DR/TL (Didn't Read/Too Long)

Distilled mentions of things going on among Duke researchers, scholars, and other enterprises
April 20, 2018

 

ANIMALS

 

As a result of human encroachment on habitat, Southern Africa has 11 percent fewer cheetahs than previously thought; an area the size of France contains only about 3,600 adults. * When roundworms have to do without food, they resort to burning internal food, just like people do.  * Red-capped robin-chats in Uganda imitate the calls of other birds, even imitating duets. * When transparent shrimp flip their tails to move quickly, they become briefly nontransparent, probably due to increased blood flow. If you’re transparent to keep from being eaten, by the time you’re flipping for your life, you’re probably not fooling anyone anyhow. *

 

 

PEOPLE

 

The left and right hemispheres of your brain may have different strengths, but they communicate a lot and help each other out on an ad hoc basis. *Everybody already knew humans had big “expensive” brains—that our brains require a lot more energy, proportional to a resting metabolic rate, than the brains of chimpanzees or squirrels or mice. But it turns out that plenty of other animals (some lemurs and tree shrews and even the pygmy marmoset, for example) spend just as high a percentage of their energy on their brains. But just try getting them to help your mom with her e-mail. * At-risk teens ate less-healthy food and slept less well when they were exposed to real-life violence; teens not identified as at-risk slept poorly but did not show changes in diet. Both groups were more active after exposure to violence. * When you move your eyes, your eardrums move, too, making tiny adjustments in the opposite direction. Nobody is quite sure why. *  

 

 

MISCELLANY

 

Trions are quasiparticles, and they are themselves made up of groups of three quasiparticles (disturbed electrons are quasiparticles, and so are things like holes and excitons—and we are totally not kidding). Trions turn out to behave manageably in carbon nanotubes and thus might be highly useful in a new generation of electronics. * Simple machine-learning models with publicly available data seem to be able to do as good a job with criminal sentencing as opaque and expensive private “black box” algorithms. *

 

DUKE

 

 

Duke is joining with Delta Airlines on a sustainability program that will plant and maintain a thousand trees in the Triangle and purchase 5,000 additional carbon-offset credits to cover Duke’s business-travel carbon footprint. The combined result will be like neutralizing 9,000 round-trip flights between Atlanta and Los Angeles. * Duke has a pot of new deans, beginning July 1: Wildfire expert Toddi Steelman will become the dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment. This will be Steelman’s third residence in the Triangle: She earned her Ph.D. from the Nicholas School in 1996 and taught at North Carolina State University from 2001 to 2012. She spent 2012-17 as the first permanent executive director of the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability. * Judith Kelley, an expert on human rights, democracy, and international elections, will become dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy. Kelley has been at Duke since 2002 and has received the Susan E. Tifft Undergraduate Teaching and Mentoring Award and the Brownell-Whetten Award for Diversity and Inclusion. She replaces Kelly Brownell, who moves to head the school’s new World Food Policy Center. * Karen L. “Kerry” Abrams, the vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of law at the University of Virginia, has been selected as the next dean of Duke Law School. Abrams is an authority in both immigration law and family law.