Stories tagged University of Arizona


[SETTING: Ted and Lily are in line at the cafeteria.]

Ted: [Leans over a little, like he’s sharing a secret.] I just heard from SAHRA that the National Science Foundation is funding another Critical Zone Observatory at the University of Arizona. That’ll make six CZOs.

Lily: [Shocked.] Sounds serious!

Ted: Well, yeah. I mean, the critical zone is basically the area along the Earth’s surface between the treetops aboveground and the groundwater table belowground. That’s where we do our day-to-day living and a lot of really important life-sustaining natural processes happen, like water and nutrient cycling.
Variety is the spice of life
Variety is the spice of lifeCourtesy cafemama

Lily: I was talking about Sarah. Who’s she?

Ted: [The miscommunication dawns on him.] Not Sarah, SAHRA. The Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas. They’re a Science and Technology Center based at the University of Arizona.

Lily: [Relieved.] Oh. Gotcha. Back to the Important Area Thingamabob. It sounds like a really big area with a whole lot going on. How’s anyone going to observe it?

Ted: You’re right. The critical zone is a massive area and studying it is daunting, but the NSF’s got something going on with these CZOs.

Lily: [Slightly annoyed.] Please chew with your mouth closed. You’re getting alphabet soup all over my shirt.

Ted: [Indignant.] What? Just ‘cause you can’t swim in my alphabet soup…

[Lily glares at Ted.]

Ted: [Sheepish.] Anyway, I was saying about how the Observatories are intended to be a resource for international collaborations between science disciplines. You know, interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, and such. This will allow scientists from geology, ecology, hydrology, etc to work together so we can understand how all the components interact in the Critical Zone.

Lily: Ah-ha! So the Observatories are like a potluck. Everyone brings their specialty to the table to make a whole meal.

Ted: Sure. And the best potlucks happen when lots of people bring something to share and there’s a variety of deliciousness.

Know what else? Each of the six Observatories is located in a different climate. More variety! By comparing the same processes in different climates, scientists will be better able to figure out how the critical zone will change under climate change.
Lily and Ted: On the set
Lily and Ted: On the setCourtesy pchow98

Lily: Huh. I had no idea that science news could make me so hungry.

Ted: Did you even hear what I just said?

Lily: [Mumbles to herself.] Where do you suppose I can get a recipe for tater tot hot dish? [To Ted.] Wait… whatdidjasay?

Ted: [Sighs.] Nevermind. I’m going to get some chocolate pudding. Want some?


WaveLengths, the award-winning public television program from Arizona Public Media updates viewers on what was once the most talked-about experiment in the world--the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona.

Biosphere 2: New TV program takes you inside Biosphere 2.
Biosphere 2: New TV program takes you inside Biosphere 2.Courtesy Biosphere 2

"WaveLengths: Planet in a Bottle" revisits the famous life sciences laboratory to learn about the research currently being conducted inside, and exactly how it can help find answers to environmental questions arising in the new millennium. This new episode of WaveLengths includes research and work televised for the very first time.

(See a preview here.)

"WaveLengths: Planet in a Bottle" premieres Monday, January 18 at 6:30pm on PBS-HD Channel 6.

Segments include:
  • Two years and 20 minutes: Jayne Poynter is one of eight "Biospherians" who were sealed inside the artificial environment for a little over two years. Poynter talks about the challenges the team faced as they grew their own food and recycled their air and water within the immense greenhouse. The problems with living extensively in a sealed environment, says Poynter, were not all environment-related.
  • Biosphere 2's future: The management of this unique structure and its surrounding campus was assumed by The University of Arizona in 2007 now scientists from Arizona and around the world use this remarkable facility to find solutions for understanding climate change and other global problems that threaten the planet. WaveLengths Host Dr. Vicki Chandler takes a walk with Biosphere 2 Director Travis Huxman to talk about the relevancy of the new research going on in the largest sealed facility on Earth.
  • High tech rainforest: How are plants and forests responding to the changing environmental conditions on Earth? Dr. Kolbe Jardine is one researcher using a hi-tech chemistry lab in conjunction with Biosphere 2's rainforest biome to learn more about plant interactions.
  • Critical ocean viruses: The invisible life of the ocean--its microbes--is as critical to other ocean life as plants and trees are to the land. The artificial ocean of Biosphere 2 is now helping scientists discover what kind of impact climate change can have on the ocean's microbial life. Researcher Matt Sullivan is focusing on this invisible life to help us better understand the crucial role it plays in ocean productivity, and the overall health of our planet.
  • Climate change and vegetation shifts: Some regions in North America are seeing rapid vegetation transformations because of invasive species. Here in the Southwest, the invasion of the non-native bufflegrass could change our desert landscape forever, and a better understanding of why these changes are taking place in relation to climate change is happening inside Biosphere 2.

Dark Matter revealed: Credit: NASA/SAO/CXC/M.Markevitch et al.
Dark Matter revealed: Credit: NASA/SAO/CXC/M.Markevitch et al.

What the universe is made of

    70% - dark energy
    25% - dark matter
    5% - ordinary matter

In a recent collision of galaxies known as the Bullet Cluster, scientists think they have proof of dark matter. In this cluster there are galaxies and intermixed gasses. When there was a collision, the gasses slowed more than the galaxies. Measurements showed that large amounts of mass that that should have fallen behind with the gasses continued ahead with the galaxies.

"This provides the first direct proof that dark matter must exist and that it must make up the majority of the matter in the Universe." said study leader Doug Clowe, from the University of Arizona.

Proof of the invisible

Observations of our universe have not "fit" into our theories about how the universe should behave. To solve this dilemma, scientists "invented" what they call dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter refers to matter that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation (light) to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. An example is when light from a known star is bent too much as it goes near a galaxy. The explanation is that the galaxy must have some invisible (dark) matter. Several other observable phenomena support that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than is directly observable, indicating that the remainder is dark.

Alternative explanations

A second explanation is that gravity does not behave the same way in galaxy clusters light years in size as it does on Earth.
A proposed alternative to physical dark matter particles has been to suppose that the observed inconsistencies are due to an incomplete understanding of gravitation. To explain the observations, the gravitational force has to become stronger than the Newtonian approximation at great distances or in weak fields.

Source: NASA press release

Americans have one-third fewer confidents (friends) than they did about twenty years ago. A study released from sociologists at Duke University and the University of Arizona suggests increased working hours as well as increased Internet usage influenced the drop in confidents.