Following the school shooting in Florida at the end of February, President Trump advocated for the re-establishment of “mental asylums”, also known as psychiatric hospitals, citing a much-needed improvement of the mental health system and as a solution to gun violence in America. In order to contextualize the President’s claims, in this blog post, I’ll delineate a movement in the 1950’s known as deinstitutionalization and discuss the impact that had on our current mental health and criminal justice systems and policies.
Our understanding of the formation of planetary systems has historically been based on the observations about our own Solar System. A planet is a roughly spherical object orbiting a star that has sufficiently strong gravity to clear its orbital path of other debris. The four terrestrial planets (Earth, Venus, Mercury, and Mars) of our Solar System are located in the inner region relatively closer to the Sun, whereas the four giant, or Jovian, planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) are located in the outer region relatively farther away from the Sun. If our solar system is typical of other solar systems, then we can conclude that giant planets are formed and located in the outer regions of a planetary system, while terrestrial planets are formed and located in the inner regions.
An exoplanet is a planet outside our Solar System. Over 3500 exoplanets have been confirmed to date, and we believe that exoplanets are ubiquitous in the universe and that there are probably more exoplanets in the universe than stars. It is 100% certain that an average Solar-type star harbors at least one planet. Also, our current detection technology does not allow us to find smaller planets, such as planets the size of Mars and Mercury, but that may change with future observations. Many exoplanets have physical and orbital characteristics very unlike that of our own Solar System’s planets. They are so different in fact, that scientists have come up with distinct categories for these exoplanets. (more…)
Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in our atmosphere continue to rise, and global warming has transitioned from a possible future phenomenon to a present environmental reality. Given this reality, scientists are motivated to improve calculations of how much carbon there is on Earth and how it flows from the biosphere to the atmosphere and back to the biosphere. This understanding of how carbon moves through our Earth system will help scientists develop better strategies to mitigate the effects of global warming on our natural and built environments.
On land, much of the carbon in soils originates from plants. Recall that during photosynthesis, plants take in CO2 from the atmosphere and convert this carbon into sugars to enhance plant growth (an example of a carbon flux from the atmosphere to the biosphere). Then, when these plant tissues die and begin to decompose, the carbon again moves from one pool to another. Some of the carbon will be released back to the atmosphere, but about half of the carbon from the decomposing plant will get incorporated into the soil. This movement of carbon from the atmosphere, to the biosphere and then eventually to the pedosphere (the soil) is fundamental to the global carbon cycle. To understand this cycle, we must be able to estimate how large the plant carbon pool is.
The author is ScIU guest writer Krystiana Krupa, a graduate student in IU’s Department of Anthropology.
So let’s talk about these antibiotic-resistant bacteria, otherwise known as superbugs. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bacteria that cannot be killed by pharmaceutical drugs that would normally be effective. While many of us know that superbugs exist and are becoming more problematic (think MRSA or E. coli), we often don’t think that they pose any special risk in our personal lives. Are superbugs something we should really be concerned with, or are they another kind of “fake news” in the form of a public health scare? My answer is YES, we should be concerned because NO, they are not “fake news.” (more…)
A profile of IU professor Sharlene Newman in celebration of Black History Month
Any glance at the demographics tells us that African American women are among the least represented of any group in STEM disciplines. Such is true in the field of psychological and brain sciences, where Sharlene Newman is the only African American professor in her department. It is even rarer to find black female professors in the sub-field of cognitive neuroscience.
Yet, the path to science was in many ways etched onto Sharlene’s future. From kindergarten on, it was clear to all her teachers that Sharlene was just plain good at math and science. “You should be an engineer,” she was told, so often that it became an undisputed fact, something she “didn’t even have to think about.” Add to that the mesmerizing talents of a young uncle, who “once built a radio for class and could fix anything.” To which her response was simply, “I want to do that.”
At the same time, the issues of African American life and history, as they extend back in time and into the future, remain ever-present around her. Like a set of interwoven threads, her own history intersects with some of the most iconic people, places and events of African American history, as it unfolded in the tiny southeastern Alabama town of Abbeville, where she grew up. (more…)
On Sunday, January 28, 2018, there was a significant explosion in a chemistry laboratory. Fortunately, no one was injured due to the laboratory being vacant at the moment of the explosion, but the fume hood where it occurred was severely damaged. The safety sash, which consists of four safety glass panels at the front of the fume hood, was found destroyed when a student returned to the laboratory – three of the panels were completely displaced and found lying on the floor. The transite panels that line the back of the fume hood were cracked into several pieces as well. (more…)
2017 was a good year for ScIU. We exceeded our goal of publishing one post per week, and published a total of 56 blog posts! Traffic to our website has increased by 53% per post since fall of 2016, and our list of subscribers continues to grow!
A few posts in particular received a lot of attention from our readers – here are our Top Hits of 2017! (more…)
When you do an image search for dating or relationships, the results almost entirely focus on two people, usually in an implied heterosexual relationship. Most popular TV shows and movies focus on the same types of couples as well. However, it’s important to recognize that other types of relationships exist too. Consensual non-monogamy is one type of relationship that is often overlooked in both popular culture and scientific research. New studies from IU are trying to fill that gap and shed light on a surprisingly common type of relationship.
Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute has always been at the forefront of research into gender, sexuality, relationships, and well-being. Now, new findings from Kinsey show that over 20% of people surveyed have had open sexual relationships in their lifetimes; that is, relationships with an agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive component . (more…)
This Friday will be the 132nd official Groundhog Day in the United States. Celebrated in Canada, Germany, and the U.S., the holiday derives from a long-standing German-Dutch tradition, which we’ve been officially recording since 1886. The basic idea: if a groundhog emerges from his hole and sees his shadow, winter will last for six more weeks, but if he sees no shadow, an early spring is on the way.
Why are we discussing this arguably adorable tradition on a science blog, you ask? Although there’s much we can learn about the tradition (and lots of lore!), Groundhog Day is our post topic this week because it’s a great way to explore the basic concepts of probability. Scientists use probability theory every day in their research, most notably, to make sure that the phenomena we are studying are not due to random chance. Probabilities can be complex, but even in their simplest form — as is the case with Groundhog Day — the questions we can answer using probability theory are often quite interesting. (more…)
Have you ever wondered why or how researchers categorize people into different groups? Of course, there are specific types of groups you might first think of, such as differentiating people by race, gender, income level, marital status, and education. However, there are a variety of other types of groups that researchers might find interesting that you may not be aware of. For instance, some researchers are interested in studying people based on patterns of their activities over a span of time. An example of this would be if a researcher was interested in studying the differences between types of offenders. For example, each time they were: 1) expelled or suspended from school, 2) arrested, 3) convicted, and 4) incarcerated. There are other variables a researcher might also find to be important: periods of 1) homelessness, 2) unemployment, 3) graduation from high school and 4) marriage.
This might seem like a very daunting task: to categorize people based on all the possible sequences of events that happened in their lives. And it is. However, researchers have tried to find more efficient methods of categorizing people into groups. One relatively newer method of determining groups uses a computer program to examine how many different sequences of events across time exist in a sample of subjects. This method is called sequence analysis. Sequence analysis for social science research had its origins in the study of evolutionary patterns and modes of descent of DNA molecules, initially (and still) carried out by biologists. However, social scientists have co-opted this method for social sequence analysis, in which they study patterns of events. The use of this term in this blog post, therefore, refers specifically to identifying patterns of events based on their classification into different categories and the specific ordering of the events.  (more…)