Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sustainability news from midwestern research universities for the week ending June 11, 2011

Last night, I concluded my post with:
Next up, stories from Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin!
It's time!

General Sustainability

University of Wisconsin: Campus architects gather at UW-Madison
June 6, 2011
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's 933 acres of campus will serve as both host and laboratory when university architects from across the U.S. and Canada descend on Wisconsin.

During the 56th annual conference of the Association of University Architects (AUA), occurring June 19-24, experts will be invited to explore the breadth of the campus landscape, from the Beaux Arts-style Education Building — designed in 1899 — to the solar and geothermal-supported Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.
The $98 million Union South, with its reuse of 90 percent of building materials, will be showcased, as well as the Microbial Sciences Building and the blooming Allen Centennial Gardens. Beyond campus, architects will tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin estate in Spring Green, which marks its 100th anniversary this year.

AUA members will also attend talks on project strategies in time of austerity, on harmonizing universities and cities, sustainability and forming public-private development partnerships.
Note the key words in this press release--sustainability and austerity. It will be the interaction between these two, both how they conflict with and reinforce each other, that will define this decade.

University of Wisconsin: Bike to Work Week is underway
June 6, 2011
UW Transportation Services is once again partnering with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin to promote various Bike to Work Week events throughout town.

Check out the Madison Bike To Work Week webpage for information on commuter stations, biking to work with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and the bike-in movie finale party.

Another part of the week consists of the Get Up and Ride Wisconsin Bike Challenge. This is a free event and an opportunity to promote wellness, team building and bicycling within your workplace.

The Bicycle Federation will provide participants with everything needed to make coordinating the challenge within your workplace simple.
That reminds me, Model D has a recap of its speaker series event on urban mobility, which concentrated on bicycling. Reviewing that will be on my agenda this week.

June 6, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – From the paleolithic diet to the raw food diet, many health-conscious Americans now want to eat the way they believe our ancient ancestors ate.

But some of these dietary prescriptions make little sense for modern humans, according to a new book on the evolution of the use of food and eating habits among prehistoric people.

While there is much we can learn from what our ancestors ate, many of our more modern foods and diets were developed for very good reasons, said Kristen Gremillion, associate professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.

Gremillion is author of the new book Ancestral Appetites: Food in Prehistory (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which explores how humans have adjusted the food they eat and the way they prepare it in response to new knowledge and new environments.

“Humans are omnivores and we can eat a wide range of things,” Gremillion said.
As you can see, I return to food every chance I get on this blog. Having an entire month of food blogging under the sprout theme, to say nothing of teaching a global politics of food class at the same time, left an indelible mark on my writing here. Speaking of which, the food thread continues into the next section. But first, a slight detour.

Environment, including science and technology

June 7, 2011
VIENNA, Austria – At the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) meeting this week, American researchers are unveiling a new tool for detecting illegal nuclear explosions: the Earth’s global positioning system (GPS).

Even underground nuclear tests leave their mark on the part of the upper atmosphere known as the ionosphere, the researchers discovered, when they examined GPS data recorded the same day as a North Korean nuclear test in 2009. Within minutes on that day, GPS stations in nearby countries registered a change in ionospheric electron density, as a bubble of disturbed particles spread out from the test site and across the planet.

“Its as if the shockwave from the underground explosion caused the earth to ‘punch up’ into the atmosphere, creating another shockwave that pushed the air away from ground zero,” said Ralph von Frese, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and senior author on the study.
I consider war to be a sustainbility issue. Now back to the food theme.

Purdue University: Scientists gain insight on how plants bend toward light
June 8, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue University-led study may change how scientists think about how some plants bend toward light.

Angus Murphy, a professor of horticulture, said the process, called phototropism, is well-documented in grasses, but has been difficult to resolve in dicots, a large group of flowering plants that includes many agricultural crops. Research in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana now shows that the hormones that cause phototropism are distributed from the tip of the plant rather than where the plant's stem bends as had been thought.

Charles Darwin and his son, Francis, described phototropic bending in the late 19th century based on experiments in which they were able to block light from reaching the tips of plant shoots and keep the plants from bending toward the light. Their work led to the discovery of auxin, a plant hormone that controls growth functions.
Again, I'm going to arrange these stories to show the bleed through of culture into science, with the most strictly science and least culture first and the most balanced between science and culture last. Note that it's still all about plants, whether growing food or not.

