Maryland Moments, August, 2008
Washington Post: "Scores of college presidents, including the head of Maryland's public university system and the president of Johns Hopkins University, have an unexpected request for legislators: Please, lower the drinking age. The Amethyst Initiative, launched in July, is a coalition of college presidents who say that the legal drinking age of 21 encourages binge drinking on campuses. William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, William Brody, president of Johns Hopkins, C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland and the presidents of Washington and Lee, Sweet Briar, Towson, Randolph-Macon, Duke, Tufts, Dartmouth and others have signed on to the effort. It is likely to be difficult politically to change the drinking age, which has been 21 since the mid-1980s."
The Washington Post's Marc Fisher devotes a column to President Mote and quandary for college presidents: " 'Next week, when President C.D. 'Dan' Mote welcomes freshmen to the University of Maryland, he will inform them that the college police will enforce underage drinking laws 'with terrific ferocity.' And then he will turn around and, recognizing that most students do drink, tell the teenagers 'to take care of each other when they see someone who's passed out, to take advantage of all of our services for students who abuse alcohol.' 'We have a real conflict here,' Mote says, and he's talking not only about the College Park campus but about every university and about our entire society. We live in a time when efforts to enforce the prohibition on drinking before age 21 are more aggressive than ever, yet there is a common assumption that most young people routinely violate that law. Mote is tired of living that contradiction, which is why he joined more than 100 other college presidents in signing a call for action, the Amethyst Initiative, a collective statement that the 21-year-old drinking age is not working and has created a culture of binge drinking on campuses nationwide. (Amethyst is from the ancient Greek for 'not intoxicated.')
Maryland posted considerable gains in the rankings of its business and engineering programs in the annual undergraduate rankings published by U.S. News & World Report and under the category of 'Programs to Look For.' UM appeared in four rankings --First Year Experience, Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects, Learning Communities, and Service Learning. It is the only member of U.S. News's Top 25 Public Universities to be so honored. The Robert H. Smith School of Business ascended four spots, from No. 21 to No. 17, in the overall business rankings. Of the 10 separate business disciplines ranked, the Smith School advanced in seven. The A. James Clark School of Engineering advanced four places, from No. 25 to No. 21. Its aerospace engineering program advanced to No. 9. Overall, among National Universities, UM advanced from No. 54 to No. 53 and maintained its ranking of No. 18 among U.S. Public Universities.
A team of students and their underwater robot, Tortuga II, won an international underwater robotics competition held in San Diego, Calif. The 'Robotics@Maryland' team won the competition in only its second year of participation. The University of Maryland team competed against 25 other teams from across the United States, India, Canada and Japan in the 11th Annual International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Competition sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Office of Naval Research. Each team had to design and build an autonomous (self-guided) underwater vehicle capable of navigating realistic underwater missions. The other schools whose robots placed in the top eight, were University of Texas at Dallas, École de technologie supérieure, University of Florida, U.S. Naval Academy, University of Victoria, Cornell University and Florida Atlantic University.
Gazette Newspapers: "Eight University of Maryland, College Park students in the department of aerospace engineering won the 2008 Annual American Helicopter Design Competition on Aug. 15. ... This is the eighth consecutive year that the University of Maryland has won the competition. The objective was to design a helicopter capable of operating from an unprepared area, as well as minimizing energy consumption. The helicopter needed to be capable of vertical takeoff and landing. The students developed the design during a one-semester helicopter design class."
New York Times: "Taking a step that professors may view as a bit counterproductive, some universities are doling out Apple iPhones and Internet-capable iPods to students. ... 'At least four institutions -- the University of Maryland, Oklahoma Christian University, Abilene Christian and Freed-Hardeman -- have announced that they will give the devices to some or all of their students this fall. ... The University of Maryland, College Park is proceeding cautiously, giving the iPhone or iPod Touch to 150 students, said Jeffrey Huskamp, vice president and chief information officer at the university. 'We don't think we have all the answers,' Mr. Huskamp said. By observing how students use the gadgets, he said, 'We're trying to get answers from students.' "
Maryland Athletics is launching an aggressive recycling program for home football games this year, part of a campus-wide initiative to green the university that is spearheaded by President C.D. Mote, Jr. The new program, 'Feed the Turtle!, kicked off at the season home opener on Saturday, Aug. 30 against Delware. UM is working to become a model green university, with efforts underway to reduce waste from campus operations and activities, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and water consumption. Campus units are also integrating sustainability into the curriculum and research.
