Photo contest winner, and new contest

The winner of our fall At Large contest is this photo of glittering blue-green damselfish amid coral branches on Australia’s Northern Great Barrier Reef. The photo is featured in the Fall 2016 issue of Research|Penn State magazine, which arrives on campus this week.

This image was shot by F. Joseph Pollock, a postdoctoral scholar working with Penn State biologist Mónica Medina, during a sampling trip to Lizard Island in 2015. Continue reading Photo contest winner, and new contest

The hurricane hounds of central Pennsylvania

hurricane from ISS
Courtesy of NASA/ISS

Whenever a hurricane threatens the U.S. or our close neighbors, we look to the National Hurricane Center for predictions of where it will go and how strong it will be, predictions based on techniques and models developed by experts in places like Miami, New Orleans, Charleston, and State College.

Wait, what? Hurricane experts in State College?

Continue reading The hurricane hounds of central Pennsylvania

The research continues: Architectural engineering

It started with Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. The field of architectural engineering owes its beginning to the Great Chicago Fire when, on Sunday evening, October 8, 1879, a fire swept through the city, burning more than three square miles, leaving approximately 100,000 people homeless and 300 people dead. The estimated property loss was $190,000,000, or approximately $450 billion in 2016 dollars.

Architectural Engineering historical marker
Architectural Engineering historical marker, located at east entrance to Engineering Unit A, University Park campus.

While the fire was never actually traced to a cow kicking over a lantern, a gradual change took place while Chicagoans rebuilt their city. Structural steel was developed, the first skyscraper was built, and structural and civil engineering gave birth to architectural engineering.

Continue reading The research continues: Architectural engineering

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

Keeping an ear on the final frontier

Well, is it, or isn’t it?

Sometimes, science is all about not having the foggiest idea about how something happens, but trying really hard to find out the truth. It also means not being afraid to go in potentially weird directions.

Jason Wright, Penn State associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, is doing just that. He’s one of the astronomers trying to find out if — set the synthesizer on spooky and cue the weird music — a giant alien structure is causing the weird dimming of a star called KIC 8462852, better known as Tabby’s Star.

Located about 1,500 light-years from Earth, Tabby’s Star has undergone rapid and erratic dimming that typical cosmic phenomena — a rotating planet, for example, or comets — may not explain. While not proven or even likely, Wright suggests that an alien megastructure cannot be taken off the table as a possibility.

In this chat at the SETI Institute, (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute), Wright offers more information about Tabby’s Star and what it might — and might not — mean for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Members of the news media interested in talking to Wright should contact Barbara Kennedy at 814-863-4682 or bkk1@psu.edu.

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