Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Herbst and Greenwood in The Conversation: The Tell-Tale Clue to How Meteorites Were Made

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy Bill Herbst and Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James Greenwood write about the model they’ve proposed for how the most common kind of meteorites form—a mystery that has dogged scientists for decades.

The tell-tale clue to how meteorites were made, at the birth of the solar system

April 26, 1803 was an unusual day in the small town of L’Aigle in Normandy, France – it rained rocks.

Over 3,000 of them fell out of the sky. Fortunately, no one was injured. The French Academy of Sciences investigated and proclaimed, based on many eyewitness stories and the unusual look of the rocks, that they had come from space.

The Earth is pummeled with rocks incessantly as it orbits the Sun, adding around 50 tons to our planet’s mass every day. Meteorites, as these rocks are called, are easy to find in deserts and on the ice plains of Antarctica, where they stick out like a sore thumb. They can even land in backyards, treasures hidden among ordinary terrestrial rocks. Amateurs and professionals collect meteorites, and the more interesting ones make it to museums and laboratories around the world for display and study. They are also bought and sold on eBay.

Despite decades of intense study by thousands of scientists, there is no general consensus on how most meteorites formed. As an astronomer and a geologist, we have recently developed a new theory of what happened during the formation of the solar system to create these valuable relics of our past. Since planets form out of collisions of these first rocks, this is an important part of the history of the Earth.

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. W. Herbst, CC BY-SA

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. (Photo by Bill Herbst, CC BY-SA)

The mysterious chondrules

Hatch Authors New Book on “The Secret Drugging of Captive America”

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor of Science in Society Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of a new book, Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America, published on April 30 by University of Minnesota Press.

The book is a critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems.

According to the publisher:

“For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

Yohe in The Conversation: The Economic Cost of Devastating Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Gary Yohe

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe writes about the economic costs of climate change, which he argues will hit our economy much sooner than many people realize.

The economic cost of devastating hurricanes and other extreme weather events is even worse than we thought

June marks the official start of hurricane season. If recent history is any guide, it will prove to be another destructive year thanks to the worsening impact of climate change.

But beyond more intense hurricanes and explosive wildfires, the warming climate has been blamed for causing a sharp uptick in all types of extreme weather events across the country, such as severe flooding across the U.S. this spring and extensive drought in the Southwest in recent years.

Late last year, the media blared that these and other consequences of climate change could cut U.S. GDP by 10% by the end of the century – “more than double the losses of the Great Depression,” as The New York Times intoned. That figure was drawn from a single figure in the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. (Disclosure: I reviewed that report and was the vice chair on the third one, released in 2014.)

John Frank ’78, P’12 Named Chair-Elect of the Board of Trustees

John Frank '78, P '12

John Frank ’78, P ’12

At its May 24 meeting on campus, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees elected John B. Frank ’78, P’12 as Chair of the Board for a two-year term beginning July 1, 2020.

Frank, who currently serves as chair of the Board’s Investment Committee, will succeed Donna Morea ’76, P’06, who will step down in June 2020 after four years as Chair and 12 years on the Board. The Board will, once again, follow the tradition that started with Morea of choosing a Board Chair-elect a year in advance in order to provide for a smooth and successful transition period.

“John Frank is an accomplished leader in the financial sector. More personally, he is an active listener and an astute observer,” said Alford Young, Jr. ’88, chair of the Board Governance Committee. “He knows when to lead and when to stand in support of other leaders. John will bring this blend of characteristics and much more to his service as Board Chair.”

Wesleyan Awards 2019 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Wesleyan has awarded its prestigious Hamilton Prize for Creativity to three students whose creative written works best reflect the originality, artistry, and dynamism of Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.

Anna Tjeltveit of William Allen High School in Allentown, Penn., was awarded the grand prize—a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan—for her one-act play titled “Five Steps.” In addition, this year for the first time, Wesleyan awarded two honorable mentions along with $5,000 stipends. These went to Cole Goco of Arlington, Va., (H-B Woodlawn High School) for his web comic strip, “Billy the Pop,” and to Benjamin Togut of New York, N.Y., (Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School) for his set of poems—“Arpeggios,” “Pipe Dreams,” “Frost,” “Meditations,” and “Verse.” All the students will be members of Wesleyan’s Class of 2023, beginning in the fall.

“Once again, we’ve been tremendously impressed by the imagination and boldness these students bring to their creative writing,” said President Michael S. Roth. “We are pleased to recognize three exceptional works in different categories this year with the newly expanded Hamilton Prize.”

The winning works were chosen from a pool of over 400 submissions this year. Faculty members reviewed entries, while an all-star selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, chaired by Miranda and Kail, judged finalists. Bios for all the committee members can be found here.

“What a joy it is to serve alongside this distinguished group of fellow alumni and get a glimpse at the next generation of creative minds,” said Kail. “It’s an honor to help these artists get their start at Wesleyan, as we all did.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “The Need for a Recovery of the Humanities”

In this essay, President Michael S. Roth responds to the “flood of negativity” in public discourse about higher education, in general, and the humanities, in particular. He suggests that “in order to recover the trust of students and their families, we must overcome our cultivated insularity.”

2. NBC News: “Carbon Dioxide Hits a Level Not Seen for 3 Million Years. Here’s What That Means for Climate Change — And Humanity.”

Dana Royer, professor and chair of earth and environmental sciences, comments on new evidence that the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere has climbed to a level last seen more than 3 million years ago. According to the article, shorter term impacts include loss of vegetation and sea-ice coverage, while other things, like the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, will occur more slowly. “But these impacts are going to persist for a very long time,” said Royer. “Once that happens, we can’t really reverse it.”

