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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 end of the primary season, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having primary or special elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the Green Papers or the 2014 Daily Kos Elections Calendar.  Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.

This week's featured stories come from Discovery News and Vox.

When Are Moms Most Likely to Make Babies?

Sexual habits vary throughout the world, and the times of the year that women give birth seem to shed some light on when babies are conceived. Is there a pattern to when women are more likely to get pregnant? Tara and Trace discuss some interesting habits among couples to try to get to the bottom of this question.

6 remarkable facts about the science of motherhood
by Joseph Stromberg
May 10, 2014

Mother's Day is nearly here.

Sure, the holiday has kinda drifted from an idealized celebration of the mother-child bond to a corporate-driven occasion for mass consumption, but that shouldn't overshadow how important moms fundamentally are.

Science has told us all sorts of fascinating things about the uniquely intimate link between mother and child at the biological level. Here's a rundown of some of the most remarkable discoveries we've made so far.

Why daughters fight with their mothers
A Georgetown linguist explains
by Eleanor Barkhorn
May 9, 2014

Why are these relationships so difficult? Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, analyzed hours' worth of conversations between mothers and daughters for her book You're Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. She discovered a central tension in the mother-daughter relationship: mothers want to protect their daughters, so they offer advice that they think will make their daughters' lives easier. Daughters, on the other hand, want approval from their mothers, so they interpret this advice as criticism, as proof that they're imperfect.

"Because you're so close, there's more opportunity to get on one another's nerves"

"Here's the person you most want to think you're perfect. Because her opinion matters so much," Tannen says. "So if she thinks you're doing things wrong then you must be fatally flawed. And underneath we all worry that we're fatally flawed."

These conflicting desires — the mother's desire to protect vs. the daughter's desire for approval — set the stage for painful misunderstandings and arguments. The well-meaning mother gives advice; the approval-seeking daughter takes offense and tells her mother to leave her alone; the mother throws up her hands and says she feels like she can't say anything that won't upset her daughter.

More stories, including several about the National Climate Assessment, after the jump.

Recent Science Diaries and Stories

WATCH THIS SPACE!

Spotlight on Green News & Views: More news on honeybees, what will this year's El Niño bring?
by Meteor Blades

Oklahoma, Where It's Complicated Deep Beneath The Plains
by terrypinder

This week in science: thank heaven for little universes
by DarkSyde

Mole's Cool News Roundup 4
by mole333

Slideshows/Videos

The Age (Australia): Archaeologists dig major new find at Pentridge Prison
Carolyn Webb

Archaeologists say remains of a rare, circular 1850s prison block unearthed at the former Pentridge Prison is of world significance in penal history.

The public will next month be able to view the extraordinary bluestone foundations of the panopticon, shaped like a Trivial Pursuit token, which experts say is one of the few examples of its type to survive.

It was part of a brutal 19th-century movement to keep prisoners in solitary contemplation, under total surveillance.

Hong Kong's Information Services Department: Putting waste in its place
May 11, 2014

“Oh, it’s so dirty!” “It’s full of garbage!” the primary students exclaim, staring at a life-size three-dimensional model of the Nim Wan landfill – an eye-popping feature of the Ecopark visitor centre in Tuen Mun.

The “waste wall”, made from disinfected genuine waste and glass fibre, silently tells a disturbing story: The city is being overrun with trash.

“If there was this much waste in my community, I would feel scared. Would it topple over and bury someone? It makes me feel so uneasy,” one student said as he eyed the simulated trash heap.

Spanish National Research Council via PhysOrg: Man landing on Madeira could be four centuries prior to its colonization by the Portuguese
Apr 29, 2014

According to the results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, house mice may have landed on the island before 1036, most likely transported by a ship. The article suggests that the introduction of this species would result in an ecological disaster.

Until now, the arrival of the man to Macaronesia was documented in two waves: one being aboriginal, limited to the Canary Islands about two millenniums ago; and the other colonial, from the 14th century onwards, which took place in every island of the archipelago. According to historical data, the Portuguese took official possession of Madeira in 1949 (sic--1419), when the colonization was started.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

NASA: NASA's Fleet of Satellites Help Understand Climate Change on This Week @NASA

The third U.S. National Climate Assessment was released which took observations from NASA's fleet of satellites to help understand climate change in the United States. Also, NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 spacecraft arrived at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to begin final preparations for a scheduled July 1 launch. In Florida, the remaining flight hardware for the Delta IV rocket that will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test-1 in December arrived at Port Canaveral. At the Stennis Space Center, a cold-shock test for the RS-25 engine that will help power NASA's new Space Launch System rocket was completed. The Chandra X-ray Observatory found new stars, simulated space dust was created on earth, a new ISS crew trains in Russia, Shannon Lucid and Jerry Ross are inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and NASA recognizes the small business community for helping the agency work toward achieving its goals!

NASA Goddard: The Best Observed X-class Flare

On March 29, 2014 the sun released an X-class flare. It was observed by NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS; NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO; NASA's Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or RHESSI; the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hinode; and the National Solar Observatory's Dunn Solar Telescope located at Sacramento Peak in New Mexico.

To have a record of such an intense flare from so many observatories is unprecedented. Such research can help scientists better understand what catalyst sets off these large explosions on the sun. Perhaps we may even some day be able to predict their onset and forewarn of the radio blackouts solar flares can cause near Earth - blackouts that can interfere with airplane, ship and military communications.

JPL/NASA: 100 #GlobalSelfie Photos from Around the World

These photos from around the world represent just a small number of the 50,000 photos that were posted to social media platforms in response to NASA's #GlobalSelfie campaign on Earth Day 2014. The 50,000 images are being assembled into a mosaic image of Earth to be released later in May. The Global Selfie event was designed to encourage environmental awareness and recognize NASA's ongoing work to protect our home planet.

Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: NASA on the Lookout for a New Meteor Shower

Sky watchers in North America could witness a new meteor shower on May 24th when, for the first time, Earth passes through a cloud of dust from periodic comet 209P/LINEAR.

Astronomy/Space

University of Texas: Astronomers Find Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother,’ Pave Way for Family Reunion
May 8, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas — A team of researchers led by astronomer Ivan Ramirez of The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first “sibling” of the sun — a star almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star. Ramirez’s methods will help astronomers find other solar siblings, which could lead to an understanding of how and where our sun formed, and how our solar system became hospitable for life. The work appears in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

“We want to know where we were born,” Ramirez said. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.”

