Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween on campus


It's time for one more Halloween entry, this time highlighting the events campuses on the campaign trail are holding to celebrate the spooky holiday.  Boston University goes first with Pumpkin Palooza: Carving for a Cause.

Boston University students demonstrate their carving and decorating prowess during this year's Pumpkin Palooza, sponsored by the Community Service Center.
In Virginia, both major public universities are holding trick-or-treating events on campus.

The University of Virginia is playing it straight: U.Va. Annual ‘Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn’ Event Set for Oct. 31.
October 14, 2013
The University of Virginia will host its annual “Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn” on Halloween, Oct. 31, from 4 to 6 p.m.

U.Va.’s trick-or-treating tradition, started by students in the late 1980s, is open to the community. Children are invited to dress up in costumes and take part in trick-or-treating at each of the 54 Lawn rooms. Candy is donated and distributed by more than 70 student groups.

The event is hosted by the Lawn residents and receives additional support from the Office of Housing & Residence Life, Office of Emergency Preparedness, Parking & Transportation and the University Police Department. EMTs and a lost child station will be located on the south steps of the Rotunda and at Old Cabell Hall.
Virginia Tech already had their event, which was trick-or-treating FOR SCIENCE!

Virginia Tech: Tech-or-Treat offers Halloween-themed activities infusing science, technology, engineering and math
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 15, 2013 – Children of all ages are invited to Tech-or-Treat, a family-friendly, Halloween-themed event featuring technologies developed by the affiliated faculty and students of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

The free event, designed to give children the opportunity to learn more about science, technology, engineering, and math, will be held in the Cube, Center for the Arts, 190 Alumni Mall, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 5 to 8 p.m. Costumes are encouraged.

Children are invited to experience a room full of research and technology-based activities, including “The Labyrinth,” a series of intersecting circles creating a variety of paths throughout the space for participants to travel. The installation features a forest with hanging interactive light and sound components created by Paola Zellner, an assistant professor in the School of Architecture + Design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and Tom Martin, an associate professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering.
And that's it for All Hallows Eve from campuses on the campaign trail.  Happy Halloween!

Spooky science for Halloween

It's time to move from the weird science of yetis and bigfoot to some real and really creepy science.

First, National Geographic presents Halloween Special: Real-Life Zombies.

In a spooky coup, a parasitic worm hijacks a snail's brain and makes the snail sacrifice itself to a hungry bird. Carl Zimmer, a contributor to National Geographic's "Phenomena" science salon and author of the book "Parasite Rex," explains how the snail's death helps the parasite perpetuate its sneaky species.
I couldn't resist a video about snails.

I complete tonight's creepy science presentation two grisly articles from Rutgers University that star the same researcher, something I didn't realize until I put the two together just now.

Rutgers University: Rutgers Forensic Scientist Shares Zombie Survival Guide
Just in time for Halloween, Kimberlee Sue Moran peels back the skin on the science of dying
Monday, October 14, 2013
Kimberlee Sue Moran recalls that she was living in London in 2002 when she and her friend went to see the new zombie flick, 28 Days Later. The film turned everything that she thought about zombies on its head, depicting the animated corpses as fast and aggressive, rather than slow, plodding figures. “My friend and I clung to each other the whole way home,” recalls the Rutgers–Camden forensic scientist.

While admitting that she still has a “slightly irrational fear of zombies,” Moran knows full well that there is nothing really to be afraid of.  “It all comes down to the science behind it,” says Moran, who serves as an instructor for the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice.

Just in time for Halloween, the Winslow resident shares her zombie survival guide, peeling back the skin on the science of dying, along with the cultural and religious traditions surrounding death. “Between rigor mortis – the body going completely rigid – and putrefaction – the body liquefying – any ‘true’ zombie, unlike the 28 Days Later variety, would be either too stiff or too sloshy to come after you!” declares Moran.

While apparitions of all forms – from wicked witches to friendly ghosts – have captivated people’s imaginations, she says that humans’ primitive fears and fascination with death can be boiled down to two simple reasons: it is a phenomenon that we don’t understand and one we can’t control.
Rutgers University: Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year Distinction Goes to a Rutgers Professor
Forensic anthropologist takes pride in her quirky interests and passions
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
By Carrie Stetler
Kimberlee Sue Moran is no ordinary geek. As Geekadelphia’s Scientist of the Year, her crowning achievement was blowing up a bus filled with dead animals to help first responders learn how to identify bombing victims.

“They got an understanding of debris patterns and developed a protocol where they could reconstruct what happened and recover both biological and non-biological evidence,’’ explains Moran, a Rutgers-Camden forensic archaeology professor and grant facilitator.

Her forensic exercise was a success. But what was so geeky about it?
Here's to wishing Professor Moran, and all of you, a happy, geeky Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Weird science for Halloween: Yetis

In Religion news from campuses on the campaign trail, I promised I'd be posting scary and silly material for Halloween.  Time to follow through with some weird science that is scary whether it were true or not--scary if true because it would mean a legendary monster really exists, but scary because it doesn't and people still believe in it.  That means it's also really silly.

With no further ado, I present two items from Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos about yetis in both Asia and America.

The Daily Telegraph (UK): 'Yeti lives': Abominable Snowman is 'part polar bear and still roams the Himalayas'
Research by an University of Oxford scientist has found a genetic match between an ancient polar bear and samples said to come from the Yeti - suggesting the creature known as the Abominable Snowman is still living in the Himalayas
By Jasper Copping
It is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries, attracting both curiosity and fear.

Now, a British scientist may have finally solved the riddle of the yeti, the fabled apelike creature said to inhabit the upper ranges of the Himalayas.

Research by Professor Bryan Sykes, a geneticist from the University of Oxford, has not only uncovered a genetic match between samples thought to come from the elusive creature and another that lived more than 40,000 years ago, but also suggests the beast is still roaming the mountains.
Yeah, dude, it means your yeti specimen is a bear, not an ape.  It's an unusual bear, but it's still a bear.  Also, I'm surprised that this article isn't from The Daily Fail Mail.

Next, an article that doesn't hyperventilate from unwarranted credulity.

The Huffington Post: TWO Bigfoots? Hiker Shoots Clear Photos Of 'Moving Beasts' In Pennsylvania (PHOTOS)
By Andy Campbell
Bigfoot is making a big stink on the Internet this week.

First, a crack team of veterinarians and scientists regurgitated a press release claiming that they had DNA evidence of Bigfoot's existence. That "evidence" was and likely still is bogus.

But are these photos real?
I'll go to Ambassador Vreenak for his opinion.  Ambassador?

Thank you, that's what I think, too.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rutgers on Sandy anniversary and other climate news

Today is the anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, the Frankenstorm, on the Jersey shore.  To mark the event, here are the stories from Rutgers University about the event.

Rutgers University: Rutgers-Newark Report: Superstorm Sandy Recovery Short $28.3 Billion; Pain Spread Across NJ
By Stephanie Hoopes Halpin
Friday, October 25, 2013
On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey towns and residents across the state still face $28.3 billion in unmet recovery needs, according to a new report from Rutgers-Newark, School of Public Affairs and Administration.

The report finds that the storm cost New Jersey more than $37.1 billion statewide, including $13.6 billion in direct physical and economic damage, plus $23.5 billion in remediation costs. Recovery assistance has met only a fraction of these costs, according to the report’s author, Rutgers University Assistant Professor Stephanie Hoopes Halpin. Through this report, Halpin reveals that damage was far more widespread than has been understood to date, stretching beyond the coastal communities and disproportionately affecting low- and moderate-income families.

