Dr. Jacquelyn Taylor, the Yale School of Nursing’s newly appointed Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, is lead author of a recent study published in Scientific Reports. The study, titled “A Genome-wide study of blood pressure in African Americans accounting for gene-smoking interaction,” focuses on the interaction genetics and the negative of lifestyle behavior of cigarette smoking on increases in blood pressure.

The study appeared on January 11, 2016 in a Nature Publication of Scientific Reports (Vol. 6).

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Abstract

Cigarette smoking has been shown to be a health hazard. In addition to being considered a negative lifestyle behavior, studies have shown that cigarette smoking has been linked to genetic underpinnings of hypertension. Because African Americans have the highest incidence and prevalence of hypertension, we examined the joint effect of genetics and cigarette smoking on health among this understudied population. The sample included African Americans from the genome wide association studies of HyperGEN (N = 1083, discovery sample) and GENOA (N = 1427, replication sample), both part of the FBPP. Results suggested that 2 SNPs located on chromosomes 14 (NEDD8; rs11158609; raw p = 9.80 × 10−9, genomic control-adjusted p = 2.09 × 10−7) and 17 (TTYH2; rs8078051; raw p = 6.28 × 10−8, genomic control-adjusted p = 9.65 × 10−7) were associated with SBP including the genetic interaction with cigarette smoking. These two SNPs were not associated with SBP in a main genetic effect only model. This study advances knowledge in the area of main and joint effects of genetics and cigarette smoking on hypertension among African Americans and offers a model to the reader for assessing these risks. More research is required to determine how these genes play a role in expression of hypertension.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: National Book Award Winner

Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House) took home the 2015 National Book Award in Nonfiction.

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Winners of the 66th National Book Award were announced at a lavish ceremony and benefit dinner at Cipriani’s in New York City on November 18. Winners in each category received a bronze sculpture and a purse of $10,000.

Coates’ other honors this year include the Kirkus Prize and the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. “Given the kind of year that Ta-Nehisi Coates has been having, it would be tough to consider his Between the World and Me anything less than a favorite to win the nonfiction prize,” says the National Book Foundation.

The 2015 Judges for nonfiction were Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengräber, and Adrienne Mayor. All five writers appeared as National Book Awards Nonfiction finalists for the first time:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House)
Sally Mann, Hold Still (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Henry Holt and Company)
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light (Alfred A. Knopf)

Coates is now in the company of a pantheon of writers that includes: William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, John Cheever, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, John Updike, Katherine Anne Porter, Norman Mailer, Elizabeth Bishop, Saul Bellow, Donald Barthelme, Flannery O’Connor, Adrienne Rich, Thomas Pynchon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, E. Annie Proulx, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.

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2015 NBA Non-Fiction Award Winner: Ta-Nehisi Coates (Full Speech)


 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all—regardless of race—honestly reckon with our country’s fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry, and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path toward a kind of liberation—a journey from fear and confusion to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is. Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America’s history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.

 

Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein and colleagues have just published “Do dark matter axions form a condensate with long-range correlation?” The paper appears as an “Editors’ Suggestion” in the November 15 issue of Physical Review D (Vol. 92, Iss. 10).

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Abstract

Recently there has been significant interest in the claim that dark matter axions gravitationally thermalize and form a Bose-Einstein condensate with a cosmologically long-range correlation. This has potential consequences for galactic scale observations. Here we critically examine this claim. We point out that there is an essential difference between the thermalization and formation of a condensate due to repulsive interactions, which can indeed drive long-range order, and that due toattractive interactions, which can lead to localized Bose clumps (stars or solitons) that only exhibit short-range correlation. While the difference between repulsion and attraction is not present in the standard collisional Boltzmann equation, we argue that it is essential to the field theory dynamics, and we explain why the latter analysis is appropriate for a condensate. Since the axion is primarily governed by attractive interactions—gravitation and scalar-scalar contact interactions—we conclude that while a Bose-Einstein condensate is formed, the claim of long-range correlation is unjustified.

