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WSU Vancouver statistician to help international whale conservation effort

Leslie New.

Leslie New, a WSU Vancouver assistant professor of statistics who specializes in the impacts of humans on wildlife, has been named to a scientific panel studying endangered whales found in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Russia’s Sakhalin Island.

New will spend three years on the Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel, an independent scientific advisory body to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She and her fellow panelists will look for ways to assess and manage the impacts of the region’s oil, gas and fishing industries, evaluate ways to monitor the whale population, and study underwater noise from seismic surveys, vessel traffic and other sources.

It’s a career moment for New, who studied the IUCN in graduate school, wondering at the time how one got involved in its research.

“The goal of my research program has always been the application of statistics to help protect wildlife populations,” she said. “I am excited about being given such a wonderful chance to really put that into practice, building the tools needed to manage an endangered population, while advancing our understanding of science at the same time. It is a wonderful place to be.”

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WSU Insider

‘Man vs. Snake’: Netflix documentary highlights WSU professor’s record-breaking arcade gaming skills

Tom Asaki.Tom Asaki, an associate professor of mathematics at Washington State University, flicked a 1980s arcade machine joystick back and forth in the basement of his Genesee, Idaho, home, his hand strategically guiding a red snake through a maze as the machine beeped and booped in the background.

The game: a Pac-Man-esque, yet obscure, 1982 Rock-Ola release called Nibbler. The goal: consume all the food in the maze without letting the snake run into its own tail.

It is a seemingly simple concept, but only a handful of players in the world have gotten as far as Asaki, whose skills are featured in a 2015 documentary, “Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.”

The film, now on Netflix, takes an in-depth look at some of the best Nibbler players in the world, including Asaki, who said he was interviewed for the documentary about nine years ago on the WSU campus.

Asaki made headlines in May 1983 when he became the first recorded person to attempt to earn a billion points on Nibbler.

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Hedy Lamarr’s scientific inventions topic of film, talk

Leslie New
Leslie New

We’ve inherited this idea that the species known as “inventor” is easily identified by markings like a white lab coat, furrowed brow, bottle-thick glasses and, of course, male-pattern baldness.

In which case, where does Hedy Lamarr fit in? Today, the self-taught scientist and inventor is credited (along with an equally unlikely collaborator, music composer George Antheil) with the visionary thinking, and tinkering, that resulted in military “radio-skipping” technology, aimed at blocking Axis powers from intercepting and jamming signals from radio-controlled Allied missiles during World War II.

“She and many other women have contributed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but have been dismissed or deliberately forgotten by virtue of their gender,” said Leslie New, an assistant professor of statistics at Washington State University Vancouver.

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The Columbian 


Mathematician breaks down how to defend against quantum computing attacks

Nathan Hamlin
Nathan Hamlin

The encryption codes that safeguard internet data today won’t be secure forever. Future quantum computers may have the and algorithms to crack them.

Nathan Hamlin, instructor and director of the WSU Math Learning Center, is helping to prepare for this eventuality.

He is the author of a new paper in the Open Journal of Discrete Mathematics that explains how a code he wrote for a doctoral thesis, the Generalized Knapsack Code, could thwart hackers armed with next generation quantum computers.

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Science Newsline

WSUV researchers develop much faster way to model aquatic vegetation

With half the world’s population—more than 3.5 billion people, according to an United Nations estimate—living less than 40 miles away from coastlines, scientists want to know how effectively coastal plants buffer inland areas from rising seas and extreme weather events. But doing the research was an arduous and limited task until three Washington State University Vancouver scientists got involved.

Nik Strigul
Stephen Henderson

WSUV environmental scientist Stephen Henderson worked with Nikolay Strigul, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics, and Jean Liénard, a mathematics postdoctoral researcher, to develop a computer model that uses photographs to re-create the complex geometry of the plants to be used in a workable computer model.

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The Columbian