Life on Mars?

The first color image of the Martian surface was taken by Viking Lander 1 after it touched down in July 1976.  Credit: NASA/JPL

The first color image of the Martian surface was taken by Viking Lander 1 after it touched down in July 1976. Credit: NASA/JPL

Visit C-level of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library to see a new installation about the search for life on the Red Planet. This permanent exhibit, curated by Emily Carambelas (A&S ’11), features instruments and soil samples donated to Johns Hopkins by Whiting School alumnus and Trustee Emeritus Gilbert V. Levin (BA’47, MA’48, PhD’63).

Levin, a sanitary engineer, developed a method known as radiorespirometry to rapidly detect bacteria in water suspected of being contaminated. The method is fairly simple: a sample of the water is placed in a test tube, to which is added a nutrient broth designed to culture bacteria. Any bacteria present will metabolize the nutrients, releasing gas. Gas bubbles then rise to the top of the test tube, signifying the presence of bacteria in the water. By adding radioactive carbon-14 to the nutrient broth, Levin took the method a step further, as the carbon-14 is metabolized and expelled just like the nutrients, but the resulting gases are radioactive and thus discernable by radiation detectors. This method provides measurable results and is not limited to water but can also be performed on soils (on this planet and elsewhere).

In 1976, NASA launched three experiments to investigate the possibility of life on Mars as part of the Viking Mission. The exhibit, Detecting Life on the Red Planet, tells the story of the experiment that was developed by Dr. Levin and his team. Originally called “Gulliver,” after Jonathan Swift’s character, the experiment was renamed the “Labeled Release (LR)” experiment by NASA in reference to its methodology – using radiorespirometry to detect the carbon dioxide released by microorganisms as a result of their metabolic activity. The LR experiment tested the soil of Mars nine times at two different landing sites under different temperature regimes and environmental conditions.

Dr. Levin has long believed that the results from the LR experiment indicate that there are living microorganisms on Mars, and he published a paper in 1997 drawing on more recent research as well as evidence from Viking. There is not yet consensus on his claim, but his extensive research has re-charted the debate on extraterrestrial life. The exhibit provides a glimpse of some of the physical objects that have contributed to our evolving understanding of this nearby and intriguing planet.

We will host an opening ceremony for the exhibit on Friday, September 19 at 11 am, with remarks from Dr. Levin. All are welcome.

Henry Augustus Rowland

When Daniel Coit Gilman was named president of The Johns Hopkins University in 1875, the trustees left the matter of recruiting faculty in his hands. With an eye to the future, Gilman sought to fill the ranks with “young scholars of promise,” likely to become important figures in their fields. Gilman solicited recommendations far and wide. In physics, one name often repeated was Henry Augustus Rowland.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1848 and trained as a civil engineer, Rowland was isolated at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he came to Gilman’s attention. Gilman realized that Rowland, who had abandoned engineering for physics and electricity, was “a young man of rare intellectual powers and of uncommon aptitude for experimental science.” Gilman offered Rowland the position of professor of physics, at a beginning salary of $1,600. Since the university at that time existed only on paper, it was a gamble for Rowland as well as for Gilman. Accepting Gilman’s offer, he wrote, “I have gone there on faith, and will do my best to make the institution a success.” Rowland, at the age of 28, became the first faculty member hired for the new university.

With nearly a year between his hiring and the opening of classes in October 1876, Rowland spent his time in Europe (part of it traveling with Gilman), gathering the components of a laboratory and pondering the questions on which he would focus his research and instruction. He became interested in the study of light and achieved his most durable success when he perfected a device to divide the visible spectrum into constant and reproducible components. His “Ruling Engine,” as it was known, was so well designed that, decades later, it could not be improved significantly.

Rowland was interested in pure science rather than in patentable discoveries, and he expected his students to share his enthusiasm for learning. A legend exists concerning his students that, when asked by a colleague what he would do with them, Rowland allegedly replied, “Do with them? I shall neglect them, of course!” Many of his students, however, reported a more benevolent relationship.

Perhaps due to his early interest in electricity, that subject became part of physics in the 1880s, well before a School of Engineering was established. The Proficiency in Applied Electricity certificate (PAE) was granted to those who completed a program in what eventually became electrical engineering. One notable recipient of the PAE was John Boswell Whitehead, who went on to earn his PhD at Hopkins and become our first Dean of Engineering.

Rowland might have continued his pursuit of pure science indefinitely, but fate intervened. He was diagnosed with diabetes, at that time an untreatable disease. Realizing his life would be cut short, he shifted his research to areas that would bring financial benefits. He devoted the last five years of his life to perfecting a new telegraph apparatus. This, along with consultancies on hydroelectric power plants and other inventions, left his family in comfortable circumstances when he died on April 16, 1901, at the age of 53.

