What: Friday Noon Seminar with Adam Clark; “BigBio’s singing gate, and the Pythagorean Comma: A brief history of how overtones have shaped music”
When: Friday, Oct 19th, Noon
Where: Ecology 150 (St. Paul campus)
When the wind blows by the deer fence surrounding the Big Biodiversity Experiment at Cedar Creek, the gate sings. In strong winds, the gate even harmonizes – playing octaves, perfect fifths, major thirds and, if you are lucky, a minor seventh! These sounds are called overtones - as the fence vibrates in the wind, it simultaneously oscillates at a predictably-spaced series of frequencies, determined by geometry and physics. The same processes govern the harmonics of musical instruments, determine how our ears hear sound, and have inspired, fascinated, and bedeviled humans around the world since music first was played. Using sound clips, videos, and just a little math, this talk introduces the inescapable natural laws behind the harmonic series, and how they have shaped the course of Western music, from Renaissance Polyphony and J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” to AutoTune and Ke$ha.
This is an interdisciplinary event! Music-lovers, math-lovers, and history-buffs are strongly encouraged to attend!
The Sustainability Education Program is looking for a Website Manager! This is a paid, part-time position open to graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota. This is an exciting opportunity to get involved with the dynamic community at the Institute on the Environment and play an important role in shaping sustainability at the University.
Deadline: Open until filled
- Experience building and maintaining websites using WordPress
- Image editing and manipulation
- Strong organization and communication skills
- Interest and familiarity with sustainability or environmental issues
By Katie Thompson and Dominique Boczek
Hats off to the Science Museum for their latest exhibit, Future Earth: Science on a Sphere. Future Earth is the latest brain-child of an increasingly productive partnership between the Science Museum of Minnesota and researchers at the University of Minnesota. Representing the University are our very own Jon Foley, Global Landscapes Initiative Team, and Resident Fellow David Tilman.
Not just a place to unleash the kids on a rainy afternoon, the Science Museum has something to offer everyone. The Future Earth exhibit explores how humans now have a larger effect on the earth than natural processes. I expected the exhibit to coddle the audience, offering simplistic environmental platitudes that “every little bit counts.” While this is true, of course, it overlooks the harsh realities of limited resources, limited political will, and limited time to create meaningful change. The truth is some bits count a lot more than others. If agricultural activities emit more green house gases than any other human activity – more than transportation, energy, or manufacturing – do we really believe that getting everyone to change the type of light bulbs they use will solve the climate crisis? Such feel-good efforts have become excuses for complacency and distract us from strategically approaching the environmental crisis.
My fears were unjustified. I found Future Earth to be a thoughtful, skilled construction that succeeds where too many in academia fail: effectively communicating complex choices to the non-scientific public. Future Earth delivers, and then raises the bar for the rest of us. Technology is integrated seamlessly into the live presentations. The presenter controls the “Science on a Sphere” globe with a Wii remote and is able to display information on the 3-D surface. The presentation’s scope includes temperature variations in different portions of the Earth, the globe at night, and even social media connections. Arguably a bit of a gimmick, the exhibit uses it to spectacular effect when presenting global changes in land use and makes the live presentation and short film memorable crowd-pleasers. Outside of the presentation, visitors can play energy pinball, feel the temperature of the Earth without an atmosphere, and see how ocean acidity changes with increased levels of carbon dioxide.
Students will recognize iClickers from some of their clases, which enable instant, in-class quizzes and opinion polls. Though their application in classes can sometimes be hit or miss, I found the iClickers a terrific asset during the presentation. If only they were so much fun in biochemistry! Public responses are even retained as part of an ongoing research study by the Science Museum.
Multiple-choice questions on energy and agriculture appear innocuous enough, but fly in the face of the conventional wisdom surrounding urban agriculture and foodie-environmentalism. Organic-buying, farmer’s-market-loving locavores may have to reconsider their choices when confronted with the relative environmental costs of these choices. Are you an Energy Expert? I learned I am emphatically not. This is one of the highlights of the exhibit – it challenges our assumptions and reveals the gaps in what we thought we knew. One leaves surprised, challenged, and even unsettled by an exercise that takes less than 10 minutes.
