June 29, 2014
At least the global financial crisis led to better regulation, right? Well… not exactly…

Actual Title: The Construction of Financial Authority: Authoritative Practices in the OTC Derivatives Market before and after the Crisis

Abstract: How has the global financial crisis altered how the over-the-counter (OTC) credit derivatives industry operates legitimately in the global financial system? Prior to the crisis, derivatives trading was — unique among other forms of international exchange — simultaneously immune from public regulation and regarded as legitimate. We might expect the financial crisis to have been a legitimacy crisis for derivatives markets, but it is unclear to what extent this is the case. Even as derivatives regulation has shifted from private to public, mainly Anglo-American agencies, trading volumes remain high and many of the same actors are involved in setting standards. While most inquiries into financial politics attempt to explain regulatory outcomes, this project focuses instead on the practices through which financial authority is constituted, reproduced, contested, and changed. I identify risk modeling, credit rating, collateralization, and the determination of credit events as practices central to the OTC derivatives industry. While market supervision has been extended in important ways, many of the same practices underlie the functioning of the market and its supervision pre- and post-crisis. These findings challenge the dichotomy between the market as a would-be autonomous sphere, on the one hand, and external, political rules on the other. 

June 28, 2014
What haplochromine are you? I got Heterochromis multidens! (QUIZ)

Actual Title: Systematics of African cichlid fishes: Determination of the most primitive taxon, and studies on the haplochromines of Lake Malawi (Teleostei: Cichlidae).

Editor’s note:

There were too many options here…

"How this one scholar categorized Malawian fish is just cich!"


June 27, 2014
Why do some people get *so* mad? (HINT: It probably has to do with feelings)

Frontal cortical asymmetry and impulsive aggression: A reinforcement sensitivity study 

Abstract: The current study compared impulsive aggressive individuals and nonaggressive controls using frontal cortical EEG activity. Impulsive aggression is a reactive or emotionally charged violent response characterized by a loss of behavioral control. Previous physiological studies have found impulsive aggressors (IAs) have sensory and informational processing deficits. Undergraduate male volunteers (n = 15 IAs, n = 15 controls) completed a resting EEG and two affective picture tasks intended to manipulate emotional state. IAs showed more right frontal cortical activity than controls at lateral frontal electrodes at rest [t(28) = 2.470, p = .020] and had similar asymmetry indices throughout the two emotional paradigms [t(14) = .890, ns]. Controls, however, were able to engage the Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS) during withdrawal-related stimuli [t(14) = 2.576, p = .022]. An interaction between group and picture task [F(2, 14) = 3.818, p = .028] reinforced this result. Results indicated that IAs have an overactive BIS and thus cannot appropriate the proper biological systems in response to emotional stimuli. Future directions are discussed.

Link to dissertation: https://beardocs.baylor.edu/xmlui/handle/2104/8908

June 26, 2014
Think you understand poverty? Listen to what these kids have to say and then get back to me.

Actual Title: Examining the Implications of Poverty from the Perspective of Mothers and Children Living in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Communities

Abstract: Poverty, specifically child poverty, has been an area of great concern impacting the United States for decades. This paper explores the differing views, experiences and perceptions of poverty through interviews with three impoverished families: one child and mother each located in an (1) urban (2) suburban and (3) rural community.  By looking at children and parents living in impoverished homes in diverse neighborhoods I sought to investigate the societal, social, and emotional perceptions and experiences of children and parents living in urban, suburban, and rural poverty. Children between the ages of 6 and 7 years old were interviewed, as were their mothers, utilizing a qualitative, case study methodology. Research found parental themes of overall concern regarding child well-being due to past personal and peer experiences, a fear of the future, and the differences in variations of family, community, and financial support. Child themes included an awareness of the financial burdens of their families, knowledge of crime and violence and perceptions of wealth and home.


June 25, 2014
Find Out How Much Your Neighbor’s Flooded Basement Could Cost You (QUIZ!)

