Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sustainability news from campuses on the campaign trail for the week before Memorial Day

Even after sorting the stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Dragon docks with ISS edition) into theme posts about space, education, and health along with one story forming the core of a sustainability-related polical post, I still have enough left over for a post of their own. Continue over the jump for stories from Arkansas, Texas, and Wisconsin.

General Sustainability

I managed to use these stories up in Sustainability education news from campuses on the campaign trail 2. If you want to read them, look for New Charging Stations Spark UTEP’s Green Efforts from UTEP, UH Students Collaborating to Create Solar-Powered Outdoor Kitchen from the University of Houston, Houston Super Neighborhoods Studied By UH Architecture Faculty, Student, also from UH, and Students win policy challenge with ideas on solar energy incentives from the University of Wisconsin.

Environment, including science

Texas A&M University: Researchers aim to assemble the tree of life for all 2 million named species
The resulting tree will be digital, downloadable, continuously updated By: Robin Ann Smith, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
May 25, 2012
A new initiative aims to build a grand tree of life that brings together everything scientists know about how all living things are related, from the tiniest bacteria to the tallest tree.

Scientists have been building evolutionary trees for more than 150 years, ever since Charles Darwin drew the first sketches in his notebook. But despite significant progress in fleshing out the major branches of the tree of life, today there is still no central place where researchers can go to browse and download the entire tree.

"Where can you go to see their collective results in one resource? The surprising thing is you can't — at least not yet," said Dr. Karen Cranston of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent).

But now, thanks to a three-year, $5.76 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, a team of scientists and developers from ten universities aims to make that a reality.
Biodiversity and technology for curving the circle from the start.

University of Wisconsin: Geology student drills into Tohoku quake source
by Jill Sakai May 22, 2012
For the past eight weeks, geoscience graduate student Tamara Jeppson has traded her usual commute, from her Madison apartment to Weeks Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, for a single flight of stairs.

The stairs take her from her small cabin aboard the Japanese drilling vessel Chikyu to the laboratory where she spends her days analyzing geophysical data from the underwater fault zone responsible for the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Jeppson is one of 34 scientists in the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project, which is drilling into the fault in search of clues to the conditions that led up to and ultimately triggered the 9.0 quake.
Society, including culture and politics

University of Wisconsin: Science communication under the microscope by Terry Devitt
May 21, 2012
The process of science is not complete until the results of research are communicated. For a long time and for many researchers, the act of communicating research was geared primarily to other scientists.

Today, however, there is increasing awareness that communicating to the public — sharing not only results but the context of research — is essential if the scientific community is to successfully engage society.
"We know from decades of media effects research that most of us learn about science, or form attitudes about technologies like stem cell research or nanotechnology, from media," notes Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of life sciences communication and an organizer of the colloquium. "And we don't just learn about the science. We find out how politicians feel about developments in science and how these discoveries and technologies influence our daily lives."
Rounding the circle more from science into society.

University of Wisconsin: Tracking the vampire in myth, culture and politics
by David Tenenbaum
May 22, 2012
After Tomislav Longinovic left his homeland, Yugoslavia splintered into seven nations.
Longinovic, a professor of Slavic languages at UW-Madison, felt that history had imposed on him a burden of explanation: How could a nation with so much culture and history disappear in such bloody fratricide at the end of the 20th century?

Could the answer reside solely in the rational assessments by which people supposedly make political choices? Or could it reside in the realm that Longinovic calls the “imaginary?”

In their own imagination, nations require roots, history, purpose and longevity, he says, what could be called a “bloodline.” In many ways, that reminded him of the myth of the vampire – the humanoid creature that drinks blood to achieve immortality.
That reminds me of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" (lyrics here) as performed by Nouvelle Vague. This particular video begins with Lugosi as Dracula sylloquy about his condition: "To die, to be really dead, must be glorious...There are worse things awaiting Man than death." Yes, Count, and one of those things is happening to the GOP.

Speaking of things worse than death happening to the GOP...

University of Texas at Austin: Latest UT/Texas Tribune Poll: Tax Pledge Issue Reveals Conservative Divide
May 24, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas — Although a plurality of Texans say candidates should not take an anti-tax pledge before the primary elections, such a pledge has strong support among voters who identify with the tea party movement, according to a University of Texas at Austin/Texas Tribune poll.

