Spin Control

Document Sample
Spin Control Powered By Docstoc

                                     Spin Control
                                     How the UW and high-tech mapping may figure into the Tour de France.
                                     When the Tour de France
                                     begins in July, many people will

                                                                                                                                                           WOLFGANG HOFFMAN
                                     be watching to see if Lance
                                     Armstrong can win the cycling
                                     race for an unprecedented sev-
                                     enth consecutive time. But for
                                     Jeff Sledge, the real interest is
                                     in how one of Armstrong’s top
                                     rivals fares.
                                          Sledge, a researcher with
                                     UW-Madison’s Land Informa-
                                     tion and Computer Graphics
                                     facility, helped design equip-
                                     ment that American rider Floyd
                                     Landis will use to monitor his
                                     energy consumption during the
                                     race. As the mountains of
                                     France test Landis’s body over
                                     the course of the grueling
                                     three-week event, they’ll also
                                     test the promising new technol-
                                     ogy, yielding information that
                                     could benefit many more peo-
                                     ple than just elite cyclists.       A device installed on the wheel of Jeff Sledge’s bicycle logs data
                                                                         about the bike and its rider, including the torque and energy pro-
                                          “From a research stand-
                                                                         duced by the bike. After putting in hundreds of miles testing this
                                     point, this is one of the very      “rolling laboratory,” Sledge will soon learn how the equipment does
                                     few opportunities we get to         in cycling’s premier event, the Tour de France.
                                     measure people who are put-
                                     ting out energy at the limits of    equipment in cooperation with                 high-end cycling gear. “We
                                     human performance,” says            Saris Cycling Group, a Madison                expect to learn a lot.”
                                     Sledge, who developed the           company that manufactures                          The system involves a
                                                                                                                       unique marriage of physiology
                                                                                                                       and the tools of high-tech

Beam Me up North                                                                                                       mapping, an outgrowth of
                                                                                                                       Sledge’s graduate studies in
                                                                                                       SPENCER WALTS

They’re coming from Illinois,        Erwin, a professor                                                                land resources. While many
plowing through Wisconsin en         of physics who is par-                                                            performance monitors measure
route to northern Minnesota.         ticipating in the proj-                                                           a rider’s heart rate or pedal
But these tourists won’t clog up     ect. Yet he and other                                                             cadence, the new device is one
the roads. In fact, you won’t        researchers believe                                                               of the first to combine those
even know they’re there.             neutrinos play a role                                                             data with his or her exact loca-
     That’s because they are         in the formation of                                                               tion, which is tracked using a
neutrinos, subatomic particles       atom-building parti-                                                              bike-mounted global position-
that zip through the universe        cles such as protons,                                                             ing system (GPS). The result is
unhindered by planets and            neutrons, and elec-                                                               that it can learn to predict how
matter. Scientists have begun        trons.                                                                            much energy a rider will need
beaming the tiny particles                To understand                                                                to complete a particular route,
through subterranean Wiscon-         them better, they                                                                 given its geography.
sin as part of a five-year project   are aiming a beam                   accurate measurements of the                       For racers like Landis, that
aimed at demystifying their          of neutrinos from the Fermi         particles, but the window of                  means instant feedback on how
elusive nature.                      National Accelerator Labora-        opportunity is small. The parti-              their bodies are performing at
     Produced by nuclear reac-       tory in Batavia, Illinois, toward   cles make the 450-mile trip in                every point on a race route,
tions on the sun and other stars,    a detector set deep in an old       about two and a half millisec-                enabling them to gauge
neutrinos have almost no mass        iron mine in Soudan, Min-           onds. Typical Illinois drivers.               whether they need to conserve
and no charge, says Albert           nesota. They hope to take more                                 — Staff            energy or crank it up. When

