watch the video ads to completion or not. “Our goal was to scientifically understand what factors influence people to complete watching video ads and what contributes to them abandoning the ad before it completes.”
“Viewers by and large watch video ads to completion, though we found that the position in the video where the ad was inserted had the largest impact,” he adds. Ads inserted in the middle of a video where viewers are presumably most engaged with the content had the highest ad completion rate of 97 percent, while ads inserted at the beginning or end were completed at lesser rates, 74 and 45 percent, respectively.
Science Magazine: Ancient DNA Links Native Americans With Europe
25 October 2013
SANTA FE—Where did the first Americans come from? Most researchers agree that Paleoamericans moved across the Bering Land Bridge from Asia sometime before 15,000 years ago, suggesting roots in East Asia. But just where the source populations arose has long been a mystery.
Now comes a surprising twist, from the complete nuclear genome of a Siberian boy who died 24,000 years ago—the oldest complete genome of a modern human sequenced to date. His DNA shows close ties to those of today's Native Americans. Yet he apparently descended not from East Asians, but from people who had lived in Europe or western Asia. The finding suggests that about a third of the ancestry of today's Native Americans can be traced to "western Eurasia," with the other two-thirds coming from eastern Asia, according to a talk at a meeting* here by ancient DNA expert Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen. It also implies that traces of European ancestry previously detected in modern Native Americans do not come solely from mixing with European colonists, as most scientists had assumed, but have much deeper roots.
The Mountain Mail: Gunnison’s Tenderfoot holds archeological site
Gunnison’s Tenderfoot Mountain holds an archeological site representing one of the oldest structures ever recorded in North America, and now a Cultural Resource Management Plan will help ensure its protection.
A group that includes representatives from Western State Colorado University, archeologists, local TV and radio stations and telecommunications companies reached an agreement this month to preserve the archeological site while also preserving access for organizations that maintain equipment on the site.
Discovery News: Entombed Etruscan Was Expert Embroiderer
by Rossella Lorenzi
Oct 23, 2013 02:20 PM ET
Skeletal remains found last month in an untouched Etruscan tomb likely belonged to an aristocratic woman (not a prince, as earlier reported) buried alongside a spear and her sewing needles.
Analysis revealed that a small bronze box found beside the skeleton in Tarquinia contain the needles -- and some thread.
"X-rays showed the perfectly sealed box contains at least five needles, some threads remains and perhaps a sewing reel," Alfonsina Russo, Superintendent archaeologist for Southern Etruria, told Discovery News.
LiveScience via NBC News: 'Nail down the tongue': Ancient magician's curse found in Jerusalem
Owen Jarus LiveScience
A lead curse tablet, dating back around 1,700 years and probably written by a magician, has been discovered in a collapsed Roman mansion in Jerusalem, archaeologists report.
The mansion, which is being excavated by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Givati Parking Lot, is located in what is known as the "City of David," an area that holds at least 6,000 years of human occupation. The mansion itself covers at least 2,000 square meters (about half an acre) and contains two large open courtyards adjacent to each other. It was in use between the late third century and the year 363, when it was destroyed in a series of earthquakes on May 18 or 19.
The Scotsman (UK): Viking parliament found under Dingwall car park
by ALISTAIR MUNRO
A CAR park in a Highland town has been confirmed by archaeologists as the meeting place of a medieval Norse parliament.
Excavations at the Cromartie Memorial car park in Dingwall uncovered evidence of a mound that archaeologists believe was established in the 11th century as a gathering spot for a Viking parliament, known as a “Thing”.
When it was constructed the “Thing” would have been on a man-made islet in the estuary of the River Pefferey, historians claimed. They believe the mound was built on the instructions of Thorfinn the Mighty, a powerful Viking earl who died in 1065.
