Maryland Moments, January, 2011
MEDA Panel Urges Businesses to Get Involved in Legislation
Fry: Lawmakers should think about potential "impact" of measures.
Business Gazette: "Instead of writing a letter or sending an e-mail, Donald C. Fry wants to see Maryland employers knock on their legislators' doors. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, shared that sentiment with his fellow panelists during the Maryland Economic Development Association's annual winter conference Thursday at the Governor Calvert House in Annapolis. Fry was part of a panel that included Kathleen T. Snyder, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and Renee M. Winsky, CEO of the Maryland Tech Council. The trio spoke to a crowded room and touched on some of the main messages they want to send to state legislators as the new legislative session gets under way. ... What happens in the General Assembly is fundamentally critical to the resources and tools private employers have to do their jobs, according to David S. Iannucci, the economic development association's president. 'Legislative decisions affect whether we can do our job next year,' he said. Although Maryland may have weathered the Great Recession better than other states, Iannucci believes complacency can't set in. 'We're in a very competitive economy where all 50 states are all working very hard to protect their own interests,' he said. The conference concluded with a talk by Wallace D. Loh, new president of the University of Maryland, College Park. Loh reinforced the conference's theme of job growth to pull the state out of the recession. 'We have to grow our way out of this hole instead of cut our way out,' he said."
Retention Rates at Four-Year Private Colleges Fall to Lowest Levels Yet
Washington Examiner: "According to a study published today by ACT, Inc., freshman retention rates at four-year private colleges have fallen to the lowest levels since the testing service began conducting surveys of colleges and universities 27 years ago. And for the first time, retention rates at private colleges (72 percent) fell behind those at four-year public institutions (74 percent), possibly reflecting continuing strains in the economy and the ability of families to afford higher tuition. 'Students are better able to afford to return to public colleges than to private schools due to their lower costs,' said Wes Habley, ACT's principal associate, who has been conducting analyses of retention data for the organization since 1985. Overall college retention rates, or the percentage of first-year, full time students who return to the same institution for a second year, remained relatively stable. Two-thirds (67 percent) of students at two- and four-year colleges returned for their sophomore year, as compared to 68 percent in 2005 and 66 percent last year. Although improving, retention at two-year colleges (56 percent) still lags behind that of four-year institutions. Locally, retention rates at four-year colleges and universities largely remain above national averages. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the University of Virginia (97 percent), Georgetown (96 percent), Johns Hopkins (96 percent), and the College of William & Mary (95 percent) had the highest percentage of students who began their studies in 2008 return in 2009. The University of Maryland (93 percent), the University of Richmond (92 percent), James Madison University (92 percent), St. Mary's College of Maryland (91 percent), George Washington (91 percent), and American (90 percent) also posted far better than average retention rates."
Smith School of Business and Partner Guanghua School of Management Award Prizes in 2011 Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Business Journals, UM release: "The University of Maryland's Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business awarded $10,000 to winners of the 2011 China Business Plan Competition, in partnership with the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing. MBA students from the Smith School competed with their counterparts in China on Jan. 14 in a contest to present the best business plan pitch. VeggieCool, a team from the Smith School of Business, with a plan for cold storage and transportation of produce grown in rural India won the top prize of $3,000, as well as the People's Choice Award of $1,000. The competition, now in its sixth year, was the culmination of a business plan course and trip to China for the Smith students, led by the Dingman Center. 'We are honored to host this China Business Plan Competition with the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business,' said Hongbin Cai, dean of Peking University's Guanghua School of Management. 'China is playing a more and more important role in the global economy. Due to the differences in culture and market conditions between the China and the rest of the world, this business plan competition, which specifically aims at promoting entrepreneurship in China, will be valuable to MBA students not only in China but also in America and countries all over the world.' "
IIMB, University of Maryland and Zhejiang University Announce Joint Certification Program
Global Program Will Focus on Creativity & Innovation, Manufacturing and Services
Business Journals, UM release: "The Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland (Smith) and the School of Management, Zhejiang University (Zhejiang, China), today jointly announced the launch of a global senior management program that will have business leaders traveling to each country to learn the keys to successful innovation in each market. The program, titled Technology & Innovation Leadership Beyond Borders, consists of a series of three international business education and professional development immersion experiences at each of the three institutions, networking and group activities for participating executives, and a certificate to each successful program participant. The three institutions will jointly deliver a high-quality impactful experience of an international caliber and will share in the effort, expenses, and revenues from the planning and delivery of the program. 'To truly lead in global business, executives and senior managers must have a firsthand understanding of today's top and fastest growing markets,' said G. 'Anand' Anandalingam, dean of the Robert H. Smith School of Business. 'As strong partner institutions, we want to offer business leaders in the United States, China and India the opportunity to experience the unique strengths of each market and the best way to do that is to give managers an on-the-ground look at the way businesses operate and why they succeed.' "
Financial Times Ranks UMD Smith School No. 18 Among U.S. Business Schools
UM release: "The MBA program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business ranked No. 18 in the United States in the Financial Times MBA 2011 rankings, published today. The influential rankings place Smith No. 10 in the world for research, the fifth consecutive year in the top 15. The Smith School's MBA program also comes in as the No. 4 program among public business schools in the United States in the Financial Times ranking. The program ranked No. 40 globally."
With Trust Fund Raided Again, Transportation System at Risk, Busch Says
Gas tax hike would be 'very tough sell,' he predicts
Business Gazette: "With more money potentially being shifted out of the already-depleted Transportation Trust Fund, Maryland's transportation system is "somewhat at risk," House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Monday at a state politics conference at the University of Maryland, College Park. Several leading lawmakers are pushing for an increase in the gas tax, but Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis predicted it won't happen without additional support from other key voices. 'It's a very tough sell for the General Assembly to take that initiative on by itself without some impetus from the governor or the local subdivisions [that] are losing money from the state," he said at the inaugural Politics Summit, hosted by the Center for American Politics and Citizenship. Gov. Martin O'Malley did not include any tax proposals in his 2012 budget, but has not ruled out signing tax bills passed by the General Assembly. O'Malley (D) transferred $100 million from the trust fund to help balance the budget, with $60 million going to cover ongoing expenses and $40 million being put in the state's rainy day fund. But a coalition of business leaders has banded together in support of a gas tax increase that they say is essential to replenishing the fund and maintaining Maryland's roads and mass transit system. Sen. Robert J. Garagiola (D-Dist. 15) of Germantown plans to sponsor legislation that would prohibit raiding the fund to cover budget deficits or for non-transportation purposes. He said the trust fund needs between $400 million and $600 million in new money to begin addressing some of the state's most urgent transportation needs. In the past three years alone, more than $2 billion has been transferred from the trust fund for other budgetary purposes."
Smith School: Business as Battle -- The Lessons of War
Companies glean leadership insights at Gettysburg and other battlefields
Baltimore Sun: "Instead of spending the day in front of a computer as usual, a group of technology professionals gamely followed
their boss across the battlefields of Gettysburg to where a pivotal skirmish was fought nearly 150 years ago. At
the summit of Little Round Top, Rocky Cintron, chief executive of Force 3, a Crofton-based consulting firm, read
the words of a Union commander who rallied his troops even as they ran out of ammunition. 'If you look at history
you'll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot,' Cintron read from the speech by Union Col.
Joshua Chamberlain, who led the 20th Maine volunteer infantry regiment to defend the hill. 'But we're here for
something new. This hasn't happened much in the history of the world. We're an army going out to set other men
free.' Welcome to a new kind of leadership training, one that uses the lessons of the battlefield to illustrate
the challenges of the corporate world. Force 3's Gettysburg visit was part of a joint pilot program by the
University of Maryland, College Park's business school and the Gettysburg Foundation. The university is now looking
to expand that program to more companies and individuals."
College Park Officials Ready to Back New Housing Project
Project to bring apartments and retail could break ground in fall
Gazette Newspapers: "College Park officials appear ready to support a proposed 2.7-acre mixed-use neighborhood to be built along the city's southern edge near the University of Maryland, College Park. The City Council will likely vote Tuesday to draft a letter to the Prince George's Planning Board supporting Domain College Park, a proposed complex featuring 256 market-rate apartment units and more than 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. 'One of the biggest objectives we have as a city is to diversify our housing stock, and this property helps accomplish that goal,' said City Councilman Marcus Afzali (Dist. 4). The project is scheduled to go before the Planning Board Feb. 17, and Houston-based developer The Hanover Company hopes to break ground as early as this fall. The property will primarily attract professionals and graduate students, said Hanover representative Adam Harbin. City officials said the project's target demographic is a welcome change, as most of the city's recent housing projects -- including University View, Mazza GrandMarc and The Varsity at College Park -- were primarily built to attract undergraduate students. Domain developers said the project will function more as a neighborhood than an extension of campus. 'It is an area of the city that is probably a good candidate for development,' said Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2). 'It's an interesting area. It doesn't have the [nearby] retail, perhaps, of other areas.' The property, located at 7720 Mowatt Lane, is located just outside the city on unincorporated land. An annexation agreement between the city and developer will allow the city to claim the land and collect taxes on the property. As part of the agreement, Domain's owners will pay city property taxes at 70 percent of the usual rate for the first five years. The city and developer agreed upon 16 conditions in addition to the current detailed site plan, mostly concerning the annexation agreement and aesthetic and roadway details. One of the city's more notable requests was that developers include a bike-sharing station for residents."
