UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater – August 1, 2022

UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater

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For 1 August 2022

Hi Everyone, 

This past Friday the third and final session of Grandparents University wrapped up for the summer of 2022.  Each year GPU is for me an unsurpassed experience in sharing science because I get to interact with 7 to 10 year olds and chat with their grandparents.  In the Biotech major we start with the activity of shaking cream into butter, and we question if that activity proves that shaking is essential in making butter. I can confirm that the impulse towards ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ is strong among both 7 year olds and 70 year olds.

The butter activity is an opportunity is a tell the tale of Stephen Babcock and the butterfat test he developed in 1888-1890 in South Hall.  It’s also a chance to introduce the practice of testing a family of ideas, a metaphor put forth by University of Wisconsin President Thomas Chamberlin in his 1890 essay on the method of multiple working hypotheses.  Converting the activity of shaking one container of cream by making it into an experiment with two containers of cream, one that is shaken and one that is held without shaking, gives the grandkids a chance to put their exquisite sense of fairness (or perhaps more accurately, their sense unfairness) to work in designing and doing experiments.

When the pad of butter finally forms in the shaken container of cream (but not in the control container that was held but not shaken), folks from both generations are surprised to see the butter is yellow, while the left-over liquid remains white.  Where does the yellow come from?  This opens the story-telling door to beta-carotene and the pioneering work done in 1913 in Ag Hall by Elmer McCollum and Racine’s Marguerite Davis and their discovery of what came to be known as Vitamin A, the first vitamin.

I can then invite the grandparents to “Please turn and talk to your grandchild about how in the years before 1967 yellow margarine was illegal to sell in Wisconsin, and how back then Wisconsin parents would make a run for the border to buy the golden oleo in Illinois.”  There’s a lot of ideas to spread around: disruptive technologies, the cultural values of food, the government’s responsibility to prevent consumer fraud, the morality of patents that block a food from being supplemented with life-enhancing vitamin in the name of protecting the dairy industry.

There’s another, more Earthy angle, too.

Among folks who favor the distinctive flavor of local foods the concept of “terroir” encompasses the idea that the specific location where a food is grown or collected reflects the soils, waters, life-forms and climate of the locale.  Likewise, GPU gives outreachers from many scholarly fields, including those in STEM, a chance to celebrate the flavor of UW scientific discoveries and controversies by incorporating them into the activities that we lead and the sagas that we share.

As an Extension specialist and as a UW-Madison alum, it’s a point of pride for me that GPU was invented some 20 years ago by a partnership of UW-Extension and the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Today, the growing the number universities that offer GPU gives our colleagues at other institutions a reason to season their menu of explorations with some ‘science terroir’ by developing activities built upon insights from their own campuses, from their own fields of discovery.  As with wine and cheese, these will be flavors to remember and savor.

Thanks again!

Tom Zinnen

===Coming Up This Week and This Month

1.  During the summer, Science Alliance meets episodically. 

We will meet next on August 22 at 10am by zoom.

The Zoom link for the summer meetings of Science Alliance will continue to be: https://zoom.us/my/glbrc.weieducation.vmr?pwd=L2Q0L0g0S3lEd2gyazNscjA1d2JYZz09

The draft agenda for August 22 at 10 am includes:•  Welcome•  Updates

•  Wisconsin Science Festival

•  Other Business

•  Next Meeting:  Monday, September 12.

As with the #Updater, the Science Alliance meeting notes are also archived on https://science.wisc.edu/science-alliance/.

 2. Recurring Programming Events coming this week and soon.

Weekly Reminder: Please Post your science outreach events and Check for Other Science Events presented online and available to all at http://today.wisc.edu/events/tag/science

•  Badger Talks Live:  –  Watch live and in archive at  https://www.facebook.com/BadgerTalks/live_videos/  and check the schedule at  https://badgertalks.wisc.edu/events/  .  Next up on August 2 at 12 noon:  Greg Offerman on “Serving Wisconsin.”

 •  Wednesday Nite @ The Lab Public Science Series every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT by zoom (go.wisc.edu/240r59) or in person in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI.

This week (August 3) Will Vuyk, president of the board of the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve, speaks on 

“Snakes Around Town:  Baseline Snake Species Occupancy in Madison-Area Prairie Restorations.”


