Saturday, June 9, 2012

Update on the CoDominion: Education, Antiquity, and Economy

I haven't mentioned China for a month and The CoDominion for even longer. Combine those facts with three stories about China and relationships between U.S. and Chinese universities in the latest Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos and it's time to post an update on the stories since I began the project of collecting stories from public research universities on the campaign trail.

Join me over the jump for stories from the past four months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos. Don't be surprised if you've seen some of them before. After all, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.


Education

University of Texas at El Paso: UTEP, China ‘Swap’ Chemistry Undergrads
By Daniel Perez
UTEP News Service
May 29, 2012
Chinese foreign exchange student Laiwu Chen did not mince words when asked to share his initial impressions of UTEP and El Paso.

“I think the buildings are amazing, but the weather is too dry,” he said as he pointed to his chapped lips.

Chen is one of three students from Shantou University in southeast China who will immerse themselves in chemistry research during the next 10 weeks at The University of Texas at El Paso. They will be joined by eight other students, seven from other countries – Colombia, Germany, Mexico, and Poland. The German student will join the group in early June. There also is a U.S. student from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan.
...
Meanwhile on the other side of the world, three UTEP students are conducting research at Shantou University, a 30-year-old institution located in the coastal Guangdong Province near the China Sea. The Miners at Shantou are senior chemistry majors Javier Grajeda, Gustavo Hernandez and Karen Ventura.
New Mexico State University: NMSU’s Confucius Institute helps high school student shine in competition
May 29, 2012
At just 15 years of age, Ruben Mena successfully went head-to-head against older high school students in a prestigious Chinese-language competition thanks to his confidence in his abilities and New Mexico State University’s Confucius Institute.

Earlier this month, Ruben placed second in the Chinese Bridge Chinese Proficiency Competition held at the University of California, Los Angeles. His reward for finishing in the top two of the regional competition at UCLA is an invitation to attend the international tournament in Beijing in October. The Confucius Institute at NMSU will be paying for Ruben’s trip.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled by Ruben’s performance at the UCLA competition,” said Elvira Hammond, co-director of the Confucius Institute at NMSU. “Ruben came to us with a solid foundation in Chinese, but we were able to take him to that next level by preparing him for the Chinese Bridge competition.”
University of Delaware: Refining solar power
UD student's research may help increase solar cell efficiency
April 12, 2012
Stephen Mulligan, a University of Delaware senior studying mechanical engineering, has co-authored a paper explaining the effects of gas flow on newly developed solar cells. The paper, entitled “Hybrid Effect of Gas Flow and Light Excitation in Carbon/Silicon Schottky Solar Cells,” appeared recently in the Journal of Materials Chemistry.

Written during Mulligan’s two-month student exchange trip to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, last summer, the paper investigates the behavior of carbon/silicon solar cells and how the presence of gas flow results in enhanced cell efficiency. These cells could then act as improved gas flow sensors.
University of Arizona: UA-China Collaboration Advances Astronomy Research
By Shelley Littin, NASA Space Grant intern
University Communications, February 22, 2012
The project represents a major step forward for international astronomy partnerships.

A collaboration between astronomers at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory and at the National Astronomical Observatory of China has led to a better camera for one of the UA's telescopes on Kitt Peak, and better pictures of the sky for the Chinese astronomers.

"Chinese science and astronomy are expanding very rapidly, so in order to train and to give facilities to their scientists, at the moment anyway, they need to seek places outside of China," said Edward Olszewski, an astronomer at the UA's Steward Observatory.

"The Chinese built a very large telescope near Beijing that can take light spectra of objects in the sky to measure the distance of the galaxies or the age or the compositions of the stars," said Olszewski. "It's the biggest telescope of that kind in the world right now."
University of Wisconsin, Madison: Innovative crane curriculum introduces environmental stewardship to young students in China
By Jenny Peek
March 22, 2012
Implementing western-style environmental education programs in developing countries can be difficult. Educational systems typically grow from local traditions and culture, leading to unique curricula, methods and expectations. To be successful, new concepts must first be accepted by the community and educators.

