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Frog-Attacking Bats, Energy Predictions Make News

From the lethal lure of a frog’s serenade to predictions about future energy concerns and findings of increased divorce in conservative areas, UT research is in the news. Learn more.

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Researchers, scholars and experts from The University of Texas at Austin are sought by news outlets every week for their knowledge, expertise and insights. Here’s a selection of recent media hits.

The Myth of Race in the Age of President Barack Obama
U.S. News and World Report

Jacqueline Jones

Bill Sage. [Photo by Marsha Miller/UT Austin.] 

Jacqueline Jones, Department of History, College of Liberal Arts

The concept of race is a myth, says history professor Jacqueline Jones. Jones’ book, “A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America,” chronicles the lives of six Americans, over four centuries, to demonstrate the application of the concept. Last month, she sat down with U.S. News to discuss her new book and the origins of the myth that race is a biologically determined characteristic.

Read the excerpted interview here.

Related Links:
Jacqueline Jones interviewed by US News and World Report and NPR; new book named Best of 2013 by Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly

Could Malpractice Reform Save the U.S. Health Care System?

Bill Sage

Bill Sage. [Photo by Marsha Miller/UT Austin.] 

Bill Sage, School of Law

Malpractice reform, a decades-long debate, may be ripe for compromise with the current changes in the health care system. Often known as medical tort reform, malpractice reform has seen changes in states like California and Texas, but attempts to pass similar federal regulations have failed since the 1970s.

Professor Bill Sage published an essay in the journal Health Affairs calling for the government to now step in. Specifically, Sage proposes doctors and the federal government strike a deal that would appease physicians, while physicians would agree to larger health care system changes like bundling services instead of fee-for-service. Sage believes it will pave the way for more affordable health care.

PBS NewsHour spoke with Sage to learn more about his proposal. Read the interview.

Related Links:
UT Law Magazine: William Sage

5 Predictions for the Year Ahead in Energy and the Environment
NPR’s State Impact

Michael Webber, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Cockrell School of Engineering

Michael Webber

Michael Webber 

Earlier this month at the annual Webber Energy Group research symposium, professor Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute, provided his five energy and environment predictions for 2014, acknowledging that “Predictions are often wrong.”

Webber’s five predictions, as reported by State Impact Texas, are: exploding trains; less flaring; a sunny forecast for solar; more gas, less coal; and a cage match over exports.

Longer term, Webber says water will become more valuable. “I think water will join petroleum as one of the world’s great strategic resources,” Webber said. “Oil and gas companies will become Oil, Gas and Water companies.”

Read the five predictions from State Impact.

Related Links:
Energy Expert Michael Webber Launches Online Course ‘Energy 101’

How Life Began: New Clues from New Worlds

Andrew Ellington, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, College of Natural Sciences

Andrew Ellington

Andrew Ellington 

Could life exist elsewhere in the universe? The odds are getting better all the time. Water and carbon, two of the essentials for life, can be found almost everywhere. How abundant life actually is is still a 50-50 proposition. But, UT scientist Andrew Ellington remains upbeat. Ellington and his colleagues hope to create a proto-cell in the lab that could represent the earliest life forms.

Read more about Ellington’s optimism in TIME’s Science and Space column.

Related Links:
Power to the Patients: Making Self-Diagnosis Convenient, Accessible and Affordable

More Religiously Conservative Protestants? More Divorce, Study Finds
Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass 

Jennifer Glass, Population Research Center, College of Liberal Arts

In a study to be published in the American Journal of Sociology, sociology professor Jennifer Glass finds a “puzzling paradox” of why divorce is more common in religiously conservative states. Glass and another researcher “discovered that people living in areas with lots of conservative Protestants were at higher risk of getting divorced, even if they weren’t conservative Protestants themselves.”

Glass also found that it was not poverty nor higher rates of marriage that drove up divorce in “red” counties.

Read more about the study and its findings.

Related Links:
The Work-From-Home Wars
Telecommuting Adds Hours to the Workweek, UT Study Shows

Love Struck: Bats Attack Frogs after Eavesdropping on Their Serenade
Nature World News

Mike Ryan, Department of Integrative Biology, College of Natural Sciences

A team of researchers, including biologist Mike Ryan, have recently discovered frogs singing love songs to potential mates end up prime targets for hungry bats. The newly published study reports bats can detect ripples created by the frog when serenading, even after it stops “singing.”

“A general theme of this research is that the way we communicate with any kind of a signal is by creating a disturbance in the environment,” said Ryan. “When we vocalize, we’re causing changes in the air pressure around us and that’s what our ears hear. When we use visual signals, light bounces off whatever pigments we’re using and is transmitted to the receiver. Anything we do disturbs the environment, whether it’s intended as a communication signal or not.”

Read more about the new findings.

Front page image by Ryan Taylor, Salisbury University.