 

André Taylor and his colleagues at MIT (the Yang Shao-Horn group) believe that a laser analysis technique known as Raman spectroscopy can answer many questions about lithium-air batteries, whose chemistry has proven hard to understand.

The team’s paper “Raman Spectroscopy in Lithium–Oxygen Battery Systems” was designated a “Very Important Paper” by the editor of ChemElectroChem and made the journal’s October 2015 print-edition cover for its special issue on “In Situ Monitoring”. The paper was previously published in the journal’s July 2015 online edition.

If lithium-air batteries live up to their promise, we could one day be driving electric cars 500 miles or more without recharging, or using laptops for weeks without having to plug in. They could also replace lithium-ion batteries, currently the standard in many consumer electronics.

“This is a powerful technology,” says Taylor, “and we want to get people to see this as a viable technology.”

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Abstract

Electrochemical processes in lithium–oxygen (Li–O2 or Li–air) batteries are complex, with chemistry depending on cycling conditions, electrode materials and electrolytes. In non-aqueous Li–O2 cells, reversible lithium peroxide (Li2O2) and irreversible parasitic products (i.e., LiOH, Li2CO3, Li2O) are common. Superoxide intermediates (O2, LiO2) contribute to the formation of these species and are transiently stable in their own right. While characterization techniques like XRD, XPS and FTIR have been used to observe many Li–O2 species, these methods are poorly suited to superoxide detection. Raman spectroscopy, however, may uniquely identify superoxides from O−O vibrations. The ability to fingerprint Li–O2 products in situ or ex situ, even at very low concentrations, makes Raman an essential tool for the physicochemical characterization of these systems. This review contextualizes the application of Raman spectroscopy and advocates for its wider adoption in the study of Li–O2 batteries.

 

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Multiple honors

Ta-Nehisi Coates is having a stellar year after the publication of Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House, 2015).

Visit these links to read each section:
Kirkus Prize, Winner
MacArthur “Genius” Grant, Winner
National Book Award for Nonfiction, Finalist


Kirkus Prize

Coates was honored with the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction at a ceremony in Austin, TX on October 15, 2015. This year’s judges praised Between the World and Me as “a formidable literary achievement and a crucial, urgent, and nuanced contribution to a long-overdue national conversation.”

Now in its second year, the Kirkus Prize honors writers who have received a starred review from the literary journal Kirkus Reviews. It is one of the richest literary awards in the world, awarding $50,000 to the writers in each literary category — nonfiction, fiction and young readers’ literature. The panel is composed of nationally respected writers and highly regarded booksellers, librarians and Kirkus critics.

Coates’ fellow honorees were Hanya Yanagihara (fiction) and Pam Muñoz (young readers’ literature). Their works were selected from a pool of 1,032 eligible books.

 

2015 MacArthur “Genius” Grant

Coates received a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Grant for his journalism, which interprets “complex and challenging issues around race and racism through the lens of personal experience and nuanced historical analysis.”

The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. The fellows are nominated then selected on three criteria: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.

Coates joins 24 other MacArthur Fellows this year, among them MIT economist Heidi Williams. The fellows were chosen for “shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” according to MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”

Coates-tweet

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MacArthur Foundation Video

 

 

National Book Award for Nonfiction

On October 14, 2015, the National Book Foundation announced Coates’ Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House) as one of five finalists for the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction by the National Book Foundation.

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization, in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature. Winners in each category will be announced at the National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner in New York City on November 18, 2015.

The 2015 Judges for nonfiction are Diane Ackerman, Patricia Hill Collins, John D’Agata, Paul Holdengräber, and Adrienne Mayor. All five writers appeared as National Book Awards Nonfiction finalists for the first time:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau/Penguin Random House)
Sally Mann, Hold Still (Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group)
Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
Carla Power, If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Henry Holt and Company)
Tracy K. Smith, Ordinary Light (Alfred A. Knopf)


 

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all—regardless of race—honestly reckon with our country’s fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden? Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his own awakening to the truth about history and race through a series of revelatory experiences: immersion in nationalist mythology as a child; engagement with history, poetry, and love at Howard University; travels to Civil War battlefields and the South Side of Chicago; a journey to France that reorients his sense of the world; and pilgrimages to the homes of mothers whose children’s lives have been taken as American plunder. Taken together, these stories map a winding path toward a kind of liberation—a journey from fear and confusion to a full and honest understanding of the world as it is. Masterfully woven from lyrical personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me offers a powerful new framework for understanding America’s history and current crisis, and a transcendent vision for a way forward.

