Archive for the ‘Baltimore’ Category

Some NFL players spend their offseason working out. Others travel around the world. Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel has done both while also getting an article published in a math journal.

Urschel, the Ravens’ 2014 fifth-round pick who graduated from Penn State with 4.0 GPA, also happens to be a brilliant mathematician. This week he and several co-authors published a piece titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians” in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. You can read the full piece here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1412.0565

Here’s the summary of the paper:

“In this paper, we develop a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue. This vector has been found to have applications in fields such as graph partitioning and graph drawing. The algorithm is a purely algebraic approach based on a heavy edge coarsening scheme and pointwise smoothing for refinement. To gain theoretical insight, we also consider the related cascadic multigrid method in the geometric setting for elliptic eigenvalue problems and show its uniform convergence under certain assumptions. Numerical tests are presented for computing the Fiedler vector of several practical graphs, and numerical results show the efficiency and optimality of our proposed cascadic multigrid algorithm.”

When he’s not protecting Joe Flacco, the 23-year-old Urschel enjoys digging into extremely complicated mathematical models.

“I am a mathematical researcher in my spare time, continuing to do research in the areas of numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory and machine learning. I’m also an avid chess player, and I have aspirations of eventually being a titled player one day.”

– See more at: http://yahoo.thepostgame.com/blog/balancing-act/201503/john-urschel-baltimore-ravens-nfl-football-math#sthash.avUHj2Tm.dpuf

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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More than 100 people have now reported they got sick with suspected food poisoning at a national Food Safety Summit held earlier this month in Baltimore.

Maryland state health officials say they still don’t know what caused the outbreak of gastroenteritis that left participants suffering symptoms that included diarrhea and nausea.

“We are working on evaluating possible exposures and doing testing at the Maryland state public health laboratory to attempt to identify an agent,” officials said in a letter to attendees.

The conference, held April 8 to 10 at the Baltimore Convention Center, attracted at least 1,300 of the top food safety officials in the nation, including staff from federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as businesses such as McDonald’s, Tyson and ConAgra Foods.

Health officials have heard back from about 400 of those who attended, so the actual toll of illness might be higher.

City health officials inspected the convention center and its food service provider, Centerplate. The company was issued a violation notice for condensation dripping from one of the two ice machines in the kitchen, a spokesman said.

http://www.nbcnews.com/#/health/health-news/possible-food-poisoning-sickens-100-safety-summit-n91631

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

A dramatic video posted on YouTube shows several cars being swallowed by a Baltimore landslide on Wednesday.

YouTube user ToddTesla posted the 90-second clip, which consists mostly of residents reacting to cars that appear to be tipping into a crevice at the edge of 26th St. in the city’s Charles Village neighborhood. At the 1:12 mark, one of them notices that the road is splitting apart, and then the street’s entire retaining wall gives way in a deafening crash as the bystanders scream in disbelief. No one was injured.

The cars fell onto train tracks used by the freight railroad company CSX, suspending service indefinitely. In a statement, the company said it was working with authorities to respond to to the incident.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the collapsed wall was 120 years old, and that 19 homes near the site of the landslide were evacuated.

Heavy rains in the Baltimore area on Wednesday caused widespread flooding, which led to the collapse. CBS Baltimore reported that Charles Village residents had also made numerous complaints about the “crumbling” street over the past year.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/01/baltimore-landslide-video_n_5249782.html

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.


Sol Snyder, Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, School of Medicine

Growing up, I never had any strong interest in science. I did well in lots of things in high school. I liked reading philosophy and things like that, but being a philosopher is not a fit job for a nice Jewish boy.

This was in the mid-1950s, and many of my friends were going into engineering, preparatory to joining the then prominent military industrial complex. Others were going to be doctors, so I got the idea that maybe I’d be a psychiatrist. I didn’t have any special affinity for medicine or desire to cast out the lepers or heal mankind.

I was always reading things. My father valued education. He wasn’t a big advice giver, but he … had a lot of integrity. What was important to him was doing the right thing. And he had great respect for the intellectual life and science.

My father’s professional life commenced in 1935 as the 10th employee of what became the NSA. He led a team that broke one of the principal Japanese codes. At the end of World War II, computers were invented, and, if you think about it, what could be the best entity to take advantage of computers than NSA, with its mission of sorting gibberish and looking for patterns. So my father was assigned to look at these new machines and see if they would be helpful. He led the computer installations at NSA.

Summers in college I worked in the NSA. My father taught me to program computers in machine language. Computers were a big influence on me.

I learned at the NSA about keeping secrets. What is top secret, what is need-to-know—that is one of the things you learn in the business. You don’t talk to the guy at the next desk even if you’re working on the same project. If that person doesn’t need to know, you just shut up.

In medical school, I started working at the NIH in Bethesda during the summers and elective periods, largely because the only thing I really did well up to that time was play the classical guitar and one of my guitar students was an NIH researcher. In high school I thought I might go the conservatory route, but that’s even less fitting for a nice Jewish boy than being a philosopher.