Smith Conference: GOP Rep.: Government Should Stop Trying to Prevent Foreclosures
The Hill: "A top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee said Monday that the government should abandon its efforts to save homeowners from foreclosure. Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), the chair of the committee's Oversight Subcommittee, told housing experts that government attempts to prevent foreclosures is prolonging the inevitable for many struggling homeowners and impeding the private market. 'All these foreclosure mitigation initiatives we're taking need to stop,' he said, speaking at an event co-hosted by the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the NYU Stern School of Business. Neugebauer said the private market should be allowed to work through the problems in the housing market without 'administration pressure' to avoid foreclosures. 'Markets aren't kind, but they're very efficient,' he said. 'There were people who were put in their homes that probably never should have been there before.' "
Carroll County Offering Seniors Weight Loss Program
Associated Press: "Five senior centers in Carroll County are now offering a weight loss challenge program based on the television show 'The Biggest Loser.' The program in Carroll County is called 'Lose 2 Win' and is inspired by the reality show that takes overweight contestants and puts them through a rigorous training program to lose weight. The sixth-month 'Lose 2 Win' program was developed by University of Maryland Food Supplement Nutrition Educator Terry Serio. Participants earn points they can redeem for prizes on the last day of class. They get a point for every pound lost as well as things like attending class and weighing themselves."
Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above
No. 1 emailed NY Times story for two days
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - "In another time or place, the game of 'What Are You?' that was played one night last fall at the University of Maryland might have been mean, or menacing: Laura Wood's peers were picking apart her every feature in an effort to guess her race. 'How many mixtures do you have?' one young man asked above the chatter of about 50 students. With her tan skin and curly brown hair, Ms. Wood's ancestry could have spanned the globe. 'I'm mixed with two things,' she said politely. 'Are you mulatto?' asked Paul Skym, another student, using a word once tinged with shame that is enjoying a comeback in some young circles. When Ms. Wood confirmed that she is indeed black and white, Mr. Skym, who is Asian and white, boasted, 'Now that's what I'm talking about!' in affirmation of their mutual mixed lineage. Then the group of friends -- formally, the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association -- erupted into laughter and cheers, a routine show of their mixed-race pride. The crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriage. ... Many young adults of mixed backgrounds are rejecting the color lines that have defined Americans for generations in favor of a much more fluid sense of identity. Ask Michelle Lopez-Mullins, a 20-year-old junior and the president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, how she marks her race on forms like the census, and she says, 'It depends on the day, and it depends on the options.' They are also using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable. 'I think it's really important to acknowledge who you are and everything that makes you that,' said Ms. Wood, the 19-year-old vice president of the group. 'If someone tries to call me black I say, "yes -- and white.' People have the right not to acknowledge everything, but don't do it because society tells you that you can't.' "
Help With Financial Aid as Reimagined by the MTV Generation
New York Times: "One is an interactive game in which students seeking scholarships would be represented by avatars that would guide them through each step of the financial aid process. Another is a Facebook app that would provide 'intuitive, step-by-step' guidance on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the Labrynthian path to financial aid for many students. A third would cater to low-income students in particular, and would serve not only as a one-stop-shop for scholarships, but also a new communications channel straight to the college financial aid offices themselves. Those three ideas are the finalists in the 'Get Schooled Affordability Challenge,' a national competition staged by MTV and the College Board, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in which current and aspiring college students were asked to devise better ways to administer and award financial aid. Each finalist, whose names are being announced Wednesday, will have an opportunity to further flesh out their ideas in consultation with a firm called frog design. The winner, as voted by fellow students, will receive $10,000 and an opportunity to develop his or her project, with a budget of up to $100,000. ... The finalists are Larissa Simpson, a graduate student at New York University (the avatar); Devin Valencia, a recent graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (the Facebook app), and Dekunle Somade, a senior at the University of Maryland (the one-stop shop idea, known formally as First Aid). In conjunction with the announcement of the finalists, the College Board is releasing a report titled 'Cracking the Student Aid Code: Parent and Student Perspectives on Paying for College.' In it, the board reports on what it learned from focus groups with a range of parents and students regarding their 'knowledge, beliefs and attitudes about the importance of a college education and how to pay for it.' "
Two UMD Seniors Win Prestigious, National Scholarships
UM Student: Applications on the Rise for Teaching Positions in City
UM release: "University of Maryland students Dylan Rebois and Ethan Schaler, both seniors in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, have each been awarded prestigious and competitive scholarships for graduate study in the United Kingdom. Rebois, a mechanical engineering major, is one of only 32 Marshall Scholars selected from a pool of 999 nominees nationwide. Schaler, also a mechanical engineering major and international engineering minor, has been awarded one of 14 Churchill Scholarships to the University of Cambridge. Each award is valued at approximately $45,000 annually and provides full support for graduate studies in the UK."
Baltimore school leaders credit teacher contract, but experts say it may be too early to tell
Baltimore Sun: "Between October and December of last year, 584 teachers applied for teaching positions, more than double the 268 applicants who sought positions in the district over the same three-month period in 2009. In the past two years, the district has received an average of 3,300 applications a year, with most coming during the spring and summer. (Baltimore Teachers Union president Marietta) English was astounded by the increase, but said it was welcomed. 'Now they'll be able to pick the best and the brightest,' English said. 'It's nice to have a choice.' Though early, (City schools CEO Andres) Alonso said, the recent statistics show a promising trend and also reflect a shift in the system, where teachers are beginning to embrace the idea of accountability despite the tense discourse in the nation surrounding evaluating teaching effectiveness. He said he also welcomes the competitiveness that the swelling applicant pool brings to the district. 'I think many teachers resent having ineffective teachers around them, because they make the job harder for everyone,' he said. 'I think competition is good. The greater the competition, the higher the standards.' It's this mentality that has put Baltimore on the radar of some future applicants. Caitlin Krebs, a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park, had reservations about the first draft of the teachers union contract presented in October, but was more hopeful about being a good fit in Baltimore when the union presented a revised draft with more teacher input about evaluations. 'I've always wanted to work in the city, but I really think that the changes they made are very beneficial and makes it more appealing to work there,' Krebs said. Krebs said she will apply to the district in the spring with a newfound respect for the city's commitment to hire highly qualified teachers and looks forward to competing against those who share the same vision. 'It's not about the pay for me,' Krebs said. 'They'll be able to get the most effective help possible for students that need it the most.' "
Getting to Know the Gamer Symphony Orchestra
Minnesota Public Radio, video: "St. Paul, Minn. -- "There is a new generation of musicians with a growing interest in performing in and attending concerts by orchestral ensembles. Kids have always wanted to learn to play the melodies from Hollywood blockbuster movies and hit television shows, but there's a newer game in town, so to speak. Joe Miller is a high school music teacher in Anaheim, Calif. 'I constantly hear students playing excerpts from video games on their instruments. It challenges them to learn new pieces and apply their ear to learn new music from scratch.' Handfuls of kids sitting in band rooms around the world figuring out how to play their favorite game music are transforming into legitimate ensembles. In 2005, a viola player named Michelle Eng stood up at the end of orchestra rehearsal at the University of Maryland and asked if anyone would be interested in getting together to play video game music. 'A half a dozen people raised their hands,' says Robert Garner. Garner, who was recruited a few months later, is now the president of the Gamer Symphony Orchestra at the university. GSO now has around 115 members. 'This is the largest we've been in the five years that we've been around,' says Garner. On December 11th last year, the GSO overfilled the capacity of the performing arts venue on UM's campus. The Dekelboum Concert Hall seats 1,170 people. If that's not impressive enough, consider this: the students who perform with the GSO receive no class credit for doing so. They don't get paid, and they never charge for their concerts. Until recently, they didn't even have a place to rehearse. GSO has a place to rehearse now, but the players pay rent to the university to use it. They also must rent the concert hall for their performances. Additionally, they do most of the arranging of the music themselves."
