Posts filed under ‘Faculty research’

Consider the Stink Bug

Up close and personal: a brown marmorated stink bug.

Up close and personal: a brown marmorated stink bug.

Last winter, you probably had some unwelcome houseguests. No, not your in-laws. Stink bugs.

Maybe it was your basement, garage, or a dark corner of the living room. But chances are, stink bugs made their way into your house sometime during mid-September to October, and cozied up (in a dormant state, called diapause) until spring, when they headed back into the wild with nary a thank you for your hospitality.

Now, as the smelly critters are finding homes for the winter, we figured it was a good time to check in with Greg Krawczyk, an entomologist at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center, to learn more about the plight of the humble stink bug.

First thing’s first: What’s with the stink?

Brown marmorated stink bugs, the ones we commonly see, release a smelly substance when they are disturbed or feel threatened. Most people will smell it, and a very small portion of population can actually develop a rash if they come into contact with it. But for most people, it doesn’t create problems. If you don’t disturb stink bugs, they won’t release a smell. Obviously if you smash them, they smell. But it’s not a persistent odor.

Why are people talking about stink bugs now?

This is the time of year they come into houses. In the spring and summer, farmers are dealing with them; they are feeding on crops and doing damage. But then in mid-September, the change in the daylight triggers an overwintering mechanism, and stink bugs start looking for a safe place to survive winter. They love attics, basements, piles of old papers or clothes, dark spaces behind books on a shelf. When they are in houses, they are not there to feed or fly; they’re there to nap for the winter. They will wake up in the spring, when it’s warm enough, usually in April or May.

Now that it’s late October, have most stink bugs already secured their winter accommodations?

Yes. If people have seen few of them outside their houses in the past month or so, then chances are very good that there are diapausing stink bugs somewhere in their house right now. But if we don’t disturb those areas, we’ll see them again in the spring—those same exact insects.

They spend the winter with you? How creepy.

Why is that creepy? You don’t have to feed them, and they don’t multiply or spread disease. They just want to find a cozy place to nap for a few months. That’s how they survive.

Can you prevent them from getting cozy in your home?

Well, you have to realize that they’re not usually drawn to our living areas. There’s too much motion, and the lights go on and off. They like dark, undisturbed places, where most people won’t ever realize they are there.

So stink bugs probably won’t want to spend the winter under your bed or in your underwear drawer?

No, they’d be disturbed too easily. Not good environments for them.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

October 30, 2013 at 11:26 am 2 comments

The Penn Stater Daily — Oct. 29, 2013

Settlements reached: It was announced yesterday that Penn State will pay $59.7 million to settle lawsuits filed by 26 victims of Jerry Sandusky. The settlements will not be funded by student tuition or taxpayer funds, according to officials. (See this news release for more details on how the settlements will be paid.) Said President Rodney Erickson: “We hope this is another step forward in the healing process for those hurt by Mr. Sandusky, and another step forward for Penn State.”

An interesting comparison: On the heels of the announcement, Bloomberg Businessweek posted this piece, comparing Penn State’s settlements to the deals struck by the Catholic Church with four men abused by a former priest. The takeaway: Victims in both settlements received about $2.3 million each.

Get a room: On a lighter note, new research from SAS and Breffni Noone, a faculty member in the School of Hospitality Management, shows how bad online reviews can affect a hotel’s bottom line. According to the study, “consumers simply will not choose a hotel with negative reviews.” Which means I’m not the only one who won’t book a room until I’ve skimmed at least 50 reviews for the word “bedbug.”


Muppets! The next Muppets movie isn’t due in theaters until March 2014, but this fun new poster, featuring Ty Burrell ’97g, was released yesterday. According to, Burrell plays Jean Pierre Napoleon, who—judging by this pic and that creepy mustache—appears to be a bad guy.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

October 29, 2013 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

Research Unplugged: Movie Music 101

Watch the opening scene of The Shining and try not feel a little uneasy.

Seriously, it’s impossible. The windy roads, the yellow Beetle inching farther and farther from civilization, unknowingly headed toward Heeeere’s Johnny!, those creepy twins, and impending doom.

