Stories tagged University of Minnesota

The FREE Math and Science Family Fun Fair is coming to the University of Minnesota this weekend, November 13 from 10am-4pm in the Coffman Union's Great Hall.

This event "...will feature fascinating activities, hands-on exhibits, and entertaining presentations showcasing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This year’s highlights include Physics Force shows, a Mystery Science Room, and much more."

Special Recommendation: Don't miss Physics Force! I saw it my junior year of high school because my physics teacher offered extra credit for attending the show. High-energy and a bit wacky, I liken the vibe to Myth Busters. It was the easiest and most fun extra credit project I've ever done! And, it clearly made an educational impression.

Here's a YouTube video from Physics Force:

Your Majesty: This is only a juvenile Galapagos Hawk.  Imagine what her mama looks like!
Your Majesty: This is only a juvenile Galapagos Hawk. Imagine what her mama looks like!Courtesy Wikipedia Commons

The University of Minnesota's Raptor Center Director and former Buzz Scientist on the Spot, Julia Ponder, is heading to the Galapagos Islands to preserve the rare Galapagos Hawk.

What's the Raptor Center? Who is Julia Ponder? Where're the Galapagos Islands? And, what's so special about the Galapagos Hawk?

Find out more by clicking the links and listening to the audio news story here.

If the University of Minnesota had parents, they'd hang this on the fridge with pride:

The U of MN is one of only three schools (out of 322 nationwide) to score straight As in all nine categories on their College Sustainability Report Card!

You can read the U's press release here, or check out the report card itself here.

Way to go Gophers!!

Oct
07
2010

What if I told you University of Minnesota geology and geophysics professor, Martin Saar, says geothermal energy can be made even greener through carbon sequestration?!

You’d probably say, “Huh?? Hold on, what is geothermal energy anyway, and how does it work?”

Geothermal is heat from deep inside the earth. Because heat is a form of energy, it can be captured and used to heat buildings or make electricity. There are three basic ways geothermal power plants work:

  1. Dry steam plants: Uses high-pressured hot steam to turn generator turbines. Think “steam to turbines.”
  2. Flash steam plants: Uses high-pressure hot water to create steam to turn generator turbines. Think “water to steam to turbines.”
  3. Binary cycle power plants: Uses high-pressure hot water to heat another liquid, which then turns to steam and turns the generator turbines. Think “water to other liquid to steam to turbines.”

(Click here for great diagrams of each of these geothermal energy production methods.)

“And what about carbon sequestration too? What’s that and how does it work?”
Carbon Sequestration: This nifty diagram illustrates both terrestrial and geologic carbon sequestration pathways.  Bonus!
Carbon Sequestration: This nifty diagram illustrates both terrestrial and geologic carbon sequestration pathways. Bonus!Courtesy Department of Energy

Carbon sequestration includes carbon (usually in the form of carbon dioxide, CO2) capture, separation, transportation, and storage or reuse. Plants, which “breathe” CO2, naturally sequester carbon, but people have found ways to do it artificially too. When fossil fuels are burned to power your car or heat your home, they emit CO2, a greenhouse gas partially responsible for global climate change. It is possible to capture those emissions, separate the bad CO2, and transport it somewhere for storage or beneficial reuse. CO2 can be stored in under the Earth’s surface or, according to Martin Saar’s research, used in geothermal energy production.

Alright. We’re back to Professor Saar’s research. Ready to know just how he plans to sequester carbon in geothermal energy production?

It’s a simple idea, really, now that you know about geothermal energy and carbon sequestration. Prof. Saar says geothermal energy can be made even greener by replacing water with CO2 as the medium carrying heat from deep within the earth to the surface for electricity generation. In this way, waste CO2 can be sequestered and put to beneficial use! As a bonus, CO2 is even more efficient than water at transferring heat.

But don’t take my word for it. Come hear Professor Martin Saar’s lecture, CO2 – Use It Or Lose It!, yourself during the Institute on the Environment’s Frontiers on the Environment lecture series, Wednesday, October 27, 2010 from noon-1pm.

Frontiers in the Environment is free and open to the public with no registration required! The lectures are held in the Institute on the Environment’s Seminar Room (Rm. 380) of the Vocational-Technical Education Building on the St. Paul campus (map).

In elementary school, I learned about "The 3 Rs" (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), and my knack for thrift-shopping was handed down to me from my mother at an even younger age. But, until yesterday, I'd never heard of a "free store." Apparently, I've been missing out on a new phenomena of reusing! How embarassing. To save you the blush, here's the scoop:

A free store is like a thrift store or garage sale, but everything is always marked 100% off.

A Thrilling Find: Garage sales, thrift stores, reuse centers, free stores, and even Craig's list are all great ways to get things you need for cheap.  Even better, doing so is great for the environment because it means less waste sent to a landfill.
A Thrilling Find: Garage sales, thrift stores, reuse centers, free stores, and even Craig's list are all great ways to get things you need for cheap. Even better, doing so is great for the environment because it means less waste sent to a landfill.Courtesy colros

Here's a New York Times article about a Brooklyn free store, but I'm guessing you're more interested in something closer to home (assuming the Twin Cities are your home, of course). Lucky for you, the Southeast Como Improvement Organization is collecting usable stuff that students tend to leave on the street during move-in/ move-out and making it available for free at the University of Minnesota's ReUse Center from 10am to 4:30pm through this Saturday, Sept. 11th, 2010 (details here). Additionally, for small fees, the U of M's ReUse Center is open year round to the treasure-troving public Thursdays 8am to 8pm starting tomorrow, Sept. 9th, 2010 (details here). Apparently, there was once a catapult for sale... what's not to love about that??

So, go ahead! See what you can find. My trash might be your treasure, and it's environmentally friendly too.