University of Maryland Students Sweep Chinese Business Plan Contest
Student team focuses on helping Indian farmers
Gazette Newspapers: "Combine Chinese technology, an Indian market and an aspiring Indian-American entrepreneur and what do you get? In the case of Pradeep Suthram and his VeggieCool team from the University of Maryland, College Park, you'll have the winners in the sixth annual China Business Plan Competition held in Beijing and sponsored by a University of Maryland program. The university's Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, in partnership with the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, brought together 31 teams from both universities and the University of International Business & Economics in Beijing for the competition in early January. The partners distributed $10,000 to the winning teams, including the $3,000 top prize to the University of Maryland's VeggieCool team. 'This is a crash course in Chinese education that can't be replicated by any other means than actually going there,' said Asher Epstein, managing director of the Dingman Center. 'We think what we're doing is unique in that Dingman offers this interactive experience internationally. It's one thing for student entrepreneurs to tour another country, but to take part in a competition -- that's different.' The VeggieCool team introduced a business plan for providing cold storage and safe transportation for Indian produce, using Chinese technology. The produce could then be delivered to Indian retailers, reducing spoilage and allowing Indian farmers to make bigger profits. The four-member team, comprising mostly engineering students, also won the $1,000 People's Choice Award in addition to the top prize."
Stevens Institute of Technology Appoints New President
Newark Star-Ledger: "Stevens Institute of Technology appointed University of Maryland provost Nariman Farvardin as its new president Tuesday, marking a new era at a university that has been plagued by financial and ethical problems in recent years. Farvardin replaces longtime president Harold Raveche, who stepped down last year after the private university made a deal with the state Attorney General's Office to end a legal fight over the school's governance. Farvardin, 54, was busy taking congratulatory phone calls in Maryland Tuesday. 'I am truly thrilled, honored and excited about this opportunity,' he said. 'I feel that I'll be welcomed by Stevens.' Stevens' trustees said Farvardin, an electrical engineer, was the right man to continue the historic changes at the Hoboken university. 'He has the vision and experience to further Stevens' position as a global leader in education, research and innovation,' said Larry Babbio, chairman of the Stevens Board of Trustees. Farvardin will earn $625,000, plus performance bonuses, as Stevens' seventh president. That is far less than the $1.1 million Raveche earned in the job that made him one of the highest-paid college presidents in the country. Farvardin's appointment comes more than three decades after he fled his native Iran during the country's revolution to go to college in the U.S., despite speaking limited English and having little money. 'I would give credit only to this wonderful country,' Farvardin said of his rise to university president."
Obama Nominates UM Professor as Economic Adviser
Business Journals: "University of Maryland, College Park professor Katharine Abraham was nominated by President Barack Obama to sit on the president's Council of Economic Advisers. Abraham, a professor in the school's Joint Program in Survey Methodology, will be part of a three-member team responsible for offering Obama advice on domestic and international economic policy. Abraham is also a faculty associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Maryland. Abraham's recent research has focused on time use measurement and analysis. She also studies labor market policy topics. Abraham is a graduate of Harvard University and Iowa State University and previously served as commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Labor Department from 1993 to 2001. The new appointment requires Senate confirmation."
Marylanders with Ties to Egypt Feel Uneasy
Unrest causes some to rethink travel plans
Baltimore Sun: "Egyptian Pizza owner Mohamed Mahmoud is reconsidering his trip to Egypt next month. Mahmoud, 55, who has owned the Belvedere Square restaurant since 1990, was planning to fly to Cairo in February to visit family but might be forced to cancel his trip as the country continues to erupt in violent unrest. More than a hundred people have died since the anti-government protests began five days ago. Mahmoud, who came to the United States in the mid-1980s and settled in Baltimore, said he frequently returns to Egypt to visit family. But with the recent violence in Cairo, where he still has five cousins, the restaurant owner said he's concerned that conditions will only get worse. 'They feel like enough is enough. They think Mubarak has to go,' he said, referring to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule. 'They feel he is corrupt and we need some change in Egypt.' Mahmoud said his trip is scheduled for Saturday, but the State Department has warned U.S. citizens to cancel nonessential trips to Egypt until the unrest ends. 'I want to see how it goes,' said Mahmoud, but he predicted that tensions will continue to mount. 'It's going to get ugly.' Shibley Telhami, a professor who holds the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, said the unrest is atypical for Egyptians. '[It's] a new phenomenon in Egypt. We've never seen an uprising on this scale,' Telhami said. The Sadat chair was established to preserve the legacy of the late Egyptian president through an endowment from his wife, Dr. Jehan Sadat, who is a fellow at the university. She was in Cairo and could not be reached for comment Saturday. The University of Maryland has seven students studying in Egypt this semester, but four are traveling outside the country. One is in Cairo, another is in Alexandria and one is enrolled at the American University of Cairo. All have been in contact except the student in Alexandria. Telhami said the last major change in power in the country occurred in 1952 and was, for the most part, peaceful. But he said that the past week marks a significant change. The unpredictability of this uprising is causing concern, Telhami said, explaining that he had spoken to a friend in Egypt who said he and others had been forced to defend their neighborhood using guns. 'We've never seen an explosion on this scale,' Telhami said."
University of Maryland Awards Astronomy Degree to Slain Student Justin DeSha-Overcash
Associated Press: "The University of Maryland is awarding a degree to a student who was killed at his off-campus home last week. University spokesman Neil Tickner says Justin DeSha-Overcash's astronomy degree will be presented privately to his family and displayed at a memorial ceremony on Thursday evening. Tickner says DeSha-Overcash, who was a senior astronomy and physics major set to graduate in the spring, had already fulfilled the requirements for a Bachelors of Science in astronomy. Prince George's County Police say DeSha-Overcash was shot during an attempted robbery at his home, where they found enough marijuana to indicate intent to distribute, a scale and packaging materials. His death was one of 13 slayings in the county in the first 11 days of the year."
Akron Astronaut Has Lasting Legacy
Women explain how their lives were influenced
Akron Beacon-Journal: "Courtney Gras was born three years after Judith Resnik died in the space shuttle Challenger explosion, but the astronaut's life continues to resonate with the engineering student. Gras, 21, an electrical engineering major at the University of Akron, has a clear understanding of Resnik's story and the importance of what she did during her nearly 37 years of life. 'She sets a great example of persevering in a field outside of what is typical for women,' said Gras, the only female electrical engineering student in her class at UA. Resnik was a 1966 Firestone High School graduate and a classical pianist. She received her bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1970 and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 1977. She attended Fairlawn Elementary School in Akron, a building that has been replaced by a school named for her: the Judith A. Resnik Community Learning Center. She was selected as an astronaut in 1978 and flew on one mission in 1984 before the Challenger disaster Jan. 28, 1986. Resnik was killed along with six others, including two civilians. On the 25th anniversary of Resnik's death, three women spoke of how their lives changed because of Resnik's influence."
Panel Marks Anniversary of the First Gulf War
Bryan Eagle, Texas: "Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's tanks rolled into neighboring Kuwait in August 1990, setting off a months-long standoff. President George H.W. Bush, who now has his library at Texas A&M, warned Hussein that the invasion 'will not stand.' It didn't. On Thursday, Texas A&M marked the 20th anniversary of the war as the 41st president's top cabinet members gathered to give themselves a pat on the back. The war to push Hussein out of Kuwait and the diplomatic effort that preceded it were remembered as a shining example of military success and international diplomacy. 'No president was ever better served by his foreign policy team than the 41st president of the United States,' said Bush, who was joined by wife Barbara. 'In the case of Desert Storm, I honestly believe history will say we got this one right.' Aggieland was abuzz with big names and royalty as Bush hosted former vice presidents Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle, retired Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State James Baker, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, retired Gen. Walter Boomer, and a representative of the emir of Kuwait, H. E. Mohammad Abdullah Abulhasan. ... Earlier in the day, the Scowcroft Institute hosted a symposium at the Bush Library in which scholars explained the impact of the war. Panelists included Assiri; Engel, who is conducting a detailed study of the 41st president's foreign policy; Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations; Michael Gordon, chief military correspondent for The New York Times; and Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland at College Park professor."
