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 editors annetteboardman and Doctor RJ, 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 states with competitive contests for the U.S. Senate and Governor. Competitive states will be determined based on the percentage chance to win at Daily Kos Election Outlook. Those that show the two major party candidates having probabilities to win between 20% and 80% inclusive will count as competitive states. Currently, the states with competitive races for the U.S. Senate are Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and the states with competitive races for Governor include Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
This week's top stories come from The Economist.
On the grid
This year’s physiology prize goes for work on how animals know where they are
Oct 6th 2014
ANIMALS, most of them anyway, move about. That is what the word means. But it is not much use moving around if you do not know where you are. This year’s Nobel prize for physiology or medicine, therefore, was awarded to three scientists who have helped work out how mammals do this. Between them, John O’Keefe of University College London, and May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, in Trondheim, discovered two sets of cells, in two neighbouring parts of the brain, which tell that brain where it is.
This year’s prize is awarded for work that will ultimately light up the world
Oct 7th 2014
THE Nobel prizes were instituted as a means to reward individuals or organisations who, as Alfred Nobel's will had it, "have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind". Often in the field of physics, the benefit is a measure of understanding of the very small or the very distant: a light shone into the vast darkness of our ignorance about how the universe is composed, and how it works. This year, by contrast, the physics prize has been awarded for an actual light. But it is a light that has already conferred great benefit on mankind, and promises yet more. Japanese researchers Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University, Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University, and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara shared in cracking the problem of making diodes that give off blue light.
Resolve to do better
This year’s prize is for ways to peer into the tiniest bits of life's machinery
Oct 8th 2014
In 1873 a German physicist named Ernst Abbe proved that a microscope could not discern features smaller than about half the wavelength of the light used by the microscope. A high-quality visible-light microscope, then, would be capable of seeing some of the tiny structures within a living cell. But anything smaller—viruses, proteins and so on—would remain forever out of reach.
Or so it was thought. On October 8th, Sweden's Royal Academy of Science awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry to three scientists: Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell and William Moerner, for their work in inventing a creative way to circumvent Abbe's resolution limit.
More stories after the jump.
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Colorado State University: Summit Hall shines in sustainability thanks to students and staff
While most “green” buildings are recognized for their sustainable design and construction, more are gaining recognition for showcasing sustainable practices in a different way – one that involves the attitudes and behaviors of the people who use the buildings.
CSU’s Summit Hall is one of those buildings. The on-campus residence hall has been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification in the Existing Buildings, Operations & Maintenance (EBOM) category, one of the highest ratings available. The system was developed for existing commercial and institutional buildings, and is applicable to building operations, processes, systems upgrades and minor space use changes and is targeted toward building owners and operators of the existing building.
Nearly three years ago, CSU Housing & Dining staff set out to make Summit Hall more sustainable, through a combination of renovation and changes in policies and programs within the building.
Northern Illinois University: Interfacing eyewear? Smart sneakers? Robo-gloves? Brain 2.0?
October 8, 2014
NIU’s David Gunkel says today’s wearable tech is only in its infancy
The new Apple Watch might be an exciting accessory for techies, but it’s only the tip of the technological iceberg compared to what the future has in store for consumers wanting wearable computers.
So says award-winning NIU Professor David Gunkel, who specializes in the study of information and communication technology and is author of the book, “The Machine Question: Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots and Ethics” (MIT 2012).
“In the not too distant future, the object that we once knew as the computer will be distributed across a network of devices worn on our bodies—eyeglasses that provide visual data, clothing that monitors biometric data, shoes that create electrical power with every step, and gloves and jewelry that provide gestural control at our fingertips,” Gunkel says.
University of Iowa: Treating cancer: UI biologists find gene that could stop tumors in their tracks
By: Brittany Borghi
2014.10.06 | 11:06 AM
The dirt in your backyard may hold the key to isolating cancerous tumors and to potential new treatments for a host of cancers.
University of Iowa researchers have found a gene in a soil-dwelling amoeba that functions similarly to the main tumor-fighting gene found in humans, called PTEN.
When healthy, PTEN suppresses tumor growth in humans. But the gene is prone to mutate, allowing cancerous cells to multiply and form tumors. PTEN mutations are believed to be involved in 40 percent of breast cancer cases, up to 70 percent of prostate cancer cases, and nearly half of all leukemia cases, according to a review of the literature by the UI researchers. Combined, more than 465,000 new cases of breast and prostate cancer have been documented in 2014, according to data from the American Cancer Society.
University of Michigan: Video series featuring U-M experts puts Ebola outbreak in perspective
October 7, 2014
ANN ARBOR—Now that Ebola has made its way to the United States and health officials are beginning to predict its global spread, University of Michigan School of Public Health experts discuss the disease in a series of videos that address how it is transmitted, the likelihood of spread in this country, its severity, and questions about vaccines, quarantine and isolation.
Discovery News: How Does Your Brain's GPS Work?
This week, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to Professor John O’Keefe and Edvard and May-Britt Moser for their studies of the brain’s internal gps! How exactly does it all work? Trace explains.
Discovery News: Can You Get Ebola From A Dog?
