Category Archives: Society & Culture

our winning image, and a new contest

The winner of our spring At Large contest is this photo of small craft off the Stone Town district of Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. The photo is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Research|Penn State magazine, which arrives on campus  soon.

For hundreds of years, similar boats carried on extensive trade among ports from India to Oman and Yemen in the Middle East and along the Swahili coast of East Africa. Janet Purdy, a doctoral candidate in History of Art and Architecture, took this shot when she visited Stone Town in 2016 to study the trade routes and the massive, elaborately carved doors commissioned by wealthy Omani merchants who lived there in the 19th century.

Zanzibar was a thriving cultural crossroads where people, goods, languages, religions, and artistic practices met and blended. The doors, bearing symbols and decorative elements from many sources, were so important as the public “face” of their owners that they were often the first part of a new building to be made.

Thank you to all who sent images for consideration.

We now announce the contest to find another superb image for the At Large pages of our Fall 2017 issue. In addition to publication in Research|Penn State, the winner will receive a high-quality print of the At Large spread, suitable for framing.

Here are the contest guidelines:

  • Deadline for submission is Friday, June 30, 2017.
  • Image must relate to research being conducted by someone at Penn State.
  • Image must be a strong horizontal so it can completely fill a two-page spread, and must be visually compelling.
  • Image must be available at high resolution, at least 300 dpi (this is not the same as ppi) at a size of 11” x 17”. Keep this in mind as you shoot photos, especially through microscopes. We have had to eliminate beautiful images from consideration because they were not shot at a high enough resolution to be enlarged to publication size.
  • Image can be a scenic, close-up, or micrograph. It can be realistic or abstract, color or black & white or colorized. Archival shots will also be considered. Previous winners can be seen here, here, here, and here.
  • Although we may use a shot with a person (or people) in it, we do not use portraits.
  • Please provide basic information about the image, such as where it was shot, by whom, and what research it relates to.

Please send your photos to me, Cherie Winner, at clw43@psu.edu. Lo-res versions are fine at this stage. If we select your image, we’ll ask for the hi-res version.  For more information, drop me a line via email or call me at 3-4750.

What is different in the bilingual brain? Part II

By François Grosjean

Editor’s Note: This interview, conducted by François Grosjean, originally appeared on the Psychology Today blog, Life as a Bilingual.

Also worth noting, President Eric Barron recently wrote a piece on the Power of Language, highlighting the Center for Language Science. Ping Li runs the Brain, Language, and Computation Lab at Penn State, which is part of the CLS.

A short while back, Ping Li, professor of psychology and linguistics at Penn State, answered a first series of questions on the bilingual brain (see here). We can now continue the interview, and are grateful to him for the time he has devoted to our questions.

Could we go back to the bilingual experience and the impact it has on neuroplasticity, that is how it can lead to functional and physical changes in the brain?

Yes, another unique aspect of how the bilingual experience impacts the brain is related to the fact that bilingual speakers often have to change the language they are using and have to monitor this, not to mention intertwining their languages in the form of code-switches and borrowings. These processes, it has been suggested, result in positive brain changes in the frontal and subcortical brain regions (due to inhibition of the unwanted language(s)) and in the anterior cingulate cortex (due to monitoring).  Continue reading What is different in the bilingual brain? Part II

How the Shots of Antietam May Have Echoed In Penn State

burnside_bridge_antietam_creek_1862
Rohrbach’s Bridge — or Burnside’s Bridge — was a hotly contested site on the Antietam battlefield. Jacob Gilbert Beaver, younger brother of James A. Beaver, president of Pennsylvania State College from 1906-1908, was shot and killed charging across the bridge on Sept. 17, 1862. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Battle of Antietam, which happened on Sept. 17, 1862, is considered the bloodiest day in American military history. Historians estimate that about 3,650 Union and Confederate soldiers died during the 12-hour engagement. One of those who fell that day was the brother of a Union colonel who would one day lead what is now called Penn State.

If you are going to the football game, the name may be familiar.

Continue reading How the Shots of Antietam May Have Echoed In Penn State

Focus on research: Poll reveals 3 types of Independents

By Michael Berkman

Political conventions focus attention on strong partisans. But not all Americans call themselves Democrats or Republicans, or for that matter Libertarians or Greens. Many prefer to think of themselves as Independents.

With the McCourtney “Mood of the Nation Poll,” we can look at these Independents in a unique way. The poll is a scientific survey that allows ordinary citizens to tell us what is on their minds, without being restricted to a small number of predetermined answers. It also includes standard polling questions such as party identification, allowing us to see who these independents are and what they are thinking about this campaign. The most recent poll posed a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans between June 15-22.

Determining who is an Independent is not straightforward. CNN, in its post-convention survey, reports that “28 percent described themselves as Democrats, 24 percent described themselves as Republicans, and 48 percent described themselves as independents or members of another party.” This is not far from our survey. Our breakdown shows a greater number of Independents (35 percent) than Republicans or Democrats.

Continue reading Focus on research: Poll reveals 3 types of Independents

Don’t run (and don’t laugh): The little-known history of racewalking

By John Affleck

While it was a huge sporting event in the United States in the years after the Civil War and was an early Olympic event, racewalking has been regarded for decades as something of a joke – at least in America. An episode of the sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” was devoted to poking fun at it. The NCAA doesn’t hold a racewalking championship. Sports broadcaster Bob Costas once compared it to a contest to see who could whisper the loudest.

Still, racewalking is an Olympic event, with three medal events held at every Summer Games – and each of the golds counting just as much as the ones that adorn the neck of Michael Phelps.

Today, the races contested at the Olympics are 20 kilometers for both men and women and a 50-kilometer race just for men. The 20-kilometer men’s race was won on August 12 by China’s Wang Zhen with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 14 seconds – a 6:20 mile pace that would win a fair number of 5-kilometer running races in the United States. The other two events take place August 19.

It may look odd, but racewalking has an interesting past and a controversial present, along with quirky rules that make it unique among track and field events.

Continue reading Don’t run (and don’t laugh): The little-known history of racewalking