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, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, and the states with competitive races for Governor include Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
This week's featured stories come from Discovery News and NBC News.
Why Did The Antares Rocket Explode?
Last night, a private Orbital Sciences rocket set to deliver cargo to the International Space Station exploded seconds after liftoff. Why did this happen, and what did we lose? Trace and Amy are here to discuss.
Richard Branson Says Virgin Galactic Will Learn From SpaceShipTwo Crash
October 31, 2014
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said his team is dedicated to finding out what led to Friday's fatal test flight of the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, and that he and millions of supporters of commercial space travel "would like to see the dream living on."
The National Transportation Safety Board began its investigation Saturday into what led to the explosion over California's Mojave Desert that killed one pilot, identified as 39-year-old Michael Alsbury, and injured a second, Peter Siebold, 43. Alsbury died at the scene, according to the Kern County Coroner’s Office. Siebold was headed to surgery Saturday, according to The Associated Press.
Branson told reporters that the Virgin Galactic program would "not push on blindly." "We owe it to our test pilots to figure out what went wrong. If we can overcome it, we’ll make absolutely certain that the dream lives on," the British businessman added. Branson conceded that the program "fell short," but pointed out that the early days of aviation were risky before they became safe.
There is good news from this story: Pilot Injured in SpaceShipTwo Crash 'Alert, Talking'
A pilot injured in Friday’s deadly Virgin Galactic test flight accident is awake and able to speak with family members and doctors, the company involved in the craft’s development and testing said.
Peter Siebold, 43, had surgery on his arm, his family told NBC News Saturday. He was injured when the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane broke up over California’s Mojave Desert Friday and crashed, killing pilot Michael Alsbury, 39. Scaled Composites said Siebold was the pilot and Alsbury was the co-pilot on the fatal flight.
More stories after the jump.
Recent Science Diaries and Stories
WATCH THIS SPACE!
Science and Religion: Street Prophets Saturday
Spotlight on green news & views: Latest IPCC report coming Sunday, Hudson River time bomb
by Meteor Blades
This week in science: fires in the sky
Colorado State University: BioMARC at Colorado State University
BioMARC at CSU is working on vaccines for the Department of Defense including work toward an Ebola vaccine.
Also see the story under Health.
Columbia University on Vimeo: Shoreline - Katrina/Sandy Youth Dialogue Part I
It has been two years since Superstorm Sandy struck the East Coast and nearly ten years since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. At SHOREline, we took this moment to reflect upon the issues of response and recovery it raised among the members of our SHOREline network – high school students at five Gulf Coast schools and one New York City school.
How are Katrina and Sandy similar? From the perspective of young people, what can they learn from one another about such catastrophic events? Ninth and tenth graders at NYC’s Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management developed questions that they posed to their Gulf Coast counterparts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Also see the story from Colorado State University under Science Education.
University of Florida: UF using sensors to monitor dangerous hits on football field
In football, a tackle can supply 100 G’s of force or more, well above the amount that can cause a concussion and more than 10 times the force of an F-16 jet roll maneuver. Now, University of Florida Health researchers are using the helmets of Gator football players to help measure the force of on-field hits as part of ongoing efforts to better understand and prevent concussions and treat them before they cause lasting damage.
With a grant from Banyan Biomarkers and matching funds from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council -- together totaling $574,910 -- UF researchers have purchased the Head Impact Telemetry System, or HITS, to measure the impact, duration and location of each hit football players take in real-time through sensors placed in their helmets.
Led by Dr. James Clugston, a University Athletic Association team physician at UF and an assistant professor of community health and family medicine, the UF researchers will correlate the data they collect from the sensors with additional data from blood and magnetic resonance imaging tests. This will allow researchers to get a complete picture of concussions when they occur in athletes.
“We are still trying to find objective ways to detect concussions and help us know when someone is recovered so they can return to play,” Clugston said. “We wanted to get a measure of the amount of force that athletes were experiencing. With this system, we will get real-time data to assess the severity of the impact.”
The story continues in the press release
Florida State University: MagLab MRI machine provides in-depth analysis of strokes
New research conducted at the Florida State University-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has revealed a new, innovative way to classify the severity of a stroke, aid in diagnosis and evaluate potential treatments.
University of Georgia: Google Glass at UGA: Spotlight on the Arts Preview
The University of Georgia's Director of Bands Cynthia Johnston Turner is using Google Glass in the classroom and researching its applications to music. A public premiere of the Google Glass inspired "Adwords/Edward" will occur during the Spotlight on the Arts festival in November.
Georgia Tech: Sinking his teeth into Dracula: Georgia Tech's resident horror film scholar
John Edgar Browning is a Marion L. Brittain Postodctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, and teaches classes on the horror genre of literature and film. One of his particular areas of expertise is vampires, specializing in the Dracula figure in popular culture. Brittain Fellows like Browning tailor their courses to their own research interests while meeting state and university objectives and outcomes.