A woman in Spain is infected with Ebola, and now health officials have ordered that her dog is to be killed. Can dogs get Ebola, and can they transfer the virus to humans? Trace is here to talk about all of the recent, tragic ebola news.
Discovery News: Is Enterovirus D68 Worse Than Ebola?
Enterovirus is currently causing panic in the United States. What exactly is enterovirus D68, and just how much should we be worried? Tara is here to explain.
Discovery News: Climate Change Is Causing Fewer Male Births!
Climate change is not only affecting the environment, but it actually is causing less male births! Tara is here to explain this weird consequence.
NASA: U.S. spacewalk on ISS on This Week @NASA
Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 41 Flight Engineers Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency donned U.S. spacesuits for an October 7 spacewalk to relocate a failed cooling pump and to install a backup power cable device for the station’s rail car system. The failed pump was replaced with a spare and is being temporarily stowed near the Quest airlock and the back-up power cables are for the unlikely event that the Mobile Transporter rail car on the station’s truss loses power. Also, A comet’s Mars flyby, Brightest pulsar! Total Lunar Eclipse and LADEE wins Popular Mechanics award!
NASA: Orion: Trial By Fire
NASA’s newest spacecraft, Orion, will be launching into space for the first time in December 2014, on a flight that will take it farther than any spacecraft built to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years and through temperatures twice as hot as molten lava to put its critical systems to the test.
JPL/NASA: Comet Siding Spring: A Close Encounter with Mars
Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will make a very close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, 2014. Passing at a distance of only 87,000 miles (by comparison that's little more than 1/3 the distance between Earth and our moon), it’ll be a near miss of the Red Planet. Find out how NASA’s Mars orbiters will evade the onslaught of dust particles from the comet.
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: First Light for MAVEN
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft has reached Mars and it is beaming back "First Light" images of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere. The data could help researchers understand what transformed Mars from a hospitable planet billions of years ago into a desiccated wasteland today.
Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: October 2014
Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." October boasts an intriguing variety of eclipse, planets and stars. And that faint smudge in the sky is our nearest large galactic companion, Andromeda.
University of Colorado: Hubble Telescope project involving CU-Boulder maps temperature, water vapor on wild exoplanet
October 9, 2014
A team of scientists including a University of Colorado Boulder professor used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to make the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a giant, oddball planet orbiting another star, an object twice as massive as Jupiter and hot enough to melt steel.
The Hubble observations show that the planet, called WASP-43b, is no place to call home. It’s a world of extremes, where winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit dayside to a pitch-black nightside when temperatures plunge to a relatively cool 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, still hot enough to melt silver.
The map provides information about temperatures at different layers of the planet’s atmosphere and traces the amount and distribution of water present. The findings have ramifications for understanding the atmospheric dynamics and the formation of giant planets like Jupiter, said team leader Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago. “These measurements have opened the door for a new kind of comparative planetology.”
A paper on the subject was published online Oct. 9 in Science Express.
University of Colorado: NASA awards CU-Boulder-led team $7 million to study origins, evolution of life in universe
October 7, 2014
NASA has awarded a team led by the University of Colorado Boulder more than $7 million to study aspects of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.
The team, led by CU-Boulder Professor Alexis Templeton of the geological sciences department, will be researching what scientists call “rock-powered life.” Rocky planets store enormous amounts of chemical energy, that, when released through the interaction of rocks and water, have the ability to power living systems on Earth as well as on other planets like Mars, said Templeton, principal investigator on the effort.
Scientists believe that habitable or potentially inhabited environments may exist in the subsurface of Mars as well as the interiors of Europa and Ganymede -- two of the moons of Jupiter -- and Triton, a moon of Neptune, said CU-Boulder Research Associate Thomas McCollom of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, a co-investigator on the effort. Rather than photosynthesis, the researchers believe a number of life forms in the solar system and perhaps beyond may be powered by “chemosynthesis,” a process that does not require sunlight, he said.
Colorado State University: Down to Earth: Astronaut talks with engineering students about trip to space
by Kortney Rolston
October 6, 2014
The last time Steve Swanson chatted with Colorado State University students and “visited” campus he was 205 miles above the Earth at the International Space Station.
The NASA astronaut conducted a live, interactive chat with students in April, sporting CSU gear and holding a Cam the Ram bobble head doll.
Swanson returned to Earth in September. He stopped by CSU on October 4 to visit his son and talk to students in a beginning engineering course about NASA and his five-month stint in space.
“This is an opportunity you don’t get very often so take advantage of it,” Tom Siller, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and one of the course instructors, told students.
University of Massachusetts: Assuring Good Nutrition for Astronauts
UMass Amherst food scientists partner with NASA to improve spaceflight foods
October 8, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – Maintaining the nutritional value of astronauts’ food in space over long periods without refrigeration is a challenge, particularly for the essential vitamins. Now University of Massachusetts Amherst food scientists Hang Xiao and colleagues have received a three-year, $982,685 grant from NASA to investigate the degradation of essential vitamins over time in spaceflight foods, and develop strategies to minimize loss.
Xiao and UMass Amherst colleagues Micha Peleg, Eric Decker, D. Julian McClements, Lili He and Anna Liu, with graduate students, will monitor the degradation mechanisms and kinetics in different types of foods given to astronauts during food processing and two years of storage. It’s currently unknown how certain essential vitamins such as B1 (thiamine) and K in different foods respond to the conditions of spaceflight, Xiao points out.