Now imagine the same scene set to John Denver’s “Country Roads” (or see it for real by turning off the sound on the above clip while playing this one in a separate window). The windy roads become tranquil and welcoming; it could be the opening to a nature documentary or a coming-of-age tale set in a peaceful country cabin.

The impact of music in film was the topic of Thursday’s Research Unplugged, a series of talks open to the public and held each Thursday this fall in the Schlow Memorial Library. This week, the presenter was Penn State musicology professor and music historian Charles Youmans, who used video clips—from the earliest “talkies” to more modern flicks—to demonstrate just how crucial music is to the way movies are perceived. “Composers are aware of how music pushes our buttons,” he says. Here’s a breakdown of some of his most powerful examples:

Frankenstein, 1931: Incorporating music into early film “troubled filmmakers,” explained Youmans. “They thought viewers would wonder, ‘Where’s that music coming from?’” There’s no music in Frankenstein; we watched a scene where the monster comes upon a little girl in the woods, and without musical cues to set the tone, it’s hard to tell if he’s planning to harm or befriend her. (Spoiler alert: Frankenstein makes nice at first, then tosses her into a pond.) Almost subconsciously, says Youmans, we rely on music to “tell us how to feel.”

King Kong, 1933: Director Merion C. Cooper was convinced music was necessary in film, and King Kong was the first movie with a full-length score. We watched the scene when the ship first closes in on Kong’s island, and the foreboding music makes it very clear that something bad is about to happen.

The Searchers, 1956: Youmans used clips from this classic western to explain leitmotifs, when certain chords or rhythms represent characters or themes. Because it’s unclear whether John Wayne’s character is a hero or a villian, his leitmotif is in the mysterious-sounding key of D flat major, and it plays every time he enters a scene. Youmans says you’ll notice more subtle leitmotifs in Star Wars and the Harry Potter movies.

There Will Be Blood, 2007: With today’s technology, explained Youmans, sound effects are becoming just as important as a film’s score. There’s a really cool scene in There Will Be Blood when the metallic creak of an oil rig blends perfectly with the orchestral score. And because the movie is about a man’s singular focus on oil, a cluster of tones “coalesces into a single note” during the opening credits, he says, representing obsession.

Interesting stuff, huh? Youmans’ talk made me want to re-watch all my favorite movies and pay closer attention to the music — and how it manipulates my emotions.

This fall’s Research Unplugged series is only half over. Check out the schedule of upcoming talks here.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

October 25, 2013 at 3:38 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Oct. 14, 2013

The Daily Collegian's front page from Monday, Oct. 14.

The Daily Collegian’s front page from Monday, Oct. 14.

Yeah, I spent part of my Sunday night rewatching the four-overtime victory over Michigan. You could argue that it was my first time really seeing what happened—I was standing at the back of the opposite end zone when Bill Belton scored the winning touchdown, so I didn’t have the best view. And given how tall the lettermen standing around me were, even though I was on the same side of the field as Allen Robinson’s catch, I didn’t have a great view of that, either.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to relive that game:

“Epic:” That’s the adjective Belton used when he tweeted this video of his touchdown run, filmed by Tim Owen ’11 of Blue White Illustrated, who was standing in exactly the right place. The post-touchdown celebration footage is entertaining, too.

Over and over: Can’t get enough of Allen Robinson’s catch? Or Belton’s run? That’s why someone invented GIFs. Click here to watch Robinson, and you’ll see why his catch was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter on Saturday night. And click here to watch Belton from a cool, overhead angle.

Unbridled emotions: Tony Mancuso of GoPSUSports gets to hang out in the locker room for exclusive interviews, and this footage from Saturday night is some of his best work yet. Calm, cool, and collected offensive lineman John Urschel is practically giddy. It’s hard to tell who’s smiling more widely, Christian Hackenberg or Allen Robinson. And then there’s Bill O’Brien’s postgame speech: “You never quit. Don’t ever forget that the rest of your lives.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to hug a large, sweaty man:” That’s Onward State’s Kevin Horne, recounting his evening in the student section. Lots of fun observations in this piece.

