#columbia profs in the news
BunsenBwog: Summer of Science

Sometimes you're just got to say to the data, "Let's science it!"

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean science isn’t happening at Columbia!

Scientists at Columbia are growing heart and bone tissue. An NPR reporter went to the lab, interviewed researchers, and made a really cool and informative video about it that includes footage of heart tissue beating like a real heart. Perhaps most amazing is the fact that the beat tempo can be controlled by altering the frequency of electrical pulses going to the muscle. It’s a little geeky, but really fun to watch. After the video was published, NPR meta-interviewed the reporter about the video.

Some Columbia researchers are working on something which may lead to The Pill—for men! They gave mice a drug which interefered with Vitamin A receptors, causing them to cease producing sperm. After being taken off the drug, the mice resumed mating and were able to reproduce. Giggity.

Lamont-Doherty was the major contributor to Google’s efforts to map an area of the ocean floor larger than North America by offering up its Global Multi-Resolution Topography database.

Complaining that much really does hurt you. According to a new study, a “positive outlook” on life can reduce chance of heart attack up to 22%. And this study was done by Columbian researchers on Canadians, so their threshold for a “negative outlook” probably has nothing on us.

Ian Lipkin is a Columbia scientist who supports “de-discovery,” which is the practice of rigorously repeating studies. Apparently this isn’t done because, hey, just repeating the work of others doesn’t get you on the front cover of Nature. So that’s no feather in Frontiers’ cap—just because studies can be repeated does not mean they are.

In happy news, Kartik Chandran, associate professor of EEE at SEAS (or CE?), won some Gates Foundation money to turn “fecal sludge” into fuel. That’s right folks: it actually says “fecal sludge” on columbia.edu. Today is a day for celebration.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

BunsenBwog

Believe it or not, Columbia scientists actually have better things to do than Frontiers. Bwog presents a review of Columbia’s week in science. Headlines were compiled by Ricky Raudales, who may or may not have submitted the hawk-themed short.

Imagine what Pixar could do with this

  • One panel of judges at last week’s Tribeca Film Festival included two familiar scientists, Stuart Firestein (Columbia) and Janna Levin (Barnard), who helped select the winners of this year’s TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund. Among the rejected pitches was Bwog’s own indie romance, Hawkma, Je T’aime, for which a release date has not yet been set. (Wired)
  • Evolutionary ecologist Dustin Rubenstein sat down with The Scientist to discuss how slime molds, also known as social amoebas, engage in a primitive form of agriculture. What he apparently didn’t mention is that the trials are being conducted inside communal fridges in Harmony (seriously, people, throw out your expired milk cartons.) (The Scientist)
  • Columbia’s own Klaus Lackner shares his latest global warming antidote, an artificial tree capable of sequestering carbon dioxide one thousand times faster than the real stuff. Shove these things in the tailpipes of every New York cab, and you’ve practically solved global warming. (Wall St Daily)
  • Findings from a recent epidemiological study suggest that frequent business travel may be bad for your health, in some cases even increasing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease. Somebody, quick! Tell that to our favorite Dean of Student Affairs by day, pop sensation by night. (Science Daily)
Bwoglines: Dark Times Edition

Dark times, like the one in which this elusive photo was taken.

Brace yourselves for The (Less) Social Network Part II: Gratuitous Hashtags. Some allegations about Twitter’s beginnings have been made and it doesn’t look like it’ll play out in less that 140 characters. #SoMuchDrama (Business Insider, NYMag)

Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 over a homophobic slur he made to a ref during a game on Tuesday. We’re not going to beat around the bush—this fining for swearing thing already happened on 30 Rock, and it didn’t go so well. (CNN)

Columbia professor Elena Aprile leads the search for dark matter. But wait—it gets darker. The hunt has netted almost nothing so far. Participants remain optimistic, though. Aprile says, “when we are searching for the unknown, the more we probe the closer we get to truth.” (NYT)

Barring any snark, we were shocked and saddened to read that a Yale senior died in a chem lab accident after her hair got caught in a machine. Our thoughts are with the Yale community and the student’s family. (Yale Daily News)

Sketchy selfie photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Profs in the Headlines on Japan Crisis

We’ve all been trying to keep tabs on the current situation in Japan. Bwog wants to help you make sense of the headlines, and who better to ask than our own faculty? We have one of the oldest and most renowned East Asian studies departments in the country, and a slew of scientists cited across the national media, all with interesting insight into what’s happening across the Pacific. The threat of radiation has been by far the most discussed topic, followed by the science behind earthquakes and cultural observations.

