research scholarship cr e at i v e ac t i v i t y volume 16 :: issue 1
Earth works This painting is carbon neutral. How sustainable is your artwork?
A modern view of the old south
t i n y t ec h TOMORROW’S INNOVATIONS START SMALL
SOUND SCIENCE: EXPANDING THE USE OF COCHLEAR IMPLANTS
TRACKING NEWS COVERAGE IN EMERGING AFRICAN DEMOCRACIES
LOVE AND LAUGHS IN FICTION AND POETRY
spring / summer
www.o h i o . e d u / r e s e a rc h
spring / summer
what â€™s inside 10
14 16 22 34
t h e s ocial network The rituals and life lessons behind the college drinking scene.
Wat c hing the watchdogs
Editor Andrea Gibson
Can media play a stronger role in emerging African democracies?
Senior Designer and Illustrator Christina Ullman, Ullman Design Assistant Designers Alix Northrup Meg Doyle
Communication Sciences and Disorders
s o u n d science Fine-tuning cochlear implants for speakers of Mandarin Chinese and other tonal languages.
Intern Adam Liebendorfer
Advisory Committee Kevin Crist Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
d i x i e debunked A global, modern view of the Old South and origins of the Civil War.
Steve Reilly Professor Biological Sciences
Ellen Gerl Associate Professor Journalism
s p o k en flavor, love lessons A poet and a fiction writer use humor to make sense of the modern world.
Michele Morrone Associate Professor Social and Public Health
Science and Engineering
Duane McDiarmid Associate Professor Art
t i n y tech The innovators of tomorrowâ€™s technologies start small.
volume 16 :: issue 1
ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.
02 Up Fro n t
:: From the Office of Research |
40 cl as s act
photos (Cover): courtesy of john Sabraw; (This spread): Robb Decamp
:: Student Research |
0 3 of note
4 2 at a gl anc e
:: Research News Briefs
:: Project snapshot
Earth works Artist John Sabraw makes a case for sustainable art in a new series of paintings that celebrate the natural world
u p fr o nt
from the office of research
about perspectives Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice a year by the Office of Research Communications, which reports to the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity. The magazine serves its readers by providing information about the research, scholarly, and creative activities of Ohio University faculty, staff, and students, and about the contributions of university research in general through the publication of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry. JOSEPH SHIELDS
Vice President for Research President of Ohio University and Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College
Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to: Andrea Gibson, editor, Perspectives magazine 120 Research and Technology Center Athens, Ohio 45701 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: (740) 597-2166
For more information about the research program at Ohio University, please contact: Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Web: www.ohio.edu/research E-mail: email@example.com Phone: (740) 593-0370
The promise lives
s we go to press, Ohio University is unveiling a major philanthropic campaign,
The Promise Lives, which seeks to raise $450 million by June 30, 2015, in support of students, faculty, and programs.
Already, the campaign has secured more than $385 million. Private support in a variety of forms has played a critical role in many of our success stories in research and creative activity. A prominent example of direct support for scholarly inquiry is the 1804 Fund, established through an endowment created by C. Paul Stocker. Funding for the 1804 Fund is allocated by the Ohio University Foundation through an annual competitive proposal process to support undergraduate initiatives, research, and graduate education. Grants from the 1804 Fund have been instrumental in launching many significant initiatives, including the creation of the Contemporary History Institute and the interdisciplinary bioinformatics initiative, both of which are key elements in the intellectual life of the campus. Contributions from friends of the university have been critical to attracting, retaining, and equipping outstanding faculty through endowed professorships. For example, Lynn Harter, the Steven and Barbara Schoonover Professor of Health Communication, is an international expert whose work investigates the uses of narrative to help individuals who are coping with serious medical conditions and other difficult life circumstances. David Bayless holds another of our endowed professorships, the Loehr Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Bayless is a renowned researcher in energy technologies whose success
in advancing algae growth and harvesting it—supported in part by an 1804 Fund award—recently led to the formation of a university spin-out company, Eco2Capture. Private support also is expanding the kinds of opportunities we can offer students. Generous donors responding to the university’s phonathon campaign last year enabled the creation of an Undergraduate Travel Fund used by students to attend and give scholarly presentations at professional conferences. Awards have enabled Ohio University undergraduates to present their work at the Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society Biennial National Convention, the International Society of Computational Biology Rocky Mountain Bioinformatics Conference, the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference, among others. As part of The Promise Lives, the university is seeking the means to provide greater support for students, including fellowships for graduate students. Fellowships can attract outstanding individuals to our programs and help talented graduate students cover the costs of their education. If you are considering how your resources can have a long-term impact to better the lives of others, we hope you will consider supporting Ohio University in its work to advance the frontiers of research, scholarship, and creative expression. Illustration: Alix Northrup and Christina Ullman
research news briefs
:: medicine | by Ad a m Liebendorfer
Healthy habits Medical student explores how families can sustain healthier lifestyles
growing number of programs designed to boost the health and wellness of American families are short-term, intensive courses in nutrition and exercise. While adults and kids may enjoy immediate benefits, do these programs help families form long-lasting healthy habits? That’s the question Michelle Crane, a secondyear medical student at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, posed when examining the outcomes of an ongoing Ohio University health intervention program led by faculty members, TAKE ACTION. Diabetes and other weight-related problems are particularly acute in Appalachia, where obesity afflicts more than 75 percent of the population in some counties. Rural families not only have michelle c rane less access to healthier foods than those who medical student live closer to cities, but also have more limited opportunities to learn how to live healthfully. In 2007 and 2008, researchers held eight-week summer programs that called for children and parents to come to the Athens Community Center twice per week for two hours of wellness classes and exercise. Advertised
in local health clinics, the program drew 39 parents and kids. Over the course of the program, participants improved their cardiovascular fitness and shrank their waistlines, and some adults lost weight. Crane contacted TAKE ACTION participants during summer 2011 to find out whether they were able to maintain these healthy habits. Most participants noted that the program’s social support was valuable and said they were still enthusiastic and confident about pursuing a healthier lifestyle. However, almost all of the participants had fallen back into their old routines because they lacked that support structure to keep reinforcing good eating and exercise habits. “One big thing we heard was that one parent would say they wished the other parent had been part of the program too so they could have learned along and helped each other remember parts of the nutrition component,” she says. Because young children had the most success with the program, the TAKE ACTION team is now looking for grants to fund a three-year study that focuses on what can best help kids from preschool through third grade learn healthy eating and exercise habits. Other studies have shown that this age group is a good target for intervention programs, Crane says, as kids are more focused on learning good habits than unlearning bad habits, unlike adults. Crane believes that both children and adult participants could be more successful, however, if the program were longer and gradually eased them back into a life without twice-per-week workouts and nutrition classes. She would like to see a year-round program with an eight- to 12-week summer intensive course for participants. After the intensive course is finished, she explains, exercisers would continue meeting and exercising in groups similar to a fitness club.
case workers in the c o u rt r o o m
fo r e s ts v s .
ac id rain composing
fo r ob oe KIDNEY DISEASE DIET RELIGIOUS RITUALS ON FILM BAR CODE CHECKS
Illustration: christina ullman; portrait, Ben siegel
research news briefs
:: sociology | by A n d rea Gibson
Social workers shape the fate of defendants in the courtroom
n 1966, Congress enacted the Bail Reform Act, which allowed individuals charged with crimes to be
“(Case workers) have to balance their social justice ideals with a need to demonstrate their efficacy to the courts. And that played into whom they recommended for release.”
released from jail prior to their trial dates. The legislation came in response to growing concerns about lengthy detentions for defendants who couldn’t post bail. The practice was not only expensive for the legal system, but
ursul a cast e l l an o associate professor of sociology
drew objections from social justice advocates. As part of this reform movement, the courts began working with case workers from private, nonprofit organizations to assess which defendants were suitable for release and which individuals should be detained on bond, says Ursula Castellano, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio University. From 1998 to 2004, Castellano embarked on an extensive field study of the system in California to examine the effectiveness of these institutionalized pre-trial release programs. After training as a case worker, she worked with four different programs for individuals arrested for felonies and misdemeanors, including high-risk and homeless defendants. She interviewed 49 judges, case workers, and bail commissioners. As detailed in her new book, Outsourcing Justice: The Role of Nonprofit Caseworkers in Pretrial Release Programs (Lynne Rienner/ First Forum Press), Castellano found that nonprofit case workers play a much more critical role in the criminal justice system than just influencing pre-trial release decisions. These professionals also impact sentencing outcomes and often successfully advocate for alternatives to incarceration, she notes. “Judges and attorneys very much rely on their input, and this has transformed traditional courtroom justice,” she says. After an individual is arrested, case workers make several risk determinations, such as whether the defendant has a stable address,
Illustration: christina ullman; portrait, Ben siegel
means of income, and good references from family and friends. If defendants meet these criteria, the court will release them “on their own recognizance,” which is a promise to return to court at a later date. Castellano observed many benefits of the programs, which “humanize the legal system,” she says. The programs provide relief to often low-income defendants, and save money and bed space for the criminal courts and jails. “On the other hand, the way in which they assess eligibility introduces some biases and cultural assumptions,” she notes. “Women with children were at times considered ‘unworthy’ of release, as they were interpreted as ‘bad mothers.’” Case workers also expressed differential assumptions about the pre-trial release “worthiness” of Latino and African-American arrestees, she adds. Case workers experience tradeoffs in the system as well. “They have to balance their social justice ideals with a need to demonstrate their efficacy to the courts,” she says. “And that played into whom they recommended for release.” In general, however, Castellano found that these programs are effective from a fiscal and organizational standpoint. With the United States facing an economic downturn, some pre-trial release programs recently have been
at risk for local and state budget cuts, she notes. Advocates of these programs may need to seek new funding streams to sustain them. “Their advantage is that they are well thought of by judges in particular,” Castellano says. “The amount of money they save the justice system in jail beds and court costs often surpasses their operational costs.”
With funding from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and the Ohio University Research Committee, Castellano now has expanded her study to an examination of the role of case managers in mental health courts. These relatively new programs were developed to divert select adult defendants with mental disabilities or illness into community treatment programs.
Amount of funding received for purchase of a transmission electron microscope to advance work in energy, alternative fuels, and environmental remediation.
