Tag: university of maryland

This Week in Research: Love, Scientifically; Tiny Flying Robots

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“Love is not a psychiatric disorder, but people that are in love are kind of crazy,” says Dr. Sandra Langeslag, an expert in biological psychology at the University of Maryland. And while the creative among us rhapsodize about love in poems and paintings, more rational types, like Langeslag, prefer to look at love through MRIs and EEGs. “I want to understand how the brain works when humans are attracted to one another,” Langeslag says, presumably beyond vague formulations like “Oh, you just know.” Langeslag’s research tries to bridge the gap between research on emotion (which depends on present circumstances) and cognition (which depends on thought and experience). Langeslag and her colleague, Luiz Pessoa, don’t believe that the two brain processes are as separate as they’re often portrayed. Langeslag’s research has shown that the brains of people in love show a specific pattern of what she calls “motivated attention” when shown images of their beloved. In other words, normal human propensity for distraction (a TV show in the background? an attractive stranger walking by?) is minimized when a person is gazing at the one they love. Isn’t that sweet?

If you want to know what the U.S. Air Force is up to these days, forget about watching Top Gun. Instead, consider the butterfly. No, not because they’re pretty, but because they’re able to fly through complex environments despite obstacles, wind, and narrow spaces. To that end, the Air Force is funding research at Johns Hopkins to help develop insect-sized robots for reconnaissance, search-and-rescue, and environmental monitoring missions — all without risking human life. To help develop the robots’ maneuverability, Johns Hopkins undergrad (!) Tiras Lin is taking high-speed video of butterflies and other flying insects. Designing successful, agile micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) requires an intimate understanding of the mass distribution of insects’ flapping wings, and how their bodies shift and distort as a response to the requirements of flight. So far, Lin and his fellow researchers have collected approximately 6,000 images — and used 600 frames to capture as little as one-fifth of one second of flight. “Butterflies flap their wings about 25 times per second,” Lin points out. “That’s why we had to take so many pictures.”

This Week in Research: Obese Doctors, Rural Terrorists

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Has your doctor diagnosed you as obese? It might depend on the number he or she saw when stepping on the scale this morning.  According to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, physicians who are overweight or obese are less likely to discuss weight loss — or to diagnose patients as obese — than their normal-weight counterparts. The study also found that normal-weight doctors were more confident in giving advice about diet and exercise, while obese doctors preferred to discuss weight loss medications. Even though national guidelines for the treatment of obesity exist, other studies have found that two-thirds of obese patients don’t get diagnosed or get counseling from their doctors.

Quick, imagine what the U.S.’s next terrorist attack will look like. Odds are, you pictured a big city under threat from international agents. That’s in part because since 1970, nearly a third of terrorist attacks have taken place in five major cities:  New York (343 attacks), Los Angeles (156), Miami (103), San Francisco (99), and Washington (79). But, according to a new study by the University of Maryland, more rural counties have also emerged as “hot spots” of terrorism.  Per the study’s terms, a terrorism “hot spot” is any county that’s had more than six attacks from 1970 to 2008. And many of these attacks — such as those in Maricopa County, Arizona — were the work of domestic groups. “Despite the clustering of attacks in certain regions, it is also clear that hot spots are dispersed throughout the country and include places as geographically diverse as counties in Arizona, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Texas,” note Gary LaFree, professor of criminology at UM. Most places that saw multiple attacks were under threat from groups with the same motivation — for example, the Bronx experienced only extreme left-wing terrorism, while Texas’s Lubbock County had the opposite result — attacks from only the extreme right-wing.

