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Quieter Jets?

In the 1970s, the British rock group The Who was touted as the world's loudest act, amping in at somewhere around 110 decibels (dB). Compare that to normal conversation at 60 dB, or a vacuum cleaner at 80 dB.

A military jet takes off at an ear-splitting 140 dB-10 dB over the human threshold of pain.

Because sound intensity is an exponential function-that is, a sound measured at 10 dB greater than another is 10 times louder, 20 dB louder means 100 times more intense, and so on-the military jet's sonic assault is 1,000 times that of Pete Townshend at his guitar-smashing best.

And because communities often abut bases where military jets are deployed every day-with the population of the United States approaching 300 million, such proximity has become, in many cases, inevitable-the pressure is on scientists to turn down the volume.

Anjaneyulu Krothopalli, a professor of engineering and chair of the mechanical engineering department at the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, has developed noise-suppression technology that may soon become standard equipment on U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jets.

"Nobody wants to live near military bases that fly jet fighters, but residential communities do spring up near them," Krothopalli says. The jets, he said, are louder than commercial aircraft, for which the FAA has been mandating noise-reduction standards since 1977.

The bottom line, continues Krothopalli, is that "the public may not accept the operation of these military jets so close to commercial and residential complexes unless their noise can be effectively controlled."

Krothopalli conducts his research in a bunker-like building equipped with a mechanism that uses air compressed at 2,000 pounds per square inch to simulate a rocket or jet engine being fired. A separate chamber measures the resulting noise levels.

As air is forced through a jet engine, it accelerates so that its pressure is considerably lower than the relatively high pressure within the engine. Noise can be reduced by siphoning off some of the air traveling through the engine and forcing it, at high pressure, through microjets that fan around a jet engine's large exhaust. When the small jets of high-pressure air hit the large stream of relatively low-pressure jet exhaust, noise is reduced.

Krothopalli has discovered that an even greater reduction in noise can be achieved by forcing water or an aqueous polymer through the microjets.

"Right now, we're trying to figure out the optimum number of microjets and the optimum level of water or air pressure that will best suppress this noise," Krothopalli says. So far, he has been able to reduce noise by five dB. His short-term goal is to trim another five dB from the F-18's mighty sonic footprint.

Psych's Centennial

Sigmund Freud was in Vienna, toying with a novel idea he dubbed "psychoanalysis." The "Skinner box," one of the most famous experimental tools ever devised in psychology, was unheard of-its inventor, a Pennsylvanian named B.F. Skinner, was yet to be born.

As a scientific discipline, in fact, these were the nascent days of psychology itself. Which makes it doubly remarkable that the young science made its Florida debut in a small college that eventually became Florida State University.

This spring, FSU's psychology department celebrates the centennial of the first psych lab to open on a college campus in Florida. The 1902 catalog of Florida State College (an FSU forerunner) announced the lab's establishment, advertising that the new course offered students "almost every opportunity for studying the different senses, memory, illusions, time relations, and the nervous system."

H. Elmer Bierly, armed only with Princeton bachelor's degree and a smidgeon of graduate training at Harvard, is credited with starting the lab. Bierly saw to it that his charges would find the new lab properly equipped for conducting experiments in hearing, sight, taste and smell, and "affective processes."

In time, the seed Bierly planted would grow into a deeply rooted, robust tree of research that today commands national respect. But the evolution was hardly without incident. In 1926, when the institution was the Florida State College for Women, an ad hoc "Florida Purity League" loudly objected to the teaching of the theories of Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. The furor touched off two rancorous years of debate by local and state religious and political leaders before common sense prevailed.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the granting of the first psychology Ph.D. at FSU, awarded to one Robert Hattwick. (This was only the second Ph.D. given by the university).

In tribute to these notable milestones, an anniversary committee of psychology faculty has created a Web site chockfull of interesting details that highlight the history of psychology at FSU and its earlier incarnations. The site- www.psy.fsu.edu/history/history.html-is slated to include a calendar of special events planned for April.

Med School Cleared for Take-Off

The newest medical school in the United States began the New Year in grand fashion-breaking ground on the first of three planned phases of construction.

In February, workers begin excavating the foundation of a three-story education and administration building on the western side of central campus. Completion is slated for April 2004.

The new bricks and mortar represent a monument to a vitally important achievement the school made last October when it won provisional accreditation by a national panel representing the elite ranks of America's medical training institutions.

The accomplishment means that the FSU College of Medicine is now recognized as one of the nation's 126 accredited med schools Although full accreditation still awaits, the provisional ruling gives the school the critical green light it had to have to move forward, says the school's founding dean, Dr. Joseph E. Scherger.

Since its creation by the Florida Legislature in 2000, the school was forced to jump from a standing start into a maelstrom of ramping up just to get into position to apply for accreditation. Backed by $100 million in state funding, frenzied work in 2001 and last year paid off, and now the school is free to concentrate on its next priority, Scherger said.

"And that's our third- and fourth-year curriculum (for our) regional campuses. We'll soon be sending our first students out there."

This July, the decentralized school's first class of 30 juniors finished with their requisite two years of "basic training" in Tallahassee. Twenty-four of the students will relocate for their final two years at medical training centers in Pensacola and Orlando, with the remainder staying in the Tallahassee area, where at present there are six affiliate medical organizations in the surrounding area. Students generally get their choice of where they want to go. Eventually, says Scherger, the school also will have a regional partner in Jacksonville.