“We’ll use the same foods that the flight crews receive at the International Space Station,” Xiao says. His team will determine the influence of the preparation and preservation conditions, the vitamins interactions with the food matrix, storage conditions and other factors on the degradation kinetics, that is the rate of potency loss.
Michigan State University: Zeroing in on a source of gamma rays
October 8, 2014
Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of radioactive waves known in the universe. However, how they’re made and where they come from have been a bit of a mystery.
But now a team of researchers, led by Michigan State University astronomer Laura Chomiuk, has made a discovery that may shed some light on the subject.
Using highly detailed radio telescope images, Chomiuk and her team have pinpointed the location where an explosion on the surface of a star, known as a nova, emitted gamma rays.
This, said Chomiuk, is something they did not expect to encounter.
University of Illinois: Bioenergy crops could store more carbon in soil
Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In addition to providing renewable energy, grass crops like switchgrass and miscanthus could store some of the carbon they pull from the atmosphere in the soil, according to a new study by University of Illinois researchers.
The study compared soil dynamics – the ratio of carbon to nitrogen and microbial activity – of bioenergy crops with that of a standard corn-corn-soybean rotation. They found that in bioenergy crops, a certain threshold of plant matter left in the field after harvest lets much more carbon accumulate in the soil.
Led by civil and environmental engineering professor Praveen Kumar, the researchers published their findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Iowa State University: 2014 World Food Prize Laureate will present ISU’s Borlaug Lecture Oct. 13
Posted Oct 6, 2014 11:50 am
AMES, Iowa — Plant scientist Sanjaya Rajaram, named the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate for developing high-yielding wheat varieties grown on more than 58 million hectares worldwide, will present the Norman Borlaug Lecture at Iowa State University.
“In the Footsteps of Norman Borlaug: The Golden Years of Wheat Production” will be at 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 13, in the Memorial Union Great Hall. A reception and student poster display will precede the lecture at 7 p.m. in the South Ballroom. Undergraduate and graduate students will present posters on their research on world food issues. The Norman Borlaug Lecture is part of the World Affairs Series at Iowa State. It is free and open to the public.
As the most widely grown cereal crop in the world, wheat is a primary source of calories and protein for 4.5 billion people in more than 100 countries. Rajaram’s plant breeding research built upon the successes of the Green Revolution and resulted in a remarkable increase in world wheat production. By crossing winter and spring wheat varieties — which were distinct gene pools that had been isolated from one another for hundreds of years — he created wheat varieties that are disease- and stress-resistant and adaptable to diverse geographical regions and climates. In 2007, Norman Borlaug called Rajaram “the greatest present-day wheat scientist in the world.”
University of Massachusetts: New Severe Storm Warning Tools on the Horizon
October 10, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – A mobile weather app that would allow officials to send targeted, neighborhood-level warnings of approaching severe weather, something that might have helped residents of Hadley and Easthampton this week, is in the early stages of development now in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area, led by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Brenda Philips, an economist and co-director of the Collaborative Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) center at UMass Amherst, has a four-year, $2.48 million National Science Foundation grant to study how the mobile devices in our pockets, bags and backpacks can be enlisted as part of the next generation of weather warning systems in the coming decade.
“With mobile phone ownership ballooning to an estimated 85 percent of American adults in recent years, it makes sense to use the opportunity,” she says. “People want to know precisely if severe winds or hail is headed towards their homes, workplaces or schools. It’s not enough to know that their county is under a threat. Smart phones and tablets can deliver this information in a way that is relevant to an individual user.”
University of Michigan: Space-based methane maps find largest U.S. signal in Southwest
October 9, 2014
ANN ARBOR—An unexpectedly high amount of the climate-changing gas methane, the main component of natural gas, is escaping from the Four Corners region in the U.S. Southwest, according to a new study by the University of Michigan and NASA.
The researchers mapped satellite data to uncover the nation's largest methane signal seen from space. They measured levels of the gas emitted from all sources, and found more than half a teragram per year coming from the area where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. That's about as much methane as the entire coal, oil, and gas industries of the United Kingdom give off each year.
Four Corners sits on North America's most productive coalbed methane basin. Coalbed methane is a variety of the gas that's stuck to the surface of coal. It is dangerous to miners (not to mention canaries), but in recent decades, it's been tapped as a resource.
Wayne State University: New Wayne State University museum exhibit examines history, ecology of Detroit River
October 6, 2014
The exhibit premiere of “Follow the Lines: Environmental Legacy, Health & Fishing the Detroit River” will open Oct. 8 in the Gordon L. Grosscup Museum of Anthropology at Wayne State University.
This multimedia exhibit invites you to explore how the industrialization that greatly improved our modern way of life also created lasting harms, its impacts on health and the environment from past to present, and how you can shape a safer future.
Part of an ongoing public-private partnership forged to examine urban health and anglers, the exhibit grew from studies by Wayne State University anthropologists collaborating with the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fred and Barbara Erb Family Foundation.