It was through my contacts at NIH that I was able to get a position working with future Nobel Prize winner Julius Axelrod. Julie was a wonderful mentor who did research on drugs and neurotransmitters. Working with him was inspirational. I just adored it.

What was notable about Julie was his great creativity, always coming up with original ideas. Even though he was an eminent scientist, he didn’t have a regular office. He just had a desk in a lab. He did experiments with his own two hands every day.

Philosophically, Julie emphasized you go where the data takes you. Don’t worry that you’re an expert in enzyme X and so should focus on that. If the data point to enzyme Y, go for it. Do what’s exciting.

My very first project with Julie was studying the disposition of histamine. I thought I had found that histamine had been converted into a novel product that looked really interesting, and I was wrong. I missed the true product because we separated the chemicals on paper and discarded the radioactivity at the bottom, throwing away the real McCoy. Another lab at Yale found it, led, remarkably, by a close friend since kindergarten. My humiliation didn’t last very long. I learned not to be so sloppy, to take greater care, and, most important, to explore peculiar results.

How does one pick research directions? You can go where it’s “hot,” but there you’re competing with 300 other people, and everyone can make only incremental changes. But if you follow Julie Axelrod’s rules and you don’t worry about what’s hot, or what other people are doing—just go where your data are taking you—then you have a better chance of finding something that nobody else had found before.

With the discovery of the opiate receptor, I was fortunate to launch a new field: molecular identification of neurotransmitter receptors. Later we discovered that the gas nitrous oxide is a neurotransmitter.

I’m a klutz. I can’t hammer a nail. So for the technical side, like dissecting brains to look at different regions, I enlisted friends. I learned to collaborate, a key element in so many discoveries.

Johns Hopkins has always been a collegial place. People are just friendly and interact with each other. This tradition goes back to the founding of the medical school, permeating the school’s governance as well as research. We tend to be more productive than faculty at other schools, where one gets ahead by sticking an ice pick in the backs of colleagues.

One of my heroes was my guitar teacher, Sophocles Papas, Andrés Segovia’s best friend. Sophocles was an important influence in my life, and we stayed close until he died in his 90s. In a couple of years after commencing lessons, I was giving recitals, all thanks to him. Like Julie, Sophocles emphasized innovative short cuts to creativity.

I’ve remained involved with music. I’m the longest-serving trustee on the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, chairing for many years its music committee. Trustees of arts organizations are typically businesspeople selected for their fundraising acumen. But the person who nominated me reportedly commented, I’d like to propose something radical: I’d like to propose a trustee who cares about music.

Most notable about psychiatry is that the major drugs—antipsychotics for schizophrenia, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs—were all discovered in the mid-1950s. Subsequent tweaking has enhanced potency and diminished side effects, but there have been no major breakthroughs. No new class of drugs since 1958—rather frustrating.

As biomedical science advances, especially with the dawn of molecular biology, our power to innovate is just dazzling. Today’s students take all of this for granted, but those of us who have been doing research for several decades are daily amazed by our abilities to probe the mysteries of life.

The logic of nature is elegant and straightforward. The more we learn about how the body works, the more we are amazed by its beauty and inherent simplicity.

One of my pet peeves is that the very power of modern science leads journal and grant reviewers to expect every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. Because of this, four years or more of work go into each scientific manuscript. Then, editors and reviewers of journals are so picayune that revising a paper consumes another year.

Now let’s consider the poor post­doctoral fellow or graduate student. To move forward in his or her career requires at least one major publication—a five-year enterprise. If you only have one shot on goal, one paper in five years, your chances of success shrivel. The duration of PhD training and postdoctoral training is getting so long that from the entry point at graduate school to the time you’re out looking for a job as an assistant professor is easily 12, 15 years. Well, that is ridiculous. If you got paid $10 million at the end of this road, that would be one thing, but scientists earn less than most other professionals. We’re deterring the young smart people from going into science.

Biomedical researchers don’t work in a vacuum. They work with grad students and postdoctoral fellows, so being a good mentor is key to being a good scientist. Keep your students well motivated and happy. Have them feel that they are good human beings, and they will do better science.

The most important thing is that you value the integrity of each person. I ask my students all the time, What do you think? And this discussion turns into minor league psychotherapy. Ah, you think that? Tell me more. Tell me more.

The “stupidest” of the students here are smarter than me. It’s a pleasure to watch them emerge.

I see my life as taking care of other people. Although I didn’t go to medical school with any intelligent motivation, once I did, I loved being a doctor and trying to help people. And I love being a psychiatrist and trying to understand people, and I try to carry that into everything I do.

In medical research, all of us want to find the causes and cures for diseases. I haven’t found the cause of any disease, although with Huntington’s disease, we are making inroads. And, of course, being a pharmacologist, my métier is discovering drugs and better treatments.