Historians Against (Today's) Slavery
Inside Higher Ed: "After teaching the history of U.S. slavery for over 40 years at Macalester College, James Brewer Stewart has come to the conclusion that his profession is overlooking an important area of research: contemporary U.S. slavery. So he established 'Historians Against Slavery,' an organization that attempts to develop 'abolitionism on our campuses and in our community.' Stewart is concerned that human trafficking and slavery are misunderstood issues worryingly absent from the national discourse. Historians can remedy that -- but have not, he says. ... Stewart coordinates the work of Historians Against Slavery out of a small basement office at Macalester. So far, 240 historians have joined the organization, including Lonnie Bunch, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; Vincent Carretta, a University of Maryland English professor and a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow; and David Brion Davis, the Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a renowned authority on the history of slavery. The first goal of the group is to change how slavery is taught in the academy. ... Stewart has created the Historians Against Slavery website, which Not For Sale maintains. Stewart intends to use the site as a hub to galvanize historians, share ideas, promote community, offer advice, and exchange resources and contacts. Currently, it has an extensive series of wikis dedicated to academic and NGO work on slavery. For Stewart, such projects are a part of the practice of history, which in his view is a continuum encompassing both past and present. 'The narrative of slavery ... is all part of the master narrative of America,' he says. 'And we contest it over and over again.' "
Astronomers Honored for Excellence in Research, Education, Writing & More
AAS: "At its 217th semi-annual meeting last week in Seattle, Washington, the American Astronomical Society (AAS) named the recipients of its 2011 prizes for achievements in research, instrument development, education, and writing. The honorees range from college students to distinguished senior astronomers. ... The 2011 Education Prize was awarded to Dr. Grace Deming (University of Maryland, College Park) 'for blazing the trail of astronomy education research; providing us with the Astronomy Diagnostic Test, the first means within our discipline to assess the success of our instruction; tirelessly promoting the use of research to guide our instruction; and educating us about the importance of collaborative group learning to improve student understanding.' "
Liz Lerman to Leave Dance Troupe in July
MacArthur Award-Winning Choreographer Founded Group in 1976
Baltimore Sun: "This summer, MacArthur Award-winning choreographer Liz Lerman will leave the Takoma Park, Maryland troupe she founded in 1976 to pursue solo projects in dancing and writing. The company, now called the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, will revert to its original name -- The Dance Exchange -- on July 1. The new artistic director will be choreographer Cassie Meador, 31, who is in her 10th year with the troupe. 'I have been so supported by the community in the Washington D.C. and Maryland area, and have been challenged to do my best work,' Lerman said in a news release. 'I'm grateful for that and look forward to watching the interactions of the new Dance Exchange with those audiences.' ... This summer, MacArthur Award-winning choreographer Liz Lerman will leave the Takoma Park, Maryland troupe she founded in 1976 to pursue solo projects in dancing and writing. The company, now called the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, will revert to its original name -- The Dance Exchange -- on July 1. ... This fall, she will become artist in residence at Harvard University, and is developing several choreography projects. In addition, a collection of Lerman's essays, 'Hiking the Horizontal,' will be published by Wesleyan University Press this Spring. 'I'm part of a whole generation that's coming to a later age with a lot of vividness and capacity,' the 63-year-old Lerman said. 'I'm very enthusiastic about the partnerships that I'm forming, the conversations I'm having, and the ways in which I'm going to work.' "
Mtech's Dr. James V. Green Wins 3E Learning Innovative Entrepreneurship Education Competition
Business Journals, UM release: "Dr. James V. Green, director of entrepreneurship education and director of the Hinman CEOs Program in the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) at the University of Maryland, took first place in the 2011 3E Learning Innovative Entrepreneurship Education Competition for his 'Team Challenge of Risk and Reward' activity. The award, presented at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) annual conference in Hilton Head, S.C., recognizes college educators who have created new and challenging learning activities that actively involve students in the entrepreneurial experience. ... Green's winning activity, the Team Challenge of Risk and Reward exercise, engages students in a real-time classroom decision of risk assessment and team decision-making. Through a six-phase process, students develop creative ideas individually, come together to work in teams and engage in a real-life lesson in risk. Details of this winning model are available on the Mtech website. The exercise is just one example of the innovative entrepreneurship education initiatives Green leads at Mtech, which include 15 undergraduate and five graduate courses, five executive education modules, four summer courses for high school students, and one for eighth graders. Green also oversees three undergraduate entrepreneurship initiatives at the University of Maryland: the Hinman CEOs Program for juniors and seniors, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program for freshmen and sophomores, and the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program for students transferring from Prince George's Community College. Each of these programs features experiential learning, dynamic courses, seminars, workshops and competitions to deliver a world-class education in entrepreneurship and innovation."
Hyattsville Celebrates the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Sentinel: "Jeffrey McCune, professor of women's and American studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, brought the words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to life Saturday, during a program honoring King's life and legacy. His re-enactment of King's sermons and speeches captivated the audience at the Prince George's Plaza Community Center on Adelphi Road. Echoing the cadence and shrill of King's voice, McCune said, 'I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.' 'I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,' McCune said. King is most often remembered for his participation in the Montgomery bus boycotts and the March on Washington in 1963 where he delivered his infamous, 'I have a Dream' speech. An American icon, King staged scores of peaceful protests and demonstrations throughout the South, aiming to end Jim Crow segregation. Saturday's event, hosted by the City of Hyattsville and the community center, also featured arts and crafts and a performance by the African drumming troupe Kofi Dennis and the Dennis Sisters. Their rhythmic rendition of the African fable Anansi and the Talking Melon drew cheers from the audience who also lent their participation."
University of Maryland Shares NSF Grant to Study Urban Development Impact
UM release: "The University of Maryland will share part of a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to study the relationships of land use, climate and ecosystems in the Chesapeake Bay region. The multidisciplinary project merges social science, natural science, and engineering disciplines to investigate the complex dynamics between water and the built urban environment. The University of Maryland's Charles Towe -- an assistant professor of agriculture and natural resource economics -- is a team member of the social science component of the project. Towe will use the grant to reconstruct the Baltimore area's land development over the past 30 years and study the mechanisms driving land conversion in Maryland. 'We make location decisions based on the availability of land or water. Policies are influenced by these factors,' Towe says. 'We're attempting to say something about this messy dynamic.' ... The National Science Foundation (NSF) grant is one of only three awarded in a national competition. The funds will be shared by 13 investigators at the University of Maryland, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Ohio State University, the University of Rhode Island, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, US Geological Survey, and USDA Forest Service. About $1 million of the five-year grant from the NSF Water Sustainability and Climate program will go towards the social science component of the project, including $200,000 for Professor Towe's research at the University of Maryland."
15 Firms Take Advantage of New Maryland Law Establishing 'Benefit' Corporations
Washington Post: "It was not enough for Pennye Jones-Napier to sell eco-friendly chew toys or fair-trade collars at her Takoma Park pet store, the Big Bad Woof. She wanted to make sure her customers could hold her accountable to the sustainable practices she preached. That is why she jumped at the chance to incorporate her business as a 'benefit corporation,' a legal designation binding her to the socially conscious commitments written into her charter. Jones-Napier was one of 12 business owners to apply for the status on the day Maryland, the first state in the country to recognize this new class of company, opened registration in October. 'Your mission sets the tone for what you do every day in your business,' she said. 'If your mission is aligned with social ideals, which our company is, then this is a terrific fit.' Fifteen benefit corporations have been created in the three months since new legislation, signed into law in April, took effect. If the Maryland Small Business Development Center (MSBDC) has its way, dozens more soon will join those ranks. The organization, a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Maryland, College Park, is hosting a free workshop Wednesday on the new corporate structure. 'It's new ground, but it can play a more important role in compelling entrepreneurs to do social good while they make a profit,' said (UM staff member) Casey Willson, retail industry and sustainability programs manager at the MSBDC. ... Shortly after Maryland passed the benefit corporation legislation last year, Vermont got in on the act. Several other states, including New York and California, are considering similar bills. New York is one of 31 states with a 'corporate constituency statute,' which allows for the consideration of non-financial interests but lacks the full protection of the new law. The workshop at MSBDC is part of a larger push by the organization to educate small businesses on socially and environmentally conscious practices. Wilson noted that next month the center will kick off a 16-part online training course on sustainability. "
UMD and Bethesda Green Partner To Boost Entrepreneurs
UM release: "Green entrepreneurs in Montgomery County will benefit from a suite of sophisticated business and research services through a new partnership between the University of Maryland and the Bethesda Green Business Incubator. Under the agreement -- unveiled as part of the incubator's expansion -- the two will share expertise to promote development of sustainable communities. Incubator companies will be able to tap into the network of business and technical consulting services offered by the University of Maryland to create jobs and spur innovation statewide. Incubator clients may also have the opportunity to draw on the university's research expertise. For its part, Bethesda Green will share its expertise and help identify its clients who might benefit from licensing university-developed technologies. It will also help place University of Maryland interns with incubator clients."
