The next meeting will be Friday, 2nd May, at 12.00 noon in SAC ballroom B. The speaker will be Provost Kaler.
Howard Scarrow reminded members of the next live-from-the-Met opera (Boheme) this Saturday at 1.30. He enthused over what an unexpectedly tremendous experience this series turned out to be (your webmaster can confirm this, and note that the next and last is 1pm Saturday 3 May, the "Fille du Regiment" in which Juan Diego Florez nails the famous 9 high C's). This series was made possible only when members Mel and Gulia Simpson donated $10,000 for the upgrade of the necessary antenna and sound system. For this they get the angels-of-the-month award.
Alex Brovey of the development office (Alexandra.Brovey@stonybrook.edu) reminded members about the Emeritus Fellowships of the Mellon foundation, worth as much as $35,000 for research and related expenses. Three candidiates from SBU need to be nominated by April 30.
Alumni from the Oyster Bay transition are having a re-union May 30-June 1 and would love professors of that period to join them (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This just publicly announced: International Conference on Technologies for Homeland Security, May 12-13, Boston, Mass. Sponsored by IEEE-USA with technical assistance from the DHS. Keynote speech: Dr. John Marburger, Science Advisor to the President, "Nuclear Defense Research and Development - a Roadmap for Interagency Coordination". http://www.ieeehomelandsecurityconference.org
700 year old trees: In Blydenburgh County Park there is old growth forest consisting of Black Tupelo trees that are over 700 years old. Daniel Karpen, an authority on old growth forests on Long Island and in New York City parks, will lead a walk there on Sunday May 4th at 1:30pm. Meet in the parking lot at the north entrance. For more information look under Lake Briana on the main webpage, then SBEC, and then walks on the upper left, or simply ask or email Dave Smith.
On the Length and Intensity of Life
Karl Bottigheimer introduced our main speaker, Lev Ginsburg from the department of Ecology and Evolution (for bio see March news).
Lev started with the analogy that ecology is currently at about the point where physics was at the time of Kepler. Kepler discovered that the planets rotation period around the sun (squared) was linearly related to their distance from the sun (cubed). i.e: a plot of the data using logarithmic scales can be approximated with a straight line of gradient 2/3. But Kepler did not know why. In fact since Napier had not yet invented logarithms, Kepler had to discover this by tediously plotting the data at each power! In the analogy, Rubner (1885) discovered a similar 2/3 law related the calories consumed by animals and their linear body size, and also did not know why. Then data obtained across species by Max Klieber in 1932 (and continuing with some controversy through the present day) it is now fairly well established that the gradient is 3/4 and has something to do with the facts that the body is 3 dimensional, the lung surface 2 dimensional, and the blood supply through a tree network.
Likewise an analysis of generation length versus body mass shows a 1/4 slope. Since 3/4 and 1/4 add up to 1, this led in 2008 to the Ginzburg-Damuth hypothesis, developed in Lev's recent paper, that life is essentially a 4 dimensional phenomenon. This may be explained in simpler terms by saying that although rabbits lead shorter lives than elephants, their metabolism is more intense, so that the total number of heartbeats over a lifetime is very roughly constant. Plants can be shown to follow somewhat similar laws. Qualifications: There is much variablity in the data. Only organisms over 100 grams are considered. Fish are different from mammals (.84 + .16 = 1), since they don't have to maintain body temperature. Humans live longer. Elof Carlson reminded us of another complication - that human longevity took a jump by 1900 due to the use of antibiotics. Avid bicyclist Walter Watson worried that this kind of argument would also indicate that exercize reduces longevity.
Still further allometries can be found, for example a 10% reduction in consumed calories leads to a 10% longer life, and similar for 20% (don't try this at 30%).
By empirical observation: (1) Our speaker very nobly risked some of his retirement by joining us for lunch. (2) Apparently I am somewhat over my quota of heartbeats, although I had been hoping for a few more.
Skunk of the month
No, this appelation is not your webmaster's rant, but rather comes from the newsletter of the longtime respected investigator Gary Snyder, who among his other evaluations of non-profits, gives this award each month to the charity executive who absconds with the most; see: http://www.garyrsnyder.com/Page_5.html This subject came into the news in December when four professors published a report in the Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly which estimated such losses as high as 13% of the take. According to Snyder most suffer little punishment for this, but in a new twist this year the IRS is requiring non-profits to report known fraud. As you might guess, watchdog and rating organizations such as http://www.charitynavigator.org (free) and http://www.charitywatch.org (somewhat more inclusive but $40 subscription) have been criticized by the charities, culminating in a lawsuit this month by Boys Town of America. The good news is that of the charities on my own list, most (but not all) got good or fair reports.