“A lot of effort goes into keeping the forests the same way they were 50 years ago, but we’re having a hard time doing it.” jared deforest assistant professor of environmental and plant biology
:: environmental + plant biology | by Andrea Gibson
Biologists study how Ohio’s forests respond to climate change Each time it rains, the soil chemistry of the forest changes. The effect can be especially pronounced in regions such as southeastern Ohio, where a high number of coal-fired power plants emit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air, creating what’s known as “acid rain.” “Acid rain prematurely ages the soil. Some plant life can’t adapt to that, but some of it will,” says Ohio University scientist Jared DeForest. DeForest received funding from the National Science Foundation to study the soil dynamics of two different forests in eastern Ohio to determine how life—from the tiniest microbes to the tallest maple trees—survives such climate change. Acid rain fertilizes the soil with
nitrogen and reduces the level of phosphorus. Scientists speculated that the microbes in the soil— DeForest compares them to “first responders”—mitigate the change in soil chemistry by producing phosphatase enzymes. The microbes feed phosphorus to forest plants, which reciprocate by providing energy to the microbes. To test the theory, DeForest and colleagues at the Holden Arboretum and Case Western Reserve University spread experimental treatments of lime, phosphorus, and a combination of the two materials over plots in a forest in Athens, Ohio, and land in northeastern Ohio. It took between 12 and 17 tons of lime to neutralize the effect of acid rain, he notes,
though only half a ton of phosphorus was needed to mitigate any phosphorus limitation for the entire experiment. “We had to add enormous amounts of lime just to get the soil chemistry back to the way it was 100 years ago,” says DeForest, an assistant professor of environmental and plant biology. One year later, the researchers observed that the soil microbes reduced their enzyme production in the presence of the added phosphorus, but only in the southeastern plots. These plots feature unglaciated soil that has been more heavily impacted by acid rain than the more fertile, glaciated northeastern plots. DeForest notes that the microbes adapted to the changing soil composition relatively quickly, in a matter of only months. When DeForest and his student researchers began studying other elements of the forest ecosystem, they were surprised to discover that the maple leaves gathered from the
canopy in the experimental plots were “starved for phosphorus,” he says. Compared to samples from forest plots that received no treatment, the leaves had 75 percent more phosphorus, which suggests that the soil microbes are falling short of supplying these needed nutrients. DeForest now hopes to learn how this phenomenon influences tree growth and reproduction. The findings from the scientist’s four-year study on the overall ecosystem could have implications for how the U.S. Forest Service manages the forests, including its proactive burning of maples and beeches to regenerate white oaks. “A lot of effort goes into keeping the forests the same way they were 50 years ago, but we’re having a hard time doing it,” DeForest says. The research may bolster the idea that climate change has a much more complicated impact than previously believed, he adds, noting that there are both ecological “winners and losers” in the forests. Photo: Robb Decamp
research news briefs
:: musi c | by Adam Liebendorfer
Album features emerging female oboe composers Overheard: New Music for Oboe and English Horn, the second album from Ohio University musician Michele Fiala, predominantly features emerging North American female composers. Because male composers have received more exposure in the field of music composition, Fiala sought out women for the project who “are just getting off the ground or have just recently turned to composing full-time,” she says. Each composer took between three to six months to write an original piece for Fiala’s new album. She and the composers exchanged feedback about the realization of the compositions, either during the rehearsal and recording process or afterwards. Fiala says the pieces, which last from six to 17 minutes, evoke specific images. One image is based on the composer’s child waking up in the middle of the night asking for peaches; another piece was inspired by the waters in the Bay of Fundy. She also asked the composers to give oboe and piano equal presence in the pieces, in contrast to what she describes as the “boom, chuck, chuck” piano accompaniment patterns featured in some oboe compositions. In addition, some pieces incorporate “extended techniques,” such as playing multiple notes on an oboe at a time. These techniques have grown in popularity since the 1960s, she explains, and are appearing in more tonal compositions. “Now composers don’t write pieces just to use extended techniques, but rather to show an emotion or to really be a point in the piece that’s expressive,” she says. After the pieces were finished, Fiala rehearsed and recorded the CD, primarily in the School of Music’s Recital Hall. Next, she and the composers sifted through hundreds of hours of takes. The pieces were then mastered and sent to MSR Classics, an independent classical record label, for distribution in November. Fiala plans to perform the various new pieces from Overheard around the United States and perhaps in Europe this summer. She also hopes to contribute to other musicians’ recordings and pursue additional solo albums. “I’d like to continue exploring new repertoire and performing it,” she says, “and hopefully I can do this again someday soon.”
“Now composers don’t write pieces just to use extended techniques, but rather to show an emotion or to really be a point in the piece that’s expressive.” m i c h e l e f i a l a , assistant professor of oboe
photos: robb Decamp
20-30 million ye ars
new projected age of the East African Rift, a geological event that rearranged the flow of large rivers such as the Congo and the Nile to create the unique landscapes and climates that mark Africa today.
:: Biomedical Sciences | by Andrea Gibson
How can antioxidant diets protect against diabetic kidney disease?
ore than 150 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and experts
project that the incidence will skyrocket to 300 million by 2025. Kidney disease is a common complication; 50 percent of patients with end-stage kidney disease in the United States are also diabetic.
With the disease and its complications becoming more and more prevalent, Ohio University scientists Felicia Nowak and Sharon Inman and colleagues began examining whether an antioxidant diet could mitigate the symptoms of diabetes. The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine researchers received a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health
for the project, which examined 144 diabetic and healthy rats. The scientists fed the rats a diet fortified with selenium, manganese, Vitamin C, and other antioxidant vitamins and minerals, and then monitored various biomedical markers of health at six, 13, and 20 weeks. The team was surprised to find that while the antioxidant diet didn’t alleviate the symptoms
The team was surprised to find that while the antioxidant diet didn’t alleviate the symptoms of diabetes or prevent the development of kidney disease in male rats, it did provide some protection to the female rats under study.
of diabetes or prevent the development of kidney disease in male rats, it did provide some protection to the female rats under study. The female subjects had significantly lower blood glucose, less severe kidney problems, lower blood pressure, and better production of nitric oxide (which reduces oxidative stress in the body) than their male counterparts throughout the study. The health status of all diabetic subjects, however, worsened with age, the researchers report. In human populations, men are more likely than women to have diabetic kidney disease. “Some people think that women have protection because of their elevated estrogen levels and lower levels of androgen,” Nowak says. “I’m not convinced that that’s the reason.” Nowak notes that the beneficial effect of the antioxidants could have gone unnoticed in most conventional studies, which typically use only male rats. The team is hoping to attract additional funding to support a new version of the study that would tweak the antioxidant diet. After the initial study was underway, Nowak says, new research was published that suggested that copper could be detrimental to the diabetic kidney, whereas alpha-lipoic acid could be beneficial. The team also plans to use Inman’s expertise with a specialized technique called video microscopy to take a closer look at the new diet’s impact on kidney microcirculation. In the meantime, Inman’s lab has received funding through two Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education (CORE) research grants to further examine the nitric oxide pathways and the effect of adding a niacinchromium complex supplement to the rat diet. Niacin and chromium appear to have many beneficial properties, including
Sharon Inman (above) and Felicia Nowak (left) continue to examine the effect of adding various supplements to the diets of diabetic rats.
antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-dyslipidemia (abnormal concentrations of lipids in the blood) effects, which may slow the progression of kidney disease, Inman explains. Dietary supplementation would be an inexpensive, well-tolerated treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes, she notes. Nowak also has embarked on a new study, funded by the Ohio University Research Committee and the medical college’s Research and Scholarly Affairs Committee, to examine whether paternal diet and obesity can impact offspring. This relatively unexplored research area has potential applications for human health and therapeutics for metabolic disease, including diabetes. Photos: Robb Decamp
research news briefs
: : f i l m | by Ad a m L i e b endorfer
Dark devotion Feature film delves into religious dogma
n his upcoming debut feature film, Lavender Rocks, Ohio University graduate student Bilal Sami uses
a post-apocalyptic cult as a tool to explore religious extremism, family conflicts, and rituals at large.
At the center of the story is Mara, a girl played by theater student Glenna Brucken, groomed to take charge of the dystopian cult she lives in. In the days leading up to her coming-of-age ritual, Mara unearths dark truths about her community and begins to question the religion her parents helped create. The film is named for the ceremonial rocks Mara’s group uses, which represent the competing religious and political forces in the film, Sami says. He deliberately set the story after an apocalypse to steer the audience from aligning the cult featured in the film to any of the world’s major religions today. Growing up in a moderate Muslim home in Pakistan, Sami always has been intrigued with religious rituals and dogma. He says he aims to shed light on the conforming power of rituals of today. “When people leave (the film), I’d like them to step back and think about these rituals in general,” he says. “Every religion does some ugly things. Instead of showing what they all do, I thought I would show simply that any religion can have these negative parts.” Sami, a software engineer by trade, had held several jobs in the Pakistani television industry, from acting to writing to directing. At 33, he decided to apply for a Fulbright grant to study the bits and pieces about film that he had missed along the way. Now a third-year film student, Sami is finishing Lavender Rocks with the help of a Student Enhancement Award and independent funding to round out his master’s degree. Few film students in the director sequences endeavor a full-length feature; most opt for shorts. He says the Fulbright committee “serendipitously” paired him with Ohio University, in an area replete with talent and opportunity for making films.
“One big advantage here is that it’s so much cheaper to make a movie than, say, in New York,” he says. “A grant or a donation from the Internet goes a lot farther here than it would elsewhere.” To keep the movie on a shoestring budget, Sami started pre-production in the fall and finished principal photography at the end of 2011. The post-apocalyptic feel of the film led him to rent an abandoned school in nearby Stewart, Ohio, and furnish costumes from the theater department for cheap. Now, Lavender Rocks is in postproduction. Sami is putting in more than 40 hours a week editing, pinning down sound, and working with composers for the score. Ultimately, he hopes to have it ready by the end of summer to submit for next year’s festival season. After that? Distribution and returning to Pakistan to launch his film career.
“Every religion does some ugly things. Instead of showing what they all do, I thought I would show simply that any religion can have these negative parts.” B i l a l S a m i , graduate student
“Getting a company to distribute the movie would just be an unbelievably huge boon,” he says. “Even though the chances are small, one always hopes that one’s work, and hence one’s point of view and message, will gain as large an audience as possible.”
Director Bilal Sami rented an abandoned school in Stewart, Ohio, and used local actors and students to film Lavender Rocks.
Photos: Courtesy of bilal sami
number of americans diagnosed with hyperhidrosis, an excessive sweating disorder under study at the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"We try to spend a lot of time educating end users about how to get information across in a better, easier way.” kevin be r i s s o associate professor of engineering technology + management
: : e ngi n e e r i ng t ec h n o logy + m an agement | by Andrea Gibson
Code enforcement How well does that bar code work? Engineers put data capture technologies to the test.
ar codes, and increasingly radio frequency identification tags, appear on everything from
supermarket apples and hospital patient bracelets to toll booth passes and international shipping containers. The ubiquitous black and white symbols and electronic devices have become industry standard for tracking inventory and streamlining product sales.
But how well do these codes and tags actually work? Since 1988, Ohio University’s Automatic Identification and Data Capture Lab, the nation’s first university-based test laboratory in the field, has been answering that question for industry. The lab, located in Stocker Center, features a variety of equipment that simulates high-speed scanning systems at warehouses, retail sales systems, radio frequency identification tag portals (positioned in doorways to automatically scan individuals or items that pass through the detectors), and other
scenarios in which automatic identification and data capture is used. In addition to bar coding and radio frequency identification, the lab can test magnetic stripes, biometrics, smart cards, and voice data entry. “Our strength and uniqueness is that we’re technology neutral,” says lab director Kevin Berisso, an associate professor of engineering technology and management. The lab can test the robustness of various types of bar codes and related technologies on the market, as well as the hardware used to read them. Bar codes, for example, are
increasingly embedded with more sophisticated information. Grocery stores can now include sell-by dates, which could alert consumers at checkout if an item is past due, Berisso explains. Retail bar codes also can be designed to feature lot numbers to help flag items included in a product recall. One of the hottest developments in automatic identification and data capture is the increased usage of the QR (“quick response”) code, a square, two-dimensional bar code originally designed to track vehicle parts in automotive manufacturing. It’s now frequently used to connect consumers of print materials—from newspaper ads and magazine articles to product marketing—to the web via smart phones. Despite their rising popularity, there are no industry standards for the use of QR codes within the media and marketing fields, or in the mobile phone software programs designed to access them, Berisso says. Businesses that use QR codes now are embedding a company logo in the code that can reduce performance and erode the error correction, he says. It’s important to standardize the use of these codes to improve consumer expectations and experiences. “We try to spend a lot of time educating end users about how
to get information across in a better, easier way,” he says. The lab works directly with GS1, a nonprofit organization that administers the Uniform Product Code (UPC) and develops worldwide industry standards. Over the last two years, the lab has handled more than 40 million GS1 test scans to date, Berisso says. Several corporations, including Alien Technology, DataLogic, Jamison Door Company, NCR, Zebra, Motorola Solutions, and Honeywell, have donated automatic information and data capture equipment or computer resources to the laboratory. Berisso and his team also build custom hardware and write software for testing. The lab serves as a training ground for Ohio University undergraduate and graduate students, who have used the experience to successfully launch data collection and inventory control careers in the retail and software industries, Berisso says. In addition, the lab hosts an annual conference that attracts industry professionals from as far away as Chile, Croatia, and Indonesia for a week-long crash course on automatic identification and data capture.