The Fresno Bee: Archaeologists unearth brick wall under Fresno's Chinatown
By Tim Sheehan — The Fresno Bee
Archaeologists digging a 71/2-foot-deep trench on a lot in Fresno's historic Chinatown were briefly excited Wednesday morning when they unearthed a section of a wall and two columns that they thought could be "evidence of an interconnected subterranean network" long believed to course under the neighborhood.
But closer examination revealed soot and scorch marks on the bricks, suggesting that the feature was an old basement fireplace instead of a long-plugged tunnel.
The work behind a building at Tulare and F streets is part of a study by consultants for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to determine whether its construction plans could affect cultural or historic resources in Chinatown. Underpasses are planned to carry traffic on Fresno, Tulare and Ventura streets under the future high-speed rail line that is proposed to run on the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad freight tracks between G and H streets.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Enid News: Prehistoric mammoth remains found in Oklahoma
Staff and wire reports
ENID, Okla. — Nearly two dozen Oklahoma State University students are helping excavate the remains of a prehistoric mammoth found near Enid.
The remains were discovered by Access Midstream workers installing a high-pressure natural gas line northwest of Enid. The remains are being moved to an OSU lab where they’re being studied and will be reconstructed.
OSU says researchers believe the mammoth is about 50,000 years old and is not a wooly mammoth — but could be an Imperial Mammoth or Columbia Mammoth. The elephant-like beasts roamed the southern Great Plains during prehistoric times.
N.Y. Times: Christening the Earliest Members of Our Genus
By CARL ZIMMER
Published: October 24, 2013
Around 1.8 million years ago, human evolution passed a milestone. Our ancestors before then were little more than bipedal apes. Those so-called hominids had chimpanzee-size bodies and brains, and they still had adaptations in their limbs for climbing trees. But the fossils of hominids from 1.8 to 1.5 million years ago are different. They had bigger brains, flatter faces and upright bodies better suited to walking.
Their geography changed, too. While earlier hominid fossils have only been found in Africa, the newer ones also turn up at sites stretching across Asia, from the Republic of Georgia all the way to Indonesia. These cosmopolitan hominids are so much like modern humans that paleoanthropologists consider them the earliest members of our own genus, Homo.
But they didn’t belong to our species, Homo sapiens. After all, their brains were still no more than two-thirds the size of our own, and they could only make simple hand axes and other crude stone tools. But if not Homo sapiens, then Homo what? What species did these fossils belong to?
That turns out to be a remarkably hard question to answer — in part because it is difficult to settle on what it means to be a species.
National Geographic News: Much Earlier Split for Neanderthals, Humans?
Study challenges thinking on last common ancestor of Neanderthals, humans.
Published October 21, 2013
In the ranks of prehistoric humans, Neanderthals were our closest relatives.
We were so close, in fact, that our species interbred with theirs. Tracing back our lineages, there must have been a last common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Neanderthals sometime in prehistory.
But who was this mystery human?
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
Seismological Society of America via Science Daily: Earthquake-Triggered Landslides Pose Significant Hazard for Seattle, New Study Details Potential Damage
Oct. 21, 2013
A new study suggests the next big earthquake on the Seattle fault may cause devastating damage from landslides, greater than previously thought and beyond the areas currently defined as prone to landslides. Published online Oct. 22 by the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (BSSA), the research offers a framework for simulating hundreds of earthquake scenarios for the Seattle area.
"A major quake along the Seattle fault is among the worst case scenarios for the area since the fault runs just south of downtown. Our study shows the need for dedicated studies on seismically induced landsliding" said co-author Kate Allstadt, doctoral student at University of Washington.
Seattle is prone to strong shaking as it sits atop the Seattle Basin -- a deep sedimentary basin that amplifies ground motion and generates strong seismic waves that tend to increase the duration of the shaking. The broader region is vulnerable to earthquakes from multiple sources, including deep earthquakes within the subducted Juan de Fuca plate, offshore megathrust earthquakes on Cascadia subduction zone and the shallow crustal earthquakes within the North American Plate.
