Matt Pierce Goes Transatlantic, Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit, Brown Bag

Matt Pierce is the new History Detective

Professor Matt Pierce went on quite an adventure this summer.  Having already planned a trip with his wife to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he ended up catching an episode of History Detectives on PBS before they left.  This particular episode featured a man who found remnants of copper cable on a New England beach, cable that appeared to be telegraphic in nature.  This inspired Matt to visit the French Cable Station Museum in Orleans, Massachusetts, while on vacation.  There he found out about the history of transatlantic cable, how it operated, and how the technology evolved over the years.  Back in the 1800’s, the French laid transatlantic copper cable from Brest, France, to Orleans, Massachusetts.  The station house established in Orleans became the museum as it stands today.  According to Matt, “the most fascinating thing about the museum was seeing the communication technology as it evolved over the years.”

One of the artifacts Matt saw included the first Morse code signaling device, called the Mirror Speaking Galvanometer, which provided direct communication between the ships laying the original cable lines.  The Mirror Speaking Galvanometer used an electromagnet that changed polarity according to the dots and dashes of Morse code, creating a beam of light for operators to translate.  As the technology advanced, more mechanized machines were developed including one that punched holes on paper, which was later decoded by operators.

The French Cable Station was mostly used by American and European businessmen to conduct business in real time and to receive information from overseas markets.  Sending a message took on a process similar to that of Western Union, where customers would pay per word.  In fact, the people of Orleans, Massachusetts were the first to know of Charles Lindbergh’s completed flight from New York City to Paris.  The message came across the transatlantic cable line to Orleans, where the operator working at the time went to the local baseball stadium and announced it to the crowd over the megaphone.

The technology was eventually phased out in 1959 and the town of Orleans had a bit of trouble converting the station house to a museum.  According to legend, French Prime Minister at the time, Charles de Gaulle, would  not sell the land or the building the station house was on because he wouldn’t “allow one square foot of French soil to be sold” or words and gestures to that effect.  Once he left office, a group of concerned citizens joined together to buy the house in order to convert it into the museum it is today.

Matt explained that most of the equipment in the museum is in some working order and he was able to see several demonstrations while there.  “I’m not sure if there is a similar station house on the French side, in Brest, but if I ever end up over there, I’d like to find out.”  While some  may think that the transatlantic cable system is outdated and simply a historical artifact, it actually served as the blueprint for today’s fiber optic cable system.  Check out the original transatlantic cable map here and the modern fiber optic cable map here.  For more information on the French Cable Station Museum, you can visit their website at frenchcablestationmuseum.org.

Daphna’s Quest for Bread: Adjusting to Food in America

Sitting in my first class of T501 last fall, PhD student Daphna Yeshua-Katz asked a question I had never heard before, “Where can I get good bread around here?” A year later I asked her if she had found a place to get good bread. “Nope, I stopped eating bread.”

For many international students, American food can be a big adjustment. After a year stateside, Yeshua-Katz, used to eating lots of homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables, is finding ways to adjust. Instead of bread, her family eats whole wheat bagels and she shops at Sam’s for her fruits and vegetables. Having a family really affects her food choices. “Two bags of vegetables at Bloomingfoods is like $80.  If I was a single college student I might be able to afford it, but not with a family.” Yeshua-Katz also occasionally taps the Israeli community when looking for comforts from home. “In Israel we have a special kind of cucumber that is smaller and they have so much flavor, so everyone from Israel is always telling each other where to find them.”

So why the differences? One of the differences, says Yeshua-Katz, is that processed foods are expensive outside of America, making locally grown fruits and vegetables the cheap option.  “Its all economics and politics,” according to her. In Israel and Europe, McDonalds and fast food in general is really expensive, usually reserved for special occasions like birthdays. Therefore they don’t become dietary staples like they are here in America. Likewise, government subsidies for corn in America tip the balance against fruits and vegetables. “In Indiana it is all corn. People aren’t growing different kinds of vegetables which make them more expensive.  I can’t blame people for being overweight in America, it’s not their fault that the cheap option is the unhealthy option.”

But it is not just the price or availability of certain kinds of food; it is what goes into them. According to Yeshua-Katz, the flour is different here, which directly contributes to her inability to find good bread. In addition, American food has more sugar and more salt than the food in Europe and Israel.

While there are some tricks to adjusting to American food for those coming from overseas, it tends to come at a price.

Zeke in Orbit

Zeke has been abducted by terrorists and launched ruthlessly into space. It is your job to help him navigate the cosmos. Or so goes the story of Zeke in Orbit according to its creator, MS student Brendan Wood.

Zeke in Orbit, a game designed for Apple devices, stemmed from a week long experiment for one of Wood’s classes in which he was asked to design a game for the iPad.  Adopting a feature from Super Mario Galaxy in which players point their Wiimotes at orbs on a screen in order to navigate a bubble enclosed Mario, Zeke in Orbit utilizes gravity nodes to push and pull Zeke through numerous levels, all the while avoiding traps, shooting enemies, and collecting dog bones. “I consider it a puzzle-action game, because everything is changing all the time in the game,” says Wood.

Since that spring class, Wood has constantly been updating and promoting Zeke. The month before school started, Wood revamped the game’s original graphics, utilizing the artistic talents of former grad student Jenna Hoffstein to fit a “modern retro” theme that features glowing vector lines, and a very cute looking Zeke.

In order to promote Zeke Wood takes his game to review sites like Touch Arcade. According to Wood, “Touch arcade is the holy grail for idevices. Every day they have like 10,000 hits.” Likewise, Wood takes advantage of a Twitter group known as the indie developer retweet group, in which members retweet each others posts about their games in exchange for points. In addition to his online marketing, Wood is always looking for opportunities to market his game. For instance, while at a bar a few weekends ago, Wood spotted a bored looking bouncer surfing idly on his iPhone. Strolling over, Wood let him demo the game and within 5 minutes, the bouncer had downloaded Zeke in Orbit.

Although currently only available on iOS, Wood soon hopes to port Zeke using Lua in order to make the game available on the Android Market as well.  In the future, Wood intends to design and release a sequel, Zeke in Orbit II, but at the moment Wood is dedicated to updated and promoting Zeke in Orbit. You can download a copy of Zeke in Orbit from the app store.

Brown Bag Presentations

This week’s brown bag featured a split session with two of the department’s doctoral students, Soyoung Bae and Sung Wook Ji.  Soyoung’s presentation focused on online news selection and reading behavior and Sung Wook’s discussed entry behavior of IPTV.

Soyoung Bae

“Online News Selection and Reading Behavior According to News Content, Photograph, and the Audience’s Objective”

This study examined how news content and photographs affect news selection order and frequency in online newspapers. Further, it investigated how news content interacts with reading objectives on browsing and reading behavioral patterns. Results in Experiment 1 showed that threatening headlines were selected before and more often than innocuous headlines however type of headline only affected selection order, not frequency. Experiment 2 found that people spent more time reading innocuous articles compared to threatening articles and the difference was greater in the information seeking compared to the pass time condition.

Sung Wook Ji

“IPTV Redlining: Income-driven Competition”

This study examines the current status of the entry behavior of IPTV into the video programming service market, with a particular focus on income redlining and local competition. Analyzing previously unavailable data compiled by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, evidence is presented of the practice of income redlining associated with IPTVs? entry into the Indiana market, as well as of the presence of income-driven local competition.

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Matt Pierce is the New History Detective, Brown Bag Presentations

Mike Lang:  Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit

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