3.  Seeking Hands on Science Presenters AND Campus locations for the Wisconsin Science Festival!

a. Indoor/Outdoor In-Person hands-on science at the Festival: 

Join us at the Discovery Expo in the Discovery Building on October 12 and October 15 from 10am-1pm and outside on State St as part of the Science On the Square event from 4-8pm on Friday, October 14. To submit your station details, here is the form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd1i9GoR9nxz2sBFwb3KzerrDDz6XYCPVHt5uZi-V7IjWwfYA/viewform

Deadline for station details is mid August.

b. Want to have groups of students/teachers come to your building/space in small groups on Wednesday October 12? 

During the Discovery Expo, we will have many students on campus with their teachers. Sometimes they are interested in seeing another part of campus after/before their time at the Discovery Expo. In the past, we have helped to coordinate options for them – like stopping at the learning lobby of the Primate Center or visiting Allen Gardens. If you would like to open your doors to groups of youth during the Festival, email Sam Mulrooney (Mulrooney, Samantha SMulrooney@warf.org) with the following information:

Location address

Size of group you have at one time

Age/grades that would be the best fit

Length of time you’d want the group on site

4. IEEE-Madison Panel Discussion on UW-Madison’s Nuclear Fusion Research, August 11 at 6pm at The Atrium on Park, 2300 S. Park Street.

Why Fusion?

  • The role of fusion power plants in a modern, sustainable electric grid
  • How fusion works, and what challenges there are to overcome

Recent advancements in fusion technology

  • Improvements in theory, computation, and materials
  • Contributions made by scientists in Wisconsin

What to look for in the near future?

  • New and exciting experiments on the horizon
  • How local people can help advocate for fusion technology

Please help spread the invitation through your network.  The event is described at https://events.vtools.ieee.org/m/318452. 

This is an in-person event that requires registration to attend. The registration link is reached from the linked page. Chuck Cowie, IEEE Madison

5.  Calumet County “Festival of Fun” on Saturday October 1 in Chilton at the Calumet County Courthouse. 

UW-Madison’s Calumet County 4-H invites 50-minute hands-on science presentations, with sessions available at 9:00, 10:00 or 11:00 for 4-H Cloverbuds (grades K-2) and then also sessions at 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00 for older 4-H members (grades 3-8).   

To register, please contact Carlea Liermann.

Carlea Liermann

4-H Program Educator

UW-Madison | Extension Calumet County

206 Court Street | Chilton, WI  53014-1127


6. Wisconsin 4-H Fall Forum Runs November 4-6 at the Hotel Mead in Wisconsin Rapids.

Wisconsin 4-H’s Fall Forum is an opportunity for science outreachers to connect with youth and adult volunteers from all overs Wisconsin. 

To Register:

Friday Interactive Learning Activity Submission Friday Evening November 4

Saturday Workshop Submission November 5

Carlea Liermann

4-H Program Educator

UW-Madison | Extension Calumet County

206 Court Street | Chilton, WI  53014-1127


7.  UW Arboretum Summer Events

Saturday work parties, Sunday walks, and night walksSaturday restoration work parties, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/get-involved/volunteer/work-parties/See the full list of Sunday walks (nature hikes, family walks, and garden strolls), plus monthly night walks, on the Arboretum events calendar: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events/

Taking a self-guided stroll is one way to explore the Arboretum on your own terms. Some of the most popular routes include the Grady Tract Loop, the Curtis Prarie, or a five mile loop through the whole arboretum. Always remember to stay on the paths to preserve wild plants + wear appropriate shoes.  


You can also take one of the free guided nature walks offered for different skill levels and ages on a weekly basis. Most meet at the Visitor’s Center, located right in the heart of the arboretum.

  • Nature Walks — Every Sunday at 1 p.m., learn about the land, plants, and animals from local naturalists.
  • Nature Hikes — On the first and third Sundays of the month, adults are invited on these longer walks.
  • Family Nature Walks — On the second Sunday of the month, families can explore the arboretum with a guide.
  • Garden Strolls — On the fourth Sunday of the month, gently-paced strolls are offered with wheelchair-accessible routes.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Check out the calendar for monthly night walks, seasonal birding hikes + more family-friendly events.

The arboretum is open daily from 4 a.m.-10 p.m. and is always free. 


8. Events from Madison Friends of Urban Nature

 More events at https://cityofmadison.com/parks/events/bird-nature.cfm