“We believe this is the most comprehensive cost analysis of the storm so far,” said Marc Holzer, founding dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Rutgers-Newark. "It was our goal to give the state objective data that can be used to learn from Sandy and improve the state’s disaster response in the future."
Rutgers University: 'Jersey Shore Hurricane News' Promotes Virtues of Participatory Journalism in Tracking Disasters
Rutgers Graduate Justin Auciello might be New Jersey's biggest one-man volunteer operation
By Jen. A. Miller
Friday, October 25, 2013
If there is a natural disaster, storm, traffic accident, fire, lost pet or missing child in the Garden State, chances are the details are posted on Justin Auciello’s Facebook page, Jersey Shore Hurricane News.

Auciello, who earned his master’s degree from the university’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Public Policy in 2005, started the page just before Hurricane Irene slammed the state in August 2011.

After that storm, his page had 27,000 users. Instead of shutting it down once the hurricane blew over, Auciello kept Jersey Shore Hurricane News alive and expanded its coverage beyond natural disasters, using tips, photos and messages from the site's fans to report on the state’s other major happenings in real time.

"The Internet continues to democratize media," he said. "People are realizing they do have a stake in news reporting and are willing participants in the process."

After Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2013, the site was thrown into another stratosphere, and now has more than 200,000 users.
I'll have more news about the anniversary later.  For now, follow over the jump for more climate news from Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

Monday, October 28, 2013 article on Ann Arbor News endorsements

It's time to move from New Jersey election news to something more local.

Stephen Kunselman, here pictured with his daughters Sophia and Sabrina, earned the endorsement of the Ann Arbor News this week.
Ann Arbor News endorses city council candidates
This Sunday, the Ann Arbor News endorsed city council candidates in Wards 1, 2, and 3.

To represent Ward 1, the Ann Arbor News recommended Democratic incumbent Sabra Briere over independent challenger Jeff Hayner.  Mixed Use Party candidate Jaclyn Vresics is also on the ballot, but has suspended her campaign.

In the Ward 2 contest, the newspaper endorsed independent incumbent Jane Lumm over both her challengers, Democrat Kirk Westphal and Mixed Use Party candidate Conrad Brown.

Democratic incumbent Stephen Kunselman earned the paper's nod over challenger Sam DeVarti of the Mixed Use Party in Ward 3.
The Ann Arbor News went for experience every time, endorsing all of the incumbents in contested races.  This was true even in the close contest for Ward 2, where the paper felt that Westphal would do a good job, but endorsed Lumm anyway.

As for me, if I were living in Ward 2, I'd vote for Westphal, not just because I'm a Democrat and Lumm used to be a Republican, but because she voted against a study for a train station.  That's not a sustainable action, and it is the kind of thing that has earned my scorn before.  I didn't like it when it was Janice Daniels of Troy and I don't like it now that it's Jane Lumm of Ann Arbor.  Fortunately for Lumm, I don't live in Ann Arbor now and when I did, it was in Ward 3, not Ward 2.

Stay tuned for more election coverage.  I expect to have at least one more article about the elections in either Chelsea or Dexter.  If I'm really ambitious, I might interview the Mixed Use Party candidates.  After that, it will be time to report the results Tuesday night through Thursday night of next week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Religion news from campuses on the campaign trail

It's the week of Halloween, which means I have lots of scary and silly material planned for my upcoming entries, as if the prospect of civilization collapsing, for whatever reason, and the (pop) cultural responses to the possibility weren't scary and silly enough.  Before I begin with that project, I will take a more serious look at an aspect of culture I cover irregularly, religion.  Here are the religion stories from campuses on the campaign trail I've included in the past three weeks of Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

I begin with Rutgers Hillel Moves Torah to New Home from Rutgers University.

Members of the Rutgers Hillel community celebrated and danced in the street as they ceremoniously moved Torah scrolls to a temporary home on Bishop Place while their new building is under construction. Rabbi Esther Reed, senior associate director of Rutgers Hillel, says the ceremony recognized the significance of the move for the entire Jewish community on campus.
Follow over the jump for more, beginning with something appropriate both for the season and to the inspiration for the name of this blog, a book about Dante's Inferno.

Election news from Rutgers

Election Day is only nine days away, and the polling is coming in fast and furious.  Rutgers alone published three polls last week  bearing on New Jersey's gubernatorial contest between Chris Christie and Barbara Buono, which I'm reposting here as an update to Election news for Food Day.  Follow over the fold for these stories I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (NASA back from shutdown).

NASA back from shutdown

Finally, a new video from NASA Television, the first since NASA videos from just before the shutdown!

Back to Mission on This Week @NASA

With the government shutdown over, Administrator Charlie Bolden welcomed employees back to the work of NASA's mission. Bolden visited Goddard Space Flight Center with Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski for an update on several projects, including the Global Precipitation Measurement mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft and the James Webb Space Telescope. Bolden also visited Mississippi to thank employees at Stennis Space Center for their critical engineering and testing work on the agency's next generation rocket engines and the staff of the NASA Shared Services Center for their support of the agency during the shutdown. Also, While we were away, Cygnus Completes!, MAVEN in Waiting, SLS Tests, and More Arctic Sea Ice!
This was such a big deal that I featured above the fold in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (NASA back from shutdown)on Daily Kos.

Not only did This Week @NASA return, so did Science at NASA.

ScienceCasts: The Effects of Space Weather on Aviation

Astronauts aren't the only ones who need to worry about solar flares. Ordinary air travelers can also be exposed to significant doses of radiation during solar storms. A new computer model developed by NASA aims to help protect the public by predicting space weather hazards to aviation.
I'm so happy, I'm going to post Professor Farnsworth for something other than low gas prices.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Boston University on how to prevent asteroid impacts

In Eclipse and asteroid DOOM, I pointed out the latest news about the risks of asteroids colliding with the Earth.  That same week, Boston University posted How to catch an asteroid by Rich Barlow, which described how "BU astronomers ponder how to save the Earth."  Here are the relevant excerpts.
Last February’s atmospheric blowup of a meteor over Russia injured 1,500 people, mostly from glass smashed by the blast, whose force was estimated at 30 times that of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A month later, the US Senate heard former astronaut Edward Lu advocate for beefing up asteroid detection, warning that the casualties in Russia would have been incalculably greater had the meteor exploded closer to a big city. The Russian rock, a NASA scientist noted at the hearing, snuck by Earth’s telescopes, whose sites are set on projectiles much larger than that 60-foot-diameter meteor.

Is NASA worried? Sufficiently so that it has announced an asteroid Grand Challenge, inviting ideas from the global scientific community about how to spot and stop asteroids that threaten our planet.
How exactly does one stop an asteroid? First, Hughes says, we should distinguish between planet-killers—asteroids so massive that we could kiss our posteriors good-bye—and smaller, potential city-killers like the Russian meteor. The former, he says, are hard to miss. Current scopes pick up 95 percent of those believed to be lurking near us, none of which currently threaten Earth, and improved technology will move that detection rate closer to 100 percent. Hughes and Andrew West, a CAS assistant professor of astronomy, concur that strikes from such monster rocks happen only once in tens of millions of years.

City-killers, the asteroids small enough to go undetected by telescopes, strike once every 1,000 years. That sounds disturbing, but Hughes points out that “tsunamis, super storms, and major earthquakes also can come close to obliterating cities or even small countries, and they happen far more frequently than once a millennium, so are a far more dangerous threat.” It’s better to invest in preparing for those more likely catastrophes, he says. “I don’t think detecting small asteroids should be a NASA priority.”