My secret? I come to work every day, and I keep my own calendar. That way I have free time to just wander around the lab and talk to the boys and girls and ask them how it’s going. That’s what makes me happy.

Sol Snyder joined Johns Hopkins in 1965 as an assistant resident in Psychiatry and would later become the youngest full professor in JHU history. In 1978, he received the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his role in discovering the brain’s opiate receptors. In 1980, he founded the School of Medicine’s Department of Neuroscience, which in 2006 was renamed the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience.

http://hub.jhu.edu/gazette/2014/january-february/what-ive-learned-sol-snyder

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solomon_H._Snyder

renoir

A napkin-size Renoir painting bought for $7 at a flea market but valued at up to $100,000 must be returned to the museum it was stolen from in 1951, a federal judge ordered on Friday.

The 1879 Impressionist painting “Paysage Bords de Seine,” dashed off for his mistress by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at a riverside restaurant, has been at the center of a legal tug-of-war between Marcia “Martha” Fuqua, a former physical education teacher from Lovettsville, Virginia, and the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, in a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissed Fuqua’s claim of ownership, noting that a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.

“The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen,” Brinkema said, citing a 1951 police report and museum records.

“All the evidence is on the Baltimore museum’s side. You still have no evidence – no evidence – that this wasn’t stolen,” said Brinkema to Fuqua’s attorney before ruling in favor of the museum.

Fuqua bought the unsigned “Paysage Bords de Seine,” or “Landscape on the Banks of the Seine,” at a Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, flea market in late 2009 because she liked the frame, she said in a court filing. She paid $7 for the painting, along with a box of trinkets.

Although the frame carried the nameplate “Renoir 1841-1919,” Fuqua was unaware the 5-1/2-by-9-inch oil painting was genuine and stored it in a garbage bag for 2-1/2 years, she said.

Her mother, an art teacher and painter, urged her in July 2012 to get the painting appraised. Fuqua took it to the Potomack Co, an Alexandria, Virginia, auction house, which verified it was as an authentic Renoir.

After media reports about the painting, the Baltimore Museum of Art said in September 2012 it had been stolen while on loan to it. The Federal Bureau of Investigation then took custody of it.

What happened to the painting in the time after the theft in November 1951 and the time it surfaced at a flea market is not known.

Fuqua had contended that “Paysage Bords de Seine” should be returned to her since she was unaware of it having been stolen or of it being genuine.

The Potomack Co had estimated the painting’s value at $75,000 to $100,000, but an appraisal done for the FBI said it was worth about $22,000.

The painting is soiled and “there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm for paintings by Renoir now considered a more old-fashioned taste,” appraiser Ted Cooper said, quoting an art market report.

Renoir painted the work for his mistress on a linen napkin, while at a restaurant near the Seine River, Cooper said, quoting museum curatorial notes.

Questions about its ownership also have diminished the painting’s value, said the appraisal, which is part of court filings.

“Paysage Bords de Seine” came to the Baltimore museum through one of its leading benefactors, collector Saidie May. Her family bought the painting from the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris in 1926 and May lent it, along with other works, to the museum in 1937.

May died in May 1951 and the collection was willed to the museum. As its ownership was going through legal transfer, the painting was stolen while still listed as being on loan.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/10/us-usa-renoir-idUSBREA0910K20140110

Onlookers laughed and did nothing to help as a man was beaten, stripped and robbed on the street in Baltimore.

The attack, which police say happened on March 18 after St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, was captured by at least two cameras. Video of it went viral.

“Not only did they rob him, but they attempted to strip him of his dignity. They tore his clothes off; they mocked him. That behavior just will not be tolerated,” said Detective Nicole Monroe with the Baltimore police.

Police say they have identified one suspect, but have made no arrests.

They are not releasing the victim’s identity except to say he was a 31-year-old man from Arlington, Virginia.

The victim was on the way to his hotel from a downtown Baltimore club when he was attacked, according to a police report. The man had been drinking. He told police he couldn’t recall exactly what happened, but the videos fill in the blanks.

In them, a man is seen standing, unsteadily, against a row of mailboxes. A crowd starts to gather and women dance suggestively against him. Someone notices his watch and a hand seems to grab something from one of the man’s front pockets.

He pursues the supposed thief and is punched in the face. The man falls over backward and his head hits the sidewalk so hard it can be heard on the video.

“Smackdown!” someone yells.

His pockets are rifled and his clothes pulled off. Some people can be heard laughing. No one comes to his aid.

According to the police report, the man lost his Tag Heuer watch, which he valued at $1,300, his iPhone and car key.

CNN showed video of the attack to a number of people in Baltimore to gauge their response.

“That’s pretty sad,” said Finley George of Virginia, who was visiting the city with family. “I mean he obviously didn’t do anything to anybody. They just got up on him and started beating him.”

http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/09/us/maryland-beating/index.html