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Research

Winter 2005

A Sweet Buzz: Honey

Entomologist Steve Sheppard has never gotten over his wonder at how people came to raise swarms of stinging insects for the honey they produce.

“To see this guy dumping out thousands of bees to collect honey from their hive. . .” He shakes his head. “It’s amazing that humans ever figured it out to do that.”

But the Washington State University associate professor, who not only keeps bees himself, but unflinchingly opens beehives with his bare hands, understands the passion for honey.

People prize it as a delicacy and demand it as a staple. They cherish some honeys for their color and admire others for … » More …

Summer 2005

Shock Physics: Power, Pressure, and People

After the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, the U.S. determined that staying ahead in the arms race would require the best scientists and the best weapons. A new federal funding model emerged, channeling money into universities around the country for research and the training of the next generation of national scientists. By the late 1950s, WSU had started on shock-wave research. » More ...
Fall 2009

Poised for playing

Anyone who has taken music lessons has probably absorbed enough instructions about posture to feel like a raw recruit at basic training: Stand straight! Head up! Toes forward!

Leah Jordan, who is starting her senior year at Washington State University, says not to worry about forcing yourself into the “proper” position for playing an instrument. In fact, she says you’ll probably play better if you don’t—and she has the hard scientific evidence to prove it.

Jordan converted her personal experience as a trumpet player into an honors program research project that showed that most players play better if they stand the way their bodies naturally … » More …

Fall 2009

Foiling an invasive

Sometimes, figuring something out only deepens the overall mystery.

Take Pseudomonas fluorescens D7, for example.

Ann Kennedy, a USDA-Agricultural Research Service soil microbiologist at Washington State University, has isolated these native bacteria as a perfectly natural way to fight cheatgrass, also known as downy brome, scientific name Bromus tectorum. Recently, she and her colleagues were awarded a large grant to test the effectiveness of Pseudomonas fluorescens D7 for controlling cheatgrass in rangeland.

Cheatgrass, which was introduced in the late 19th century as a forage crop, is an aggressive invader, a grass that has, according to WSU botanist Richard Mack, changed … » More …

Fall 2009

Safer skies

When Alaska’s Mount Redoubt volcano rumbled to life this past spring, images of the plume of ash rising from it probably revived terrifying memories among 240 people who survived its last eruption in 1989.

They’d been passengers on KLM flight 867, a Boeing 747 bound for Anchorage. Ten hours after the volcano erupted, the plane flew through an ordinary-looking cloud. Except it wasn’t a cloud. It was ash from the Redoubt eruption.

The plane lost all communications, radar, electronic cockpit displays—and, within the span of one minute, all four engines. It plunged almost 15,000 feet before the crew managed to restart three of the engines. … » More …

Fall 2009

Curbing aggressive driving

There’s something about youth and speed and cars.

Criminal justice doctoral student Yu-Sheng Lin tapped into it in his study of risky and aggressive driving behaviors. Surveying Washington State University students, who averaged the age of 19, he joined up with marketing graduate student Mark Mulder and associate professor Jeffrey Joireman to look at the effects of impulsivity and thrill-seeking on dangerous driving. They also examined whether the drivers considered future consequences when making their choices on the road.

Aggressive driving is likely the last crime to be featured on a television drama, Lin admits. “But I wanted to focus on something that can apply … » More …