University offers new online class on state Open Meetings Act

To say that learning in today’s environment is unconventional would be an understatement at best. No matter the profession, the age or the purpose, an individual can always find ways to absorb himself in a studious setting. This idea is embodied in the university’s online class, “Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.”

Offered in conjunction by the state’s attorney general’s office and the university’s Institute for Governmental Service and Research since May 23, the course offers a detailed analysis of the Open Meetings Act. The OMA, enacted in 1977 to foster clarity in government, aims to educate citizens on the need for public bodies to keep certain information confidential.

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There is no ‘freshman 15,’ study says

College freshmen and their attendant gravitational fields

You might gain weight at college, but it is not because of college and will in all likelihood not be 15 pounds, according to a new study from Ohio State’s Center for Human Resource Research.

“No more than 10 percent of all college freshmen actually gained 15 pounds or more — and a quarter of freshmen reported actually losing weight during their first year,” according to a Reuters story about the study, which used data collected from 7,000 people in 1997.  Continue reading

Jim Gates is smart, explains physics on television frequently (tonight!)

If you hung out in a sleek, glimmering lair, you'd probably look pretty smug too. (Photo courtesy PBS)

By Quinn Kelley
For The Diamondback

We live in a strange world. Physics professor Jim Gates wants to explain it to people, one television miniseries at a time.

In addition to appearing in a series about the science of the NFL last year and a similar, unannounced series next year, Gates will be featured in The Fabric of the Cosmos, a four-part NOVA series premiering tonight that explores the obscure physics used to explain the universe. According to a press release, the four-part series will blow your mind.  Continue reading

University alum reinvents wheel

A 1980 graduate of this university has invented an improved version of the classic Radio Flyer little red wagon, according to the Virginian-Pilot. Virginia Beach’s Richard Shapiro, an injury trial lawyer by trade, has taken out 15 patents on his improved wagon, which features wheels that fold up into the cart for easier storage.

The Radio Flyer company also licensed one of his other inventions — a handle that, rather than sticking up in the air, folds into the cart.

Not as good.

Way better. (Children not included)

While Shapiro told the Virginian-Pilot that he was not allowed to say how much he’s being paid for the innovation, there is no doubt Radio Flyer is kicking itself for not inventing it like, 94 years ago, when it also made a lot of sense and was not at all impossible to do. Continue reading

You should stop blaming alcohol for your idiot behavior, says British anthropologist

Innocent of all charges.

The BBC ran an online “Viewpoint” column yesterday in which social anthropologist Kate Fox explains that it is societal conditioning — not those 12 beers — that are making you act like a damn fool every Friday night. And Saturday night. And most Tuesdays.

The idea is that physically being drunk doesn’t make you behave any certain way — being drunk makes you behave in ways your society associates with being drunk. Fox uses the most British examples ever:

Our beliefs about the effects of alcohol act as self-fulfilling prophecies — if you firmly believe and expect that booze will make you aggressive, then it will do exactly that. …

In high doses, alcohol impairs our reaction times, muscle control, co-ordination, short-term memory, perceptual field, cognitive abilities and ability to speak clearly. But it does not cause us selectively to break specific social rules. It does not cause us to say, “Oi, what you lookin’ at?” and start punching each other. Nor does it cause us to say, “Hey babe, fancy a shag?” and start groping each other.

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University composting: One man’s trash is another man’s dirt

The destiny of your pizza crusts, your banana peels and eventually your body.

By Molly Marcot

You’ve probably seen a compost pile before: A bin or trash can full of banana peels, dirt and grass clippings, rotting in the sun behind some hippie’s treehouse. Now imagine that setup, except instead of a hippie, it’s an entire university, and instead of a trash can, it’s thousands and thousands of pounds of waste.

That’s what Dining Services has been up to. Continue reading

Pearls of wisdom from the new poet laureate of the United States

Levine at a reading in 2006 (Photo by David Shankbone via Creative Commons)

If award-winning poet Philip Levine isn’t just a regular guy, he sure acts the part well.

When the 83-year-old writer learned he was going to be the next poet laureate of the United States starting this October, he told the New York Times “it’s like winning the Pulitzer. If you take it too seriously, you’re an idiot.” (And Levine should know: He won a Pulitzer in 1995.) Continue reading