Additionally, there is a chance, “small, but not zero,” Ramirez said, that these solar sibling stars could host planets that harbor life. In their earliest days within their birth cluster, he explains, collisions could have knocked chunks off of planets, and these fragments could have traveled between solar systems, and perhaps even may have been responsible for bringing primitive life to Earth. “So it could be argued that solar siblings are key candidates in the search for extraterrestrial life,” Ramirez said.

The solar sibling his team identified is called HD 162826, a star 15 percent more massive than the sun, located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The star is not visible to the unaided eye but easily can be seen with low-power binoculars, not far from the bright star Vega.

Texas A&M: Another Word For Mars Is Dust
May 6, 2014

There’s a four-letter word to describe conditions on Mars, and it’s not pretty: Dust.  It is everywhere and anywhere on Mars, and dust is a key component of Martian weather, says a Texas A&M University researcher who has spent much of the past nine years observing the Red Planet.

Mark Lemmon, associate professor of atmospheric sciences, has served as a camera operator on numerous Mars missions, especially those involving the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.  Spirit landed in 2004 and transmitted thousands of images back to Earth before it quietly expired in 2010, but its sister rover Opportunity is alive and well and still taking short trips and sending back plenty of photos, Lemmon says.

He has published his findings describing 9 years of dusty weather in the current issue of Icarus, a planetary science journal.

Popular Science: How We're Finding Asteroids Before They Find Us
Massive space rocks hurtle past Earth with frightening regularity. Some scientists want to deflect them. Others want to drag one closer.
By James Vlahos
Posted 05.08.2014

Marco Tantardini spent the year of 2010 dreaming about asteroids. A thickly bearded, 26-year-old Italian who wore a black-leather jacket and rode a motorcycle, Tantardini looked more like Hemingway in his later years than a buttoned-down space wonk. He had done internships at The Planetary Society and NASA but those were finished. He had gotten a master’s degree in space engineering but hadn’t sought a traditional job. Instead, at his parents’ house in the Italian town of Cremona, he sat in the same room where he did his homework growing up and drafted a plan to catch an asteroid. He called the mission Sisyphus Victorious, and he believed it would be the next giant leap for human exploration.

Unlike the Sisyphus of Greek mythology, who was sentenced to endlessly push a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, Tantardini developed what he thought was a successful strategy for moving a giant rock through space. He envisioned sending a spacecraft on a journey of several years to intercept a small asteroid, one 10 meters or less in diameter. The craft would capture it, possibly with a giant net, and transport it to a stable orbital location near the Earth. With the rock parked some four days of space travel away, astronauts would get their first chance to visit, study, and possibly even touch an asteroid.

On its own, Tantardini’s vision sounds quixotic, the improbable quest of an unemployed dreamer. But many accomplished scientists and engineers are busy sketching out similar plans. In 2016, NASA intends to launch OSIRIS-REx, a robotic probe that will travel to a 500-meter-wide asteroid called Bennu, scoop up soil and broken rock, and return the samples to Earth. President Obama has pledged to send astronauts to do the same by 2025. Several teams are diligently designing craft to detect rogue asteroids and intercept them before they strike Earth. And two groups of entrepreneurs, attracted to billions of dollars worth of potential minerals, have recently formed asteroid mining startups. K. Ram Shriram, a Silicon Valley investor in the budding industry, says he sees the same potential as he did in the early days of Google.

Yet of all the plans, relocating an asteroid might offer the richest rewards.

Climate/Environment

Indiana University: Indiana University experts comment on climate change report
May 6, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Climate change, once thought to be a problem for future generations, "has moved firmly into the present" and is having an impact in all corners of the United States, according to a comprehensive government report released today. Indiana University experts comment on the report; they address the following topics:

    Changing climate will affect Midwest crops, forests, public health
    Report signals need to move away from fossil fuels
    Recognize that other nations may not be able to adapt

Texas A&M: Study Says Earth Warming Rapidly
May 8, 2014

Texas A&M University researchers have found evidence supporting higher rates of climate change and more warming over the coming century, and their work could help end the debate over how much warming the Earth will experience in the future.

Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences, and graduate student John Kummer have had their work published in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.

The Texas A&M researchers determined that previous calculations of the Earth’s climate sensitivity have neglected an important factor.  (The climate sensitivity is the warming that would occur if atmospheric carbon dioxide is doubled.)

Texas Tech: Climate Scientist Contributes to White House Report
Katharine Hayhoe: Choices we make now will determine severity of climate change's future impact.
Written by John Davis
May 6, 2014

Climate change is visible and occurring throughout the U.S., but the choices we make now will determine the severity of its impacts in the future, according to a Texas Tech University climate scientist who served as a lead author on a report released today by the White House.

Katharine Hayhoe, director of Texas Tech’s Climate Science Center who was recently listed on the 2014 TIME 100 most influential people in the world, was one of 300 authors from private, public and academic sectors to contribute to the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3). The project is a product of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal departments and agencies overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee.

Experts view the study as the most comprehensive plain-language to date on what climate change means for the United States. It features 30 chapters and two appendices covering topics including eight U.S. regions, forestry, agriculture and human health.

Texas A&M: Texas A&M developing technology to detect previously undetectable fecal contamination in water
by Ryan Garcia
May 5, 2014

Technology capable of sampling water systems to find indicators of fecal matter contamination that are thousandths and even millionths of times smaller than those found by conventional methods is being developed by a team of researchers at Texas A&M University.

Working with a team of collaborators, Vladislav Yakovlev, professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has developed an ultrasensitive detection method that can detect molecules associated with human and animal fecal matter in water systems. These extremely small indicators, he explains, have been traditionally difficult to detect but can signal greater levels of contamination, which can lead to illness and even death.

The team’s research is funded by the National Science Foundation and is featured in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” It details the development of technology that Yakovlev characterizes as affordable, highly sensitive, easy to implement and capable of delivering analysis of water samples in real time. That combination of benefits, he says, gives the system a leg up on other detection technologies, making it ideal for use not only in the United States but in developing countries, which often face water quality issues.

Biodiversity

Ocala Star Banner: Ocala to host bird census starting Friday
By Keith Chartrand
Correspondent
Last Modified: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:27 p.m.

For the first time since 1980, the Florida Ornithological Society — the statewide group that studies the physiology, classification, ecology and behavior of birds — is conducting a census. Part of that census, known as a breeding bird atlas, will take place in Ocala for three days starting Friday.