Joe Hermitt tweeted this photo with this intro: You think the win over Michigan meant a lot to #PennState coach Bill O'Brien? I'd say so.

Joe Hermitt tweeted this photo with this intro: You think the win over Michigan meant a lot to #PennState coach Bill O’Brien? I’d say so.

How loud is a Whiteout? Patriot-News photographer Joe Hermitt pulled out his Decibel 10 app to see exactly how loud it was Saturday on the field. Among his comparisons: a chainsaw, a pneumatic drill, being 300 yards away from a jet engine. Check out his video here. And of course his photo above.

Best Beaver Stadium game ever? Mike Poorman ’82 of State (and the College of Communications) thinks it was. But he consulted with a couple of experts—Fran Fisher and Lou Prato ’59, and they’re holding out for the 1982 Nebraska game. What do you think? Check out Poorman’s list of the 10 top Beaver Stadium games and let us know your vote in the comments.

If you still didn’t get enough: The game will be rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Eastern time tonight; it’s ESPNU’s College Football Game of the Week. Of course.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

P.S. A lot of other stuff happened over the weekend. The Pegula Ice Arena was christened, and the first game there was a resounding success (more coming later from our Tina Hay, who was there with her camera). THON revealed its 2014 theme: Redefine the Possibilities. And Science World Report published a story that will be of particular interest if your weekend was anything like mine: Penn State researchers looking into whether you can “make up” for lost sleep.

October 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm 1 comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Oct. 10, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State

A prehistoric mural from the Pech Merle cave in France. Photo by Dean Snow.

A prehistoric mural from the Pech Merle cave in France. Photo by Dean Snow.

Cracking the stone ceiling: A new study, led by archaeology faculty member Dean Snow, suggests that up to three quarters of the earliest-known cave paintings were made by women. By identifying female hand prints in the paintings (which include depictions of animals, presumably to chronicle the results of hunts), the researchers determined that women may have also taken the roles of hunters in prehistoric times. “It wasn’t just a bunch of guys out there chasing bison around,” Snow told the National Geographic. So, women not only brought home food for the family, but also did the interior decorating. Um, anyone else not at all surprised by this?

Recalculating route: Penn State geography prof Anthony Robinson just wrapped up the world’s first digital-mapping open online course (or MOOC). In this Maclean’s article, Robinson talks about the “democratization of cartography” — how, with a little know-how,  map-making is now accessible to the average joe. And, perhaps even more important, thanks to GPS devices, today’s kids will grow up in a world where parents never fight over whether or not to pull over and ask for directions.

Whiteout Cancer: Last year, Penn State senior Kayla Nakonechni camped out in Nittanyville, co-chaired the homecoming committee, and danced in THON — and in August, she was diagnosed with cancer. To support Kayla and her family, a group of her friends designed “Whiteout Cancer” T-shirts, now on sale at Old State Clothing Co. in downtown State College for $10 a pop. Funds raised will help pay for Kayla’s treatments. To purchase a shirt over the phone, call 814-234-1415. And to follow Kayla’s journey, check out her blog, aptly named, Life is tough, but I’m tougher

Air Bill: Nittanyville campers, who’ve been holding down the fort outside Beaver Stadium since Monday, got a surprise visit from Bill O’Brien last night. And boy, that BoB sure knows how to work a crowd. As for his dunking abilities? Uh, see for yourself here (though you have to admit, the backwards cap was a nice touch.)

Mary Murphy, associate editor

October 10, 2013 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Oct. 8, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State

Precious medal: Some cool news for fans of legendary punk rocker Patti Smith: She’s this year’s recipient of the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities‘ Medal for Distinguished Achievement. “An Evening with Patti Smith” is slated for Oct. 15 at Eisenhower Auditorium; Smith will accept the award and perform. For tickets ($15 for students, $35 for general admission), call 1-800-ARTS-TIX.

