Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heard on the Hill: E-textbook programs gain traction in other universities; KU prof’s mass extinction theory getting new attention; Student Union Activities accepting submissions for film contest

January 19, 2012


Your daily dose of news, notes and links from around Kansas University.

• Look for a bigger story on e-textbooks soon (with a hat tip to great heads-up from Heard on the Hill tipsters and commenters), but here’s one item I thought worth passing on.

This isn’t going on at KU, but I still thought it represents an interesting direction this industry might go.

Five universities are piloting programs that would buy e-textbooks in bulk.

The model would have students paying a course materials fee to the university, and they use that money to buy e-books at big discounts, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Publishers apparently like it because it’s a steady source of income instead of having students buy used or rent books.

That’s an interesting idea, but I have no idea whether it would work. Check back soon for more on what’s going on here.

• A hypothesis that explains a massive extinction on Earth many many moons ago is getting some new traction.

The theory that a gamma ray burst from a nearby star or pair of stars caused an extinction of invertebrates on Earth about 440 million years ago was first posited by a team led by Adrian Melott, a KU physics professor, according to an article in the New Scientist.

Problem is, that’s a long time ago, and there’s little evidence of these big extinction death rays hanging around today. This article gets into a bit of the science behind it and the alternative working theory. But still, it’s hard to tell if the gamma ray hypothesis is correct.

But Wilfried Domainko of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics believes that if a gamma ray came from a whole bunch of stars called a globular cluster, then there may be some remnants of the action hanging out in space still.

The New Scientist says the European Space Agency’s Gaia probe might be able to help identify any of those remnants hanging out around there.

• If you’re the filmmaking sort, Student Union Activities is looking for you.

The fine folks there are accepting submissions for the Student Film Competition, running with the International Film and Food Festival at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union.

Rules for the competition are available in the SUA Box Office on the fourth floor of the Kansas Union. Film submissions are due Feb. 5.

First prize is $500 and a film internship, second place gets $350 and third place gets $200.

• I’d suggest a movie about how Heard on the Hill is made. Especially if you want to watch my inbox at fill up with tips as hordes of tipsters tell me stuff I don’t already know.


blindrabbit 2 years, 8 months ago

Confused' is Melott's theory correct at "440 years ago" it seems a little bit to recent!


ahyland 2 years, 8 months ago

I went back and re-did the math, blindrabbit, and found I must have missed 439,999,560 years or so. The story is updated now.

Thanks for the heads-up!

Andy Hyland KU reporter


Jeff Barclay 2 years, 8 months ago

Mass Extinction? Gamma burst? Why make up evidence? It was a worldwide flood. What would the evidence show? Millions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by massive amounts of water. What does the geologic evidence show us? Millions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by massive amounts of water. Just saying.


fossilhunter 2 years, 8 months ago

Barclay and (Mis)-informed - there is ZERO evidence of a world-wide flood. While the gamma-ray burst is intriguing, there is still a lot of good science to do. However, to outright dismiss it would be premature.


Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 8 months ago

So the argument is that the mass extinction at the end of the Ordovician period, a period where almost the entire northern hemisphere was ocean and a mass extinction that is characterized by the die-off of as much as 70% of marine animals, was caused by a great flood?

Sure, that makes sense. All those marine animals died because there was too much water.


yourworstnightmare 2 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, makes me wonder what they are teaching kids at Veritas Christian School.


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