Members of the Marion County Audubon Society and professional ornithologists will go to the same locales visited in the 1980 census.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan State University: Emerald ash borers were in U.S. long before first detection
May 6, 2014

New research at Michigan State University shows that the uber-destructive emerald ash borer arrived at least 10 years before it was first identified in North America.

The study, published in the current issue of journal Diversity and Distributions, shows that EABs were feasting on ash trees in southeast Michigan by the early 1990s, well before this pest was discovered in 2002, said Deb McCullough, MSU professor of forest entomology.

“We suspect they arrived inside wood crating or pallets imported from Asia where the beetle is native,” she said. “There were probably only a few live beetles that arrived, but ash trees are common in urban landscapes as well as in forests. When they emerged, there were likely ash trees nearby, providing food for the beetles and their offspring.”

North Carolina State University: Bee Biodiversity Boosts Blueberry Crop Yields
May 9, 2014

Research from North Carolina State University shows that blueberries produce more seeds and larger berries if they are visited by more diverse bee species, allowing farmers to harvest significantly more pounds of fruit per acre.

“We wanted to understand the functional role of diversity,” says Dr. Hannah Burrack, an associate professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. “And we found that there is a quantifiable benefit of having a lot of different types of bees pollinating a crop.”

Biotechnology/Health

LiveScience: It Got Better: Life Improved After Black Death, Study Finds
By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer
Date: 07 May 2014

The Black Death, a plague that first devastated Europe in the 1300s, had a silver lining. After the ravages of the disease, surviving Europeans lived longer, a new study finds.

An analysis of bones in London cemeteries from before and after the plague reveals that people had a lower risk of dying at any age after the first plague outbreak compared with before. In the centuries before the Black Death, about 10 percent of people lived past age 70, said study researcher Sharon DeWitte, a biological anthropologist at the University of South Carolina. In the centuries after, more than 20 percent of people lived past that age.

CBS Chicago: Heart Of Basketball Player Who Died After Collapse Donated For Research
Bob Roberts
May 10, 2014 5:34 PM

(CBS) — The death in the past week of a West Side teen who collapsed during a basketball tournament may provide medical science with a way to determine how to find and treat the rare condition that killed him.

When Tarcia Patton made the difficult decision to turn off the life support that kept her 16-year-old son, Jermaine Cullum, breathing, she told Loyola University Medical Center specialist Dr. Jeffrey Winterfield that she would give Jermaine’s heart to him, for research purposes.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Purdue University: Luminescent nanocrystal tags and high-speed scanner enable rapid detection of multiple pathogens in a single test
May 6, 2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A research team using tunable luminescent nanocrystals as tags to advance medical and security imaging have successfully applied them to high-speed scanning technology and detected multiple viruses within minutes.

The research, led by Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and Purdue University, builds on the team's earlier success in developing a way to control the length of time light from a luminescent nanocrystal lingers, which introduced the dimension of time in addition to color and brightness in optical detection technology.

Detection based on the lifetime of the light from a nanocrystal as well as its specific color exponentially increases the possible combinations and unique tags that could be created for biomedical screens.

University of Michigan: Financial insecurities hinder women from adhering to diabetes regimen
May 8, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Changes imposed by a diabetes regimen are considered unmanageable by financially insecure women, a new University of Michigan study indicates.

Study participants who were brought up with fewer resources were more likely to have family members who were diabetic when fewer treatment options were available, exposing them to the worst-case scenario. Women with more resources were aware of less severe cases and typically had more ties to the health care field.

"It became apparent that having previous knowledge about diabetes and the regimen, as well as having previous experiences viewing complications unfold among loved ones, shaped the experience of diagnosis and attitudes toward diabetes," said Emily Nicklett, U-M assistant professor of social work and the study's lead author.

Wayne State University: Grape skin extract may soon be answer to treating diabetes
May 8, 2014

DETROIT — The diabetes rate in the United States nearly doubled in the past 10 years. Approximately 26 million Americans are now classified as diabetic, stressing an urgent need for safe and effective complementary strategies to enhance the existing conventional treatment for diabetes.

Preliminary studies by researchers at Wayne State University have demonstrated that grape skin extract (GSE) exerts a novel inhibitory activity on hyperglycemia and could be developed and used to aid in diabetes management. Recently funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, this $2.1 million transitional study will provide insights into the novel inhibitory action of GSE on postprandial hyperglycemia and will also provide preclinical data in support of the biological effectiveness and safety of GSE and its components in potential prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes.

“It is hopeful that our research may eventually lead to the successful development of a safe, targeted nutritional intervention to support diabetes prevention and treatment,” said Kequan Zhou, Ph.D., assistant professor of food and nutrition science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and lead investigator on the grant. “Our study will provide important pre-clinical data regarding the anti-diabetic mechanisms, biological efficacy and safety of GSE that should facilitate eventual translation into future clinical studies to assess GSE and its components as a safe, low-cost and evidence-based nutritional intervention for diabetes.”

Wayne State University: Breakthrough NIH study will have major implications for treating pediatric UTIs
May 6, 2014

DETROIT, Mich. -- A major new pediatric clinical trial, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), has “major implications” for the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in millions of American children, according to a Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrician-researcher who played a key role in the study, which was initiated nine years ago.  

The largest clinical trial of its kind ever to be conducted in the world, the study provides convincing evidence that children with a common urinary-tract abnormality known as “vesicoureteral reflux” (or “VUR”) experience a significantly reduced risk of developing frequent UTIs when treated with long-term low-dose antibiotics.                                                

Because about one-third of children diagnosed with UTIs are also found to have VUR (a chronic condition in which urine refluxes from the bladder and spills back into the kidney, thus increasing the risk of UTIs and renal scarring), treating children with VUR with daily, low-dose, long-term antibiotics can be effective in protecting them from urinary tract infections, according to the authors of the study.

Michigan Tech: A Lab in Your Pocket
by Marcia Goodrich
May 7, 2014

When you get sick, your physician may take a sample of your blood, send it to the lab and wait for results. In the near future, however, doctors may be able to run those tests almost instantly on a piece of plastic about the size of credit card.

These labs-on-a-chip would not only be quick—results are available in minutes—but also inexpensive and portable. They could be used miles from the nearest medical clinic to test for anything from HIV to diabetes. But as powerful as they may be, they could be far better, says Shiyan Hu, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University.

