wave mechanics diagram in sand on the beach. Photo courtesy
Bob Howlett/Half Moon Bay Review.
Freak waves -- the sudden, giant waves that have sent ships to watery graves -- may not be so freaky after all. Assistant Professor of Geosciences Tim Janssen's latest study, published in the August Journal of Physical Oceanography, suggests that areas where wave energy is strongly focused -- such as river mouths and coastal inlets -- could be up to 10 times more likely to produce a freak wave. Although scientists cannot predict the occurrence of individual extreme waves, Janssen's findings help pinpoint conditions and locations favorable for these giants, some of which have been recorded at heights taller than six-story buildings. Finding freak wave hot spots is a crucial part of the planning of shipping and navigation in coastal areas as well as the design of offshore structures.
Professor of Psychology David Matsumoto's study
published in the January issue of The Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology indicates that our ability to control
our facial expressions to fit certain social settings is
hardwired into our genes.
Matsumoto compared the facial expressions of thousands of sighted and blind judo athletes captured in photographs at the 2004 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games.
"The statistical correlation between the facial expressions of sighted and blind individuals was almost perfect," he says. "This suggests something genetically resident within us is the source of facial expressions of emotion." Among the photos he studied were those taken at public medals ceremonies.
"Losers pushed their lower lip up as if to control the emotion on their face and many produced social smiles," Matsumoto says. "Individuals blind from birth could not have learned to control their emotions in this way through visual learning so there must be another mechanism."
Comparison of blind athlete (left) and sighted athlete (right) who just lost a match for a medal On the heels of the publication, Matsumoto received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct a five-year study on the role of emotions in ideologically based groups. Look for initial findings in a future issue of SF State Magazine.
Where have all the bees gone? Associate Professor of Biology Gretchen LeBuhn is enlisting the help of thousands of citizen-scientists to find out. Her Great Sunflower Project, the first coast-to-coast study on bee pollination, asks participants to plant a sunflower and monitor the bee activity it attracts.
"We know very little about bee activity in home and community gardens and their surrounding environments," LeBuhn says, "but we are certain that they are a crucial link in the survival of native habitats and local produce." Nearly 80,000 people have signed up to help LeBuhn track bees and determine environmental factors that may be affecting their populations.
"We need to know where bees are doing well and how parks, gardens, natural areas and all sorts of habitats affect our bees. Once we get a good picture of where bees are pollinating poorly, we can start to design ways to help them."
To participate in The Great Sunflower Project, visit www.greatsunflower.org
Professor of Biology Dennis Desjardin just discovered seven new species and proud though he may be, it's his finds that are positively glowing. During research expeditions across the globe he located luminescent fungi -- four new species and three new reports of luminescence in known species.
He believes some fungi glow to attract nocturnal animals that aid in the dispersal of the mushroom's spores, which are similar to seeds and capable of growing into new organisms. What to name the two species that glow 24-seven? Inspired by movements in Mozart's Requiem, the professor pronounced them Mycena luxaeterna (eternal light) and Mycena luxperpetua (perpetual light).
For more on these and other faculty findings, visit www.sfsu.edu/news
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