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In August, scientists from around the world came to the Applied Physics Laboratory to ponder a question as thorny as it is cosmic: What makes a planet? The Great Planet Debate conference didn't settle whether Pluto has earned the same title as Earth or Mars, but its participants made progress toward a definition, framing the debate in some far-out language. Hal Weaver, a planetary scientist at APL, translates:

Dwarf planet: An object in orbit around the sun that is massive enough for its own gravity to pull it into a sphere (or nearly a sphere), but that resides in an orbital zone gravitationally dominated by another body. In this scheme — disputed, of course — Pluto is a dwarf planet in an orbital zone dominated by the planet Neptune.

Kuiper Belt: A roughly disk-shaped region of the outer solar system that extends from Neptune's orbit — 30 times farther from the sun than Earth's — to approximately twice that distance, 7.5 billion miles from the sun. The celestial bodies in that region, except for Neptune, are called Kuiper Belt objects, or KBOs, and over 1,000 have been discovered to date. Pluto is also a KBO, although it wasn't called that until the mid-1990s, more than 60 years after its discovery in 1930.

Plutoid: Plutoids are dwarf planets whose average distance to the sun is larger than Neptune's. The term was coined by a resolution of the International Astronomical Union in June 2008 and has been met with considerable resistance from many planetary scientists.

Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs): Any solar system object whose average distance from the sun is larger than Neptune's.
—Michael Anft


After a hard day of presidential campaigning, there's nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold can of Gold Water, the Right Drink for the Conservative Taste. At least, that was the idea behind this intriguing green-and-yellow, 12-ounce tin cylinder, a semiofficial part of the marketing strategy for Republican Governor Barry Goldwater's doomed 1964 Presidential campaign. (Goldwater lost to incumbent President Lyndon Johnson, who had his own power political drink, called Johnson Juice.)

This can of Gold Water, along with other presidential campaign souvenirs, giveaways, and ephemera from the past half-century (such as Eisenhower golf tees and an Avril Harriman handheld electric fan), is just one part of Selling the Candidates: Presidential Campaign Music and Memorabilia, currently on display at Homewood's Milton S. Eisenhower Library. In addition to the case of memorabilia (organized by Council on Libraries and Information Resources postdoctoral fellow Gabrielle Dean), much of the exhibit focuses on sheet music

used by various candidates to get people to associate them with good times and prosperity — or at least to remember their names. There's 1840's "The Hard Cider Quick Step," which marked the first modern American political campaign (William Henry Harrison, who beat Martin van Buren); dueling tunes from William Jennings Bryan and William McKinley about the gold standard; and even 1977's "Jimmy Carter," set to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." These rare scores come from the library's Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music.

One of the few records of how Gold Water actually tasted was found by curator of manuscripts Margaret Burri. It appears in Rick Perlstein's 2001 Goldwater biography Before the Storm. Given a can of Gold Water during a Georgia campaign stop, the candidate took a sip — and immediately spit it out. "This tastes like piss!" he exclaimed. "I wouldn't drink it with gin!"
—Geoff Brown


The Johns Hopkins Digital Media Center maintains an online gallery of student projects. There you will find this page, dedicated to the Hopkins entry in the 2008 Google International Model Your Campus Competition, described in the story at right. The DMC gallery page includes an array of photographs documenting the aerial photography that permitted the modeling of the Decker Quadrangle. The pictures include team leader David Hung displaying the sophisticated aerial vehicle — a set of Mylar birthday balloons — plus the modified digital camera that dangled from the balloons, a sample shot from 200 feet up, and the rescue of the camera after the balloons snagged in a tree. Our favorite picture is the one of the campus security officer taking aim at the balloons with a BB gun. Word is he was a damned good shot.

The winning entries in the Google competition can be viewed here: Among the things you can learn by traveling to the other winning campuses via Google Earth: Peking University in China has academic buildings with pagoda roofs; Bournemouth University in England has a Tolpuddle House; and Missouri University of Science and Technology has something called the Hazardous Chemical Storage Building. No windows on that last one.
—Dale Keiger

Up & Comer

Name: Nathan Connolly
Age: 31

Position: Assistant professor, Department of History; affiliate of the Johns Hopkins Center for Africana Studies

Stats: BA '99 in history and liberal studies, St. Thomas University (Miami, Florida); MA '00 in social sciences, University of Chicago; MA '03 and PhD '08 in history, University of Michigan

Scouting report: "Nathan is a pretty spectacular addition to our department," says Ben A. Vinson III, a professor of history and director of the Center for Africana Studies. "His creative approach to rethinking how race, land, and capitalism have intersected and combined to create the racial system we have now is very exciting."

Research: While exploring the historical role of land in race relations, Connolly examines the relationship between Jim Crow segregation and capitalism. Much of that research has been done in his native south Florida, "where the lack of a slave culture led to a new kind of Jim Crow, one that led to different ways of forcing poor blacks off the land or making them pay more to live in slums," he says. "Rent payments, along with eminent domain laws, enriched landlords, real estate speculators, builders of segregated subdivisions, and entrepreneurs who built all-white hotels in Miami Beach. It was a handy way of moving capitalism from one stage to the next there."

Mentor: Matthew D. Lassiter, at the University of Michigan, Connolly's dissertation adviser and the author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sun Belt South (Princeton, 2007). "He was a real godsend for me and my career," Connolly says.

Vidiocy vs. meaningful research: "I absolutely love video games. I can literally get lost for three weeks at a time with games. Maybe after I publish a book or get tenure, I'll take the Xbox out from under lock and key."


