Scholars across the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at KU turn up every single day determined to make discoveries that will uplift society. They question the status quo, experiment with new ideas and products, and propose solutions that address the challenges we all face. From discovering a new species, to recommending the best ways to find love, to exploring the potential impact of real-life death stars, check out just a few of the many KU discoveries from the spring of 2017 in our highlights reel below. And take the whole journey through our news archive here.
Looking for love? Then put down your phone and go meet some people. That’s the advice based on dating experiments led by communication studies prof. Jeffrey Hall and graduate student Benjamin Compton. They found that just 10 minutes chatting to another person totally alters how attractive they seem. “If you are friendly and have a great sense of humor, you stand to gain a lot by getting your foot in the door. Physical attractiveness is not fixed; it’s malleable,” Hall said. Their study should give Tinder users pause before they swipe left.
Have you ever watched a movie and found that you don’t relate to any of the characters? That’s what happened to KU English prof. and sci-fi writer Kij Johnson when she first read “Lord of the Rings,” a book with only three female characters. “They were an elf princess, and I knew I wasn’t one of those, and a half-elf princess, and I knew I wasn’t one of those, and a human girl who was a princess, which I knew I wasn’t,” Johnson explains. And so began a writing career that rethought classics with female characters taking center stage. The latest of which brought praise from the New York Public Library and NPR and a place on the final list of the year’s two top awards in the science fiction field. Find out more about “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe” (Tor.com, 2016) here.
With a Netflix account, you can learn loads about animals and the natural world without ever leaving your couch. But it is worth remembering that there is still so much to discover, as a team of KU researchers led by ecology and evolutionary biology prof. Robert Timm found out while pursuing a rare rodent resident of Papua New Guinea. Hailed as a top scientific discovery of 2016 in Discover magazine’s “Year in Science” issue, the scientists named the newly discovered mammal Rattus detentus to call attention to an Australian detainee center on the animal’s home island of Manus. Along with their international colleagues, these Jayhawks display that unique combination of persistence, curiosity and compassion in pursuit of their discoveries.
Last year’s release of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” got us all thinking about death stars. While we dreamed of joining the Rebel Alliance in the fight against the Empire, KU physics and astronomy prof. Adrian Melott and his colleagues kept focused on what would happen if a massive star went supernova. Their slam-dunk findings increases the distance at which a supernova would spark mass extinctions on Earth, which can only be good news. We also felt better when he added, “There’s nothing close enough to cause this kind of event in the very near future.” Phew.
Laura Hobson Herlihy is a big fish in a small pond. A lecturer in Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Herlihy is one of a small number of North Americans who speak, and an even smaller number who teach, the language of the indigenous Central American Miskitu people. Through her work with the Miskitu in Nicaragua, Herlihy has become the star of a thrice-weekly radio show in the region and the writer and impresario of a Miskitu operetta that drew 5,000 people to a performance on the beach in Puerto Cabezas over the Easter weekend. It was such a hit she’s been invited back by the municipal government to stage it again in June in Nicaragua.