Maryland Students Sag in Science Skills
Capital News Service: "Only 29 percent of Maryland's public school eighth-graders and 33 percent of fourth-graders are considered proficient or advanced in science, according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Education. The assessment results were described in an e-mail as 'troubling' by J. Randy McGinnis, professor of science education at the University of Maryland and president-elect of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. McGinnis attributes low science proficiency to No Child Left Behind, the 2001 federal law that led to fewer school hours spent on science education. 'The focus only on mathematics and reading in NCLB ... negatively impacted not only the time spent on science education in elementary schools but also the type of science education that research shows is most effective for high-quality science education worldwide (that is, inquiry-based instruction that requires learners to learn science practices and not simply learn science information),' McGinnis said. In the State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama called for replacement of the Bush-era policy with 'a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids.' "
The Economics of Global Warming
Melting glaciers, rising incomes, and food.
Newsweek:Thomas Schelling, a 2005 Nobel laureate in economics and emeritus professor in both economics and public policy, writes: "The real global challenge facing us will be organizing to reduce carbon emissions and provide help to poor countries coping with climate change. The worst, but not the most likely, consequences of climate change could be rising sea levels: there is grounded ice in Antarctica that, if loosed from its moorings, is worth five or six meters of sea level, enough to sink Stockholm, Manhattan, or London, or to oblige them to build levees to escape inundation, and to oblige millions of Bangladeshis and others to abandon their homes and workplaces and to migrate. (Levees cannot save Bangladesh; they leave no escape for the freshwater floods that need to reach the ocean.) The most likely consequences of climate change will be severe impacts on food production in the developing world. We can worry about urban heat waves, polar bears, and forest fires, but the worst effects are almost certainly going to be on food production in the poor countries, where half or more of the population depends on growing its own food. Estimates of lost world product due to climate change are moderate because the poor have so little to lose. More than a billion people, maybe 2 billion, are estimated to live on less than the equivalent of $2 per day. If a billion of those poorest people lost half their income, it would be an overwhelming tragedy, a true catastrophe, worse than all the earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, landslides, and fires of the past decade happening every year. But those billion people together would lose only $365 billion per year. That is less than 1 percent of world income! They have so little to begin with that what they can lose doesn't amount to much of a statistic. But they can lose tragically."
IceCube Opens Up a Window on Energy in the Universe
Washington Post: "The world's newest astronomical observatory is defined by a field of 86 colored flags rippling across an ice-covered polar landscape. Each banner marks a line of glass-covered orbs that stretches down a mile and a half into the ice, like beads on a frozen string. Known as IceCube, this massive underground array is designed to do what no other observatory has done before -- catch a glimpse of elusive neutrinos, ghostly particles that are formed in the hearts of supernovas, black holes and other deep-space objects and may give scientists new information about the origins of the universe. 'The idea with IceCube is to do astronomy, but instead of using light, we're using neutrinos,' said Greg Sullivan, a physicist at the University of Maryland who is one of the collaborators on the $279 million project. 'It opens up a window on energy in the universe,' he explained. 'We've seen particles in outer space that are 10 million times more energetic than the ones we can accelerate on Earth. Neutrinos are a way to try and find out what's causing those very high energy [particles]. It's been a mystery for 100 years.' Astronomers have flocked to the South Pole in the winter for decades, drawn by the sunless skies and atmospheric conditions that make superb star-gazing. A permanent U.S. station has been at the pole since 1956, and several telescopes have been built here to take advantage of the darkness that lasts from late February to early October. But IceCube is something different, an observatory built entirely beneath the ice. Along each of the 86 cables are strung 60 three-foot spherical detectors, called digital optical modules or DOMs. These glass-covered orbs are designed to find evidence of neutrinos -- particles formed in the hearts of stars that are so small they pass right through the Earth (and our bodies) without hitting molecules or other matter. Since neutrinos have no mass and are too small to be seen with a normal telescope, researchers instead are looking for the extremely small and extremely brief flashes of bluish light that are given off when a neutrino's energy trail strikes an oxygen atom in the ice and creates a third particle, called a muon. 'We thought that if we could ... detect that light, we could reconstruct the direction and energy of that muon, which would give us the direction of the neutrinos,' Sullivan said during a visit last month to the South Pole sponsored by the National Science Foundation."
UMD Advance Lights Possible New Path to Creating Next Gen Computer Chips
Phys.org:"University of Maryland researchers have made a breakthrough in the use of visible light for making tiny integrated circuits. Though their advance is probably at least a decade from commercial use, they say it could one day make it possible for companies like Intel to continue their decades long tread of making ever smaller, faster, and cheaper computer chips. For some 50 years, the integrated circuits, or chips, that are at the heart of computers, smart phones, and other high-tech devices have been created through a technique known as photolithography, in which each computer chip is built up in layers. In photolithography, each layer of a conductive material (metal, treated silicon, etc,) is deposited on a chip and coated with a chemical that hardens when exposed to light. Light shining through a kind of stencil know as a mask projects a detailed pattern onto the photoresist, which hardens where it's exposed. Then, the unhardened areas of photoresist and underlying metal are etched away with a chemical. Finally, the remaining photoresist is etched away using a different chemical treatment, leaving an underlying layer of metal with the same shape as the mask. However, fitting more and more circuits on each chip has meant making smaller and smaller circuits. In fact, features of circuits in today's computer chips are significantly smaller than the wavelength of visible light. As a result, manufacturers have gone to using shorter and shorter wavelengths of light (radiation), or even charged particles, to enable them to make these circuits. University of Maryland chemistry Professor John Fourkas and his research group recently introduced a technique called RAPID lithography that makes it possible to use visible light to attain lithographic resolution comparable to (and potentially even better than) that obtained with shorter wave length radiation. 'Our RAPID technique could offer substantial savings in cost and ease of production,' Fourkas said. 'Visible light is far less expensive to generate, propagate and manipulate than shorter wavelength forms of electromagnetic radiation, such as vacuum ultraviolet or X-rays. And using visible light would not require the use of the high vacuum conditions needed for current short wavelength technologies.' "
Internet Cutoff Fails to Silence Egypt Protests
Associated Press: "In its effort to silence protesters, Egypt took a step that's rare even among authoritarian governments: It cut off the Internet across the entire country. The nation's four main Internet providers all went dark, and cell phone service was suspended in some areas. But the drastic move did not stop demonstrators Friday, and it could backfire by fueling anger and chaos in the streets of Cairo and beyond. Until now, Egyptians have had nearly open access to the Web. ... The information revolution has helped people in the Middle East organize in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. No longer do they need a formal political or social organization to protest. 'The Egyptian government understood that very quickly in moving yesterday to put limits on social media,' Shibley Telhami, professor of international relations at the University of Maryland, said Friday. 'Some of it worked. Some of it didn't.' Although relatively few Egyptian homes have Internet access, cybercafes and cell phones are prevalent. Mobile phones outnumber fixed phone lines, as is the case in many developing countries. At the end of 2010, an estimated 80 percent of Egyptians had a cell phone, according to research firm Ovum. About a quarter had access to the Internet as of 2009, according to the International Telecommunications Union, an arm of the United Nations."
Gene Swap Key to Evolution
Horizontal gene transfer accounts for the majority of prokaryotic protein evolution
The Scientist: "Microbes evolve predominantly by acquiring genes from other microbes, new research suggests, challenging previous theories that gene duplication is the primary driver of protein evolution in prokaryotes. The finding, published today (January 27) in PLoS Genetics, could change the way scientists study and model biological networks and protein evolution. 'Even at a meeting last summer, there were those that thought that bacteria genomes expanded mostly through duplications and others that argued that it was due to gene acquisition,' wrote Howard Ochman, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University who was not involved in the research, in an Email to The Scientist. 'Now we all have a paper to point to that does a very good job of answering this question,' he said. 'Their conclusions are really robust.' Prokaryotes, including bacteria and archaea, thrive in diverse conditions thanks to their ability to rapidly modify their repertoire of proteins. This is achieved in two ways: by receiving genes from other prokaryotes, called horizontal gene transfer -- the nefarious way that bacteria acquire antibiotic resistance -- or by gene duplication, in which an existing gene is copied, taking on a new or enhanced function as mutations accumulate. Past analyses using few, distantly related genomes estimated that horizontal gene transfer contributes to, at best, 25 percent of the expansion of protein families -- that is, the addition of proteins with novel functions or structures. But the recent availability of numerous, closely related prokaryotic genomes tempted Todd Treangen and Eduardo Rocha at the Institut Pasteur in Paris to more accurately test which biological process is the main driver of prokaryote protein evolution. 'The genomic data was finally there to do a more in depth study,' said Treangen, now a postdoc at the University of Maryland. The duo analyzed 110 genomes of varying size from 8 clades of prokaryotes, focusing in on 3,190 defined protein families. The results were unambiguous: 80 to 90 percent of protein families had expanded through horizontal gene transfer. In addition, the researchers found that the two processes have different evolutionary roles: transferred genes persist longer in populations while duplicated genes are transient but more highly expressed. 'Overall, the role of gene transfer in protein diversification has been underestimated,' said Treangen. Still, he noted, they analyzed only a tiny fraction of the microbes that exist in the world, and further research should be done as more genomes become available."