West agrees, saying that given Earth’s vast uninhabited real estate, from oceans to wilderness, “the real chances of them hitting a populated city…are very small.”

But Hughes also knows that human nature is easily frazzled by even the most unlikely events: “Tell people about a risk they’ve never heard about or thought about, and they get excited.”

Obviously, he notes, the best scenario would provide lots of warning—“ideally a decade or more”—of a coming collision, and the astronomer thinks such lead times are becoming possible as scientists’ ability to calculate orbits improves. The hard part is figuring out what to do once the heavenly threat is identified. Hughes’ preferred approach would be to knock it off course by hijacking its steering.
There is more, but in the spirit of showing instead of telling, I present the three videos that accompany the article, narrated by Professor Hughes.

Using Explosives to Move an Asteroid

Jeffrey Hughes explains how Hollywood's explosive solution to an asteroid may not be the best idea to avoiding destruction.
Using a Laser to Save the World from Asteroids

Jeffrey Hughes explains how lasers may one day save the world from an asteroid doomsday scenario.
Using Rockets to Save the Earth from Asteroids

Jeffrey Hughes explains how we might use rockets to save the earth from an asteroid impact--by pushing back.
Here's to there being spacefaring nations around capable of dealing with the threat when it arises--and it will arise.

Michigan from the ISS

WOOD-TV provides this moment of science and space levity in Astronaut takes photo of Great Lakes.

Karen L Nyberg is currently on the International Space Station and she took a photo of the Great Lakes.
Emily even marked X on Grand Rapids for "You Are Here."

Farnsworth is still yelling "Whee!"

I made a prediction yesterday in Professor Farnsworth likes yelling "Whee" on the gas price rollercoaster.
Year-over-year, the neighborhood prices are lower than they were last year at this time, when they fell from $3.29 to $3.27.  True, it's only two cents so far, but the window for this comparison lasts until a week from tomorrow.  Things could get much better in that time.
That was yesterday about noon.  About 5PM, I went out and saw that the corner station was at $3.24 and the three stations down the street were at $3.22.  Things have already gotten better, and the window of comparison is still open for another week.

I made another prediction.
[T]he Detroit average has fallen past the national average and is now only a fraction of a cent above $3.29.  The local stations can be as much as a dime below the metro area average, so $3.19 is not out of the question within the week.
If things go according to pattern, the corner station will match the rest at $3.22, which means that $3.19 is only three cents away.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Professor Farnsworth likes yelling "Whee" on the gas price rollercoaster

I concluded That took even less time by writing "Prices will continue to fall."  Within less than 24 hours, they did.  Yesterday evening, the corner station was selling regular at $3.25, the lowest price since January.  The corner station only has four cents to go to match its low for the year so far of $3.21, while the three stations down the street, if they are selling regular for $3.25, have six cents to go to match their lows for the year of $3.19.  Furthermore, to match their lows for last year, the corner station has a dime to go to reach $3.15, while the three stations down the street have 17 cents to hit $3.08.  All those prices happened the week before Christmas.  That's exactly two months off.

Allow me one more historical comparison about the local gas outlets.  Year-over-year, the neighborhood prices are lower than they were last year at this time, when they fell from $3.29 to $3.27.  True, it's only two cents so far, but the window for this comparison lasts until a week from tomorrow.  Things could get much better in that time.

Data from the Gasbuddy widget over at Econobrowser supports my optimism.  It shows that the national average price has passed $3.34 and hit $3.32.  Michigan's average has finally caught up with the national average at $3.32.  Finally, the Detroit average has fallen past the national average and is now only a fraction of a cent above $3.29.  The local stations can be as much as a dime below the metro area average, so $3.19 is not out of the question within the week.

Food and drink news from the ancient world

I concluded Food Day on campus with this throwaway program note.
As a parting shot, I might just post another installment of food (and drink) news from the ancient world at midnight.  Stay tuned.
As you can see, I've followed through.  Follow over the jump for food stories from archeology and history from the past three months of Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Food Day on campus

In "Food, Inc." book worksheet for Food DayI made the follow promise.
I'm not done yet with Food Day.  Stay tuned from Food Day news from campuses on the campaign trail, which I'll schedule to post at 8 PM EDT tonight.
Here are the Food Day events on campuses on the campaign trail from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Another asteroid fly-by).   For more food articles from universities, surf over to food news from campuses on the campaign trail.

University of Virginia: ‘Food Stamped’ Film, Meal and Discussion Set for Thursday
October 18, 2013
In celebration of National Food Day on Thursday, the University of Virginia Food Collaborative is screening a documentary film, “Food Stamped,” that follows a couple as they attempt to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet on an average food stamp budget – $1.50 per person per day. Along the way they consult with members of Congress, food justice organizations, nutrition experts and people living on food stamps to take a deep look at what they describe as America’s broken food system.

The event will include a post-screening panel discussion, led by U.Va. politics professor Paul Freedman, and a healthy meal prepared by Whole Foods on a budget of less than $1.50 per serving.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion of topics raised by the film, including health, food economics and politics, featuring Joe Caputi, the Charlottesville branch manager at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank; Stephen Hitchcock, director of The Haven, a day shelter for the homeless; and Galen Fountain, an instructor at U.Va.’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.
Virginia Tech: Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrate Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 18, 2013 – Lynchburg Grows and Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrated the important role that agriculture plays in the commonwealth’s economy and the designation of October as Urban Agriculture Month in Virginia with a ceremony at the Lynchburg Grows H.R. Schenkel Urban Farm and Environmental Center in Lynchburg on Oct. 17.

The ceremony included a presentation by delegates Kathy Byron, Ben Cline, and Scott Garrett of the Virginia General Assembly; a proclamation by Lynchburg Mayor Michael H. Gillette; and testimonials by Edwin Jones, director of Virginia Cooperative Extension, and by members of the state Extension Leadership Council. Mayor Gillette praised Lynchburg Grows for making the city a better place.

Delegates Byron, Cline, and Garrett presented Jones and Michael Van Ness, executive director of Lynchburg Grows, with House Joint Resolution No. 758, designating October 2013 as Virginia’s first annual Urban Agriculture Month. The delegates were among the measure’s 27 legislative patrons.
As a parting shot, I might just post another installment of food (and drink) news from the ancient world at midnight.  Stay tuned.

Election news for Food Day

I know I promised Food Day news from campuses on the campaign trail, and I will follow through, but I'm sitting on some election news that will turn into pumpkin before then, so it posts now.

First, breaking with the campuses on the campaign trail theme, is Detroit Mayoral Debate Preview - Watch October 29, 2013 at 7PM on Channel 7.

As we prepare for the final Detroit mayoral debate between Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan, the debate panelists and partners discuss what they hope to hear.
WXYZ has since interviewed both candidates, beginning with Benny Napoleon.

7 Action News interviews Detroit Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon.
Next, Mike Duggan.

Mike Duggan speaks about Detroit mayoral run.
WXYZ is not alone in hosting the candidates.

Wayne State organizations plan Detroit mayoral forums
October 14, 2013
DETROIT – Several Wayne State University organizations are sponsoring separate town-hall-style public forums in October with Detroit mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon.

The events are presented by the Political Science Students Association in cooperation with Wayne State’s Law School, Pre-Law Students Association, Student Senate and Center for Peace & Conflict Studies.

The schedule will be:

Benny Napoleon – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at the law school, 471 W. Palmer St., west of Cass Avenue.

Mike Duggan – 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, Alumni House, 441 Gilmour Mall (formerly Ferry Mall), off Cass Avenue behind the law school.