The study explored the web of health and environment woven by industrial production, toxic chemicals accumulating in rivers and fish, and local fishing practices. Fishing plays a strong role in transmitting family values across generations, building community and serves as an important food source for some. While progress has been made in cleaning the river, continued care is necessary to reduce the health risks from the legacy of toxic chemicals.
University of Illinois: Study: Big-headed ants grow bigger when faced with fierce competitors
Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala) is considered one of the world’s worst invasive ant species. As the name implies, its colonies include soldier ants with disproportionately large heads. Their giant, muscle-bound noggins power their biting parts, the mandibles, which they use to attack other ants and cut up prey. In a new study, researchers report that big-headed ant colonies produce larger soldiers when they encounter other ants that know how to fight back.
The new findings appear in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Big-headed ants are world travelers, hitching rides with humans to get around. Scientists have found them in more than 1,600 sites across the globe (see map). Their arrival at a sufficiently warm destination (they cannot tolerate cold weather) spells almost certain doom for native ants, spiders, beetles and other invertebrates that are unaccustomed to their brand of warfare.
Michigan State University: Feral swine study to assess statewide impact
October 3, 2014
A new study will pair MSU researchers with researchers from the University of Michigan-Flint to learn more about one of the state’s most potentially destructive invasive species, feral swine.
The approximately $500,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources also pulls in resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“To eradicate feral swine from Michigan, we need to develop a better understanding of their ecology -- specifically, how they use and disperse through landscapes,” said Gary Roloff, associate professor in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
University of Wisconsin: Balancing birds and biofuels: Grasslands support more species than cornfields
by Kelly April Tyrell
October 9, 2014
In Wisconsin, bioenergy is for the birds. Really.
In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) scientists examined whether corn and perennial grassland fields in southern Wisconsin could provide both biomass for bioenergy production and bountiful bird habitat.
The research team found that where there are grasslands, there are birds. Grass-and-wildflower-dominated fields supported more than three times as many bird species as cornfields, including 10 imperiled species found only in the grasslands. These grassland fields can also produce ample biomass for renewable fuels.
Monica Turner, UW-Madison professor of zoology, and study lead author Peter Blank, a postdoctoral researcher in her lab, hope the findings help drive decisions that benefit both birds and biofuels, too, by providing information for land managers, farmers, conservationists and policy makers as the bioenergy industry ramps up, particularly in Wisconsin and the central U.S.
University of Illinois: Teen gaming addicts may wind up physically healthier as young adults, study says
Sharita Forrest, Social Work Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Teens who play video/computer games 21 hours a week or more may be physically healthier and less prone to obesity as young adults than peers who spend their time on other pursuits. But gamers who log the most screen time also may be more prone to depression in young adulthood, a new study says.
Experts have suggested that young people who are heavy video/computer game users are likely to become “mouse potatoes” with a variety of mental, physical and social problems.
However, researcher Chennan Liu tracked more than 10,800 youth in the U.S. and found that the long-term consequences of heavy gaming included a mix of positive and negative effects.
University of Illinois at Chicago: Testosterone stimulates prostate cancer in animal model
Sherri McGinnis González
October 7, 2014
Testosterone raises the risk of prostate cancer in an animal model, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher, who urges caution in prescribing testosterone therapy to men for non-medical reasons.
The findings are published online, ahead of print, in the Endocrine Society’s journal Endocrinology.
The study found that testosterone on its own is a weak carcinogen in male rats. When combined with the cancer-causing chemical N-nitroso-N-methylurea (MNU), testosterone significantly increases the frequency of prostate cancer.
Iowa State University: Iowa State University researchers turn to robotics to improve understanding of plant growth
Posted Oct 10, 2014 9:03 am
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University faculty members are developing a new facility that will utilize a specially designed robot to gather unprecedented amounts of data on the growth of plants under different environmental conditions.
The project was funded recently by a $929,773 grant from the National Science Foundation. ISU personnel plan to have a prototype of the plant-growth facility next year and a completed facility with as many as eight growth chambers in three years.
“Everything has to be created from the ground up,” said Steven Whitham, a professor of plant pathology and microbiology and the primary investigator of the project.
University of Wisconsin: Company developing radio frequency technology to localize breast tumors
by Scott Gordon
October 9, 2014
Breast cancer may inspire more public discussion, advocacy and charitable giving than almost any other disease besides HIV and AIDS. But people rarely talk about the specific experiences to which cancer patients are subjected.
Especially the localization wire.
A localization wire literally is a thin wire inserted into the breast through a needle to help mark the location of a tumor or benign mass on the day of surgery. For the patient, it's one more step in an already painful and emotionally agonizing process.
For a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers and clinicians, it was an opportunity to develop a solution that is technologically elegant, precise and patient-centric.
University of Wisconsin: Influenza researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka wins Breakthrough Award
by Kelly April Tyrell
October 7, 2014
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Yoshihiro Kawaoka has been recognized as a 2014 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award recipient for his efforts to understand and prevent pandemic influenza.
He joins a list of prominent innovators, scientists and engineers selected for the award over the past decade for their world-changing contributions, including: SpaceX and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk; XPRIZE Foundation founder Peter Diamandis; and humanitarian engineer Amy Smith.