Illustration: Christina Ullman; portrait, mark Dawson
the s ocial
n e t wo r k A sociologist explores the rituals and life lessons of the college drinking scene
so c i o logy
ith a looming 8 a.m. class the next morning, a 20-year-old college student named Tara begrudgingly agrees to go to the bars for a “few” drinks. She and her friends get in with fake IDs, and after consuming beer and several rounds of shots, the young woman and her friends are feeling “good and buzzed.” By 11 p.m., Tara has vomited in the bar’s restroom. At 7:20 the next morning, Tara is looking at her alarm clock, clueless about how she got back home, and blowing off class.
by Ada m Liebendorfer
To many college students, a carousing night out like Tara’s is standard procedure for some weeknights. But Tara closes her account with a concerned question: “Why couldn’t I have had more control of myself to determine when to stop?” Research on that question has been rooted mostly in psychology and biology, such as how an individual’s body chemistry affects his or her likelihood to binge drink or develop alcoholism, or what personality types are prone to abusing alcohol. Ohio University sociologist Thomas Vander Ven is exploring what he thinks is a major missing piece of the puzzle: the social conventions that allow college students to keep coming back to the party—despite the risks. “Drinking is not just individuals drinking alone and deciding alone what to do and dealing with their problems alone,” he says. “It’s very social.” In his book Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard (NYU Press, 2011), Vander Ven paints a picture of college drinking as a social adventure with specific rituals that keep students out of trouble while also allowing them to test their adult decision-making skills. Over the course of several years, the sociologist talked to students from a large public university, a smaller private university, and a university with a large commuter student body. He collected data through a combination of student surveys, interviews by colleagues at
other campuses, and by personally spending more than 100 hours in the field ordering sodas at popular campus bars, meandering through street fests, and sitting in at house parties. He tried to stay as much a fly on the wall as possible because he didn’t want his presence to sully his observations. The students, as far as he knows, didn’t seem to mind. Sometimes he prowled through the aftermath of street fests to talk to partiers on their porches the morning after—not something students expect from a professor old enough to be their father. “It’s not hard to get students talking about drinking,” Vander Ven says. “Students seem to love talking about the drinking scene.” Vander Ven determined that drinking in college is more than drunken buffoonery—it’s a nightlong story arc. While fewer than half of college students binge drink, and only half of those are considered frequent binge drinkers (people who drink four or five drinks in a row three or more times every two weeks), the sociologist focused on the drunkest, rowdiest parties that the students themselves likened to a theatrical performance. Better judgment is thrown out the window; students vomit, black out, strip off clothing, and engage in casual sex. There’s a certain risk of danger—from illness and accidents to unwanted sexual encounters and arrests—inherent to the situation. But Vander Ven found that students create a system of solidarity
Vander Ven paints a picture of college drinking as a social adventure with specific rituals that keep students out of trouble while also allowing them to test their adult decisionmaking skills.
measures that can shield the college drinker from the hazards of intoxication. Integral to a night of heavy drinking, for example, is the ritualistic step of getting ready, which can include dining out and choosing clothing together. In this early stage, students look out for each other by reminding friends to eat and drink enough liquids for the evening ahead. As the night wears on, young women may steer friends away from going home with dubious young men. Underage consumers work together to avoid law enforcement or dorm authorities. Fellow drinkers remind each other to keep hydrated. Not only does this system keep drinkers out of trouble, but Vander Ven argues that it offers students a chance to prove maturity. In Getting Wasted, he cites a body of research that suggests that today’s middle-class teenagers have rigidly structured lives and less autonomy. As these teenagers move on to college, they must adjust to managing their new freedom. When college students drink, Vander Ven says they inadvertently put themselves in situations that demand adult responsibility. Nursing a sick friend or getting someone out of jail may allow college students to hone their problem-solving skills under stress. “If I’m hanging out and a fight emerges, I’m going to ask myself, ‘What kind of guy am I?’” he says. “Am I the kind of guy that’s going to back up his friends? Am I going to be the kind of guy that drops everything and bails somebody out of jail?” Few escape a night of heavy drinking without a hangover. Despite the malaise and an unproductive morning, Vander Ven says college drinkers reframe it as a fun group experience. As they swap remedies for feeling better, drinkers reflect on the previous night’s antics as worth their current pain and joke about their still-fallen comrades. “Nobody likes being hung over,” he says. “When people become hung over, they tend to be hung over with friends and roommates and they redefine it as a positive experience. Sort of like they survived this thing together. You can’t get that from a survey.” Vander Ven’s insights into the social rituals of college drinking can aid university officials tasked with managing the issue on their campuses. Ryan Lombardi, dean of students at Ohio University, says the sociologist’s research has reinforced administrators’ belief in the need to provide events during early weekend evenings when students typically engage in drinking before the night out. They’re also focusing on legal drinkers who supply alcohol to minors. “We aren’t trying to preach an abstinence policy,” Lombardi says. “But in an ideal world, we want to see a campus environment where no students have to go to the hospital with alcoholrelated problems.” Vander Ven also wants to see students stay safe. His latest work examines how intoxication affects a person’s willingness to help strangers in need, including heading off sexual assaults. Although many college drinking misadventures fade fast into memory, Vander Ven hopes his work could help inform how to prevent the more serious, long-term consequences.
IMAGES (opposite page and above): dreamstime.com; portrait, ben siegel
wa t c h i n g t h e by J i m Phillips
watchdogs Former journalist explores how African media can play a stronger role in emerging democracies
usuf Kalyango can remember three different times–in 1977, 1983, and 2000–when his father, a farmer and trader in the African nation of Uganda, was arrested and jailed by three successive governments of that country.
Despite the brutality and harsh treatment the elder Kalyango received at the hands of state officials, however, his son notes in a new book about African media and democracy, he “still pledges his unwavering support for the Ugandan regime,” holding no grudge against the leaders “whose security men threw him in a military prison without charges or trial.” For Kalyango, director of Ohio University’s Institute for International Journalism, such tolerance and even affection for a blatantly oppressive system “defies logic and common sense.” That same sense of bafflement came back to Kalyango during research for his book, African Media and Democratization: Public Opinion, Ownership, and the Rule of Law. In the course of
<< A journalist with his mouth taped walks during a silent protest in Nairobi, August 15, 2007. Hundreds of journalists marched in the capital protesting against the controversial clause in a media law that would require editors to reveal their sources if asked to do so in court.
“As long as the radio has ta l k e d about i t, they're happy wit h t h at. But the radio needs to tell them, ‘We’re not just talking about the issues.’ What they do on radio, very, very well, is to just criticize, and that’s the end of the story.” — YUSUF KALYANGO
interviewing thousands of Africans about their perceptions of government and the media, he writes, he discovered that “Astonishingly, almost three-quarters of citizens with less than a college diploma, and who endure authoritarian governments, agreed that their regimes are legitimate.” At least some of the blame for this perceptual disconnect, Kalyango concludes in his book, can be laid at the feet of the African media–many of them state-controlled–which he believes must begin to do a more professional job of independently presenting the issues of development and democratization to the public. “There is something about democratization that has not been explained to (Africans),” he suggests. Kalyango is uniquely qualified to examine the interplay of media and democracy in his home continent. A former longtime journalist who has worked for media outlets including
“They think that democracy is about going and having an election, and putting a person in power, and that’s where democracy ends. Democracy is the day of the elections.” Y USUF K A LYANG O assistant professor of journalism
CNN International, he can speak firsthand of the ways in which regimes in eastern and southern Africa have made it hard or dangerous for journalists to do their jobs. Since entering academia, he has added the rigorous techniques of the researcher to the practical experience of the reporter. “Yusuf Kalyango really has the content down pat. He knows his way around these countries from a journalistic perspective, but he has all the academic skills to communicate the ideas. He’s got a great combination there,” says Steve Howard, director of African Studies at Ohio University. At the core of Kalyango’s book is a set of in-depth interviews, involving more than 3,300 people in eight African countries–Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. He asked questions meant to find out how a scientifically selected cross section of people in those countries perceived the legitimacy of their governments, how trustworthy they found their available media sources, and how those perceptions played off each other. He also conducted six focus groups in each country, trying to gauge public attitudes, as well as doing a quantitative analysis of some media content to determine what issues they were covering and to what depth. Merely doing this level of intensive research in these countries makes Kalyango’s work something of a path breaker, as it spotlights nations that usually don’t get much attention in academic media studies. Kalyango’s findings varied from country to country, but generally speaking, he discovered that while many Africans he spoke to didn’t seem to have great faith in their media, they also don’t seem to demand enough from their local news providers. If a radio program, for example (radio is still the dominant form of the media in the region he studied), makes a great show of criticizing official corruption, many listeners will be satisfied that it’s doing its journalistic duty–but won’t have been given the information, or the inclination, to follow up on what they’ve heard by demanding change from their politicians. “As long as the radio has talked about it, they’re happy with that,” Kalyango says. “But
the radio needs to tell them, ‘We’re not just talking about the issues.’ What they do on radio, very, very well, is to just criticize, and that’s the end of the story.” Where African media could do a better job, in Kalyango’s view, is explaining what true democratization means–the rule of law, an uncorrupted judiciary, and government responsiveness to the popular will. Too many of the people he interviewed, he suggests, seemed to feel that “democracy” is alive and well when the people in power hand out “goodies” in the form of government jobs and favors. Too many Africans, he says, are also ready to equate democracy with just holding elections–even if the people elected ignore the needs of their constituents. “They think that democracy is about going and having an election, and putting a person in power, and that’s where democracy ends,” he explains. “Democracy is the day of the elections.” What a more professional and independent media might help to promulgate, he suggests, is the notion that “democracy does not end on election day.” What more viable media could do for Africans, Kalyango argues, would be to help citizens “connect the dots” among issues of development, education, democracy, the press, and other civil society, such as not-for-profit advocacy organizations, and more. International media outlets such as CNN and the BBC provide a more independent news alternative for some Africans, Kalyango notes, though they tend to cover mainly issues of interest to a worldwide audience, and ignore domestic African issues. “The BBC is huge in Africa,” he says. “But (Africans) also recognize that the international media are only recording conflicts in Africa.” The obstacles to improving African media are daunting, Kalyango admits. Many reporters are badly underpaid, leading some to accept payoffs from sources who want certain stories to run–what Kalyango calls “brown envelope journalism.” Journalists at state-run media outlets are often constrained by their bosses in what they can report, while those at private outlets are constrained by shoestring budgets. Many African journalists, Kalyango says, “are actually doing the best they can … to hold government accountable,” but “the way they do it is not the best way,” in part due to lack of training. What would help? Better pay for reporters would be a good start, according to Kalyango, along with better professional training, and more commercially supported independent news providers. “The universities do not have well-equipped schools or instructors,” he says. “And we need to have journalists who are significantly better paid than they are right now. Without that, I think, they will still be compromised and corrupted, because they still have families to take care of.”