In 1929, the University constructed a physics building on the Homewood Campus and named it to honor Hopkins’ first professor of physics. In 1991, when the Department of Physics moved to the new Bloomberg Center, Rowland Hall was renamed for Zanvyl Krieger. Although his name is no longer found on a building, Rowland’s contributions greatly enriched the study of physics and left a legacy to be carried forward by his successors.

How’s the New Home?

According to a 2012 Gallup World Poll, about 13% of the world's adults – hundreds of millions of people – say they would like to leave their country permanently. At Hopkins, many of our students, as well as staff and faculty, are part of the globe-trotting movement. For instance, according to the Johns Hopkins University Fact Book:

  • More than 3,000 international graduate and undergraduate students from 121 different countries study at Johns Hopkins. (International students -check out the great support services JHU offers!)
  • Over 10,000 alumni currently live in 162 countries.
  • Each year, more than 400 undergraduate students study abroad in nearly 30 countries.

What pulls us to a new place and what keeps us there? Some instantly fall in love with the land, culture, or a career. Others, however, might feel disconnected from their new home, longing for their previous life instead. Watch out! The tendency to romanticize the unattainable is certainly one way to sabotage gratitude for what’s right in front of you. Homesickness can be a powerful disincentive to acclimate, so much so that nostalgia was once considered a medical malady.

No one enjoys feeling out of place, but as humans we are superbly adaptable. And, there are plenty of good resources available to help you understand and combat homesickness. One strategy to integrate yourself into a new community is simply to keep experimenting with new activities until you’ve found the group, location, or recreation that moves you. The more time you spend seeking out things to love about a place, whether it’s a particular venue, a landscape, or even meeting one amazing person - the less time you’ll spend dwelling on what it’s missing. And yes, even “Smalltimore” offers plenty of opportunities for delight and surprise. Hope that all of those who are new to Hopkins are settling in, and finding the weird and wonderful elements that make your own community unique and worthy of loving.

GIS Workshops For Fall

Plan of the City of Baltimore, compiled from actual survey, 1845The Sheridan Libraries GIS and Data Services Department is resuming its popular series of workshops, "Getting Acquainted With ArcGIS"!

From introductory classes, through design, sharing, data selection, and georeferencing, students learn and share ideas about how to present data in visual form.

All classes will be held from 4-5:30 pm on A-level. Our weekly workshops schedule is as follows:

Introduction to GIS
September 16
Get started with ArcGIS, the most popular and widely available GIS software. In this first session you’ll navigate and become acquainted with the ArcMap interface, geospatial data, key software features and functions, and how to get started creating maps.

Map Design in GIS
September 23
This workshop will focus on visualizing data on the map. You’ll learn how to use symbols, colors, and data classification to portray data and convey your message via a meaningful map.

GIS Outputs
September 30 
Learn to use map layouts, create map templates, and add graphs, charts, and animation to your map. You’ll practice outputting your creation as map images or as a package of geospatial data with full attribute content that you can use and share with others.

Introduction to ArcGIS Online
October 7
Explore with us one of the newest ArcGIS resources for identification and downloading GIS data. Learn about some of the time series data that the library created, as well as ready-to-go data available as part of our ArcGIS license.

Overview of Geospatial Data Sources
October 14 
Learn about the vast array of geospatial subscription data available via some of our most popular library databases. Understand the tips and tricks for reformatting subscription database information for inclusion in your ArcGIS projects.

Joining and Geocoding
October 21
Learn the steps required for successful joining of data and geocoding along with tips and suggestions for preparing data for use with ArcGIS. Common file formats will be discussed, (e.g. Excel, dBase, Access), along with text files and data with x, y coordinates. We'll explore street files available from the library along with optional interfaces for the geocoding process.

Georeferencing
October 28
Scanned maps and aerial photos can offer historical enhancement to your ArcMap projects. Georeferencing is the process of accurately aligning a scanned image with vector data found in ArcGIS. In this session you’ll learn about the various techniques for making that alignment using scanned images from the library’s collection.

The Collections of the Ivies+ Now at Your Fingertips

Borrow Direct logoHow would you like to be able to search and request books from the eight libraries of the Ivy League (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale) as well as the libraries of the University of Chicago and MIT?

Johns Hopkins University has recently joined BorrowDirect, an 11-school consortium that offers direct access to  the more than 50 million volumes from the member libraries.