"I am just so happy," says Kawaoka, a UW-Madison professor of veterinary medicine who studies influenza and Ebola viruses. "I think I don't believe it."
University of Colorado: Acknowledging appearance reduces bias when beauties apply for masculine jobs, says CU-Boulder-led study
October 7, 2014
Past research shows physical beauty can be detrimental to women applying for masculine jobs. But belles can put the brakes on discrimination by acknowledging their looks during an interview, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The paper, published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, is the first to provide a method for curtailing such prejudice against attractive women.
In the study, when an attractive woman applied for a job typically filled by men -- a construction job -- and said, “I know I don’t look like your typical applicant,” or “I know there aren’t a lot of women in this industry,” and pointed out successes on her resume, she received higher ratings from reviewers than counterparts who made no mention of their looks.
University of Illinois: Study: Talking while driving safest with someone who can see what you see
Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A new study offers fresh insights into how talking on a cellphone or to a passenger while driving affects one’s performance behind the wheel. The study used a driving simulator and videophone to assess how a driver’s conversation partner influences safety on the road.
“We’ve done years of study on driver distraction, and previous studies suggest that passengers often aren’t distracting. In fact, passengers can be helpful, especially if they’re adults who have had experience and also are active drivers themselves,” said University of Illinois psychology professor and Beckman Institute director Arthur Kramer, who led the research with postdoctoral fellow Kyle Mathewson and graduate student John Gaspar. Mathewson is now a professor of psychology at the University of Alberta.
The researchers hoped to discover which aspects of talking to a passenger most affect a driver’s performance – rather than talking to someone on a cellphone, which is often dangerous. To do this, they set up four driving scenarios: a driver alone in the simulator, a driver speaking to a passenger in the simulator, a driver speaking on a hands-free cellphone to someone in a remote location, and a driver speaking on a hands-free cellphone to someone in a remote location who could see the driver and observe the driving scene out the front windshield via videophone.
University of Illinois: UI study shows classroom clickers help students learn by showing them what they don't know
By: Tom Snee
2014.10.08 | 10:33 AM
Students learn more in class when faculty members use clickers to assess what the students are learning, a new study from the University of Iowa suggests.
The study, co-authored by William Hedgcock, assistant professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business, finds that students were more apt to read the textbooks, enjoyed the class more, and received grades that were one-third of a grade higher when they used clickers.
Clickers are small remote control devices that allow students to answer short true-false or multiple choice quizzes during a class. Teachers can see their students’ responses immediately and can use that information to determine how well the students understand the material and if they need to continue working on it.
Colorado State University: The hallowed, haunted halls of Colorado State
by Jennifer Lobermeir
October 7, 2014
Colorado State University’s Student Services building has a somewhat checkered past. Eugene Groves, the architect who designed the building, was committed to an insane asylum after authorities unraveled his plot to murder his wife and bury her body beneath the structure. The story contributes to the building’s haunted reputation.
CSU has a rich history in academics – and ghost stories.
Students and staff have long told of seeing ghosts or hearing unexplained noises in some of the University’s oldest buildings. Some of the first reports of these ghoulish incidents date back several decades.
Each October, RamTrax Visitor Services offers the Mystery of CSU History tour to provide the curious with information about the University — and related ghost stories.
Associated Press via The Guardian: Time capsule unearthed in New York: 'This is the thrill of recovering relics
Time capsule forgotten about in 1974 – its intended year to be unsealed – reveals documents, booklets and newspapers
October 9, 2014
A century-old time capsule, filled mostly with documents by long-gone Wall Street businessmen celebrating New York as a commercial hub, was unsealed on Wednesday.
Spectators at the New York Historical Society gathered around the mysterious bronze box as workers wearing surgical gloves removed 26 screws keeping it sealed since 1914.
LiveScience: Newfound South American Predator Snacked on Little Dinosaurs
by Charles Q. Choi
October 07, 2014 07:22pm ET
A puma-sized predatory dinosaur that may have snacked on its smaller cousins while stomping about an ancient rift valley dotted with erupting volcanoes has been discovered in Venezuela. The finding could shed light on the evolution of all carnivorous dinosaurs, researchers say.
The newfound fossil, from a dinosaur named Tachiraptor admirabilis, was unearthed from the northernmost branch of the Andes Mountains at the western border of Venezuela. The only bones from the dinosaur found so far are its shinbone and part of its hip bone, but these are enough to reveal that the beast was relatively small compared with its later, giant relatives, measuring about 4.9 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) long.
This two-legged species is the first predatory dinosaur unearthed in Venezuela. Its name derives from three sources: Táchira, the Venezuelan state where the fossil was discovered; raptor, Latin for thief, referring to the dinosaur's probable predatory habits; and "admirabilis," for Simón Bolívar's Admirable Campaign, which freed Venezuela from Spanish control, and in which La Grita, the town close to where the bones were found, played a strategic role. The fossils were discovered in early 2013, "near where a road was cut out of La Grita," said lead study author Max Langer, a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
LiveScience: New Zealand's Earthquake Deep Drilling Project Underway
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
October 06, 2014 02:38pm ET
A deep-drilling project into one of the world's most dangerous earthquake faults is now underway on New Zealand's South Island.