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech Humans vs. Zombies game Fall 2014
Students, faculty, and staff take part in Humans vs. Zombies, or HvZ, a weeklong game of tag with short missions and strategy mixed in.
“Being a human is fun because it really tests your ability,” says computer science major, Rachel Clark. “Every day you survive feels like a pretty neat accomplishment.” The zombie life, Clark said, is also fun, but less stressful. “It’s also more common for zombies to casually hunt in groups, which makes a great chance to meet new people.”
Northern Illinois University: NIU Scientists Explore the Unseen West Antarctic Coastline
NIU scientist Ross Powell is leading an NSF-supported effort to drill through Antarctic ice and probe grounding zone’s influence on rising sea levels.
See the related article under Climate.
University of Iowa: SWH Teacher Focus
This video is about the Science Writing Heuristic Approach, co-developed by University of Iowa College of Education Professor Brian Hand.
Also see the article under Science Education.
Iowa State University: Using virtual reality to study stress and improve training
Iowa State University researchers are using virtual reality to study how stress affects decision-making. They’ve studied how firefighters react in a virtual burning building, created interactive military environments, and even built a replica of the International Space Station. The goal is to better understand how people react under stress and eventually develop better training methods.
See the related story under Space.
NASA: SpaceX Dragon returns on This Week @NASA
The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule was recently detached from the International Space Station for its return to Earth, just over a month after delivering about 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the ISS. Dragon safely returned to Earth with more than 3,200 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples – completing the company’s fourth resupply mission to the station. Also, Destination Station ISS Tech Forum, Orbital Sciences investigating accident, Russian supply ships to and from the ISS, Next ISS crew trains in Russia, Wind tunnel tests of SLS model and more!
Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: November 2104
Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." November boasts the annual Leonid meteor shower.
University of Illinois: Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems.
Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the University of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star. The findings, which present a new way of looking at star and planet formation, were published in the journal Nature.
According to University of Illinois astronomy professor Leslie Looney, who led the effort with his then-student Ian Stephens, now at Boston University, magnetic fields play important roles in astronomy.
University of Colorado: Top teens to track potential ‘killer asteroids’ during Summer Science Program at CU-Boulder
October 30, 2014
University of Colorado Boulder administrators have signed a memorandum of agreement to host 36 of the nation’s top high school students beginning next summer to image, measure and track near-Earth asteroids using university telescopes.
The asteroid research is the keystone project for students participating in the international Summer Science Program (SSP), established in 1959 to allow some of the best and brightest high school students to experience college-level education and do cutting-edge celestial mechanics research.
During the six-week program, the students will attend daytime lectures on astronomy, physics, calculus and software development. In addition, each team of three students will choose an asteroid, precisely measure its size and position, and write software to predict its future orbit around the sun, including its potential for colliding with Earth, said SSP Executive Director Richard Bowdon.
Iowa State University: Iowa State University virtual reality system simulates the International Space Station
October 29, 2014
Instead of boldly going in a starship capable of warp speeds, Nir Keren, an associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, can reach the International Space Station virtually.
With the aid of a pair of 3-D goggles and the C6, a cube-shaped room in Howe Hall that measures 10 feet to a side and is equipped with a highly advanced projection system, visitors can explore realistic virtual simulations of an Afghan village, a burning house or the International Space Station.
Keren and his colleague Warren Franke, a professor of kinesiology, use the C6 to test the decision-making process of humans in stressful situations. Most recently, the research team designed the mock-up of the space station as part of a weeklong spaceflight operations workshop for aerospace engineering students in August.
University of Central Florida: UCF Contributes to Hurricane Hunting, Better Predictions
October 23, 2014
An instrument the size of kitchen oven aboard a state-of-the-art NASA unmanned aircraft is making the job of hurricane prediction a little easier.
University of Central Florida electrical engineering professor W. Linwood Jones had a major role in the development of a microwave remote sensor, which can image the ocean-surface wind speed and rainfall patterns of a hurricane. This instrument, known as the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer (HIRAD), is a joint venture between UCF, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., University of Michigan and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division.
For the past two years, Jones and several of his Ph.D. graduate students have traveled to NASA’s Wallops Island Facility in Virginia during the summer hurricane season to observe the sensors in action during NASA’s Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) Mission. The mission is to investigate the physics of hurricane formation and intensity change.
Northern Illinois University: Exploring the unseen West Antarctic coastline
NIU scientist Ross Powell is leading a National Science Foundation-supported effort to drill through the ice, probe grounding zone’s influence on rising sea levels
October 29, 2014
The coastline, or grounding zone, where the massive West Antarctic Ice Sheet atop land meets the Ross Sea, is considered an important piece of the puzzle for scientists working to predict the effect of climate change on rising seawaters, which threaten coastal cities worldwide.