Hopkins faculty, students and staff  now can search Borrow Direct for books that are not available at JHU. These can include everything from books that JHU doesn’t own, to books that are checked out, and even books that are on reserve! To get started, sign on with your JHED ID, search the catalog, select a pick up location, and place your request. Items will be delivered in three to five days, and if Borrow Direct can’t fill the request, the system will pass you seamlessly to an Interlibrary Loan form. Pretty nice!

Give it a try, and let us know what you think at BorrowDirect@jhu.edu

Wonderland is just outside Baltimore

Anyone with a car, a friend with a car, or access to a Zipcar can explore an outdoor version of Alice's Wonderland just north of Baltimore.

The Ladew Topiary Gardens is one of the hidden delights of the Baltimore area. During any season of the year, you can relax as you walk through the many gardens; some hidden, some theme-based. The historic house too is intriguing, as well as the many small outbuildings. Bring a lunch and enjoy a picnic, or try the café.  Plus they have a great gift shop.

Check out their online photo gallery, and be sure to look at the slide show of the gardens through the seasons.

Harvey Ladew (1887-1976) was a wealthy socialite, fox hunter, artist and traveler, according to his biography in the Sheridan Libraries collection.  In fact, his life reads like fiction - globe-trotting and hobnobbing with celebrities and artists, in several languages.

Photo of Ladew Gardens"He played piano with Cole Porter. He rode horseback in the Hollywood Hills with Clark Gable. He partied with Elsa Maxwell. He ate snails with the French writer Colette, in bed." In addition, he collaborated with Billy Baldwin (dean of American interior design), was the houseguest of the maharajah of Kapurthala, took a camel caravan across Arabia (with help from his good friend T. E. Lawrence), "matched wits with Edna Ferber, Noël Coward, Beatrice Lillie, and Dorothy Parker (in English) and with Jean Cocteau and Colette (in French), hunted fox in America, England, Ireland, and Italy, and (with Charlie Chaplin) saw off Gertrude Lawrence as she sailed from New York."

Whew. If he found time for all THAT, you can find time to check out Ladew's world-famous gardens - waiting for you to discover them. The perfect place to get away from the summer heat of Baltimore and day-to-day routine. For a little while anyway.

ABC’s of the Library

Welcome, or welcome back! You’ve survived move-in, pinned up your inspirational posters and tucked in your extra-long twin sheets. But now what? Well, a good place to start is the library. Since there’s no student center on campus, we’ve informally become the heart of the university.

If you’re new around these parts, here are a few pointers to get you oriented:

  • Milton S. Eisenhower Library is 6 levels. From top to bottom they are Q(uad), M(ain) and A-D. B and below are quiet floors if you need to concentrate. Books are located on every level except Q.
  • Right next door we have the Brody Learning Commons, which is open 24/7 for all your studying (and socializing!) needs. People really love the big windows and natural light. You can also find a café on the very top floor. Talking is encouraged throughout the building, but those seeking quiet study with a spectacular view must check out the Reading Room across from the café.
  • Stake out your own space in either building. Reserve a group study room for you and your friends.
  • Want to take home books and DVDs? Check out with your J-Card at the Service Desk on M-level. One great bet for finding popular books and DVDs is on the wooden shelves in the lobby area by the guard's desk.

Still confused? Librarians are available to assist by phone, email, chat, tweet—or just stop on by the M-level reference office to speak to the librarian on duty. Can’t wait to meet you!

Workshops Just for You

It's the beginning of the fall semester, and there are so many exciting events going on! Your library's events will make you happy and more productive, so you should definitely fit them in.

E-books for Academics

  • Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2014
  • Time: 4:00-5:00 PM
  • Where: Eisenhower Library, Q Level (the top floor), Center for Educational Resources (CER)
  • About: The JHU libraries have 1 million e-books! Bring your tablets, e-readers, or any mobile device that you use to read books. Find out which e-books can/can't be downloaded directly to your e-device, and practice while a librarian is there to help.
  • NOTE: Minimum of 6 required.

PubMed for Undergrads

  • Date: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
  • Time: 7:00-8:00 PM
  • Where: Eisenhower Library, M Level, in the computer room next to the big Circulation Desk
  • About: PubMed has research about topics in medicine, instrumentation, bioethics, the health of demographic groups, and everything else that YOU need. This will be a step-by-step review of how to get the most out of this amazing database, with time to practice while a librarian is there to help.
  • NOTE: Minimum of 8 required.

If Walls Could Talk: A History of Homewood House

Homewood House

Homewood House is the iconic building right next door to the Eisenhower Library - its design and style influenced and in some way defined the architecture of the entire Homewood campus. It has stood for 211 years, with its solid brick walls unchanged.