Actual title: Social Benefits and Costs of the National Flood Insurance Program

Abstract: This analysis retrospectively examines the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) using benefit-cost analysis (BCA). Congress created the NFIP in 1968 to provide flood insurance in part due to the absence of a private market for flood insurance. Since 1994, the NFIP has included a Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program to provide local communities with support for flood mitigation. Together, the NFIP and NFIP programs provide the national flood protection and response strategy.

This analysis estimates net social benefit of the NFIP for the years 1996 through 2010. An important element is the estimated consumer surplus for flood insurance using historical financial and survey data available from the NFIP. Using this estimate and other components of net social benefits, this analysis derives a sufficient statistic for the insurance component of the NFIP and is joined with other estimates of the benefits of the FMA to estimate the net social benefits of the combined program. A supplemental analysis is done using different income weighting scenarios in a distributionally weighted BCA. Finally, this study includes an analysis of the change in government revenue attributable to the NFIP and FMA programs. Sensitivity analysis is conducted on all results.

This study concludes by finding that the NFIP and FMA programs provided a net benefit to society the years 1996 through 2010. Additionally, the NFIP and FMA are regressive. Finally, this study finds that government revenue experiences a net increase due to the NFIP program.

June 24, 2014
Holy crop! What’s happening with these soybeans will plough through your mind.

Actual Title: Current and future consequences of tropospheric ozone on soybean biochemistry, physiology and yield

Author(s):Betzelberger, Amy

Crop losses to the damaging effects of tropospheric ozone in the United States are estimated to cost $1-3 billion annually. One of the world’s most important oilseed crops, soybean (Glycine max [L.] Merr.), is particularly sensitive to O3 with current estimated losses of 8.5-14% depending on genotype and environmental conditions. Zea mays (maize) is the most important food crop globally in terms of production, and has previously been classified as moderately sensitive to O3. In the United States, soybeans and maize are commonly grown in a crop rotation with each other. The Midwestern United States “Corn Belt” produces 38%% of the world’s maize and 34%% of the world’s soybean crops (USDA FAS), and currently experiences O3 concentrations that are high enough to negatively impact yields. In my dissertation research I approached the problem of crop loss to O3 in three ways. Since soybean sensitivity to O3 has already been demonstrated I first tested the hypothesis that there is cultivar variation in the antioxidant, photosynthetic, and yield responses of soybean to growth at ambient and double ambient [O3] under field conditions. Ten cultivars of soybean were grown at elevated [O3] from germination through maturity at a fully open-air agricultural field location in the Soybean Free Air Concentration Enrichment (SoyFACE) facility in 2007, and six of those were grown again in 2008. In order to determine what parameters could be used to predict the sensitivity of seed yield to elevated [O3], photosynthetic gas exchange, fluorescence, chlorophyll content, antioxidant capacity, and leaf area index were monitored. Doubling the [O3] over ambient in those years decreased soybean yields by an average of 17%, with a range of 8-37% depending on cultivar and year. Chlorophyll content and photosynthetic parameters were positively correlated with seed yield, while antioxidant capacity was negatively correlated with photosynthesis and seed yield, suggesting a possible shift in the carbon balance between antioxidant metabolism and carbon gain. Exposure-response curves derived from these results indicate that breeding has not inadvertently selected for O3 tolerance. While I calculated an exposure response of different genotypes to O3 from different years of treatment at SoyFACE, variation in temperature, moisture availability and planting date could potentially interact with O3 to alter the response of soybean to the pollutant. Therefore, the experiments present in Chapter 3 are for soybean exposed to nine different concentrations of [O3] (38 ppb to 120 ppb) in each of two growing seasons, in order to measure the physiological and agronomic O3 dose response. All genotypes responded similarly with O3 exposure causing a linear decrease in leaf area, light absorption, specific leaf mass, primary metabolites, seed yield, and harvest index, while antioxidant capacity linearly increased. Although the two growing seasons experienced different temperature and rainfall patterns, there was a robust linear seed yield decrease of 37-39 kg ha-1 per ppb of cumulative O3 exposure over 40 ppb (AOT40). The existence of immediate effects of O3 exposure on photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, and photosynthetic transcript abundance before and after initiation and termination of fumigation of O3 fumigation were concurrently assessed, but there was no evidence of an instantaneous photosynthetic response. Growing season-long O3 exposure, however, negatively impacted the ability of the soybean canopy to intercept radiation, the efficiency of photosynthesis, and harvest index, suggesting that there are multiple targets for improving soybean responses to this damaging air pollutant. To further explore the exposure-response of soybean, and to better understand how it is affecting yields in the Midwest United States, a region which produces nearly 40% of the world’s soybean and ~36% of maize crops, the study in Chapter 4 approached yield responses on a larger scale, using time series modeling to determine the O3 response of soybean and maize. Time series models are commonly used to predict the potential effects of climate change on crop yields on a large scale, in an agronomic setting, over many years and growing conditions using historical observations of seed yield and measurements of weather. In this study temperature and O3 were negatively correlated with soybean and maize yield, while water availability was positively correlated. Accounting for the colinearity in weather variables, O3 significantly decreased maize yield by 163 kg ha-1 and soybean yields by 55 kg ha-1 for every 1 ppm h increase in AOT40 over the growing season. In this dissertation I demonstrate significant intraspecific variability of soybean yield response to doubled ambient [O3], correlate the yield response to physiological and biochemical parameters measured late in the growing season, and discuss potential ways to screen germplasm for tolerance to O3. I then develop an O3 exposure-response for soybean, and estimate a loss of 37-39 kg ha-1 per ppm h AOT40 for field-grown soybean. I quantitatively parse the yield loss into decreases in the efficiencies of light interception, solar energy conversion into biomass, and partitioning efficiency, further supporting the conclusion that there are multiple opportunities for selection of soybean tolerance to this harmful pollutant. Finally, I utilize historical yield, O3, and meteorological data to show that the five greatest soybean and maize producing states are currently suffering significant yield losses due to O3 air pollution at a rate of 55 kg ha-1 for soybean and 163 kg ha-1 for maize per ppm h over AOT40. These effects of O3 estimated from data collected over the last quarter century underscore the importance of including an O3 exposure term in statistical models of crop and ecosystem responses to global climate change. They further suggest that developing O3 tolerance in maize, as well as soybean, should be a target for improving current and future crop production.