Yet researchers have never laid eyes on it.
Never probed its dark shores. Never documented what life exists there under the ice. Never taken measurements to assess the coastline stability.
The problem: This grounding zone is buried by ice thicker than the Empire State Building is tall. Beyond its shoreline, the ice extends out over the sea in a floating slab known as the Ross Ice Shelf, which covers a region nearly the size of Spain.
Colorado State University: What’s that sound?
by Bryony Wardell
October 29, 2014
Elk, owls, coyotes, and snowmobiles all have been heard on Colorado State University campus lately. The sounds are coming from a listening laboratory where a research project between CSU and the National Park Service (NPS) is analyzing acoustic data recordings to inform and improve management of national parks across the country.
“Sounds, or the lack of them, play a significant role in visitor experiences and wildlife behavior in parks,” said Cecilia White, a research associate for the project. “Acoustic research is a growing field in natural resources sciences and has a variety of important applications from conservation to tourism.”
CSU is collaborating with the NPS Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division (NSNSD) to study detailed park audio recordings that provide valuable clues to wildlife and human park activity and their interaction. The audio data is collected through recording systems that are installed by NSNSD in selected parks for about a month at a time. The systems record audio (as mp3 files) and sound pressure levels (in decibels) and are designed to replicate the experience of a person on the ground.
University of Iowa: Green spaces don't ensure biodiversity in urban areas
University of Iowa study showed more trees did not correspond with more insects
By: Casey Westlake
Planting trees and creating green space in cities is good for attracting species, but it may not be enough to ensure biodiversity in built environments, a University of Iowa study has found.
The researchers surveyed two types of tree in an urban area in Iowa, and recorded the abundance of two insects that interact with them. They found that while there were plenty of the trees, black cherry and black walnut, they didn’t find a corresponding abundance of the insects, in this case fruit flies that feed on the walnuts and black cherries and a type of wasp that feeds on the flies.
“In cities, you might have more trees, but you don’t necessarily have more insects associated with them,” says Andrew Forbes, associate professor of biology and an author on the paper, published online in the journal PLOS ONE. “There’s still this real impact on diversity that’s mediated by the landscape. This study implies that cities decrease diversity in some sort of fundamental, intrinsic way.”
For the science education behind this study, read UI students get inside look at ecology through research study
Colorado State University: BioMARC manufacturing vaccines for Department of Defense
by Kortny Rolston
October 27, 2014
Colorado State University is aiding in the development of vaccines to protect U.S. soldiers from Ebola and Marburg, both deadly diseases caused by filoviruses.
BioMARC, a high-containment biopharmaceutical facility operated by CSU, is manufacturing the vaccines for the U.S. Department of Defense in support of human clinical trials.
The CSU center received the $2 million subcontract through the DOD’s Medical Countermeasures Systems Joint Vaccine Acquisition program, which develops, procures and stockpiles vaccines to protect soldiers from biological warfare agents.
Colorado State University: CSU trots out new findings on controversial racehorse drug
by Jeff Dodge
October 29, 2014
As the debate over the controversial drug Lasix heats up in advance of the Breeders’ Cup this week, a Colorado State University researcher has released new study results about the impact that bleeding in the lungs has on racehorses’ performance and the effectiveness of the most common treatment for the condition.
Lasix, the original brand name for a diuretic called furosemide, is used by horse owners to reduce exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhaging (EIPH), the bleeding in the lungs that commonly occurs while horses are racing.
The use of the medication was banned by the Breeders’ Cup last year in races that were limited to 2-year-old horses, but race officials reversed that policy and are allowing Lasix to be used in all races this year. The industry in North America is divided over the issue, with proponents of the diuretic arguing that Lasix protects horses’ health and improves performance, and opponents saying that permitting the drug is marring the sport’s good name.
University of Florida: UF researchers discover leukemia’s hiding places
October 27, 2014
In patients with leukemia, cancer cells can embed within the walls of blood vessels and hide from chemotherapy, according to a University of Florida study published in the Oct. 8 edition of the journal Leukemia.
Now, UF Health researchers are using a two-year, $800,000 grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to screen for new drugs that disrupt the tight-knit relationship between leukemia cells and blood vessels.
Dr. Christopher R. Cogle, one of the study’s lead co-authors and an associate professor of medicine at the UF College of Medicine, has found that leukemia cells hug the branches of blood vessels. When they do this, they integrate into the lining of the blood vessels. They also change shape, mimicking the long, thin cells lining blood vessels, called endothelial cells.