North Carolina State University: New Method Sneaks Drugs into Cancer Cells Before Triggering Release
May 9, 2014

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed an anti-cancer drug delivery method that essentially smuggles the drug into a cancer cell before triggering its release. The method can be likened to keeping a cancer-killing bomb and its detonator separate until they are inside a cancer cell, where they then combine to destroy the cell.

“This is an efficient, fast-acting way of delivering drugs to cancer cells and triggering cell death,” says Dr. Ran Mo, lead author of a paper on the work and a postdoctoral researcher in the joint biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We also used lipid-based nanocapsules that are already in use for clinical applications, making it closer to use in the real world.”

The technique uses nanoscale lipid-based capsules, or liposomes, to deliver both the drug and the release mechanism into cancer cells. One set of liposomes contains adenosine-5’-triphosphate (ATP), the so-called “energy molecule.” A second set of liposomes contains an anti-cancer drug called doxorubicin (Dox) that is embedded in a complex of DNA molecules. When the DNA molecules come into contact with high levels of ATP, they unfold and release the Dox. The surface of the liposomes is integrated with positively charged lipids or peptides, which act as corkscrews to introduce the liposomes into cancer cells.

The Ohio State University: Study: Concussion Rate in High-School Athletes More Than Doubled in 7-Year Period
Researchers suggest increase could reflect more awareness, higher safety standards
By: Emily Caldwell
Published on May 06, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Concussion rates in U.S. high-school athletes more than doubled between 2005 and 2012, according to a new national study using data on nine team sports.

Overall, the rate increased from .23 to .51 concussions per 1,000 athlete exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in one competition or practice.

The increase might appear to sound an alarm about sports safety, but the researchers suspect the upward trend in reported concussions reflects increased awareness – especially because the rates went up the most after the 2008-09 academic year.

Texas A&M: AgriLife Research maps wheat curl mite resistance genes in TAM 112
Wheat variety provides more than virus resistance
May 5, 2012

AMARILLO – The Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat genetic program at Amarillo has mapped the resistance genes to the wheat curl mite in TAM 112, according to Dr. Shuyu Liu, AgriLife Research small grains geneticist in Amarillo.

Wheat curl mite resistance is important because it is the vector for several viruses, including wheat streak mosaic virus, Liu said.

University of Houston: Long-Term Childhood Poverty Contributes to Young Adult Obesity Rates
Research from Department of Health and Human Performance, Texas Obesity Research Center
By Marisa Ramirez
May 8, 2014

A new study from the University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) finds childhood poverty reaches into the lives of white, Hispanic and African-American young adult women, contributing to their propensity to be overweight and obese.

“We know that having a low socioeconomic status during childhood contributes to children being overweight or obese,” said HHP’s Daphne Hernandez, who also is an executive board member of the UH Texas Obesity Research Center. “We’ve found a connection between the long-term exposure to poverty during childhood and obesity rates among young adult woman.”

Hernandez examined how repeated exposure to poverty during childhood impacts a young adult’s risk of being overweight or obese. The results are published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Psychology/Behavior

Purdue University: Study: Fluency outweighs pronunciation for understanding non-native English speakers
May 8, 2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Pronunciation accuracy may not be the most important thing for making non-native English speakers easier to understand, but rather it is their fluency, including fewer pauses, restarts and speech rate, according to research from Purdue University.

"We found that people who speak English as a second language were more likely to be judged as easy to understand when they spoke with fluency, regardless of the accuracy of their pronunciation," said Alexander L. Francis, an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences who studies speech perception and cognitive hearing science. "With more fluent speech, listeners are not working so hard to keep track of what the speaker is trying to say, so they can devote more effort to figuring out sounds the speaker is trying to produce. These findings could mean a new approach for second-language instruction and assessment, but more study is needed and we are taking a closer look at the difference fluency makes."

Francis and doctoral student Mengxi Lin presented their findings Tuesday (May 6) at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Providence, Rhode Island. The paper related to the presentation is available online and it will be submitted for journal publication.

University of Michigan: Your brain on speed: Walking doesn't impair thinking and multitasking
May 8, 2014

ANN ARBOR—When we're strolling down memory lane, our brains recall just as much information while walking as while standing still—findings that contradict the popular science notion that walking hinders one's ability to think.

University of Michigan researchers at the School of Kinesiology and the College of Engineering examined how well study participants performed a very complex spatial cognitive task while walking versus standing still.

"We're saying that at least for this task, which is fairly complicated, walking and thinking does not compromise your thinking ability at all," said Julia Kline, a U-M doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering and first author on the study, which appears online in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

University of Michigan: State of the nation's egotism: On the rise for a century
May 6, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Forget the "me" generation. A new analysis of long-term trends in egotism shows there's been a "me" century in America.

The analysis, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, shows that characteristics related to self-interest, compared to interest in the lives and needs of other people, was low during the 19th century but rose steadily after the turn of the 20th century.

"We found that self-interest tends to peak after economic booms," said William Chopik, a doctoral candidate in psychology at U-M and first author of the paper just published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. "In the 20th century, it peaked after World War II and again in the 1970s."

The Ohio State University: Partisan Media Driving a Wedge between Citizens, Study Finds
Consuming politicized news from both sides doesn’t help
By: Jeff Grabmeier
Published on May 07, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Viewing partisan news reports from both the conservative and liberal viewpoints doesn’t make people more accepting of citizens on the other side of the political fence, new research finds.
R. Kelly Garrett

A study of people in the United States and Israel examined citizens’ media consumption: specifically, how often they viewed liberal and conservative news outlets and how often they viewed mainstream, relatively neutral news sites.

Results showed that people who consumed a greater amount of partisan media content were more polarized – even if they viewed partisan content from both sides.

The Ohio State University: Caring for Horses Eases Symptoms of Dementia
People with Alzheimer’s become calmer, happier after grooming horses
By: Pam Frost Gorder
Published on May 05, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio—In the first study of its kind, researchers have determined that spending time with horses eases symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia.

A collaboration between The Ohio State University, an equine therapy center and an adult daycare center found that people with Alzheimer’s were able to safely groom, feed and walk horses under supervision—and the experience buoyed their mood and made them less likely to resist care or become upset later in the day.

The small pilot study, which appears in the journal Anthrozoös, suggests that equine therapy—a treatment used today for children and teens who have emotional and developmental disorders—could work for adults, too.


