March 3 , 2003, Vol. 4, No.1

RESEARCH FRONTIERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND

March 3 , 2003, Vol. 4, No. 1


CONTENTS

The Art of Poetry - 2002 Whiting Writers Award Winners

"Emotion Recollected in Tranquility," Elizabeth Arnold

"Poetry Is the Supreme Fiction," Joshua Weiner

Electrical and Computer Engineering Research Review Day 2003

A Second Caesar to Change the Course of History?


NOAA to Move Close to Campus

Graduate Grandstand
Graduate Student Involvement – News from Jason Pontius


THE ART OF POETRY

Faculty members Elizabeth Arnold and Joshua Weiner, assistant professors of English, have each won a 2002 Whiting Writers Award, conferred by the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation in New York.  The awards are given annually to only "ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays.  They are based on accomplishment and promise.  Candidates are proposed by nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations bring them in contact with individuals of extraordinary talent.  Winners are chosen by a selection committee, a small group of recognized writers, literary scholars, and editors, appointed annually by the Foundation."  In addition, Dr. Arnold and Dr. Weiner are each winners of a Graduate School Creative and Performing Arts Award for the coming summer.

Reports on Dr. Arnold's and Dr. Weiner's poems follow.


"EMOTION RECOLLECTED IN TRANQUILITY"

"Crèvecoeur. [Heart-puncturing.]”  The name would have been fitting for a legendary sword in a medieval Frankish epic (after having been gallicized).  It is in fact the name of a Frenchman who settled for a time as a farmer in North America in the 18th century.  He is the subject of a poem by Elizabeth Arnold, assistant professor of English and a winner of a 2002 Whiting Writers Award.

The alliteration in his name is one of many dynamic occurrences of it in Dr. Arnold's poetry.  This is not surprising in a poet who acknowledges her debt to the poetry of another Germanic people, the Anglo-Saxons.  "I'm very influenced by the Germanic side of the English language," she says, "especially by Ezra Pound's translation of 'The Seafarer,' which is, I think, the best translation in modern English of an Anglo-Saxon poem.  It's like the end of the continuum of the register of what the language can do.”

A second influence on Dr. Arnold’s is the iambic form of meter, which lends an appealing rhythm to her poems. "I'm pushing against that mechanical meter," she explains.  "It's the life of my poems, a huge source of energy.  When my subject matter becomes more urgent, the texture gets heavier, thicker.  So I like to contrast the slow, heavy Germanic side and the lilting iambic, to play them back and forth.”

She draws on all the colors in a poet’s palette for her poetry.  In addition to the use of alliteration, she has revived the Anglo-Saxon use of kennings:

              "glittering,

arctic tunnel-halls" (p. 18)

for hospital corridors, and "rasping, sucking, snipping" (p. 18) for a surgical operation.  She makes telling use of assonance, as, for example, the jagged /a/ sounds in

                     "brambles grabbing/

at your feet...” (p. 8)

and of internal rhyme (though rarely end-rhyme), as in her word-picture of a mountain stream

"that's hurtling down the giant

runnel it has tunneled at." ("Introit")

She also uses striking onomatopoeia:

"dead leaves scattering

scuttling up the street" (p. 16).

Dr. Arnold describes her early poems as fragments.  One is in the form of an 18-syllable Japanese haiku, another a 31-syllable Japanese waka.  All are in free verse but can usually be scanned.  Most are untitled.  Also like Anglo-Saxon poetry, all evoke a mood or feeling, often by painting a landscape.  She chooses a subject, she says, "that is resisting my attention utterly.  When that starts happening, I know that I'm getting at something. For me, that's the reason to write poetry, to get a hold of those things that are fleeting."  That "fleetingness" is a further hallmark of Anglo-Saxon poems.  The first few poems in her book, which is entitled "The Reef*," are catalyzed by nature: a stream in winter; a walk towards a group of trees; the fact that Crèvecoeur (she shuns the English name of "Farmer James" that he assumed on arrival in America) shot a crow that had just eaten his bees, and that when he opened up the dead bird, all 54 bees flew out of its craw.