Each forum will include a brief presentation by the candidate followed by community conversations.
Follow over the jump for election news from universities in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

"Food, Inc." book worksheet for Food Day

Happy Food Day!  I already started observing today with Health news for the week of Food Day, but I'm far from done with the event.  Today, I'm going to continue a project that began with Food Fight! Thoughts on liberalism and conservatism inspired by the Preface to Food, Inc. and resumed with On Thanksgiving eve, I present "Food, Inc."  Follow over the jump for the extra credit worksheet my students can complete in addition to the one for the film.  This one accompanies the first part of Chapter 4 of the Food, Inc. book, "Food, Science, and the Challenge of World Hunger--Who Will Control the Future?" by Peter Pringle, the author of the other book titled Food, Inc., Food, Inc., From Mendel to Monsanto.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

That took even less time

It took less than 24 hours for my prediction in That didn't take long to come true.
This morning, all the neighborhood stations were selling regular at $3.35, so all of the increase of the past week has disappeared.  That was enough to get me to buy gas for my car, but not enough to get me to fill up.  I only bought six gallons, just over half a tank.  I still expect the price to drop more in the next week or two.
At 7:30 AM, the three stations down the street had lowered their prices to $3.29.  By 7:00 PM, the corner station had joined them.  Now, all the neighborhood stations are only two cents above where they were when the price fell off a ledge the first weekend of the month.

As for whether this trend will continue, the Gasbuddy widget over at Econobrowser shows that the national average price has passed $3.35 and is heading down to $3.34.  The Detroit average is chasing the national average downhill, only a fraction of a cent above it at halfway between $3.34 and $3.35, while Michigan's is paralleling Detroit's average, falling from $3.40 to $3.37 overnight, an even steeper drop than yesterday.

Also, I was agnostic yesterday about whether crude oil will support a continued decline in price.
As for how long this trend will continue, the crude oil indices are giving contradictory signals.  While Brent Crude has been generally going down, it went up today to close at $109.97.  On the other hand, WTI is at a three-month low of $99.60.  Stay tuned.
I am agnostic no longer.  Both Brent and WTI plunged today.  Econobrower shows that Brent fell $2.17 (2.01%) to $107.80, while lists WTI as dropping $1.44 (1.49%) to $96.86.  Prices will continue to fall.

Campus Sustainability Day 2013

Today is Campus Sustainability Day.  To mark the occasion, I'm posting all the environmental stories from campuses on the campaign trail that I've included in the past two months of Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos but either haven't included in an entry about climate, energy, biodiversity, or food, or won't be including in tomorrow's entry about Food Day.  I'll begin with the two most recent, which are from Virginia Tech.

Mussels Meet Wild Cousins

Imagine a lifetime spent clinging to a riverbed by one foot. This is the case for freshwater mussels, and their limited mobility makes habitat loss difficult to avoid.

Virginia Tech in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to repopulate sections of the Clinch and Powell Rivers.
I'm a mollusk specialist; of course I'd put this one first.

Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech partners with Smithsonian to discover deeper link between soil microbes and plants
BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 14, 2013 – In a recent study published in the journal Plant and Soil, Mark Williams, an assistant professor of horticulture in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and his collaborators at the Smithsonian and other institutions discovered that microbes in soil function symbiotically with plants, much like the 3 billion microbes in the human gut interact with the body.

“The study is consistent with the idea that there are complex but fundamental feedbacks between these diverse systems of soil microbiota and plant species,” said Williams. “These plant-microbial-soil interactions ultimately determine how ecosystem’s breathe life into the earth’s biosphere.”

Some of the interactions that occur in the soil microbiome — the combined genetic material of the microorganisms in soil — have not always been as readily apparent until now.
Follow over the jump for other environmental news from campuses on the campaign trail.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

That didn't take long

Last night, I concluded The corner station retreats almost a full step by writing "If anything, I expect prices to continue to decrease."  They did.

This morning, all the neighborhood stations were selling regular at $3.35, so all of the increase of the past week has disappeared.  That was enough to get me to buy gas for my car, but not enough to get me to fill up.  I only bought six gallons, just over half a tank.  I still expect the price to drop more in the next week or two.

The local, regional, and national trends all support this prediction.  The Gasbuddy widget over at Econobrowser shows that the national average price is continuing to sink, sliding from $3.36 to $3.35.  The Detroit average is converging upon the national average, declining from $3.39 to $3.37, while Michigan's went from $3.42 to $3.40 overnight.

As for how long this trend will continue, the crude oil indices are giving contradictory signals.  While Brent Crude has been generally going down, it went up today to close at $109.97.  On the other hand, WTI is at a three-month low of $99.60.  Stay tuned.

Health news for the week of Food Day

As I noted in Another dose of health news from campuses on the campaign trail, the research universities in states and cities holding elections this year continue to be rich sources for health stories.  Since Thursday is Food Day, I'm going to start off with a seasonal health tip involving food.

University of Florida Extension: Reducing Candy Calories

University of Florida/IFAS Nutritionist Karla Shellnut provides nutritional facts of reducing candy calories for your Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Trick or treat!

Follow over the jump for the rest of the health and health care news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Another asteroid fly-by) on Daily Kos.

University of Florida: UF faculty finds some mind-body therapies may reduce effects of functional bowel disorders
October 15th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although some health care providers may overlook alternative therapies when treating functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, University of Florida faculty members have found evidence that hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy may benefit patients suffering from these diseases.

Led by researchers Oliver Grundmann of the UF College of Pharmacy and Saunjoo “Sunny” Yoon of the UF College of Nursing, the study was published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, which highlighted it as the “Editors Choice” in its August issue.

“Our work being highlighted in this way indicates that we are able to raise awareness for the issue of a more integrative and holistic approach to medical care in the area of functional bowel disorders in the scientific community — a goal that both Dr. Yoon and I have been striving for in our professional endeavors for many years,” said Grundmann, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy.
Columbia University: Chemist Devises Optical Imaging Technique to Unlock the Mystery of Memory
October 9, 2013
In the search to understand memory, Wei Min is looking at cells at the most basic level, long before the formation of neurons and synapses. The assistant professor of chemistry studies the synthesis of proteins, the building blocks of the body formed using genetic code from DNA. “We want to understand the molecular nature of memory, one of the key questions that remain in neuroscience,” he says.

Proteins carry out almost every biological function, and protein synthesis is a crucial step in gene expression, determining how cells respond to pathological conditions caused by cancer, autism and the physiological stresses linked to disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Min’s lab examines the proteome (the sum of the cell’s proteins), a dynamic structure tightly regulated by both production and death of proteins that ensures that the body functions normally. The formation of long-term memory is dependent on protein synthesis at a specific location and time in brain tissues.

Min and his team recently developed a new imaging technique to pinpoint exactly where and when cells produce new proteins. The method is significant in that it enables scientists to create high-resolution images of newly synthesized proteins in living cells. The findings were published in the July 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research was done in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine.
From the science of health to its practice--here are two articles about educating health professionals, broadly defined.

Rutgers University: Are Your Doctors Ordering the Right Tests?
Rutgers in lead to enhance the role of laboratory scientists
Monday, October 14, 2013
Newark, NJ – The bulk of medical decisions made today are based on laboratory results. A misinterpreted result or misordered test has the potential to drastically elevate health care costs and negatively impact a patient’s health.

With so much riding on lab results, Rutgers is taking the lead to enhance the role of clinical laboratory scientists by implementing the country’s first advanced practice doctorate in clinical laboratory science (DCLS).

