Purdue News Weekly Summary

October 24, 2005

This digest contains summaries of the following stories from Purdue News Service and Agricultural Communication Service. All these stories, and more, are available on the Web.



Holiday shopping forecast: The good, the bad and the squeezed

A Purdue retail expert says consumers will have deals galore early and late as retailers adjust to gas prices that will likely limit shoppers' trips to the mall. "While consumers have adjusted to $3 per gallon gas and have kept spending, high gas prices act like a tax on retail spending," says Richard Feinberg, director of the Purdue Retail Institute and Center for Customer-Driven Quality. "Retailers realize that fewer visits by consumers because of high gas prices mean they must offer bargains, sales and promotions designed to 'compel' spending." Feinberg, who is a professor of consumer sciences and retailing, predicts consumers will spend 2 percent to 6 percent more overall than last year, but retailers will see an increase of only 1 percent to 4 percent, when they'd much rather be in the double-digit range. Internet sales will increase $5 billion from $20 billion last year, but Internet spending still represents only 5 percent of the $435 billion that will be spent this year. More

Climate model predicts dramatic changes over next 100 years

Climate changes

The most comprehensive climate model to date of the continental United States predicts more extreme temperatures throughout the country and more extreme precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and east of the Mississippi. The climate model, run on supercomputers at Purdue, takes into account a large number of factors that have been incompletely incorporated in past studies, such as the effects of snow reflecting solar energy back into space and of high mountain ranges blocking weather fronts from traveling across them, said Noah S. Diffenbaugh, the team's lead scientist. Diffenbaugh said a better understanding of these factors - coupled with a more powerful computer system on which to run the analysis - allowed the team to generate a far more coherent image of what weather we can expect to encounter in the continental United States for the next century. Those expectations, he said, paint a very different climate picture for most parts of the country. "This is the most detailed projection of climate change that we have for the U.S.," said Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences in Purdue's College of Science and a member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. "And the changes our model predicts are large enough to substantially disrupt our economy and infrastructure." More

Expert encourages alternate treatments for men who abuse women

The ability to effectively treat men who repeatedly abuse women may be improved through individualized therapy rather than the traditional group treatment approach, according to a Purdue domestic violence expert. "We know that group treatments work for some men, but others will continue to physically, verbally, psychologically and sexually abuse women," said Christopher I. Eckhardt, associate professor of psychological sciences. "Our perspective is that treatment guidelines should focus on the individual's background, motivations for engaging in abuse, and readiness to change their behavior, rather than a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to treatment. Domestic violence researchers and counselors in the field do not fully understand why partner abuse occurs and how we can change this behavior in every case. But we do know that people are likely to respond differently to different methods of intervention, and for many men, individual treatment may be the way to go. The safety of women matters the most, so we need to make sure we consider all effective forms of intervention with this goal in mind." More

Purdue researcher leads $4.5 million NSF study of soybean genome

Scott Jackson

Farmers, college students and consumers may benefit from soybean research made possible by a $4.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to a team of researchers headed by Purdue plant geneticist Scott Jackson. The four-year funding package launches the process to sequence the soybean genome, which eventually will provide new ways to improve crops, said Jackson. The researchers will locate the genes on the soybean chromosomes in order to create a physical map. Integrating the physical map with the parts of the genetic map already available eventually will allow sequencing of the entire soybean genome. More

'Politics as usual' may result in guilty verdict from constituents

Even if a politician is found innocent of corruption in a court of law, what is perceived as unethical behavior can result in a guilty verdict in the court of public opinion, says a Purdue political expert. "Politicians and government officials define corruption based on whether they are breaking the law, while citizens may think of corruptive behavior as something as simple as candidates on the campaign trail making promises specifically to influence a group of voters," says James McCann, associate professor of political science who studies public opinion. "Former majority leader and Texas Rep. Tom DeLay declares that he is not guilty of the indictments brought against him for illegal fund raising and accepting gifts. But he may still be considered 'corrupt,' at least according to how voters defined what is politically corrupt behavior in our research." McCann teamed with David P. Redlawsk, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Iowa, to study how corruption is defined and interpreted by American voters. The researchers' article appeared in September's Political Behavior. More