Archeology/Anthropology

Western Digs: 13,500-Year-Old Tool-Making Site Uncovered in Idaho Forest
Posted by Blake de Pastino on May 8, 2014

On a remote forest riverbank in northern Idaho, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of human occupation going back more than 13,500 years, adding to the signs of an increasingly ancient human presence in the Northwest, and fueling the debate about how the region’s earliest settlers got there.

The oldest evidence, found in test pits dug along the North Fork of the Clearwater River, includes a blade-like tool fashioned from a rock cobble and dozens of flakes left over from the tool-making process, known as debitage.

Agence France-Presse via Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Archaeologists find 5,600-year-old tomb in Egypt

CAIRO - Egypt said Wednesday archaeologists have unearthed a 5,600-year-old preserved tomb and mummy predating the pharaonic First Dynasty, a discovery that will shed new light on the pre-dynastic era.

The tomb was built before the rule of king Narmer, the founder of the First Dynasty who unified Upper and Lower Egypt in the 31th century BC, the antiquities ministry said in a statement.

Culture 24 (UK): Archaeologists say Stonehenge was "London of the Mesolithic" in Amesbury investigation
By Ben Miller

Giant bull, wild boar and red deer bones left at a settlement a mile from Stonehenge prove that Amesbury is the oldest settlement in Britain and has been continually occupied since 8820 BC, according to archaeologists who say the giant monuments were built by indigenous hunters and homemakers rather than Neolithic new builders.

South Wales Evening Post (UK): Mystery of mummified baby in Swansea is solved
By South Wales Evening Post

THE mystery over a mummified baby at the Egypt Centre appears to have been solved.

The centre, based at Swansea University, houses more than houses more than 5,000 artefacts, most collected by the 19th century pharmacist and archaeologist Sir Henry Wellcome on excavations in Egypt.

Science Magazine: Ancient Desert Glyphs Pointed Way to Fairgrounds

Seen from above, the jagged rocks strewn about the Chincha Valley desert in Peru seem inconspicuous. But stand in the desert itself and these rocks form lines that stretch toward the horizon. Researchers have found that these lines were probably ancient signposts for the Paracas culture more than 2000 years ago, guiding people across the desert to gathering places for the winter solstice.

The Paracas people lived in what is now southern Peru from 800 to 100 B.C.E. They immediately preceded another culture called the Nazca, which is famous for making massive line drawings out of earth and stone, including enormous works of art depicting everything from birds to monkeys. Archaeologists call such lines “geoglyphs,” whether they are meant to be artistic or serve a practical purpose.

Associated Press via Product Design & Development: Acropolis' Famed Caryatids Get 'Cosmetic Surgery'
Nicholas Paphitis, Associated Press
Fri, 05/09/2014 - 9:15am

They're some of Greece's most celebrated beauties. And after nearly 2,500 years, it's perhaps only fitting that they're getting a face-lift.

The Caryatid statues, which until the late '70s propped up a section of the Erechtheion Temple on the Acropolis, are being meticulously cleansed of grime inside the museum where they're now housed.

China Daily:Tombs of ancient workers discovered
By Ma Lie and Lu Hongyan in Xi'an (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-05-06 08:58

Forty-five ancient tombs have been discovered about 5 kilometers from the mausoleum of Qin Shihuang and its Terracotta Warriors, experts said on Monday.

Archaeologists believe the tombs could belong to the designers and workers who built the mausoleum.

Qin Shihuang was the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

Sun Weigang, a research associate at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology who led the excavation, said his team uncovered the tombs from July to September.

Anadolu Agency via Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Excavations unearth basilica in Bursa

BURSA - Bursa has a new claim to fame in terms of its historical richness following the discovery of a Roman-era basilica found along the city’s walls

Excavations at a tower in the Tophane portion of Bursa’s city walls have revealed a basilica from the early Roman era that could be one of the oldest structures ever discovered in the northwestern province.

Architect Ibrahim Ylmaz, who has been conducting the restoration projects on Bursa’s city walls, said the Tophane city walls restoration project included an area of 1,200 square meters from the north of the Saltanat Gate to the Kaplca Gate.

Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): Byzantine ancestors of tablet computers found in Yenikap diggings

ISTANBUL--Yenikap excavations that started nearly 10 years ago has brought back Istanbul’s historical heritage to 8,500 years. A wooden notebook, which was found in a sunken ship, the replica of which will sail, is considered the Byzantine’s invention akin to the likes of the modern-day tablet computer.

During archaeological excavations, experts have also found striking information on animal culture, such as the meat of many animals, like horses and wild donkeys were eaten in the ancient era.

Cortez Journal: The guardians of the Ancients
Hopi tribesmen intervene to shore up Hovenweep ruins
By Tobie Baker Journal staff writer

Utilizing an acrylic polymer mortar and tuck pointers, three Hopi stonemasons are stabilizing ancient ruins at Hovenweep National Monument.

“The work is important so future generations can enjoy these sites,” said Herschel Talashoma, foreman of the three-man stonemason crew.

A direct descendant of the original inhabitants at Hovenweep, Talashoma said his grandfather introduced him to traditional stonework. Since 2009, he and fellow tribesmen Eloy Wytewa and Norman Albert, have worked on all the outlying sites at Hovenweep.

Hurriyet Daily News (Turkey): New claim on the whereabouts of Süleyman the Magnificent’s heart
Historians redouble efforts in industrious search of Suleiman the Magnificent's shrine
EDI.RNE

A Turkish scientist has announced that a recently discovered historical document points to a mosque complex in Szigetvar, Hungary, as the site where heart and internal organs of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent were buried in 1566.

“We unexpectedly discovered the document while we were studying the charter of the Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Foundation. It says the internal organs were buried in the garden near the ‘hanikah’ (dervish lodge) of the Süleyman Mosque in Szigetvar,” Mehmet Zeki I.brahimgil, a history professor at Gazi University, told Dog(an News Agency.

Discovery News: 'Vampire' Skeleton Unearthed in Poland
by Rossella Lorenzi
May 7, 2014 02:17 PM ET

Archaeologists in Poland say they have discovered a skeleton with a brick stuck into the mouth — evidence that the subject was believed to be a vampire.

Dated to the 16th-17th century, the grave was unearthed during excavations in the town of Kamien Pomorski, in northwestern Poland, the Kamienskie.info website reported.

