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UW Prof. Jordan Ellenberg, “Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else”


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, time for the Wisconsin Book Festival, 28 events this week alone, both in-person and online, and Stu Levitan welcomes one of the featured presenters, and one of the brightest stars in the firmament that is the University of Wisconsin faculty, Professor Jordan Ellenberg, to discuss his NYTimes best-seller, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else.

A World Without Soil


For today’s show, Monday host Patty Peltekos speaks with Jo Handelsman about her new book, A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet.

The Wisconsin Book Festival and the Wisconsin Science Festival are co-presenting a book event with Jo Handelsman this Thursday, October 21 at 6 p.m. in the Discovery Building at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. More information available at the Wisconsin Book Festival website.

Jo Handelsman is the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a Vilas Research Professor, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor. She previously served as a science advisor to President Barack Obama as the Associate Director for Science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from 2014 to 2017. She is the author of A World Without Soil: The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet (Yale University Press, 2021).

Bice: Rebecca Kleefisch was a critic of recall elections when she was the target. Now she champions the Mequon school board recall

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Barry Burden, director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it’s not uncommon for political party leaders to change their views on recall elections.

In 2012, Burden said, conservatives in Wisconsin fought the recall drive by arguing that Walker and Kleefisch had not been in office long enough to be removed and that recall elections were “merely a policy debate about labor unions and not over malfeasance in office.”

Now, he said, conservatives and Republicans can claim they are being consistent by arguing that school board members are violating state law with their public health mandates, such as masks, vaccines and online learning.

“So it is about wrongdoing in office and not just a dispute about local education policy,” Burden said.


Local theater artist Erica Halverson has ideas for how to save the arts in education

Wisconsin State Journal

Performer, educator and author Erica Halverson has a lot to say about how the arts can be used in schools to transform education in a meaningful way in her book “How The Arts Can Save Education.” Halverson, who also is a professor of curriculum and instruction at UW-Madison, will discuss her book during an in-person event at the Wisconsin Book Festival later this month.

Staffing issue causes longer lines at Wisconsin Badgers’ football entry gates

Wisconsin State Journal

Fans had to wait a little longer than normal Saturday as they attempted to enter Camp Randall Stadium for the University of Wisconsin’s football game against Army.

UW’s athletic department tweeted two hours before the game that “unforeseen circumstances specific to this game” created a situation in which not all the entry gates were fully staffed and fans were asked to arrive early.

Fitchburg-based Spanish Learning Center wants students to love language

Noted: Currently, De Pierola splits her time between her own business, a part-time job as a Spanish teacher at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, and her own studies. Trained as a lawyer in Peru, she’ll graduate with a masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in December and then take the bar exam — the necessary steps if she wants to practice law in Wisconsin. Simultaneously, she’s earning a teaching credential through online courses from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

‘Now we’re waiting’: Evacuees at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy face health care issues, confusion over restarting their lives

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Erin Barbato, the director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, said that the immigration status of evacuees isn’t tied to remaining at the base, but once they leave, a clock starts on their resettlement benefits, which are only available for eight months after leaving the base.

“Many people are confusing the resettlement process with the immigration process. So, when people are applying for humanitarian parole or for their Special Immigrant Visa or even for asylum, that does not need to be completed on the base,” she said. “The issue is people have now been waiting for a long time at these bases and they don’t want to remain there any longer, but many of them need a resettlement plan in order to get their life started in the United States.”

Dr. Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, will talk about building an anti-racist movement as UW Diversity Forum keynote speaker

Madison 365

Dr. Jeung co-founded the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center after reading news stories about attacks against Asian American elders and seeing an alarming escalation in xenophobia, bigotry and violence in the United States resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jeung will be the day-one keynote speaker at the University of Wisconsin-Madison 2021 Diversity Forum Nov. 2-3.

Fall armyworm population wreaking havoc on Wisconsin crops


Noted: This year in Wisconsin, a fall armyworm population is present unlike anything most entomologists have ever seen. The pests are doing damage to alfalfa, winter wheat and other cover crops around the state. Bryan Jensen, UW-Extension Pest Management Specialist, shares that this warmer fall weather has helped to create a perfect storm for fall armyworms to thrive. Fall armyworms are different from the normal armyworms seen during late spring. The good news, according to Jensen, is they will most definitely not over-winter here in Wisconsin: they are a warm weather species, and will not survive the winter

UW-Madison’s new athletic director

Wisconsin Public Radio

UW-Madison’s new athletic director, Chris McIntosh, is a former Badgers football star and NFL player, who has been deputy athletic director since 2017. We chat with him about college athletics during the time of COVID and the future of college sports.