O’Connell in The Conversation: 60 Days in Iceberg Alley, Drilling for Marine Sediment to Decipher Earth’s Climate 3M Years Ago

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell writes about her work on board the JOIDES Resolution research vessel in the Scotia Sea, drilling for sediment core samples to study how much and how fast the Antarctic ice sheets melted between 2.5 to 4 million years ago, the last time atmospheric CO2 was at the same level as today. (Read more about O’Connell’s experience in this AAAS article.)

60 days in Iceberg Alley, drilling for marine sediment to decipher Earth’s climate 3 million years ago

Competition is stiff for one of the 30 scientist berths on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. I’m one of the lucky ones, granted the opportunity to work 12-hour days, seven days a week for 60 days as part of Expedition 382 “Iceberg Alley” in the Scotia Sea, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula.

I’m a paleooceanographer. My research focuses on how Earth’s oceans and climate operated in the past; I’m especially interested in how much and how fast the Antarctic ice sheets melted between 2.5 to 4 million years ago, the last time atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were about 400 parts per million, as they are today. This work depends on collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor that were deposited during that time. These sediment layers are like a library of the Antarctic’s past environment.

The JOIDES Resolution is the only ship in the world with the drilling tools to collect both soft sediment and hard rock from the ocean – material that we recover in long cylinders called cores. No wonder researchers from all over the world, at all career stages, are excited to have traveled from India, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, China, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom and, of course, the United States to join the expedition.

MacLowry ’86, Strain to Launch Wesleyan Documentary Project on Campus

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company The Film Posse.

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company, The Film Posse. (Photo by Eric Levin.)

Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image (CFILM) is launching the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.

Beginning this fall, the Wesleyan Documentary Project will be led by Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86, the duo behind the Boston-based documentary film company, The Film Posse. They will join Wesleyan’s faculty as professors of the practice, teaching courses in documentary creation and studies.

MacLowry and Strain will also relocate their production company to Middletown, where they will continue to produce films for PBS and other outlets. Together, The Film Posse and the Wesleyan Documentary Project will support filmmaking on campus.

Bobrick in The Conversation: What the Greek Tragedy Antigone Can Teach Us About the Dangers of Extremism

Elizabeth Bobrick

Elizabeth Bobrick

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth Bobrick, visiting scholar in classical studies and visiting assistant professor in liberal studies, writes about lessons from Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Antigone, a play which, she writes, “mirrors the state of America’s current disunion.”

What the Greek tragedy Antigone can teach us about the dangers of extremism

In a Greek tragedy written in the middle of the fifth century B.C., three teenagers struggle with a question that could be asked now: What happens when a ruler declares that those who resist his dictates are enemies of the state, and that ruler has as many supporters as he has detractors?

The story of Sophocles’ Antigone and the accursed royal family of Thebes belongs to the mythical pre-history of Greece.

Greek tragedy portrays in broad strokes the cruelties that take place within families and cities, but keeps them in the safe distance of the mythical past. The mythical past provided a safe space to present contemporary problems without outright political affiliation.

The play, named after its young heroine, mirrors the state of America’s current disunion: Political and moral views are framed in terms of a fight between patriot and traitor, defenders of civic order and its enemies, and law and conscience.

Finn in The Conversation: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution

John Finn

John Finn

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor Emeritus of Government John Finn shares his research—as featured in his new book, Fracturing the Founding: How the Alt-Right Corrupts the Constitution—showing how the alt-right and a wide variety of extremist organizations advance a comprehensive—if not entirely comprehensible—vision of the American Constitution.

How the alt-right corrupts the Constitution

About 10 years ago, I spent a sabbatical on the Maine coast writing a book about the Constitution.

One afternoon, an eager reference librarian who knew about my interests invited me to a talk at the library. The featured speaker was a woman who proudly called herself a “Constitutional Patriot.”

The speaker was self-educated and her message was simple: Liberal elites – judges, politicians and academics – had perverted the meaning of the “True Constitution.”

Getting the Constitution “right,” in her view and in the view of a great many far-right conservative groups and organizations, all of them constitutional patriots of a sort, means understanding the Constitution as the Founders understood it.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Middletown Press“Wesleyan Students Helping Former Prisoners to Gain Job Skills”

Wesleyan Students for Ending Mass Incarceration (SEMI) is a group of students working to help formerly incarcerated individuals acclimate back into society by providing them with job skills. The goal, according to member Asiyah Herrero ’22, is “making re-entry into the workforce a little bit easier. There are usually a lack of resources when people get out of prison, and starting to look for work, especially because there are a lot of jobs that do discriminate or have discriminatory ideas about people who have been in prison.”

Rasmussen in The Conversation: Using Computers to Crack Open Centuries-Old Mathematical Puzzles

Christopher Rasmussen

Christopher Rasmussen

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen writes about his recent collaboration with other number theorists to create a computer package to solve a problem called the “S-unit equation.”

Using computers to crack open centuries-old mathematical puzzles

In mathematics, no researcher works in true isolation. Even those who work alone use the theorems and methods of their colleagues and predecessors to develop new ideas.

But when a known technique is too difficult to use in practice, mathematicians may neglect important—and otherwise solvable—problems.

Recently, I joined several mathematicians on a project to make one such technique easier to use. We produced a computer package to solve a problem called the “S-unit equation,” with the hope that number theorists of all stripes can more easily attack a wide variety of unsolved problems in mathematics.