Beginning in 2014, the new degree offered by Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences at its School of Health Related Professions (SHRP), will address an ongoing need to achieve greater accuracy and cost efficiency in lab testing services.
University of Virginia: To Meet Societal Needs and Student Demand, U.Va. Creates Kinesiology Department
Audrey Breen
Rebecca P. Arrington
October 15, 2013
The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia is elevating its kinesiology program to department status.

The expansion of U.Va.’s kinesiology program – the Ph.D. component of which is ranked ninth nationally, and the undergraduate component of which has the school’s most competitive admissions process – is the result of societal needs and student demand, U.Va. education professor Arthur “Art” L. Weltman said. According to the American Kinesiology Association, kinesiology is one of the fastest-growing majors across the country, with enrollment rising more than 50 percent between 2003 and 2008.

The academic discipline is growing in large part due the recognition that inactivity represents a major societal concern that expands the entire lifecycle, according Weltman, who will chair the new department.

“An emerging body of research indicates that sedentary behavior is associated with reduced quality of life and impaired health, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain forms of cancer, depression and cognitive impairment, and the increased risk of falls and other injuries, just to name a few,” Weltman said.
That's it for this week's installment.  Stay tuned for more until the week after election day.

The corner station retreats almost a full step

In The corner station advances three steps and retreats two, I described how I misjudged the situation, as I expected prices to fall.
Prices ended up increasing slightly instead.  First, the corner station jacked up its price from $3.37 to $3.59 on Monday while the three stations down the street held steady at $3.37.  Yesterday morning, the corner station had lowered its price to $3.49 while the three stations down the street had raised their prices to $3.45.  I had a good idea of what would happen next, which was that the corner station would match them.  The only question was when.  This evening, it had, lowering its price to $3.45.  The net result was that gas got more expensive, not less.  I should have filled up last week.
I ended up putting in only four gallons, as I still expected prices to fall before I needed another tank.  They did.  On Saturday, I saw that the corner station had lowered its price to $3.39, only two cents above where it was a week ago.  I was right when I predicted that "I don't expect gas prices to get any higher during the rest of this week."  They didn't.

As for the local, regional, and national trend, the Gasbuddy widget over at Econobrowser shows that the national average price has resumed its seasonal downward trend, having peaked at just over $3.37 a few days ago and then slid to $3.36.  Both the Detroit and Michigan averages have joined the national average in falling from their peaks.  The Detroit average contined to fall from its peak of $3.45 the day before the last gas price post to today's $3.39, while Michigan's is down to to $3.42 today.  If anything, I expect prices to continue to decrease.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Climate news from campuses on the campaign trail

I concluded Shutdown and science from campuses on the campaign trail and Daily Kos with a note to myself and my readers.
That reminds me.  I have climate news to post.  Stay tuned.
It only took me a week but here it is.

First, from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes) comes this alarming news from Rutgers University.

New Finding Shows Climate Change Can Happen in a Geological Instant.
What happened 55 million years ago is happening today, geologists say
by Ken Branson
Sunday, October 6, 2013
“Rapid” and “instantaneous” are words geologists don’t use very often. But Rutgers geologists use these exact terms to describe a climate shift that occurred 55 million years ago.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Morgan Schaller and James Wright contend that following a doubling in carbon dioxide levels, the surface of the ocean turned acidic over a period of weeks or months and global temperatures rose by 5 degrees centigrade – all in the space of about 13 years.

Scientists previously thought this process happened over 10,000 years.

Wright, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences and Schaller, a research associate, say the finding is significant in considering modern-day climate change.
I guess that means that the rate of climate change isn't setting records; it's only tying them.  Just the same, this kind of catastrophic flipping of the switch resulted in an extinction event then and it's likely to cause one in the near future.

Follow over the jump for more stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Wester 2013

Time to be a good environmentalist and recycle.

Solstices and Equinoxes

Adapted from my original 2007 post: Happy Wester Everyone!
Yes, you read that correctly--I wish you all a happy Wester! What is Wester? Well, it's the mirror image of Easter, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Therefore, Wester is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Autumnal Equinox, which is today (or tomorrow if you're in the Rocky Mountain, Pacific, and Alaskan/Hawaiian Time Zones of North America).* In the northern states of the U.S. and the southern parts of the Canadian Provinces, it is usually one of the last days of pleasant weather before the full chill of Autumn descends. As such, it's a good excuse to enjoy summer activities outdoors one last time.

Although I'm probably the first person to wish any of you Wester (correct me if I'm wrong, as I'd like more documentation), I did not come up with the idea. It originated in Berkeley, California, during the 1980s, and the message was brought to Michigan by my colleague Tim Pearce. Tim invited me to a Wester party in 1991 and explained the holiday to me. The party was a blast, and I've been eternally grateful to him for introducing me to the concept. Therefore, I am sharing this meme with you.

One last time, Happy Wester!
I just realized that it was Wester when I remembered that it was Sunday and last Friday was the first full moon after the Autumnal Equinox. I realized that I'd better hurry.

Also I want to include the following from last year's comments.
Wayne Freeman: So, if Easter has the Easter Bunny, who comes around and brings goodies, does the Wester Squirrel go around and gather goodies?

Me: The Wester Squirrel? I like that! Thanks to you, the holiday has a new mascot
And here he is, the Wester Squirrel.

*Actually, it was yesterday for anyone in the Eastern Hemisphere, as this entry is posting at Midnight GMT. Oh, well, it's still Wester here. article on evaluations of Walberg vs. Byrnes

Two political analysts lowered Tim Walberg's chances of holding onto his seat next year in the wake of the shutdown.
Credit: U.S. Congress (Wikipedia/Public Domain)
It's time for a follow-up to article on Walberg's bad poll results.

Analysts: Walberg's hold on seat loosens after shutdown
On Thursday, two political analysts revised their ratings of next year's contest for Michigan's Seventh Congressional District.  Both of them thought that Republican incumbent Tim Walberg retaining his seat against Democratic challenger Pam Byrnes was less likely after the just-finished government shutdown.

In the morning, Stuart Rothenberg announced in Roll Call that he had moved Walberg's seat from "Safe Republican" to "Republican Favored."

That afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) passed along Cook Political Report's assessment of the race, which moved the seat from "Likely R" to "Lean R."

Both changes in ratings came after two polls showing Walberg in trouble.  Two weeks ago, a poll came out showing Walberg losing to generic Democrat by nine percent.  Later that week, the DCCC released a poll showing Walberg and Byrnes in a statistical dead heat, with Walberg ahead by one percentage point 43% to 42% with 14% undecided.
Details at the link, along with a video from Huffington Post about the shutdown is hurting Republicans more than Democrats.  Yes, the bad news for Republicans from the shutdown keeps coming and coming.

Crossposted to Michigan Liberal as Shutdown and Byrnes lower Walberg's odds of holding seat.

The hotel to replace Kroger selected

Last year, I asked "A hotel to replace Kroger?"  The answer is yes.

Royal Oak Patch: Planning Commission OKs Hotel Complex
By a 7-2 vote, the Royal Oak Planning Commission approved a special land use and final special redevelopment site plan for an 8-story hotel complex at the site of the former Fresard auto dealership at 400 N. Main St. at its meeting Tuesday.

The plan will now move to the Royal Oak City Commission for its approval of a development agreement.

The site and landscaping plan for an 8-story hotel, an 8-story apartment building, a pair of office buildings and a 4-level off-street parking deck has essentially not changed very much since it last appeared before the planning commission in December, said Royal Oak City Planner Doug Hedges.
That was last June.  At that time, there was one precondition to getting the project approved.
In his comments, Hedges strongly went over the Planning Department’s recommendation that a hotel be part of any first phase of the project.