IMAGES: (opposite page, top) RADU SIGHETI / Reuters / Corbis; (top) dreamstime.com; portrait, Ben siegel
communication sciences + disorders
by A da m Liebendorfer
science Li Xu examines how cochlear implants can be fine-tuned for speakers of tonal languages
For the tens of millions of
Mandarin Chinese speakers
who suffer from hearing impairment, the tonal language can pose serious comprehension challenges. The Mandarin word “ma” inflected one way means “mother,” but, with a slight change in the speaker’s tone, “ma” can mean “horse.” Although more Chinese are using cochlear implants, electronic devices surgically attached to the inner ear to enhance sound, the current technology can’t capture the subtle rise and fall of tonal languages such as Mandarin. Ohio University researcher Li Xu has spent the last decade exploring how to improve the devices, not only for speakers of China’s official tongue, but for the millions of tonal language users around the world. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as of December 2010, approximately 219,000 people worldwide have received cochlear implants. China is a rapidly growing market for the devices, due to the large population and the widespread use of antibiotics that are known to cause hearing impairment in children, Xu explains. Cochlear implants work by transmitting a signal through electrodes to the cochlea, a spiral-shaped part of the inner ear. There the electrical signal stimulates auditory nerves for hearing. Current models of cochlear implants have devices attached outside of the head that house a microphone, a processor, and a transmitter. A receiver and electrodes are surgically implanted inside the skull and connect wirelessly to the transmitter. Xu says future models will be entirely internal, which will allow patients to participate in activities such as swimming under water. Cochlear implants, however, cannot convey the subtle pitch changes found in tonal languages. The cochlea has hundreds of hair cells and hundreds of different channels of sound to transmit to the brain. Understanding English requires only eight channels, but Xu has determined that comprehending tonal languages requires 30. The best implants available have 22 electrodes and can cover 22 channels, but even they do little to help cochlear implant users. Nerve cells tend to die off when they fall into disuse, as is the case with many patients with hearing impairment. Xu says this makes active cells “few and far between.” “And the problem is, even when you have 22 electrodes, the best patients can only use up to eight channels because of this,” he says. Difficulties with recognizing pitch also impact a patient’s ability to listen to music, Xu adds. Music requires hundreds of channels, and current implants can’t capture music’s tonal richness. Much of Xu’s most recent research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, seeks
to overcome these obstacles. Each summer, he travels to several cochlear implant clinics in China to determine how children with the devices can perceive and reproduce tones. The first test he conducts asks children to pair pictures with sounds they hear. To study how they can produce pitches, Xu records the children speaking or singing in their native Mandarin and then analyzes the recordings’ acoustics. Xu found that many children with cochlear implants can typically get around their inability to perceive tones by using context in the conversations. However, since they do not pick up the pitch differences, they do not speak with them. Other native speakers have difficulty understanding these children. In contrast with the tonal roller coaster of Mandarin, cochlear implant patients sound monotone. Nevertheless, Xu says the quality of life of the children with implants “has changed tremendously.” Hearing impairment can be viewed as a burden to one’s family more often than it would be in the United States, he says, and few Chinese know sign language. With cochlear implants, children are no longer sequestered in schools for the deaf, he adds, and they now have a chance to go to college. At $15,000 to $20,000 an implant, however, it’s been difficult for Chinese citizens who
aren’t wealthy urbanites to afford the device. The Chinese government has started allocating public funding for low-income Chinese, and Taiwan recently donated enough support for 15,000 patients to get implants. These efforts are usually confined to China’s biggest cities, though. Xu pegs the number of potential Chinese cochlear implant users in the millions. Xu’s colleague Phillip Loizou of the University of Texas-Dallas, who also is exploring technologies to overcome tonal recognition problems, notes that Mandarin speakers don’t feel they can justify the price of an implant that still can’t relay pitch. “We are still not very sure how to get those extra channels to the brain,” Xu admits. Researchers are exploring several possible solutions: Growing more neurons in the ear that can hear a wider range of pitches, changing how the implant connects to the brain, and cleaning up the sound that implant users hear. Unlike individuals with normal hearing, implant users hear a wall of sound and must figure out how to distinguish someone’s voice from the background noise. To counteract this, researchers are looking into a combination of hardware and software changes to the exterior device that transmits the signal to the brain. One approach is to include adjustable settings, such as one for in the car or one for at a restaurant, that help cancel out the background noise, Loizou says. While Xu contemplates these technological challenges to tackle in the next phase of his research, he’s active in the international community, organizing last year’s Asia-Pacific Symposium on Cochlear Implants. China will host 2015’s symposium, which Xu thinks will do one of the most needed things for tonal language speakers with hearing impairment: raise awareness. “Education has caught up a little bit, too,” he says. “A lot of people don’t know implants can help.”
With cochlear implants, children are no longer sequestered in schools for the deaf, and they now have a chance to Li X u , associate professor, go to college. hearing, speech, and language sciences Illustration: christina ullman; portrait, Julie Elman
debunked Historian paints a global, modern view of the and origins of the
(Top left) Picking cotton on a plantation. | (Top right) A Harper's Weekly image depicts operation of a roller gin, which preceded Eli Whitney's invention. (Above) King Cotton Captured: The cotton of the Attakapas Region pouring into Brashear City, Louisiana.
ImageS: (Top left and center) Corbis; (Top right) Library of congress
story by F rank S tephenson
hen the Union armies of General William Tecumseh Sherman captured Savannah on December 22, 1865, Sherman wired President Abraham Lincoln a message: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with 150 guns and plenty of ammunition; also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
Cotton had become the “white gold” of the South, quite literally the coin of the Confederate realm and the heart of its economy. In the span of only a few decades, a vast region that had suffered hard times since the Revolutionary War turned into an economic juggernaut that had the world’s full attention.
The War for the Union 1862—A Cavalry Charge by Winslow Homer
Ultimately, Sherman seized an estimated 40,000 bales from the Georgia seaport and shipped them to New York, where they were auctioned off. The proceeds—amounting to millions of dollars— went directly into the U.S. Treasury to help pay for the war. As his armies burned, slashed, and shot their way to the sea from Atlanta, Sherman put thousands of liberated blacks to work growing cotton on confiscated plantations. Sherman’s battlefield focus on cotton was no accident, says Ohio University historian Brian Schoen. Cotton had become the ‘white gold’ of the South, quite literally the coin of the Confederate realm and the heart of its economy. In the span of only a few decades, a vast region that had suffered hard times since the Revolutionary War turned into an economic juggernaut that had the world’s full attention. In his book The Fragile Fabric of Union: Cotton, Federal Politics, and the Global Origins of the Civil War (Johns Hopkins; recipient of the 2010 Southern Historical Association's Bennett H. Wall Award), and more recently as a contributor and editor for a volume of essays, The Old South’s Modern Worlds: Slavery, Region, and Nation in the Age of Progress (Oxford Press), Schoen discusses the impact of the Southern cotton trade on the global economy, as well as how Southern planters factored global markets into their decision to secede from the Union. “The Civil War is portrayed as a clash between the past and the future—a view that’s held sway in the scholarship for a long time,” says Frank Towers, an associate professor of history at the University of Calgary who co-edited The Old South’s Modern Worlds with Schoen and Youngstown State University historian Diane Barnes. “Brian’s is one of the more important books to recast the Old South. The new wave of scholarship discusses how the South participated in modernity. In a lot of ways, it was at the forefront of it.” In the early days of the American economy, Southern planters placed their biggest bets on tobacco, rice, sugar, and hemp, crops that flourished only in the temperate region. But when a machine capable of rapidly separating seeds from cotton lint was invented in 1793, the production of cotton soared. World markets suddenly had a steady supply of a raw material that fascinated consumers— and industrialists—around the globe. British textile mills, starved for good-quality cotton, became the South’s biggest and most enthusiastic customer, eventually importing up to 80 percent of their precious raw material from Southern ports. By 1835, the Lower South—principally South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—was producing more cotton than all other countries in the world combined.
Image: Brooklyn Museum / Corbis
Harvesting Cotton: African Americans gather, pack, and ship cotton captured by the Federal army on the Sea Islands, at Port Royal, South Carolina. (ca. 1861-1865)
As a consequence, the region was soon producing the wealthiest class of people in the nation. The meteoric rise of “King Cotton” also made a lot of Northern textile mill owners, shippers, bankers, and merchants rich as well, but the prosperity came with a dark foreboding. Many anti-slavery observers in the North had long predicted—and hoped—that economic forces would eventually make slavery unprofitable and the South would have no choice but to give it up. A seemingly inexhaustible, global demand for cotton dashed those dreams. “What happened was this enormous expansion in cotton agriculture, and that reinvigorated slavery in the South,” Schoen says. “The Southern economy stayed dependent on slavery, and it became more profitable than ever.” Cotton’s critical role in the tumultuous years leading up to the Civil War has been documented exhaustively by historians. But the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of the war last year saw a revival of scholarly debate and research that offers a new broader, more international perspective on the issues. When Congress abolished the importation of slaves in 1808, domestic prices for slaves steadily rose, eventually pushing slave ownership largely beyond the reach for all but the wealthiest Americans. A relatively elite group (less than 5 percent of the region’s white population) owned the vast majority of the South’s slaves and ran plantations growing cash crops aimed for both domestic and world markets.
“By the 1830s, cotton was providing both the incentive for buying slaves and the money to buy them,” Schoen says. “It was an incredibly powerful force.” It was cotton’s importance to the world economy—and not just the issue of states’ rights, as previous accounts of the Civil War have argued—that emboldened Southern planters to aggressively push for secession and war, Schoen says. Defending slavery would be the cornerstone of the Confederacy, but slave states that weren’t heavily dependent on cotton growing (the tobacco, hemp, and wheat-growing regions, for example) hesitated to secede because they weren’t as well positioned in the global marketplace, he notes. With no chief competitors in that arena, however, the “Cotton South” perceived itself to be in a great position of power.
Flourishing in the World Market ecause Southern planters built their agricultural empire on slavery, critics of that inhumane practice—both during the antebellum era and today—often view the Old South as an anachronistic model that happened to flourish while the rest of the world embraced more modern economies. But that traditional view glosses over a complicated reality, Schoen says. The Southern planters possessed an uncanny business sense and appreciation for world markets.
“When most historians talk about the Civil War, they see it as largely a domestic event, affecting only the United States. But in fact, the eyes of the world were closely watching this conflict. We can understand why it happened and why it was important to the United States only when we fully appreciate the war’s global dimensions.” Brian Schoen
Schoen’s research turned up a trove of documents that showed how closely planters followed news of trade in Java rice, Cuban sugar, Russian hemp, and other global commodities, for example. Planters showed remarkable ingenuity in using their considerable political skills (often to fight for free trade) and in adapting their crops and their use of slaves to meet the demands of the global marketplace, he says. “As it turns out, slavery was a shockingly adaptable system, and the people of the Old South were as interested in making money as any of their Northern counterparts were. And they were very good at that,” Schoen says, stressing that this economic success came at a great human cost. Perhaps nothing marked the modern mindset of Southern aristocracy as plainly as planters’ willingness to experiment with new ideas and technologies. Southern inventors built better versions of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin and revolutionized production of rice, tobacco, and sugar with a variety of steampowered tools and other innovations. But the biggest advances came not from machines, but from biology. Southern agronomists enjoyed spectacular success in cross-breeding varieties of cotton, creating hybrids of the popular Sea Island and Petit Gulf varieties that ultimately produced the
most sought-after cotton in the world. The hybrids produced bolls (pods of cotton) that not only ripened earlier but were easier to pick, an innovation that more than quadrupled the amount slaves could pick in a day. Efficiency in the workplace wasn’t an obsession known only to Northern factory owners (who Southern planters enjoyed branding as owners of “wage slaves” bound by low pay to squalid lives). Schoen details measures by which Old South beancounters made sure that their slaves kept their shoulders to the wheel. He cites research that reveals the Southern planters’ curious fixation on accurate time-keeping—as a class, they may have owned more watches than any other class of Americans. Schoen notes that Southern planters may have been “the first agrarians to transition away from ‘natural’ time to ‘clock time’” in a relentless pursuit of maximizing profits with brutal efficiency. “If we define modern economics as something where you have wage (as opposed to slave) labor, then no, the South wasn’t modern at all,” Schoen concludes. “But in my view, modern economics is a whole host of other things. It’s commercial connections to the outside world, it’s the belief that you’re trying to optimize profits as much as possible, it’s a belief that you’re trying to tinker with new things, experiment with new tools and technologies. Southern planters did all those things.” Slavery was a monstrous cruelty, but as the fuel for the Old South’s economic engine, relying on it seemed completely rational to Southern planters, Schoen says. Unlike all other slavocracies in the world at that time, slavery in the Old South had prospered, growing both in size and importance. On the eve of the Civil War, Southern planters argued—with some limited success to consumers in the North and in Britain— the importance of slavery’s continued centrality for the world economy, Schoen notes. Planters pointed to their own continued dominance and largely failed efforts overseas to grow commercial cotton with free labor. Though the slave-based agricultural economy of the Old South is often compared to the wage-labor, industrial economy of the North, Schoen points out that Southern whites also measured themselves against developments in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Even as they lagged behind the North and Britain on some economic indicators, they looked successful when compared to other parts of the world—especially in terms of industrial development and economic wealth. Many even believed that slavery helped explain why they were wealthier than farmers and entrepreneuers in developing nations. “They had come to the shocking conclusion by 1861 that this economic-centered apology for slavery was gaining ground in Europe but not in the North, which elected an anti-slavery Republican president,” Schoen says. “That helps to explain why they (seceded) in April 1861.”