University of Massachusetts: Key Features of Apple’s New Operating System Based on Technology from UMass Amherst
Researchers point to open sourcing as key to industry adoption of research ideas
October 22, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – With the release this week of Apple’s new operating system, “Mavericks,” computer science professors and longtime friends Emery Berger at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Scott Kaplan of Amherst College are hoisting a beer to celebrate as “proud papas” of some key components based on their research.
Their contributions will significantly improve performance and extend the battery life of Apple computers operating around the world with the new OS. It uses an algorithm by Berger that lets it manage internal memory resources more efficiently. Modern computers have multiple ‘cores,’ each a bit like an individual brain, he explains. “Like people, when they can operate independently, those brains can run at full speed, but if they have to have a meeting to discuss something, things slow down.”
His “Hoard” algorithm adopted by Apple manages memory resources in a way that reduces this communication and lets the computer make decisions faster. “Not only does this make the system faster overall, it also extends battery life because it spends less power to do the same job,” Berger notes.
University of Massachusetts: Physics Professor Jenny Ross Wins Grant to Study Organization Inside Cell’s Space
October 21, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Physicist Jennifer Ross of the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently won a four-year, $800,000 INSPIRE award from the National Science Foundation to uncover and establish the laws for the fundamental workings of cells, which form the basis of tissues in plants, animals and humans.
“Understanding the primary basis of how cells develop and organize can have broad implications for agriculture, energy and technology,” Ross says. She will partner with cellular biophysicist Margaret Gardel of the University of Chicago in the research, which they say offers “endless, yet measureable,” broad and positive possibilities for discovery in both life and physical sciences.
Their scientific goal is to discover the universal physical laws governing the organization of proteins and organelles inside cells. With NSF support, Ross has built a super-resolution microscope that allows her and colleagues to see, far more clearly than before, molecules 100 times smaller than are visible using a traditional light microscope. They fluorescently tag molecules and watch proteins that control cell processes such as cell division, for example, interact in real time.
University of Massachusetts: Polymer Scientists Jam Nanoparticles, Trapping Liquids into Useful Shapes
October 24, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Sharp observation by doctoral student Mengmeng Cui in Thomas Russell’s polymer science and engineering laboratory at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently led her to discover how to kinetically trap and control one liquid within another, locking and separating them in a stable system over long periods, with the ability to tailor and manipulate the shapes and flow characteristics of each.
Russell, her advisor, points out that the advance holds promise for a wide range of different applications including in drug delivery, biosensing, fluidics, photovoltaics, encapsulation and bicontinuous media for energy applications and separations media.
He says, “It’s very, very neat. We’ve tricked the system into remaining absolutely fixed, trapped in a certain state for as long as we like. Now we can take a material and encapsulate it in a droplet in an unusual shape for a very long time. Any system where I can have co-continuous materials and I can do things independently in both oil and water is interesting and potentially valuable.”
Science Crime Scenes
Rutgers University: Legal Scholar Publishes First Major Work on Neuroscience and the Law
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Wide-ranging predictions have been made on how new technologies in neuroscience could overhaul the legal system.
Lie detection may now capture one’s physical responses to questioning; newer tools seek to scrutinize blood flow in the brain as predictors of emotions that some researchers claim to possess the precise coordinates, including where love resides.
Dennis Patterson, a Board of Governors Professor at Rutgers Law–Camden, has published the book Mind, Brains, and Law: The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience (Oxford, Oct. 14, 2013), with co-author Michael S. Pardo. Their innovative work represents the first monograph on the exploration of the intersection of law and neuroscience and analyzes the core questions that arise when implementing neuroscientific research and technology into the legal system. The authors examine the arguments favoring increased use of neuroscience in law, the scientific evidence available for the reliability of neuroscientific evidence in legal proceedings, and the integration of neuroscientific research into substantive legal doctrines.