“I can not emphasize enough how adamant the director of planning (Tim Thwing) is that this contingency be included,” Hedges said, adding, “It is our strong opinion, and it’s been stated in the public hearing, that the whole project as been more or less predicated on the hotel. And, it is our opinion that that needs to be done first before anything else. It may be harsh but our opinion is no hotel, no project.”

Hedges remarks drew approval from the audience. The closest resident to the proposed development, Nikki Martinez on Pingree, acknowledged she was excited about the hotel and would not be a fan of the development without it.

To date, the petitioner has not named a hotelier and no contingency was added about naming one.
That hurdle has now been cleared.

Royal Oak Patch: Royal Oak Hotel Development Moves Forward with Hyatt Place
After months of silence, an announcement is made regarding a proposed 8-story hotel complex at 400 N. Main St., the site of the former Fresard auto dealership.
"The 400 N. Main project is still moving forward," said [Architect Jason] Krieger, who is also a DDA director. "I know it's been quiet, but they had to do their due diligence and their feasibility study. The (hotel) picked is going to be the Hyatt Place."
"I will say I have stayed in Hyatt Places many times. They are very nice hotels," said Jay Dunstan, DDA chairperson. "It going to be a great addition to downtown."
I'm looking forward to the the completed hotel.  I've even looking forward to the construction.  It's more entertaining to walk past a construction site than a vacant lot as I head downtown.  As for driving, I have alternate routes to avoid the congestion and I'll be happy to put up with the traffic to see this all done.

Also, there is enough tourism to keep the hotel afloat, what with the Dream Cruise, the Detroit Auto Show, and the Detroit Zoo, to say nothing of downtown Royal Oak as an entertainment destination for people coming in during business trips and relatives coming in to visit residents during the rest of the year.  When all that stops, we'll have bigger problems to worry about then whether the town can support a hotel.

A Day at the museum--not!

I led my geology students on a field trip yesterday, which was supposed to be very similar to the trip I wrote about in Field trip highlights.  Unfortunately, the MSU Museum, which was supposed to be the first stop, was closed because of the home football game.  I'll know not to schedule a trip on a football Saturday in the future.  I was able to salvage the trip just the same.

To vent my frustration, I'm posting two stories about university museums that did the opposite of MSU--open their museums to the public, the first expressly on a football Saturday.

Auburn University: Auburn University Museum of Natural History to open doors to public
October 3, 2013
AUBURN UNIVERSITY – For the first time, the Auburn University Museum of Natural History is opening its doors to the public. On homecoming Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon, the museum will host an open house, offering the community a unique opportunity to meet the curators and explore the more than 1 million specimens found in the museum’s eight collections. Giveaways and live-animal demonstrations will be included in the event, which will take place on campus at the new Biodiversity Learning Center, located between Rouse Life Sciences Building and M. White Smith Hall.

The Biodiversity Learning Center is the new home for the Auburn University Museum of Natural History, which features collections of specimens representing the rich history of Alabama, the Southeast and beyond. Sponsored by the College of Sciences and Mathematics, the museum is used primarily by Auburn University professors and students and well as researchers from around the world conducting biodiversity research. Periodically, museum curators will extend the collections beyond campus and provide specimens to outside researchers and K-12 outreach programs. However, the museum is not ordinarily open to the public.

“The new Biodiversity Learning Center is a state-of-the-art collections facility that allows, for the first time, all of Auburn’s natural history collections to be housed under a single roof. The new building provides much needed space for the growth of collections and will greatly enhance our ability to share the collections with the public and further serve the needs of Auburn’s land-grant mission of education and outreach,” said Jason Bond, director of the Museum of Natural History. “We are incredibly proud of our museum collections and the Biodiversity Learning Center, and we hope everyone will be able to take advantage of this great opportunity to see more of what Auburn University has to offer.”
Not to be outdone, Auburn's in-state rival also held an open house.

University of Alabama: UA Museum Event Features Fossils, 3D Printing
Oct 7, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The community is invited to explore a world of fossils during National Fossil Day at the Alabama Museum of Natural History at Smith Hall on The University of Alabama’s campus.

The event will be held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16, in the grand gallery of Smith Hall, and it will feature demonstration tables with the department of geology and the evolutionary studies program, hands-on activities for children in the museum’s Discovery Lab and a wide variety of fossils on display.

The museum will also unveil the new Elasmosaur specimen collected this summer in Greene County by middle school students during an annual expedition.

“The event offers people in the community an opportunity to learn about the incredible fossil history that Alabama has,” said Todd Hester, museum naturalist. “It’s also a chance to see new technology in fossil research.”
Both events look like they were fun.  Wish I'd been there.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Space news from campuses on the campaign trail

I opened and closed NASA videos from just before the shutdown with reference to the government shutdown.
It's time for one last comprehensive space summary until the shutdown is over.
And that's it from NASA on YouTube until the end of the U.S. government shutdown.  May it be over soon.  Otherwise, this could be the next step in the classic tragic science fiction plot of a civilization losing its ability to go to space.
The shutdown wasn't over soon, but it is over.  As I wrote in an aside inside Eclipse and asteroid DOOM, "I want to express my relief that the shutdown is over and that NASA is up and running again."

To show how relieved and gratified I am about NASA being fully operational again, I present the two space stories I was able to collect from campuses on the campaign trail during the past month.

First, from the University of Alabama, Citizens Help Astronomers Classify 300,000 Galaxies, UA Researcher Co-Authors Description dated Sep 25, 2013, which I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report released).
More than 83,000 volunteer citizen scientists partnered with professional astronomers to examine more than 300,000 galaxies in an online project that would have taken approximately 30 years of full-time work by one researcher to complete, according to a paper co-authored by a University of Alabama researcher.

The project, named Galaxy Zoo 2, is the second phase of a crowdsourcing effort to categorize galaxies in the universe.

“Once again, I am stunned at not only the breadth but the depth of public interest in the Galaxy Zoo project,” said Dr. William Keel, University of Alabama professor of astronomy who co-authored a paper detailing the project that published Sept. 23 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Next, from Louisiana State University,  LSU Researchers Discover How Microbes Survive in Freezing Conditions by Paige Brown, dated October 10, 2013, which was the sole space story in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes).
Most microbial researchers grow their cells in petri-dishes to study how they respond to stress and damaging conditions. But, with the support of funding from NASA, researchers in LSU’s Department of Biological Sciences tried something almost unheard of: studying microbial survival in ice to understand how microorganisms could survive in ancient permafrost, or perhaps even buried in ice on Mars.

Brent Christner, associate professor of biological sciences, and colleagues at LSU including postdoctoral researcher Markus Dieser and Mary Lou Applewhite Professor John Battista, recently had results on DNA repair in ice-entrapped microbes accepted in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. To understand how microbes survive in frozen conditions, Christner and colleagues focused on analysis of DNA, the hereditary molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and function of all organisms.

“Microbes are made up of macromolecules that, even if frozen, are subject to decay,” Christner said. “We know of a range of spontaneous reactions that result in damage to DNA.”
This barely qualifies as a space story.

