Public Physics Experiment – Trebuchet vs. Potato Cannon

Wednesday Oct. 29 at 2:30 PM, on the Dickinson patio, the Physics I class will attempt to resolve a long-standing scientific debate: Which device can impart more kinetic energy to a vegetable projectile?

A medieval trebuchet launching a pumpkin,

OR

A modern hairspray-powered PVC potato cannon

The trebuchet is powered by dropping a 110 kg concrete block, while the potato cannon is powered by a little bit of flammable vapor.  Which will you bet on?

Come and help us to resolve this important scientific quandary.

Mechanistic Insight Into Cellular Functions and Disease States

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Mechanistic Insight Into Cellular Functions and Disease States

OdonnellOur science workshop speaker for Friday, October 24th will be John O’Donnell, who is currently a PhD student in the laboratory of Holger Sondermann at Cornell University (http://sondermannlab.vet.cornell.edu).  His talk will focus on elucidating the molecular mechanism of the protein atlastin, which is responsible for endoplasmic reticulum membrane fusion. Obtaining the blueprints of this enzyme’s function has enabled him to address questions surrounding atlastin’s contributions to cellular functions and associated disease states such as the neurodegenerative disorder Hereditary Spastic Parapalegia (HSP).

 

Alum research in the NY Times

 

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invasive Eurasian barberry (Berberis) in Acadia National Park (photo, Kerry Woods)

Research of alum Jason Fridley (’97, Ph.D. Univ. North Carolina), now a professor at Syracuse University, is featured in Carl Zimmer’s science column in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/09/science/turning-to-darwin-to-solve-the-mystery-of-invasive-species.html?_r=0

Several of Jason’s research projects have received wide recognition.  Zimmer’s column focuses on his work on the ecology of invasive species and its evolutionary underpinnings.  Fridley has worked with Dr. Dov Sax of Brown University to explore whether a Darwinian perspective on ecological relationships can help understand patterns of invasion.

Geology of the Bennington region class enjoys a beautiful fall field trip

kelly_stand1The Geology of the Bennington Region class examines Precambrian bedrock along Kelly Stand Road in the Green Mountains. This road re-opened a just few weeks ago after having been completely destroyed by the Tropical Storm Irene flood over three years ago. We are very happy to have the road back with its easy access to the mountains. While the flood was tragic, we were excited to find that it scoured several new excellent bedrock exposures along the newly reconstructed road. It is always nice to take a field trip on a beautiful fall day.

 

Old-Growth Forests in Slovenia

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A foggy view of an old-growth forest dominated by European beech and white fir (the rock is limestone; this forest reserve is on ‘karst’ topography with many large sinkholes).

Faculty member Kerry Woods is spending a month in Slovenia as a Fulbright ‘senior specialist,’ where he is collaborating with colleagues at the Forestry School of the University of Ljubljana to build a network of researchers working with long-term permanent plots to understand ecosystem properties of old-growth forests.  Such forests are interesting, in part, for their rarity.  Europe retains very few old-growth forests, but the small country of Slovenia (one of the most heavily forested countries in Europe) has quite a few tracts, and several host study plots established over 30 years ago.

Such under-used, heritage data-sets can give us insight into the ‘baseline’ properties of forest ecosystems.  Does diversity increase or decrease with forest age?  Old forests can be very large carbon reservoirs on a per-area basis, but are they acting as carbon sources or sinks?  Do such properties and processes converge among old-growth temperate forests in different parts of the  world (for example, the old-growth forests Woods studies in Michigan)?

The project will culminate with a workshop attended by researchers from several European countries.  The workshop will, we hope, lead to future collaborations undertaking integrative meta-analysis of data-sets from temperate forests around the world

 

; they can help us understand the processes that maintain diversity,

Science Workshop: Ryan Johnson (Bennington ’06)

Catalyzing CO Oxidation; from Surfaces to Single Atoms

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Model for CO Oxidation, from Peterson et al, Nat. Commun. 5:4885 (2014)

Please join us Friday, September 26th for a special Science Workshop with Bennington alum Ryan Johnson (’06). Ryan received his Ph. D. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico earlier this year, culminating an exceptionally productive graduate career; he co-authored seven research articles in 2014 alone (so far) in journals such as The Journal of Physical ChemistryThe Chemistry of Materials, and Theoretical Chemistry Accounts.

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Ryan Johnson on the Bennington College campus, December 2013.

His thesis work on computational studies of catalytic processes will be the main focus of his talk. For those wanting to read about some of his research, Ryan just published (on Sept. 15) a paper in Nature Communications entitled, “Low-temperature carbon monoxide oxidation catalysed by regenerable atomically dispersed palladium on alumina”, available here . He will discuss the research and its larger significance, and promises to add some personal insights concerning his choice of pursuing science as an adventure.

Don’t miss it.

 

Science Workshop Friday September 12 – Olivine carbonation and climate change

On Friday September 12 Tim Schroeder will present a part of the research that he did while on sabbatical at the University of Bremen, Germany.

Olivine is the most abundant mineral in Earth’s upper mantle. When it is exposed at Earth’s surface by faulting, it tends to be oxidized to form a number of different possible mineral species that are more stable near Earth’s surface. One possible chain of reactions consumes carbon-dioxide to form solid carbonate minerals. It may be possible to harness this reaction path to absorb much of Earth’s excess atmospheric carbon. Tim studied carbonate minerals formed during hydrothermal circulation through olivine-bearing oceanic crust in order to understand this process.

Calcite_replacement_pic

This image was taken through a polarizing light microscope. It shows small cores of olivine (Ol) grains that have mostly been replaced by talc (Tlc) and calcite (Cal). Other minerals are present in the rock, including clinopyroxene (cpx) veins of celadonite (Cel)