In addition to providing aptly startling alliteration with "crow" and "craw," the second half of that name is just one of the many body parts which are a large feature of Dr. Arnold's poetry.  At the age of 17 she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, with which she battled for many years.  So mortality plays a large part in her poetry.  Indeed, the reef of the book's title is a metaphor for her body, on which she was nearly shipwrecked.  Since the diagnosis, she has been trying in her poems, she explains, to "crack open the [ensuing] hoard of experience.  On the other hand, how can you write anything that's beautiful when you're talking about such extremely disturbing subject matter?"  The answer is that she has transformed medical science, and science in general, into poetry.  One poem portrays surgeons performing an operation as

"the green-robed ones

[…]padding down the hall

in green-swathed feet,"

and


"skin-cooled beings, gods" (p. 18)

Another describes a sonogram negative:

                                               "the flitching

shrimp-like fetus stopped, its back arched, gristle-grinding, flexing,

pushing off" (p. 36).

Elsewhere a medication is injected into the arm, then “rides the wave of blood” through the body.  The shifting of reality caused by the refraction of light in water is used as a metaphor for the shifting relationship between mother and small daughter.

Many of Dr. Arnold's poems deal with human relationships, especially family dynamics: the feeling of closeness that develops between two sisters in the few seconds it takes for a car to hurtle through the air before crashing, and that afterwards is lost; the way her parents, "those usually strong-of-will ones," take on the demeanor of

                                          "little children

suffering through a first-grade class in reading,

obedient in their listening" (p. 49)

when faced with the hospital staff who are taking care of their sick daughter;

 " [the] symphony of looks, of

little comments, smiles,

refrainings from" (p. 11)

that forms the usual prelude to a relationship; and the inability of a father and daughter to communicate with each other.

Her imagery is vivid.  Windows, often with "bars" of sunlight, signify the prison of the sick room.  Caged birds fly out of an open window.  Being human is:

            "…being here on the porch,

in the last square of sunlight" (p. 35).

A flirtation develops with the personification of death.  Politicians interviewed on television are shamans who divine the entrails of their dead victims.

                                      "The shaman

I heard interviewed admitted they got nothing

but their questions back" (p. 6).

Dr. Arnold is just finishing a second book of poems which will be entitled Civilization and will, she says, "pull a more public subject matter into my poems.  I wanted to figure out what civilization was, where it came from, what's the foundation of the draw between people."  She explains that her father is dying of Alzheimer's disease, so there is also a section on memory, "what makes a group of people hold together, what makes them an entity you can define."  She would like to write a drama one day "because it is rather like poetry.  There's something about the fact that people are speaking and acting that is like what happens with words in a poem.  Gestures are symbolic."

Dr. Arnold earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where her dissertation was concerned with the British poet, Mina Loy, and how she formed herself as an artist by way of immersion in, as well as rejection of, various international avant garde groups, such as the Italian Futurists and French Surrealists.

This semester Dr. Arnold is giving a seminar on “The Body In Extremis: The Portrayal of War and Other Forms of Political Violence from Homer to Komunyakaa.”  In it the students are reading poetry and nonfiction prose about the innermost nature of political violence in torture and war, beginning with Elaine Scarry’s “brilliant” book on the subject, The Body in Pain**, which acts as a catalyst for exploring this difficult subject.  In addition, she is conducting a poetry workshop.  "I point out to the students the places where the rhythm is failing them," she says, "where it's becoming mechanical.  That way it makes them better revisers."  She also tries to help them identify what is obsessing and compelling them.  She tells them "'The language at this point is so much more alive.  It has authority with a capital A.'  They develop an insider's knowledge of the worth of a particular poetic form.  So I teach them the craft of the art form."