Do Computers Need Radical Redesign?
Today's multicore processors require a better way to program, a U.S. National Science Foundation study finds
Info World: "To use multicore processors effectively the IT industry needs to radically rethink the basic computer architecture it has used over the past 50 years, a University of Maryland researcher argues in the January edition of the Association for Computing Machinery's flagship Communications publication. 'The recent dramatic shift from single-processor computer systems to many-processor parallel ones requires reinventing much of computer science to build and program the new systems,' argues Uzi Vishkin, a professor at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, in the paper. Vishkin even offers a new architecture abstraction, which he calls ICE (Immediate Concurrent Execution), and which he developed with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. The basic computer architecture we use today is based on the concepts put forth by mathematician John von Neumann in the 1940s. In his architecture, data and programs are held in computer memory and fed to the computer's CPU. Programs are executed using a program counter, which supplies the CPU the address of the next instruction in memory to execute. This approach allows what Vishkin calls serial computing, a design in which 'any single instruction available for execution in a serial program executes immediately.' But it is limited because it allows only a single instruction to be executed at a time. In an age of multicore processors and large amounts of available memory, this limit is no longer necessary, Vishkin argues. Instead, multiple instructions can often be executed much faster in parallel -- all at the same time and in a single step. Vishkin's alternative varies the von Neumann architecture by allowing an indefinite number of instructions to be executed at any given time, which could greatly simplify matters for programmers. With ICE, 'You could dream up any number of instructions as long as the input for one is not the output for the another,' he said. The programmer wouldn't have to worry about how many processors would be available for the task. Such an architecture, Vishkin states, would require changes in hardware design. For the approach to operate, the chips would require a high-bandwidth, low-latency network between the processors and memory. The hardware would have a single processor core to control all the other cores. If the code is serial, it can be executed on that core. If there are additional instructions, the central processor can dole out additional instructions to the other cores. Vishkin has six patents on the technology and the research team built prototype hardware to run on the ICE abstraction."
Physicist Discovers How To Make Quantum Foam In A Test Tube
Metamaterials should allow scientists recreate and study the properties of space time on the smallest scale
Technology Review: "A metamaterial is stuff that has been engineered to manipulate and steer electromagnetic waves in ways that cannot be reproduced in naturally occurring materials. These materials are periodic structures built out of tiny electronic components such as split-ring capacitors and wires. Individually, these components have a mild interaction with passing em waves. But assembled into a repeating structure, they have a powerful influence on light. There is no shortage of exotic things metamaterials can do: everything from invisibility cloaks to power transmission lines. But one of their most exciting applications is in cosmology because, believe or not, they can mimic the structure of spacetime. It turns out that there is a close similarity between the way light is effected by the curvature of spacetime and the way it is influenced by the electromagnetic 'space' inside a metamaterial. In fact, there is a formal mathematical analogy between these things. So the behaviour of photons inside a metamaterial is identical to their behaviour in space-time. That's handy because it allows engineers to recreate all kinds of exotic astrophysical objects in the lab. We've already talked about the first black hole made using a metamaterial and seen how it ought to be possible to recreate the Big Bang and even entire multiverses. Now we have another exotic idea. One of the leading thinkers in this area is Igor Smolyaninov at the University of Maryland in College Park. Today, he shows how to create quantum foam inside a metamaterial. First, a quick backgrounder about quantum foam. Nobody is quite sure what laws of physics govern spacetime on the smallest scale, that's over the Planck length of about 10^-35 metres. However, our best guess is that quantum mechanics must somehow prevail. And if that's the case then Heisenberg's uncertainty principle must play an important role. This principle implies that to discover anything about a region of space on that scale, we would have to use energies so high that they would create a black hole. (That's why it doesn't make sense to think of anything smaller.) Now, because these black holes can exist, quantum mechanics suggests that they do exist, constantly leaping in and out of existence at the Planck scale. These 'virtual black holes' give spacetime a certain strange structure at the Planck scale. For want of a better word, physicists call it quantum foam. ... Smolyninov hasn't actually done this experiment but there's nothing about it that seems particularly tricky. You could do it in an ordinary flask or test tube. In fact, he ends his paper saying: 'This effect appears to be large and easy to observe.' Which means that sometime soon, physicists will have their own version of quantum foam to play with in the lab."
Science & Technology
New Dog-Sized Dinosaur Discovered
USA Today: "Researchers have discovered the skeleton of a new, dog-sized dinosaur, from the dawn of the dinosaur era 230 million years ago, bearing some of the first signs of features that were hallmarks of the fearsome predators. The tiny eodromaeus (pronounced ee-oh-DRO-mus) murphi, or 'dawn runner,' weighed only 10 to 15 pounds and was about four feet from snout to tail tip. Its body, the scientists say, was about the size of a small dog. The dinosaur was discovered at a site in Argentina in the foothills of the Andes in 1996. Later scientists realized they'd actually picked up isolated bones of the species even earlier, in 1991 but didn't know what they had. The arid valley they were digging in, Ischigualasto, has been a rich source of fossils from the earliest days of dinosaurs. It was there that they first found eoraptor, (ee-oh-RAP-tor) or "dawn plunderer," in 1991, which some believed was a common ancestor to all dinosaurs. The newly discovered creature, which ran on two legs and ate a diet of both plants and animals, shakes up the early dinosaur family tree a bit.
When they first found the fossilized skeleton, the researchers from Argentina and the USA thought it was another eoraptor. ... 'They're like reptilian raccoons,' says Thomas Holtz, a paleontologist at the University of Maryland, College Park. Eodromaeus, at 230 million years old, is from the very earliest days of the dinosaur era, a period about which scientists still know very little. But even this early, eodromaeus contains most of the typical traits we associate with dinosaurs. .... The new finding makes clear that eodromaeus roamed the planet earlier than eoraptor. The discovery really 'boots out (eoraptor) the dinosaur from that long held position,' says Holtz."
Researchers Build Flying Robotic 'Tree Helicopter' (w/ Video)
Phys.org: "Many trees disperse their seeds by releasing 'helicopters,' those single-winged seeds that are also called 'samaras.' As these seeds fall to the ground, their wing causes them to swirl and spin in a process called autorotation, similar to man-made helicopters. In a new study, researchers have designed and built a mechanical samara whose dynamics are very similar to those of nature's samaras. After testing the mechanical samara, the researchers then built a variety of remote-controlled robotic samaras with onboard power sources. The researchers, Evan Ulrich, Darryll Pines, and Sean Humbert from the University of Maryland, have published their study on the robotic samaras in a recent issue of Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. The idea for building a flying robotic device based on samaras originated several years ago, after researchers attempted to scale down full-size helicopters. 'Full-scale helicopters have a high aerodynamic efficiency,' Ulrich, a PhD candidate, told PhysOrg.com. 'But the aerodynamic efficiency is disproportionate, so a scaled-down helicopter has stability issues and is unfeasible. Dr. Pines, my advisor, realized that the simplest system in nature that achieves vertical flight and can autorotate like a helicopter is the samara, which is a naturally stable system.' After further investigating the samara in order to better understand its flight dynamics, the researchers found that the winged seed is also one of nature's most efficient fliers. The samara is a monocopter, meaning it has a single wing. For this reason, the samara has no stationary frame of reference, unlike a two-winged helicopter, and appears to fall in a complex way. However, through free-fall testing, the researchers could quantitatively measure the samara's flight dynamics and use this information to control the samara's autorotation and flight path. After designing and building a mechanical samara, the researchers measured its flight dynamics in free-fall by dropping it from a height of 12 meters. Then the scientists used this data to develop three different designs of powered robotic samaras, ranging in size from 7.5 cm to 0.5 m. In flight tests, they demonstrated that the carbon fiber-based robotic samaras could be remotely steered to a desired location by altering the wing pitch, which changes the radius at which the vehicles turn. The robotic samaras could also hover, climb, and translate."
Electricity from the Sun
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory:"The operation of Concentrating Solar Power plants and their interaction with electric loads, by time of day and season, were analyzed to determine how this technology could be realistically incorporated into energy-economic models. Concentrated solar energy plants could supply a significant portion of future electricity needs, according to researchers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, University of Maryland, and NASA. This result is based on an analysis of the interactions between concentrated solar power plants and the electrical grid. Concentrated solar power plants use lenses or mirrors to focus a large area of sunlight into a small area. The concentrated light is converted to heat that, in turn, drives an engine connected to an electrical generator. These plants hold a promise of clean, domestic power around the world. Global use of this technology is projected to grow substantially in the near future with numerous plants under construction worldwide. The potential of solar power technologies is difficult to evaluate, however, because the energy-economic models used to inform decision-makers are not designed to simulate variable renewable resources. The results of this study can be used to produce more realistic estimates of their potential contribution. This work was supported by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE's Office of Science, the California Energy Commission, and others."