 

Latanya Sweeney was appointed editor-in-chief of Technology Science, a new journal published by the Data Privacy Lab at Harvard University. The journal was established by a group of 47 researchers, professors, and legal experts from 30 universities around the world. It will publish “original material dealing primarily with a social, political, personal, or organizational benefit or adverse consequence of technology.” Current features include research on Facebook Messenger’s geolocation collection and disclosure, medical privacy, and price discrimination in international travel.

Dr. Sweeney is a professor of government and technology in the department of government at Harvard University. She is the founder and director of the Data Privacy Lab. Before coming to Harvard in 2011, Professor Sweeney was a Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During 2014, she served as the chief technology officer for the Federal Trade Commission. Dr. Sweeney currently serves as a member of the Electronic Privacy Information Center Advisory Board (EPIC).

Professor Sweeney holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science and a Ph.D. in computer science, all from MIT. She also earned a master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University.

“Spectral correspondences for Maass waveforms on quaternion groups” by Terrence Blackman and Stefan Lemurell has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by the Journal of Number Theory, available for download 7 July 2015.

The work was supported by the MIT Mathematics Department and by the MIT Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professors & Scholars Program.

Abstract

We prove that in most cases the Jacquet-Langlands correspondence between newforms for Hecke congruence groups and newforms for quaternion orders is a bijection. Our proof covers almost all cases where the Hecke congruence group is of cocompact type, i.e. when a bijection is possible. The proof uses the Selberg trace formula.

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Huffington Post Q&A with Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, the 63rd black woman in American history with a PhD in physics:

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is a 32-year-old theoretical astrophysicist. Her academic home is arguably the nation’s most elite physics department, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In one sense, she is among a dying breed. Prescod-Weinstein is a pen-and-paper theorist. “Basically I do calculus all day, on paper,” she told HuffPost. “I’m a little bit of a hold-out. There are things I could be doing by computer that I just like to do by hand.”

But she is also part of a vanguard, a small but growing number of African-American women with doctorates in physics.

Just 83 Black women have received a Ph.D. in physics-related fields in American history, according to a database maintained by physicists Dr. Jami Valentine and Jessica Tucker that was updated last week.

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Calestous Juma: Africa rebooting

Calestous Juma‘s latest opinion piece in the April 2015 issue of NewAfrican Magazine:

We all know Africa is a continent full of innovation. Now policy makers at all levels must put this strength, along with scientific and technical development, at the centre of economic strategies. Fortunately, the African Union has recently adopted a strategy that seeks to do exactly that.

“The 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) recently adopted by the African Union (AU) embodies this vision. Its mission is to “accelerate Africa’s transition to an innovation-led, knowledge-based economy.” The strategy is part of the longer-term Agenda 2063 – the AU’s development vision and action plan.”

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Kimani Toussaint led research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that demonstrates the first-ever recording of optically encoded audio onto a non-magnetic plasmonic nanostructure, opening the door to multiple uses in informational processing and archival storage.

To demonstrate its abilities to store sound and audio files, Toussaint and fellow researchers created a musical keyboard or “nano piano,” using the available notes to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (listen below).

“The chip’s dimensions are roughly equivalent to the thickness of human hair,” he says.

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Nano piano’s “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

 

Toussaint-nano piano

Nano piano concept: Arrays of gold, pillar-supported bowtie nanoantennas (bottom left) can be used to record distinct musical notes, as shown in the experimentally obtained dark-field microscopy images (bottom right). These particular notes were used to compose ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’