A prizewinner herself, Dr. Arnold has in turn served on several poetry juries, one of which is the Fine Arts Work Center.  "A couple of hundred poems are submitted to it each year and everyone on the jury reads all the poems.  Four or five poets are finally selected," she says.  She is also on the jury for the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program (previously the Bunting Fellowship Program) at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and for this only one poet is chosen and given funding.  In addition, she was one of 10 jurors for the Bakeless Literary Publication Prizes for first authors.  Each juror read about 75 manuscripts.  They were screeners for Louise Glhck, who judged them that year.  Only one book is selected and published by Houghton-Mifflin.  "It's a really nice award for a first book," says Dr. Arnold, "and the judge's reputation is hugely good for the winner.  She's such a great poet that to be chosen by her is an honor."

She comments that "For art to be successful, there has to be some element of beauty that appeals, that gives pleasure.  Beauty is something you remember."  Dr. Arnold creates the beauty of the mindscapes that she draws by following the advice of Emily Dickinson, who wrote "Tell all the truth but tell it slant."  "We're always trying to make ourselves look good," notes Dr. Arnold, "because we all need to respect ourselves, but if you come at things from an angle, you can often get at some surprises, see more of what’s happening in the self and in the world."

*Elizabeth Arnold, The Reef, University of Chicago Press, 1999.

**Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain, Oxford University Press, 1985.


"POETRY IS THE SUPREME FICTION"

"I really like the speed of poetry.  Fiction can't work at that speed.  I'm not interested in doing the work of constructing another minutely detailed, concrete reality," replies Joshua Weiner, assistant professor of English, when asked whether he has ever thought of writing drama or novels.  "I don't have the patience for it.  It requires a meticulous attention to the manufacture of details."  Indeed, why should

he bother when his poems are often intricately wrought gems of narrative fiction in themselves.  "Market Day," for example, begins with a deft sketch of an old man picking his way through the rejects in the produce section in a supermarket ("the foodscape").  Then a sales assistant, the narrator of the poem, is revealed to be watching him.  The old man is aware that he is being watched but nevertheless slips

              "a granola bar into his baggy torn pants"

and

             "grinned at me so fiercely, so impressed with his own cheap cunning." (“Market Day”)

Another poem, "The Dog State," tells of the seemingly "story-book" relationship between a boy and his dog, until the threat of violence is unwittingly introduced.  The relationship degenerates into power-play and unravels completely.  'The Visitation’ imagines the relationship between a grandfather and a grandmother, while "Who They Were" describes how an ancient immigrant patriarch appears to his children and grandchildren, their

                                            "pitch of conversation teasing him like slang he sometimes understood."

"I tend to find my subjects in relations to other people," admits Dr. Weiner.  "The poems dramatize some kind of problem of relations.  Sometimes it's just a problem of perceiving another person, which is difficult."

Another big influence on his work is the city.  "I grew up in the suburbs but my sense of social reality is the city," he says.  "I've lived in big cities since I came of age - in New York, Chicago, Oakland."  This provides a wealth of material for his work.  One, "Connecting Flight," is set in an airport.  For another, "Psalm," the backdrop is a night drive along a freeway.  A fire viewed from downtown Oakland is the subject of "Oakland 1991."

Dr. Weiner is heavily influenced by the poems of other poets "that are direct, concrete," he says, "poems that have a powerful dramatic occasion, and that often have a very apparent formal integrity in the sound or the meditative action."  He adds that he could list hundreds of his favorite poets, including Thomas Hardy, Wordsworth, Elizabeth Bishop, and Robert Duncan.  By contrast, several kinds of poetry with which other poets have achieved success, have worked to influence Dr. Weiner negatively.  "A facile obscurant experimentalism that continues to stream from the faucet of post-structuralism," is one such negative influence.  Another is "a generic, prosaic, autobiographic free verse, a kind of monster invented out of the relaxed line of late William Carlos Williams and the 'life story' mode of Robert Lowell (as unlikely as that sounds)."  A third negative influence is "a morally complacent poem in traditional meters and rhyme, a kind of reactionary poem in response to the other two."