Students across the entire will spend the fall 2008 semester exploring the topic of war and its meaning. The goal for A Semester on War and the Representations of War is to promote a wide-ranging academic and public discussion of an issue that continues to impact all Americans. "Our nation's recent experience requires that we think deeply about the meaning of war, its history and its future, its after-effects, its nobility and its ignominy, and the profound moral issues that it evokes. For present generations and those to come, no subject could be more important, " says Adele Seeff, the director of the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies. She is coordinating the program along with Kent Cartwright, who chairs the English Department, and Robert Schwab, the associate dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.
Chronicle of Higher Education: "Colleges are experimenting with Facebook and other social networks to notify students about emergencies like crimes and floods -- and get vital information in return. Most emergency-alert systems send out warnings. But social networks give students a chance to add on-the-scene reports or trade information if trouble hits. In addition to cell-phone and e-mail alerts, the social networks also give colleges yet another way to reach students in a crisis. ... The University of Maryland, College Park set up a Facebook group last month for 'emergency awareness' at the university. Any emergency message that the university issues on its other alert systems, which can go to cell phones, university Web pages, and e-mail accounts, will also be posted to the Facebook group. The group also lists tips about emergency preparedness, photographs of drills by emergency staff, and other information. ... A group of researchers at the university is also working to build a prototype of a homemade social network for the university's Web site designed for use in emergency situations. The project is an outgrowth of work by Ben Shneiderman, a professor of computer science at the university, and Jennifer Preece, dean of the university's College of Information Studies."
A new, free online service from UM allows consumers to buy the freshest food Maryland farms have to offer with just a click. FoodTrader.org is a virtual farmer's market that lets small independent Maryland farms create an instantaneous listing of the fresh foods they have to sell, the price and the location. The University of Maryland's Environmental Finance Center, a unit of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, launched the Web site just in time for National Farmer's Market Week (August 3-9). This project is consistent with Governor Martin O'Malley's 'Buy Local' initiative and the state Department of Agriculture's 'Maryland's Best' initiative, Throwe says, adding that a variety of other institutions, such as universities, community colleges, public and private schools, and hospitals and nursing homes can make use of the easy access to fresh and nutritious food directly from Maryland farmers."
Washington Post: "Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Saturday that Maryland will join Montgomery County, the University of Maryland and other local governments in a long-term commitment to buy wind power and other renewable energy, as he laid out an aggressive plan to overhaul the state's electricity system. ... By using its market clout to buy electricity from the fledgling wind-power industry -- much the way the state-federal Medicaid system secures lower prices for prescription drugs -- the coalition of state and local governments and the university will be able to meet up to 20 percent of their energy needs, the governor's energy advisers said."
The State Fair opened in Timonium: Baltimore Sun: "[O]rganizers say the 127th annual Maryland State Fair will be a celebration of all things Maryland. ... This year, agriculture students from the University of Maryland will be on hand to answer questions and help veterinarians with the (animal) births. The University of Maryland (Agriculture and Natural Resources) has stepped up participation in the fair in recent years, as the university tries to help farming education efforts and support its own dairy. UM is bringing cattle in, which is something they haven't done in many years. They're doing a promotion for their dairy and other things that they have going on ... UM students will also offer Agricultural Fair tours. The tours will take participants through the fair's various barns where they can view exhibits from farmers, and learn about different types of livestock and the time that goes into raising and caring for them."
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) announced that it will present five awards for key contributions to space science and technology during the AIAA SPACE 2008 Conference & Exposition, to be held September 9-11 at the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, Calif. The awards will be presented at the conference's awards luncheon at noon on Wednesday, September 10, 2008. ...
Michael A'Hearn, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park, Md., will receive the AIAA Space Science Award, which is presented to an individual for demonstrated leadership of innovative scientific investigations associated with space science missions. A'Hearn will be recognized for his leadership of the 'Deep Impact' mission, which delivered the first man-made object to impact the nucleus of a comet and study its composition. ...
(UM alumnus) Michel Griffin, administrator, NASA, Washington, D.C., and James French, JRF Engineering Services, Fort Collins, Colo., will receive the AIAA Summerfield Book Award for their book, Space Vehicle Design, Second Edition.
American Farm: "Midway through her undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland College Park, Katy Nolte, a Frederick County native, was on track for a career in agricultural technology. She had an internship at a chemical company on her resume and was completing an Agriculture Science and Technology degree in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. But 'ag education is really what I wanted to do,' she said, and began asking what could be done to customize her degree. A specific major in ag education at the AGNR college had been absent for more than 15 years, a result of budget cuts at the time. Many high schoolers interested in becoming agriculture teachers went outside the state for schooling and certification but with the trail Nolte helped blaze, three new paths to become an ag educator were formed at the college and will be available this fall to attract students to the college and increase the supply of ag teachers at Maryland high school ag programs."