Food Safety Law Will Likely Strain FDA Science
Science: "Contaminated food kills more than 3000 people each year in the United States and sickens more than 48 million, and recalls can cost the food industry many millions of dollars. A major food safety bill signed into law this month gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new powers and aims to shift the focus from response to prevention of food-borne illness. 'It's a big step forward,' says Marion Nestle of New York University. But achieving the goals of the law is going to be a stretch for FDA scientists, who are already spread thin. The law, called the Food Safety Modernization Act, calls for science-based guidance to help farmers and food processors prevent contamination, and it moves FDA toward a risk-based approach to monitoring the food supply. But FDA research is underfunded, lacks needed expertise, and faces serious hurdles in gathering data to meet these targets, according to recent reviews by the FDA's science advisory board and the National Academies. 'They're not in a great position to do what this act requires them to do,' says Douglas Archer of the University of Florida, Gainesville, an author of the June 2010 academies' report. ... There will also be more work for the roughly 170 FDA scientists. For fruits and vegetables, FDA must create safety standards for farmers intended to prevent contamination from microbes or environmental pollutants. In 2006, for example, Escherichia coli in California spinach killed three people, prompting FDA to issue a nationwide warning not to eat bagged spinach. Investigators suspect that the microbes came from wild pigs wandering into the fields or irrigation water contaminated by cattle feces. It's a big job to create safety standards for all types of fruits and vegetables. Scientists will have to evaluate a range of questions, such as whether different water quality will be required for various crops; standards may vary depending on the type of irrigation used, for example. FDA must start its rulemaking process for these safety standards within 9 months, but it will likely take several years to complete. (Again, small farms are exempt.) Every 2 years, FDA scientists will have to rank the greatest risks to food safety and offer suggestions to industry on prevention. This will mean developing ways to compare the relative risk of various hazards-Salmonella in tomatoes versus hepatitis A in green onions, for example."This is going to be a very steep learning curve," says Robert Buchanan of the University of Maryland, College Park, who was a science adviser at CFSAN from 1999 to 2008."
Society & Culture
Tucson and the Case for Involuntary Commitment
We Need Legal Refort to Shift the Balance in Favor of Protecting the Community
CBS News: "William A. Galston holds the Ezra Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution's Governance Studies Program, where he serves as a Senior Fellow. He is also College Park Professor at the University of Maryland."
Warning label: This article will make civil libertarians unhappy. Read at your own risk.
"We are embroiled, alas, in a politicized argument about the slaughter in Tucson. While most of the charges being flung about rest on a scanty basis (at best), the most important and least contestable facts are getting lost: Jared Lee Loughner was mentally ill when he pulled the trigger, there were multiple signs of his descent into delusion over the past year, and no one did very much about it. To be sure, the authorities at Pima Community College finally suspended him after five contacts with the police and conditioned his return on clearance from a mental health professional. Police delivered the letter of suspension to Loughner's home and talked with him and his parents. We do not know what happened next. Perhaps his parents tried to persuade him to seek help and were rebuffed; perhaps they were reluctant to have further involvement with the authorities; perhaps they were too confused or conflicted even to try. In any event, there's no evidence that he did receive treatment, and according to college officials, he did not attempt to return to school. The bottom line: No one was legally responsible for taking the next step, and they might well have hit a wall if they had."
Shooting in Arizona Gives Maryland Political Observers Pause
Some say hostile rhetoric chases away moderates
"Donald E. Murphy, a former state delegate, traveled on a trade mission to Vietnam in 2001 for two weeks with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. Although he describes himself as a conservative Republican and Giffords is a socially liberal Democrat, the two struck up a friendship. 'You go halfway around the world with someone you get to know them,' Murphy said. 'She's a really nice lady.' But common ground in politics is fading, and Murphy said the political environment today probably discourages people with moderate views from entering the field. 'They've got to ask themselves, "Why am I getting into this business?" ' Murphy said. While the mental health of the gunman who killed six people and wounded 14, including Giffords, is seen as a primary factor in the shootings on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., the attack has sparked a national debate on the heated national political environment. Even Giffords was quoted recently as saying, 'I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation ... we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down.' ... Professor Shawn J. Parry-Giles, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership, said she believes politicians will go out of their way to moderate their own language. 'It's productive to talk about all the vitriol in the process, but it's going to also reignite the gun control issue, and that's a difficult issue,' Parry-Giles said of the shootings. 'When there's a lack of civility it tends to shut people up about policy.' She recently watched the debate on the nuclear treaty with Russia from the U.S. Senate gallery and saw how collegial Republicans and Democrats were with each other off camera, which differed from how they spoke of each other when the television cameras were pointed at them. 'They need to show some of that on camera,' she said of the civility."
Men Crave Competition, In Work and Play
Males, Not Females, Like to Top Their Coworkers, Research Shows
ABC News, video: "Do you like competing with your coworkers? If the answer is yes, you're probably male. Men are 94 percent more likely than women to apply for a job with a salary potential that is dependent on outperforming their colleagues, according to a large new study from the University of Chicago. 'Women shy away from competitive workplaces whereas men covet, and even thrive in, competitive environments,' the study, involving nearly 7,000 job seekers in 16 large American cities, concluded. Economics professor John List (formerly of UM), the senior author of the study, undertook the ambitious project in an effort to help explain the chronic disparity between wages paid to male and female workers, even for similar work. The latest statistics show that women still earn less than 80 percent as much as men, and there have been many attempts to explain the gap. Women are less likely to work full time, and they are more likely to take time off to care for their family, and thus they tend to have less time on the job. And many suspect there's more than a little prejudice against female workers, especially in fields dominated -- and largely managed -- by men. List and his coauthors, Jeffrey Flory, a graduate student in economics at the University of Maryland, and Andreas Leibbrandt, a postdoctoral fellow at Chicago, were intrigued by a number of recent laboratory studies showing that men are, by nature, more competitive than women. Most of us probably don't need scholarly studies to tell us that, because we see it all around us. But the researchers wanted to take it to the next level. Could that love of competition, shared among most men and avoided by most women, be at least part of the reason for the salary gap? Women are raised to be understanding and conciliatory; men are raised to slay wild beasts and triumph over their male friends."
2011 May Be a Better Year to Start a Business
Carroll County Times: "The weak economy may have discouraged many entrepreneurs from trying their hand at opening a new business in the past few years. However, as the economy improves, a University of Maryland, College Park, instructor says 2011 could be the year for entrepreneurs to put their business plans to use. Improved access to capital, low interest rates, extended tax cuts and untapped markets are some of the reasons it could be a good year for entrepreneurs to follow through with their business dreams, said Asher Epstein, managing director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. 'As the global economy starts to work again, it's good to jump ahead of the curve,' Epstein said. 'More confidence is coming back to the marketplace for consumers and business owners.' Epstein said the extension of the George W. Bush administration's tax breaks offers more short-term security for private investors, therefore spurring more investments. Entrepreneurs can also take advantage of low interest rates to start a business, although Epstein believes interest rates will soon increase. Since the recession began, some companies have discovered new needs, such as more efficient cash management, that create opportunities for new start-ups, he said. Small businesses live and die on cash management, he added, presenting opportunities for financial consultants. Other profitable markets include technology and clean energy, he said. With the interest in going green and the popularity of mobile computing products, these markets are going to be hot for many years, he said. Personal services, such as lawn mowing and spas, have taken a large hit during the recession, but could pick up steam in the future, he said. 'As consumers get more confident, jobs in these fields are going to be more secure,' Epstein said. 'They're low cost and easy for entrepreneurs to jump in.'"
I-Word's Usage Has Skyrocketed Alongside Policy Debate
Colorlines: "What does a typical week's worth of i-word usage look like in U.S. newspapers and wire services? Maryland Newsline (out of the University of Maryland College of Journalism) recently published a special report on the use of 'illegal alien,' 'illegal immigrant,' 'undocumented worker,' and 'undocumented immigrant.' The search focused on Oct. 10-16, every two years from 1980-2010 and revealed that a spike in usage of the dehumanizing slurs usually coincided with contentious immigration policy proposals. The report supports our own findings that the i-word's usage quadrupled on television from the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2010, while SB 1070 and civil disobedience actions by DREAMers across the country were making headlines. The most striking increase came between 2002 and 2006, as the debate over comprehensive immigration reform exploded and Republicans and Democrats alike embraced the criminalizing framework for undocumented immigrants. Newsline has a helpful graphic illustrating all of this."
