With all the forward-thinking locals, there’s a lot of science and technology news coming out of the Greater Tucson Metro Area. Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of all the wonderful advancements, so our sister paper Inside Tucson Business is rolling out Tech Talk. This new section will keep you appraised of all the fascinating local achievements, whether it’s engineering, technology, astronomy—or just about anything else. Expect to see Tech Tech making an appearance from time to time in our other publications.
Sustenance from the Sun. A project led by Greg Barron-Gafford in the UA School of Geography and Development was named a finalist of the World Changing Ideas Awards in both the food and energy categories. The experimental project involves growing plants in the shade beneath solar arrays. Their initial tests of tomatoes, peppers and cilantro grew better than a control garden exposed to full sun, produced more fruit and used less water. The project is named “Agrivoltaics” and is housed at Biosphere
Dodging Dementia. People who have suffered strokes or other traumatic brain injuries sometimes use non-affected regions of the brain to accomplish tasks that were once handled by the now-injured part of the brain, according to a new research by UA cognitive scientists. The dementia researchers studied, “primary progressive aphasia,” attacks the brain’s language processing area. While people generally use the left side of the brain to comprehend language, some subjects with PPA showed additional brain activity on the right, and did better with language tests.
Bat Country. Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the lesser long-nosed bat from the endangered species list. The small bats, native to the Sonoran Desert, now have a thriving population of 200,000, up from fewer than 1,000 in 1988 when they were designated as endangered. This population turnaround comes from collaborative efforts of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, biologists and citizen scientists. And perhaps the most important aspect: these little bats play a crucial role in agave pollination for tequila farmers.
Solar Go-Karts. Racing the Sun, a high school go-kart competition, took place this last week. The catch? All of the go-karts were mounted with solar panels and powered only by the sun. There were 17 teams total, including Tucson teams from Basis, Amphi and Sahuaro. The high school students build their solar karts over the course of a year for this race, and learn about math, science, business, engineering, and technology while they’re at it. Check back later for the results.
Say Cheese and Look Fly. Despite what many pop icons might tell you, appearing too mysterious or rebellious to smile isn’t actually the best way to look cool, at least according to the latest research by Caleb Warren, assistant professor of marketing in the UA’s Eller College of Management. The research had people rank several advertisements based on “how cool” the marketing models depicted seemed. What the researchers found was when advertisements showed people smiling, audiences reacted more positively and thought both the models and their associated products were cooler. The only time respondents said being inexpressive was cooler was in a “hypercompetitive situation.”
Keep on Rolling. This summer, the Pima County Department of Transportation will place 12 different types of pavement across a section of San Joaquin Road between Old Ajo Highway and Milky Way Drive as a testing ground for wear, cost and durability. The treatments are planned to be laid in 1,000-foot sections covering both directions of traffic. The Department will evaluate wear done to the different asphalt types every six months, and also study the road over several years to determine the best, most cost-effective and long-term treatment options.