A&S in the News: Dec. 15, 2019 – Jan. 4, 2020

Human Language

We have questions: How did humans learn how to speak: The National Interest – Dec. 15

Sound doesn’t fossilize. Language doesn’t either. Even when writing systems have developed, they’ve represented full-fledged and functional languages. Rather than preserving the first baby steps toward language, they’re fully formed, made up of words, sentences and grammar carried from one person to another by speech sounds, like any of the perhaps 6,000 languages spoken today.
The Wire – Dec. 18
Genetic Literacy Project – Dec. 19

Miss America

Miss America 2020: 51 women who’ll compete, including Alabama’s Tiara Pennington: Al.com – Dec. 16

Tiara Pennington of Helena is in Connecticut this week, vying for Miss America 2020. As Miss Alabama 2019, she’s one of 51 women who hope to earn the national title, along with  scholarship money and a yearlong reign. Pennington, 21, is a political science major at The University of Alabama. She’s the second black woman to be named Miss Alabama, following in the footsteps of Kalyn Chapman James, Miss Alabama 1993. We’ll see how Pennington fares in the competition finals on Dec. 19, during a ceremony televised from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. It airs live at 7 p.m. CT on NBC. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at all 51 candidates for Miss America 2020.
Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 18
WVTM-NBC 13 – Dec. 19
ABC 33/40 – Dec. 19

Gloria Naylor

Excerpts from an unfinished manuscript by Gloria Naylor published for the first time: EurekAlert! – Dec. 16

Some of the most well-known literary works were left unfinished when the authors died, masterpieces like The Trial by Franz Kafka, Maria or The Wrongs of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft and The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The unfinished manuscript of the opening chapter of what would have been the novel “Sapphira Wade” may be such a work for acclaimed contemporary American author Gloria Naylor who died in 2016 at the age of 66. The authors of a new paper about the manuscript included among Naylor’s collected papers have transcribed the handwritten document for the first time. There is evidence that Naylor hoped for “Sapphira Wade” to be a capstone of her literary career, report researchers Suzanne M. Edwards, Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and Trudier Harris, University Distinguished Research Professor of English at The University of Alabama in an upcoming paper.

The Brain

UC San Diego neurobiologist part of $2M project to study brain, motor-skill learning: HPC Wire – Dec. 16

If you think of the human brain as a computer, it’s hard not to be impressed. It can perform well over a trillion logical operations per second. It’s compact, fitting neatly inside the skull. It uses as much power as a light bulb, and it has a seemingly endless capacity for data storage. Despite massive investment in recent years, humanity’s knowledge of the brain, which has about 86 billion neurons and more than a quadrillion synapses (or connections), is relatively limited. Co-principal investigators (in alphabetical order) also include Claudia Mewes, associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at The University of Alabama.

Low-Information Voters

The Trump-Giuliana election plan: Manipulating American voters: Just Security – Dec. 18

The continual echo chamber risks having an even larger effect on the understanding of “low-information voters.” Political science professors Richard Fording at The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and Sanford Schram at Hunter College, CUNY, defined such voters in 2016 as those who have “lower levels of knowledge about politics” and are less interested in collecting and considering new information to solve problems or decide among competing positions. Such voters, the researchers said, make up not all but a “sizable bloc” of Trump’s base and are “less prepared to challenge his misstatements and untruths.”

Impeachment Process

UA political science professor explains what’s next in the impeachment process: WVTM-NBC 13 – Dec. 19

Dr. Allen Linken teaches political science at The University of Alabama. He says it’s first important to understand what it means when the House of Representatives impeaches a president.

Watching Fire

Watching fire gives lower blood pressure: Contura – Dec. 19

Researcher Christopher Dana Lynn at the Department of Anthropology at The University of Alabama has gone to the bottom of the question and conducted three studies on 226 adults to find out how blood pressure is affected by the fire.

Caste Prejudice

Prohibiting caste prejudice on campus: Inside Higher Ed – Dec. 20

The caste system is a centuries-old social hierarchy that has led to oppression of people in lower castes in some South Asian communities, most notably in India, according to Equality Labs, an international South Asian human rights organization. Prejudices associated with caste also exist outside that part of the world in South Asian immigrant communities in the United States and elsewhere, said Steven Ramey, a professor at The University of Alabama who studies religion in Indian American communities.

UA Museums

University of Alabama Museums: WVUA – Dec. 20

Just a short walk across the quad and you the historic Gorgas House. The Gorgas House museum was built in 1829 and it is the oldest building on the campus. So, it actually, it’s interesting, it sort of pre-dates the opening of The University of Alabama in 1831. So, it is very tied and connected to the history of The University of Alabama. So, when you go in the Gorgas House museum you get a sense of what life was like back in those days when the university first started.