Scientists from around the world have gathered at the drill site near Whataroa, north of Franz Josef glacier, for the rare opportunity to glimpse the inner workings of the Alpine Fault. The island-spanning fault unleashes a great earthquake every two to four centuries, with the average time between temblors about 330 years. The most recent earthquake, in 1717, was an estimated magnitude 8.1.
Through the drilling project, researchers hope to catch warning signs before the Alpine Fault unleashes its next earthquake. The odds of another magnitude-8 earthquake in the next 50 years are a relatively high 28 percent, say the project's scientists.
University of Florida: UF’s MIST Center to lead research of smart electronics for emerging 'Internet of Things'
October 8, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- The University of Florida’s Multi-functional Integrated System Technology (MIST) Center will play a leading role in researching the next generation of “smart” electronics funded by a National Science Foundation program that combines federal money with industry investments in strategic research.
As a designated Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, the MIST Center will receive over $880,000 from the NSF and upwards of $4 million from industry and government partners to help power the “Internet of Things.”
In the last 30 years, the Internet revolution has completely changed how we communicate, exchange money and explore the world. Access to the Internet has evolved from the desktop computer to hand-held - and now wearable - devices. Soon, engineers envision an interconnected cyber-physical world, dubbed an “Internet of Things.” The MIST Center will research the materials, sensors, actuators, power sources and electronics that are expected to drive this new era.
University of Michigan: Large drop in fuel economy in September.
Gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. posted its largest drop in nearly three years, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, vans and SUVs purchased in September was 25.3 mpg, down from a record high 25.8 mpg in August. The last time fuel economy fell by 0.5 mpg was in December 2011.
"This large drop likely reflects the increased sales of light trucks and SUVs, and the reduced demand for fuel efficient vehicles of all types because of the falling gas prices," said UMTRI research professor Michael Sivak.
National Endowment for the Humanities: John Donne Delivered a Sermon on Gunpowder Day in 1622. What Did It Sound Like?
By Steve Moyer
HUMANITIES, September/October 2014 | Volume 35, Number 5
What John Donne (1572–1631) may have sounded like, not while reciting, say, “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” or another of his metaphysical poems or sonnets, but in delivering a sermon from the preaching stand in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral, is the principal goal of the Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, headed up by John Wall at North Carolina State University. The sermons would have been two hours long and explained royal policies. St. Paul’s Cross, says Wall, was “where the general population of England came in contact with the government and the official state church.” Donne, poet, lawyer, and Anglican priest, was also dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1622, when James I asked him to deliver the Gunpowder Day Sermon on November 5. Donne owed his position to James I, and it was the clergyman’s duty to help convey the crown’s position on both national politics and religious policies. How this may have been received by a crowd of as many as six thousand Londoners was what the NEH project set out to accomplish.
“One of the basic questions we had when we started this had to do with acoustics,” says Wall. “How many people can hear an unamplified human voice?” With the aid of acoustic simulation, Wall and his team dealt with technicalities such as signal-to-noise ratio. Ambient noise at St. Paul’s Churchyard would have included the fluttering of pigeons, a horse walking along the perimeter of the courtyard, and shuffling feet and mumbling from those in attendance. “We know the building was made of stone,” David Hill, another of Wall’s colleagues, reminds, “and we know where the openings were, we know where John Donne may have stood.” In fact, the courtyard created a stadium effect. At times, the sermon would have been difficult for everyone in the crowd to hear, but the project demonstrates that it would have been intelligible to many. To many others, however, the sermon was simply a social experience, even a performance.
Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for this story.
Michigan State University: Cool research: Searching for neutrinos at the South Pole
October 6, 2014
When Tyce DeYoung plans his next research field trip, he’ll make sure to pack his mittens, scarf and long underwear.
The Michigan State University associate professor of physics and astronomy, along with assistant professor Kendall Mahn, is part of an MSU team that recently joined an international consortium studying mysterious particles known as neutrinos.
The site of the lab where they do the work: The South Pole.
The consortium consists of 300 researchers from 12 countries. It is named, very appropriately, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
University of Illinois: Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics
Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they did not know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics.
Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine. Threading a DNA molecule through a tiny hole, called a nanopore, in a sheet of graphene allows researchers to read the DNA sequence; however, they have limited control over how fast the DNA moves through the pore. In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, University of Illinois physics professor Aleksei Aksimentiev and graduate student Manish Shankla applied an electric charge to the graphene sheet, hoping that the DNA would react to the charge in a way that would let them control its movement down to each individual link, or nucleotide, in the DNA chain.
“Ideally, you would want to step the DNA through the nanopore one nucleotide at a time,” said Aksimentiev. “Take a measurement and then have another nucleotide in the sensing hole. That’s the goal, and it hasn’t been realized yet. We show that, to some degree, we can control the process by charging the graphene.”
Science Crime Scenes
Florida State University: Cybersecurity campaign urges online safety at Florida State
Megan Del Debbio
10/01/2014 10:08 am
In today's helter-skelter world of online interactions, transactions and distractions, the risk of identity theft, credit card fraud and other security threats are more widespread than ever. And it’s going to take a superhero effort to battle it.