The forms that Dr. Weiner’s poetry takes range widely.  He has updated the psalm, resuscitated the medieval riddle, and used the folk-song and nursery-rhyme formats.  Despite his unwillingness to create a formal drama, he has even written a poetic dialogue between a prospective parent and a "Not-Yet Child."  And he has adapted the format of the Kindertotenlieder that was employed by the German poet Friedrich Rhckert, later to be set to music by Mahler.

"A lot of my poems are in traditional measures," explains Dr. Weiner, "and make use of end-rhyme.  Others are in free verse.  I move back and forth as the occasion warrants.  As I'm working on a poem, I'm thinking what the appropriate form for it is, whether it's inviting more open modes of writing, or whether it asks for a more classical form.  The form can never be prescribed. It emerges out of engagement with the subject.  A lot of people, especially of my age, see these as mutually exclusive stances towards poetic form but I see them as complementary."

The imagery in his poems is powerful.  A dog is "curled tight into a cinnamon bun" ("Dog State").  An ancient grandfather immigrated to the United States from a time and place so distant that to his grandchildren he might as well have been

                                                "Aeneas scanning with wonder the images engraved on Vulcan's shield" ("Who They Were").

A knife "stem curls like a comma from the hilt" ("The Knife").

"The moon hangs like a bell between hours" ("Overlooking Berkeley").

Rush-hour traffic is "late afternoon's clotted catastrophe" ("Riddle Book to the City").  He makes cogent use of onomatopoeia, as in "guitar,/gunning motor" to describe the din of the city ("Overlooking Berkeley"); and he conjures up the torpor of urban heat with the assonance of the long /ee/s in

"The endless stream... seems to release a heat your feel even this high" ("Overlooking Berkeley").

In fact, Dr. Weiner uses all the weapons in a poet's arsenal.  He plays on words to extract the fullest possible sense from them.  The narrator of the poem "Art Pepper," the name of a destitute saxophonist, addresses him thus:

"Hungry Art, Art of wind, of lips upon the reed;

Art of blue, foolish Art." (“Art Pepper”)

The poem "The Dog State" concerns a dog as well as being the name for New Jersey.  Personification is used in "Riddle Book for the City."  A pathetic fallacious storm counterpoints a stormy relationship with the poem's narrator, and parallels are drawn with the Roman politician and historian Crispus Sallustius ("Tempest").  In the same poem an amusing instance of bathos is introduced by a descent into demotic after some elevated poetic language.

Dr. Weiner earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, with a dissertation on Mina Loy.  It is a study of that poet's career from the early 1900s through the 1960s.  Parts of the dissertation have appeared, for example, in The American Scholar.  His first book is entitled The World’s Room*.  He recently finished a review of William Carlos Williams's first book of poems, for which Williams commissioned the publication in 1909.  "Only a few copies were sold," says Dr. Weiner.  "The rest burned in a fire.  Williams didn't want them to appear anywhere after that because he was embarrassed by them - rightfully so.  They're very bad.  But they're interesting.  Now that we all recognize Williams as being a genius, they have a claim on our attention."  Dr. Weiner has also published reviews in the Chicago Tribune, the Village Voice, the Threepenny Review, and Modernism/Modernity.

He is the poetry editor, with Carolyn Forché of George Mason University, for Tikkun, a magazine that is "a Jewish critique of politics, culture and society."  It receives hundreds of submissions of poems every year and is published monthly.  There is only one poem in each issue.  So out of hundreds of submissions, only about eight poems a year are published.  "Poems that I choose need to in some way reflect on or resonate with the interests of the magazine," says Dr. Weiner.  "I'm not looking for Jewish themes per se, but I'm looking for a certain orientation towards experience."