Enhanced Immunity

Tattoos broadcast enhanced immunity, stamina, UA study finds: Fox 6 – Dec. 20

Researchers at The University of Alabama say they could provide health benefits. The stress of getting a tattoo a seems to prepare your body to be more vigilant according to UA cultural medical anthropologist Dr. Christopher Lynn. He combined his interest in tattoos and health outcomes to see if they make people healthier. He traveled to American Samoa in 2017 to study people there.

Harriet Tubman

‘Harriet’: The real-life inspirations behind the characters: Hollywood Reporter – Dec. 23

In an email to Slate, Joshua Rothman, chair of The University of Alabama’s History department, said black slave catchers most likely didn’t work in the South, but were more likely to be found in border states or in the North.

UA Sculpture

UA sculpture professor influences future generations: Tuscaloosa News – Dec. 25

The ceramics foundry on The University of Alabama campus is the hottest place to be most days as UA faculty and students use fire to sculpt and cast various works of art. For Craig Wedderspoon, professor of sculpture at UA, the foundry is a second home where he not only molds countless masterpieces, but influences future generations of artists by helping them hone their craft.

Satellite Train

Astronomers slam high-speed global internet plans as new satellites will ‘get in the way’ of science: Trending News – Dec. 30

Astronomers have dubbed plans for a high-speed global internet a ‘tragedy’ as the thousands of new satellites required will get in the way of key scientific observations. Next week will see SpaceX’s Starlink begin a drive to place 60 new satellites at a time into orbit every few weeks — aiming for around 1,500 by the end of 2020. University of Alabama astronomer Bill Keel told the AFP that the sighting of the first Starlink satellite train had experts trying to extrapolate what effect artificial constellations of such steady brightness might have as they grow in number.
Daily Mail – Dec. 31

Bicentennial Park

Walk through 200 years of Alabama history at Bicentennial Park: Al.com – Jan. 1

Alabama’s bicentennial celebration, commemorating 200 years of statehood, officially wrapped up on Dec. 14. But the extensive effort to recognize the milestone produced some long-range assets, including the establishment of the Bicentennial Park atop Dexter Avenue in Montgomery, facing the State Capitol. Tuscaloosa artist Caleb O’Connor created the sculptures. University of Alabama art professor Craig Wedderspoon oversaw the casting of the sculptures into bronze. Jonathan Cumberland, an assistant professor of art at Alabama, did the graphic design work on the text panels.

Austin Bombing

Another blast rocks Austin, but police say it’s unrelated to other bombings: Valliant News – Jan. 1

Investigators pursuing a suspected serial bomber in the Texas capital faced new threats along with the promise of valuable new leads as their attention shifted Tuesday to a FedEx shipping centre near San Antonio where a package exploded and the discovery of another, unexploded bomb near Austin‘s airport. A criminologist at The University of Alabama said if a single perpetrator is behind the blasts, changing the means of delivery increases the bomber‘s chance of getting caught.

Census Awareness

‘Alabama counts’: How one Republican state bucks national trends and boosts Census awareness: Al.com – Jan. 2

Riders on homespun floats tossed candy to kids, Santa Claus made a grand appearance, and high school bands blared out festive tunes during the annual Foley Christmas parade. And, perhaps for the first time in the parade’s 56-year history, a float promoting the U.S. Census was part of the festivities. “If Alabama spends $1.2 million, the sum is dwarfed by how many billions of federal dollars the state will receive if an accurate total results rather than a significant undercount,” said Gerald Webster, a professor of political geography at the University of Wyoming and a former geography professor at The University of Alabama. “Hence, if the money is spent wisely and results in more cooperation by the residents of Alabama, it is money well spent.”

Maharaja Ranjit Singh

Maharaja Ranjit Singh named 20 world’s greatest leaders: Asia Samachar – Jan. 3

Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Mughal emperor Akhbar were among the 20 leaders who caught the attention of a group of historians and authors challenged by the BBC to name the world’s greatest leaders.  They were asked to nominate the greatest leader – someone who exercised power and had a positive impact on humanity – and to explore their achievements and legacy. Ranjit, listed as the Ruler of the Sikh empire 1801–39, was great because he forged a modern empire of toleration. Dubbed the Lion of Punjab, his reign marked a golden age for Punjab and north-west India.  “Though a devoted Sikh who embarked on a campaign to restore the great monuments of his religion – including the Harmandir Sahib or ‘Golden Temple’ at Amritsar – he also went to great lengths to ensure religious freedom within his lands,” writes Matthew Lockwood, an assistant professor of history at The University of Alabama.