In southwestern China’s Guizhou Province, the International Crane Foundation and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies have found the perfect balance, partnering on a novel environmental education program for elementary school children that incorporates western techniques and local traditions.

The three-year initiative, funded by the Crane Foundation and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is directed by Nancy Mathews, a professor of environmental studies and director of the Morgridge Center for Public Service. It complements the Crane Foundation’s ongoing rural development efforts in Guizhou, aimed at integrating community development and wildlife conservation in this poor, largely agricultural province.
Antiquity

American Museum of Natural History on YouTube: New Dinosaur Research: Microraptor's Feather Color Revealed



A team of American and Chinese researchers, including scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, has revealed the color and detailed feather pattern of Microraptor, a pigeon-sized, four-winged dinosaur that lived about 130 million years ago. By comparing the patterns of pigment-containing organelles from a Microraptor fossil to those in modern birds, the scientists determined that the dinosaur's plumage was iridescent with hues of black and blue like the feathers of a crow. Their results were published by the journal Science in March.
io9: This four-winged dinosaur is helping rewrite the book on prehistoric plumage
By Robert Gonzales
March 8, 2012
What color were the dinosaurs? It's a question that people have puzzled over for close to 200 years, and one that many long believed to be unanswerable. But a few years ago, scientists discovered that microscopic structures called melanosomes could be used to reveal prehistoric creatures' true hues.

Now, an international team of researchers studying the melanosomes of a four-winged dinosaur named Microraptor has made a remarkable discovery: Microraptor was completely black, but its feathers shone with a glossy hint of blue. In other words, it's plumage was iridescent — and that, say the researchers, provides us with some surprising insights into the early evolution of feathers.

"One of the things modern birds are known for is their elaborate visual displays," explains Mark Norell, chair of The American Museum of Natural History's Paleontology Division and coauthor on the study. These displays, which have no bearing on a bird's capacity for flight, can serve any number of functions — to attract a mate, for instance, or to ward off potential predators.
Oregon State University via Science Daily: Jurassic Pain: Giant 'Flea-Like' Insects Plagued Dinosaurs 165 Million Years Ago
May 1, 2012
It takes a gutsy insect to sneak up on a huge dinosaur while it sleeps, crawl onto its soft underbelly and give it a bite that might have felt like a needle going in -- but giant "flea-like" animals, possibly the oldest of their type ever discovered, probably did just that.

And a few actually lived through the experience, based on the discovery by Chinese scientists of remarkable fossils of these creatures, just announced in Current Biology, a professional journal.

These flea-like animals, similar but not identical to modern fleas, were probably 10 times the size of a flea you might find crawling on the family dog -- with an extra-painful bite to match.
Institute of Vertebrae Paleontology and Paleoanthropology via physorg.com: Three-toed horses reveal the secret of the Tibetan Plateau uplift
The Tibetan Plateau is the youngest and highest plateau on Earth, and its elevation reaches one-third of the height of the troposphere, with profound dynamic and thermal effects on atmospheric circulation and climate. The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau was an important factor of global climate change during the late Cenozoic and strongly influenced the development of the Asian monsoon system. However, there have been heated debates about the history and process of Tibetan Plateau uplift, especially elevations in different geological ages.

In PNAS Early Edition online April 23, 2012, Dr. Tao Deng from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his team report a well-preserved skeleton of a 4.6 million-year-old three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin, southwestern Tibet. Morphological features indicate that the Zanda horse was a cursorial horse that lived in alpine steppe habitats. Because this open landscape would be situated above the timberline on the steep southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, the elevation of the Zanda Basin 4.6 Ma ago was estimated to be ~4,000 m above sea level using an adjustment to the temperature in the middle Pliocene as well as comparison with modern vegetation vertical zones. Thus, Deng and his team conclude that the southwestern Tibet achieved the present-day elevation in the mid-Pliocene.
Scientific American: Report from Former U.S. Marine Hints at Whereabouts of Long-Lost Peking Man Fossils
By Kate Wong
March 22, 2012
In the 1930s archaeologists working at the site of Zhoukoudian near Beijing recovered an incredible trove of partial skulls and other bones representing some 40 individuals that would eventually be assigned to the early human species Homo erectus. The bones, which recent estimates put at around 770,000 years old, constitute the largest collection of H. erectus fossils ever found. They were China’s paleoanthropological pride and joy. And then they vanished.

