Dino Senses: Ankylosaurus Cousin Had a Super Sniffer

Live Science

Originally Posted: May 26, 2016

The armored cousin of the Ankylosaurus dinoPawpawsaurus_campbellisaur didn’t have a football-size club on its tail, but it did have a super sense of smell, said scientists who examined its skull.

The Cretaceous-age Pawpawsaurus campbelli walked on all fours and lived in ancient Texas about 100 million years ago, the researchers said. It was an earlier version, so to speak, of the heavily armored Ankylosaurus, which lived about 35 million years later, they said. READ MORE

 

Early armored dino from Texas lacked cousin’s club-tail weapon, but had a nose for danger

SMU Research

Originally Posted: May 23, 2016

Pawpawsaurus’s hearing wasn’t keen, and it lacked the infamous tail club of Ankylosaurus. But first-ever CT scans of Pawpawsaurus’s skull indicate the dino’s saving grace from predators may have been an acute sense of smell.

Well-known armored dinosaur Ankylosaurus is famous for a hard knobby layer of bone across its back and a football-sized club on its tail for wielding against meat-eating enemies.

It’s prehistoric cousin, Pawpawsaurus campbelli, was not so lucky. Pawpawsaurus was an earlier version of armored dinosaurs but not as well equipped to fight off meat-eaters, according to a new study, said vertebrate paleontologist Louis Jacobs, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Jacobs is co-author of a new analysis of Pawpawsaurus based on the first CT scans ever taken of the dinosaur’s skull. READ MORE

Dedman College experts comment on Democrats’ internal struggles on display in Nevada

SMU News

Originally Posted: May 19, 2016

Comments below were taken from an SMU news release. READ MORE

DON’T SWEAT NEVADA, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION SHOULD BE FINE
Matthew Wilson

MATTHEW WILSON: Associate professor of Political Science

The Democratic Party was shaken this week when the Nevada State Convention descended into chaos, sparked by disruptive Bernie Sanders supporters. The scenes of anger and reports of death threats prompted some to ask, . “Is the Democratic National Convention suddenly at greater risk of being a disaster than the Republican National Convention?”

“No,” says Wilson. “Because that’s a really high bar.”

“The Democrats have all long underestimated the level of dissatisfaction with their own establishment that exists within the ranks,” Wilson continued. “The real anti-establishment anger has been made obvious on the Republican side with Trump’s campaign, but there’s a lot of that with Sanders’ movement as well and some of that bubbled to the surface this week.”

Wilson predicts the Democrats will orchestrate a “reasonably” smooth convention this summer, but did say there are other causes for concern revealed by the hubub in Nevada.

“The thing we can lose sight of is that Hillary Clinton would be the least popular candidate that either party has ever nominated, which is obscured by the fact that Trump is even more unpopular,” Wilson says. “Clinton is not beloved by the Democratic Party. The big worry is disaffected Sanders supporters could stay home or gravitate toward Trump if he’s able to reach out to them with his populist message.”

And Wilson doesn’t expect Sanders to do anything to allay those fears anytime soon.

“Sanders thrives on the anti-establishment sentiment,” Wilson says. “He thrives on this sense the game is rigged and the party bosses are cheating him, and he doesn’t want to tamp that down. Clearly he doesn’t want violence, but he’s perfectly happy having a certain amount of righteous anger.”

As for the Democratic Party’s handling of the Sanders and the Nevada protests, Wilson thinks the party is doing just fine, with the caveat that maybe they should let Sanders have some of the delegates he’s fighting for since it won’t make up the difference in the end. But Wilson did caution that more acrimony could lie ahead.

“June 7 is the last day of primaries,” Wilson says. “It will be very interesting to see what Bernie Sanders says on June 8.”

PROVIDING HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE TO ‘YEAR OF THE OUTSIDER’ IN POLITICS

Jeffrey A. EngelJEFFREY ENGEL: Director of the SMU Center for Presidential History

It’s not uncommon for politicians running for the presidency to flash their outsider status and promise to, “Clean up Washington,” but normally they’re at least long-time, card-carrying members of the party they’re running to represent.

Not so this year, courtesy Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Engel says historians might have to look back 200 years to find a similar scenario.

“Ronald Reagan, in some ways, was an outsider and Jimmy Carter was, in some ways, an outsider, but you might have to look back 100 years ago to find a nominee like Trump who, if you had asked six years ago, would have been a member of the opposite party,” Engel says.

Despite the recent chaotic protests at the Democrats’ Nevada State Convention, Engel thinks the Democratic National Convention will still be more unified than the Republican National Convention this summer.

“Alliances are not made between friends,” Engel says. “Alliances are made in opposition to common enemies, and Sanders and the Democrats are a great example of this. Sanders has had some questions or political reasons to identify as an independent instead of a Democrat, but he sure as heck won’t identify as a Republican.”

SMU scientists co-authored study showing that humans have been causing earthquakes in Texas since the 1920s

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: May 17, 2016

Earthquakes triggered by human activity have been happening in Texas since at least 1925, and they have been widespread throughout the state ever since, according to a new historical review of the evidence published online May 18 in Seismological Research Letters.

Causes of earthquakes in TexasThe earthquakes are caused by oil and gas operations, but the specific production techniques behind these quakes have differed over the decades, according to Cliff Frohlich, the study’s lead author and senior research scientist and associate director at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin. SMU seismologists Heather DeShon, Brian Stump, Chris Hayward and Mathew J. Hornbach, and Jacob I. Walter at the University of Texas at Austin are co-authors. READ MORE

Eric G. Bing, Professor of Global Health, Smart Phones Tested For Cancer Screening In Zambia

SMU Magazine

Originally Posted: Spring/Summer 2016

Nicholas Saulnier ’15, ’16, a master’s degree student and graduate research assistant in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, always hoped he’d be able to solve problems and help people over the course of his career as an electrical engineer. To his surprise, that time came sooner than he expected.