In Tallahassee, the school's faculty has grown rapidly, and now includes more than 50 full-time instructors and more than 100 part-timers. Plans call for about 70 full-time faculty and a total of 480 students by 2005, when the first class graduates.

The school's ambitions in medical research will begin to take shape in the new building. Several research programs are envisioned, including biomedicine. "We'll have a very large biomedical research center here," Scherger said. Plans call for a 70,000-sq.-ft. biomed research center, including adequate space for housing lab animals.

But unlike other med schools, FSU's model calls for research and teaching to always go hand-in-hand, Scherger said. Some faculty may wind up being heavily research-oriented, while others remain focused primarily on teaching. "We're aiming to keep things balanced. We're going to have some 'big E (education)' people and some 'big R (research)' people, too."

Meanwhile, Scherger & Co. are relieved that a critical milestone is behind them and that their entree into the nation's medical education establishment has been well-received.

"We've had a very positive response from people around the country," said Scherger. "With 20 years of no growth in med schools, (our arrival) is a symbol of growth for the field and I think it's seen as a good thing."

Library World

Hospitals have it, and so do police. Some big city school districts have used it. Soon, the nation's public libraries will have their own comprehensive database that not only places each of them on a map but gives details about their services and their communities as well.

Work began last year at FSU on the U.S. Public Library Statistics and Mapping Project, underwritten by a two-year, $249,081 grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.

When finished, the project will include data on all 16,662 public libraries, says Christie Koontz, director of the FSU GeoLib Program and the project's leader. At the click of a mouse button, Koontz said users will be able to find out details about any public library in the country, such as whether any of their local libraries offer story-telling programs and if so, how many children usually attend.

"The data will allow public library researchers and managers to provide the best services and materials for their customers," she said.

The database could become a tool librarians and policymakers use to shape local, regional and national library policies, said Koontz. The idea is to take databases already in use and combine them to create a "snapshot" of public library use and users by location.

"Knowledge of the percentage of children in a community is critical to library planning," said Koontz. "Reading and library habit is more easily retained as an adult if developed in childhood."

Koontz is confident that many questions that librarians and policymakers ask themselves will be answered once census data is brought into the planning process. She said the project could reveal if the library is offering the right balance of services for the community it serves and may help determine the prevalence of the so-called "digital divide" between communities as well as the effects of poverty on library services.

The project will develop the database using reports from the National Center for Educational Statistics and the U.S. Census and linking it to a digital geographic information system base map. The database will be accessible to users over the Internet at www.geolib.org, Koontz said.

Working on the project with Koontz and her colleague Dean K. Jue, GeoLib associate director, are Charles R. McClure, an Eppes Professor in the School of Information Studies, and John Carlo Bertot, director of the Information Use Management and Policy Institute.

Housing Costs & Crime

You file this in the "popular assumption proven wrong" category. The crime rate of a neighborhood doesn't affect the sale price of a house in about 80 percent of homes sold. At least not in Jacksonville, Florida, the focus of a recent analysis of housing prices done by FSU economists.

"Jacksonville is an ideal place to conduct such a study," said David Rasmussen, director of the Devoe L. Moore Center for the Study of Critical Issues in Economic Policy and Government. "The city and Duval County have one municipal government, with one police force and school system thereby eliminating local variations on the price of a home."

An analysis of crime data (murder, rape, robbery, assault, larceny, etc) for 87 police beats which included the central city as well as suburban areas found that crime has a trivial effect on the price of the average home when you remove those particular beats that account for 20 percent of crime. The nature of neighborhoods and home buying habits explain why, Rasmussen said.

Suburbanites are more likely to file a police report about a vandalized car than an inner-city resident. So to develop a more reliable measure about the impact of crime, a cost was assigned to different crimes such as rape ($87,000), burglary ($1,500) and so on.

Researchers then constructed a model that computed how the different crime costs affect the sale price of a home. The results showed that a 10 percent increase in property crime would reduce a home's value by $206 while a similar increase in violent crime lowered the price by $145.

How can this be?

The study suggested that homebuyers think that their chances of being assaulted are largely determined by their behavior and are therefore willing to take steps to reduce the chance of being attacked. Such buyers might be willing, for example, to pay for a bigger lot that is fenced in and has covered parking, creating a barrier between the house and the street. So, if a buyer likes the location and the house, the rate of crime is not necessarily a deal-breaker. But protecting your property from vandals is different. If the parents of rowdy teenagers won't keep them in the house at night then your mailbox stands a better chance of being smashed with a baseball bat.

Speaking of teenagers, they're not good for your home value, the study showed. A high percentage of children under the age of 18 in a neighborhood lowers the sale price of homes by a small amount. Older homes and vacant houses are also usually sold at a discount.

Neighborhoods with predominately owner-occupied houses and older residents were found to improve the sale price of homes. These neighborhoods are considered more stable. And bureaucrats are generally regarded as desirable neighbors. A high percentage of white-collared workers are associated with higher house prices in all neighborhoods.

The most important reason why crime doesn't affect the sales price of most homes is that the cost of crime does not vary much among stable neighborhoods. But home values do plunge in high crime areas. A house in one of those neighborhoods will sell for about 39 percent less then a comparable house located elsewhere.

The center is conducting a series of studies on neighborhood change, affordable housing and the impact of rules and regulations. Rasmussen said the research is being newly supported by a $100,000 gift from the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.