This October, Florida State University joins a national effort to promote cybersecurity and privacy by participating in National Cyber Security Awareness Month (#NCSAM). The “Be a Cyberhero” campaign sponsored by the Information Security and Privacy Office (ISPO) within Information Technology Services (ITS), challenges faculty, staff and students to make a commitment to build a safe cyberspace at Florida State.
The purpose of the campaign is to educate the campus on safe cybersecurity practices and empower users to learn how to use the Internet safely and securely at work, school and home.
University of Illinois at Chicago: UIC policy expert named to NFL’s violence panel
October 3, 2014
Beth Richie, director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been named a senior adviser to the National Football League’s policy group addressing domestic violence and sexual assault.
She joins a previously announced group tasked with developing the NFL’s educational and service programs, and to assist in revising the league’s personal conduct policy.
“The problem of violence, particularly against women and children, can’t simply be addressed by public policies relying on incarceration. So it’s important for organizational and grassroots efforts to take into account the need for education, resources, outreach and social change,” said Richie, who is professor of African-American studies; criminology, law, and justice; and gender and women’s studies at UIC.
“This is a unique moment in our national consciousness as we consider the impact of violence against women and the role of institutions in preventing and responding to it. I look forward to working with the distinguished panel and the NFL to address these issues and deliver policies that will have a positive impact on the individuals most affected, the league overall and social institutions more broadly as we strive to enhance public awareness of and response to the problem of violence.”
University of Iowa: UI commits additional funding to enhance sexual assault prevention education
Funding will create two new positions; increase existing position from half- to full-time
By: Office of Strategic Communication
2014.10.06 | 12:07 PM
The University of Iowa continues making progress toward meeting the goals outlined in president Sally Mason’s Six Point Plan to Combat Sexual Assault.
On Oct. 6, president Mason announced the UI is committing funding to support three prevention education specialist positions at the UI Women’s Resource & Action Center (WRAC) and the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP).
“The UI takes the issue of sexual assault very seriously, and there is absolutely no place for this crime on our campus,” says Mason. “The university is committed to doing everything in its power to prevent sexual violence, provide support to survivors, and hold offenders accountable. We will continue to address this problem and create a culture where sexual assault isn’t tolerated.”
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Illinois: Trails, pickleball popular with Illinois fitness enthusiasts, survey says
Sharita Forrest, News Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Illinoisans want more trails, interest in pickleball is on the upswing, and some communities are pulling the plugs on their aging swimming pools, according to a recent survey of the organizations and municipalities that operate public recreation facilities in Illinois.
The Office of Recreation and Park Resources at the University of Illinois conducts the survey about every two years for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Realty and Environmental Planning.
The survey provides IDNR with an inventory of parkland acreage and public recreational facilities throughout the state, and the department uses the data in its planning and consulting activities and in awarding grants.
University of Illinois: U. of I. professor named to U.S. Census Bureau advisory committee
Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The U.S. Census Bureau has named Julie A. Dowling, a University of Illinois professor of Latina and Latino studies, to its National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations.
Dowling has done extensive research on the racial identification of Latinos in the U.S., including how regional context affects Latinos’ racial responses on the U.S. census. She laid out many of her findings in her book “Mexican Americans and the Question of Race,” published earlier this year, and has been cited in stories by NBC and NPR.
The national advisory committee, on which Dowling will serve a three-year term, advises the Census Bureau on a wide range of variables that affect the cost, accuracy and implementation of its programs and surveys, including the once-a-decade census.
Dowling will be one of 10 new members on the committee, which has 32 members overall, drawn from multiple disciplines and with expertise on topics such as housing, children, poverty, privacy, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
University of Iowa: UI alumnus and climate scientist James Hansen to speak at UI
Hansen studied under legendary UI space scientist James Van Allen
By: Hayley Bruce
2014.10.10 | 02:45 PM
University of Iowa alumnus and climate scientist James Hansen will deliver a lecture on lessons from Iowa and global climate policies as he returns to the UI campus.
Hansen's lecture, "Speaking Truth to Power: Lessons from Iowa and Relevance to Global Climate Policies," will be Thursday, Oct. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union.
The lecture is one in a series of events in the UI Public Policy Center’s “Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge” symposium.
University of Colorado: CU-Boulder National Education Policy Center launches project to recognize top high schools
October 2, 2014
A University of Colorado Boulder research center will recognize public schools for what they do to give all students the chance to succeed, rather than turning to test scores to determine school quality.
The Schools of Opportunity project is now seeking applications from public high schools in Colorado and New York. Next year, the project will expand to include schools nationwide, recognizing schools that use research-based practices to close the opportunity gaps that result in unequal opportunities to learn, in school and beyond school.
For example, although schools cannot directly integrate neighborhoods by race and class, they can do their best to integrate classrooms by race and class. And although it is difficult for schools to make neighborhoods or homes physically and emotionally safe, they can strive to ensure that students are physically and emotionally safe while they are in school.
University of Florida: University of Florida announces formation of UF Diabetes Institute
October 7, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Florida ---The University of Florida announced today the formation of the UF Diabetes Institute, a collaboration of dozens of researchers campuswide all focused on forging advances in treatment for a disease that afflicts an estimated 29.1 million Americans and 1 in 10 Floridians.