Health Risks and Disaster Preparedness

David Brenner, Director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University

  • “Chernobyl was the equivalent of 1 million Three Mile Islands. [Japan] certainly looks much more like a Three Mile Island. There are a lot of similarities between this and Three Mile Island. In both cases they were able to shut the reactor down almost immediately.” (The Daily Beast)
  • At Three Mile, “There is no evidence that anybody at all got sick, even decades later. The medical consequences depend entirely on how much radioactive material is released. The sorts of numbers I’m seeing are not the sort that could be linked with radiological symptoms.” (NYT)
  • Any risk to the US is “extremely unlikely. … The distance is simply so large the cloud will be so dispersed by the time it reaches the U.S.” (CBS) Plus, You don’t ingest radioactive material by inhaling it. “The way to prevent it is just to stop people from drinking the milk [and] I wouldn’t be eating an apple from a tree close to the plant.” (NYT)
  • On the nuclear workers still at the plant: “Their situation is not great. It’s pretty clear that they will be getting very high doses of radiation. There’s certainly the potential for lethal doses of radiation. They know it, and I think you have to call these people heroes.” (CNN)

Irwin Redlener, Director for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health

  • Americans are “extraordinarily underprepared for disasters,” and have proven we have no idea how to handle a similar situation. “Motivating citizen efforts to prepare for any kind of disaster, from earthquakes and hurricanes to pandemics and terrorism, has been essentially unsuccessful over the past decade.” (The Daily Beast)
  • We can, and should learn a lot from careful observation: “Japan’s economy and level of development are in many respects very similar to that of the U.S.  So we need to pay careful attention to what went wrong – and what’s gone right – before, during and after this complex disaster.” (CNN)

Seismology

James Gaherty, associate researcher professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

  • The earthquakes are fairly difficult to contextualize: “These kinds of events are very well-understood in Japan. The fact that they have large events on the order of magnitude 8 is something they’ve had many times over their history. This one is a little bit unusual in that we’re not necessarily expecting something quite as large as this. These mega-quakes, more like a magnitude 9, are very rare, even over geologic history looking back. We have a hard time finding evidence of them. We’ve observed now three, really, in the last six years, since Sumatra. So we seem to be in a period of very active occurrence of these. But how the really big quakes develop is something that we’re really trying to understand.” (CBS)
  • (more…)

Foner Gets Phallic

Foner, contemplating Colbert's question. Photo via Wikipedia Public Domain.

There’s nothing Bwog loves more than to wake up to a boner joke. Aren’t you glad we said “joke” at the end of that?

Anyway, Columbia’s very own superstar Professor Eric Foner stopped by The Colbert Report again (!) to discuss his new book “The Fiery Trial.” But before he even began to share his expertise on Abraham Lincoln and American slavery, Foner was asked a pressing (ha) question by Colbert:

“Does he know his name rhymes with boner?”

Watch Colbert’s intro here and Foner’s segment here.

CU Profs Weigh In on Turmoil in the Middle East

When they’re not busy talking about boobs and mavericks, your profs are offering their wisdom outside the lecture hall. Geniuses walk among us common folk! Below, we’ve compiled their thoughts, heard and read across the media, on the recent developments in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria.

Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature – How will history judge Obama’s response to the Egyptian uprising? Not well: “In the events of the past month in Tunisia and Cairo, he [Obama] has had a gift from history to justify the [Nobel] prize after the fact — but alas he did very little to show he deserved it.” (CNN)

Richard Bulliet, Professor of History, Middle East Inistitute – Bulliet discusses the ties between Egypt’s military officials and its national industries: “ties that have been an almost continual feature of Egyptian society, and Arab society more generally, since the year 1250.” He compares this system to other military-industrial complexes in the Arab world (Yemen, Turkey, Iran) and concludes “…it may take 50 years for Egypt to overcome centuries of subservience to its army officers. But with Mubarak gone, it is the time to take the first step on that long and difficult road.” (NYT)

Mona El Ghobashy, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Barnard – El Ghobashy’s interview on the Rachel Maddow Show was filmed before Mubarak’s resignation. Maddow introduced El Ghobashy as someone who had been “paying attention to Egyptian politics a heck of a lot longer than the rest of us,” and later calls herself a “noob.” (more…)

Bwoglines: Morningside Modification Edition

And we thought we had it all.

