The idea of ​​Wisconsin, end-of-year party version

Impress your family and friends with these fascinating facts. Illustration by Danielle Lambertson Philipp

Keeping small talk at parties and other social gatherings can be a challenge, especially if the pandemic is lacking in your practice. We could talk about the weather, but why not break the ice with something more original? Something more interesting? Something that can help start the conversation – and maybe, just maybe, make you look a little smarter?

The help is here, courtesy of some of the new faculty members at UW-Madison. As part of their intro to campus in Inside UW’s New Faculty Focus, we asked them, “What can you share with your area of ​​expertise that will make us smarter at the parties? “

Whether you are using the information to impress your friends or just to learn something of interest to yourself, consider this a slice of the story. Wisconsin Idea you can serve when someone asks, “What do you know?” “

David Aufhauser
Department of Surgery
Some people who need liver transplants for metabolic diseases may donate their original liver to another person as a “domino liver transplant”.

Uwe Bergmann
Department of Physics
Essentially, all of the oxygen we breathe comes from plants and cyanobacteria which divide water using energy from sunlight. They all use the same tiny molecular machine, but we still don’t know exactly how it works. We hope that powerful X-rays can help solve this mystery that is more than 3 billion years old, without which life as we know it would not be possible.

James crall
Department of Entomology
There are 20,000 species of bees on the planet, roughly double the number of bird species. Individual bees have “personalities” with some preferring to perform specific tasks within the colony or stay in their own corner of the nest – in many ways just like us.

Suzanne eckes
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
When educators, students, and families are made aware of evolving court decisions and state / federal laws, we can create more equitable environments in schools. Of course, I don’t expect educators to become experts in law, but it is possible for educators to acquire legal knowledge. For example, every year, public school teachers break a well-established law when they ask students to recite the Oath of Allegiance at school, and coaches break the well-established law when they lead their teams in prayer. . These mistakes could be avoided by establishing a basic legal culture.

Ke Fang
Department of Physics; Wisconsin IceCube Center for Particle Astrophysics
Our universe does not only shine with light; it also sends out particles and other waves. With the help of many observatories around the world, including the IceCube and HAWC observatories that I work on, we can see the universe in “colors” to which human eyes are not sensitive. This way the universe looks drastically different.

Audrey Girard
Department of Food Sciences
Fortified flour contains B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin) and iron which were lost by the grain during the milling process. It was popularized in the 1940s and virtually eliminated deficiency diseases like beriberi (thiamine deficiency) and pellagra (niacin deficiency). Since the late 1990s, fortified flour also contains folic acid to prevent birth defects.

Chloe Grace Hart
Department of sociology
Our current gender norms are so familiar to us that it’s hard to imagine them any other way, but if you look across cultures or over time, what’s seen as feminine or masculine turns out to be quite fluid. For example, people today often see high heels as a symbol of femininity, but if you go back several centuries, high heels were actually considered very masculine – a shoe for warriors.

David Hershey
Department of Bacteriology
You have about as many bacterial cells in your body as you have human cells.

Al Kovaleski
Horticultural Department
Plants hibernate, but this is called dormancy. To know when they should break open and start growing again, they keep track of the time spent at low temperatures thanks to a clock mechanism that we do not yet understand.

Read Read
Department of Physics; Wisconsin IceCube Center for Particle Astrophysics
Neutrinos pass through our bodies all the time – as you read this sentence, about half a trillion of them just passed through your toe (assuming it took you five seconds to read the sentence).

Erica Majumder
Department of Bacteriology
One of my favorite information comes from my graduate studies. The efficiency of photosynthesis in plants peaks shortly after dawn, leaving plenty of scope for improving renewable energy and food production.

Moritz Münchmeyer
Department of Physics
The laws of nature are the same everywhere in the universe. There is a lot of evidence for this claim, despite the fact that we cannot travel outside the solar system. For example, we can calculate the frequencies of light emitted by physical processes using theories developed for physics on Earth and see these same frequencies when we look at distant stars with telescopes. It is striking that the physical processes on the “other side of the universe” work exactly as they do here on Earth.

Claire Richardson
Department of genetics
I can’t think of anything that would make you smarter at a party, but here’s something that will make everyone dumber (or at least humbled by how little we all know): the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the main “model organisms” of research, has 302 neurons. Its wiring circuit was completely mapped decades ago by electron microscopy. Having this map didn’t decipher how nematode behavior works, although it did help shed light on hypotheses that are still being tested. Humans have tens of billions of neurons.

Adam’s rule
School of Information; Department of Family Medicine
Physician notes in the United States are four times longer than those in other countries, and physicians here spend as much (if not more) time documenting patient care as they do interacting with patients. We’re still trying to figure out why this is the case, but it’s probably a mix of tools (it’s easy to write really long notes with template notes) and policy (the US had very prescriptive regulations on what clinicians should document, although this is changing). But really, the smartest people in the room are often the ones who listen first and then speak. Ask people good questions and enjoy their stories. The heart of being a human-centered designer is learning to listen, observe and empathize with others.

Jacqueline Garonzik Wang
Department of Surgery
Healthy people can lead normal, healthy lives with just one kidney or half of their liver. So if you know someone in need, living organ donation is a safe option.

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