This Week in Research: Baking with Love, Virtual Autopsies

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It’s not often that science tackles subjects like love, or good intentions — for one, they’re fuzzy and hard to fit on a spreadsheet. But according to a recent study by Kurt Gray of the University of Maryland, good intentions matter. According to Gray’s research, a shot given by a caring nurse hurts patients less than one given by an indifferent nurse. Food given with a message of love tastes better than the exact same food with an indifferent message (the one used in the study:  “Whatever. I just don’t care. I just picked it randomly”). For a medical setting, Gray’s results show that bedside manner matters. For the rest of us, the message is a simple one — be nice. But Gray, head of the Maryland Mind Perception and Morality Lab, takes it one step further:  “To the extent that we view others as benevolent instead of malicious, the harms they inflict upon us should hurt less, and the good things they do for us should cause more pleasure,” the paper concludes. “Stolen parking places cut less deep and home-cooked meals taste better when we think well of others.” So assuming that other people are nice (instead of jerks) will end up helping you in the long run.

From love to cadavers.  We’re a culture infatuated with the possibilities of technology, something that gets reflected in our crime TV shows. On CSI,  the impossibly good-looking medical examiners are always using fancy high-tech “virtopsy” (that is, virtual autopsy) technology to scan and view video images of murder victims insides. Sounds great (and less messy), right? Well, according to experts at Johns Hopkins, these technologies are helpful in some cases, but the traditional autopsy is still “the gold standard for determining why and how people really died,” says pathologist Elizabeth Burton. When a virtopsy is used, common diagnoses get missed; the study blames medical overconfidence in imaging technologies. Furthermore, families and loved ones often find the traditional autopsy distasteful.  Which isn’t to say that these technologies are useless. But, according to the experts, it should best be used in addition to — not instead of — the traditional method.

The Failures of "Smart Growth" in Maryland

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Smart growth — the anti-sprawl urban planning theory that encourages transit-oriented development, walkable city centers, and mixed-use development — sounds like, well, an intelligent idea. No wonder our governor is a proponent. But despite the best efforts of O’Malley and other interested parties, Maryland experts think our state’s potential for smart growth is weak, and being threatened from many sides.

The University of Maryland surveyed planners, developers, and land-use advocates — all stakeholders in the growth of our region. For one, the state has designated special areas — Priority Funding Areas, or PFAs — for smart growth development. But UM’s survey found that the planners and developers preferred to work outside of these PFAs, largely because of the various regulations and ordinances they have to follow.

As a result, the current system “is barely moving the needle on most widely accepted measures of smart growth,” says Gerrit Knaap, head of the university’s National Center for Smart Growth. Knaap’s report argues for more flexibility in the system.

What do you think is the best way for Maryland to grow?

This Week in Research: Valentine’s Day Dread; Googling the Flu

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In the old days — like, say, last year — hospitals looked to the government to tell them when an influenza outbreak was immanent. The CDC case reports are useful in that they help hospitals prepare for an upswing in sick, contagious patients… but they can be woefully outdated by the time they actually get to the hospitals. A better way to gauge whether an influenza surge is happening around town, according to a recent Johns Hopkins study?  Just Google it.  Well, GoogleFlu it.  The internet search behemoth has started tracking trends in flu searches, meaning that when a person Googles symptoms or obsessively checks WebMD, the site pays attention. And those internet search trends turn out to have a strong correlation with a subsequent rise in hospital admissions of people complaining of flu-like symptoms. Using this model, hospitals can know that an outbreak is coming as it starts to happen — rather than weeks after the fact, as with the CDC reports.

And you thought the holiday season was over! If you’ve been in a drug store recently, you may have noticed that they’re already festooned with Valentine’s Day items, more than a month before that holiday begins. That’s no accident — February 14 is the second-biggest holiday for greeting card retailers, according to the University of Maryland’s Janet Wagner. A full 80 percent of Americans report sending a card to a partner. But it’s not all love and roses out there — UM education professor Ken Rubin estimates that a quarter of kids in a typical classroom are singled out for open rejection by other students; for them, the holiday is just another chance to be publicly rejected. And, as we all know, the holiday can get spendy, especially for men; they spend three to four times as much as women on Valentine’s gifts, says Wagner.