New Md. Legislature Especially Under-Represents Women
UM release: "The new Maryland legislature significantly under-represents women compared to the state's general population, though African American membership is less out of balance, finds a new University of Maryland study by the Center for American Politics and Citizenship (CAPC). The report, Demographic Representation in Maryland State Government, shows women legislators more than 20 percentage points below their representation in the population, while African Americans are down by roughly 9 points. The analysis, based on the outcomes of the 2010 Maryland primary and general elections, also shows that women and African American candidates in Maryland have higher electoral success rates than their male and white counterparts, particularly if they survive the primary. 'Minority candidates are quite effective at winning elections, but there aren't enough seeking office,' said University of Maryland researcher and principal investigator Paul Herrnson, who directs CAPC. 'Clearly, there are still demographic groups that are not as well represented in our legislature as they should be.' "
Non-Alcoholic Energy Drinks May Pose 'High' Health Risks
Researchers recommend public and private action
"Highly-caffeinated energy drinks -- even those containing no alcohol -- may pose a significant threat to individuals and public health, say researchers at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and Wake Forest University School of Medicine. In a new online commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), they recommend immediate consumer action, education by health providers, voluntary disclosures by manufacturers and new federal labeling requirements. 'Recent action to make pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks unavailable was an important first step, but more continued action is needed,' says University of Maryland School of Public Health researcher Amelia Arria, who directs the Center on Young Adult Health and Development. 'Individuals can still mix these highly caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol on their own. It is also concerning that no regulation exists with regard to the level of caffeine that can be in an energy drink.' Arria and co-author Mary Claire O'Brien, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, alerted various state attorneys general to the risks of alcoholic energy drinks starting in 2009, actions that culminated last November in actions against Four Loko and similar products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission."
State of the Union: Obama, GOP Duck the Real Issues
Neither party is willing to tell the truth about health care, Social Security
Baltimore Sun: Peter Morici, professor of business, writes an op/ed: "President Obama's State of the Union address and Rep. Paul Ryan's Republican response offered few new ideas and weren't forthright about what needs to be done to get America thriving again. The November elections plainly established voters want less government and a focus on jobs, and they don't believe we have to choose between the two. President Obama proposed freezing domestic discretionary spending to reduce the deficit by $400 billion over 10 years, but he offered no substantive changes to Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements. That simply doesn't cut it. In 2007, the year before the recession, government spending was $2.7 trillion -- less than 20 percent of the gross domestic product -- and the deficit was a manageable $161 billion. In 2011, with the economy growing again, spending will top $3.8 trillion -- more than 25 percent of GDP -- and the deficit will be about $1.4 trillion. Simply, the Democrats took control of the Congress in 2007 and used the recession as cover to permanently increase spending on the regulatory bureaucracy, entitlements and industrial policies by $1.1 trillion, and the leading edge of the Baby Boomers has begun to tax the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Now the president proposes to address about 40 percent of the gap over the next decade. Essentially, he is laying a trap - daring Republicans to solve runaway health care costs and Social Security, knowing how Americans react to the bearers of bad news. Republicans would deserve some sympathy if they were not so foolish in what they propose. Mr. Ryan suggests tax credits and giving vouchers for Medicaid recipients to purchase insurance and medical services. Those merely repackage and expand health care spending accounts and repeat the worst mistakes of the Democrats' health care reform legislation. By subsidizing insurance for the working poor and unemployed and imposing mandates on employers, the new health care law increases demand, drives up prices and makes health care even less affordable for the rest of us. The new health care law raises the budget deficit, despite the president's claims to the contrary. His estimates rely heavily on cuts in Medicare payments to doctors the Congress has repeatedly declined to implement."
Employee Input Key to Reorganization Effort
"Presidents have taken to reorganizations the way overweight people take to fad diets -- and with about the same results.' -- James Q. Wilson in 'Bureaucracy: What government agencies do and why they do it."
Washington Post: "Maybe this time will be different. Some reorganizations, of course, work better than others. President Obama probably expects his State of the Union call 'to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government in a way that best serves the goal of a more competitive America' will result in a government better able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Merging, consolidating and reorganizing means little in the abstract. Until he sends his promised proposal to Congress, it's impossible to know how serious he is and how effective the changes might be. Whatever plans Obama and Congress develop, at frequent steps along the way, they should consult with a particular group of experts who have good ideas about how government can improve: federal workers. 'This really means that human capital -- and federal employees -- has to be part of this debate, from the very beginning,' said Donald F. Kettl, dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. 'Too often, we think about human capital as the last question. It needs to be one of the first.' The administration's labor-management forums would be the ideal place to get workers involved in the process. One question to be considered is what kind of reorganization is needed."
State of the Political Body Language: Did Obama, Ryan, Bachmann Have the Moves to Impress at SOTU?
Washington Post: "Oh, you thought it was about what they said? Whether you realize it or not, as you sat on your couch listening to the State of the Union and GOP responses, you probably made up your mind based on how they said it. Or so we're told by the professionals who analyze the mysterious arts of the 'nonverbals' -- body language, vocal tone, all the subtleties that convey sincerity -- in politics. We got two of our regular teams to watch for us -- Democratic coaching/consulting firm KNP Communications; and a pair of academics, Karen Bradley (University of Maryland) and Karen Studds (George Mason), both Laban movement analysts -- and describe the highs and lows."
"The scholars of body language are typically impressed with him and found him stronger than usual on Tuesday. POTUS was 'projecting a lot of strength,' say the KNP team, using a staccato rhythm and an emphatic finger point to underscore lines like his warning to al-Qaeda that 'we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.' A subtler, actorly touch: the way he lowered his voice to just above a whisper for his triumph-of-the-American-spirit moment ('We do big things!). Said KNP, 'It created a sense of intimacy.' Big improvement: Obama's tendency to hold his chin high can make it seem like he's looking down his nose -- but he did it the right way at SOTU, while talking about the American dream ('We believe in the same promise that says you can make it if you try'), which conveyed a pride shared with the rest of the country."
Rep. Paul Ryan
"A big step up onto a national stage for the Wisconsin Republican, and the Bradley/Studds team was unimpressed by the way his head bobbed around while his body seemed frozen. Why does that matter? Because it's natural to move when you talk, and Ryan appeared to have 'lost all connection to what he was saying,' the academics said. KNP nicked him for keeping his eyebrows raised through most of his speech -- conveying an exaggerated alarm -- but praised him for conveying warmth through a natural smile and steady gaze: 'The only one of the night's speakers to make eye contact.' "
Rep. Michele Bachmann
"Ah, yes, eye contact. Much buzz about why the tea party favorite from Minnesota was gazing just left of center; her office did not return an e-mail, but many assume her teleprompter was misaligned. Unfortunate, say the KNP folks, because 'looking directly at your audience increases your emotional impact substantially. Otherwise, say Bradley/Studds, she's not bad. Her body language supports her verbal message -- gathering-up gestures, firm fists, when needed. But they're not fond of the seemingly rehearsed smiles."
Girl Scouts Encouraged to Explore Their World
Researcher Finds They Do Challenging Research; Boys Are Told to Follow Orders
Victoria, BC Times Colonist: "Girl Scouts in the U.S. are tested with intellectually intense activities that require them to explore their world, while their counterparts in the Boy Scouts focus more on rote answers and following orders, according to a new study examining the century-old organizations. Kathleen Denny, a sociology graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, combed through the handbooks for the two programs -- the U.S. counterparts to Girl Guides of Canada and Scouts Canada, respectively -- to examine the activities and badges aimed at children typically about nine and 10 years old. Yet she still found a mix of stereotypical and progressive gender messages. The boys' program included more science while Girl Scouts had more artistic activities. And the girls' handbook mixed brainy activities with suggestions to throw a 'colour party,' to see which clothing and accessories look best. Further, girls' activities often had cutesy names such as 'Rocks Rock,' while Boy Scout tasks got more serious labels, such as Geology. Denny argues the Girl Scouts' slightly frivolous attitude to science and other badge-earning activities could make girls less likely to take these topics seriously as hobbies or careers. But the most striking difference between the two groups is that Girl Scouts are asked to complete challenging research and critical-thinking tasks to earn badges, while the Boy Scouts seemed to emphasize 'intellectual passivity,' she said. 'The Girl Scout handbook required a lot of the girls intellectually. It asked them to go out and survey people, get different ideas on a certain topic and synthesize what they find,' said Denny. 'If I were a Boy Scout, I just didn't need to look up too many other resources, I didn't really need to exercise a lot of critical thought to complete a lot of the activities successfully. "