Rutgers University: Rutgers To Honor Scholar Who Is An Expert In Environmental Criminology, Wildlife Crime
Ronald Clark To Receive Research Excellence Award
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Ronald Clarke will be honored Nov. 14 by Rutgers University, Newark, with the Chancellor’s Excellence Award for exceptional contributions to research. Immediately prior to the award ceremony and reception, Clarke will give a public talk on “Criminology and the Conservation of Endangered Species,” explaining his research on wildlife crime -- the poaching of endangered species and illegal killing of wildlife.
This free event will be Thursday, Nov. 14, from 4:30 -7 p.m., in the Paul Robeson Campus Center Multipurpose Room, 350 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Newark NJ 07102-1898.
Clarke, a university professor in the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, is a resident of Milburn, N.J. His research focuses on environmental criminology and situational crime prevention, in relation to the problem of poaching of endangered species, by examining poaching markets and the likely intervention points to disrupt them.
Virginia Tech: Researchers meet in Morocco to focus on group violence and interventions
Oct. 22, 2013
The Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention recently assembled a small group of social scientists from across the world to investigate the causes and consequences of group violence.
Senior scholars from Sri Lanka, Finland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with faculty, graduate students and undergraduates from Virginia Tech, met in Rabat, Morocco, to produce a transdisciplinary research manuscript.
“Topics ranged from hate crimes committed by one individual to riots, revolutions, and terroristic acts committed by well-organized groups,” said Jim Hawdon, director of the center and professor of sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
“Our goal for this publication was to summarize current knowledge about group violence and address critical theoretical questions about the causes, as well as to identify common themes across various types of group violence, and outline areas for future research,” noted John Ryan, head of the Department of Sociology.
The book, “From Bullies to Terrorists: The Causes and Consequences of Group Violence,” will be published by Lexington Publishers.
Science, Space, Environment, and Energy Policy
Rutgers University: Rutgers-Newark Report: Superstorm Sandy Recovery Short $28.3 Billion; Pain Spread Across NJ
By Stephanie Hoopes Halpin
Friday, October 25, 2013
On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey towns and residents across the state still face $28.3 billion in unmet recovery needs, according to a new report from Rutgers-Newark, School of Public Affairs and Administration.
The report finds that the storm cost New Jersey more than $37.1 billion statewide, including $13.6 billion in direct physical and economic damage, plus $23.5 billion in remediation costs. Recovery assistance has met only a fraction of these costs, according to the report’s author, Rutgers University Assistant Professor Stephanie Hoopes Halpin. Through this report, Halpin reveals that damage was far more widespread than has been understood to date, stretching beyond the coastal communities and disproportionately affecting low- and moderate-income families.
“We believe this is the most comprehensive cost analysis of the storm so far,” said Marc Holzer, founding dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers-Newark. "It was our goal to give the state objective data that can be used to learn from Sandy and improve the state’s disaster response in the future."
Rutgers University: Rutgers to Host Forum on Future of History in U.S. National Parks
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Rutgers–Camden will host a free forum on the future of public history in U.S. National Parks from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6.
The program will be held in the Multi-Purpose Room, on the main level of the Campus Center, located on Third Street, between Cooper Street and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on the Rutgers–Camden campus.
Co-sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers–Camden, and the National Park Service, Northeast Region, the forum carries out the call to action outlined in a 2011 report titled “Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Parks.” Produced by the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service, the report beckons United States national parks to recommit to history as a core purpose and to invest in historical research, in an effort to foster preservation and engage visitors with history.
Rutgers University: Rutgers Professors Honored for Innovations in Medicine, Computer Technology, Agriculture
Monday, October 21, 2013
Four Rutgers professors have been honored by the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for innovations as diverse as leukemia-fighting drugs, hardy and faster growing cranberry plants, computerized voice recognition and shellfish genetics.
Guo, Mammone and Vorsa received “Inventor of the Year” awards from the Hall of Fame, and Kachlany received the organization’s “Innovators Award.” Guo’s collaborator and business partner, Standish Allen, also received Inventor of the Year recognition.