University of Georgia: UGA researcher studies obesity’s role in breast, ovarian cancers
October 31, 2014
Mandi Murph in the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy is focusing her research efforts on the role of obesity in the promotion and development of women's cancer, both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
A grant from the National Institutes of Health is supporting her studies on identifying which biomarkers occurring in blood and body tissue might indicate the development of these cancers.
"Breast cancer remains the most frequent malignant tumor among North American women," said Murph, an assistant professor in the college's department of pharmaceutical and biomedical sciences. "Research indicates that even though standard treatment modalities have improved the overall outlook and quality of life for these cancer victims, obesity in post-menopausal women has become a major risk factor for breast cancer."
Since fat cells and cancer cells feed off one another, she proposes they communicate their whereabouts early during tumorigenesis—the production or formation of a tumor or tumors—so that cancer cells can hone in on the location of fat. Together they create a symbiotic environment where cancer cells thrive.
University of Georgia: UGA researchers to study cause of obesity-related inflammation
October 29, 2014
Athens, Ga. - Not all fat is made the same. Scientists have observed that fat cells in an obese person produce more molecules called adipokines, which catch the attention of the body's immune system, causing them to invade fatty tissues.
The flood of immune cells normally reserved for fighting infection can lead to disease-causing inflammation and the kinds of abnormal cell growth that causes cancer. But it's difficult to study this phenomenon, because scientists don't have an easy way to separate fat cells from other cell types and study them in the lab.
"It's very clear that an obese individual's fat has been reprogrammed in a way that's quite pathological," said Richard Meagher, Distinguished Research Professor of Genetics in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and principal investigator for the project. "And the trouble is that even if you start to lose weight, these cells remain reprogrammed, so we're trying to find ways to change that."
Northern Illinois University: NIU researcher: Prolonged tablet typing may lead to shoulder problems
October 30, 2014
Prolonged use of a tablet’s touch-screen keyboard can cause shoulder discomfort. That’s according to a group of researchers, led by Northern Illinois University Assistant Professor Jeong Ho (Jay) Kim, who compared the musculoskeletal impact and typing productivity differences between desktop, notebook and touchscreen keyboards.
The study, published in the November issue of Applied Ergonomics, found that virtual keyboards—which lack tactile feedback mechanisms to indicate a key has been pressed—require less typing force and finger-muscle activity than conventional keyboards. However, because users must keep their fingers hovering to avoid accidentally activating the keys, they risk prolonged static loading in the shoulders.
“When you need to have a greater performance for a longer period of computer interface, then a conventional keyboard would be better, given our finding that performance was about 68 percent better with a conventional keyboard as compared with touchscreen devices,” explains Kim, a faculty member in the NIU Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Kansas State University: University researchers find bat influenza viruses unlikely to pose a threat to human health
October 30, 2014
MANHATTAN — Bats seen at Halloween this year may not be quite as scary as they appear – at least when it comes to the spread of specific viruses. A research project conducted in part by a team of researchers in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University suggests that influenza viruses carried by bats pose a low risk to humans.
"Bats are natural reservoirs of some of the most deadly zoonotic viruses, including rabies virus, Ebola virus, Henipaviruses and SARS coronavirus," said Wenjun Ma, one of the lead investigators and an assistant professor of virology in the College of Veterinary Medicine's diagnostic medicine and pathobiology department. "Recently, sequences have been discovered in bats that resemble influenza viruses that are uncultivable. This made us curious as to whether those viruses exist and what impact that might have on humans."
Michigan State University: Could daylight saving time be a risk to diabetics?
October 30, 2014
Soon, many will turn back the hands of time as part of the twice-annual ritual of daylight saving time. That means remembering to change the alarm clock next to the bed, which will mean an extra hour of sleep before getting up in the morning.
But for some diabetics who use insulin pumps, Saleh Aldasouqi, associate professor of medicine at Michigan State University, suggests that remembering to change the time on this device should be the priority.
“Some diabetes patients who use insulin pumps may forget to change the clock that is found in these devices,” said diabetes expert Aldasouqi. “Forgetting to change the time can result in insulin dosing errors that can be harmful.”
University of Colorado: When hearing aid users listen to music, less is more, says CU-Boulder study
October 27, 2014
The type of sound processing that modern hearings aids provide to make speech more understandable for wearers may also make music enjoyment more difficult, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The findings, published in the journal Ear and Hearing, suggest that less sophisticated hearing aids might actually be more compatible with listening to music, especially recorded music that has itself been processed to change the way it sounds.
“Hearing aids have gotten very advanced at processing sounds to make speech more understandable,” said Naomi Croghan, who led the study as a doctoral student at CU-Boulder and who now works at Cochlear Americas in Centennial, Colorado. “But music is a different animal and hasn’t always been part of the hearing aid design process.”