In addition to the brick, which was wedged so violently into the mouth to knock out the upper teeth, the skeleton featured a leg with a hole likely made from a puncture. This would suggest the leg had been staked to the ground to prevent the individual from rising from its grave.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Paleontology/Evolution

University of Michigan: U-M paleontologists unveil online showcase of 3-D fossil remains
May 5, 2012

ANN ARBOR—More than two decades ago, University of Michigan paleontologist Daniel Fisher and some of his students began the laborious task of digitally scanning the bones of mastodons, mammoths and other prehistoric creatures so the images could be displayed on computers.

Fisher hoped to someday create a digital showcase where 3-D images of specimens from the U-M Museum of Paleontology's vast collection could be shared with other researchers and with the general public. Sadly, the technology needed to make that dream a reality just didn't exist at the time.

But several recent technical advances have enabled the museum to place hundreds of the scanned images on a new website called the University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils. Initially intended as a tool to help field paleontologists identify fossils, the powerful new resource is expected to have wide appeal to students and the general public, as well, said Fisher, the museum's director.

Geology

BBC: Prehistoric North Sea 'Atlantis' hit by 5m tsunami
By Paul Rincon Science editor, BBC News website

A prehistoric "Atlantis" in the North Sea may have been abandoned after being hit by a 5m tsunami 8,200 years ago.

The wave was generated by a catastrophic subsea landslide off the coast of Norway.

Analysis suggests the tsunami over-ran Doggerland, a low-lying landmass that has since vanished beneath the waves.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Energy

Networx: Student-Built Cars with Incredible Gasoline Mileage

Imagine a car that travels more than 12,000 miles per gallon! This is not a science fiction writer’s vision of fuel consumption in the far distant future. Rather it shows the incredible achievement of the Eco-Marathon, an event that pits teams of students against one another in a competition to design and build the most fuel efficient vehicle possible.
...
The Eco-Marathon has been held every year since 1939 by Shell (Royal Dutch Shell plc), when it took place at a US-based research lab as the result of a bet among the employees. The top gas mileage achieved that day was a respectable 50 mpg. Since then, the competition has since branched out into three geographic divisions – Eco-Marathon Americas, Eco-Marathon Europe and Eco-Marathon Asia, the latter held for the first time in February 2014. The most recent Eco-Marathon was hosted by Houston, Texas, from April 24 to 27, 2014. Although participants typically compete at auto racing tracks, in 2012 a limited number of events began taking place on urban streets.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

University of Michigan: Vehicle emissions from new vehicles at record low
May 5, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. backed off its record high last month, but average monthly emissions are now at an all-time low, 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 April was 25.2 mpg, down 0.2 mpg from March, but still up 5.1 mpg from October 2007, the first full month of monitoring by UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

"This change likely reflects the increased proportion of light trucks among newly purchased vehicles," Sivak said.

Michigan State University: MSU zeroing in on energy-reduction goals
May 9, 2014

When Michigan State University joined the Better Buildings Challenge, a national program designed to reduce energy use, it planned to meet the national goal of a 20 percent reduction by the year 2020.

However, just more than two years into the program, the university is more than halfway to that 20 percent goal.

At a national summit held this week in Washington D.C., the U.S. Department of Energy announced that in 2013, Better Buildings Challenge partners successfully reduced the energy use of their buildings and industrial facilities by more than 2.5 percent.

West Virginia University: WVU biology professors probe tree genome to produce ethanol on non-agricultural soils
May 7, 2014

A pair of West Virginia University professors are researching acid soil and metal resistance in poplar trees to explore non-food stock sources for biofuel production.

Jonathan Cumming, professor of biology, and Steve DiFazio, associate professor of biology at WVU, said acid soil limits agricultural productivity on about 40 percent of agricultural land and could be made efficient again with the right modifications to poplar.
...
The research team hopes to identify acid resistant clones of poplar by learning which genes provide acid soil resistance traits, and using these genotypes on marginal soils in the East.

Physics

LiveScience: Mad Science: How to Build a Gamma-Ray Laser with Antimatter
By Jesse Emspak, Live Science Contributor
May 08, 2014 11:19am ET

Building gamma-ray lasers powered by an exotic hybrid of matter and antimatter may sound like science fiction, but scientists are now a step closer to doing it.

Whereas the wavelengths of traditional lasers run the gamut from infrared to X-rays, a gamma-ray laser relies on light waves even smaller than X-rays. For instance, the antimatter-powered laser would produce light with wavelengths a thousandth the size of modern-day X-ray lasers, enabling it to probe incredibly tiny spaces and making it useful in medical imaging technology.

In the new research, Yi-Hsieh Wang, Brandon Anderson and Charles W. Clark, all from the University of Maryland Joint Quantum Institute, detailed how a special type of matter-antimatter mixture called positronium would work as the gain medium, the material that turns ordinary light into a laser beam.

LiveScience: Northern Lights' Physics Could Aid in Nuclear Fusion
By Katia Moskvitch, Live Science Contributor
May 06, 2014 10:25am ET

The aurora is more than just a breathtaking display of light. It may also hold the secret of a magnetic phenomenon related to the nuclear fusion powering the sun. This secret could even help create nuclear fusion in the lab, says a team of researchers.  

Nuclear fusion is a reaction that combines the nuclei of two atoms into one. The process powers stars, but getting a self-sustained fusion reaction going on Earth is very difficult, and has so far eluded scientists. For example, in February, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California made headlines when they managed to spur a fusion reaction that ate up less fuel than it produced. But the overall process of triggering the reaction still took more energy than was generated.

Now a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton University hopes that the performance of fusion experiments can be improved by investigating of the dynamics of magnetic fields observed during the aurora.

Chemistry

University of Houston: Discovery Creates a Better Chance for Clean Energy Research
UH Researchers Find First New High-Efficiency Thermoelectric Material in 60 Years
By Jeannie Kever
May 7, 2014

University of Houston physicists have discovered a new thermoelectric material offering high performance at temperatures ranging from room temperature up to 300 degrees Celsius, or about 573 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This new material is better than the traditional material, Bismuth telluride, and can be used for waste heat conversion into electricity much more efficiently,” said Zhifeng Ren, M.D. Anderson Chair professor of physics at UH and the lead author of a paper describing the discovery, published online by Nano Energy.

Ren, who is also principal investigator at the Texas Center for Superconductivity at UH, said the work could be important for clean energy research and commercialization at temperatures of about 300 degrees Celsius.