An interdisciplinary research team – (from left) Eric G. Bing, Nicholas Saulnier, Dinesh Rajan and Prasanna Rangarajan – has developed a smart-phone based screening system for early cervical cancer detection that is being test in Zambia.

An interdisciplinary research team – (from left) Eric G. Bing, Nicholas Saulnier, Dinesh Rajan and Prasanna Rangarajan – has developed a smart phone-based screening system for early cervical cancer detection being tested in Zambia.

“I never thought I’d be able to make a difference while I was still a student,” says Saulnier, one of several SMU engineering students to help develop hardware and software to screen for cervical cancer with a smart phone. The technology, for use in remote regions of the globe where physicians are in short supply, is being tested in Zambia.

Department of Electrical Engineering Chair Dinesh Rajan, the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Engineering, conceived of the research project in 2014 with Eric G. Bing, professor of global health in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, during a research meeting of the SMU Center for Global Health Impact, which Bing directs. Other project members include Prasanna Rangarajan, research assistant professor, and master’s student Soham Soneji. READ MORE

Celebrating Dedman College Faculty Books

  • View a slideshow of the event photos here.
  • For more information on Dedman College faculty books, click here.

English professor establishes Kimbilio to provide networking, educational and professional advancement opportunities for emerging African-American writers.

Detroit News

Originally Posted: May 10, 2016

Author Desiree Cooper says newcomers to the annual Kimbilio Fiction retreat for African-American writers “talk like they’ve been on a lifeboat and they’re just trying to hold on until they can find that place that keeps them safe.”

David Haynes, a novelist and professor of English at Dallas’ Southern Methodist University, established Kimbilio in 2013 as a means of providing networking, educational and professional advancement opportunities for emerging African-American writers. The organization has since amassed a network of 60 fellows; held three writers’ retreats in Taos, New Mexico, and initiated a nationwide series of reading events featuring its fellows. Kimbilio’s next reading event will be Wednesday at Pages Bookshop, featuring fellows Cooper, Angela Flournoy and Cole Lavalais.

Haynes says the organization’s name was derived from a Swahili word meaning “safe haven.”

“For so many writers of color, traditional retreats or traditional M.F.A. programs or various other support networks have not always been welcoming and safe places,” Haynes says. “That’s been one of the real drivers behind creating spaces where we can grow and learn as a community, and really develop important and necessary mutual support networks.” READ MORE

SMU physicists: CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is once again smashing protons, taking data

SMU Research

Originally Posted: May 10, 2016

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and its experiments are back in action, now taking physics data for 2016 to get an improved understanding of fundamental physics.

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Following its annual winter break, the most powerful collider in the world has been switched back on.

Geneva-based CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — an accelerator complex and its experiments — has been fine-tuned using low-intensity beams and pilot proton collisions, and now the LHC and the experiments are ready to take an abundance of data.

The goal is to improve our understanding of fundamental physics, which ultimately in decades to come can drive innovation and inventions by researchers in other fields.

Scientists from SMU’s Department of Physics are among the several thousand physicists worldwide who contribute on the LHC research. READ MORE

Ancient Hammerhead with Sharp Teeth was First Vegetarian Reptile

Modern Readers

Originally Posted: May 9, 2016

Don’t let those sharp teeth fool you, because this ancient hammerhead reptile had no appetite for meat.

The hammerhead’s most distinctive feature was its two menacing rows of teeth, with one group resembling needles and another group resembling chisels. That would normally hint that it was a carnivore, and probably one of the most fearsome sea creatures of its time. But the strangest thing about the animal is that it ate plants, with those rows of teeth serving a different purpose than what one may think.

A new study has detailed how Atopodentatus unicus (“uniquely strangely toothed”) existed in the middle Triassic era, millions of years before dinosaurs rose to prominence. Fossils of the hammerhead reptile were first spotted in 2014 in southern China, and based on scientists’ findings, the animal had lived about 242 million years ago, making it the earliest herbivorous marine reptile by only about eight million years. Not to mention, one of the strangest, according to the researchers.

“On a scale of weirdness, I think this is up there with the best,” said study lead Nicholas Fraser of the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh. “It kind of reminds me of some of the Dr. Seuss creations.”

Aside from the unique teeth that gave the reptile its scientific name, A. unicus had a longer neck in proportion to its body, and a tiny head, also in relation to its overall size. Another key feature was the animal’s strong fore-limbs for swimming. Overall, A. unicus measured nine feet long from head to tail, making it about as large as a modern alligator.

Southern Methodist University paleontologist Louis Jacobs was not involved in the study, but he told Live Science about how A. unicus may have used its teeth. He said that the needle-like teeth may have also been used by the animal to collect plants, in a similar way to how baleen whale catches krill. The chisel teeth, on the other hand, may have helped the reptile scrape plants from the seafloor. Once A. unicus gathered its food, he added, it would “suck in a mouthful of water,” presumably to make the food easier to swallow down.

“Then, they squish the water out of their mouth, and those little teeth along the sides of the jaw and on the roof of the mouth strain out all of the plant bits,” Jacobs continued. “That’s an amazing way to feed. I’d like to do that myself.”

Fraser also shared his insights about A. unicus’ peculiarities, namely its being a plant-eater despite its sharp teeth, which was unusual for marine reptiles during the era. He believes this may have been due to a lack of plant diversity at the time.

“This fossil took us very much by surprise. However, this was a whole different world,” said Fraser. “So now we are beginning to accept this strange and wonderful environment that gave rise to very unfamiliar body forms.” READ MORE