Climb Science - Finding Friction

When climbing, friction is your best friend. It can enable even the most seemingly impossible moves when used correctly. To take full advantage of its spiderman-like properties, it is important to understand how it works. 

First off, there are two different kinds of friction: static and kinetic. Static friction prevents objects from moving so long as the force exerted is less than the static friction. Once the force exceeds the amount of friction exerted, the object, or climber, begins to move. Kinetic friction occurs when friction is able to slow down an already moving object. 

A climber creates friction by combing two essential ingredients, namely, themselves and the rock. When there is static friction, you can climb. As soon as the force generated by the climber surpasses the static friction - you fall.

In order to fully take advantage of friction while climbing, knowing how forces work in conjunction with finger positioning.

When applying a force with your fingers together, the forces generated from each finger are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the hand hold, which gives the climber maximum frictional force against which to pull.

With fingers separated, the forces generated in each finger are not parallel; rather they are at slight angles. Because of these angles, some part of the applied force will try to move the fingers together.

Of course, there are times when separating the fingers is necessary. Perhaps you find a hidden little thumb catch that turns that crappy crimp into a slightly-less-crappy pinch. Or maybe you can only fit two fingers in that bomber pocket along the chossy rail. Or maybe there’s that one spot on the almost-perfect jug where the rock is just too damn sharp!

While we lose some force by separating the fingers, we presumably gain more force (or at least, more useful force) from whatever advantage the new finger or hand orientation provides (turning a crimp into a pinch, for instance).

Typically, the more of your hand you can get on the rock the better. So, chalk up, and let's hit the crag.  

No Cave Too Safe - White Nose Fungus in Arkansas

Caves around the country have been boarded up to protect bat populations against a deadly fungus. Pseudogymnoascus destructans, more commonly known as White Nose Fungus, infects the skin on the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats, causing them to exhibit strange behavior as they hibernate. It leaves a characteristic, though not always obvious pattern of skin erosion on the affected areas that resembles stringy, white spider webs. Infected bats will wake repeatedly, and  move towards the mouth of their hibernacula, or their hibernation zone, and even exit their caves and fly during winter months, eating up their all important fat stores. This leads to dehydrated and emaciated bats, and a nearly 80% decline in many US bat populations. White Nose Fungus, which causes White Nose Syndrome or WNS, has a 90% mortality rate once a population is infected, with effects that may reach far into the future as bat populations are slow to rebuild, as bats can only have one pup per year. The fungus was first discovered in the Northeast, and has spread South and West after its discovery in upstate New York in February of 2006.  Since its discovery in the winter of 2007-2008, cases of White Nose Fungus have been discovered in 25 different states - including Arkansas.

Arkansas, and particularly the Ozarks, is home to a karst geography that is particularly conducive to cave formation. The rolling Ozark hills abound with rocky nooks and crannies that once harbored a healthy and vibrant bat population. The fungus has been identified in 14 Arkansas Counties throughout the Ozark and Ouachita mountain regions.

In March of 2010, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission closed down all caves on public lands in order to prevent the spread of White Nose Fungus. Though WNS’s has the potential to devastate Arkansas’ bat populations, the full extent of its impact is yet unknown.

“So far we have only seen significant decreases in bat populations in a few sites since the fungus was first found in the state in 2012, but we are still going through the early stages of its spread in most of the state and it usually takes a few years for the impact to really start to show”,  Said Blake Sasse, a wildlife biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission who specializes in mammals.

WNS has been diagnosed in seven different Arkansas bat species; Big Brown Bat, Eastern Red Bat, Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, Little Brown Bat, Northern Long-eared bat, Rafinesque’s Big Bat, and the Southeastern Bat.  The Indiana bat is a particularly volatile species, and was already considered endangered. Now, authorities are concerned that declines caused by WNS will lead to its extinction.

Laboratory examinations have determined that the fungus requires direct, physical contact to spread, and is primarily spread through bat to bat contact. The fungus can linger in bat guano, persisting in cave sediments long after bats have left the cave, which renders many areas uninhabitable for uninfected populations. Patterns of geographical spread may suggest that humans can harbor the fungus on their clothing and gear, and may also be perpetuating the spread of WNS. Though this mode of transmission has yet to be proven in lab conditions, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has been able to isolate fungal spores on equipment and clothing after exiting a contaminated cave.

While WNS has no demonstrated effect on human health, there is much that we humans can do to help slow the spread of WNS. All caves on public land have been closed, and it is recommended that would be spelunkers avoid caves with known bat populations.

“The best thing that people can do to slow the spread is to either not go in caves or if they do, they need to decontaminate their gear and clothing before and after entry” said Sasse.

Many caves, such as Blanchard Springs, are still open, and have rigorous decontamination protocol for visitors to follow. Avoiding contact with bats and their habitats is recommended.