Harriet Chew

But who has occupied the house? It turns out a wide variety of people have lived and worked in the building. If walls could talk, they would begin with the original owners – Charles Carroll, Jr. and his wife Harriett Chew – who received the land and money to build the house as a wedding present. Even before moving in, the children began to arrive – seven in all (two died before their first birthdays).

Charles Carroll

When the Carrolls moved out, and a few years after Charles' death, the property was sold to William Wyman in 1838 who used it as his retirement home. His son rented it out as a summer house after building another house on the property. So for many years, people who wanted to escape the summer heat and smells of the city enjoyed the summer season at Homewood. In 1902 he and his cousin, William Keyser made it available for Johns Hopkins new campus.

Robert Merrick

Bridging the time from 1896 to 1910, the house was home to the young boys who attended The Country School for Boys of Baltimore City (later named Gilman School.) After they left, in 1916, the Hopkins Club moved in and operated there for twelve years. Fortunately for the house, a graduate student, Robert Merrick, was allowed to rent a room for his lodgings in the 1920's. He finished his dissertation, fell in love with the house, and in 1973 created a fund to restore Homewood as a museum.

Milton S. Eisenhower

In the interim, the administrators of Johns Hopkins University occupied the home. Milton S. Eisenhower was the last university president to have his office in the historic house. In 1976 the Secretary of Interior designated Homewood a National Historic Landmark, citing that its architecture is an example of the best of the Federal style. With extensive research and Mr. Merrick’s gift, Homewood was restored to its early 1800’s appearance and opened as a museum in 1987.

Muttonchops at the Bat!

click to enlarge

It's baseball season in Baltimore! Huzzah! Huzzah? Yeah, the past decade or so was less than magical when it comes to the Orioles ability to, you know, win, but even the most dejected of O's fans can rekindle their love for America's pastime by looking at the old-timey goodness that is early baseball guidebooks at the George Peabody Library. Let's face it, these guidebooks have everything, from illustrations of creep-tastic pitchers displaying the most jaunty of muttonchop styles to instructions on how to play baseball . . . on ICE!

Of course, these books offer more than mere exemplars of faddish facial hair; they are also great sources of social history. Think salary disputes are a relatively new thing? Well, it turns out that Reach's Guide of 1889 discusses what was then called "the high salary evil," in which upstanding managers were  worried about the obscene amounts of money certain players were earning. What about concern over the average American's girth? It is so not a twenty first century trend. According to Haney's Base Ball Reference (1867), baseball will cure it:

The physique of Americans has long been a vulnerable point for the attacks of foreigners on the weaknesses our countrymen, and hitherto we have only too-well merited the palpable hits made by our healthy out-door-sport-loving cousins of England. Of late years, however, an improvement has been manifested in this respect, in America, and a reformation has been introduced, which bids fair to remove the cause of complaint, and to bring us up to the physical standard of our forefathers, whose well-exercised muscles enabled them to lay low the forests of the Western wilderness, and whose powers of endurance led them to withstand so manfully the fatigues and trials of the great seven years’ struggle for independence. (v)

Not only will playing baseball make you have the shredded abs that our forefathers like Ben Franklin and George Washington must surely have had, but will also help you stick it to the snobby British, what with all their fancy tea drinking and dressage and everything. USA!

The guidebooks are also chock-full of quaint ads for supplies and uniforms and various libations, as well as blurbs about all sorts of wild promotional stunts, like how in 1909 pitcher Charles E. Street caught a ball dropped from the Washington Monument. But there are also scandalous pieces of gossip and intrigue within the volumes, suggesting that the baseball diamond was like some sort of athletic and bewhiskered Peyton Place. For instance, Reach's Guide of 1895 recounts the lurid tale of Charley Sweeney, a former pitcher who murdered "'Con' McManus, a local ruffian, in a saloon row in San Francisco" (110). And you thought these guidebooks were full of boring stats!

These guidebooks, of course, were produced by organizations whose agenda was to promote baseball as a wholesome sport, and boy do they ever! Haney's Base Ball Reference, when not making Americans feel bad about their body image, also does a particularly striking job of equating baseball with sound morality, noting that the model baseball player must "comport himself like a gentleman on all occasions, but especially on match days, an in so doing he abstains from profanity and its twin and vile brother obscenity, leaving these vices to be alone cultivated by graduates of our penitentiaries" (71). Don't tell that to Charley Sweeney!

Don't you want to learn more? Of course you do! Well, you are going to have to examine the books yourself if you ever want to learn how to play baseball on ice, 19th century style.