Another former Rutgers professor, physicist Shirley Ann Jackson, received the organization’s “Trustees Award.” She is now president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
University of Virginia: Engineering Students See France Through Thomas Jefferson’s Eyes
October 22, 2013
In February 1787, Thomas Jefferson left Paris for the French countryside. He had been in the city almost continuously for three years, first as U.S. trade commissioner and then as minister to France. But Jefferson was not the typical tourist.
His project then, as it was throughout his adult life, was nation-building, and given his omnivorous intellect, he looked to France for practical innovations that could contribute to the economic and cultural growth of the American republic. If there were souvenirs to be brought back, they would be in the form of ideas and observations.
Two hundred twenty-six years later, a group of summer-term students from the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science followed in Jefferson’s footsteps. They were participants in the course “Jefferson in France 1787: Connoisseurship, Commerce and Engineering,” taught by engineering and society professor Kay Neeley.
And although the students’ suitcases may have been weighted down by some French purchases, they, too, brought back their own shares of insight and information.
Boston University: In Zambia, Text Messages Save Lives
BU’s EWB chapter brings clean water, internet to rural village
By Nathanael Lee (ENG’15), Daniel Sade (ENG’14), Alan Pacheco (ENG’15), and Teresa Fulcher (ENG’15)
When we first stepped off the plane last August in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, we were greeted by the ubiquitous dust of the country’s dry season. We drove past fires on the side of the road, whose smoke mixed with the dust and followed us throughout our trip: from the bustling city, south to Livingstone, and out to our destination, the rural village of Naluja.
Two members of the BU student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-BU), founded six years ago, Nathanael Lee (ENG’15) and Dan Sade (ENG’14), traveled to Zambia in a partnership with BU’s Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD). We were joined by our mentors, Mohammed Jafri and Hunter Chaconas of the Boston chapter of the national organization of Engineers Without Borders, which focuses on global outreach.
As members of EWB-BU, we want to use engineering solutions to improve the quality of life of people in developing communities, the mission of the national EWB. Our chapter is currently concentrating solely on our partners in Zambia.
University of Massachusetts: Regional Planning Faculty Receive $250K NSF Grant for ‘City Science’ Exhibit at Worcester’s EcoTarium
October 23, 2013
A team of researchers led by Robert L. Ryan, landscape architecture and regional planning, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to integrate the science of urban systems into the new City Science exhibit at the EcoTarium museum in Worcester.
The project, “From the Lab to the Neighborhood: An Interactive Living Exhibit for Advancing STEM Engagement with Urban Systems in Science Museums,” will develop prototype exhibits that explore the complex interconnections between human and natural systems, using the city as a laboratory for informal learning.
The collaboration with exhibit designers and science educators at the EcoTarium, the second largest science museum in Massachusetts with over 130,000 visitors per year, is funded as a pilot grant from the NSF’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.
University of Massachusetts: Education Faculty Awarded $862,895 by National Science Foundation to Study Small Group Work in High School Science Classes
October 21, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $862,895 to Martina Nieswandt and Elizabeth McEneaney of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Education to analyze, evaluate and compare small group work on inquiry-based tasks and engineering design tasks in high school science classes.
Their three-year research study for the NSF’s Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) program and its strand, “STEM Learning in Formal and Informal Settings,” will look at the new Framework for K-12 Science Education that stresses the teaching and learning of scientific and engineering practices in order for students to understand and experience how scientists and engineers work, and how scientific knowledge is produced and engineering solutions are developed.
The study will build on the premise that group work for students in high school science classes will be more productive if it is designed specifically to focus on either scientific inquiry or engineering design. More specifically, Nieswandt and McEneaney will examine how small group work differs when students are engaged in engineering design tasks versus scientific inquiry tasks. In addition, the researchers will look into the different mix of cognitive, social and affective resources that students need individually and collectively in order to more productively learn about engineering design and scientific inquiry.