The College Ranking Season Has Begun!

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Every list has its own spin, from US News’ complicated overall rankings to sillier “best cafeteria” lists. Kiplinger’s particular specialty is assessing various public colleges and universities in terms of value — that is, good schools for not-too-much money. And with five colleges ranking in the 100-long list, Maryland’s not a shabby state to pay your taxes in, if you’re hoping for quality tuition at in-state prices.

Kiplinger’s declared the University of Maryland, College Park the eighth-best value in the nation.  Other schools making the cut included Towson University (#76), Salisbury University (#71), St. Mary’s College of Maryland (#42) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (#84).  (All those rankings are for in-state students; for everyone else, the rankings were 10, 81, 53, 35, and 63, respectively.)

And though Maryland has a lot to be proud of in this list, we’re still facing heavy competition from our neighbors to the south.  Virginia had two schools in the top five (UVA and William and Mary), and seven schools in the top 100. The top-value college in the U.S.? The University of North Carolina. Hard to argue with that.

Give Up the Ghost (Sightings), Get on TV

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Ever seen a ghost at the University of Maryland? Or had a paranormal experience? Maybe you know of a horrifying tale of supernatural mischief? If so, the librarians want to know.

It’s not just for their own amusement. The University of Maryland is working with the SyFy channel on a new show called “School Spirits,” And no, it’s not about cheerleaders and pep rallies. The University’s archivist, Anne Turkos, has already shared all the spooky stories she could dig up; now she’s reaching out to the community to hear all about their eerie experiences. If something spooky happened to you — and it was on the University of Maryland campus — contact Turkos here. She’ll put you in touch with the producers. Who knows, you (and your ghost) might end up on TV!

Philanthropist, Gilman Alum William P. Carey Dies at 81

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William Polk Carey, a philanthropist with deep Baltimore roots who gave heavily to Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and Gilman School, among other Baltimore institutions, died yesterday afternoon of natural causes at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was surrounded by family and friends, who had traveled to be with him.  He was 81 years old.

Mr. Carey founded W. P. Carey & Co. LLC, a company that manages a global investment portfolio of approximately $11.8 billion in real estate assets. According to public filings and the current value of the stock, his holdings in the company approach $500 million. The W.P. Carey Foundation, which Mr. Carey established in 1988, will be the primary beneficiary of Mr. Carey’s estate, the foundation announced.

In addition to Gilman School, where he was an alumnus, Carey made gifts to Boys Latin, Bryn Mawr School, the Baltimore School for the Arts and Calvert School. Carey’s grandmother, Anne Galbraith Carey, founded Gilman in 1897.

“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Carey.  Bill and the Carey Family have been inextricably linked with Gilman since our founding by his grandmother, Anne Galbraith Carey,” said John Schmick, Gilman headmaster. “Bill has always been there to support the school in so many different ways –  through his generous philanthropic commitment, his outstanding business sense, his constant push for excellence in all facets of the school, and his care and commitment to Gilman students worldwide.  We will greatly miss Bill Carey, as will so many educational institutions and the city of Baltimore.  We have lost a wonderful and generous friend,” he added.

In 2006, Carey gave a $50 million donation to Johns Hopkins to establish its business school, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. (The business school has a video tribute to Carey on its website.) Just nine months ago, Carey announced his donation of $30 million to The University of Maryland School of Law. The school is now named after Carey’s grandfather, Francis King Carey, who was a graduate of the law school (Class of 1880).

In 1988, Mr. Carey established the W. P. Carey Foundation, which supports education. His brother, Francis J. Carey, who is a member of the board of trustees of the W.P. Carey Foundation, said, “Bill was not only an insightful businessman but a wonderful brother and a good citizen. He always felt grateful that he was raised in a family committed to public service — and he worked passionately to uphold that tradition.” Mr. Carey was a direct descendent of President James K. Polk. 

 

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