14 O N W I S C O N S I N

Landis used the technology dur-               Clark’s lab has begun using     cycling’s premier event when
ing a time trial at the Tour of          the monitors as part of an           he began experimenting with
Georgia earlier this year, he not        ongoing study of childhood           GPS data as a doctoral candi-
only won, but he beat Arm-               obesity, for which a local school    date in the Gaylord Nelson
strong by more than a minute.            has been assigning students          Institute for Environmental
If the France test goes well,            bike rides as “homework.” Hav-       Studies. He chose to focus on
Saris — which supplied Sledge            ing a GPS record of where the        the sport mainly because it sup-
with equipment and expertise             kids go not only makes it virtu-     plied the dynamic data he
— plans to market the system             ally impossible to cheat, it also    needed to make real-time
as part of its CycleOps brand of         reveals how different routes         assessments. Still, he’s an avid
training products.                       affect their bodies, which could     fan, and this year he’ll closely
     But researchers who have            help doctors tailor exercise reg-    monitor Landis’s progress from
collaborated on the project are          imens right down to the exact        his computer in Madison.
equally excited about how the            route they should take. The               “Obviously, I want to see
technology may soon be used              same kind of test might help         Floyd do well and the CycleOps
by those outside the exclusive           bike commuters find routes           equipment do well,” he says.
circle of endurance athletes.            that allow them to pedal to          “But the goal all along has
Understanding how much                   work without getting tired and       been to create something that
energy it takes for people to            sweaty.                              helps people at all levels.” And
move across a particular land-                For Sledge, a triathlete who    that’s why, after this year’s race,
scape could turn up all kinds of         bicycles three hundred miles a       the guy in the yellow jersey
new insights, which may influ-           week, that hits close to home.       may not be the only one who
ence anything from how doc-              He never set out to design tech-     comes out a winner.
tors treat childhood obesity to          nology that would be used at                          — Michael Penn
how city planners design bicycle
and pedestrian routes.
     “We think it’s one of the
coolest things that’s come down            COOL TOOL

                                                                                                                                                      JEFF MILLER
the road in a while,” says Randy           Lake Effect
Clark ’80, MS’84, manager of
                                           In southern Wisconsin, lakes are pay-
the UW’s Exercise Science Labo-
                                           ing the price for our perfectly mani-
ratory. “It’s still very new, but it’s
                                           cured lawns and productive farms.
groundbreaking stuff. There’s
                                           Phosphorus from fertilizer runs off
great potential there.”
                                           into the water, creating a problem
     The promise lies in the inte-
                                           known scientifically as eutrophica-
gration of time- and space-
                                           tion, and to everyone else as a lot of
related data. As the bike rolls
                                           algae. Researchers from the UW Cen-
along, its GPS unit communi-
                                           ter for Limnology are studying the
cates with satellites, both track-
                                           phenomenon with a powerful buoy.
ing position and tapping into
                                                Tim Kratz, a senior scientist
huge databases of information
                                           with the center, directs the UW’s
about the landscape, including
                                           research station at Trout Lake in
elevation, terrain, and atmos-
                                           northern Wisconsin, where the
pheric conditions. Those                                                             How’s the water? A research buoy floating on Wisconsin’s Trout
                                           instrument floats on the water. The
specifics put the physiological                                                      Lake keeps a vigil.
                                           buoy measures differences in water
data collected by other moni-
                                           temperature, dissolved oxygen, wind
tors into a geographical con-
                                           speed, and other factors to create a picture of what’s going on under the surface. “We want to learn
text, accounting for hills or
                                           how metabolic processes are changing in the northern lakes over time,” says Kratz.
high winds that might affect
                                                Researchers are hoping to learn how the makeup of the lake is changing by studying dissolved gas
someone’s performance. The
                                           concentrations in the water. At night, tiny lake organisms consume oxygen, and during the day, they
information is logged in a file
                                           consume carbon dioxide. When too many nutrients are added to the lake, the rate of metabolism
that can be broken down sec-
                                           speeds up, resulting in algae blooms. And though it’s not a major problem in Trout Lake, the research
ond by second, like an instant
                                           could help create a greater understanding of how lakes react to change.
replay of your ride.
                                                                                                                                — Erin Hueffner ’00

