The Download: Penn on the Web

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It would be almost impossible to catch every mention of Penn on the internet these days, so the Current has collected a snapshot of what’s been happening lately in Penn’s corner of the web.

Wade Dean, of the Department of Music in the School of Arts and Sciences, doesn’t just teach music—he also works the Philadelphia jazz circuit as a rising saxophonist. A member of the Mingus Big Band—a tribute band to jazz legend Charles Mingus—Dean and his bandmates specialize in improvisation. “I’ve been in the Mingus Band 11 years and I’ve probably had two rehearsals,” he says, adding that improv “helps your musicianship, with being quick on your toes.” To read more about Dean’s music, visit www. philly.com and search keywords, “It’s Orrin’s Show.”

Does the government have what it takes when it comes to running social programs? Is health care a universal right? Richard Gelles, dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice (profiled on Page 1) isn’t afraid to post his opinion. On the website Big Think—an international video bulletin board where prominent experts speak their minds—Gelles offers his take on the government’s involvement in public policy. Keep up with his commentary at www.bigthink.com/richardgelles.

Benjamin Horton has a sinking feeling. A professor of earth and environmental science in the School of Arts and Sciences, Horton was recently featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer alongside his team of graduate students for leading a study that examined the accelerated rise in sea level during the 20th century. Horton and his team’s research, published in the science journal Geology, involved taking core samples from numerous marshes and using carbon dating to investigate sediment layers. He says the Earth is like “a hard-boiled egg. The firm exterior where we live is like the shell. The interior, like the egg, is malleable.” To learn more, head to www.philly.com and search “Benjamin Horton.”

Hacking government wiretaps might sound like part of the plot of your favorite television crime drama, but Micah Sherr, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Computer and Information Science, did just that recently in the name of science. In an effort to expose denial-of-service vulnerabilities in networking code, Sherr and his fellow researchers played a high-tech game of cat-and-mouse with government monitoring technology, ultimately concluding that bandwidth could be manipulated to overload wiretaps. Search for “Micah Sherr” at www.techworld.com to learn more.

Before you find a new canine companion, you might want to watch James Serpell’s commentary in the new BBC documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.” Seeking to uncover some of the more egregious practices in purebred dog breeding, Serpell, a professor at the Veterinary School of Medicine, explains that while breed characteristics have become more aesthetically pleasing to buyers over the years, it comes at a cost. “Some of these characteristics that we’re selecting for … can have devastating consequences for the animal.” Serpell instead advocates cross breeding as a means of diversifying the gene pool. Watch an embedded “Today Show” interview, and read the article at www.philly.com under the keywords, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”

Could a single celebrity embody the next wave of digital communication? In a Los Angeles Times article, Catherine Hays of the Wharton School says Ashton Kutcher just might. At a new media conference in San Francisco, Hays identified Kutcher’s blending of social media and charitable work—such as using the proceeds from a Twitter competition to fund malaria outreach—as an example of what new media can achieve. It’s a “mash-up of entertainment, of him understanding a social media marketplace, of him creating mini-episodes and providing different narratives for different media. It’s taking off. It’s very viral,” she says. To follow Hays’ predictions, go to www.latimes.com and search for “Catherine Hays.”

Originally published on January 21, 2010