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Announcing the 2022 American Chemical Society fellows

45 new fellows honored for their contributions to science

The American Chemical Society has named 45 members as ACS fellows.

Allan Felsot.

Allan Felsot, professor in the WSU School of the Environment, is among the new cohort of fellows.

The fellows program began in 2009 as a way to recognize ACS members for outstanding achievements in and contributions to science, the profession, and ACS.

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Chemical & Engineering News

‘These images belong to all of us’: Spokane-area astronomers celebrate out-of-this-world footage from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope recently revealed a batch of out-of-this world images.

Webb’s First Deep Field is an infrared image that covers a miniscule patch of sky visible from the Southern hemisphere. The image illustrates the early universe with thousands of shimmering galaxies that help fill the celestial void. It is the highest resolution infrared image of the early universe that has ever existed.

One image shown in the release Monday is a spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b. The data that the Webb telescope found from WASP-96 b gives evidence to the existence of water vapor on the gas giant.

Vivienne Baldassare.

Vivienne Baldassare, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Washington State University, specializes in black holes in small galaxies and is going to use the Webb Telescope images to help with her research. Baldassare, along with a team of distinguished scientists, was awarded observations to study nearby smaller galaxies and other stellar systems to search for black holes, she said.

“This is my life’s work to try to study this population of black holes in small galaxies,” she said. Astronomy and a lot of different science fields are hugely collaborative efforts, and I love being part of a group that’s working together to try to answer these questions.”

Baldassare is jubilant about being able to further her research, but she said she believes there’s more to these pictures than meets the eye.

“The telescope is an amazing international collaboration. These images belong to all of us,” Baldassare said.

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Serial Collapses of Ancient Pueblo Societies Offer a Stark Warning For Today’s World

In the area where the Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexican borders now meet, ancestral Pueblo societies thrived and then collapsed several times, over the span of 800 years.

Each time they recovered, their culture transformed. This shifting history can be seen in their pottery and the incredible stone and earth dwellings they created. During 300 of those years, some Pueblo peoples, who also used ink tattoos, were ruled by a matrilineal dynasty.

As in the collapse of other ancient civilizations, ancestral Pueblo social collapses align with periods of changing climate – but Pueblo farmers often persevered through droughts, suggesting that there was more to their collapses than just environmental conditions.

Tim Kohler.

“Societies that are cohesive can often find ways to overcome climate challenges,” explained Washington State University archaeologist Tim Kohler back in 2021.

“But societies that are riven by internal social dynamics of any sort – which could be wealth differences, racial disparities or other divisions – are fragile because of those factors. Then climate challenges can easily become very serious.”

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Science alert

Deep economic divide found even among employed people during COVID-19

An exploratory study with implications for the growing gig-economy indicates there were only two kinds of workers during COVID-19: the haves and the have-nots.

Using data collected from 315 employed adults across 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, researchers examined how workers were affected by precarity—a persistent insecurity in employment or income. They looked at a range of measures related to precarity including job insecurity, financial insecurity, prior unemployment, household income and underemployment.

What they found was that most employees either had all positives or all negatives on these measures with little in between.

“We were expecting to find different nuanced groups. We didn’t. We only found two: those that were doing well and those that were doing really poorly,” said lead author Andrea Bazzoli, a Washington State University psychology doctoral candidate. “It’s a sign of a two-speed economy and the K-shaped economic recovery: some people are being left behind. That is pretty concerning as we recover as a nation from the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Tahira Probst.

Precarity can create a spiraling effect, said co‑author Tahira Probst, a WSU psychology professor. For instance, if employees have insufficient income, they may not be able to afford doctor’s visits or medications leading to poor health, which can make them less fit for their jobs, which then increases their job insecurity, which can further deteriorate their health.

“These cycles have implications for organizations as well as for the employees themselves,” Probst said

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WSU Insider

We the People: Stock market crash not sole cause of Great Depression

Today’s question: When did the Great Depression start?

Although the stock market crash of 1929 is commonly blamed for starting the Great Depression – and would count as the correct answer on the Naturalization Test – the worst economic downturn of the 20th century actually began earlier and had more causes than the crash.

Matthew Avery Sutton.

“There was no start date,” said Matthew Sutton, Berry Family Distinguished Professor in the Liberal Arts and History Department chairman at Washington State University.

The crash revealed other problems in the national and international economy that had been developing during the 1920s, said Sutton, who teaches the Great Depression as part of 20th century history. But while the market would lose almost 90% of its value over the next three years – hitting its lowest point 90 years ago last Friday – tying the depression to the crash is a bit of a myth.

For American farmers, the Depression started well before 1929. Prices for farm commodities had increased dramatically during World War I, a result of heavy demand and poor supply of products from Europe during four years of war.

Profits from the war years encouraged farmers to invest in more land and new machinery to work it. They took on more debt, but when the prices went down because of greatly increased supply and lower demand, they had trouble paying off those loans and many lost farms to foreclosure.

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