Science Crime Scenes

Al-Ahram (Egypt): 10 artefacts stolen from the Egyptian Museum recovered
Undercover agent breaches smuggling ring and secures stolen objects, including a statue of King Tutankhamum
Ahram Online, Tuesday 29 Apr 2014

Egypt's Tourism and Antiquities Police (TAP) on Tuesday reclaimed 10 artefacts stolen during the January 2011 uprising, according to Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

A police agent posing as an antiquities trader met the alleged thieves and offered to buy the stolen artefacts, said Ibrahim.

Washington Post: How Harvard scholars may have been duped by a forged ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’
By Terrence McCoy

Two years after the academic world first learned of the so-called “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” and less than one month after the note card-sized document was seemingly proved authentic, a Smithsonian documentary trumpeting the artifact will air tonight. “Damaged and fragile, a fragment of ancient papyrus has unleashed a new interpretation of a religious story we thought we knew,” Smithsonian says of the documentary. “In one of the most startling discoveries in recent memory, scholars confirm that a codex written in the ancient Coptic language refers to the wife of Jesus.”

L.A. Times: Norton Simon Museum to return contested ancient statue to Cambodia

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena announced that it will return an ancient statue acquired nearly 40 years ago to Cambodia, after talks with government officials seeking the repatriation of antiquities it believes were looted from ancient sites..

Museum officials said Tuesday that the 10th century sandstone statue known variously as the "Temple Wrestler" or "Bhima" will be returned to Cambodia as "a gift."

Standing a little more than 5 feet in height, the statue has been on regular display since the museum purchased it in 1976.

Discover Magazine: Science Pseudonyms vs Science Sockpuppets
By Neuroskeptic | May 10, 2014 8:43 am

As you might have noticed, I blog (and tweet and comment) under a pseudonym. Recently, I defended the use of pseudonymity and anonymity in science in a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal  – published under my pseudonym.

So I was, at first, alarmed to see that Italian physicist Lorenzo Iorio has just published a Letter on A New Type of Misconduct in the Field of the Physical Sciences: The Case of the Pseudonyms Used by I. Ciufolini…

“He’s saying that scientists using pseudonyms is a form of misconduct!” I thought to myself.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Indiana University: IU computer scientists develop tool for uncovering bot-controlled Twitter accounts
NSF, Defense-funded research designed to counter misinformation campaigns
May 6, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Complex networks researchers at Indiana University have developed a tool that helps anyone determine whether a Twitter account is operated by a human or an automated software application known as a social bot. The new analysis tool stems from research at the IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to counter technology-based misinformation and deception campaigns.

BotOrNot analyzes over 1,000 features from a user's friendship network, their Twitter content and temporal information, all in real time. It then calculates the likelihood that the account may or may not be a bot. The National Science Foundation and the U.S. military are funding the research after recognizing that increased information flow -- blogs, social networking sites, media-sharing technology -- along with an accelerated proliferation of mobile technology is changing the way communication and possibly misinformation campaigns are conducted.

As network science is applied to the task of uncovering deception, it leverages the structure of social and information diffusion networks, along with linguistic cues, temporal patterns and sentiment data mined from content spreading through social media. Each of these feature classes is analyzed with BotOrNot.

Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy

Associated Press via Television New Zealand: Argentine scientist who challenged Monsanto dies
Published: 11:19AM Sunday May 11, 2014 Source: AP

Dr Andres Carrasco, an Argentine neuroscientist who challenged pesticide regulators to re-examine one of the world's most widely used weed killers, has died. He was 67.

Argentina's national science council announced Dr Carrasco's death today. He had been in declining health.

Dr Carrasco, a molecular biologist at the University of Buenos Aires and past-president of Argentina's CONICET science council, was a widely published expert in embryonic development whose work focused on how neurotransmitters affect genetic expression in vertebrates.

Ravalli Republic: RML scientists call for changes after trip to Africa
By MICHELLE McCONNAHA - Ravalli Republic

A scientist for Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton is calling on his scientific colleagues worldwide, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, to stop the long-distance shipment of diseased tissue and blood samples for testing and to start communicating the results immediately.

“Each continent should have its own testing lab, in fact, to reduce the need for long-distance shipments and to reduce the turnaround time on testing,” said Dr. Heinz Feldmann. “In an outbreak, it is essential for scientists to share their data real-time in the interest of public health.”

Feldmann’s recommendations were published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine, in the article “Ebola – A Surprise in West Africa?”

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Texas A&M: TTI Research is Working to Inform Public Policy Discussions
May 8, 2014

In terms of prosperity, the state of Texas has become a model of economic growth, often bucking national trends and enabling the sort of boasting that Texans are famous for. But in terms of transportation, the Lone Star State has become a victim of its own success.

“Everything about the Texas transportation system is changing,” says Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) Senior Research Engineer Ginger Goodin. “The old way of doing things just isn’t feasible anymore.”

That’s largely because a rapidly growing population and limited funding for needed transportation system improvements have created a complex set of questions for the state’s lawmakers, who are increasingly turning to TTI for answers. That need is why the Texas Legislature funded the creation of the new Transportation Policy Research Center in 2013. Goodin is the Center’s director.

LiveScience: Drones Outlawed in 2 US National Parks
By Denise Chow, Sci-Tech Editor
May 07, 2014 07:34am ET

Camera-carrying drones may be the latest tech fad, but some national parks in the United States are banning the robotic flyers, with one location imposing stiff penalties for anyone who flies a drone within park boundaries.

Earlier this week, Yosemite National Park in California issued a notice prohibiting drones from the grounds. Over the years, such drone activity inside the park has become more frequent, with some people using the flying bots to film above treetops, capture aerial views of the park or record footage of climbers ascending Yosemite's famed routes.

"Visitors traveling to the park should be aware that the use of drones is prohibited while visiting the park and should not be utilized at any time," National Park Service officials said in a statement.

Examiner.com: Michigan's Board of State Canvassers approves second wolf hunting ban proposal
by Vince Lamb, Washtenaw County Elections Examiner
May 6, 2014

The board certified a second ballot initiative to stop the wolf hunt in the Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  This will join an existing measure that will appear before voters in November.
...
The group behind both proposals, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, submitted 182,732 petitions with valid signatures.  This exceeded by more than 20,000 the 161,305 needed to get the proposal on the ballot.