According to historical accounts, in 1941 the most important fossils in the collection were packed in large wooden footlockers or crates to be turned over to the U.S. military for transport to the American Museum of Natural History in New York for safekeeping during World War II. But the fossils never made it to the U.S. Today, all scientists have are copies of the bones. The disappearance of the originals stands as one of the biggest mysteries in paleoanthropology.

Researchers have found a new lead, however.
Financial Times: Time raiders
Tomb treasures from the Han dynasty go on show at the UK's Fitzwilliam Museum from May 5
By Susan Moore
Yinde Li was an archaeologist of 26 when the royal tomb of one of the Western Han dynasty kings of Chu – possibly Liu Dao (who reigned from 150BC-129BC) – was excavated on Beidongshan hill near Xuzhou, in the Chinese province of Jiangsu, in 1984.

A farmer had contacted the authorities after stumbling across the hole through which grave robbers had entered and partially looted the site at some time in antiquity. Professor Li recalls slipping down a damp earth slide in near-total darkness. By the dim light of his torch, all he could make out was a mass of writhing serpentine forms the width of his wrist. “I was terrified. I thought they were snakes,” he laughs, his breath condensing in the chill air of the now denuded but hauntingly atmospheric tomb chamber. “It was just like Indiana Jones.”

Time Magazine: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About China’s Terra-Cotta Army
Relics from the legendary Chinese archaeological site are now on display in New York City. Here's what you need to know
By Kate Springer
While digging a well near Mount Li in Shaanxi, China, in 1974, a farmer stumbled upon one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the century: the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di, an Emperor who died in 210 B.C. and was buried with a terra-cotta entourage. Since then, archaeologists have spent the past 40 years carefully uncovering the life-size warriors from 22 sq. mi. (57 sq km) of earth-and-wood pits.

So far, excavations at the Museum of the Terracotta Army, located roughly 25 miles (40 km) east of Xi’an, have unearthed about 2,000 of the 6,000 figures thought to exist. Alongside the subterranean army lie horses, chariots, weaponry — even acrobats meant to entertain Emperor Qin in death. Scholars say the warriors were buried with China’s first Emperor to protect him in the afterlife and were never meant to be seen. Today, this so-called eighth wonder of the world attracts an estimated 2 million tourists per year.

For those who can’t make it to Xi’an, a handful of figures are on display in New York City through Aug. 26 as the centerpiece of an immersive exhibit in Times Square. The show will feature artifacts dating back to 221 B.C., including 10 of the authentic, 6-ft.-tall (183 cm) clay soldiers and their armor. In honor of the exhibit, here are five important bits of terra-cotta trivia:
Asian News International via News Track India: Ancient Buddhist temple found in China's Taklimakan Desert
May 7, 2012
Keriya (Xinjiang, China) May 7 (Xinhua-ANI) -- The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China's largest desert, offering valuable research material for historians studying Buddhism's spread from India to China.

The temple's main hall, with a rare structure based around three square-shaped corridors and a huge Buddha statue, has been uncovered after two months of hard work in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Dr. Wu Xinhua, the leading archaeologist of the excavation project, said Monday.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Chinese artifact theft investigators nab 2 suspects

Fitzwilliam Museum theft appeared on TV's Crimewatch; additional arrests in similar case

British police have arrested two suspects in conjunction with the recent theft of 18 rare Chinese artifacts from the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge.

"Officers from Cambridgeshire, along with officers from the Metropolitan Police, carried out two warrants at addresses in London," according to a police statement issued Wednesday.
This story was also written about in the Examiner.com article: Professional thieves target Chinese artifacts for the second time in two weeks
Renee Mallett
The Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge University saw the loss of eighteen ancient Chinese artifacts on Friday night in a daring heist police believe was pulled off by professional thieves. The heist was strongly reminiscent of a similar theft of Chinese artifacts that took place just two weeks earlier at Durham University.

The Fitzwilliam Museum theft saw the loss of eighteen items including a Ming jade cup from the 14th century, eight pieces from the Qing dynasty, a 17th century jade elephant, and many other precious, and irreplaceable, items.

"The eighteen items stolen are mostly jade and are part of the museum's permanent collection," said Detective Chief Superintendent Karen Daber, who is leading the investigation. "The items stolen are very valuable and are of great cultural significance so we are absolutely committed to recovering them and bringing those who stole them to justice. This is an exceptional crime that we are taking very seriously.”
BBC: Ferrari sorry after car damages Nanjing city wall
Italian sports car maker Ferrari has apologised after one of its cars drove on an ancient Chinese monument, prior to a publicity event, causing damage.

Ferrari suggested the incident was the fault of a local dealership employee.

The car was filmed wheel-spinning on top of a 600-year-old Ming-dynasty era wall in the city of Nanjing.
When the Earth Shakes
March 1, 2012
The United States Geological Survey records earthquakes every day. The earliest reported U.S. quake was felt in 1769 about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles. A single earthquake several thousand years ago is believed to have killed 800,000 in central China.

In 2011, a Richter magnitude 9.0 quake in Japan became the largest Japanese earthquake since records began. The Japanese National Police Agency confirmed 15,787 deaths from it with more than 6,000 injuries. In addition, the earthquake, tsunami and aftershocks damaged or destroyed more than 125,000 buildings. From an economic standpoint, the Japanese government estimates the overall costs could exceed $300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster in Japanese history.
...
In the wake of a catastrophic natural disaster, engineers review whether human and economic losses can be reduced. Through structural-engineering research and experimentation, building codes and retrofitting techniques are improving, better protecting inhabitants and property.
Georgia Tech: Arctic Sea Ice Decline May be Driving Snowy Winters Seen in Recent Years
Posted February 27, 2012 Atlanta, GA
A new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology provides further evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere. The study’s findings could be used to improve seasonal forecasting of snow and temperature anomalies across northern continents.

Since the level of Arctic sea ice set a new record low in 2007, significantly above-normal winter snow cover has been seen in large parts of the northern United States, northwestern and central Europe, and northern and central China. During the winters of 2009-2010 and 2010-2011, the Northern Hemisphere measured its second and third largest snow cover levels on record.

“Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation,” said Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech. “The circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”
io9: The World’s Next Supercontinent: Amasia!
By Sophie Brunswick
February 8, 2012
The United States hasn't always had the closest relationship with China or Russia. But give us a few hundred million years, and we could be a lot more unified: A new prediction for the motion of the continents suggests that the Americas and Asia will smoosh together at the north to form the supercontinent dubbed Amasia.
...
Geologists suspect that supercontinents may form, break up, and reform in cycles that last 500 to 700 million years. If so, then what supercontinent will cover Earth's surface in the future, and where will it be?

A new paper in Nature states that Amasia will form, as others have suggested previously, but the researchers have settled on a new theory for where it will be based on their new model, "orthoversion."
Economy

University of Washington: China’s urbanization unlikely to lead to fast growth of middle class: UW geographer
By Molly McElroy
Feb. 29, 2012
The number of people living in China’s cities, which last year for the first time surpassed 50 percent of the national population, is considered a boon for the consumer goods market. That is based on the assumption that there will be more families with more disposable income when poor farmers from China’s countryside move to cities and become middle-class industrial and office workers.

