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Vandal Science News - October 2016

A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends October 2016

Dean's Message

Another great academic year is well underway. Our students are hard at work again in their classes. And many, both graduate and undergraduate, are hard at work in the lab as well, conducting research alongside our faculty. 

We’re pleased to say that student interest in our degree programs continues to be strong. The College of Science experienced an increase of over 20% in the size of our entering class of new freshmen this fall. More than ever, a college degree in math or science is a great career credential, and we know that the experience we provide here at Idaho sets our degrees apart. We’re very proud of the quality experience we give our students, particularly in the opportunities we provide to engage in research as an undergraduate.

Research being done here in the College of Science has been making headlines, and you can read a sampling of features about some of those exciting scientific advances here in the Vandal Science News. We hope you enjoy this issue. 

Interim Dean Mark Nielsen

Exploring the Moon from Earth

Physics researchers use satellite images to map the moon’s geology.

Explore the moon

Synthesizing Answers

Statistics professor Michelle Wiest lends expertise in meta-analysis.

Read About Dr. Wiest's Research

Evolving an Explanation

How a struggling lab experiment, a bacterium that pees, and a curious UI professor are helping answer a mystery of biology.

Read about Chris Marx's mystery

Police Militarization

UI Geographers study the spatial distribution of police militarization.

Learn more

Vandal Science News Puzzler

With each issue of the Vandal Science News, we'll include a challenging puzzle.  Send solutions by email to
we'll post the names of those who submit correct solutions in the next issue.

There is a legend that Thales (the great Greek mathematician and philosopher) traveled to Egypt in about 600 BCE and impressed the locals by calculating the height of a pyramid using geometry. In the legend, Thales simply measured the length of the pyramid’s shadow at the time of day when a stick’s shadow was equal to its length.

But there is a problem with that story. Thales could only measure the length of the shadow from the edge of the pyramid, and not from the point directly under the pyramid’s peak. Our puzzler for this issue of VSN shows how he still might have accomplished the task.

Suppose that at some time in the afternoon a 30 inch stick held vertically from the ground has a 36 inch shadow, while at the same time the shadow of the pyramid is 100 feet beyond the pyramid's base. A bit later in the day that same stick has a 45 inch shadow, while the pyramid's shadow now extends 210 feet beyond its base. Tell us, Thales: how tall is the pyramid?

October Puzzler
Determining height from a shadow’s length.

Solution to the last Vandal Science News Puzzler

The Puzzler from the June 2016 issue of Vandal Science News involved a probability computation.  See the correct answer here.


College of Science

Physical Address:
Mines 321

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 3025
Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Phone: 208-885-6195

Fax: 208-885-6904


Web: College of Science