Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Floridians optimistic about economic recovery

The monthly evaluation for October by UF researchers has found that Floridians are breaking post-recession records for overall positive outlook on the economy. However, in regards to their personal finances, the state is still down. Confidence in personal finances compared to last year are down 3 points while confidence in their position a year from now dropped by 2 points.

It’s an important outlook just a few days before election night, where post-recession confidence bodes well for Obama. Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center, attributed the falling personal finance confidence to the presidential debates and the upcoming “fiscal cliff” – when poorly-looked-upon federal budget cuts and tax increases will be decided unless Congress approves another procedure.

This month’s results can be found here at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Invasive lionfish may be here to stay

University of Florida researchers have spent the last year conducting a study on the process and costs of removing the invasive lionfish species from Florida’s waters. The result is less than stellar: control can only be kept in specific, targeted areas and with lots of manpower.

The lionfish eats a lot, and has an appetite for native Florida sport and food organisms like grouper and shrimp. It’s gradual spread into the Gulf of Mexico is worrisome, as there are many seagrass nurseries that could be devastated by a large lionfish population.


The researchers used derbies, essentially free-for-all lionfish fishing periods, for divers and snorkelers. They then studied the derby results and the effect they had on lionfish populations.

What they found was that extensive fishing produced smaller lionfish. While that’s a good sign for grouper, who are vulnerable to the larger lionfish, it could be a threat to the shrimp populations.

This is just one in a string of stories about the effects of invasive species on Florida plants and animals, including those of the Burmese python and kudzoo plant.

2013 National Association of Science Writers conference will be in Gainesville


This is looking forward a bit, but the National Association of Science Writers will be hosting its main conference of 2013 at the University of Florida. The conference will expose many University of Florida museums and laboratories to all levels of science writers, as well as host a number of talks by UF researchers and lecturers. Expect some great updates and photos here in addition to me live tweeting of events @APKays

Satellite imagery used to study remote ecosystems

Remote ecosystems provide a number of obstacles for researchers wishing to study them — that’s why they’re still remote. Moving and maintaining equipment, limited low-impact observation methods and accurate controls are just a few examples. 

A team of researchers, including Matteo Convertino from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, have developed software that utilizes satellite photos of an area to determine a broad range of observations.

Convertino is helping the team make better use of the images, according to the press release.

“There’s currently not a lot of satellite imagery used in ecological studies,” said Convertino, with UF’s agricultural and biological engineering department. “Part of the reason is, there’s a strong need to improve mathematical formulas for analyzing the data, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Their current system uses light frequencies to find the number of plant species in an image, where they were and how many of each were in the area.

The method is being used in other areas too, from microscopic stem cells to the analysis of soil and water by satellite. 

Obviously these kinds of discoveries have extensive use in science, but I’d also be interested in its use for human population studies. Demographic measurements of busy pedestrian areas, such as theme parks, could be pretty useful.

Soil variability provides challenges for storing carbon

Many types of soil lack carbon, and are being looked at as a possible treatment for climate change. The process of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it elsewhere is called carbon sequestration. Some landowners could make money in the future by sequestering the carbon from government or private industries in their soil.

However, according to a study put out by the University of Florida on October 22, Florida’s soil makeup has a patchwork arrangement. The patchy nature of the soil in regard to the amount of carbon it contains makes it difficult for large-scale carbon sequestration in an area.

Beyond climate change implications, soil carbon is an important factor in agriculture. It plays a significant part in the soil’s quality and that of the plants growing in it, and is therefor helpful for farmers. 

New nanostructure assembly process discovered

Last Friday researchers at the University of Florida discovered a new process to produce unique structures from nanorods.

The research focuses on finding structures with new properties, which is similar to how hydrogen and oxygen can combine to produce either water or hydrogen peroxide. In this study, two different structures were produced. One of them was grown into a thin film about one quarter the size of a postage stamp and could possibly be used to make more efficient LED television and computer screens.

The other structure produced a superparticle which emits a polarization useful for producing 3-D LED displays. This structure is much more complex than the other, and could be a major breakthrough.

The press release provided some perspective for those not up-to-speed on nanostructure:

“I’ve worked in nanoparticle assembly for a decade,” said Dmitri Talapin, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the study. “There are all sorts of issues to be overcome when assembling building blocks from nanoscale particles. I don’t think anyone has been able to get them to self-assemble into superparticles like this before.”

Trying to get things over

So with WordPress’ import function for Tumblr still being down, I looked around and found an alternative method that seems to have worked pretty well.

– Reblog titles don’t transfer nicely, most posts therefor have no title.

– Tags and categories still wonky, and too many to go through all at once. In the future, I’ll try and clean up each post.

– Imports everything at once. The actual Tumblr import tool previously only imported new ones, but the program I used requires the whole thing to be done. Maybe I’ll just delete everything right before I upload it? We’ll see.

For my purposes and comfort, until WordPress fixes their Tumblr import, most content will continue to be on there.

If Tumblr isn’t your jam, you can also follow me on Twitter at


Where you get (most) post updates, some Twitter-exclusive interesting stuff, and more general life musings. So check that out.

Five holes blasted by Curiosity using its super-awesome laser on some Martian ground. Not only does it shoot, but it can break down the resulting plasma and determine what molecules are present.

Previous Post

Some eerily beautiful fluid dynamics in the form of slow-mo water balloons. They don’t break, and the rebound is sometimes even cooler than the initial impact.

To reflect the ongoing structural changes in the adolescent and twenty-something brain, many journalists and scientists use words and phrases like “unfinished,” “work in progress,” “under construction” and “half-baked.” Such language implies that the brain eventually reaches a kind of ideal state when it is “done.” But there is no final, optimal state. The human brain is not a soufflé that gradually expands over time and finally finishes baking at age 30. Yes, we can identify and label periods of dramatic development—or windows of heightened plasticity—but that should not eclipse the fact that brain changes throughout life.


Whether we can, at this moment in time, meaningfully link this life stage to neuroscience seems a tenuous proposition at best. By itself, brain biology does not dictate who we are. The members of any one age group are not reducible to a few distinguishing structural changes in the brain. Ultimately, the fact that a twenty-something has weaker bridges between various brain regions than someone in their thirties is not hugely important—it’s just one aspect of a far more complex identity.

The Neuroscience of 20-Somethings by Scientific American’s Ferris Jabr (via explore-blog)

As with most things related to the human condition, it is nearly impossible to describe it with one or two words. The brain, an incredibly complex organic computer, can certainly not be summed up by “half baked” at any stage.