A miniature mass spectrometer invented by Purdue scientists can almost immediately detect contaminants in the field including E. coli, pesticides and other chemicals. Using the mobile device is faster than sending specimens to labs for testing.
Accompanying story from Purdue University: Comparing apples and oranges: Purdue handheld technology detects chemicals on store produce
June 8, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers recently took their miniature mass spectrometer grocery shopping to test for traces of chemicals on standard and organic produce.

In the technology's first venture out of the lab, it successfully identified specific chemical residues on apples and oranges in a matter of minutes right in the produce section without having to peel or otherwise prepare a sample of the fruit.

R. Graham Cooks, the Henry Bohn Hass Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Zheng Ouyang, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, led the team that used the miniature mass spectrometer - that some have likened to Star Trek's "tricorder" - to test for a fungicide on oranges and a scald inhibitor on apples.
Science is cool.

University of Wisconsin: UW-Madison scientists create low-acrylamide potato lines
by Nicole Miller
June 9, 2011
What do Americans love more than French fries and potato chips? Not much-but perhaps we love them more than we ought to. Fat and calories aside, both foods contain high levels of a compound called acrylamide, a potential carcinogen.

First discovered in foods in 2002, acrylamide is produced whenever starchy foods are fried, roasted or baked, meaning it's found in everything from doughnuts to coffee beans. But fries and chips are relatively high in acrylamide compared to most starch-based snacks, and potato processors are eager to change that.

University of Wisconsin-Madison plant geneticist Jiming Jiang, a professor of horticulture, has a solution. As described in the current issue of Crop Science, his lab has developed a promising new kind of potato that helps cut acrylamide, an innovation he created with support from USDA-ARS plant physiologist Paul Bethke, an assistant professor of horticulture. As a bonus, those potatoes also could help producers significantly reduce food waste.
And now, Americans' cultural food preferences make an appearance.

University of Wisconsin: Three UW-Madison teams will compete in national food product contests this weekend
by Nicole Miller
June 8, 2011
They spent most of the past year inventing a shelf-stable yogurt truffle, a beverage mix made with real fruit and a tangerine-flavored carbonated dairy beverage drink.

Now three teams of UW-Madison students are headed to New Orleans to see how their ideas fare in the final rounds of two national food product development competitions being held at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual meeting this weekend.

One UW-Madison team will take samples of Blissful Bites — a yogurt truffle with a vanilla yogurt center, yogurt-flavored coating and crunchy outer layer of flax, oats and puffed rice — to compete against five other schools in the finals of the IFT's collegiate product development competition.

Two other UW-Madison product-development teams will compete in a Disney-sponsored competition to create healthy foods for kids. At the Disney finals, a team of UW-Madison undergraduates will showcase a carbonated beverage, called Tangerine Dream, that contains a full serving of low-fat dairy and tastes something like an orange creamsicle. Another UW-Madison team, this one composed of graduate students, will compete with Pixie Dust, a powdered drink mix made from real fruit that can be added to milk or water.
I defy you to tell me where the science stops and the culture begins in this article.

Society, including culture and politics

Indiana University: AHR examines ‘Earthrise era,’ symbols of Argentine cultural identity
June 6, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Hear the word "Earth," and the images likely to flash through the mind are descendants of two views afforded by the Apollo missions. One, a photograph called "Earthrise," shows Earth half-cloaked in shadow above a lifeless moonscape. A second, "Blue Marble," reveals our planet suspended alone in the void; it is reputed to be the most widely disseminated photograph in history.

Such views of Earth, it has been argued, prompted a revolution in the global imagination and a new appreciation for the beauty and fragility of the planet. But Benjamin Lazier, associate professor of history at Reed College, writing in the June 2011 issue of the American Historical Review, questions whether the Apollo images did indeed prompt such a revolution. And if so, he asks, to what ends?

Lazier supplements accounts of the Cold War origins and environmentalist afterlives of the "Earthrise era" with a history of philosophical responses to the earliest images of Earth from space. He focuses on thinkers -- including Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger and Hans Blumenberg -- who were troubled by the displacement of local, earthbound horizons with horizons that are planetary in scope and scale.

"Their example … prompts us to ask whether the visions and vocabularies of the Earthrise era have inadvertently accelerated our planetary emergency as much as they have inspired us to slow it down," he writes in "Earthrise; or, The Globalization of the World Picture."
This article shows how science has inspired the culture in surprising ways.