Cotton Diplomacy rom the start, Southern warmongers had convinced themselves that they held the high cards in the dispute, since they sat atop the world’s most lucrative business— the growing and selling of the world’s best cotton. They took enormous comfort in the fact that the South supplied more than three-fourths of all the cotton that fed Europe’s thousands of textile mills. In Britain, cotton-made goods represented fully half of that country’s foreign trade and
portrait: rick fatica
Bales of cotton are piled on the coast at Brownsville, Texas, during the American Civil War. In 1863 Union forces occupied the city. (ca. 1863-1865)
It was cotton’s importance to the world economy—and not just the issue of states’ rights, as previous accounts of the Civil War have argued—that emboldened Southern planters to aggressively push for secession and war.
With Eli Whitney’s introduction of “teeth” in his cotton gin to comb out the cotton and separate the seeds, cotton became a tremendously profitable business. Prior to the introduction of the mechanical cotton gin, cotton had required considerable labor to clean and separate the fibers from the seeds.
Images: (Top) Corbis; (Inset) library of congress, National photo company collection
accounted for roughly one out of every four jobs. “When most historians talk about the Civil War, they see it as largely a domestic event, affecting only the United States,” Schoen says. “But in fact, the eyes of the world were closely watching this conflict. We can understand why it happened and why it was important to the United States only when we fully appreciate the war’s global dimensions.” Southern leaders knew that Britain—which had banned slavery throughout its sprawling empire in 1833—struggled to reconcile its commercial interests with its abhorrence of slavery, the same moral dilemma that had vexed Northern interests for most of the century. The South was betting that when the chips were down, Britain would put concerns about its pocketbook— namely its pipeline to Southern cotton—over its angst about the human misery that produced it. “England genuinely feared a full-blown depression,” Schoen says. “When the war started, the British had supplies built up thanks to a huge crop in 1860. But by 1862 those supplies were gone, and the country was facing a catastrophe.” To force Britain to recognize it as a legitimate, sovereign nation, the young Confederate States of America resorted to “cotton diplomacy,” hoping that by putting the squeeze on cotton supplies Britain would align itself diplomatically and economically with the South, a move that would almost guarantee war between England and the Union. The Confederacy tried a cotton embargo, clamping down on exports to Europe, and then sending envoys to Britain and France to try to negotiate diplomatic ties from their only strong suit—millions of tons of cotton idly sitting on the docks of Southern seaports. Schoen’s research suggests that previous compromises made by the British led Southern planters to believe that England would relent. The effort ultimately led nowhere, however, thanks largely to a stifling Union naval blockade of Southern ports that soon made the embargo meaningless. With its cotton supplies choked off, Britain’s textile mills came to a grinding halt. A “cotton famine” strangled the country’s Northwest region, the epicenter of its textile industry, and in the span of a few months, upwards of 500,000 workers were jobless and hungry. Riots paralyzed towns, prompting Parliament to cobble together relief efforts. Desperate to find alternative cotton supplies, the British and French governments poured money into cotton-growing projects in India and Egypt, an effort that ultimately proved futile even though it made a lasting mark on world history.
An illustration of “The Queen of Industry, or the New South” by Thomas Nast features King Cotton, representing the Old South.
Research by other historians suggests that the Civil War helped contribute to a second wave of imperialism and heightened nationalism, Schoen says. The search for free labor alternatives to cotton production accelerated railroad construction in Asia and Africa and prompted European powers to form new partnerships. In September 1862, the Union’s victory at the Battle of Antietam persuaded British policymakers that militarily, the Southern cause remained precarious. Aligning itself with the Confederacy would mean almost certain war with the North and the subsequent loss of critically needed imports of New England wheat and corn. Painful though it was, the cotton crisis would have to be endured. Britain joined France in declaring neutrality in the conflict, and suddenly King Cotton—the South’s only trump card in a global game in which it had staked literally everything—was spent, and of no avail. As the world watched, the South agonized through another two years of death throes that brought horror and misery to millions on both sides of the conflict.
A Tragic Gamble ltimately, by the time the die was cast to go to war, the South possessed a well-oiled, highly efficient economy— albeit far too dependent on a single commodity and a perverse system to produce it. Flawed as it was, the system worked so well that it emboldened secessionists and their sympathizers. It also helps explain why the Confederacy, facing insurmountable odds early on, fought so doggedly for so long to protect the only way of life it knew. “They did everything they could to see that they maintained control over global cotton, even if that meant going to war and risking it all,” Schoen says. “From our perspective today, that might seem insane. But in their world, they thought economics would drive everything. In their view, what they did made perfect sense.” Ironically, the war that the South wanted wound up destroying everything it fought for in the first place. “Obviously, and fortunately, Southerners overplayed their hand,” Schoen says. “But they did it based on information they had at the time. In the end, it was an enormous, and tragic, misperception of reality.”
Image: Bettmann / Corbis
Jeff worley i n t e rv i e w s 2 0 11 distinguished professor
You’ve been publishing poems and books of poems for nearly a quarter of a century. Where does the initial impetus for a Mark Halliday poem come from? Often it starts with a phrase I overhear— poets are notorious for eavesdropping wherever they go—and first drafts come out sometimes on napkins or odd scraps of paper. Usually the next step is to copy this rough draft into a notebook, improve it a bit over the next few days, and then put it on the computer. Are you eager to type it up so that you can see the line breaks and the shape of the poem on the page? Oh, no. Sometimes I wait months and months before I commit it to the computer. I kind of enjoy the sensation of the poem waiting for me in a drawer, and this cooling-off period allows me to have a more objective perspective on it. Also, I figure if I haven’t put it on the computer, I don’t know for sure yet it’s bad [laughs]. The saddest thing to me about this process is the feeling that most poems get away, most of them dissolve because I don’t catch them quickly enough. Do you have a clear sense of audience for your poems, and has this changed any over the years? I want to write poems that are very readable for any smart, imaginative person. I used to say that my Aunt Dorothy was a good audience because she was an educated, literate person who didn’t follow contemporary poetry. And as a writer of what I hope are accessible poems, I’m hostile to the view that accessibility guarantees some crippling limitation.
Illustrations: Christina Ullman, ullman design; portraits, Robb Decamp
m a r k h a l l i d ay professor of English
by m a r k h a l l i d ay
As I lugged my luggage past the airport bar I angled my neck to peer between drinkers to see whether the field goal was good in whatever game it was because those people cared apparently and I wanted for a second not to be too different. * Okay but also wanted to reap the benefit for a few seconds of an image of successful performance in a ritualized activity where skill earns unerasable points and the swarming helmeted deniers can’t quite reach you.
b o o k s by m a r k h a l l i d ay Keep this Forever 2008 Jab 2002 Selfwolf 1999
There’s no doubt your poems are easy to read, but what might jar some readers is when you mix “high” and “low” diction together in a poem. For instance, in your poem “Enchanted Field” [from Keep This Forever], you use the phrase “Jamesian nuance” and a few lines later “Teletubbies peejays.” In “Special Heads,” a reference to admiring Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is followed by the line, “Da dink da da dink da da dink da da dink.” Can these very different levels of diction successfully coexist for a reader? This is one of my favorite moves, these surprising shifts in levels of diction. I like to go from sounding intellectual/academic to chatty/quotidian and slangy in the same sentence; I feel it keeps the reader alert, and signals an aversion to pretension. And you very freely just make up words when you want to. Isn’t the dictionary good enough for you? That’s a good question. I think a factor in these inventions is an impatience with the vocabulary I hear myself using over and over. Maybe there’s a kind of trap that I’ve got myself in through the emphasis on the talking voice— by emphasizing the real life authenticity of the speaking voice, I perhaps drive myself more and more toward certain phrases and words I’ve used in lots of poems. I think the impulse to make up words may be a way to try for a different texture without resorting to “elevated” poeticized discourse.
Tasker Street 1992 Little Star 1987
Well, it seems to me that in your poems you committed from the beginning to what might be termed “heightened speech,” poems that effect artful, unpremeditated speech. I think that’s true. I love the analogy between a poem and speech that you might actually hear in real life. I tend to love poems that have that spoken flavor. We need to remember there are situations in actual conversational life in which people are fabulously articulate and move from anecdote to meditation to comic speculation and then, perhaps, to a joke—the movement of thought has those different levels. I love poems that show a speaker moving through those levels of language. But what about poetry’s conventional calling cards—metaphor and image? Don’t they get left behind in this approach? You know, in general I tend to resist the idea that poetry is attained by loading up each line or phrase with rich imagery or unusual phrasing, because this diminishes the convincingness of the voice—that is, the illusion that the poem's speech comes from a real speaking person. An interesting development in American poetry in the past decade or so is the narrator who goes beyond what we might hear in even the most intelligent, creative everyday speech, a poem which you’ve characterized as “ultra-talk.” What is this exactly? Yes, I invented this term when I reviewed David Kirby’s The House of Blue Light a few years ago. The poems written in this style are spoken in a wry, exuberant, talky, accessible style. They typically include detailed anecdotes, bits of pop culture culled from past and present, explicit references to books the narrator has read, and allusions to historical and literary figures. The art comes in weaving all these strands together. In this book, Kirby says, in effect, “These seven or 11 things are swirling in my head, I feel an emotional circuit among them, and this poem is trying to light up the whole circuit.” Doesn’t this description apply equally to your own poetry in, say, the last three books? [Laughs] I suppose I wouldn’t argue with that accusation. You could say ultra-talk is an experiment in lowering the pressure. It’s a jab, in a subtle way, perhaps, at theory-clotted verse and poems that are self-consciously too “precious.”
by jeff worley
by m a r k h a l l i d ay
My father and I on the sofa talked about summer plans, would he drive from New York to Ohio? It seemed doubtful (he was eighty-six) and he said We’ll see what comes to pass. For a minute we were silent. He said, That’s an interesting idiom, isn’t it. To come to pass. “It came to pass.” There’s a feeling of both coming and going at the same time. Yeah, I said. I wondered what movie we might see. He said, It’s quite different to say “It happened” — that sounds like a stop, like a fixed point. But “It came to pass” — there’s almost a feeling of “It came in order to pass.” Yeah, I said, that’s right. He said, You get a sense of the transience of everything. Yes, I said. Cleo the black cat lay snoozing across my father’s legs. My father stroked her gently. I finished my raspberry iced tea.
Yet you give a nod to more traditional approaches and forms occasionally when, for example, you use patterned end rhyme in a poem. When I use end rhyme, it tends to be humorous. I have trouble taking myself very seriously if I’m keeping a rhyme scheme going, and sometimes rhyme can prevent a poet from saying what he feels is really true. Rhymes can boss you around, can put you in a straitjacket. If I’m on the trail of something thoughtful and serious, I want to use free verse. Why write poetry at all? One reason people write poems is the sense that there’s something interesting and important going on inside a person that isn’t visible or in any way apparent from the outside. Poets have a sense that something is missing and believe a poem might speak to what’s missing. Life is a constant mystery. To live in a prudent and practical and efficient manner is often wise, but at the same time it involves ignoring the huge clouds of mystery (emotional, psychological, moral, spiritual, cosmological) that surround us. Poems are one way to express awareness of, and shape a response to, the mystery. As Frost said, “a poem is a momentary stay against confusion.”