June 23, 2014
Haters Gon’ Heat


The Earth’s climate is changing and cities are facing a warmer future. As the locus of economic activity and concentrated populations on the planet, cities are both a primary driver of greenhouse gas emissions and places where the human health impacts of climate change are directly felt. Cities increase local temperatures through the conversion of natural land covers to urban uses, and exposures to elevated temperatures represent a serious and growing health threat for urban residents. This work is concerned with understanding the interactions of global trends in climate with local influences tied to urban land covers. First, it examines temperatures during an extended period of extreme heat and asks whether changes in land surface temperatures during a heat wave are consistent in space and time across all land cover types. Second, the influences of land covers on temperatures are considered for normal and extreme summer weather to find out which characteristics of the built environment most influence temperatures during periods of extreme heat. Finally, the distribution of health vulnerabilities related to extreme heat in cities are described and examined for spatial patterns.

These topics are investigated using meteorology from the summer of 2006 to identify extremely hot days in the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Phoenix and their surrounding metropolitan regions. Remotely sensed temperature data were examined with physical and social characteristics of the urban environment to answer the questions posed above. The findings confirm that urban land covers consistently exhibit higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas and are much more likely to be among the hottest in the region, during a heat wave specifically. In some cities urban thermal anomalies grew between the beginning and end of a heat wave. The importance of previously recognized built environment thermal influences (impervious cover and tree canopy) were present, and in some cases, emphasized during extreme summer weather. Extreme heat health health vulnerability related to environmental factors coincided spatially with risks related to social status. This finding suggests that populations with fewer resources for coping with extreme heat tend to reside in built environments that increase temperatures, and thus they may be experiencing increased thermal exposures.

Physical interventions and policies related to the built environment can help to reduce urban temperatures, especially during periods of extremely hot weather which are predicted to become more frequent with global climate change. In portions of the city where populations with limited adaptive capacity are concentrated, modification of the urban landscape to decrease near surface longwave radiation can reduce the chances of adverse health effects related to extreme heat. The specific programs, policies, and design strategies pursued by cities and regions must be tailored with respect to scale, location, and cultural context. This work concludes with suggestions for such strategies. 