Future Earth sugar-coats nothing, but does not succumb to doom and gloom prognostications. This is a delicate balance to strike when the familiar frameworks of industry, energy, and agriculture lend themselves so readily to black and white interpretations. Future Earth offers a nuanced understanding that demands more from visitors, and delivers more in kind. It presents facts in an accessible format, then asks provocative, straightforward questions. The answers aren’t easy, but what emerges is a message of individual empowerment, hope, and perhaps most remarkably, a sense of urgency and personal responsibility.
This is what research can look like when brought before the public. One can’t help thinking that if we all did a better job at this, the sustainability discourse might look quite different. Future Earth leaves a lasting impression, and I think, offers a model for others trying to mobilize the public and decision makers around environmental issues. Counteracting inertia may be the toughest battle out there. We could all learn to do it a little better. I encourage you to see the exhibit, have fun, and soak up what science you can. But perhaps also take a lesson in what interactive learning and public outreach really look like from some of the people who are doing it best.
Which types of produce do you harvest with a knife? Which with bare hands? What’s best picked with gloves? After picking do you get it wet or keep it dry? What’s the best way to cool off produce? Which produce likes to stay warm and dry? What is hydrocooling and why is it important? We’ll be demonstrating and discussing all of these questions and more. This practicum will cover basic and in depth info about harvesting and post harvest handling plus we will also check out a wide variety of field and harvest tools. A tour of the Cornercopia Student Organic Farm’s operations will also be included.
WHEN - June 30th, 9am – 11am
LOCATION - The Cornercopia Student Organic Farm. See the Map.
TEACHER - Courtney Tchida
COST - $20 for PRI members/$25 for non-members
***Five spots are available for U of M students FREE OF CHARGE due to the location of the class. If you are interested and have a valid U of M ID, email firstname.lastname@example.org
**Advance registration appreciated (as some of our classes do fill to capacity), but generally not required – if you have trouble reserving your spot online, day-of registration is allowed and encouraged. Having problems with the website, or questions about registration in general? Email emily@pricoldclimate.
Carissa Schively Slotterback is an associate professor in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. In April she was invited to participate in the George C. Marshall Program on urban planning in Vienna, Austria. Hans Kordik is the Austrian Counselor for Agriculture and the Environment currently stationed at the Austrian Embassy, Washington, D.C.
The presentation will highlight insights from the two planning and environmental experts and will explore innovative approaches to reducing environmental impacts. The first presentation by Professor Slotterback will offer a comparative perspective on current innovations in planning and policy in Austria, comparing them to the U.S. urban environmental planning context. The presentation will highlight project examples related to waste management, non-motorized transportation, energy, climate change, housing, and land use planning. Integrating images from her recent visit to Vienna and Graz as part of the Marshall Plan, the presentation will explore design, policy, social, and cultural differences between the U.S. and Austria that have fostered a very high level of innovation in addressing environmental impacts in Austria’s largest cities.
Hans Kordik will offer additional perspectives related to water policy in the Austrian context. Austria uses less than 4% of its fresh water resources and provides the highest drinking water quality of the world. The presentation will focus on the challenges and impact of the diverse water usages from agriculture, energy, to transport policy. Austria has been a member of the European Union since 1995. Even though the “Alpine Republic” has a long tradition in water policy, this presentation shall highlight some differences between EU-, national-, and regional laws to safeguard Austria’s water as well as waste water protection. As a land-locked country, having treaties with the eight neighboring countries is essential, as water protection does not halt at the boarder. Based on this example, Mr. Kordik’s presentation will focus on international cooperation regarding water policy. More info available here.
Time: 7:00 PM – 9:30 PM
Location: 710 Social Sciences