                                                                                                                         S U M M E R 2 0 0 5 15

                                       Fascination in Summation
                                       A grad student unravels a legendary numerical mystery.
                                       Early in the last century, Srini-   up in poverty, he received little    discoveries. In the 1990s, how-
                                       vasa Ramanujan scribbled a few      formal training in mathematics,      ever, came a breakthrough that
                                       notes into a tattered notebook      yet produced a vast body of          nobody could have anticipated.
                                       and sparked one of the great        work before contracting a mys-       Working on an unrelated prob-
                                       lingering mysteries of mathe-       terious illness that took his life   lem, Ono spotted an obscure
Scientists have discovered a path-     matics. Now, a UW-Madison           at age thirty-two. He is particu-    formula embedded in Ramanu-
way by which plant cells pro-          graduate student has solved a       larly famous for observing how       jan’s scrawl, and the chance
tect themselves from the harmful       problem that has haunted gen-       numbers break apart into “par-       sighting led him to the amazing
effects of the sun, a develop-         erations of number theorists.       titions,” or sums of smaller         discovery that congruences exist
ment that could hold important             After a year of calculations,   numbers.                             not only for 5, 7, and 11, but for
implications for agriculture and       Karl Mahlburg PhDx’06                    The number 4, for example,      all larger prime numbers.
the development of bioenergy           found a formula that helps          can be expressed five ways — 4,           The finding entranced
resources. The research explains       explain Ramanujan’s congru-         3+1, 2+2, 1+1+2, and 1+1+1+1         Mahlburg, who began searching
how plants are able to ward off        ences — the curious patterns in     — giving it five partitions.         for simple ways to explain the
a potentially toxic byproduct of       the ways that numbers can be        Working with the prime               patterns in all of these congru-
photosynthesis known as singlet
oxygen. With that knowledge, it
may be possible to modify plants

                                                                                                                                                     WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL/WWW.MERLIN-NET.COM
and other photosynthetic cells to
harness more energy from sun-
light without increasing the risk
of damage from singlet oxygen,
which could improve crop yields
or the efficiency of solar energy

A homing device that helps fire-
fighters find their way out of burn-
ing buildings won top honors at
the College of Engineering’s
annual Innovation Days. Designed
by students Nick O’Brien,
Chandler Nault, and Mitch Nick in
cooperation with Madison fire-
fighters, the system uses radio
transmitters to beam directions to
firefighters when they’re navigat-
ing smoke-filled buildings. The
competition’s $10,000 prize will
go toward developing and mar-          After a year of calculations, Karl Mahlburg came up with a solution to a legendary mathematics mystery.
keting the system.

A team of UW-Madison scientists        broken down into sums of            numbers 5, 7, and 11, Ramanu-        ences. After manipulating “ugly,
successfully used single bacterial     smaller numbers, which the leg-     jan noticed patterns that            horribly complicated” numerical
cells to make tiny bio-electronic      endary mathematician noted in       seemed more than just mere           formulae for a year, he says he
circuits, which could facilitate       his journals.                       coincidence: beginning at the        began to see a pattern.
the evolution of nanotechnol-               “This [work] is the final      number 5, for instance, the               Mahlburg’s solution is suffi-
ogy by making it far easier to         chapter in one of the most          number of partitions for every       ciently complex to fill every page
manufacture the tiny devices.          famous subjects in the story of     seventh integer is a multiple of     of this magazine, so it’s enough
Using microbes as the basis for        Ramanujan,” says math profes-       7, and starting with 6, the par-     to say that in the eyes of number
nanoscale structures could spare       sor Ken Ono, Mahlburg’s grad-       titions for every eleventh inte-     theorists, he came up with “a
nanotechnologists the meticu-          uate adviser and an expert on       ger are a multiple of 11.            fantastically clever argument,”
lous work of fabricating devices       Ramanujan’s work.                        For decades, mathemati-         says Ono. And in the story of a
at the tiny scale, opening the              The father of modern num-      cians inched forward in the          math legend’s great quandary,
door to a new wave of tools that       ber theory, Ramanujan was           search for elementary ways to        that’s a great addition.
are faster and easier to build.        born in India in 1887. Growing      explain Ramanujan’s elegant                             — Paroma Basu

     16 O N W I S C O N S I N

Shared By: