Inflation, the Global Economy, & the MidTerms; WN@TL Goes Dark for Thanksgiving; The Sun for Making Electricity in Wisconsin; Pulling Viruses Out of Thin Air

“Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” Public Science Talks

Wednesdays at 7pm CT

Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center, 425 Henry Mall, Madison WI, 


Stream by zoom at


For 16 November 2022

Hi WN@TL Fans,

Few events drive home the pivotal roles of social sciences in public policy quite like a pandemic, as we recently have seen and continue to see today.   A startling difference to me between reading about the Black Death of 1347-51 and the Great Plague of London of 1665-66 is not so much the death toll but the relative paucity of quantitative data from the mid 14th Century compared to the detailed data and tables of sicknesses and mortality from the mid 17th Century, at the dawn of demography.  

The rise of quantitative data can drive the evolution of other fields of study.  It’s a curiosity of etymology that while the dyad of astrology & astronomy contains only one modern-day science, the dyad of ecology and economics contains two.  Let’s focus on the latter pair: both are rooted in ‘oikos,’ Greek for ‘home.’  The -ology comes from the deliciously protean ‘logos’ and the -omics from ‘neimin’ meaning ‘to manage.’  The concept of economy (managing a household) was scalable to encompass towns and regions and countries, giving us the phrase and the field of “Political economy”; when the field was mathematized in the latter 19th century the ‘political’ often faded, giving us the departments of “Economics” commonplace today.

At about the same time Herbert Baxter Adams at Johns Hopkins University is credited with adding the word ‘science’ to the field of ‘Politics’ that dated back at least to Aristotle, and coined the term “Political Science. 

When I worked at the National Science Foundation from 2008 to 2010 I found it notable that NSF funds research in economics and in political science through the Directorate of Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences.  Also at that time the Department of Defense was launching the Minerva Research Initiative “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the U.S.”

Whether through humanities or social sciences, whether through qualitative or quantitative methods, the study of cultures, societies, governments, and economies, both around the globe and across the centuries, is a vital part of the life of a university.  And since as has been recently noted, “Elections are about the future,” these fields are also at the forefront in helping us to form and to forge that which is to come.


This week (November 16) Mark Copelovitch of the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Department of Political Science will speak on “Inflation, the Global Economy, and the Consequences of the Midterm Elections.”

Bio:  Mark Copelovitch is a Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs. Copelovitch studies and teaches international political economy, with a focus on global financial governance, exchange rates and monetary institutions, the effects of global capital flows on national economic policies, and theories of international cooperation. 

His 2020 book with David Singer of MIT, Banks on the Brink: Global Capital, Securities Markets, and the Political Roots of Financial Crises, is published by Cambridge University Press.

Professor Copelovitch is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in 2005. Prior to his appointment at Wisconsin, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Globalization and Governance at Princeton University.

Explore More:


Next week (November 23) we’ll go dark on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

Explore More:

Over the River & Through the Wood


On November 30 Michael Arnold of Material Science & Engineering will give a talk entitled “The Sun Is Ready to Make Your Electricity Greener and Cheaper in Wisconsin.”

Description:  The Earth is continuously bathing in over one-hundred-million-billion watts of sunlight. Photovoltaic solar cells can harvest this green energy and convert it into electricity. Over the last ten years, the price of solar electricity has plummeted, global installations have increased more than 10-fold, and solar is beginning to significantly penetrate into Wisconsin. 

This presentation will focus on the materials and composition of photovoltaic solar cells and the principles of their operation. It will discuss the history of photovoltaics, how efficiency has increased, and how price has dramatically decreased. Finally, the presentation will provide a forward-looking perspective at upcoming growth, challenges, and opportunities in photovoltaics and how solar electricity will fit into our future.

Bio:  Michael Arnold is a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign before completing a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University. 

His research focuses on the development of new semiconductors for electronics and energy applications, with an emphasis on carbon-based nanomaterials such as semiconducting carbon nanotubes and graphene. 

In his free time, he enjoys tennis, mountain biking, running, eating Babcock Dairy quadruple scoops, and spending time with his partner and children.

Explore More: 

Arnold research group website:

US Department of Energy Solar Photovoltaics Technology Basics:


On December 7 Mitchell Ramuta of Professor David O’Connor’s lab will speak on “Pulling Viruses Out of Thin Air.”

Description:  We are using air sampling as an alternative environmental surveillance strategy to improve the detection and monitoring of (re)emerging viruses in the community.

Bio:   Graduate Student in the Cellular and Molecular Biology Ph.D. program, Dr. David O’Connor’s laboratory

Explore More:   There’s Something in the Air: Monitoring Indoor Air for SARS-CoV-2

Let’s Meet the Virologist (LMtV) Episode 92: Game Changer? Environmental Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2

In the Air Tonight: COVID Testing Spaces, Not Faces.



Hope to see you soon, in person or by zoom, at Wednesday Nite @ The Lab.

Tom ZinnenBiotechnology Center & Division of Extension, Wisconsin 4-H

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WN@TL begins at 7:00pm Central.

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UW-Madison:  5.9 million owners, one pretty good public land-grant teaching, research and extension university. 

Visit UW-Madison’s science outreach portal at for information on the people, places & programs on campus that welcome you to come experience science as exploring the unknown, all year round. 

Here are the components of the WN@TL User’s Guide

1. The live WN@TL seminar, every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center and on Zoom at 

2. The WN@TL YouTube channel

3. WN@TL on the University Place broadcast channel of PBS Wisconsin 

4. WN@TL on the University Place website 


Park for a small fee in Lot 20, 1390 University Avenue, Madison, WI