When he taught at Northwestern University, he served on the Literary Prize Committee there.  He was teaching an undergraduate writing program and every year the program conferred about a dozen prizes on the students, young fiction writers and poets who submitted work for consideration.  Some of the organizations that donated the prizes were national, like the Academy of American Poets, which is a contest that we have here at Maryland too.  Others were specific to Northwestern.

This semester Dr. Weiner is teaching a course on "The Hand of the Poet."  In the course, the students read poems in their finished, received forms, then also in manuscript books - facsimiles of manuscript materials, thus reading the poets' own emendations to their manuscripts.  "We started with Keats," says Dr. Weiner, "and we're moving on to Emily Dickinson, Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes' editing of Sylvia Plath's material.  With someone like Emily Dickinson it's a vexed problem because there are no finished forms.  Those poems were never published, for the most part.  So the variants are still very much alive.  In a poem like 'The Wasteland,' the emendations aren't entirely Eliot's.  They're also Ezra Pound's.  So the question of revising includes these kinds of social relationships."

In addition, Dr. Weiner is teaching a poetry workshop.  When asked whether he believes creative writing can be taught, he paraphrases John Barth: "'No, but you can teach writers.'  I believe writing poetry or fiction can be taught in the same way and to the same degree that one can teach someone how to play the piano, or write a symphony, or to dance, or paint a picture, or build a building.  Any of these things can be taught."

In his own poems, Dr. Weiner says, "The kinds of lyric and meditative poem that I'm drawn to writing requires detailed interactions between the sounds of syllables, levels of diction, and movements of syntax as they relate to measure.  The problems of language that I'm obsessed with working through come from an imperative toward compression, music, and tense structures that one rarely finds in contemporary prose."

*Joshua Weiner, The World’s Room, University of Chicago Press, 2001.


ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING RESEARCH REVIEW DAY 2003

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department invites everyone who is interested to participate in its “Research Review Day 2003.”  It will take place on March 21st in the Stamp Student Union.  Continental breakfast will be served and registration will begin at 8:00 a.m.  The program runs from 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

This event is a showcase of systems engineering, computer science, and electrical and computer engineering research at UM.  It is sponsored by the Institute for Systems Research, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, and the Department of Computer Science.

The event is free.  Prospective attendees may register and obtain further information online at http://www.rrd.umd.edu or from LaShanna Young at llyoung@eng.umd.edu, phone: 301-405-0548.


A SECOND CAESAR TO CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY?

“This innocuous little piece of machinery holds the key that will change the course of history.  It will generate pollution-free electricity.  It will allow any nuclear reactor in the world to operate without weapons-grade uranium.  It can use spent fuel.  And it will eliminate all the problems associated with transporting and storing that spent fuel.”  The speaker is Claudio Filippone, director of the Center for Advanced Energy Concepts, which is a branch of the Aerospace Engineering Department.  He is demonstrating a machine that he invented on a shoe-string.  He has made everything in his laboratory by hand.

  The story is worthy of a modern-day Virgilian epic.  Dr. Filippone’s original intent was to make a much more efficient nuclear reactor that would guarantee increased cooling of the nuclear fuel.  “To prove this principle,” he begins, “I built this entire device from scratch.  It’s something that didn’t exist before.”  Like another Italian scientist, Galileo, Dr. Filippone had to contend with a great deal of skepticism, however.  “Since nobody believed in the idea,” he says, “there was no funding, no support.”  He gestures at the equipment in the lab, all of which he has built single-handedly.  “Everything you see here,” he says, “is a composition of parts coming from junk-yards and dumpsters, pieces of equipment abandoned around campus.  Every once in a while you find wonderful equipment in the trash because either it’s obsolete or it would cost too much to maintain, or there’s something much better going on.  But many times that equipment still does the job.  With very little money you can do a lot using junk-yard parts.”