Science Writing and Reporting
The Economist: Trouble at the lab
Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not
Oct 19th 2013
I SEE a train wreck looming,” warned Daniel Kahneman, an eminent psychologist, in an open letter last year. The premonition concerned research on a phenomenon known as “priming”. Priming studies suggest that decisions can be influenced by apparently irrelevant actions or events that took place just before the cusp of choice. They have been a boom area in psychology over the past decade, and some of their insights have already made it out of the lab and into the toolkits of policy wonks keen on “nudging” the populace.
Dr Kahneman and a growing number of his colleagues fear that a lot of this priming research is poorly founded. Over the past few years various researchers have made systematic attempts to replicate some of the more widely cited priming experiments. Many of these replications have failed. In April, for instance, a paper in PLoS ONE, a journal, reported that nine separate experiments had not managed to reproduce the results of a famous study from 1998 purporting to show that thinking about a professor before taking an intelligence test leads to a higher score than imagining a football hooligan.
The idea that the same experiments always get the same results, no matter who performs them, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to objective truth. If a systematic campaign of replication does not lead to the same results, then either the original research is flawed (as the replicators claim) or the replications are (as many of the original researchers on priming contend). Either way, something is awry.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Science is Cool
BBC: How did ancient Greek music sound?
By Armand D'Angour
The music of ancient Greece, unheard for thousands of years, is being brought back to life by Armand D'Angour, a musician and tutor in classics at Oxford University. He describes what his research is discovering.
"Suppose that 2,500 years from now all that survived of the Beatles songs were a few of the lyrics, and all that remained of Mozart and Verdi's operas were the words and not the music.
Imagine if we could then reconstruct the music, rediscover the instruments that played them, and hear the words once again in their proper setting, how exciting that would be.
This is about to happen with the classic texts of ancient Greece.
Gizmodo: "The Streets Are Hollow": On the Job with an Archaeologist in NYC
This summer, as workers labored away at a construction site at the southern tip of Manhattan, a team of archaeologists following their progress made an amazing discovery: Booze-or more specifically, the bottles it came in-from the late 1700s. Right underneath our feet.
Who were these intrepid urban archaeologists? They're called Chrysalis Archaeology, a nimble nine-person team based in Brooklyn. And over the past 13 years, they've made some of the most exciting finds in recent memory-from buttons worn by Revolutionary War soldiers, fighting in the Battle of Brooklyn, to a 300-year-old well used by the earliest Manhattanites.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.
University of Virginia: Waste Diversion Challenge Scheduled For Georgia Tech Game
October 23, 2013
The University of Virginia will step up its game Saturday by adding food composting in its efforts to win an annual football game waste-reduction competition.
The Department of Athletics, U.Va. Sustainability and U.Va. Dining Services are partnering in the annual Game Day Challenge, to be held Saturday when the Cavalier football team hosts the Georgia Institute of Technology Yellow Jackets at Scott Stadium at 12:30 p.m.
The Game Day Challenge is a national competition sponsored by the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program, Keep America Beautiful and College and University Recycling Coalition, designed to promote waste reduction. This year, 63 colleges and universities are competing to reduce waste during a home football game. The schools will be ranked on their recycling and waste data, with the winner to be announced in January.
In previous years, U.Va. has relied solely upon aggressive recycling efforts in the competition, but this year it will include food waste composting.
Virginia Tech: Science and creativity collide in exhibit showcasing 'Hallmarks of Cancer' through student projects
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 21, 2013 – A new exhibit featuring student work at Newman Library highlights the science of cancer with a creative twist.
"The lifetime incidence of cancer is one in two for men and one in three for women living in the United States. Everybody has a cancer story and thus a deep emotional connection to this particular subject,” said Jill Sible, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education and professor of biological sciences in the College of Science.
That can make teaching a course on cancer biology challenging – balancing the study of scientific causes of cancer while being mindful and reverent of those who have or are suffering from the disease.
Sible structured the spring course around the "Hallmarks of Cancer," six distinguishing features of the disease. Lectures on the topic, however, were few and far between.