June 23, 2014
Words words words LEMURS words words words.

Actual Title: Edge effects on the behaviour and ecology of Propithecus  coquereli in Northwest Madagascar

The energy frugality hypothesis states that in response to Madagascar’s unpredictable habitat,
lemurs should adopt strategies of energy optimization. I have applied this hypothesis to lemur
behavioural ecology in response to forest edges. I compared two groups of Propithecus coquereli
living less than 1-km from a forest edge with two groups living greater than 1-km from the edge
in Ampijoroa forest station, Ankarafantsika National Park, NW Madagascar. Edge effects in
Ampijoroa penetrated up to 625-m into the forest. Propithecus coquereli were edge avoiders,
with 94.54% of sightings of Propithecus coquereli found outside of the area of edge influence.
There was no difference between group ranges for density of food trees, however tree diameter at
breast height (dbh) and tree height did differ between groups. These habitat differences did not
neatly divide edge versus interior groups, but appeared to be more nuanced. I found no
differences between groups for activity budgets, food quality, or spatial patterns of plant species/
parts consumed. However, groups nearer to the edge had home ranges that were more than
iidouble in size to interior groups. Groups in the interior had higher group-specific densities and
more frequent intergroup encounters which may have led groups to adopt smaller ranges to avoid
expending energy in intergroup encounters. More evidence of human impact was found in the
edge, therefore groups near the edge might also range further to avoid humans. Groups showed
differences in the spatial pattern of behaviours, activity by age-sex category, substrate size and
vertical location used while traveling, and dietary overlap. However, these differences may not
be reflective of distance to the forest edge - all groups avoided the edge - but instead may reflect
subtle differences in habitat structure between the four groups

June 23, 2014
More bait to click?

Ana suggested that folks send in keywords along with their titles and abstracts. This is an idea I really like, so please do so - and if you have already seen yours up here, send me some keywords for it and I will add them. 

Now everyone get back to work on their dissertations.

June 17, 2014
Kafka’s language is put on trial. What happens next will metamorphosize your view of the analytic tradition.

Actual title: In der Sprachkolonie: Franz Kafka’s world and the limits of language


It is often our goal to ask what Kafka’s works “mean.” I investigate instead how he conceives the relationship between language and meaning altogether. For the inhabitants of Kafka’s fictional universes use language in a way that forces into question the conceit of linguistic expression itself. To argue this I turn to writers beyond those we normally associate with the Austrian Sprachkrise of the turn of the 20th Century. Texts dealing directly and primarily with language consciousness, such as Hofmannsthal’s Ein Brief and Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, certainly challenge referential theories of linguistic expression of aesthetic or ethical truth. But in Kafka, failure of referential meaning is the precondition for his best-known dramatic conflicts—conflicts that do not, at first, even appear to be about language (Josef K.’s seemingly-juridical predicament in Der Prozess, for example). In my first chapter, I show that without the analytic language philosophy preceding and during the Sprachkrise, our rendering of Kafka’s unique dramatizations of the crisis of expression remains incomplete.

In my second chapter, I uncover links between narrative representations of meaning, truth and ambiguity in Der Prozess and the language philosophy of Gottlob Frege, without whose work the Sprachkrise ’s major intellects would have been lacking systematic precedent; in my third, I move on to the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and explore the “limits of language” as they are reached and confronted in both the Tractatus logico-philosophicus and Kafka’s Die Verwandlung ; in my fourth and final chapter, I demonstrate a common current between the Officer’s fate in Kafka’s Strafkolonie and the paradoxes of ostensive definition and rule-following as “played” in the language-games of Wittgenstein’s Philosophische Untersuchungen. Through the development of these chapters I show how several of the most radical ideas of early analytic language philosophy emerge in Kafka’s fictional worlds, and thereby demonstrate themselves with an urgency and immediacy unavailable to the philosophical medium. In this way I also show that a study of the analytic tradition is necessary for the richest possible understanding of Kafka’s place in the Sprachkrise.