University of Wisconsin: Science teachers to get opportunity to explore evolution
by David Tenenbaum
June 7, 2011
Science teachers will have a unique opportunity to get inside evolution at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has a long history of evolutionary researchers.

A weeklong seminar for teachers will focus on the guiding principle of biology and "put the teachers of Wisconsin in touch with the faculty at UW-Madison, who are themselves teaching evolution," says Mara McDonald, a biologist who is administrator of the university's J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution.

The Crow Institute and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center are co-sponsoring Evolution at the Movies: A Workshop for Educators, to be held on campus Aug. 8-12.
Yes, it's about teaching science, but education is a societal issue, so the article goes here.

University of Wisconsin: Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies receives $9.5 million grant to help older adults
June 8, 2011
A five-year, $9.5 million grant has been awarded to a collaborative research program led by the Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The purpose of the grant is to develop innovations that help older adults remain in their homes as long as possible. The grant comes from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), whose mission is to improve the quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness of health care for all Americans.

The grant will bring the center's research team together with engineers from two other research centers based in the UW-Madison Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering: the Driving Simulation Laboratory and the RFID Laboratory. Experts from UW-Madison's Mass Communication Research Center, geriatricians, specialists from Wisconsin's State Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources and community advocates from around the state will also participate in the collaborative. The Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging and some of the state's Aging and Disability Resource Centers will be implementing and demonstrating new approaches. All will work together as an Active Aging Research Center to solve the problems that often cause older adults to leave their homes: falls, unreliable home care, difficulty managing a chronic disease, and declining driving skills.
Again, this article is about the application of science in society, not about the science itself.

June 6, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Instead of feeling stressed by the money they owe, many young adults actually feel empowered by their credit card and education debts, according to a new nationwide study.

Researchers found that the more credit card and college loan debt held by young adults aged 18 to 27, the higher their self-esteem and the more they felt like they were in control of their lives. The effect was strongest among those in the lowest economic class.

Only the oldest of those studied – those aged 28 to 34 – began showing signs of stress about the money they owed.

“Debt can be a good thing for young people – it can help them achieve goals that they couldn’t otherwise, like a college education,” said Rachel Dwyer, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State University.

But the results offer some worrying signs about how many young people view debt, she added.
Yes, I did manage to find an article that bridged society and economy.


University of Wisconsin: Walker, Ryan to headline Graaskamp Center Conference on new partnerships between government, real estate
June 6, 2011
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan will headline a Wisconsin School of Business conference on new partnerships between government and real estate.

The New Partnerships: Government and Real Estate conference, hosted by the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate, will be held from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9, at the Fluno Center, 601 University Ave.

Walker and Michael Knetter, president and chief executive officer of the University of Wisconsin Foundation, will be the conference's keynote speakers.
Here is an article that bridges society and economy from the other side of the divide. Too bad it was about an event featuring people who really don't believe all that much in a sustainable society and environment. Honestly, if I had known about this event before it happened, I would have posted it on the appropriate Facebook walls and popped corn. The protests in front of the venue would have been epic.

Purdue University: Agricultural economist: Indiana farmland values still rising
June 9, 2011
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A Purdue agricultural economist expects Indiana farmland values to keep rising this year, continuing a trend that has seen them increase by 270 percent since 1985.

Farmland increased in value by 12 percent last year. In June 2010, the average price for an acre of land in Indiana was $4,419. With the strong prices in place since last fall, Craig Dobbins expects values to increase significantly.

"When you buy a capital asset, you are buying future income," said Dobbins, who explained that the three main factors driving farmland values are income, interest rates and the growth rate of annual income.
The rest of this article is about how commodity prices are driving up agricultural land values while residential and commercial real estate are still in the dumps. I might find this a subject worth revisiting.

University of Wisconsin: Research establishment spawns research-supply spinoffs
by David Tenenbaum
June 9, 2011
For a century, Wisconsin's traditional metal-working industries spawned a broad and profitable series of tool-and-diemaking firms that marketed nationwide.

Now, the immense variety of biological research at UW-Madison has spawned a range of companies that produce the complex supplies, materials and expertise needed by food, health and pharmaceuticals companies, and by basic researchers.

Only now, the market is not nationwide. It is worldwide.
Finally, I complete the circle by concluding with an article that shows the connections between science and economy.

Part three up later today, then a post for the readers of Clusterfuck Nation.

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