Society & Culture
Washington Post: "When Stanley Plumly was finally ready to write Posthumous Keats, he sat down at his IBM Selectric III and just typed it out. For 2 1/2 years. 'Out of my head, right out of my head. It was all there,' the poet and University of Maryland professor says. 'It was in the fingers.' And why not? Plumly's obsession with John Keats began almost three decades before his extended meditation on Keats's life, death and uncertain path to immortality was finally published this year. His original publisher gave up on the project. His ex-wife made bets that he'd never finish. He sometimes felt like Sisyphus, watching the damn rock roll endlessly back down the hill."
Wall Street Journal: "Quiz for the day: How much time each day, on average, does a 6- to 12-year-old child spend on household chores? If you guessed more than a half-hour, you're wrong. Children are spending a mere 24 minutes a day doing cleaning, laundry and other housework -- a 12% decline since 1997 and a 25% drop from 1981 levels, says Sandra Hofferth, director of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, based on a forthcoming study of 1,343 children. In the glacial realm of sociological change, that amounts to a free fall."
Science & Technology
Associated Press: "What are they thinking? That's what the military is trying to find out by studying ways to read people's thoughts. The hope is that the research could someday lead to a gadget capable of translating the thoughts of soldiers who suffered brain injuries or even stroke patients. ... Armed with a $4 million grant from the Army, scientists are studying brain signals. Volunteers wear an electrode cap and are asked to think of a word chosen by the researchers, who then analyze the brain activity. Scientists say they're years away from deciphering random thoughts, and that the technology would only work with the subject's active cooperation. The project is a collaboration among researchers at the University of California, Irvine; Carnegie Mellon University; and the University of Maryland (David Poeppel, professor of linguistics)."
Newday: "Smoldering debris from one of the fallen Twin Towers ignited the nearby World Trade Center Building 7, and the intense heat -- not explosives -- caused the skyscraper to collapse, according to a federal report released Thursday. The findings resulted from a three-year investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Though various experts have long believed fire played a role in the building's destruction, the institute's investigators said it was the primary cause and the 'first known instance of fire causing the total collapse of a tall building.' ... Critics questioned why the NIST investigation took so long, saying that there were signs early on pointing to a fire-related collapse. James Quintiere, a professor of fire protection engineering at the University of Maryland, wondered how the institute was able to definitively rule out explosives. 'They don't have the expertise on explosives, so I don't know how they came to that conclusion,' said Quintiere, a frequent critic of the agency, where he formerly worked as chief of the fire science and engineering division. Quintiere stressed, however, that he had never believed explosives played a role."
National Geographic: "Some bats prevent crossed signals when flying with others by shutting down their natural sonar, new research reports. Bats measure distances, dodge objects, and locate prey by listening to their own sound signals bounce off objects. 'Flying mute' could signal active cooperation among the mammals, but scientists don't know for sure. The researchers made the surprising discovery while tracking how groups of captive big brown bats adjusted their signals as they pursued prey. Some simply shut down their sonar for up to 800 milliseconds, according to Cynthia Moss, of the University of Maryland's Auditory Neuroethology Laboratory, and colleagues. 'To humans that sounds very short, but bats operate on a completely different timescale,' Moss explained. '[The time] from detection of an insect to capture is often less than a second. Typically when they approach an insect they [wait] only 20 to 50 milliseconds between sounds. So if they go silent for 600 or 800 milliseconds, that's a long time for them.' "
The Third Law of Thermodynamics is on the minds of John Cumings, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and his research group as they examine the crystal lattice structure of ice and seek to define exactly what happens when it freezes. "Developing an accurate model of ice would help architects, civil engineers, and environmental engineers understand what happens to structures and systems exposed to freezing conditions," Cumings said. "It could also help us understand and better predict the movement of glaciers." The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that as the temperature of a pure substance moves toward absolute zero (the mathematically lowest temperature possible) its entropy, or the disorderly behavior of its molecules, also approaches zero. The molecules should line up in an orderly fashion. Ice seems to be the exception to that rule. While the oxygen atoms in ice freeze into an ordered crystalline structure, its hydrogen atoms do not.
Public Libray of Science: "Since their introduction into land-based birds in 1988, H9N2 avian influenza A viruses have caused multiple human infections and become endemic in domestic poultry in Eurasia. This particular influenza subtype has been evolving and acquiring characteristics that raise concerns that it may become more transmissible among humans. Mechanisms that allow infection and subsequent human-to-human transmission of avian influenza viruses are not well understood. In a new study published August 13 in the journal PLoS ONE, Daniel Perez (veterinary medicine) and colleagues used ferrets to characterize the mechanism of replication and transmission of recent avian H9N2 viruses. The researchers show that some currently circulating avian H9N2 viruses can transmit to native ferrets placed in direct contact with infected ferrets. However, aerosol transmission was not observed, a key factor in potentially pandemic strains."
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