Joan Connor’s new stories explore the difficult dance of longing and romance Kristina may be falling for the UPS man. When he rings her doorbell, she tingles. She orders things she doesn’t need or want—extendible fan blade dusters, silver serving spoons (she never has dinner parties), and complicated underwear with clips and flying buttresses. Anything to get him to her door, this man whose brown eyes are “the flavor of bitter brickle chocolate.” ¶ This is how the lead story, “Men in Brown,” opens in Joan Connor’s new book, How to Stop Loving Someone. This collection of stories by the Ohio University professor of creative writing, her fourth book of short fiction, won the 2010 Leapfrog Fiction Contest. ¶ Early reviews have been positive. Carol Haggas, writing in Booklist, notes that “Connor’s clever wordplay and piquant characterizations guide the reader through the minefields and misery, delight and despair, rewards and recriminations of love in all its guises.” .25
b o o k s by j oa n c o n n o r How To Stop Loving Someone, 2011 The World Before Mirrors, 2006 History Lessons, 2003 We Who Live Apart, 2000 Here On Old Route 7, 1997
grew up in Vermont and Maine, and the sea and shoreline are frequent settings in these 13 stories, which are connected thematically by the ebb and flow of longing and love in its many configurations. Connor explores the mysterious nature of desire in “The Wig,” in which the narrator finds himself strangely but intensely attracted to his wife whenever she wears a black wig. In “The Fox,” a middleage couple who are “trying to fall in love” walk along the beach and spot a fox. The man needs to get closer to take a picture, while the woman is content to observe the animal’s beauty, this difference in sensibility hinting at the unlikelihood of them forming a romantic link. And a couple who meet at a hardware conference in “What It Is” spend several disappointing days together, the couple’s expectations colliding clumsily and constantly. Her thematic range is extended in several stories. “Halfbaby,” for example, puts the reader inside the mind of an unusual woman leading an unusual life in a remote island community. These stories are propelled by a lively imagination and a sense of downright fun. Take, for instance, the odd detail in “Men in Brown” of three potential paramours in a row coming equipped with a steel plate in their heads. “Imagination?” Connor laughs. “Not really—I went on three dates with men who had steel plates in their heads. I thought, ‘Is there a lot of this going around? And why me?’ I’m just too tightly wound for this.”
Connor admits that the stories in this book are more playful than in previous collections, and in this way How to Stop Loving Someone is a significant departure for her. “This one is more mainstream, less intellectual than History Lessons, which was published eight years ago, less solemn. I started writing comically maybe 10 to 15 years ago, and a comic tone is perhaps the strongest thread that pulls these stories together.” Part of the fun comes through her love of the language and its possibilities, a “heritage,” Connor says, from her Irish lineage. “I’m from a family that loves to talk and play with language, which is one reason I was attracted to James Joyce’s work. I learned a lot studying him.” Free association is a stylistic trademark in these stories, and Connor revels in the sounds words make. “From time to time, I glanced at Molly, enjoying her skin, her browning breasts and buttocks as one enjoys a piece of fruit ripening on the windowsill, a plum purpling to the perfect moment when, neither soft nor firm, it pops, punctured by patient teeth.” [from “The Wig”] “I slipped into his eyes like a strawberry dipped in fondue chocolate.” [from “Men in Brown”] Do the alliteration and metaphor here expose the soul and sensibility of a poet? “I suppose there are poetic touches in these stories,” Connor says. “I started out as a poet, and truthfully just wasn’t much good at it. But I loved working the language this way, so I started applying some of the things I learned in writing poetry to my fiction.”
e xc e r p t f ro m
it happens to
by j o a n c o n n o r
Here’s another thing nobody tells you; cowboys can smell women. Austry Ann is in front of me, (her name is Australia, Australia Ann. I don’t know what her parents were thinking; I guess that they were feeling colonial). She is entering the smoky beery darkness of the Continental Club on Soco, and, without even turning around, the cowboy in the lizard print hat has a bead on her. It’s in the tightening of his shoulders, the twist to his hips. He is on her like chocolate on coconut, like cupids on valentines, like salsa on a fajita. He turns his head then, cool and slow. Then he gasps, he really does, as if he’s just been sucker-punched in the gut by some Friday night roustabout. And who can blame him? Hell, even I know that Austry Ann makes seeing men blind, and talking men dumb. She’s got a shelf that you can display calacas on. Hips that were invented to be riveted to Levi’s. Tonight she’s wearing a plum top so tight that it could be inside her and it comes to a little triangle hem in front so that you can catch a glimpse of her skin either side. She’s bopping to the pumping fusion already that some local girl is blasting out of her axe. Austry Ann’s hair is flipping around,
her long tangled, shockwaves of red hair, and the cowboy is asking her to dance. It isn’t always easy being her friend. The cowboy is two-stepping her onto the sweaty dance floor. It’s crowded. Don’t get me wrong. I love Austry Ann. How not to? But around Austry Ann you get used to being a gaping ape of a sidekick. You learn how to smile like you enjoy standing alone, enjoy getting pushed around in a jammed bar, enjoy watching your beautiful girlfriend dance. It takes practice. Patience too. Especially tonight because I am in stiletto heels. They are not dancing shoes. Hell, they are not even walking shoes. They are I-got-glam-legs-but-am-too-stupid-to-walk shoes. Austry Ann has the beauty and the dazzle. But I got height. It gives me a vantage point. And here’s the point. It’s late. It’s around 1:30 when the cowboy starts pitching into the drum set. Jimmy Buffet can sing until every tourist mourns his Mexican cutie through the punt of a Jose Cuervo bottle; I am here to tell you that Margaritaville is Austin, Texas. This time the cowboy doesn’t extract himself from the cymbals, so Austry Ann tells me that we are calling it a night. It was a night four hours ago. It was a night all night long, but I keep that to myself. As she leaves the Continental Club, Austry Ann is breaking hearts. One soused cowboy grabs me by the arm and says, “Hey, ladies, it ain’t even closing time.” “We’re just drunks going home,” I say. And we are. I don’t have a job yet, so in the morning we decide to play. Austry Ann works nights at a gallery, Blue Cactus. They import retablos and Katrinas from desperate Mexicans, jack up the prices, and
Following a Passion for the Written Word hen did Connor know she wanted to be a writer? “As soon as I could hold a crayon,” she says. “I wrote, illustrated, and bound my own books and passed them out to neighbors on holidays. I wrote poems for my family. Writing became a fixation very early for me.” Later, Connor followed this passion in college, where she earned degrees in English and creative writing from Mount Holyoke College, Middlebury College, and Vermont College. Well-established poets and fiction writers such as Sydney Lea, Frederick Busch, Philip Roth, and Francois Camoin provided encouragement along the way, she says, adding that Ohio University colleague Darrell Spencer was a “wonderful mentor.” Connor’s ideas for stories can come from anywhere, she says. Some snatch of conversation she’s overheard, something striking she’s read, or an item in the syndicated column “News of the Weird.” She says that perhaps the most important habit a writer can develop is to be open and alert to language and to the potential for a good story. Connor does much of her writing when Ohio University is not in session and says that a particularly valuable haven has been the converted barn where she writes at her parents’ house in Vermont. “It’s the best art colony ever. I work at a desk in front of a window where a hummingbird comes calling. The window looks toward my father’s study window, which has inspired me,” she says, adding that
sell them to the turquoise-studded tourists. I moved in with Austry Ann two weeks ago, but I am not sure that it’s going to work. For one thing, Austry Ann has a temper. I mean temper. When she goes off, it is so sublime that you might believe that she is holy. She’s a saint of temper, the Mother Teresa of temper. And she does go off. And you never know when. When there’s no milk for the coffee or the lizard-figured shower curtain isn’t pulled all the way across. Once in New York City I saw a burned car. The dashboard was puffed up into something that looked like burned marshmallows. That’s how Austry Ann’s heat makes me feel. Toasted. Charred. It makes me quiet. Then she will do something so beautiful or so funny that you know it’s safe to venture out again. Last week when I told her that I liked her ankle bracelet, she just popped it off and popped it on me. And when we were out last Thursday she sauntered up to some stranger on the street with nostalgic hair. Nineteen-forties sausages of hair, lacquered into place with gravity defying techno-hairspray. Austry Ann said, “I just love your retro look.” The woman stared and spluttered. She’d been keeping that coif in her closet and trotting it out every day since Roosevelt went on the radio. We laughed until there was nothing funny left in the universe. Not to be mean. It was just an accident. “Austry Ann,” I said, “you are more fun than things that are not fun.” Okay, and for another thing … I mean besides the temper. But that’s enough right there: the temper. Maybe this living arrangement won’t work.
her father is a scholar in the field of ethnonationalism. “I think of Vermont as home—the beautiful mountains, the quiet. I have written most of my work there.” Connor tends to work in big blocks of time, setting herself a lower limit of four pages a day when she’s working on short fiction. When she’s in this “compulsive mode,” as she puts it, she can write up to 30 pages in one sitting. Although she has also written several novels, she has tucked them away in a closet, preferring the genre of short fiction. “I choose to be a story writer instead of a novelist because I’m basically an impatient person,” Connor says. “I like stories because they are little worlds you can go into and get out of quickly.” When Ohio University is in session, Connor has much less time for her own writing. She teaches writing courses in fiction and composition, and literature courses that range from Evil in Literature to The Erotics of Literature. “I especially love working with grad students,” Connor says. “They are often dealing with the same challenges in writing and in understanding literature that I am. I learn from them.” But back to How to Stop Loving Someone. Which story is her favorite? “Oh dear. They are all my favorites and for very disparate reasons,” she says. “‘Men in Brown’ was the most fun to write. I laughed out loud as I wrote it. But ‘Halfbaby’ also touched me—it arrived like a haunting and wouldn’t let me go.”
Earth story by andrea gibson
Artist John Sabraw makes a case for sustainable art in a new series of paintings that celebrate the natural world
Kar s t: opal
Detail of Chroma painting Mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 12x12 inches
“It became clear to me that sustainability was the
most egalitarian avenue for broadly effective
improvement for all of us.” J oh n sa b r aw
you want to get into John Sabraw’s brain to understand the origins of Chroma, his new series of paintings inspired by the environment, the artist provides one piece that offers 625 visual clues.
On corkboard harvested from Portugal, Sabraw carefully has created a vast grid of small, vibrant images. Mounted on the wall in the center of Chroma, this piece, Unified Theory, makes some startling connections. Bacteria bubbling in pools at Yellowstone National Park bear a striking resemblance to clouds of interstellar dust and gas in deep space. Other photos, often shot by Sabraw himself, point out similar synergies between natural phenomena and manmade structures in the landscape around him. When visitors to Chroma laid eyes on Unified Theory at the show’s opening in Chicago, “they would make a beeline over to me. They get it. They get it instantly,” says Sabraw, an associate professor of art at Ohio University. “Everyone has their own system of making sense of these things.” Sabraw’s method of making sense of the glory and beauty of the natural patterns of our world is reflected in Chroma, a collection of bold circles of life saturated in kaleidoscopic colors. The titles of the works suggest the inspiration for each piece. Tidal Pool is a rich sphere of blues and greens, and the pieces called Karst echo the rugged lines of limestone and minerals found underground. Each piece features from six to 24 layers of paint slowly applied over the course of several weeks in the studio, and each layer invites the viewer to infer another shade of meaning from the images: Is the circle a slice of earthen jasper, a flaring gamma ray in the night sky, a swatch of algae, a single cell of energy pulsing in the body? We exist somewhere between the micro and the macro images here, Sabraw says, noting that Chroma aspires to capture our dynamic involvement with a complex natural system. “It’s a beautiful, wonderful blessing; it brings endless joy to know that you are a component of this grand mystery,” he says. If Sabraw could sum up his concept in one word, though, it probably would be “sustainability.” The artist knows it’s a loaded word. “Sustainability has become this kind of negative obligation,” he admits. “There’s a perception, particularly here in the United States, that this is foisted upon you and you have to do something about it, but it’s like paying taxes. There’s a benefit somewhere, but we don’t see it, and we suspect that some people are getting off scott-free.”
Images courtesy of John sabraw
t h e a rt i s t at wo r k To create the pieces in the ongoing Chroma series, Sabraw uses different paint viscosities and types of pigments, and allows these layers to naturally interact with the temperature, humidity, and other elements of his home studio (where he chooses not to use air conditioning for environmental reasons).