He took the engine-block from a lawn-mower for one part of the device (known as the NPSEE, for nuclear powered steam expansion engine), and a diesel pump from a junk-yard Oldsmobile.  It looked like a jumble of cables, tubes and computers.  Yet it simulated a piece of a nuclear reactor.  Many professors, passing by the lab, were completely stumped, however, recognizing various parts but unable to grasp how they could be combined to form any useful whole.  In fact, Dr. Filippone needed the diesel pump to create very high pressure jets of water.  From the eight cylinders in the diesel pump, he installed eight lines.  Four were for recycling the water.  “This is not the purpose for which the pump was originally designed,” admits Dr. Filippone, “so I realized it wouldn’t last very long.  But I didn’t care.  Even if it lasted two seconds to do the concept, that would be OK.”  It actually lasted 14 seconds.

The speed at which the pieces inside the device move is non-harmonic.  The engine block is controlled by optical detectors scavenged from floppy disk drives, because again, detectors cost money.  “In the junk you can find a lot of floppy disk drives and inside there are detectors,” points out Dr. Filippone.  “I use the detector to take note of where the crankshaft is at a given time and to send the information to this big power supply.”  He built the power supply from scratch, too.  It simulates a nuclear reactor’s array of neutrons.

“Normally, the way we do experiments in nuclear engineering,” he says, “is to have a device that turns a switch on and off.  The electrical heater heats something up.  Heat is good.  It doesn’t matter where it comes from, whether it’s electric or nuclear.  But I wasn’t happy with a simple system like that.”  For one thing, inside the fuel in a nuclear reactor system the heat does not propagate exactly the way electricity would propagate.  He therefore preferred to build a system that was closer to reality, so he went to the nuclear reactor and took a reading of the neutron flux.  Then he took a picture of that neutron flux and transformed it into electricity through his device.  In this way it behaved exactly the way nuclear heat would behave.  With this device he can simulate different types of nuclear enrichment, different types of fuel rods, and different types of heat decay.  The availability of these combinations gives him heat behaving in a dynamic way, as a function of time, exactly the way that nuclear fuel would be driven in a reactor.  He can even simulate a meltdown of the system by increasing the power in the power supply.

Another part of the device consists of a completely refurbished combustion engine head, machined from a raw block of aluminum and containing four heat cavities.  The highly pressurized water from the Oldsmobile’s diesel pump enters the closed system and explodes into steam.  Its expansion must be fast enough to push the piston of a second system.  Dr. Filippone thus achieved his goal of thermodynamically flashing water to steam quickly and efficiently.  For his invention he was awarded his Ph.D. degree.  His advisor was Gary Pertmer, associate professor of materials and nuclear engineering, and However, “because it was such a radical idea, there was no funding for it,” says Dr. Filippone, “and that was part of the challenge: not only to have a good system but also to make it without money.”  For a transformer, which would have cost $10,000 new, he had to drive to Camden, NJ, to buy $200-worth of material, which he financed out of his paycheck as a teaching assistant.  “But I was so convinced that it would work that it was all worth it,” he says.

He is now busy perfecting the device by scaling it up to normal reactor-size.  “Right now,” he explains, “in every nuclear reactor in the world, there is a certain amount of nuclear fuel, which is mostly formed from a mixture of Uranium 238 and 235 moderated by water.  U-235 is weapons-grade material, the material used to make bombs.  Without U-235 or an equivalent isotope (e.g., plutonium 239) a conventional civilian reactor is unable to sustain chain reactions, and thereby produce power.  The moderator, in most designs water, serves the dual purpose of slowing down fast neutrons by collision, and cooling down the surfaces of the fuel.  Neutrons are the “blood” of the reactor and a reactor increasingly deficient in U-235 becomes too “anemic.”  In other words, the neutron population determines the rate of power.

