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WSU professor explores use of missionaries and religious leaders as spies in World War II

If the name John Birch sounds familiar, it’s probably because of the John Birch Society, a far-right group founded more than a decade after his death in 1945. Less has been written about the man himself: a missionary-turned-spy who built a formidable intelligence network in China during World War II.

Matthew Sutton
Matthew Sutton

“He actually flew with the bombers so he could visually point out where to drop the bombs,” said Matthew Sutton, a history professor at Washington State University. “He hated the Japanese. They had destroyed the churches he had built. They were punishing the Chinese Christians. So he was doing everything he could to support the war.”

According to Sutton, Birch was one in “a small army” of Christian missionaries who were aggressively recruited to conduct clandestine operations during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. This little-known practice, Sutton said, “made Americans aware of the importance of religion” in gathering intelligence.

The professor recently won a $50,000 federal grant to research and write a book on the topic, tentatively titled “(Un)Holy Spies: Religion and Espionage in World War II.”

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Spokesman-Review

 

Living smarter with sensor technology

Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe
Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe

For many people approaching retirement, finding ways they can continue to live at home safely as they age is an issue, one for which two Washington State University professors at the university’s campus in Pullman have been seeking a solution.

For almost 10 years now, professors Diane Cook and Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe have been researching what’s called smart-home technology, a kind of sensor monitoring system that might help seniors stay independent longer. A study that’s part of that long-term effort currently is underway and is scheduled to wrap up next summer.

“I had done clinical work with older adults, working to develop ways for them to stay independent, and studying how cognitive decline affects everyday living,” says Schmitter-Edgecombe, a professor of psychology. “Diane had a similar goal, in finding a way for technology to help keep people independent in their homes.

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Spokane Business Journal

 

New way to assess chance of ‘life’ on other planets

Dirk Schulze-Makuch
Dirk Schulze-Makuch

There is a greater chance of finding life on other planets by adopting a new system of searching, scientists claim. There are only two questions that matter, says an international working group of scientists who are examining the chances of finding life on other planets.

Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, from the Washington State University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, says, “The first question is whether Earth-like conditions can be found on other worlds, since we know empirically that those conditions could harbour life. The second question is whether conditions exist on exoplanets that suggest the possibility of other forms of life, whether known to us or not.”

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Hunt News

Unknown sponsors behind one-third of U.S. Senate campaign ads

A study by the campaign finance watchdog Center for Responsive Politics and Wesleyan University’s Media Project finds that a type of political group that does not have to disclose its donors is responsible for $80 million in ads nationally—35.8 percent of all advertising in Senate races.

Travis Ridout
Travis Ridout

Without knowing who is paying for the ads, voters are robbed of “an important clue” that allows them “to take a claim made in an ad with a grain of salt,” said Travis Ridout, a Washington State University political science professor who works with the Wesleyan University project that analyzes campaign donations.

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McLeansboro Times Leader

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Finding could improve nuclear reactors, detectors

Cigdem Capan
Cigdem Capan

A Washington State University physics instructor and undergraduate have taken part in a study aimed at getting a better understanding of plutonium, a complex element with far-ranging applications in the fields of energy, security and the environment.

WSU Tri-Cities physics instructor Cigdem Capan and undergraduate Richard Dempsey worked with a team of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory scientists that found plutonium does not share electrons when it bonds with fluoride atoms. They have published their findings in the journal Physical Review B.

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PNNL