Syn cl i n e : T u m e r ic
Chroma painting Mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 12x12 inches
abraw, however, is passionate about creating sustainable artwork. Instead of painting on canvas, for example, he uses two thin sheets of aluminum composite panel sandwiched around a plastic core. The material is primarily used in commercial signage and is very durable and flexible. It’s a “conservationist’s dream,” Sabraw notes in his artist’s statement, as it’s made to withstand exterior conditions and won’t corrode or crack. The frames are bamboo that’s been organically grown, sustainably harvested, and formaldehyde free, with layers of water-based clear coat. These lightweight pieces help save on shipping fuel costs. Sabraw uses water-based paints, dry pigments, and other dry media. In the fall, he and Guy Riefler, an associate professor of civil engineering, successfully produced small quantities of an artist-grade acrylic and oil paint from a novel source: the iron runoff from the region’s old coal mines. Rain washes the heavy metals out of the mines, and the discharge collects in streams. Environmental scientists have worked for years to clean up these waterways, which are too acidic for wildlife to thrive. “The dream of a useful paint made from mine runoff remediation, whose sales can offset the cost of remediation, is one step closer to realization,” the artist says. To create the pieces in the ongoing Chroma series, Sabraw uses different paint viscosities and types of pigments, and allows these layers to naturally interact with the temperature, humidity, and other elements of his home studio (where he chooses not to use air conditioning for environmental reasons). Sabraw may layer various coats of paints over the course of several days or even months, watching to see how the colors and materials respond, before he decides the painting is complete. “You have to give yourself over to being in the process itself,” he says. “If you have an ideal image in mind, you’re going to be frustrated.” On his companion website, the Green World Art Project, Sabraw explains how he not only uses sustainable materials, but also lives green by relying on only natural or CFL lights, turning off electronics that aren’t in use, installing water-efficiency devices, walking instead of driving,
images: Courtesy of John sabraw; portrait, robb Decamp
recycling items for the studio, and using a programmable thermostat. Whatever Sabraw can’t make sustainable, he makes carbon neutral. That’s a concept by which an individual can purchase “carbon credits” to offset the environmental damage caused by activities that produce carbon dioxide, such as using electricity or traveling by car or air. The credits fund projects such as planting trees or clean energy initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As part of the Green World Art Project, Sabraw studied the methods used by Leonardo da Vinci, such as the types of materials and pigments in his paint and the mining efforts and horse-drawn vehicles that obtained them, to create the Mona Lisa. He determined that he needed to purchase $35.50 in carbon credits to offset the estimated 3.55 metric tons of carbon dioxide generated in the production of this famous work. Other artists aren’t always so amused by these meditations on green art, Sabraw admits.
> > u n i f i e d t h e o ry This piece, which Sabraw displays with Chroma, contains 625 images that the artist says inspired the Chroma series.
K a rst: Tour m al i n e
Detail of Chroma painting Mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 12x12 inches
Sabraw â€™s method of making sense of the glory and beauty of the
natural patterns of our world is reflected in Chroma, a collection of bold circles of life saturated in kaleidoscopic colors.
tidal pool 1
Detail of Chroma painting Mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 36x36 inches images: Courtesy of John sabraw
“I have gotten some heated responses from those who think I am judging them,” he says, “but I am not passing judgment.” He’s only trying to raise awareness, he argues, that artists can do more to make sustainable art, and that there should be more dialogue in our culture about the issue. It’s an argument that goes over better with the Ohio University students Sabraw teaches in art courses often focused on sustainability, science, and the environment. In 2009, Sabraw’s students built a “sustainability sprout” in a conspicuous spot in the student union, where the university community was invited to write a pledge to the environment on paper leaves they could attach to the 6-foot metal plant sculpture. While older generations may scoff at the difficulty of making positive impacts on the environment, students ask “What can we do today?” Sabraw notes. “If experts can’t answer that question, the students feel let down.” Lauren Purje, a New York City artist and 2009 School of Art alumna, says that Sabraw’s classes raised her awareness of sustainability issues. She acknowledges
“You have to give yourself over to being in the process itself.
If you have an ideal image in mind, you’re going to be frustrated.”
Interested in collaborating with Sabraw on future work? The artist invites inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
J oh n sa b r aw
that environmental themes have crept into her recent work: a series on natural disasters that allude to pollution, as well as a painting that ponders recent mass deaths of animals in nature. Purje also admires Sabraw’s commitment to carbon-neutral art, including his quest to avoid creating waste in the studio. “I’m more mindful of this now,” she says. “I don’t know if I’m to the extreme that he is, but I’m trying to get there.” Sabraw not only celebrates science and the environment in his art, but works in a scientific manner as well, Purje adds. “He sets up his paintings like an experiment—he’s not sure what will happen,” she says. “He taught me that you shouldn’t be afraid to fail.” The connection is no coincidence, as Sabraw’s art stems from a longtime love of science and nature. He created his early work at Ohio University from the “perspective of a romantic activist: finding beauty in the Earth and environs, but doing anything I could to change things for the better,” he recalls. A collaboration with university
astrophysicists Tom Statler and Mangala Sharma on two projects, Scale and Planet Panorama, both designed give the general public an appreciation of the size of the universe, opened his eyes to how much humans are interconnected to each other, as well as to the environment. “This instilled a more focused sense of responsibility for our fragile existence,” he says. “It became clear to me that sustainability was the most egalitarian avenue for broadly effective improvement for all of us.” His research for Scale introduced him to other related areas of scientific study “that collectively led to my thought process that gave birth to Chroma and in some measure restored my romantic ideals as well,” he says. Chroma’s allusions to the natural phenomena on Earth now have sparked discussions with scholars in the life sciences, including plant biologists who study algae, as well as astronomers at planetariums. Sabraw thrives on making these connections between art, science, engineering, activism, and the environment. It’s his Unified Theory come to life.
A l lu v i u m : E 5
Chroma painting Mixed media on aluminum composite panel, 24x24 inches
A better picture from your Blu-ray or DVD player. More accurate sensors that can detect hazardous chemicals and materials. A wider range of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). More memory for your computer–in less space. Tiny “labs on a chip” that can test out dozens of new drug candidates simultaneously. In the quest to build the fastest, most efficient, and highest quality technologies for the future, scientists and engineers have been looking for solutions in an entirely new place: the tiny world of atoms and molecules. For decades now, researchers have been exploring the very different laws of physics and behaviors that exist on this extremely small scale and are finding new opportunities to build and power the next generation of devices. “Future technology will depend heavily on our understanding of nanoscale structures and properties,” says Ohio University physicist Arthur Smith. “It will impact all areas of human existence, including medicine and health, electronics and advanced technologies, and mechanical materials that have high hardness and strength.” In 2001, Ohio University capitalized on its longtime materials science and engineering research to launch the Nanoscale and Quantum Phenomena Institute (NQPI). More than two dozen faculty members from fields ranging from physics and chemistry to math and chemical engineering now work together on problems that have implications for fields ranging from computer science, telecommunications, and medicine to environmental remediation and energy. Over the last five years, they’ve pulled in almost $20 million in funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy. “Because we believe nanoscience and nanomedicine will have such a pervasive influence on humanity’s future, we can’t afford not to do this,” says Smith, NQPI director. Some of the technologies are under development by Ohio University researchers with an eye toward commercialization for the marketplace. Many others are still being explored in the lab, where scientists and engineers are discovering and building intriguing devices at the small scale.
photo: lyntha scott eiler / library of congress
energy-efficient data storage flash drive with
1,000 x more power Imagine a flash drive 1,000 times faster than today’s models, or downloading megabyte pictures through your iPhone in the blink of an eye. Scientists have been looking to phase-change memory materials for the next generation of memory devices, but have struggled to overcome a major fault: The devices consume a lot of power as their capacity increases. Physicist Gang Chen is developing a novel solution to the problem. He’s fabricated semiconductor wires and encased them in a silica matrix similar to the material used in fiber optics. When these tiny wires are confined in a small space, they show promise for operating as faster, smaller, less energy-intensive data storage than other technologies under study.
Why are these materials so
It’s partly because they exist in two solid states: ordered and disordered (much in the way that binary code comes in zeroes and ones, the scientist explains) that switch back and forth in a matter of only nanoseconds, says Chen, whose work is funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Energy.
t ’s ne ha
0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 01001010101010101010101
with the research
Now Chen and collaborators are testing out specific types of these materials to determine which ones have the best performance. They’re intrigued by highly porous materials that have been shown to enhance the transition between the two solid states. In the future, the technology could replace conventional information storage devices such as DVD and Blu-ray discs, as well as flash drives.
Bu i l d i n g f ro m t h e na n o s ca l e u p Call it the world’s tiniest construction project. Saw-Wai Hla is building superconductors, switches, and motors with atoms and molecules. Using a technique called scanning tunneling microscopy, the scientist has found that he can manipulate atoms on a surface at very cold temperatures. To demonstrate this technique, Hla created and captured images of a “smiley face” and the letters “OU” for Ohio University made entirely out of individual atoms.
Nanomedicine lab on a chip Engineer Savas Kaya is growing gold nanowires that he says can be developed into minuscule optical and chemical sensors, as well as novel electronic and medical devices. Kaya has created an aluminum scaffolding that he calls a “nanocomb” with tiny pores. By applying electrochemistry techniques, the engineer has successfully prompted gold and silver to sprout through the pores into long strands. Kaya envisions attaching these nanowires to biological membranes to create addressable sensors in microfluidic devices. These “lab-on-a-chip” systems hold promise for drug development, as hundreds of interactions can be tested at once. In addition to growing materials, the engineer also is using electron-beam lithography to fabricate new devices at the nanoscale. In a recent experiment, Kaya drew geometric shapes on a thin layer of gold with electron beams, a process that is easier and less expensive than other strategies to build molecular devices from the ground up, he says.
made from a chlorophyll molecule
There are potentially big applications for this small work. Hla’s biological switch, made from a chlorophyll molecule extracted from spinach, could be used for nanoscale logic circuits or mechanical switches for future medical, computer technology, or green energy applications. His discovery of the world’s smallest superconductor, a sheet of four pairs of molecules less than one nanometer wide, provides the first evidence that nanoscale molecular superconducting wires can be fabricated, which could be used for nanoscale electronic devices and energy technologies.
Hla and colleagues are designing molecular machines with nanoscale rotors.
harnessing the spin of electrons Conventional electronics are based on the charge of the electron, but nanoscientists say that learning to harness another property of the electron—its spin—can allow researchers to develop smaller, faster, more powerful devices in the future. Theoretical physicist Sergio Ulloa and colleagues explore electron behavior, including its spin, in different materials, from semiconductors and carbon nanotubes to quantum dots, the “artificial atoms” of the nanoscale.
Although scientists have controlled spin with magnets, Ulloa has succeeded in using electrical fields to switch spin on and off, a method that’s easier and more portable, he says. This spring, doctoral student Ginetom Diniz and Ulloa found that electrical fields generated by strands of DNA could alter the spin of carbon nanotubes, a nanoscale structure made by folding graphene. Another benefit, Ulloa notes, is that scientists may be able to use spin to transfer information with less heat, an attractive feature for new technologies.
Building artificial DNA Gold to
How do you construct a strand of artificial DNA? Theoretical physicist Sasha Govorov, doctoral student Z. Fan, and colleagues used gold nanoparticles—not molecules—as building blocks to construct an artificial helix that resembles a protein. They’re especially excited about the fact that their structure has chirality, a property important for fostering strong molecular interactions. Chiral objects can’t be superimposed on top of each other—two human hands are a common example. But chiral objects can tightly link, as two right hands do when people shake in greeting. It’s been challenging for scientists to recreate this phenomenon in manmade nanostructures, which so far are less sophisticated than their biological counterparts, explains Govorov, whose study was published in the journal Nature and funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and the National Science Foundation. What does the research
But the quest continues, as chiral structures can become the basis for more sophisticated optical materials and might be more sensitive detectors for biomolecules, a key factor in the search for new drugs. Such nanostructures also could be used as building blocks in computers, integrated transistors, and, one day, efficient solar energy conversion.
For more examples of Ohio University nanotechnology research, visit
w w w. o u n q p i . o r g
Improving red light-emitting devices
Gallium nitride is a semiconductor used for bright blue light-emitting optical devices. By adding manganese to the surface of this material, Arthur Smith and colleagues have found interesting properties that might make it a good candidate for the development of a “nanospintronic” device, which would operate on the basis of the property of electron spin instead of just electron charge. Such a nanospintronic material should, in principle, lead to much more energy-efficient devices compared to conventional devices, he says. To study this new material, Smith uses a special tool called a spin-polarized scanning tunneling microscope, which has the ability to extract both spin and electronic information at the atomic scale from the materials under study.
es i t do
The answer could lie with rare earth ions such as Europium, which has been shown to emit a pure red light, he says. These materials can contain dopants that boast strong magnetic properties attractive for spintronics. Jadwisienczak is exploring how to harness specific nanoscale properties, such as spin, of these materials, for possible use in spin-polarized optoelectronic technologies.
