Arbor Day Reflections on the Buds and the Bees

Carl Sagan once wrote, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

By all rights, that invented universe would include the 20,000 or more acres of apple orchards now in bloom in Adams County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s Fruit Belt. Biglerville is the epicenter of the county’s apple growing activity and home to Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center. 

Blooming apple trees in the Penn State research orchards in Biglerville, PA
Blooming apple trees in the Penn State research orchards in Biglerville, PA Image: M. Beattie-Moss

If you wish to invent a universe that will give rise to apple pies, you might also need some researchers to teach you a thing or two, and luckily the Center has some good ones. On a recent visit, I spent time in the orchards with Dave Biddinger, fruit tree research entomologist, and Ed Rajotte, professor of entomology and integrated pest management, and I learned some new things about the buds and the bees.  Continue reading Arbor Day Reflections on the Buds and the Bees

Manufacturing the future

Additive manufacturing, sometimes known as 3D printing, is exactly what it sounds like. Working from a computer-generated 3D model, a “printer” puts down layer after layer of plastic or metal or ceramic, adding layers until the design is realized in a finished part.

“You’re reimagining components from the ground up,” says Rich Martukanitz, director of Penn State’s Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition, known as CIMP-3D. “You can manufacture components having features and characteristics that are near impossible to do with conventional processes. And you drastically cut manufacturing time, materials — and cost.”

Continue reading Manufacturing the future

Focus on research: Unilateral presidential power in an age of polarized politics

President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the most executive orders at 3,721. Image in the public domain, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued far more executive orders than any other U.S. president to date. Image: Public domain, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

By Mark Major

Presidential power, especially their unilateral authority, has been a fierce point of contention in the Obama era. Recently, 43 senators, all Republican, filed a friend-of-the-court brief challenging President Barack Obama’s, as they put it, “extra-constitutional assertion of a unilateral executive power” over immigration policy. The public, and many in the press, assume that the controversy centers on an executive order. This is incorrect.

In the case of Obama’s immigration reform, it deals with “prosecutorial discretion.” Regardless of the term, unilateral executive powers are a compelling, and long overdue, topic for national discussion. Despite this high level of attention to Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration, health care, and gun reform, we have little understanding of this unique presidential power.  Continue reading Focus on research: Unilateral presidential power in an age of polarized politics

Adventures in research-land

A recent story posted on EOS (Earth & Space Science News) shows us the lengths — or rather, the depths — some scientists go to in their research. The story, illustrated by spectacular photos and an audio slideshow, follows Penn State graduate student Kiya Riverman as she probes the twisting chambers far inside a massive Norwegian glacier. Picture a slot canyon in Utah’s redrock desert, but in shades of black and white and espresso brown. That’s what her glacier cave looks like.

ice-cave-otherworldly-feel
The cave inside the Svalbard glacier resembles Southwestern slot canyons. Photo by Ethan Welty, EOS.

Studying a glacier “from the inside out,” as Riverman puts it, enables her to see firsthand how the ice is changing as surface temperatures rise. She’s been doing research on glaciers and ice sheets for many years from atop the ice, and although she had enjoyed recreational spelunking for a long time, the hobby didn’t intersect with her research until 2010, when a colleague invited her to help him map a glacier cave in Svalbard, Norway. Since then she’s visited the cave many times to monitor its development, as meltwater from the surface spills through it, deepening the chambers, cutting new passages, and reshaping its walls.

Continue reading Adventures in research-land

You say you want a (sleep) revolution

Within the past few years, author and media mogul Arianna Huffington has made sleep health her pet project. In her 2010 TED talk, Huffington encouraged her audience to make sleep a priority: “The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is to get enough sleep,” she said. “We are going to sleep our way to the top — literally!”

Earlier this month, she published her latest book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. To promote the book, and raise awareness about healthy sleep, Huffington has started the Sleep Revolution College Tour. Recently, Schreyer Honors scholar Alayna Kennedy worked with the Schreyer Honors College and alum Lou D’Ambrosio to bring the tour to Penn State, where students learned about healthy sleep habits and received sleep kits.

I touched base with Orfeu Buxton, a Penn State associate professor of biobehavioral health and a sleep health expert who specializes in sleep, health, and society, and asked him a few questions about the particular issue of sleep and college students.  Continue reading You say you want a (sleep) revolution

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