University of Georgia: All work and no play: UGA study examines psychology of workaholism
October 30, 2014
Even in a culture that lionizes hard work, workaholism tends to produce negative impacts for employers and employees, according to a new study from a University of Georgia researcher.
The study, "All Work and No Play? A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Correlates and Outcomes of Workaholism" published in the Journal of Management, uses existing data to relate the causes and effects of workaholism, including its similarities to other forms of addiction.
"Though there is some disagreement on whether it should be conceptualized as an addiction, some researchers go so far as calling workaholism a ‘positive addiction,'" said Malissa Clark, an assistant professor of industrial/organizational psychology at UGA and lead author on the study. "We recognize in this study that it brings a negative outcome for yourself and the people around you. The mixed rhetoric and research surrounding workaholism provided the need for a thorough quantitative analysis."
University of Massachusetts: Adolescent Binge Drinking Reduces Brain Myelin, Impairs Cognitive and Behavioral Control
UMass Amherst study suggests teen binge drinking effects may last a lifetime
October 28, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – Binge drinking can have lasting effects on brain pathways that are still developing during adolescence, say neuroscience researcher Heather N. Richardson and her colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Louisiana State University. Results of their study using a rodent model of adolescent drinking appear in the October 29 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
Richardson says, “Adverse effects of this physical damage can persist long after adolescent drinking ends. We found that the effects of alcohol are enduring.” She adds, “The brains of adolescent rats appear to be sensitive to episodic alcohol exposure. These early experiences with alcohol can physically alter brain structure, which may ultimately lead to impairments in brain function in adulthood.”
She and her colleagues believe their study is the first to show that voluntary alcohol drinking has these effects on the physical development of neural pathways in the prefrontal cortex, one of the last brain regions to mature.
Colorado State University: Anthropology department celebrates prehistoric technology
by Bet Llavador
October 27, 2014
CSU’s Department of Anthropology celebrated Prehistoric Technology Day the afternoon of Oct. 24 in the Monfort Quad.
Students in the Anthropology 140 class rotated through activities in the Monfort Quad and learned how to skin hides, throw atlatls, make beads, face paint and flintknap, among other things.
Students in the introductory class were able to gain an appreciation for the hard work that prehistoric hunter-gatherers did to put food in the mouths of their families.
annetteboardman is taking a well-deserved night off.
University of Georgia: New study uses DNA sequences to look back in time at key events in plant evolution
October 29, 2014
Scientists from North America, Europe and China have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on Earth.
From strange and exotic algae, mosses, ferns, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables humans eat and the ornamental plants adorning people's homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.
"Our study generated DNA sequences from a vast number of distantly related plants, and we developed new analysis tools to understand their relationships and the timing of key innovations in plant evolution," said study co-author Jim Leebens-Mack, an associate professor of plant biology in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.
University of Colorado: U.S. News & World Report ranks CU-Boulder second in world in geosciences
October 31, 2014
The University of Colorado Boulder was ranked second in the world in geosciences this week by U.S. News & World Report.
CU-Boulder trailed only the California Institute of Technology. Rounding out the top five are the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, Harvard University and the University of Washington. U.S. News & World Report ranked the top 100 universities in geosciences in 2014 based primarily on their research and reputation.
Geosciences is considered the study of Earth, from its structure to the history of its formation. Studies in the field of geosciences include geology, geophysics, geochemistry, climatology, oceanography and petroleum geology.
University of Central Florida: Three Blades to the Wind
Engineering alumnus helps harvest natural energy
By Angie Lewis, '03
Monday, October 20, 2014
If you’ve ever driven through Texas, California or Iowa, you’ve probably passed a field of steel towers that look like giant fans. These wind turbines, situated on wind farms, capture the natural wind in our atmosphere and convert it into mechanical energy, then electricity.
“What a lot of people call a fan is the rotor on a wind turbine,” explains Michael Hayman, ’03, professional engineer and project manager for Moventas in Portland, Ore. “These things turn about 14 to 20 rotations per minute, but, a generator, which makes electricity, needs to turn at about 1,000 rpm. So, we make a bunch of gears that turn this from high torque, low rotation to low torque, high rotation. It’s a transmission system, very similar to a car, but it’s just one speed.”
Iowa State University: Iowa State engineer helps Army Lab study the fundamental physics of diesel engines
October 30, 2014
AMES, Iowa – The compression-ignition, internal-combustion engine goes all the way back to the 1890s and the work of one Rudolf Diesel. All these decades later, engineers have developed advanced diesels featuring higher pressures, lighter parts, cleaner emissions and better efficiencies. Turbo diesels have even won the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race.
So, engineers have it all figured out? There’s not much they don’t know about making a diesel go?