Further research into WNS is needed in order to pinpoint the disease’s origins, and how it travels. The best we Arkansas can do is to be informed, and help prevent the spread of WNS.

Chronic Wasting Disease p. 2

It can be difficult to track the course of CWD, as its symptoms are often subtle. There is no test for CWD, the only way to check for the disease is to remove a part of the animal’s brain and check for lesions within a specific area of the medulla oblongata. Preventing the spread of CWD is difficult without a test and with few obvious symptoms, but there are several signs that may indicate when an animal is infected. Clinical disease is more difficult to detect and is more prolonged in elk as compared to deer, but is most often signaled by a loss of body mass caused by lack of appetite, hence the “wasting” effect that gives elk and deer an emaciated appearance. Effected animals will demonstrate strange behavior, often separating themselves from the herd and walking in circles. Ataxia, or the loss of body movements will result in head tremors and loss of coordination. Excessive urination and salivation are also common. Once an animal is infected, death is inevetable. There is no vaccine, and no treatment. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, AGFC, urges anyone who may see an animal with CWD to  report it at or call 1-800-482-9262. The disease is specific to cervids, and cannot spread to other livestock or humans. However, it is recommended that deer and elk remains be avoided and that hunters and taxidermists take common sense precautions listed on the AGFC website when handling remains.

CWD was first detected in Arkansas elk when a hunter-harvested female was shot in October of 2015, and first found in deer on March 8th of this year in the Boxley Valley. It has only been confirmed in Boone and Newton counties, and includes 90 cases of CWD in deer, and 4 in elk. The affected area remains relatively contained, though further spread is anticipated as the AGFC prepares for even more CWD cases.

Trey Reid, with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, is reassuring. He acknowledges that while the presence of CWD in Arkansas isn’t good news, it certainly does not herald the end of our robust elk and deer herds.

“chronic wasting disease is being managed in Arkansas based on the best management practices that we've learned from other states that have dealt with CWD in the past. Arkansas is the 24th state where CWD has been detected, so we've learned from the successes and setbacks of other states.” Said Reid.

“Arkansas has made great strides in deer management, we're going to do everything in our power to contain CWD and manage the state's deer herd in a way that will benefit the state's hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts."

Chronic Wasting Disease p. 1

October 6, 2015, a single shot echoed through the woods in Pruitt, Arkansas. A small, though seemingly healthy female elk collapsed far away from the herd. She was young, only two and a half years old, and upon further inspection appeared well on her way to emaciation. Her ribs protruded, straining against her thick hide, and abnormally thick saliva hung from her bony chin. Her starved appearance was far from all that was unusual about this kill. This young elk was separated from her herd, wandering in circles.

Several months later, on February 23, 2016, lab results would confirm the fears of hunters and conservationists alike; Chronic Wasting Disease had reached Arkansas.

Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD is a neurodegenerative disease that effects the cervids, more specifically, mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, and Rocky Mountain elk.  The infectious agents are prions, or abnormally shaped proteins without their associated nucleic acids. These misshapen prions spur the development of porus, sponge-like lesions in brain tissue that lead to a deterioration in neurological function. CWD is unique in that it occurs in free-ranging species, as compared to Mad Cow disease, it’s rough, bovine equivalent that occurs only in domesticated species. Much is still unknown about this relatively new degenerative disease, and research is still required to discover the disease’s origins, as well as modeling the future of effected herds.

CWD has only been a known clinical syndrome for 30 years, though modeling  suggest that it may have been present for over 40 years. It is conjectured that it may have originated from shared grazing areas with sheep, who fall victim to a similar neurodegenerative disease, scrapie, or it may have arisen spontaneously. CWD is particularly difficult to fight because it can spread through direct, animal to animal contact, or through saliva, feces, and other bodily secretions. The prions that cause infection are particularly stable, and can persist in the environment and contaminating grazing lands which makes CWD a particularly pernicious disease. Once infectious prions enter the environment, deer and elk that graze in the contaminated area become susceptible to infection. In small, contained grazing lands like those of the Ponca elk herd, this is especially problematic. The herd is dense and has a finite grazing area, and scientists are not sure how long the infectious agents may persist in the environment.

Arkansas Goose Conservation

As fall eases into winter, the slow sweep of geese migrating across the sky becomes a familiar sight. For farmers in Arkansas, the sound of overhead honking is less than welcome. 


Since the 1990’s, populations of Lesser Snow geese, Greater Snow Geese, Blue Geese and other varieties of light geese have been arriving in Arkansas in droves, causing a problem for soybean, corn and rice farmers as the birds gobble up their crops. Farmers watch as their fields are overtaken with geese that devour their crops and leave unwelcome droppings in the fields.  