As you can see, there were only two space articles in three weeks.  That's slim pickings.  I had no idea how true my expectations  in Voyager confirmed in interstellar space and other space news would turn out to be.
It may be a while before I post another digest like this, as my editorial emphasis will be on campuses on the campaign trail for the next two months.  It turns out that most of the instititions in jurisdictions having elections this year don't produce a lot of space research...
No kidding.  It makes me appreciate NASA all that much more.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Eclipse and asteroid DOOM

One of the big astronomical news items tonight, at least according to number of searches, is tonight's lunar eclipse.  However, the article in the Washington Post on the event--Hunter’s Full Moon, and a penumbral lunar eclipse this evening--mentions that it is likely to be a dud.
The sky presents two lunar spectacles for the price of one tonight. The full “Hunter” moon rises, while at the same time, sections of it are darkened by the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, an event known as a penumbral eclipse.
EarthSky emphasizes the subtle aspect of the eclipse because, coinciding with evening twilight in the U.S., the sky will not yet be that dark.

“You may not notice any shading at all on the moon’s surface if you see the eclipse from the Americas,” Earth Sky writes. “Even as the eclipse is happening, you’ll be seeing the moon low in the sky, peering at it through more atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. This is a very, very subtle kind of eclipse. Will it be noticeable? Maybe to photographers! We’ll hope for some good photos.”
I can vouch for this.  I went outside to look and expected to see just a great full moon, as the eclipse should be very subtle.  That's exactly what I saw.  So, I wasn't disappointed.  It is a great full moon.

The other big astronomical new tonight based on web searches is the 2032 asteroid.  Here is what NASA had to say about it, with the their attitude evident in the title and becoming more dismissive in the body: Asteroid 2013 TV135 – A Reality Check.
Newly discovered asteroid 2013 TV135 made a close approach to Earth on Sept. 16, when it came within about 4.2 million miles (6.7 million kilometers). The asteroid is initially estimated to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in size and its orbit carries it as far out as about three quarters of the distance to Jupiter's orbit and as close to the sun as Earth's orbit. It was discovered on Oct. 8, 2013, by astronomers working at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. As of Oct. 14, asteroid 2013 TV135 is one of 10,332 near-Earth objects that have been discovered.

With only a week of observations for an orbital period that spans almost four years, its future orbital path is still quite uncertain, but this asteroid could be back in Earth’s neighborhood in 2032. However, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office states the probability this asteroid could then impact Earth is only one in 63,000. The object should be easily observable in the coming months and once additional observations are provided to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., the initial orbit calculations will be improved and the most likely result will be a dramatic reduction, or complete elimination, of any risk of Earth impact. 

"To put it another way, that puts the current probability of no impact in 2032 at about 99.998 percent," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is a relatively new discovery. With more observations, I fully expect we will be able to significantly reduce, or rule out entirely, any impact probability for the foreseeable future."
So, despite the claims of ‘Dangerous’ asteroid headed toward Earth in the New York Post that could collide with Earth in August 26, 2032, it's most likely a false alarm.  Besides, we all know Apophis Day is April 13th and has been postponed until 2068.

That written, has a video about the close encounter: 1300-Foot-Wide Asteroid 2013 TV135's Near-Earth Flyby | Orbit Animation.

The space rock was discovered on October 8th, 2013 by the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Ukraine. It came within 4.2 million miles and currently has a 1 in 63000 chance of impacting Earth in 2032.
Before I move on from this story, I want to express my relief that the shutdown is over and that NASA is up and running again.

Finally, here is something Elaine Meinel Supkis linked to over at her blog from the Daily Fail Mail: Could life on Earth end on March 16, 2880? Scientists predict giant asteroid will collide with our planet at 38,000 miles per hour.
  • Asteroid 1950 DA has a 0.3 per cent chance of hitting Earth in 867 years
  • This represents a risk 50% greater than an impact from all other asteroids
  • If it were to hit, it would do so with a force of 44,800 megatonnes of TNT
By Ellie Zolfagharifard
PUBLISHED: 05:42 EST, 11 October 2013 | UPDATED: 03:31 EST, 14 October 2013
Doomsday, it seems, has come and gone countless times.

But one particular prediction for the end of the world has been weighing on the mind of astronomers for more than half a century.

Scientists at Nasa have been watching an asteroid, named 1950 DA, which is currently on a path to collide with Earth on March 16, 2880.
2880?  That's on a time scale more in tune with Bruce Walker Ferguson's interests than mine.  I have enough to worry about with what's happening during the 21st Century, let alone the 29th.

The science and math of sports from campuses on the campaign trail

Last month, I kicked off my series of entries featuring research and outreach stories from campuses on the campaign trail with Sports news for a football Saturday.   Today, I continue the series with two more articles about the intersection of sports and academia from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report released) and Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes).

University of Massachusetts, Lowell: University’s Baseball Research Lab Featured in National Geographic
By Edwin L. Aguirre
As baseball fans know, nothing beats the sight and sound of a player’s bat solidly hitting the ball, sending it flying off into the bleachers and beyond for a home run.

But do you know what happens to the wooden bat when it strikes the ball?

“A 90-miles-per-hour pitch impacting a bat swinging at 70 miles per hour can exert a force greater than 8,000 pounds,” says Patrick Drane, assistant director of the University’s Baseball Research Center.

“This peak force is exerted for a small fraction of the 1,000th of a second that the ball and bat are in contact,” explains Drane. “When the ball impacts away from the bat’s ‘sweet spot,’ much of the energy goes into vibrating the bat. These vibrations can cause even the strongest of woods to break.”
University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Charlotte Teachers Institute Tackles ‘Sports by the Numbers
Panel to discuss math and sports during 'Exploding Canons' speakers series
CHARLOTTE – Oct. 01, 2013 - Ever calculated the odds behind whether your favorite team should punt or go for it – or who’s really number one? Charlotte Teachers Institute will tackle these and other tough questions related to the intersection of sports and math in its “Exploding Canons” event on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

This next installment of CTI’s flagship speakers series will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at UNC Charlotte’s EPIC Building, next to the new Jerry Richardson Stadium, on the university’s main campus.

In “Exploding Canons: Sports by the Numbers,” faculty from Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and professional sports statisticians will offer perspectives on how athletes, coaches, teams, economists, teachers and others use numbers and data in sports performance, development, analysis and decision-making. Sponsored by Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation with additional support from the Charlotte Bobcats, the public event is free. All attendees also will receive special ticket offers from the Charlotte Bobcats and the Charlotte Checkers.
Yes, sports can be educational, especially during fall, the season of major league baseball playoffs and football games.

Another dose of health news from campuses on the campaign trail

The campuses on on the campaign trail continue to be rich sources for health stories.  First Health news from campuses on the campaign trail, then More health news from campuses on the campaign trail, and now all the health-related stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (2013 Nobel Prizes) show what a cornucopia of health research and outreach these campuses are.

I begin with a story related to the Affordable Care Act from Rutgers University, which I'm posting to celebrate the end of the shutdown over the ACA and the raising of the debt ceiling.

Improving Health Care, Controlling Costs – Rutgers Launches New Initiative
One key factor sets Robert Wood Johnson Partners apart from other attempts at reform – the Accountable Care Organization has the power of a major research university behind it
By Andrea Alexander
Monday, October 7, 2013
During nearly three decades as a primary care physician, Alfred Tallia has identified a daunting list of flaws with the nation’s health care.

Specialists rarely coordinate care for patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure – which can lead to repetitive, expensive tests.

In most doctors’ offices, no one is responsible for developing plans with patients to lose weight, exercise and change their diet – or for following up with those patients to help them meet their goals.

But Tallia, chair of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School – now part of Rutgers – is getting ready to launch a solution he believes will deliver more effective care at a lower cost.
Follow over the jump for the rest of the stories.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Shiller wins economics Nobel

Nobel Prizes in the sciences
The rest of the winners were not called this year, although the economics prize was awarded to someone who was forecast to win last year.  He deserves an entry of his own later.
It's later.