Well, not really, said Song-Charng Kong, an Iowa State University associate professor of mechanical engineering. There’s actually a lot to learn.
“We still need to make diesel engines more durable, more reliable and more efficient,” Kong said. “That’s because we won’t get away from internal combustion engines anytime soon.”
University of Florida: UF physicists win two top international awards
October 27, 2014
Each year, the American Physical Society prizes honor the world’s leading physicists. This year, two of those coveted awards are going to researchers at the University of Florida.
The society has announced Pierre Ramond and Arthur Hebard -- both distinguished professors of physics at UF -- as 2015 winners, placing them in the company of past winners from institutions such as Princeton, MIT, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and Cornell, including more than 20 Nobel Prize winners.
Ramond, whose research focuses on supersymmetry and superstring theory, won the Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics, given by the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics on behalf of the Heineman Foundation for Research, Educational, Charitable, and Scientific Purposes.
Arthur Hebard, who studies thin films used in superconductors and other applications, shares the Oliver E. Buckley Condensed Matter Physics Prize with scientists from the University of Minnesota, Stanford and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Both prizes are considered top honors in their fields.
University of Central Florida: CREOL Researchers Demonstrate Higher Data Capacity of Optical Networks
October 27, 2014
A team from UCF’s CREOL (Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers) and Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands has successfully demonstrated a means by which future optical networks could gain extra capacity and transmit large amounts of data over long distances.
By exploiting a new method for multiplexing data, known as space-division multiplexing, the research led by UCF’s Rodrigo Amezcua Correa and Chigo Okonkwo of the Electro-Optical Communications group in The Netherlands, has demonstrated a major increase in transmission capacity of optical fibers to avoid a capacity crunch.
In their work published Monday in Nature Photonics, entitled “Ultra-high-density spatial division multiplexing with a few-mode multicore fibre,” the researchers discuss the key constituents of their successful experiment.
University of Illinois: Team discovers how microbes build a powerful antibiotic
Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor
October 26, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers report in the journal Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful.
The team focused on a class of compounds that includes dozens with antibiotic properties. The most famous of these is nisin, a natural product in milk that can be synthesized in the lab and is added to foods as a preservative. Nisin has been used to combat food-borne pathogens since the late 1960s.
Researchers have long known the sequence of the nisin gene, and they can assemble the chain of amino acids (called a peptide) that are encoded by this gene. But the peptide undergoes several modifications in the cell after it is made, changes that give it its final form and function. Researchers have tried for more than 25 years to understand how these changes occur.
Science Crime Scenes
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech releases 2015 Emerging Cyber Threats Report
October 29, 2014
In its latest Emerging Cyber Threats Report, Georgia Tech warns about loss of privacy; abuse of trust between users and machines; attacks against the mobile ecosystem; rogue insiders; and the increasing involvement of cyberspace in nation-state conflicts.
In the report, Georgia Tech covers five major areas. Observations that summarize findings in each area are as follows:
Technology enables surveillance, while policy lags behind.
Attackers continue to target the trust relationship between users and machines.
Mobile devices fall under increasing attack, stressing the security of the ecosystem.
Rogue insiders cause significant damage, but solutions are neither simple nor easy.
Low-intensity online nation-state conflicts become the rule, not the exception.
University of Illinois: Boys who bully peers more likely to engage in sexual harassment
Sharita Forest, Education and Social Work Editor
October 29, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Adolescent boys who bully peers and engage in homophobic teasing are more likely to perpetrate sexual harassment later on, suggests a new study of middle-school students conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Boys who engage in bullying are 4.6 times more likely to commit sexual harassment two years later, according to the study, published online by the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.
Similar links were found among boys who participate in homophobic teasing. Boys who tease peers with gender-based epithets are 1.6 times more likely to perpetrate sexually harassing behaviors two years later, the study found.
The findings support the existence of a bully-sexual violence pathway, whereby adolescent bullies who participate in homophobic name-calling are at increased risk for committing sexual harassment over time. The authors of the study – Kathleen C. Basile and the late Merle E. Hamburger, both of the CDC, and Espelage – proposed the existence of such a pathway in a 2012 study.
University of Kansas: Researcher studies why gender-based violence persists in Namibia
October 30, 2014
LAWRENCE — When the Parliament of Namibia passed the Combating of Rape Act in 2000, it was seen as progressive legislation to combat gender-based violence in a nation scarred by the effects of war in the shadow of apartheid.
Yet, more than a decade after its passage, the law's tough stance on rape and sexual violence hasn't produced its intended effect.
"We still have very high levels of gender-based violence in the region and also in Namibia in particular," said Hannah Britton, a University of Kansas associate professor of women, gender & sexuality studies and political science.