There are normally two types of these neutrons: prompt and delayed.  Prompt neutrons are too fast, delayed neutrons are too slow.  So in a nuclear reactor the prompt neutrons are slowed down by making them collide with water (the moderator).  Therefore the thickness of water between the rods is designed to slow down the neutrons to the optimum speed for fissioning U-238.  Unfortunately, the thickness of the water designed to slow down prompt neutrons and safely cool down the fuel rods is “lethal” to the less energetic delayed neutrons because, even if they manage to travel between the rods, the amount of water that they have to pass through slows them down so much that they have insufficient energy to fission U-238.  Therefore, the thickness of the moderator (water) and its heat transfer characteristics are crucial parameters in the design of a nuclear reactor.  But once the design of a reactor is completed, and the vessel containing the nuclear core is sealed, the ratio between water and fuel cannot be changed.  This is true for nuclear reactor designs anywhere in the world.

To overcome this difficulty, Dr. Filippone has introduced the seemingly simple expedient of replacing the water with films of steam.  Steam is at least 1,000 times less dense than water.  It is usually considered “the evil of the reactor” since normally the presence of steam bubbles indicates that there is insufficient cooling, especially in the highly pressurized environment of a typical pressurized water reactor.  “Every introductory nuclear engineering textbook warns ‘If you see bubbles, run away,’ says Dr. Filippone.  “It means the reactor is experiencing poor heat transfer, which could lead to a meltdown.  The bubbles are very dynamic.  It’s difficult to model a bubble.  And because the density of a water-bubble mixture changes dramatically, bubbles change the neutronics of the reactor.  If a neutron flies into water, it’s OK because water is pretty much a steady system.  We can tune the resulting speed of the neutron, knowing its initial speed and the thickness of the water that it’s passing through.  But if there’s a bubble it doesn’t slow down much because bubbles are less dense.”  Thus it has been considered highly complicated to control a reactor with steam.

“Until today - because we have this device,” says Dr. Filippone.  He switches on one large heat cavity.  Steam gushes forth at one end.  At the other, the registers measuring the heat inside the heat cavity do not so much as quiver from their initial position.  This demonstrates the absence of bubbles, and steam becomes a superheated gas traveling at high speed inside the heat cavity, providing plenty of cooling for the fuel.  “You’re watching the first active neutronic moderator capable of fine-tuning a nuclear reaction using simple films of steam,” he explains.  “This is the heart of CAESAR (Clean and Environmentally Safe Advanced Reactor).  With it, thermodynamic efficiency has been enhanced due to a dramatically increased heat transfer coefficient.  Cooling of the fuel is achieved and enhanced by films of steam.  And because water has been thinned into steam, even not-so-energetic delayed neutrons can now travel between different rods, causing fission.”

Nuclear fuel stays in a conventional nuclear reactor for 2 – 3 years, after which the U-235 is depleted and delayed neutrons have insufficient energy to pass through the water.  Then it is known as spent fuel and becomes nuclear waste.  “But CAESAR can use spent fuel,” continues Dr. Filippone, “so no one should need weapons-grade uranium any more.  What’s more, we can go back to the environment and say ‘We dumped this stockpile of spent fuel here.  We’re taking it back because we can get electricity out of it for several centuries.’”

In addition, due to the much lower cost of electricity that could be produced by CAESAR, the production of hydrogen through electrolysis could become extremely attractive for hydrogen-powered cars.  Hydrogen is beautifully pure but unfortunately, unlike oil or coal, it is not possible to drill a hole in the ground and extract it.  It has to be made.  Probably the most convenient means of manufacturing it would be with electricity.  Although those cars would no longer be polluting the atmosphere, without a cleaner source of electricity the factories making the hydrogen would pollute instead.  CAESAR could eliminate that problem too by using the spent fuel to produce the electricity to manufacture the hydrogen.

  Dr. Filippone’s work has been the subject of three articles in The Economist (two of them on CAESAR and one on his design for a nuclear-powered heart).  CAESAR has also been featured in Popular Mechanics.  It is possible that it will be the subject of a segment on ABC News too.  Further information on CAESAR and the Center may be found at http://www.caesar.umd.edu.