But the assumption overlooks a policy from the era of Chinese leader Mao Zedong that restricts the upward mobility of its rural citizens, says a University of Washington geographer.

This calls into question China’s strength in the global market and its ability to overtake the United States as a global superpower, according to Kam Wing Chan, a UW professor of geography.
Michigan State University: Researchers give long look at who benefits from nature tourism
April 27, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Using nature’s beauty as a tourist draw can boost conservation in China’s valued panda preserves, but it isn’t an automatic ticket out of poverty for the human inhabitants, a long-term study at Michigan State University shows.

The policy hitch: Often those who benefit most from nature-based tourism endeavors are people who already have resources. The truly impoverished have a harder time breaking into the tourism business.

The study, published in the current edition of PLoS One, looks at nearly a decade of burgeoning tourism in the Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China. China, like many areas in the world, is banking on tourism over farming to preserve fragile animal habitat while allowing people to thrive.

But until now, no one has taken a close look at the long-term economic implications for people.
University of Texas at Dallas: Prof's Studies of Corruption in Asia are in Demand Worldwide
Prof's Studies of Corruption in Asia are in Demand Worldwide
A UT Dallas management professor's findings on corruption in Asia are in demand by business universities around the world.
May 29, 2012
Two articles by Dr. Seung-Hyun Lee, an associate professor in the Naveen Jindal School of Management, examine how bribery and other types of corruption influence business and profits in Asian countries. Lee, of the school's Organizations, Strategy and International Management area, also analyzes how U.S. firms fare when competing in such environments.

“Bribery is a reality of doing business in most Asian countries,” Lee said. “Bribery is almost like paying a tax in many countries.”

Since the papers appeared in the Asia Pacific Journal of Management in 2007 and 2010, Lee has frequently received requests to use them from various universities, including the Singapore campus of INSEAD, one of the world’s foremost graduate business universities.
Texas A&M University: Internet culture in China thrives despite censorship
May 31, 2012
One of China’s most popular microblogging services recently instituted a stringent user contract that penalizes bloggers for any comments that are judged to be offensive. Despite this kind of censorship, Texas A&M communication assistant professor Cara Wallis says that new media in China reflect changing values and are an important part of the way young users build their identities and social networks.

Today there are an estimated 513 million internet users and 975 million mobile phone subscribers in mainland China. Still, Wallis believes that people in other countries remain unaware of how lively the internet culture is in the world’s most populous nation. Instead, they focus on the government’s attempts to control the internet.

“Most westerners would be surprised how much discussion is going on,” Wallis said in a recent interview.

According to her research, the majority of internet users in China are unfazed by the reality of censorship. She says most people don’t seek information outside of the “Great Firewall” enough to care about being censored.
Romney appeals for working-class votes in Ohio
By Sam Youngman
BEXLEY, Ohio | Wed Feb 29, 2012 6:18pm EST
(Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appealed for the support of working-class Americans in industrial Ohio on Wednesday, a day after narrowly averting a humiliating defeat by rival Rick Santorum in Romney's home state of Michigan.

Romney focused almost exclusively on the U.S. economy, China and stiff criticism of President Barack Obama's leadership at his first campaign events after Tuesday's Michigan primary.

"The reason I won yesterday in Michigan and Arizona is because I'm talking about the issue people care most about and I understand that issue," Romney said at a rally in Bexley, outside the state capital of Columbus.
UPDATE 1-Obama hits back at Republican criticism of high fuel prices
Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:13pm EST
* Obama blames high oil prices on Iran tensions
* Says speculators also driving prices higher
* Says Republicans making "phony" promises

By Laura MacInnis
MIAMI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama hit back on Thursday at election-year Republican criticism of his energy policies, offering a staunch defense of his attempts to wean Americans off foreign oil and saying there is no "silver bullet" for high gasoline prices.

Obama sought to deflect growing Republican attacks over rising prices at the pump, blaming recent increases on a mix of factors beyond his control, including tensions with Iran, hot demand from China, India and other emerging economies, and Wall Street speculators taking advantage of the uncertainty.