3-D vision may be sum of many parts
On the retina, an object's shape is represented as a 2-D map that changes as object and viewer move. How does the brain turn that constantly changing 2-D retinal map into stable information about the object's 3-D shape? New research by scientists at the
Krieger Mind/Brain Institute shows that neurons in the higher-level visual cortex respond to subcomponents of the object's 3-D surface. For example, one neuron responds to combinations of forward-facing ridges and upward-facing concavities. Other neurons encode other combinations of surface components. Ensembles of neurons could represent objects as the sum of their surface components. This representation may underlie our ability to see and understand the structure of 3-D objects. The research appeared in the October 5 online edition of Nature Neuroscience. Lead author was postdoctoral fellow Yukako Yamane.

Linked proteins contribute to schizophrenia
Researchers from several disciplines at the School of Medicine have discovered molecular circuitry that links proteins and genetic factors implicated in schizophrenia. A team led by Akira Sawa, associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, had previously characterized disruptions of the DISC1 gene and protein as significantly involved in the disease. The DISC1 protein binds to a second protein, PCM1. Meanwhile, a team led by Nicholas Katsanis, associate professor of ophthalmology, had been studying the protein BBS4, which is involved in a disorder known as Bardet-Biedl syndrome. They found that BBS4 also binds with PCM1. Next, Hopkins psychiatrist Nicola Cascella realized that the interaction of those latter two proteins might also be associated with schizophrenia. Further research confirmed that not only do DISC1 and BBS4 work together to recruit PCM1, but that mutations in the PCM1 gene contribute to schizophrenia. The research appeared in the September issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.


Course: Anthropology of Media

Instructor: Anand Pandian, assistant professor in the Krieger School Department of Anthropology

Course description: Life throughout much of the globe today is saturated by various kinds of media: film, television, newspapers, magazines, radio, cell phones, iPods, advertisements, photos, graphics, Web sites, fantasy games, medical illustrations, and so on. Anthropology of Media examines the profound mediation of contemporary life from an anthropological standpoint, focusing on the social worlds fashioned and inhabited through the production, circulation, and consumption of media artifacts.

Partial reading list:
"The Numbing of the American Mind: Culture as Anesthetic," Thomas de Zengotita, Harper's (2002)

"No Dead Air! The iPod and the Culture of Mobile Listening," Michael Bull, Leisure Studies (2005)

"Putting American Public Television Documentary in Its Places," Barry Dornfeld, Media Worlds (2002)

"Objective Brains, Prejudicial Images," Joseph Dumit, Science in Context (1999)

"Cool Phone: Nokia, Networks, and Identity," Gerald Goggin, Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life (2006)

"None of This Is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster," Danah Boyd, Structures of Participation in Digital Culture (2008)

Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, Tom Boellstorff (2008)

Here and Abroad

The School of Medicine's Carol Greider next spring will receive one of Germany's most prestigious prizes for science, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. Greider, director of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins, will share the award with University of California, San Francisco researcher Elizabeth Blackburn for their "discovery of telomeres and telomerase and the elucidation of their significance for cell division and aging." Telomeres are the tiny caps on the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres shorten a bit each time a cell divides; when they become critically short, the cell stops dividing. The researchers' work may have implications for degenerative disease and cancer. The prize is traditionally awarded on March 14, the birthday of Paul Ehrlich, a German scientist who shared the 1908 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his work in immunology.

... Jhpiego, an international nonprofit health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, in August received $16.5 million from the United States Agency for International Development for HIV/AIDS programs in Tanzania. The money will be used over a five-year period to increase access and use of HIV counseling and testing services in that country.

...On Sunday, October 19, the American Guild of Organists (AGO) held an international celebration called the Organ Spectacular, featuring recitals and concerts across the United States and throughout the world, including Australia, Bermuda, Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, Philippines, Singapore, and Switzerland. Peabody participated with two concerts: Faculty artist John Walker performed at Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, where he is music director. Later in the day, students of Walker and the conservatory's organ department coordinator, Donald Sutherland, performed at Peabody's Leith Symington Griswold Hall.
—Catherine Pierre

Bottom Line

13: The rank of Johns Hopkins University on an annual list of the world's 200 best universities compiled by The Times of London and QS, a British career and education network. The ranking was based on six weighted criteria. Most important was a peer review survey of 6,354 academics worldwide, weighted geographically and by discipline to make the survey as representative as possible. Other criteria included a survey of employers who hire graduates of the various institutions and a tally of research citations per faculty. Hopkins tied for 13th with Duke University. The top five schools were, in order, Harvard, Yale, the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, and the California Institute of Technology.

Vital Signs

Too much caffeine in energy drinks
Americans annually consume an estimated $5.4 billion worth of highly caffeinated energy drinks. In a new study that appeared in the September edition of Drug and Alcohol Dependence,
School of Medicine researchers warned of the potential health risks of these beverages and called for adequate labeling of their caffeine content. Co-author Roland Griffiths, professor of behavioral biology in the Department of Neuroscience, noted that one can of certain energy drinks contains 500 milligrams of caffeine, equal to 14 cans of Coca-Cola, and consumption can lead to heart palpitations and abuse of other stimulants such as amphetamines.

Waistlines and heart disease
A national screening of women for heart disease risk factors indicates that every woman with a waistline exceeding 35 inches should get an annual checkup and risk assessments for heart problems. The study, led by School of Medicine cardiologist Erin Michos, screened 8,936 women ages 35 to 63. The researchers found that 55 percent of those women with 35-inch-or-greater waistlines were at increased risk of heart disease. The study appeared in the August Journal of Women's Health.

Gene disruption linked to COPD
Shyam Biswal, associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, led a study that found that disruption of an antioxidant "master gene" correlates to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. The gene, NRF2, turns on numerous antioxidant and detoxifying genes in the lungs. A comparison of lung tissue from COPD and non-COPD patients found decreased expression of NRF2 in the COPD group. The study was published by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in its September 15 issue.

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