“Much of the growth in light goose populations over the past several dates is assumed to be primarily a result of a phenomenon termed “agricultural subsidy”. Essentially, land use changes across much of the midcontinent region have resulted in a greater amount of food resources available to light geese outside their breeding range, particularly during spring migration, leading to increased survival and growing populations” said Luke Naylor, the Waterfowl Program Coordinator with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. 


This isn’t just an isolated issue, the impact of light geese extends far up north to Arctic and sub-Arctic habitats that are experience unparalleled degradation due to an overpopulation of geese. As the geese migrate through the southern flyway, a migration byway directly over Arkansas, these geese see Arkansas crops as an all-you-can-eat buffet on their way to Canada, a buffet that is helping bolster the population that is leading to destruction of habitats in the Northern U.S.  And Canada. What used to be grueling trip across the U.S. Is now partially supported by Arkansas agriculture as geese that would previously have been claimed by the elements have been using Arkansas as a stopover on their journey. A warming climate has also provided milder winters and warmer summers that enable the geese to reproduce in astounding numbers. 


According to Ducks Unlimited, the overabundant mid-continent snow geese population increases at a rate of about five percent each year, with the population in the 1960’s totaling about 800,000 that today reaches upwards of 13 million. As this enormous influx of geese arrives in their northern nesting grounds, they devour precious plant rescources previously available to other shorebird species. Areas such as James Bay and Hudson Bay have seen a dramatic reduction in biodiversity as competitors like the sandpiper, a small shorebird, are left out in the cold with no food. While the devastating impacts that these geese have on Arkansas farms is clear, the solution is murkier, and will most likely require a nuanced and multi-pronged approach to curb these voracious birds. 


Many organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and AGFC advocate for conservation through hunting, eliminating bag limits and extending the hunting day for geese from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. 


“We offer maximum hunting opportunity for light geese” said Naylor, “Arkansas is now a primary wintering state for light geese, so our efforts to encourage legal harvest of these geese is important to broader the efforts”. 


The Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO) was passed by congress in 1999, and has the goal preserve Arctic and sub-Arctic habitats by decreasing the light goose population by 50% in ten years, a goal that has yet to be achieved. Ducks Unlimited is quick to point out the opportunity that this grants hunters in search of fowl post-duck season. Snow geese are typically hunted from September though May, and offer hunters an interesting challenge to pursue such an abundant and incredibly well adapted species. Their are no bag or daily possession limits, as well as easing of other restrictions such as the removal of plugs from shotguns and electric callers. Arkansas hunters can enjoy an extended fowl season and feel good about contributing to ecosystem conservation. 


Other agencies, such as the Humane Society are against the systematic rounding up and hunting of geese. They argue that hunting is not the most effective way to target specific species, and often just frees up more land for other geese to move in, creating a temporary but ineffective fix. GeesePeace, another agency focused on ethical treatment of fowl, advocates for the specific targeting of light goose eggs which can be oiled to prevent hatching. GeesePeace is opposed to many hunting measures and suggests that people use green lasers to lure geese away from fields instead of hunting them. 


Though there are differing viewpoints on how best to effectively manage the influx of geese, the importance of addressing the issue is clear, and Arkansans are doing their part to contribute to the conservation effort. 

Sushi Science

Why is it that you only ever see sushi made with white rice?


Well, because of science. 


Sushi, made with raw, boneless fish requires a delicate balance of flavors and textures that only white rice can maintain. Brown rice contains more of the germ that gives it its color, texture and flavor. The flavor of the germ often will overpower the delicate taste of fish. 

Another issue is texture. There are thousands of varieties of rice, but two main ingredients: amylose and amylopectin. The balance of these key components determines the texture of the rice. Long grain varieties like brown or jasmine are high in amylose, which doesn't break down as much in the cooking process, and causes the rice to remain firm even after processing. This makes it a poor choice as a molding agent for sushi. 

Many sushi fans prefer the taste of melt-in-your-mouth white rice which contains relatively little amylose, and it is for this reason that the use of white rice is all but mandatory even on today's culinary scene. 

Zoë's Top 25 Albums of 2016

1) Teens of Denial - Car Seat Headrest - The second I heard the opening riff of Fill in the Blank, I knew I was going to love this album. Will Toledo's voice and lyrics are exactly what my inner high-schooler needed in 2016, and was the perfect soundtrack for a time of change as I moved across the country to start a new academic career. The album explores the in-betweens of grown-up-but-not-quite twentysomethings and is simultaneously angsty, relevant, and sincere. I only wish this album had come out at a time when it would be more age appropriate for my to doodle its lyrics on my binder. 

2) Lemonade - Beyoncé - I can't recommend watching the entire visual album enough. It's a politically charged Terrence Malick-esque feminist masterpiece full of haunting, if not very on-the-nose visuals. The film, like the album, is anything but subtle and fits in perfectly  in a year where the political climate was equally unsubtle. 