The news comes as UF’s long track record in diabetes research was further bolstered this month by more than $10 million in new grants from the National Institutes of Health.
“This comprehensive approach to diabetes prevention and care fits well into our strategic plan for bringing people together across disciplines to make advances in education, research and patient care,” said Dr. David S. Guzick, senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “The new institute will strengthen our ability to care for patients in our hospital and clinics.”
Florida State University: FSU hires 15 rising stars to bolster key research areas
10/07/2014 3:52 pm
Florida State University has hired 15 new researchers in the Brain Health and Disease, Energy and Materials, and Coastal and Marine Research initiatives as it continues to invest in these burgeoning areas and further science and discovery as part of its mission as a preeminent university in Florida.
“Using our existing infrastructure, collaborative culture and strategic research vision, we were able to attract a truly outstanding class of scientists to help lead innovation in these key research areas,” said Interim Provost Sally E. McRorie. “I have no doubt that their knowledge, expertise and unbridled curiosity, combined with FSU’s support, will lead to some amazing discoveries in the decades ahead.”
FSU focused this latest recruiting effort on these strategic research areas based on their value to overall human advancement and the large amount of related research already occurring at the university. For example, FSU is home to a variety of existing research centers such as the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Center for Brain Repair, Autism Institute, Coastal and Marine Laboratory, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, High Performance Materials Institute, and Center for Advanced Power Systems.
University of Illinois at Chicago: Rural medicine program helps bridge health care gap
October 7, 2014
Mina Tanaka’s training experience is different from other fourth-year students in her medical program.
While her classmates in Rural Medical Education at the College of Medicine’s Rockford campus spend four months at hospitals and clinics in small communities across Illinois, Tanaka is the first to train on a Native American reservation.
As the RMED program expands next fall from 15 to 25 students, there will be more opportunities for students to train in Native American communities. Students will also have the chance to explore specialties such as surgery or psychiatry.
University of Illinois at Chicago: Local tech firm supports women in engineering at UIC
October 1, 2014
The Knowles Corporation, an Itasca, Illinois, tech company specializing in acoustic electronics, has committed $100,000 to the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Engineering to support a scholarship program for female engineering students and a summer program for high school students interested in engineering.
The support helps the college address the workforce shortage in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“Our mission is to ensure that groups underrepresented in STEM have the opportunity to achieve their highest educational goals and realize both personal and professional success,” says Peter Nelson, dean of the UIC College of Engineering. “Knowles’ generosity will significantly help strengthen the college’s efforts to provide access to the engineering field for women.”
Northern Illinois University: Classroom motivation experts target out-of-school programs
NSF grant funds NIU, partners to examine informal STEM teaching
Jennifer Schmidt and Lee Shumow wrote the book – literally – for teachers seeking the best ways to motivate high school students to learn and love science.
Now the educational psychology professors from the NIU College of Education are turning their attention to after-school and summer projects that enroll underserved and underrepresented youth.
Schmidt and Shumow, who teach in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, are in the early stages of a $1.2 million study of two separate STEM-curriculum programs in New England.
They hope their work will attract a greater diversity of students into the academic pursuit of science, technology, engineering and math.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Florida: Analysis of 1.25 million scientific articles finds international collaboration can increase impact
October 8, 2014
GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- International collaboration tends to boost the profile of the science for all researchers involved, but collaborating with certain countries provides more of a scientific impact than others.
For college students aiming someday to become scientists, that means the sooner you start thinking globally, the better.
Emilio Bruna , a University of Florida professor of tropical ecology and Latin American studies, teamed up with University of Chicago professor Stefano Allesina and two of his students to study 1.25 million research articles published from 1996 to 2012 in fields ranging from chemistry to psychology. The research will be published online Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE.
Science is Cool
University of Illinois: Educator using animated cartoons to reshape geometry instruction
Sharita Forrest, Education Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In a unique research project funded by the National Science Foundation, education professor Gloriana González at the University of Illinois is developing animated cartoons to help geometry instructors become better teachers.
A group of high school teachers from high-need schools will use the cartoons to learn strategies for recognizing students’ prior knowledge and building upon it in mathematics instruction.
Educators have found that students’ approaches to solving mathematics problems may be very different, influenced by the various forms of prior knowledge they have – including their knowledge of mathematics concepts, their unique backgrounds and experiences, and the contexts of the problems.
University of Iowa: UI's Abdel-Malek to serve as U.S. delegate to NATO meeting
By: Gary Galluzzo
2014.10.10 | 07:00 AM
A University of Iowa professor will present at a NATO meeting this month his creation of the “virtual soldier,” the most advanced computer-generated military member that can mimic real-life soldiers’ needs—from the gear they carry and the vehicles they drive to their likelihood of injury.
Karim Abdel-Malek, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Center for Computer Aided Design at the UI, created the virtual soldier under a $9 million U.S. Marines contract called “Lighten the Load.” The virtual soldiers are created by using motion-capture cameras to extensively catalog physical features and movements of real soldiers, from their vision to their muscles. They are, in essence, the virtual embodiment of our military members.
Due to his research, Abdel-Malek has been invited as a U.S. Delegate to the Oct. 15-17 NATO meeting in Prague, Czech Republic.