In an age of Google Earth, University of Minnesota professor, Rebecca Krinke's, map of Minneapolis still manages to capture the imagination.
Krinke Pain and Joy Map: From UMNews: "Memories of pain permeate this part of the map, from places including the Minneapolis impound lot (upper left), Hennepin County Medical Center (bottom center, next to the Metrodome) and the interstate freeway system, presumably at rush hour. At least the river runs through it."
Krinke Pain and Joy Map: From UMNews: "Memories of pain permeate this part of the map, from places including the Minneapolis impound lot (upper left), Hennepin County Medical Center (bottom center, next to the Metrodome) and the interstate freeway system, presumably at rush hour. At least the river runs through it."Courtesy University of Minnesota

Krinke, an associate professor in landscape architecture, and a team of students, created a simple laser-cut maple vaneer map of the Cities this summer. Then they mounted it on plywood, armed themselves with both a gray and gold colored pencil, and hit the streets. That's where the magic happened and the map transformed into both a public art piece and an informal sociology investigation.

The map traveled to public spaces in both Minneapolis and St. Paul where curious passerbys were

"...invited to use the colored pencil of their choice—gold for joy and gray for pain (or both)—to express their memories of places.

The stories they told as they colored the impound lot nearly gray and entire city blocks gold provided a powerful emotional release. (To read more about the participants memories, read the full article here or check out Krinke's blog, Unseen/Seen: Mapping Joy and Pain.)

The physical map is preparing for it's final curtain call, but Krinke is thinking about putting it online and making it more interactive.

Going to the Minnesota State Fair is mostly about putting bad things into your body. Occasionally on the midway, things can come out of your body. But University of Minnesota researchers will be at the 2010 State Fair with hopes of taking DNA out of about 500 kids. And those who donate will get lots of cool stuff. But some wonder if this is the proper way to conduct medical research. What do you think?

These are a Few of My Favorite Things: Who does not love the smell of pine trees?  Or stretchy long underwear?  Hooray for camping!
These are a Few of My Favorite Things: Who does not love the smell of pine trees? Or stretchy long underwear? Hooray for camping!Courtesy John

Are you interested in conserving our country's land, waterways, historical, and/or cultural resources? How about connecting your fellow Americans with the outdoors? Senior representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Council on Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Department of Defense want to hear from you!

As part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, the University of Minnesota is offering a pubic listening session August 4th from 4-7:30pm in the Tedd Mann Concert Hall that offers an opportunity to engage these senior representatives in a conversation about the conservation solutions of Minnesotans. The event is free and open to the pubic, but online registration is strongly encouraged. Want to register or need more information? Event details here.

Polar Home: This guy does not look like he minds his cool digs, but I think I am going to turn down my A/C now.
Polar Home: This guy does not look like he minds his cool digs, but I think I am going to turn down my A/C now.Courtesy thecourtyard

In a news release this past week, the University of Minnesota, led by professors Pat Huelman and John Carmody, has announced being chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy to "Build America."

The research group, the NorthernSTAR Energy Efficient Housing Research Partnership Team, will be developing cheap solutions to home energy efficiency in cold climates. For me and you, that means more comfortable and eco-friendly Minnesota winters to come! Pretty cool, huh?

For more information, check out "Polar Energy", an article in the Institute on the Environment's Momentum magazine, winter 2010.

Jul
27
2010

The Smartypants Grid

The smart grid is actually a futuristic collection of technologies that manage electricity distribution. Ultimately, they are "smarter" (more efficient) at generating, distributing, and using electricity than the current industry standards.

The Einstien Meter: Smart meters are a component of the smart grid infrastructure.  They provide the two-way communication between electricity consumers and providers with the goal of enabling consumers to manage their electricity usage and spending.  The utility providers also benefit by experiencing fewer demand spikes.
The Einstien Meter: Smart meters are a component of the smart grid infrastructure. They provide the two-way communication between electricity consumers and providers with the goal of enabling consumers to manage their electricity usage and spending. The utility providers also benefit by experiencing fewer demand spikes.Courtesy Duke Energy

Some people are getting excited about smart grids because cutting back on electricity usage is cutting back on fossil fuel consumption which is cutting back on human-driven causes of global climate change. (Are you still with me or did I lose you there?) Other people are looking forward to smart grids because they should decrease the number of brown- and blackouts experienced in the country, which improves the region's health and economy. Still more people are pumped for the smart grid because it could mean lower electricity bills for their homes.

When will the smart grid reach your hometown? That depends. Some cities already have smart grid technology, but regional adoption is set to take place on a rolling basis during the next five years and is largely dependent on whether the American people get on board.

Scientific American: How Will the Smart Grid Handle Heat Waves?

"Pretty well, once the technology to automatically respond to peak demand and store renewable energy matures."

Smart grid test cites in Harrisburg, PA, Richland, WA, and Boulder, CO have their work cut out for them this week as people across the nation crank down the A/C to battle the heat wave covering most of the continental United States. According to the Scientific American article, a regional smart grid should have the potential to excel under stressful heat wave conditions. In the meantime, utility companies and academics are working toward developing a method to better store electricity when supply exceeds demand thus creating a stockpile of electricity for times of scarcity.

Explore More:

Check out SmartGrid.gov for all things smart and grid-y. Or, if you're looking for something more technical, the Department of Energy's other smart grid website.

If you're looking for a more interactive learning experience, check out General Electric's smart grid webpage complete with narrated animations.

Of course, if you're looking to hear from academics or industry experts themselves, the Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment in conjunction with the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment and St. Anthony Falls Laboratory, are hosting Midwest's Premier Energy, Economic, and Environmental Conference, E3 2010, at the St. Paul River Center (right across Kellogg Blvd from the Science Museum) Tuesday, November 30.