In an academic article published in the journal Signs, Britton and KU graduate student Lindsey Shook concluded that Namibian leaders should do more to address social attitudes surrounding rape and to provide more support services for victims.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
University of Illinois: Study: Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations
October 30, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it’s also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it.
According to research from a University of Illinois expert in environmental and behavioral economics, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.
A paper by Tatyana Deryugina, a professor of finance in the College of Business, finds that longer-run local temperature fluctuations – abnormally warm or cold temperatures that last from one month up to a year – are significant predictors of beliefs about the occurrence of global warming. On the other hand, short-run temperature fluctuations – from a day up to two weeks – have no effect on those beliefs.
The finding is significant because it might help to explain how people form and update beliefs about climate change, Deryugina said.
“Although the time for mitigation is running out, both the U.S. and the international community have failed to produce a comprehensive binding agreement to combat climate change,” she said. “There are many possible reasons for this, but the lack of public pressure may be an important contributing factor. That’s why it’s essential to understand how individual beliefs about climate change are formed and what causes them to evolve.”
University of Illinois at Chicago: White House adviser ‘impressed’ with student initiatives
October 28, 2014
It’s up to universities like UIC to help President Obama achieve his vision, says White House adviser Akil Vohra.
“From the president’s perspective, we want to make sure that by 2020, we have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world,” said Vohra, senior adviser at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. “That goal is not going to be met unless we target first-generation, low-income communities.”
Vohra visited the Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, the Asian American Studies Program and the Writing Center; sat in on an AARCC Lunchbox student discussion about the concept of love between Asian parents and their children; and talked with UIC administrators and faculty members.
“I’m very impressed,” Vohra said. “It’s great to see students who are involved and faculty and administrators who understand the community.
University of Iowa: Harkin visits PBDB researchers
Senator stresses need for more biomedical research support
By: Jenn Patterson and Tom Jorgensen
Tom Harkin, U.S. senator from Iowa, visited the John and Mary Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building at the University of Iowa Tuesday, Oct. 28, to meet with UI Carver College of Medicine faculty and administrators and discuss ongoing research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Harkin received a tour of the new $126 million facility dedicated this month as the university’s hub for “high-risk, high-reward” research on heart and lung diseases, diabetes, deafness, and brain science.
During the visit, the senator learned about current UI research efforts aimed at improving treatment for disease, including:
Use of high-dose vitamin C as a therapy in lung and pancreatic cancer
Identifying gene mutations associated with mental illness
In vivo screening of drugs that may help prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Cultivating neurons to help people with cochlear implants hear more clearly
University of Iowa: Economics of obesity
UI economist David Frisvold discusses effective public policies Nov. 12
By: Mary Geraghty Kenyon
When it comes to combating obesity, it often seems as if there are as many ideas as junk foods. David Frisvold, assistant professor of economics, has studied a number of public policy initiatives aimed at reducing obesity and has found mixed results.
Frisvold’s research has focused on the economic effectiveness of public policies aimed at reducing those rates and has found that addressing the problem in childhood is an important tactic in reducing overall obesity rates.
In addition, comprehensive policies and programs that support and encourage increased physical activity and the consumption of nutritious foods are more effective than policies that impose taxes or other financial penalties on consumption of high-sugar or high-fat foods.
University of Kansas: Survey: Switching Medicaid to managed care leads to difficulties obtaining medical services
October 29, 2014
LAWRENCE — States across the nation are moving to a managed-care model for Medicaid in order to reduce costs, but a new study from the University of Kansas shows that nearly half of a sample of beneficiaries with disabilities affected by the change in Kansas experienced difficulty receiving services. That number, and the experiences of those individuals, shows that states need to closely monitor such changes and that savings might not always be worth the human costs, the authors say.
Kansas was among the first states to switch Medicaid to a managed-care model, known as KanCare, in which private, for-profit companies manage not only medical services but also the long-term care services for individuals with all disability types. Researchers surveyed more than 100 Kansas citizens who received Medicaid services, including those with physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury and intellectual disabilities. Forty-five percent of respondents reported difficulty in getting services they had received before the transition to the managed care system.
The survey is the first to directly ask individuals who receive Medicaid services about their experiences and was conducted in April 2013, shortly after the KanCare model was put into place. Numerous states have made similar transitions since then.
University of Massachusetts: Reich Participates in White House Workshop on Dengue Epidemic Prediction
October 29, 2014
Nicholas Reich, assistant professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, was invited to participate in a workshop run last month by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on “Integrating Prediction and Forecasting Models for Decision-Making: Dengue Epidemic Prediction.”
Held Sept. 15 at the White House Conference Center in Washington, D.C., the event was the second in a series convened by the OSTP in support of the Predict the Next Pandemic Initiative launched by John Holdren, President Obama’s science and technology advisor.