Forty-seven percent of those polled said candidates should not make pledges before the fiscal situation is clear, while 36 percent believe candidates should make pledges not to increase taxes before the primary elections.

However, a closer examination of the May 13-17 statewide poll of 800 registered Texas voters indicated that 60 percent of voters who identify with the tea party were strongly in favor of candidates taking an anti-tax pledge.

“The support for anti-tax pledges among ideologically committed conservative voters, who are very likely to show up to vote, helps explain why such pledges have spread from Washington, D.C., to GOP politics in Texas,” says James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and a lecturer in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Austin, who oversees the survey. “These results illustrate a political dynamic that has serious consequences for policy and governance in the state far beyond the primary elections.”
For more about what's happening in Texas that relates to this subject, read Remember Ted Cruz? I get to blog about an Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist until the end of July!

Economy, including technology

Finally, three articles about technology and the economy. First, one that ties into the previous news item, as both Agenda 21 and RFID are the subjects of conspiracy theories.

University of Arkansas: RFID Research Center Moving Into New Home
Dedicated building doubles space for seven-year-old center
Monday, May 21, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas RFID Research Center is moving into a new home of its own.

The facility at 1637 Fred Hanna Drive in Fayetteville will be the third location for the research center since it was founded in 2005 as part of the Information Technology Research Institute in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. This is the first building to be entirely dedicated to the center.

“With the explosion of the radio frequency identification industry in the past year, we’ve seen a corresponding increase here in research activity, technology interest and educational needs,” said Justin Patton, the research center’s managing director. “Having a larger facility of our own we can fully meet RFID demands and be ready for several other technologies on the near horizon.”
Radio frequency identification, or RFID, is the use of a wireless system to transmit data from tags on products to a receiver for the purpose of identifying and tracking the product through the supply chain.
Now, to wrap up the entry, two articles about energy technology, which ties back into science and the environment.

University of Arkansas: Optoelectronics Research Lab Receives Grant for High-Resolution Microscope
Tool will help researchers continue work on new solar materials
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Optoelectronics Research Lab in the College of Engineering looks at things like no other lab on campus. The lab uses high-tech instruments to investigate new nanomaterials capable of harnessing the powerful energy of the sun. Electrical engineering professor Omar Manasreh, who runs the lab, will now be able to add a new piece of equipment for researchers: a micro-photoluminescence/Raman high-resolution microscope. The purchase is possible thanks to a grant of $200,000 from the Department of Defense and an additional $50,000 from the University of Arkansas.
The new lab instrument will be used to help characterize and test semiconductor nanocrystals, metallic nanoparticles and various, semiconductor nanostructures known as quantum dots. Once a material’s properties are determined, its applications and potential uses can be developed.
The applications go beyond power generation for spacecraft. The materials investigated may be used in spray paint for military vehicles and solar arrays used on Earth. As with all things related to the military and space program, there likely will be spinoff technologies that will become a part of everyday lives, similar to the way that technology for global-positioning systems developed into commercial products.
University of Wisconsin: High-speed method to aid search for solar energy storage catalysts
by Terry Devitt
May 25, 2012
Eons ago, nature solved the problem of converting solar energy to fuels by inventing the process of photosynthesis.

Plants convert sunlight to chemical energy in the form of biomass, while releasing oxygen as an environmentally benign byproduct. Devising a similar process by which solar energy could be captured and stored for use in vehicles or at night is a major focus of modern solar energy research.

“It is widely recognized that solar energy is the most abundant source of energy on the planet,” explains University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Shannon Stahl. “Although solar panels can convert sunlight to electricity, the sun isn't always shining.”

Thus, finding an efficient way to store solar energy is a major goal for science and society. Efforts today are focused on electrolysis reactions that use sunlight to convert water, carbon dioxide, or other abundant feedstocks into chemicals that can be stored for use any time.
And that's it for last week's news from campuses on the campaign trail. Would you believe I have enough material left for a post about sustainability news from commercial sources? Believe it.

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