A (woolly) mammoth find

Environmental changes and a lack of fresh water may have wiped out the last bastion of woolly mammoths living on St. Paul Island in Alaska. And an international team of scientists was able to date this extinction with a precision that has not been seen before.

“It’s amazing that everything turned out so precisely with dating of extinction at 5,600 plus or minus 100 years,” Russell Graham, a professor of geosciences at Penn State and the study’s lead author said. The study was released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences yesterday (August 1).

The changing climate caused sea levels to rise, and in turn the mammoths had less access to fresh water. In a New York Times article today, Graham pointed out that “this study has profound implications for both island and low-lying populations today.”

You can read the full article about Graham and his colleagues’ findings on Penn State News.

Members of the news media interested in talking to Graham should contact A’ndrea Messer at 814-865-9481 or aem1@psu.edu.

Featured image by Charles Robert Knight (in the public domain)

Focus on research: What makes one economy more resilient than another?

By Stephan J. GoetzDavid A. Fleming, and Yicheol Han

Markets have been in turmoil for much of the year on concerns the global economy is heading for another recession. The suspected culprits are many: the plunging price of commodities and oil, crisis in the Middle East, a slowing China and other emerging countries, and weak prospects for financial markets in general.

Coming less than a decade since the global financial crisis dealt a devastating blow to economies around the world, the current challenges raise the question of how resilient our societies are to such shocks.

In our own research, we pondered a different question: what factors make one region more resilient than another? The answer could help us understand how to make our economies better able to resist the next shock, be it financial, a natural disaster, or something else.

The next shock need not come from the finance sector but could result from a melting glacier. Reuters

Continue reading Focus on research: What makes one economy more resilient than another?

The one Roger Ailes hire that changed American politics forever

By Russell Frank

Roger Ailes’ 20-year reign as the chairman of Fox News ended this week, the result of a sexual harassment scandal.

He will be remembered by journalism ethicists as the poster boy for conflict of interest. But of Ailes’ many departures from journalistic norms of impartiality, the most egregious was his hiring of a cousin of presidential candidate George W. Bush during the 2000 election.

Partisan journalism, redefined

We talk a lot about conflict of interest in my journalism ethics class: why travel writers shouldn’t accept free trips to Disney World. Why food critics shouldn’t write about their sister-in-law’s restaurant. Why no journalists should actively support or work against any causes or organizations that they may be called upon to write about.

And, especially, why no news executives should assign stories that promote their allies or attack their enemies.

Continue reading The one Roger Ailes hire that changed American politics forever

Of Pokémon, Pikachu, parents, and privacy

“What the [Pokémon Go] app is actually doing — meaning the broad swath of information the app is collecting — is creepy. It’s not just kids playing the game, and it’s not just privacy advocates who are concerned.” — Anne McKenna, Penn State assistant professor of law

We were curious about the Pokémon Go craze that has infiltrated much of the world and wanted to get a legal perspective on the situation. Cyber and privacy attorney Anne McKenna graciously answered some questions about it from our news and research communications staff.

Research Matters: Pokémon Go seems innocent enough, but it’s causing concern among many privacy advocates. Why is that?

Anne McKenna: On July 6, 2016, Niantic, Inc., released Pokémon Go, an app game that requires users to walk around in real world locations to collect Pokémon. It’s a global obsession. According to the BBC, in the app’s first week of release, there were 15.3 million tweets about it worldwide. For perspective, there were only 11.7 million Brexit-related tweets during the week of the UK referendum. SimilarWeb, an apps analytics firm, says that Pokémon Go users are playing it on average 43 minutes a day — perspective again: that’s more time than users spend on Instagram, Snapchat, or Whatsapp.

Continue reading Of Pokémon, Pikachu, parents, and privacy

Focus on research: How did a polarized America react to Orlando?

By Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer

As Americans grieved after the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last month, Democrats and Republicans reacted quite differently to the news, according to a new “Mood of the Nation” poll developed by Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Our findings indicate that while this tragedy brought us together as a nation, it also demonstrates the extent that the issue of gun control has come to divide our political parties.

The “Mood of the Nation Poll” is a new periodic scientific poll that assesses opinions by posing a series of open-ended questions to a representative sample of 1,000 Americans. It allows ordinary citizens to tell us what is on their minds, without being restricted to a small number of predetermined answers. The first poll of its kind, we asked 500 people in our sample to tell us what it was in the news that made them angry and what made them proud; we asked another 500 people what in the news made them ashamed or what made them hopeful.

Continue reading Focus on research: How did a polarized America react to Orlando?

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