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Virginia Tech research magazine reports on hate speech, visualizing goals, harvesting energy from vibrations


   

drawing of constitution as shied for fanatic Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech. Illustration by Nathan Skreslet.

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 27, 2011 – The summer issue of Virginia Tech Research takes readers to the South Pole to look for the impacts of climate change, and to Uganda to see what happens when women realize their role in peanut farming, preparation, and marketing.

The magazine explores a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, new energy sources, and what scientists are learning from chickens.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Westboro Baptist Churches' hate-filled messages delivered as families mourn at funerals are exercises of freedom of speech. Virginia Tech Research, the university's research magazine, presents the views of Brian Britt, professor of religious studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, on the evolution of hate speech and of Wat Hopkins, professor of communication in the same college, on freedom of speech.

Hate speech has religious roots that should not be ignored, said Britt. It is meant to call down supernatural power. Secular approaches ignore this intent, he said. Hopkins looks at the fine line between personal attack and debate on public issues that the Westboro Baptist Church seemed to cross, resulting in the Supreme Court hearing the case, and why the church group's obnoxious messages are nonetheless protected.

Anyone who has seen children's shoes light up when they run or bounce across the floor has seen piezioelectric energy. Virginia Tech researchers are transforming mechanical energy captured from the environment -- the vibrations of wind and traffic for instance -- to power sensors that monitor the health of infrastructure such as bridges. The tiniest mechanical motions can now be converted to energy to power the latest tiny communication devices. Work by Virginia Tech's Center for Energy Harvesting Materials and Systems in reported in the research magazine.

The magazine also reports on new opportunities that have come from old research. More than 40 years ago, poultry scientist Paul Siegel, University Distinguished Professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, began breeding high-growth and low-growth lines of chickens in order to study relationships between growth, reproduction, and immunology. Now these pure lines are allowing scientists to look at the genetics and chemistry of growth and nutrient management, with insights into human biochemistry as well.

Visualization is powerful, report Rajesh Bagchi, assistant professor of marketing in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech, and Amar Cheema, professor of marketing at the University of Virginia. Competitive runners and swimmers are energized when they can see the goal line. It turns out, being able to visualize an abstract goal – to see a piggy bank fill, not just see columns of numbers, for instance – is just as motivating as seeing the physical goal in a physical endeavor.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 225 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $496 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

The magazine is available online. Request a hard copy by emailing Susan Trulove.