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Washington State Magazine

Summer 2017

AI

One of the most memorable moments of Matthew Taylor’s life so far would look to most people like just a jumble of numbers, brackets, and punctuation strung together with random words on a computer screen.

IF ((dist(K1,T1)<=4) AND
(Min(dist(K3,T1), dist(K3,T2))>=12.8) AND
(ang(K3,K1,T1)>=36))
THEN Pass to K3

And so on. Line after line of computer code flowing like a digital river of expanding possibilities.

Although sophisticated and wonderfully complex, it wasn’t so much the code itself that made this such a pivotal moment.

It was what came next.

Taylor, a graduate student in Texas at the time, … » More …

Summer 2017

Robert Smawley 1928–2017

Bob Smawley, “Mr. WSU,” embodied what it meant to be a Cougar for generations of Washington State University students, staff, and alumni, through his selfless service to the University, his caring nature, and his deep knowledge of WSU history, all delivered with a dry sense of humor and true compassion.

For over six decades, Smawley worked under six WSU presidents in several departments, volunteered and led in the Alumni Association, taught many the history of WSU through engaging slideshows, and mentored thousands of students.

“He was the heart of WSU,” says Malia Martine Karlinsky ’92. “Bob had a magical way of making you feel … » More …

Fresh peas thumb by Gunenko Oksana
Summer 2017

Fresh Peas

It’s Friday night in the middle of summer, and Darren Wright and Janine Klingele have harvested everything they’ll take to the farmers market early Saturday morning—except peas. These they save for last—but not many peas are actually going to make it to market. The pair of farmers are standing in the light of the full moon eating the irresistible fresh sugar snap peas as fast as they can pick them.

“Peas are best just eating them fresh!” says Klingele. “A quick stir fry is great but they are so sweet fresh.”

Longtime farmer Wright and former Master Gardener Klingele grow about 20 different row … » More …

Robot typing
Summer 2017

Robowriters

Subject. Verb. Object.

These are the basic building blocks of written communication. It’s what you need to make a complete sentence like the one you’re reading now.

Structured. Logical. Direct.

This also is why parts of my chosen career are ripe for takeover by robots.

For millions of Americans, the defining realization of how fast artificial intelligence is evolving came in 2011 when Watson — IBM’s now-celebrated language processing computer — won the popular TV quiz show Jeopardy by beating two of the game’s top champions.

I watched with fascination as well. But, for me, the point was driven home even harder a few years … » More …

grape vine illustration
Summer 2017

Hanging a left at wine

The allure of winemaking has attracted a menagerie of professionals to the business. Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology Program has lured aerospace engineers, Army medics, apparel designers, scientists, and many others to the field. Here, we bring you a few of the stories of those who have changed careers by hanging a left at wine.

After years of dissecting rat brains, Berenice Burdet had had enough.

The Argentinian neuroscientist was untangling stress’s web of physiological effects on the hippocampus. The stress we feel in a crammed subway train, Burdet says, affects our behavior by dampening affect. We become depressed, and activity levels decline. … » More …

Talk Back
Summer 2017

Talkback for Summer 2017

 

Waste not

I enjoyed reading “Waste Not” in the Spring ’17 issue of Washington State Magazine. I learned a lot and was especially intrigued by the part about microwave sterilization and preservation.

I thought I would clarify to readers that, while composting food waste still releases greenhouse gasses, if treated properly with balanced carbon-to-nitrogen ratios, aeration, and moisture, decaying food waste favors carbon dioxide and releases less methane than that same material would in a landfill, where moisture, aeration, and the rot recipe are far from optimal. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Animal husbandry is the missing … » More …

Spring 2017

Emergence

Last August, shifting sands on a well-trafficked beach along Oahu’s west coast revealed 400-year-old carvings left behind by Hawaiian indigenous people. The 17 petroglyphs etched into the sandstone on Waianae Coast, and the stories they tell, had never been recorded. Without the right conditions, they may have remained hidden for years or centuries.

Archaeological sites like the one in Hawai‘i, or ancient buried pyramids and tombs in Egypt, open up their secrets when the conditions are right, but sometimes even plainly visible ruins hold mysteries. Mesa Verde’s astounding Cliff Palace and other Pueblo sites provide insight into the continent’s past civilizations to … » More …

Faster drop for a new crop
Spring 2017

Faster drop for a new crop

Water and time are money if you’re a farmer. Trees are especially slow, and to get a new apple variety growing at a commercial scale can take years. It not only takes a couple of years after planting for fruit production to start, but it’s a long time just getting trees to plant.

The number of trees needed to plant a commercial-scale orchard is daunting. Even a small orchard of 100 acres needs nearly a quarter million trees to get going. And while it might take only a couple years to “raise a few rootstocks, thousands can take many years,” Washington State University apple breeder … » More …

Midwives tend to a newborn baby while the exhausted mother rests in bed, circa 1450. Another child lies in a cradle beside her, being rocked by a servant. Original Artwork: A miniature engraving from 'Histoire de la Belle Helaire' on a 15th Century manuscript from the Imperial Library, Paris. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Spring 2017

Call the midwife

ViviAnne Fischer practices midwifery in her clinic near Pullman, where you can see her connection to the long and complicated history surrounding the practice.

In a green-colored house along a dirt road, at the top of a set of stairs, a large, nondescript black suitcase stands before a crammed bookshelf, her “library” for families. Inside the suitcase is a mix of new, modern medical equipment beside bottles of herbal extracts.

On the other side of the room is an odd-shaped stool at the foot of a bed. The bed is almost cot-like but the wooden frame poking out from beneath the quilt is carved. The … » More …