U.S. gasoline prices have jumped nearly 9 cents in the past week to an average of $3.61 a gallon, and are expected to rise further toward the crucial $4 mark through the summer driving season and the approach of the Nov. 6 election.
Analysis: China growth risks signal need for fiscal action
By Nick Edwards
BEIJING | Sun May 13, 2012 10:08am EDT
China may need a back-up plan to stop economic growth being cut short by a surprise dip in demand at home and abroad that suggests monetary policy easing steps taken since the final quarter of last year are insufficient to deal with the downturn.

The People's Bank of China cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves on Saturday, freeing an estimated 400 billion yuan ($63.5 billion) for lending to add to the roughly 800 billion injected in two previous 50 bps cuts since the government tilted its policy stance towards growth in October.

The move came after data on Friday showed the economy weakening, not recovering, from its slowest quarter of growth in three years. Industrial production growth slowed sharply in April and fixed asset investment - a key growth driver - hit its lowest level in nearly a decade, confounding economists expecting signs of a rebound in Q2 data.
Clinton faces personal test in China diplomatic firestorm
By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON | Mon Apr 30, 2012 5:51pm EDT
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hoped to highlight stability during her trip to China this week, but instead flies into a diplomatic hurricane sparked by the dramatic escape of a blind Chinese human rights activist now believed to be under U.S. protection.

Clinton is due to depart Washington late on Monday for Beijing, where she will be joined by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other U.S. officials for high-level meetings with their Chinese counterparts on Thursday and Friday.

But all eyes will be on how Clinton handles the delicate case of Chen Guangcheng, who rights advocates say is sheltering at the U.S. embassy in Beijing after a daring flight from house arrest in his native Shandong province.
Exclusive: China mulls guarantees for ships carrying Iran oil
By Alison Leung
BEIJING | Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:33am EDT
China is considering sovereign guarantees for its ships to enable the world's second-biggest oil consumer to continue importing Iranian crude after new EU sanctions come into effect in July, the head of China's shipowners' association said.

Tough new European Union sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's oil exports to Europe also ban EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world. Around 90 percent of the world's tanker insurance is based in the West, so the measures threaten shipments to Iran's top Asian buyers China, India, Japan and South Korea.

Global crude oil prices have risen nearly 20 percent since October, partly on fears over supply disruptions from Iran.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Delaware scientist part of team working to bridge vital materials gap
By Tom Avril, Inquirer Staff Writer
April 17, 2012
Quick: Name a raw material vital to national security and the American consumer lifestyle, prone to rising prices, and largely controlled by foreign interests thousands of miles away.

Oil? Sure, but in a physics lab at the University of Delaware, another answer is the class of materials known as rare earths.

Prized for their magnetic properties, rare earths are used to make almost any high-tech product you can name - computer screens, hard drives, cameras, smartphones, lasers. Global production of the 17 metallic elements is dominated by China, which has restricted exports, driving up prices and leading the United States, Europe, and Japan to seek relief last month from the World Trade Organization.
WBIR (NBC TV 10): In-depth: Electric cars
A study from UT has found emmissions in electric cars could actually be worse than emission from their gas-powered counterparts.
This was based on a study in China. It's not an argument against electric cars; it's an argument against coal-fired electrical plants.

University of Delaware: Doing business in China
IGS helps organize event in advance of delegation trip to China
April 20, 2012
The CEOs of several Delaware-based companies attended a networking event to learn more about doing business in China on April 11 at Deer Park Tavern in Newark. The event was organized by the University of Delaware Institute for Global Studies (IGS), the state of Delaware and the Delaware World Trade Center.

Matthew Robinson, IGS director and professor of business at UD’s Alfred College of Business and Economics, Bruce Weber, dean of the Lerner College and professor of economics, and Jianguo Chen, director of UD’s Confucius Institute, spoke about challenges and future interactions in trade and business with China.
Turns out that I had quite a bit of news about China and the Sino-American relationship!

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