March 2001 Story Tips
Story ideas from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip.
While Greg Maddux's curveball might break 19 inches at Atlanta's Turner Field, conditions at Denver's Coors Field can cut the amount of break by 10 percent, according to some groundbreaking research performed at ORNL. The fluid mechanics research, which aims to precisely quantify the interaction between solids and fluids, uses the lab's computer to run an algorithm developed by an ORNL researcher that takes into account barometric pressure, humidity and temperature. In the baseball example, two inches may not seem like a lot, but in a game of inches, that and the fact the ball travels farther in Denver are wreaking havoc on finesse pitchers like Maddux. Researchers expect this work to apply to many challenges in physics, including problems in aerodynamics and nanoscale devices. They also see applications in the modeling of submarines. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; email@example.com]
According to popular culture, survival depends on rugged individualism, ruthless cunning and athletic prowess. In practice, however, real-world survivors more often exhibit benevolent leadership, personal sacrifice and endurance born of sheer will, says Jerry Dobson, a geographer at ORNL and director of Exploration of the American Geographical Society. Historical and recent events overwhelmingly contradict the rat-eat-rat mentality of shows like "Survivor." The misconception is perpetuated on television despite abundant real-world stories that prove what really works and what doesn't. Survivor's ethic most closely matches that of the infamous Donner Party, whose failings ended in cannibalism. In contrast, Ernest Shackleton, who led his entire crew to safety after being stranded for 18 months on Antarctica's ice, was described as "motherly" in his concern for each man's safety. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; firstname.lastname@example.org]
ORNL researchers are saving key industries of the future hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs with a process that starts by simply taking a look around. The DOE program, called BestPractices, encourages industries to examine their most energy-intensive plant utility systems and make improvements to increase energy efficiency. Companies that participate in the program get a visit from BestPractices experts like Mitch Olszewski of ORNL who show the firm how to assess their utility systems using tools and techniques developed at ORNL and other DOE laboratories. Already, the program has saved dozens of firms several hundred thousand dollars. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; email@example.com]
Like the Visible Man and Visible Woman, the Digital Pig could serve as an important model in cardiovascular and pulmonary studies as well as other areas of biomedical research. Researchers at ORNL, Walter Reed Army Institute Research and the University of South Florida envision the digital pig as being a tool to detect and diagnose lung problems and other internal disorders in people. Already, animal models provide valuable information that can be used to diagnose and treat conditions in people, and this work with a pig model could speed the results. The digital pig could also be used in the development of body armor to model the transmission and distribution of force. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Turning the drab brownish-gray zebrafish green isn't a St. Patrick's Day stunt for researchers at ORNL. Actually, the research is helping scientists study the effects of contamination on fish and relates the effects back to other wildlife and people. Of particular interest are chemicals such as pesticides, dioxins and PCBs that mimic or block the normal actions of hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. In this study, researchers expose zebrafish embryos to estrogen and pollutants after attaching a bioreporter gene that glows green in the presence of certain pollutants. Because of the remarkable clarity of the zebrafish embryo, researchers can determine exactly when and where the specific gene of interest is turned on or off after being exposed to a pollutant. [Contact: Media Relations; 865.574.4160; email@example.com]