The workshop, attended by about 50 international scientists and public health officials, brought together federal and non-federal stakeholders, including researchers from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, as well as leading experts from top-tier research universities around the world. The goal of the workshop series is to accelerate the development of models that could be used for predicting the occurrence of outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as dengue fever. The daylong session included presentations on current dengue surveillance efforts in Peru and Thailand. Organizers planned the exercises to contribute to the broader objective of strengthening infectious disease prediction and forecasting models to support public health and national security decision-making.
Colorado State University: NYC, Gulf Coast students compare notes on disasters
by Jeff Dodge
October 31, 2014
A program affiliated with Colorado State University marked the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy in a special way: On Oct. 29, high school students in New York City posed questions about life during and after a catastrophe to a very particular group of experts – high school students in the Gulf Coast who experienced the BP Oil Spill and lived through as many as six hurricanes in the past decade, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Their youth-led rapid video project, “The Katrina/Sandy Youth Dialogue, Part 1,” is a product of the SHOREline program, a national youth-empowerment project developed at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute and at the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University.
University of Iowa: Learning science by being scientists
UI professor offers Iowa educators a new way to teach science
By: Mei-Ling Shaw Williams and Sara Agnew
Some Iowa elementary and middle school students are learning science in a whole new way.
Instead of memorizing the periodical table or conducting traditional lab experiments, these students are doing what real scientists do. They are arguing for their ideas by posing questions, gathering data, and making claims based on evidence.
The Science Writing Heuristic (SWH) approach, which was co-developed in 1998 by Brian Hand, a science education professor at the University of Iowa’s College of Education, offers educators a new way to teach that transforms the science classroom and changes the way students think.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Georgia: Film screening to look at science experiments at particle collider
October 31, 2014
Athens, Ga. - Several University of Georgia units and the Clarke County School District will host public screenings of the award-winning documentary, "Particle Fever" on Nov. 5-6.
The film focuses on a team of scientists working on the experiments, as well as the theories of the universe that could be supported-or not supported-by the collider.
Julie Luft, the Athletic Association Professor of Mathematics and Science Education in the College of Education, said the film not only takes a complex topic and presents it in a way that's easy for non-scientists to understand, but it's also a timely topic. "Particle Fever" is about the search for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider, and the scientist who first proposed the theory of the Higgs boson won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.
"It's important, and kids need to know what science looks like," Luft said. "It shows the heartbreak and joy of science."
University of Georgia: Salon.com editor to discuss ‘why the Internet makes us mad all the time’
October 29, 2014
David Daley, editor-in-chief of Salon.com, will give a talk at the University of Georgia Nov. 7 at 10:10 a.m. in Studio 1 on the first floor of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. His visit is co-sponsored by the Jane and Harry Willson Center for Humanities and Arts and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Daley's talk is titled "That's Outrageous! Why the Internet Makes Us Mad All the Time—and Why That Might Be a Good Thing." He will discuss what he calls a "culture of outrage" that has become prevalent in online journalism. An open question-and-answer session will follow the lecture.
Science is Cool
University of Colorado: Youth snap parents into political-rearing mode, says CU-Boulder-led study
October 30, 2014
Parents are more reactive than proactive when providing political influence and opportunities for their children, according to a study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The study, published in the journal Social Science Quarterly, found that political engagement independently pursued by youth spurs parents to realize that childrearing extends to the civic realm. It also is the first study to show intentional political parenting as an outcome of family interaction rather than a stimulus.
“Ideally, moms and dads would view parenting as an opportunity to encourage political development and involvement,” said Michael McDevitt, CU-Boulder professor of media, communication and information and lead author of the paper. “But oftentimes, parents need some kind of wake-up call, such as a daughter bringing up controversial topics discussed at school or a son suddenly paying attention to election news coverage.”
University of Florida: Technology pioneered by UF researcher provides improved access for disabled voters
October 29, 2014
A University of Florida researcher’s desire to provide citizens with disabilities the same opportunity to vote as everyone else could serve as the catalyst for revolutionizing voter access nationwide.
Juan Gilbert’s Prime III, an electronic voting machine a decade in the making, has debuted in primary elections in several states. Officials in New Hampshire were so impressed with Prime III’s performance that they plan to use it in additional precincts in the upcoming general election.
“It was even more seamless than we thought it would be,” said New Hampshire Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Manning. “Our intention long range is to get to the point where every one of our polling places uses Prime III.”
According to a research report compiled at Rutgers University, 15.6 million people with disabilities reported voting in the November 2012 elections, a turnout 5.7 percentage points lower than that for people without disabilities. There would be 3 million more voters with disabilities if they voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who are otherwise similar in age and other demographic characteristics, according to the report.