  CAESAR seems to be the answer to a weapons inspector’s prayer – not to mention those of environmentalists.  Galileo would have been proud of Dr. Filippone’s ingenuity and tenacity.  Hopefully the technology will sweep across the continents and take root there as swiftly as Caesar’s armies colonized Europe.


NOAA TO MOVE CLOSE TO CAMPUS

The Bush administration’s budget contains partial funding for a new building to house the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA wishes to relocate to a technologically enhanced facility closer to the University.  Various sites for their new building are being contemplated.


GRADUATE GRANDSTAND

GRADUATE RESEARCH INTERACTION DAY

From Tanya Nagle, GRID Director

Call for Abstracts!!

The 13th annual Graduate Research Interaction Day (GRID) 2003 will be held on two days this year: April 10 and 11.  Graduate students from ALL disciplines are invited to participate in GRID 2003 by presenting their research to a panel of judges in competition.  Successful participants will identify the value of their research within their field of study as a whole and how their research affects or relates to other disciplines.  A cash prize will be awarded to the winner.

ALL scholarly and creative work is suitable for presentation.  This includes the performing arts, visual arts, dissertation proposals, Master’s level work, doctoral work, etc.

Students may register and submit their abstracts online at www.gsg.umd.edu/GRID/gradreg.html.  The deadline to register is Wednesday, March 12th at 9:00 p.m.

Judges Needed!

GRID is also in need of faculty and staff judges to evaluate the researchers’ presentations.  Your input is invaluable to the growth and development of Maryland’s graduate research community!  Beyond that you will have the opportunity to witness firsthand the value of an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and research from the best and brightest that Maryland has to offer.  There are numerous time slots available to accommodate any schedule.  Judges will receive complimentary admission to the GRID luncheon on April 10.  To volunteer, please visit http://www.gsg.umd.edu/GRID/JudgesRegistration.html.

Please direct all questions, comments and concerns to Tanya Nagle, GRID director, tangle@gradschool.umd.edu, or refer to the website.


GRADUATE STUDENT INVOLVEMENT: NEWS FROM JASON PONTIUS

Graduate Trip to the “DC Improv”

Date and Time: March 7th, 8:00 p.m.

Location: 1140 Connecticut Avenue (between L and M Streets)

Price: $15.00 students, $17.00 non-students

Gary Valentine’s timeless energy and keen observations mix nicely with an assortment of outrageous characters, making him one of the most sought-after headliners on the circuit today.  Aside from the numerous television commercials, Gary has appeared regularly on Comedy Central, MTV, and many syndicated shows.  He has established himself as one of the brightest stars in the growing New York comedy scene.  Clean, clever material with a unique animated delivery is what sets Valentine apart from the rest.

For more information: Contact Zaneeta at zaneetadaver@yahoo.com or 301-503-1343 (sponsored by the Office of Campus Programs, and Graduate Student Involvement).


Lyceum Dinner Series

Date and time: March 20th,  4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Topic: The Minority Graduate Student Experience

Location: Nanticoke Room, Stamp Student Union.

This event is co-sponsored with the Office of Graduate Recruitment, Retention and Minority Education.  RSVP is required to jpontius@union.umd.edu


Graduate Student Appreciation Week, April 7 – 11th

This is the week each year when assistantship-providers, graduate departments and others on campus show their appreciation for our graduate students.  During this week we are working with the Graduate Student Government to sponsor the second of these annual events.  Take a Student to Lunch during Graduate Research Interaction Day (April 10th and 11th).


Research Frontiers at the University of Maryland is issued monthly throughout the semester by the Office of the Vice President for Research, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742.  Vice President for Research: J. Dennis O’Connor.  Editors: Associate Vice President for Research Timothy Ng, and Pam Solomos.  This newsletter may be viewed online at http://www.umresearch.umd.edu.  Suggestions for future news items may be sent to psolomos@umresearch.umd.edu