Autism news: A new study by a team of Penn State researchers may change the direction of autism research. Led by life sciences faculty member Scott Selleck, the team discovered that duplications of sections of DNA are more common in people with autism—and more duplications are associated with more severe autism symptoms. These genetic changes are also responsible for other problems, like digestive issues, that often accompany autism, says Selleck in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “I don’t think autism is only caused by changes in genes that are exclusive to the nervous system, because developmental biology doesn’t work that way.”

Plame speak: Former CIA agent turned author Valerie Plame ’85 is racking up good reviews for her debut fiction novel, Blowback, released earlier this month. In an interview with The Daily BeastPlame talks about government surveillance, “scary” nuclear scenarios, and finding love in the CIA. She also reveals that Blowback’s main character, CIA officer Vanessa Pierson, is not (surprise, surprise) entirely fictional.

Hockey state of mind: After months (years?) of anticipation, the men’s hockey team kicks off its inaugural season in just four days. This article from yesterday’s Patriot-News takes a look at how Penn State hockey’s debut will impact the state of Pennsylvania — namely, an entire generation of PA kids who, on Friday, may be exposed to college hockey for the first time.

LOL for SNL: Is it just me, or has Saturday Night Live been really funny lately? Last week’s premiere earned many a solid chuckle in my household, and the latest episode’s take on Miley-gate was spot on. In yesterday’s Daily Collegian, Penn State alumnus and SNL director Don Roy King ’69 offered some behind-the-scenes tidbits, detailing what it takes to put each show together. Says King: “We go on air at 11:30 p.m. and it just sort of flies and remarkably seems to never crash.”

Have a cow: Oh, and for absolutely no reason at all, here’s an adorable baby cow, born yesterday afternoon in the Penn State Dairy Barns.

Via @penn_state on Twitter

Via Twitter @penn_state

Mary Murphy, associate editor

October 8, 2013 at 9:34 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Sept. 30, 2013


Photo courtesy of Matthew Bellingeri / The Daily Collegian

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.

It’s a Dirty Jog, But Somebody’s Got to Do It: About 10,000 runners burned calories and got coated with pastels Sunday at Penn State’s first Color Run, sponsored by the Homecoming Committee. As an occasional jogger, I’m not sure I understand why you’d want people to douse you with powdered paint while you’re out for a run. But I was downtown Sunday evening and saw hundreds of happy participants post-race, so I guess it must be a good time.

One for the Money, All for the Kids: THON has released its annual fundraising summary, (more…)

September 30, 2013 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Sept. 23, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.

All sorts of science: Penn State researchers are making news in disparate and fascinating ways. Postdoctoral fellow Angela Brant is credited with the hunch that has led to new findings about the brain’s ability to learn new skills well into adolescence; Nobel Prize-winning glaciologist Richard Alley has co-authored a study confirming the discovery of an estuary—the first of its kind—under the Antarctic ice sheet; and Ph.D. candidate Joshua Stevens has come up with a pretty cool map showing nearly a century of Bigfoot sightings across North America.


September 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

The Penn Stater Daily — Sept. 19, 2013

From news to features, your daily dose of everything Penn State.

A healthy decision: Penn State has reversed course on its plans to fine faculty and staff who don’t provide personal health information and submit to screenings as part of the university’s new wellness plan. The story had become national news in recent weeks as faculty members and outside health care experts weighed in; the university’s decision to suspend a $100 monthly fine for noncompliance with the plan made the front page of the Business section of Thursday’s New York Times.

Shining light on dark matter: A Penn State research team believes it has discovered the origins of genomic dark matter. The findings, (more…)

September 19, 2013 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

From The Magazine: Pete Hatemi on Genes and Politics

For our Sept./Oct. issue, I had the chance to interview Pete Hatemi about his research into the ways our genes help determine everything from how we choose a mate to how we vote. Hatemi is an associate professor whose expertise melds political science with biochemistry and genetics, a relatively rare crossover that allows him to work in really interesting areas.

We headlined the Q&A “Are We Born Biased?,” and the short answer to that question is, (more…)

September 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm 3 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts

Recent Posts

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,295 other followers


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,295 other followers

%d bloggers like this: