The Weekly Blab
Volume 5, Issue 25—March 20, 2011
Everything Happens At Once…
This has been quite a week. I’ve been riveted to the news from Japan, which was hit with the triple whammy of a 9.0 earthquake, a tsunami, and now a nuclear power plant major accident. It’s been interesting to hear how the news has reported all this. At first, there were non-stop pictures of buildings shaking and huge waves of black water washing everything away. That gave way to fears of radioactivity in Japan, and then fears of radioactivity on the west coast. The media has done its best to feed these fears, with graphics of huge plumes of radiation going over the Pacific Ocean, scary reports about the nuclear fuel blowing up and going into the atmosphere, and visits to Chernobyl. The least hysterical reporting, interestingly enough, was on Fox News, which was underplaying any potential danger. Politics gets into everything.
After about a week, the attention final turned to the real heroes—the men and women at the power plant, still working to bring it under control at some risk to their lives. There was even a report about one man, 30 days from retirement at another plant, going to the Fukushima nuclear plant because it was his duty. The Japanese press is rightfully calling these workers “modern day Samurai”. And the small miracles keep happening. Today, 9 days after the disaster struck, an 80 year old woman and her 16 year old grandson were found alive in a flattened building. The boy’s father said he had never given up hope that they were alive. Police spokesman Shizuo Kawamura said: “We have too many other victims to find to take the time to celebrate”.
While much of the focus has been on the failures at the Fukushima nuclear plant, perhaps the most amazing thing is how well the major buildings held up, both where the tsunami hit and in Tokyo. The Japanese are masters of construction that is almost earthquake-proof, and the death toll could have been much worse if this wasn’t so. I know I speak for everyone at SPSU when I say that our prayers for the future go out to all Japan.
Work continues on the planning for the Polytechnic Summit (June 8-10), which will be held at SPSU. The facebook page is up, and the website is up. As of Friday, we had 35 papers submitted (in fact, just as I’m typing this, a new one came in from speakers from Germany and Switzerland). The deadline for papers has been extended to April 4. The first facebook contest (best answer to: “Why did you choose a polytechnic?”) has nine entries so far, and the winner will get i-Tunes gift certificates. A new contest will start on Wednesday. The grand prize winner (best response from all contests) will win an iPad. So, there’s still time to start posting!
An exciting feature for the Summit will take place on June 8, the first evening, when we will have a reception at the High Museum in Atlanta, and get to see a perfectly themed exhibit called “Modern by Design”, a joint production of the High and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. So what are you waiting for? Register for the Summit!
SPSU has just entered into a partnership with the High Museum, which will open up many opportunities for our faculty and students. More information about this in the next Blab.
New Event Series
We’ll be launching a new series on campus called “Courageous Conversations”, which will be designed to promote campus discussions on a broad range of issues. We’ll have speakers and films and other events that tie into this theme, which we hope to have happen some three or four times each semester. The first event will be at 12 noon on March 31, and be a talk by Dr. John H. Carter about the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial project in Washington D.C., entitled “The Man, The Movement, & The Message”. Dr. Carter was the initial project manager for the project foundation. He supervised the passage of the two laws that authorized the memorial, coordinated the site and design selection, and raised $15M for the project—a 28 foot sculpture of MLK. Dr. Carter manages his own consulting firm and is an adjunct at Strayer University, after retiring as a VP from AT&T.
The first proposal for the memorial was made in 1984, and the law approving the establishment of the memorial wasn’t signed until 1996, by president Clinton. The location of the memorial was approved in 1999. The sculptor, Master Lei Yixin, was initially a controversial choice, with some arguing that an artist from a communist country couldn’t understand what Dr. King represents, and others arguing that the commission should have gone to an African-American artist.
More information about the location for this talk will follow. Please encourage your students to attend this and future events, and please come yourself!
New Degree Program Approved
Congratulations to the Architecture Department on the approval of SPSU’s newest degree—the M.S. in Architecture. The degree was approved by the BoR on Tuesday, March 8. Dean Bill Barnes, Chair Ameen Farooq, and I were downtown for the vote (and in case there were any questions). While the degree proposal passed without incident, the main session was interrupted by a pair of protests by UGA students, the first protesting the USG’s policy on undocumented students, and the second protesting possible future tuition increases. In each case, the meeting was briefly recessed, and the students left soon thereafter.
A meeting to discuss possible teacher certification programs in Computer Science and in Engineering was held last Monday, March 7, with representatives of the Georgia Department of Education (both the Academic Standards and the Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education offices), Professional Standards Commission, teachers from Douglas County, and representatives from SPSU. The discussion was far-ranging, and may result in our proposing an endorsement (equivalent to four courses, or so) in engineering. The endorsement will be offered for currently employed teachers, and for teachers getting certification in other science areas. More on this as it develops.
Dalton State Articulation
A very friendly meeting was held on Thursday, March 17, with representatives of Dalton State College (including Dalton’s President John Schwenn and VPAA Sandra Stone (formerly of SPSU!)). We’ll be exploring ways that Dalton State and SPSU can work together, including possible dual degrees.
News About Chemistry
A good trivia question used to be “What is the heaviest non-radioactive element”? Most people answered “lead”, and clever chemists could reply, “no—it’s bismuth”. Well not anymore. I just came across an interesting paper [Pierre de Marcillac et. al., “Experimental Detection of a-particles from the Radioactive Decay of Natural Bismuth”, Nature 2003, 422, 876], which states that bismuth is actually slightly radioactive, with a half-life of a mere 1.9x1019 years—the longest known for any alpha decay. So, drat! It’s lead after all. Of course this half-life is so long that it is more than ten billion times the age of the Earth, so…
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
Last week’s contest featured the Flintstones, and the person with the greatest degree of paleo-knowledge was Stephanie McCartney, from BCP, with a respectable 4 correct. No one knew the last question.
This Week’s Trivia Contest
This week’s contest is about Wonder Woman, in honor of the new NBC program (which is already drawing controversy about her costume). First with the most gets the swag. No looking on the internet now!
1. What is Wonder Woman’s secret identity?
2. On what island was she “born”?
3. What is the name of her air-force colonel boyfriend?
4. In question 2, above, why did I write the word “born” in quotes?
5. Who was the psychologist who created the character Wonder Woman?