This proposal seeks to repeal Public Act 21 of 2013, which authorizes the Natural Resources Commission to add certain animals, including wolves, to the list of game species.  A yes vote would approve the law, while a no vote would be one in favor of its repeal.

Science Education

Indiana University: Sustainability scholar to deliver keynote at 2014 Sustainability Community of Practice
May 9, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Geoffrey Chase, a national expert in sustainability education, will deliver a public keynote lecture next week to kick off the 2014 Sustainability Community of Practice at Indiana University Bloomington.

Chase is the dean of undergraduate studies and the director of the Center for Regional Sustainability at San Diego State University. His lecture will take place from 11 a.m. to noon Monday, May 12, at the Indiana Memorial Union University Club President’s Room.

"Geoff Chase has long been a pioneer and thought leader in the realm of sustainability curriculum development, and we are very excited to have him here to engage our sustainability faculty as they incorporate sustainability into new and existing courses," said Bill Brown, director of sustainability.

Chase will deliver a keynote titled "Sustainability in Higher Education: Stories and Strategies for Transformation." The lecture is free and open to the public.

University of Michigan: IBM Watson at U-Michigan: Students to use technology in class
May 7, 2014

ANN ARBOR—Software engineering students at the University of Michigan this fall will use IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson system to develop apps that help children with special needs.

The artificially intelligent Watson is designed to process language more like a human than a machine, and to interact with people in ways that seem more natural than other systems.

Michigan is one of seven universities IBM is partnering with to give students access to the technology. Others are Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California-Berkeley and University of Texas.

Wayne State University: Students find unique opportunities for big data research at College of Engineering
May 7, 2014

DETROIT – As the Wayne State University College of Engineering ramps up its big data efforts, its students are finding unique opportunities to conduct research in this growing field. Two of those students are Itauma Itauma, a computer science graduate student and graduate teaching assistant, and Haidar Almohri, an industrial and systems engineering Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant.

North Carolina State University: Study: Game Developers Say Success Hinges On More than Just Programming Skills
May 5, 2014

Aspiring game developers may want to bone up on their interpersonal skills. A forthcoming study from North Carolina State University and Microsoft Research finds that game developers need a suite of non-programming skills – including communication skills – that are considered less important in other fields of software development.

“We wanted to evaluate which skills are important to game developers versus other fields of software development,” says Dr. Emerson Murphy-Hill, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work. “These findings could influence how we teach aspiring game developers.”

Marshall University: 'Creek Geeks' exploring effects of humans on region's waterways
May 2, 2014

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The recent water crisis in Kanawha and surrounding counties put a spotlight on the quality of West Virginia's rivers and streams.

A wide variety of research at Marshall University is focused on many of the issues raised by the crisis, including how to detect contaminants in the region's water supply, predicting how dangerous those toxins may be and finding the best ways to remove them from the environment.

Dr. Mindy Armstead, an associate professor of integrated science and technology, is heading up some of that water research. She leads a group of Marshall students who call themselves the "Creek Geeks" and work both in the lab and in the field to study stream ecology and the effects humans have on those ecosystems.

Although their name is funny, the group is doing vital research.

Science Writing and Reporting

The Topeka Capital-Journal: Letter: Why the tension between religion, science?
Posted: May 10, 2014 - 5:24pm

The unending tension between science and religion befuddles me.

When I lose a loved one I don’t read a physics book, I pick up my Bible. I don’t wait to get the flu then pray to get over it, I take a flu shot. I find no hypocrisy in that.

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan Tech: Michigan Tech Alumnus, Apps Turn Ordinary People into Hydrologists
By Dennis Walikainen
May 7, 2014

Adam Ward’s got a lot of helping hands as he tries to determine stream and lake depths in Iowa. Through CrowdHydrology.org, anyone can read the water level off a ruler (more scientifically, stream stage off a staff gauge) and text the numbers to an online database.

The citizen scientists are helping researchers elsewhere, too—New York, Wisconsin, Utah and Michigan—and it’s all the brainchild of Ward’s colleague, Chris Lowry, an assistant professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Buffalo.

“With budget cuts proliferating, I had to figure out how to measure streams in a cheap fashion,” says Lowry. “I got a giant ruler, laminated a sign at Kinko’s and set up the first gauge using Google voicemail and help from the USGS for the texts. It worked.”

Science is Cool

DNAinfo New York: Bottles From 19th Century German Beer Garden Found at Bowery Hotel Site
By Irene Plagianos

CHINATOWN —  Turns out the Bowery has always been a place to party.

Beneath a construction site for a glassy, 22-story hotel at 50 Bowery, archaeologists have unearthed a centuries-old history of drinking, eating and lodging — dating all the way back to George Washington.

Hundreds of 19th-century liquor bottles, plates and mugs — many of which are largely intact — were recently uncovered at a site that was once home to Atlantic Garden, a German beer garden that opened around 1860, according to Chrysalis Archaeology which is overseeing the excavation.

Arab News (Saudi Arabia): Robots to rescue people from wells
JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
Published — Sunday 11 May 2014

The Civil Defense plans to build robots that will help its officers rescue people who fall into wells.

Maj. Gen. Suleiman Al-Amro, director general of the Civil Defense, said recently that the Kingdom has over 400,000 wells, many of them illegal, which made it imperative to improve the organization’s rescue operations.

He said the directorate had asked the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and several international companies years ago to manufacture a robot for this purpose.

Al-Amro was speaking at a workshop entitled “Hazards of Drilled Wells: Challenges and Solutions.”

Hat/Tip to annetteboardman for these stories.

Michigan State University: MSU recycles more than 1 million pounds for RecycleMania
May 6, 2014

RecycleMania added another level of “madness” to March this year, as MSU participated with hundreds of other schools across North America in the friendly recycling and waste reduction tournament. From Feb. 2 to March 29, schools competed to collect the most recycling and reduce the amount of trash they generated.

In the eight weeks of competition, MSU recycled more than 836,000 pounds of paper, boxboard, cardboard, metal and glass. The strong showing was enough for MSU to finish seventh overall and second in the Big Ten Conference for the Gorilla Prize category, which ranks schools by the total amount that they recycle.

All of the participating current and incoming Big Ten schools finished in the top 100 in Gorilla Prize standings. Rutgers University finished first overall with more than 1.3 million pounds recycled and Ohio State University finished 100th overall with more than 190,000 pounds recycled.

Originally posted to Overnight News Digest on Sat May 10, 2014 at 09:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Astro Kos and SciTech.

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