Purdue findings help Coast Guard modify search-and-rescue plane

Douglas Adams and Harold Kess

Purdue engineers are helping the U.S. Coast Guard deal with a possible 10-fold increase in vibration that could result from installing a larger observation window in a search-and-rescue aircraft to improve visibility during missions. Presently, the Lockheed Martin HC-130J Hercules search-and-rescue plane has a circular observation window that is about a foot in diameter, and the Coast Guard would like to install a window that is about 4 feet long by 3.5 feet wide. "The potential disadvantage of making a change like this to an aircraft's fuselage is that it could increase the noise and vibration environment inside the aircraft to dangerous levels, making it difficult for the rescuers to complete their missions," said Douglas E. Adams, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. The engineers have concluded, however, that the impact of increased vibration on personnel could be managed by installing special vibration-isolating seats. "The bottom line is that the benefits of increased visibility probably would outweigh the potential dangers posed by increased vibration," Adams said. More



Professor's assessment helps protect personal information online

As identity theft and online fraud become more and more common, constant vigilance and personal assessment are the keys to protecting yourself from becoming a victim, a Purdue professor said. Beverly J. Davis, an associate professor of organizational leadership and supervision, has developed an assessment individuals can use to determine their levels of vigilance in protecting their identity while online. The PREPARE assessment helps people evaluate their practices as well as helping them to then develop strategies to better protect themselves in the future. "There isn't one thing a person can do to protect themselves," she said. "A person must be continually vigilant about their personal information. Frequent credit report checks, research about online companies and frequent re-evaluation are all essential pieces to protecting your information and making yourself a less likely victim of fraud and identity theft." More



Economists: Ethanol's impact on agriculture a mixed blessing

Converting more corn into ethanol would be a high-octane boost to many, but not all, in the agriculture industry, predict two Purdue University agricultural economists. Corn growers, beef producers and the dairy industry stand to gain from an ethanol boom, according to economists Chris Hurt and Otto Doering. On the flip side, hog and poultry producers, grain elevator operators and grain shippers might be negatively affected. Soybean and wheat growers could go either way. Hurt and Doering outlined possible impacts to Indiana agriculture from a new federal renewable fuel standard. "The standard calls for the production of 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012 - a near doubling of current annual production," Doering said. "Ethanol and biodiesel are expected to make up most of the 7.5 billion gallons. To meet that goal, ethanol plants would use 2.5 billion bushels of corn, an increase in current usage of 1 billion bushels." More

Combine fires preventable threats, farm safety specialist says

Fire has been a threat to agriculture since powered machinery was introduced more than 150 years ago. One of the first combines used in North America was destroyed in an 1856 fire caused by an overheated bearing during a California wheat harvest. Times have changed, but the danger remains. Because of their many hours of operation and the dry fodder that can collect on the machine, combines are especially vulnerable to fires, said Gail Deboy, a Purdue farm safety specialist. During hot, dry weather, crispy, parched fodder provides an excellent fuel source once a fire is ignited, Deboy said. This year's early planting led to early maturing crops and, subsequently, unusually dry foliage during harvest. Researchers estimate 695 combine fires occur each year in the United States, at a total machinery loss of $10.5 million, Deboy said. The figure would be much higher if lost production time, crop losses and leasing of replacement machinery were added in. More



News tips sent the week of Oct. 17-24

Expert: Early awareness might prevent bird flu pandemic

Health officials have issued warnings for months about the danger the avian flu could pose to humans, but an expert from Purdue University says that while the threat is real, there is a great deal that can be done to stop a worst-case scenario. "Prevention is the key to avoiding a massive public-health crisis," says James D. McGlothlin, an associate professor in the School of Health Sciences. "Being alert to the danger of this virus, as well as practicing common-sense measures, can go a long way toward saving lives." So far, the World Health Organization has confirmed at least 60 deaths due to bird flu. If the virus is transmitted human to human, it has been estimated that the virus could kill millions of Americans, although no cases among fowl or humans have been reported yet in the United States. More

Professor says today's vampires are more about style than gore

The real Count Dracula wasn't quite the pretty face that today's vampires boast in books, movies and at Halloween parties, says a Purdue classics professor. "Stories and traditions vary over time, and the Western world shifted from portraying vampires as repulsive and horrible to more human creatures that are sexually desirable and even sympathetic," says John T. Kirby, professor of classics and comparative literature. "This dramatic change really began with Anne Rice's remarkable series of vampire novels in the 1970s and other novels, films and television shows that followed her lead. While people are having fun with this new image of vampires, it's important to remember the historical figure who inspired vampire legend as we know it in the West today." More

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