Every time I walk to class along the East Mall area from the western part of campus, I cannot help but notice the way the buildings change from the orange tile roofs and tan brick facades of campus’ west side to the modern steel and glass-paneled buildings that populate campus’ eastern half. The sense of familiarity I feel around UT’s historic buildings immediately replaces the insecurity of being in an area that is unknown to me.

Don’t get me wrong, change is inevitable, and in the context of the East Mall, these new buildings are necessary to provide students with more space to study and socialize. However, the new buildings significantly alter campus’ architectural identity and fail to unify the eastern half of campus with its more active and iconic western end.

A unifying architectural style is important for a university because it contributes greatly to the overall aesthetics of its campus landscape and because it physically conveys the social and cultural unity of the campus community. To this end, the people making design decisions regarding campus’ future appearance should seek to strike a balance between the modern aesthetic of East Campus and the more traditional buildings in West Campus.

According to architecture professor Lawrence Speck, the construction of some of the new buildings along the East Mall, such as the Student Activity Center, has been planned since the mid-1990s. The addition of the SAC and other buildings has changed the distribution of students around the campus area — previously most student activity was centered around the Main Mall. This indirectly encourages students to experience different parts of our campus.

However, the newer buildings look out of place on the East Mall. For example, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport (BRB) building, located on the south side of the East Mall, awkwardly contrasts with the SAC; their close proximity makes it feel like the SAC engulfs the BRB. The presence of the Liberal Arts Building and the Gates Computer Science Complex, with their modern architectural styles, unbalances the area. 

Yet the transformation of East Campus is only just beginning, according to Speck. The construction of a medical school building in the east side of the campus, along with a few other major projects that have yet to be approved, will pull students further east. These projects, Speck says, are important, since they will house facilities that are necessary for student and faculty research. These new facilities will help to strengthen UT’s status as one of the top ranking universities in research in the United States.

However, a question still remains: Will these projects create a more unified architectural landscape on campus? East Campus will never be able to compete with West Campus’ signature architectural style. Nonetheless, individuals and authorities who are responsible for UT’s campus planning should put more emphasis on preserving the University’s identity in every new campus building, so that the spirit of our alma mater will be visibly present no matter where you are on campus.

Syairah is an economics sophomore from Rawang, Malaysia.

Science Scene

Photo Credit: Raquel Breternitz | Daily Texan Staff

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene.

While Gangnam Style sweeps the nation, our science Ph.D. candidates have been hard at work trying to present their research in a similar vein. This week, the winners were announced for the 5th annual Dance Your Ph.D. contest, which challenges its entrants to present the topic of their thesis through the medium of interpretive dance. Among the winning videos, which can be viewed online, was a dance of performers portraying aluminum atoms forming to become stronger than steel; in another, the dancers demonstrated what happens to muscles in a stroke victim, and yet another takes places in the core of a fusion reactor. And while it’s unlikely any of these dances will catch on the way that Psy’s single has, they all present tough ideas in fun and intuitive ways.

Faster-than-light travel considered

Einstein’s special theory of relativity places a speed limit on objects traveling through space: 186,000 miles per second, or the speed of light. And, while many have tried looking for loopholes to try to beat this limit, most have relied upon theorizing about ideas that may not actually be possible in our universe. A new group of mathematicians in Adelaide, South Australia, has published their humble contribution to faster-than-light literature, but what makes their attempt worth considering is that it doesn’t rely on “imaginary numbers or complicated physics,” according to the authors. Still, would-be warp-speed travelers shouldn’t get their hopes up just yet. As of right now, there’s no experimental evidence that the mathematicians’ results actually coincide with a reality as we know it and, as they are quick to point out, “we are mathematicians, not physicists.”

Guilty consciences less likely to commit moral acts

A new article written for the journal “Current Directions in Psychological Science” provides an overview of the authors’ work in the science of guilt proneness. Unlike guilty feelings, guilt proneness occurs before even committing a delinquent act and, as a result, those of us who are more guilt-prone are less likely to commit immoral acts. As the authors note, “The anticipation of guilty feelings about private misdeeds indicates that one has internalized moral values” and they suggest that their tests be used when looking for ethical friends, making hiring decisions at a workplace or putting yourself in any situation in which your trust in a particular individual could be abused.

Burn calories fast

Everybody wants to go to the gym, but who has the time? Almost anybody, if the results of a new experiment pan out. The experiment carefully analyzed how many calories participants burned in a day by keeping track of oxygen, carbon dioxide and water levels in sealed rooms the volunteers stayed in for two days. On days when they participated in interval bike workouts, which required five high-intensity 30-second rides, each separated by 4 minutes of recovery, they burned an average of 200 more calories than they did on inactive days. Not bad for what amounts to only 2.5 minutes of total exercise.

My four suns

It might be exciting enough that we’ve discovered a planet in a quintuple star system, but what makes it even cooler is that the discovery was made by amateurs using Planet Hunters, a website. The site crowd-sources data — in this case, from the Kepler spacecraft — and trains users to use the data to look for planets. It’s paid off, as the findings have been confirmed and led to the discovery of a planet larger than Neptune orbiting a dual star system, which has an additional two stars in its close vicinity. The finding adds another extra-solar planet to our current list of over 800 and also provides a proof of concept which should lead to future attempts to crowd-source science.

Science Scene 10/18 from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: Ph.D. candidates dance out their theses

High ceilings made of wood, steel and other recyclable materials muffle the sound of firing handguns, rifles and machine guns in a new shooting range designed to improve Austin Police Department’s performance and environmental friendliness. The 50-yard-long shooting range, which debuts Monday, employs various methods of environmental conservation, including the prevention of water and soil contamination and the recycling of used ammunition byproducts. The range is part of the Roy Butler Training Building, the main facility of an area Sgt. Robert Richman calls “campus.” APD, the Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services all use the facility. The project took about 18 months and $22 million to complete, including the shooting range, quarter-mile running track, burn house, main training building with classrooms and a driving simulator, obstacle course, parking facilities and everything APD, AFD and ATCEMS use for training purposes. “The idea had been in process for probably four years, and we were planning on the environmentally friendly side of it from day one,” Richman said. “It’s part of the Austin initiative to make sure that everything built is more environmentally conscious.” Buckets underneath the shooting range collect the used bullets, which are recycled in various Austin-area facilities. Any airborne particles, such as lead dust, are filtered through a machine and deposited in 55 gallon drums. Suction prevents anything from getting in or out of the drum, so when it fills up, it can be capped off and recycled. Lead dust can be melted back down into usable lead. “It’s great that they’re being more environmentally friendly in some places you wouldn’t think to look,” said Andrew Townsend, co-director of the UT Campus Environmental Center. “You can be environmentally friendly in any area of life, and this is one that I didn’t think of.” Townsend said as far as recycling is concerned, metals are some of the most recyclable materials. “We get basically the market rate for recycling the lead and brass,” Richman said. “Those checks end up going back to the taxpayers to be re-utilized for other things.” Solar panels line the roofs of the buildings, and a drainage system prevents groundwater from being contaminated by lead and other substances used in the shooting range. A control room allows staff members to control the amount of energy used and prevent waste, Lead Firearms Instructor Mark Hoffman said. Safety for officers and visitors was also a priority when designing the range. The walls, composed of compostable wood and other materials, are eight inches thick so no bullet can escape, Hoffman said. One of the reasons for the improved shooting range is that APD Chief Art Acevedo would like all officers to begin shooting on a monthly basis. “We want to have a lot more curriculum pushed out there for firearms and advanced firearm techniques,” Richman said. “We will be able to facilitate that in a way that we weren’t able to in the past, by expanding the range how we did.” APD’s previous shooting range was about 25 years old and cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to clean and maintain the rubber-granulated backstop used to collect the bullets, which left rubber and lead residue to be thrown away and not recycled, Richman said. “Sometimes people forget that police officers are kind of seen in a light like we look at you when we need you, but they don’t see that we also share the same values when it comes to conservation and things of that nature,” he said.