3) 22, A Million - Bon Iver - This album was years in the making, and though I originally fell in love with Justin Vernon's more acoustic sonic musings, the new and innovative direction that Bon Iver has taken with this most recent album. 

4) We've Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service - A Tribe Called Quest - Finally! After over ten years, another Tribe Album. This most recent incarnation of the Tribe is simultaneously fresh and nostalgic, drawing on the past for inspiration but refusing to dwell on it, instead turning to a contentious political and cultural climate, and spinning that tension into an impeccably well developed, and very fun to listen to album. 

5)  Blackstar - David Bowie - An eerily prophetic masterpiece that served as sweet a goodbye as any. This album was lively even when it dove into the darkest depths of human mortality.  This album would be a stand out even had it not been released a few days before Bowie's death. Goodnight, sweet prince. 

6) Blond - Frank Ocean

7) My Woman - Angel Olsen

8) Light Upon the Lake - Whitney

9) Wildflower - The Avalanches

10) Untitled Unmastered - Kendrick Lamar

11) Freetown Sound - Blood Orange

12) Seat at the Table - Solange

13) Puberty 2 - Mitski

14) Coloring Book - Chance the Rapper

15) Return to Love - LVL UP

16) You Want it Darker  - Leonard Cohen

17) Painting With - Animal Collective

18) Is the Is Are -  DIIV

19) No Burden - Lucy Dacus

20) Human Performance  - Parquet Courts

21) Getting Gone - Mutual Benefit

22) Life of Pablo - Kanye West

23) The Colour in Anything - James Blake

24) Psychopomp - Japanese Breakfast

25) Malibu - Anderson .Paak


Favorite Concert -  (tie) Shakey Graves or Animal Collective

Favorite New Artist - LVL UP

Favorite Songs of 2k16 - 

Vincent & Fill in the Blank - Car Seat Headrest

"I Need a Forest Fire" - James Blake

"Shut up and Kiss Me"  - Angel Olsen

"22 Over Soon" - Bon Iver

"Floridada" - Animal Collective

Cookie Chemistry - Engineering the Perfect Desert

Picture your perfect cookie. Is it chewy or crunchy? Gooey or crisp? Fluffy or dense?


Either way, you owe your favorite cookie attributes to chemistry. By manipulating chemical reactions it is possible to produce the perfect cookie, whatever that may be.


A primary attribute of the perfect cookie is desired thickness. What exactly makes a cookie spread in the oven? The chemistry of egg proteins limit exactly how much a cookie can spread horizontally. Proteins inside an egg are very sensitive to temperature. As the temperature rises, they become more intertwined to form a solid structure. They create a sort of shell, or skeleton for the cookie, providing structure and strength that prevent the cookie from collapsing in the oven.


One way to manipulate the cookie’s size is to regulate butter temperature. Starting with melted butter means the dough is wetter, and will spread out faster. For a plumper, thicker cookie, try cold butter. Butter temperature also affects texture. It changes size and shape of the air pockets that remain after the water in the butter is converted into gas. Melted butter means  more small holes, creating an overall chewier cookie. Cold butter creates larger air pockets for a fluffier cookie.


What makes a cookie rise? Around 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the water trapped in the dough becomes steam and pushes through the dough, causing it to rise. The baking soda or powder will break down into carbon dioxide gas which, as it escapes, will cause the cookie to rise even further. These escaping gases puncture the dough, creating an additionally light and flaky structure.


Substituting baking soda for baking powder will create a fluffier, lighter cookie. Powder contains more leavening elements because it produces carbon dioxide gas as it's mixed into the dough as well as during the cooking process.


Now, for flavor. As the cookie is about to finish baking, some real chemical magic begins to happen. As sugars in the dough begin to break down, the previously colorless, odorless sugar crystals undergo a process called caramelization. Here’s where things get pretty atomic. As the process of caramelization occurs, volatile chemicals are produced that create the characteristic caramel flavor. As the temperature rises, the sucrose decomposes to form glucose and fructose. Then, the individual sugars condense and lose water to react with each other. The result is a liquid that abounds with complex aromas and tastes.


Though a cornerstone of cooking and baking, caramelization is still a little understood process comprised of many complex reactions. If anyone out there is studying this, I volunteer to help with research!


Adding a mixture of darker sugars will super-charge the flavor through a process called the Maillard reaction. Plain ol’ white sugar doesn’t work well because it contains predominantly sucrose. Darker sugars, molasses, honey and brown sugar for instance, are packed with glucose and fructose, which when combined with heat produce rich and complex flavors through the Maillard reaction.


Nothing spreads holiday cheer quite like a meticulously engineered sugary treat. Through chemistry and a little kitchen magic, you can have the perfect cookie!