Our very own NoCo may have “the most elegant aluminum siding in America.” But seriously, people like it. (NYT)

It really is hard out there for a pimp.  The internet is changing the face of the NYC sex trade, argues sociology prof Sudhir Venkatesh. According to one ex-pimp: “You learn one thing,” he said. “For a good blow job, a man will do just about anything. What can I do with that knowledge? I have no idea.” (Wired)

Our very own Law professor was named senior advisor to the FTC. Tim Wu coined the term “net neutrality” and has also been to Burning Man, so we can trust him. (WSJ)

The long awaited Five Guys on 111th and Broadway will open in 29 days or less! The burger battle is coming… (DNAinfo)

A record 289 women registered for Panhellenic Recruitment, 170 were placed it remains to see how many will be placed. (Spec)

Last week’s DevFest was a kind of a big deal! Hackers of the future and collectively hacked things, and attendees contributed exciting new creations: a class note-passing board; a Risk-like game called CU Generals; and a smart phone app to take you on campus tours.  Lots of Columbia students got shout-outs!  Exciting!  (TechCrunch)

Image via Wikimedia

BunsenBwog

There’s more to Columbia faculty than cute nicknames and good music taste. They also invent, prod, design and destroy all kinds of nifty things. In our newest feature, Bwog takes a moment to look back at this week’s science news, from the ultra-specific to the just-plain wacky. The headlines were compiled by our Northern Side of Campus Correspondent Ricky Raudales.

Tuesday

A scientist!

  • Still can’t connect to Times Square’s wifi? You can now ping Columbia’s Rachel Sterne, the city’s first chief digital officer.
  • Columbia’s Dr. Mukherjee has published a book chronicling the history of cancer and providing a six-point formula to help battle humanity’s killjoy in India.

Wednesday

  • H1N1 hates itself—A team which included Columbia researchers found swine flu survivors have super immunity to multiple strains of influenza.
  • Researchers at Columbia successfully extracted stem cells from healthy teeth. British not amused.

Thursday

  • Obama reminded Americans that Sputnik was just a shiny quadripod.
  • Columbia’s Richard Sloan explained why skipping along to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” won’t solve your health issues. Sorry Kingsmen.

Friday

  • Columbia launched its Bamboo Bike Project, providing cheap, reliable transportation in sub-Saharan Africa. Bwog wonders how long we have until hipsters start buying them.

Saturday

  • Thanks to a Columbia scientist, iPads now have a purpose—exploring deep-ocean trenches.

Photo via wikimedia.

Bwoglines: Blowing Your Mind Edition

*boom*

Columbia’s own Brian Greene has just released his 4th book of popular science, titled The Hidden Reality. In it, Greene provides the latest theory surrounding the multiverse. Wait… do you ever think like, in another world, you are writing Bwoglines and I am reading them? (WSJ)

So like, you saw the blizzard on Wednesday from your window, but- have you seen it from space? (Ouramazingplanet)

Dude, there are now whales among us. (NYDaily)

A physicist from the University of Southern Queensland predicts earth will temporarily have two suns during the supernova of a nearby star. Maybe then my ‘rents will finally understand my deep, like, spiritual, connection to StarWars. (News.au)

On a more serious note, what’s going on in Egypt is worth talking about. Bwog recommends these three sources. (Reuters, NYTimes, Al Jazeera)

Image via wikimedia.

Bwoglines: Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife, Hide Your Cat Edition

This is probably what Nim Chimpsky looked like at Bacchanal.

Because Antoine Dodson is getting his own show! Bwog predicts several new techno remixes to follow. (NY Daily News)

And, kids these days are getting high on bath salts! No, seriously! (Gawker)

And also, there are primates on College Walk! Well, not exactly. But there were. Sort of. One 2011 Sundance documentary explores the experience of a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky (ha!) whom Columbia-researchers attempted to teach to communicate in the 1970s. (LATimes)

And last but not least, cat hoarders in Brooklyn! Two Williamsburg fifty-somethings who were busted last summer for detaining and torturing almost 100 cats just became the first couple indicted in NY for animal-hoarding charges. (NYPost)

Just kidding—there’s one more reason! It’s the season of exploding manholes! There have been at least nineteen manhole fires since New Years Day, says ConEd. Cue double entendre here. (NYTimes)

Image via Wikimedia

Bwoglines: Final Opposition to Manhattanville Denied Supreme Court Hearing

The Supreme Court has spoken

This morning, the Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari to Tuck-It-Away and the Singhs, the last parties opposing the Manhattanville expansion scheme, meaning that they will not be considering the case (official court order list from 12/13 here). This formally ends any possible legal opposition to New York State’s use of eminent domain, and that construction will proceed on the new campus. The Blue & White interviewed Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-It-Away, over the summer, while he was in the process of appealing to the Supreme Court. He said then that he thought his building would be demolished within a year of the court’s decision. (Spec)