First, here's an excerpt from the New York Times article about this year's winners" Economists Clash on Theory, but Will Still Share the Nobel.
WASHINGTON — The economist Robert J. Shiller in 2005 described the rapid rise of housing prices as a bubble and warned that prices could fall by 40 percent.

Five years later, with home prices well on the way to fulfilling Mr. Shiller’s prediction, the economist Eugene F. Fama said he still did not believe there had been a bubble.

“I don’t even know what a bubble means,” said Mr. Fama, the author of the theory that asset prices perfectly reflect all available information. “These words have become popular. I don’t think they have any meaning.”

The two men, leading proponents of opposing views about the rationality of financial markets — a dispute with important implications for investment strategy, financial regulation and economic policy — were joined in unlikely union Monday as winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science.

Mr. Fama’s seminal theory of rational, efficient markets inspired the rise of index funds and contributed to the decline of financial regulation. Mr. Shiller, perhaps his most influential critic, carefully assembled evidence of irrational, inefficient behavior and gained a measure of fame by predicting the fall of stock prices in 2000 as well as the housing crash that began in 2006.

They will share the award with a third American economist, Lars Peter Hansen, who developed a method of statistical analysis to evaluate theories about price movements that is now widely used by other social scientists.

The three economists, who worked independently, were described as collectively illuminating the workings of financial markets by showing that stock and bond prices move unpredictably in the short term but with greater predictability over longer periods. The prize committee said these findings showed that markets were moved by a mix of rational calculus and irrational behavior.
Here's what I wrote about Thomson Reuters forecasting a win for Shiller last year.
The most fireworks over the winner will be over the Laureate for the Economics Prize, at least among the people on your list. Some political faction will make hay over the choice, while someone else's ox will be gored. People on the political Left should root for Atkinson and Deaton, while those on the Right should root for Ross. That would seem to make Shiller a safe choice, right? Don't count on it. He told the truth about the housing bubble back when people on the Right were denying there was any such thing.
Controversy aside, I wouldn't mind Shiller winning the economics prize. I'm more familiar with him than the others, and I actually use his work here from time to time--like right now. Here's the latest Case-Shiller Housing Index, courtesy of Calculated Risk (link updated--P-S).

As I wrote last year, housing prices have indeed bottomed out and are now rising.  Good news, everyone!

Finally, before I forget, congratulations Professor Shiller.  You're now up there with Krugman and Stiglitz.  That's great company to keep.

The corner station advances three steps and retreats two

I made a bad decision at the end of My prediction for Saturday came true Tuesday.
In the meantime, my car's tank is full, but my wife's isn't.  Maybe I should top her tank off while gas is still relatively cheap.
Didn't bother.  If prices are going to drop, then I can wait.
Prices ended up increasing slightly instead.  First, the corner station jacked up its price from $3.37 to $3.59 on Monday while the three stations down the street held steady at $3.37.  Yesterday morning, the corner station had lowered its price to $3.49 while the three stations down the street had raised their prices to $3.45.  I had a good idea of what would happen next, which was that the corner station would match them.  The only question was when.  This evening, it had, lowering its price to $3.45.  The net result was that gas got more expensive, not less.  I should have filled up last week.

At least my weak prediction that prices would not increase by Saturday held true.
I wouldn't be surprised to see gas drop a few cents more by Saturday.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see no change, either.  I'll keep my readers posted either way.
Good thing I only forecast out to Saturday.

As for the local, regional, and national trend, the Gasbuddy widget over at Econobrowser shows that the national average price is slowly rising, having bottomed out at $3.37 a few days ago and then returned to $3.38, while both the Detroit and Michigan averages rose and then peaked.  The Detroit average peaked at $3.45 yesterday and is now at $3.44, while Michigan's hit $3.52 yesterday and is down to $3.51 today.  I don't expect gas prices to get any higher during the rest of this week.

The crude oil prices support this prediction.  While WTI has stayed just above $101/barrel, Brent Crude rose from $109.06 last week to $110.86 today.  It peaked a few days ago and then stalled out.  As long as the prices remain at those levels, gas should stay about where it is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nobel Prizes in the sciences

Near the end of Science awards from the ridiculous to the sublime, 2013 edition, I outsourced my speculation on the Nobel Awards to the L.A. Times.
Click on the link for the list of likely winners, which features three achievements worthy of recognition per category.  We'll find out starting today if any of the predictions were correct.
Discovery News and The Economist have the answers.

Nobel Prizes: Who Won & Who Got Snubbed

All of the 2013 Nobel prizes have been announced! This year's prizes went to people doing amazing work, but not everyone can be a winner. Trace looks at who won, who was snubbed, and which deserving scientists from the past never took home a medal.
Higgs’s bosuns
Awards for fundamental physics, how cells transport chemicals, and ways of modelling on a computer how those chemicals react once they have arrived
Oct 12th 2013
WILL he or won’t he? That was the question on the mind of anyone with a passing interest in the topic as representatives of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science prepared to announce the winner of this year’s Nobel physics prize. Well, he did. Half a century after predicting the existence of the particle which bears his name Peter Higgs, of Edinburgh University, was awarded science’s highest accolade. Another, even bigger mystery was who would share the honour—and the cheque for SKr8m ($1.2m). In the event, after postponing the announcement twice (rare for the punctual Swedes) the prize-givers plumped for François Englert of the Free University of Brussels.
Less predictably, and less controversially, the prize for physiology or medicine went to James Rothman of Yale, Randy Schekman of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Südhof of Stanford University, for their work on vesicles. These are small, bubble-like structures, surrounded by fatty membranes, which ship hormones, enzymes and various other molecules around a cell, and sometimes export them to the outside world.
Familiarity from school cannot, however, have been the explanation of a similar lack of questions after the announcement of the chemistry prize. This went to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel, a trio who have collectively helped tame the daunting mathematical complexity involved in simulating chemical reactions.
The only one that Thompson Reuters called was Higgs, which was probably the easiest prediction.  From the L.A. Times:
One of the favorites in this category – and a likely emotional favorite for many people who have been following the search for the Higgs boson – is Peter Higgs, who is projected to be a co-winner with Francois Englert. The two men predicted the existence of the subatomic particle, which is thought to be associated with an energy field that imparts mass to particles. Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva have all but confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson.
The rest of the winners were not called this year, although the economics prize was awarded to someone who was forecast to win last year.  He deserves an entry of his own later.  In the meantime, follow over the jump for announcements from U.S. universities involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rogers and Upton join Walberg, Bentivolio, and Benishek among those in trouble

From Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

At my blog, I excerpted from my article Walberg losing to generic Democrat by nine percent: poll.
This morning, released the results of a poll it commissioned, one that contains bad news for U.S. Representative Tim Walberg, who represents rural northern, western, and southern Washtenaw County in the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Seventh District.  The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed that Walberg would lose an election held today to a generic Democratic challenger by nine percentage points, 51% to 42%, after poll respondents were told he supported the federal government shutdown.
In addition to Walberg, both Dan Benishek (MI-01) and Kerry Bentivolio (MI-11) were the other two Michigan Representatives among the twenty-one whose seats were at risk of being lost next year.

Yesterday morning, MoveOn and PPP posted More Republican House Seats in Jeopardy on Scribd, which showed that two more Michigan Representatives, Fred Upton (MI-06) and Mike Rogers (MI-08) could lose their seats next year.  Follow over the jump for the details.