Developing nanospintronic materials
Scientists have developed a new class of semiconductors that can emit the red, green, and blue lights for the fully integrated color displays needed for technologies such as high-definition television screens and Blu-ray applications. But engineer Wojciech Jadwisienczak and others continue to search for better sources for the red light-emitting material that can be more effectively integrated with their blue and green III-nitride semiconductor counterparts, which will improve the performance and energy efficiency of these electronics.
The combination of manganese/gallium nitride might be an attractive new nanospintronic material, he says, because devices made from it may be able to work at room temperature, whereas many conventional materials have to be cooled to low temperatures to operate.
manipulating data at the quantum scale p romise for b i o medical treatments Cucurbit[n]urils are curious molecules that are creating a lot of buzz in the nanoscience field. Named for the plant order that includes gourds and squashes, cucurbit[n]urils are shaped like a pumpkin. These molecules’ strong “skin,” hollow interior, and nontoxic properties make them good candidates for drug delivery, energy applications, and use as nanovessels in which scientists can perform minuscule lab experiments, says organic chemist Eric Masson. There’s been an explosion of research on cucurbit[n]urils over the past decade, including Masson’s own studies that have shown the molecule’s ability to work as a nanoscale light switch, mimicking an electronic circuit. His team also has found that cucurbit[n]urils could aid in the manufacture of silver nanoparticles, which hold promise for their ability to speed wound healing of damaged skin tissue. Masson’s experiments show that cucurbit[n]urils keep the nanoparticles from aggregating, a common problem that would prevent their use as biomedical treatments. A full year after the experiment started, the pumpkin-shaped molecules have continued to keep the nanoparticles stable in aqueous solution, he reports.
Using the strange properties of quantum mechanics may revolutionize the way computers operate. Unlike a classical computer, where information exists in a definite state, a quantum computer could exist in multiple states at once. For example, with four quantum bits of information one could simultaneously hold all 16 possible combinations of those bits, explains physicist Eric Stinaff. A major building block in the nanoscale world, which may form the basis of a future quantum computer, is the quantum dot, which behaves like an artificial atom. When these dots absorb light, the charges inside form an exciton. Using a pulsed laser system, Stinaff uses electric fields to prompt the excitons to emit photons very quickly—in a matter of nano or picoseconds. The scientist has successfully lengthened the lifetime of these particles, an important step in using them consistently to manipulate data at the quantum scale.
Fabricating nanosensors for chemical detection Sensors used to detect the presence of chemicals, in applications ranging from environmental restoration to homeland security checks, are largely based on infrared light. But there are many materials that can’t be detected this way, says Ohio University engineer Ralph Whaley. Whaley is exploring the optical properties of amorphous materials, which typically have been used for electronics, LCD displays, and solar cells. These materials have a wider range of interaction with chemicals and could have potential for creating photonic devices based on visible or ultraviolet rays. Such devices could detect anything from anthrax to ammonia to TCE, a solvent used abundantly in cleaning equipment in the manufacturing industry.
tracking nitric oxide
with the research
With funding from the National Science Foundation, Whaley is working with colleagues to fabricate nanosensors made of amorphous zinc oxide films to determine if an integrated device can be manufactured for chemical sensing. The team will use ammonia to test the feasibility of the device, which could be used for either handheld or laboratory applications for homeland security, the energy industry, and environmental cleanup.
Graphene, a single sheet of carbon atoms that forms graphite (think pencil “lead”) in its layered form, is a hot material in nanoscience. Researchers covet its strength, stiffness, thinness, and conductivity. Depending on how these graphene sheets are terminated, the combination of two of the material’s electron properties—charge velocity and spin orientation—can produce remarkable results. In particular, graphene can acquire a chiral structure, which can increase its ability to conduct electricity. By analyzing different models, theoretical physicist Nancy Sandler is examining the effects of graphene terminations to determine the most optimal, reliable structure for conductivity at room temperature. The material has some limitations at the nanoscale. In a previous study, she found that thin graphene ribbons—proposed as a possible “nanowire”—were poor conductors of electricity due to the repulsion between equal charges that is enhanced in a confined environment.
developing optimal conductivity
Sandler is exploring properties that allow the material to exist in a topological insulator phase. Topological insulators, materials that conduct electricity only at certain points on their surfaces and/or edges, may be important for future spintronic devices. If scientists can control the chirality and spin of the material by choosing appropriate terminations and substrates, she says, graphene could be used reliably in better, faster encryption devices and computers.
nanoparticles’ impact on human health Distinguished Professor Tadeusz Malinski has developed nanosensors that can probe the smallest cell to detect biological activity. One of his primary focuses is tracking nitric oxide, a substance that supports healthy cardiovascular function by relaxing blood vessels and maintaining good blood flow. Nitric oxide dysfunction can cause major health problems, from cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and arteriosclerosis to strokes and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to studies aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, Malinski and colleagues also are using the nanosensors to take a critical look at the impact of some nanoparticles on human health. Two recent studies suggested that nanoparticles of amorphous silica— commonly used in industry and produced by activities such as the operation of coal-fired power plants—are small enough to pass through the lungs and skin and enter the blood vessels. The particles prompted the release of a high level of beneficial nitric oxide, but also triggered high levels of toxic nitroxidative stress, which, in turn, caused inflammation and cell death in the human tissue under study, Malinski reports. what’s the
long-term Impact? The research also found that the high levels of nitroxidative stress produced in response to the presence of nanoparticles caused blood platelets to aggregate, which can form blood clots that can lead to strokes. These studies are the first to provide an early warning to those in the medical community considering nanoparticles as a drug delivery vehicle or as a medium for imaging and early diagnosis in nanomedicine. Researchers should weigh the possible serious adverse health impacts, including strokes and cancer, of these nanoparticles on the human body, Malinksi says.
:: e n g i n e e r i n g | by Ad am Liebendorfer
“This is a great opportunity for talented students to meet high ranking people in the navigation industry and potential future employers.”
A robotic snowplow teaches engineering students navigation skills
group of Ohio University student engineers have an answer to one of winter’s most vexing chores.
A robot they designed will plow snow by itself. It will go
wo u t e r pe lgru m faculty adviser
around obstacles. It will even do all of this without so much as a promise of hot chocolate afterward. But Ohio University’s Monocular Autonomously Controlled Snowplow, affectionately known as M.A.C.S., is no progenitor for a family of self-run snowplows—yet. The Ohio University team built M.A.C.S. to compete in the second annual national autonomous snowplow competition held by the Institute of Navigation in St. Paul, Minnesota, in January. It’s an event designed to give engineering students a real-world test bed for aviation navigation technologies. The team, which included undergraduates Sam Craig and Ryan Kollar and doctoral students Pengfei Duan and Kuangmin Li, had a leg up on their competitors. The university’s Avionics Engineering Center is one of the only programs in the country of its kind, focusing on in-flight electronics and navigation solutions. To prep for the big event, team members spent countless hours testing M.A.C.S. on the courses it would see during the competition. First they had to assemble the
course, which proved to be difficult with Athens’ marginal winter this year. When they could muster enough of the white stuff with help of the Bird Ice Arena, M.A.C.S. would sometimes spin out or get mired in the snow. Kollar says the team considered different navigation techniques for getting M.A.C.S. from point A to point B. They eventually decided against using a GPS system as it would be prone to poor satellite reception in the city environment. Instead, the team chose a navigation system that bounces laser pulses of beacons. On startup, M.A.C.S. scans its surroundings with the laser to create a map, which it then uses during the competition to find its way around the snowfield. For the first course, the “straight I,” M.A.C.S. plowed a 10-meter-long line, turned around, and plowed the remaining snow on the way back. On the second course, a 25-meterlong U-shaped path, the robot took two left turns and a 180-degree turn, followed by the same course
The countless hours the team members (shown above) spent testing M.A.C.S. paid off. In January, Ohio University’s team won the national competition for the second year in a row.
photos: courtesy of russ college of engineering and technology
back. The courses become more complicated every year to keep engineers on their toes. Despite the extra programming needed for a laser-based, beaconaided system and the fancy jargon, Craig says the beacons themselves were rudimentary. “We call them beacons to make them sound more complex, but they’re really just PVC pipes,” she says. All the testing paid off. In January, Ohio University’s team won the national competition for the second year in a row.
The contest is more than a way to show off robots, says faculty adviser Wouter Pelgrum. The event allows students to meet professionals in navigation engineering, which may lead to jobs, postgraduate studies, or simply a better understanding of navigation. “So for the students this is not just plowing some snow,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for talented students to meet high ranking people in the navigation industry and potential future employers.”
:: E x e rci s e ph y s i o lo g y | by Adam Liebendor fer
Ryan Lubbe (at right) continues to examine what the body uses for energy after an exercise session.
Eating the right carbohydrates may boost the benefits of exercise
What you eat after a workout could help your body keep burning fat, a new Ohio University study finds. Junior exercise physiology major Ryan Lubbe examined the impact of eating either high- or low-glycemic index foods after exercising. Dietitians developed the index to gauge how carbohydrates affect blood sugar levels in the body. Carbs with higher glycemic indexes, such as pretzels, break down faster and release sugar into the bloodstream more quickly than lower glycemic index foods, such as dairy products, fruit, and whole grains, which give the body energy gradually over a longer period of time. In the study, 10 college-age men participated in three trials: They burned 300 calories on a treadmill and then ate three different simulated “meals.” In one trial, Lubbe fed the exercisers sugar water to represent a meal with a high-glycemic index. In another, he fed them low-glycemic carbohydrates, and in the third, the subjects drank only water. He then tested participants periodically over the next two hours to determine the ratio of carbon dioxide exhaled to oxygen consumed, an indicator for what the body uses as a source of fuel. When more oxygen is consumed than carbon dioxide is exhaled, he explains, more fat is being burned for energy.
When participants consumed the high-glycemic sugar water after a workout, their bodies quickly began using the carbohydrates instead of relying on the body’s fat stores. But the other two meals–the low-glycemic index carbohydrate and the water–both allowed participants to keep burning more fat. “We’re promoting exercise, but it’s tough to get out and run and whatnot,” Lubbe says. “The choices that you make diet-wise can either negatively or positively affect the benefits of exercise.” The research was funded by the Provost’s Undergraduate Research Fund and advised by Michael Kushnick, associate professor of exercise physiology. Lubbe presented the findings from the exhalation tests at the 2011 Ohio University Student Research and Creativity Expo. The future medical student now is analyzing the 120 blood samples he and other researchers collected during the trials, examining glucose, fatty acids, and insulin to more precisely determine which sources the participants’ bodies tapped for energy. Those results will be part of a future journal article and were the subject of his presentation to the Midwest American College of Sports Medicine’s 2011 conference, where Lubbe won an outstanding presentation award. His trip to the conference was supported by the Ohio University Undergraduate Conference Travel Fund. photo: Robb Decamp
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:: ele ctri cal en gineerin g | David Edwards
Thatâ€™s no model airplane in the hands of David Edwards, an undergraduate electrical engineering student performing research at Ohio Universityâ€™s Avionics Engineering Center. The Galah is a small-scale Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). This type of craft is piloted either autonomously or by remote control and is known for its use in military reconnaissance. It also has many potential civilian applications such as crop monitoring and search and rescue. University researchers use the Galah to examine technologies that could enhance
autonomous flight in various UAV applications. Professor Michael Braasch studies the viability of using commercial, off-the-shelf autopilot units in UAVs to help the Federal Aviation Administration determine how UAVs could be employed and regulated in more populated regions of the national airspace system. Professor Jim Zhu and research engineer Tony Adami are using the Galah to test a novel autonomous flight control algorithm they invented and are patenting for UAV, general aviation, and commercial aircraft.
Published on Nov 28, 2012