In other news from the Expansion Bureau, Wal-Mart’s third attempt to make a move into New York City has been delayed until January, when a room large enough can be found to accommodate all the local business owners who want a say in the decision. (NYTimes)

Forget WikiLeaks, Gawker was hacked yesterday. (Gothamist)

Really! WikiLeaks is soon to be supplanted by Openleaks, a site designed by Julian Assange’s second-in-command. (BBC)

Regarding a different kind of storytelling, Tovah Klein, the head of Barnard’s Center for Toddler Development argues that story time is for fun, not for impressing your friends at dinner parties with your baby’s mad reading skills. In Defense of Kids! (Huffington Post)

Photo via Wikimedia

New York Publications Write About You


Well, not you specifically, but people you may know. New York Magazine interviewed seniors Bryan Reid, Sam Reisman, and Jesse Horwitz about the best spots around Columbia. Establishments mentioned include Max Caffe (“Hang, Read, and Drink Coffee”) 1020 (“Pickup Spot”) La Negrita (“The Happening Bar”[?]) and Roti Roll (“Late-Night Munchies”).

The Observer, on the other hand, reports much heavier news. English Department heavy-hitter James Shapiro has canceled his legendary seminar “The Book Review,” which aimed to teach future literary critics the art of professional reviewing. Shapiro feels that the downsizing of book review departments and the Internet Age have nearly destroyed the opportunities for young and unknown reviewers to get paid for their work.  Thank goodness Amazon reviews the finer things in life.

Nobody Likes Joseph Stiglitz

Last December, when the Blue and White interviewed Nobel laureate and Columbia professor Joseph Stiglitz, we entitled it “The Fortuneteller.” Now, according to Newsweek, though many economists also admire Stiglitz’s predictive abilities, he’s not getting any love in Washington.

Calling him “the most misunderstood man in America,” Newsweek contrasts Stiglitz’s reputation overseas, where “he is received like a superstar, a modern-day oracle,” with his unpopularity at home. Tellingly, Stiglitz did advise a world leader before this past spring’s G20 meetings, but it wasn’t Obama – it was Britain’s Gordon Brown. The possible explanations number several, including Stiglitz’s support for an international reserve currency, his distrust of unregulated markets (neither idea exactly popular in the United States), and his rivalry with Obama economic adviser/former Harvard president Larry Summers.

Then again, perhaps Obama just really wants to snub Columbia, and poor Joe’s just caught in the crossfire (photo: apesphere/Flickr).

Sexy Time with the History Channel

History Professor David Eisenbach, who served as communications director for Mike “I’m bat-shit insane and running for President” Gravel, is about to make it big. He announced via an email to, as far as we can tell, his entire address book that he will finally fulfill his life’s dream this Sunday. What do history professors dream about? Election reform? World peace? A hoard of ravenous groupies? Nothing, it turns out, but their own show on The History Channel. 

We’re not talking reenacted battle-scenes or animated archaeological models here. Eisenbach’s show, The Beltway Unbuckled: How History Got Made in the Bedroom, could get pretty raunchy. After watching you’ll “never look at Abe the same way again!”

The pilot–created, written and hosted by Eisenbach–will air this Sunday at 8pm. It’s just a pilot, so tune in to support Eisenbach/sex! Maybe if the show continues they’ll do a segment on fantasy pairings like Barack and Hillary. I mean, um, ew.

Latest Thing to Go Green: Protesting

James Hansen spoke out against global warming twenty years ago. Now he’s raising a (peaceful) army. Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and an adjunct professor at Columbia’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, has issued an invitation to “the largest mass civil disobedience for the climate in U.S. history.” On Monday, March 2, Capitol Climate Action will stage a non-violent demonstration at “Washington D.C.’s Capitol Power Plant.” The demand: stronger action on the climate crisis from the new president. 

The CCA’s website doesn’t give specifics, but it suggests participants carry at least $50 at all times. That’s the minimum cost to bail yourself out of jail for activist-related civil disobedience in our capital city.

Those who’d prefer not to demonstrate can attend the rally beforehand, or any one of the many events of Power Shift 09, the weekend-long youth climate conference preceding the march. Consider it the most civic-minded midterm-week study break you’ll ever see.