Wisconsin Assembly proposal to criminalize living on public property draws ire from lawmakers, homelessness support groups

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Kurt Paulsen, a professor of housing, land use and municipal finance with University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the bill’s provisions contrast with research indicating the expansion of permanent supportive housing is a solution to homelessness.

“Creating a criminal trespass for unsheltered homeless persons is moving in a different direction than expanding availability of permanently supportive housing,” said Paulsen.

Recalibrating COVID Risk Mid-Pandemic


Now nineteen months into pandemic life, many Americans are struggling to recalibrate their COVID risk. How do we balance needed COVID precautions with considerations of mental health and meaningful social interactions? What will it take to reach the “new normal”—and will we even know when we get there?

To help us break this down, Dominique Brossard, professor of life sciences communication, and population health scientist Ajay Sethi join us for a discussion of risk assessment in the post-vaccination stage, how to negotiate a wide range of feelings about the pandemic, and why it’s still okay to not feel okay.

Dominique Brossard is professor and chair in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where her teaching and research focus on science and risk communication.

Ajay Sethi is an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he specializes in the study of infectious diseases.

Why Wisconsin’s Covid Breakthrough Numbers Show the Power of Vaccination

PBS Wisconsin

Quoted: Adjusting disease rates for age is a common practice in epidemiology. The practice is crucial for understanding the impacts that a disease like COVID-19 has on a large and varied population.

“We adjust for factors like age because we identify factors like age as being confounders,” said Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Delta ‘opened the door’: Rural deaths from COVID-19 now higher than in urban areas

Wisconsin Public Radio

Noted: COVID-19 vaccination rates tend to be lower in rural communities, and the same goes for rural areas in Wisconsin. The difference between the most and least vaccinated counties in Wisconsin is as much as 40 percent said Dr. Jonathan Temte, an associate dean with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who studies vaccine and immunization policy.


New memoir “Nowhere To Run” details Montee Ball’s highs of his Wisconsin Badger football excellence and lows of addiction

Madison 365

A former Wisconsin Badger star running back and Heisman Trophy finalist, Montee Ball is now also an author, recently releasing the book Nowhere To Run: Discovering Your True Self in the Midst of an Addiction, his own personal story of his life journey being a star football player, his battle with alcoholism and addiction and the ways in which he’s turned his life around. Montee Ball’s story is one of change, humility, and inspiration.

Attorney General Josh Kaul blasts GOP-backed election investigation, outlines legal concerns

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Mike Wagner, professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the conflict between Vos, Gableman and Brandtjen is typical of recent dynamics within the Republican Party and shows a “crash to be as close to President Trump as possible.”

Former President Donald Trump has continued to push false claims of election fraud across the country in the year following the election.

“It’s really striking to see elected officials and appointed officials engaged in a back-and-forth about who can be more skeptical about an election that was clearly shown repeatedly to be extraordinarily fair and very well conducted,” Wagner said.

A look back at the 2011 gerrymander and what it tells us about the redistricting fight to come

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Every decade, states have to draw new maps after the census to rebalance the population in each district. For more than 50 years, the courts had the final say in Wisconsin because Democrats and Republicans split control of state government.

Not in 2011, when the GOP controlled both the legislative and executive branches.

“That’s when we got these really gerrymandered districts,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor David Canon.

Canon believes federal courts may revisit the issue after the science becomes more established.

“If the state courts can get some consensus on a measure or a couple of measures that show a partisan gerrymander, then maybe 10 years from now, this comes up again, and federal courts will say, ‘The states did this pretty well, and we do have accepted measures,’” Canon said.

Noon Wednesday: COVID-19’s Present and Future

Deaths caused by COVID-19 in Wisconsin surpassed 8,000 a year-and-a-half after the pandemic reached the state. As vaccination levels remain plateued, new medical developments to combat the virus and its deadly disease progress. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Nasia Safdar with the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and UW Health explains.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry Awarded to Scientists for Tool That Builds Better Catalysts

The New York Times

Noted: In 2000, Dr. List and Dr. MacMillan — working independently of each other — developed a new type of catalysis that used organic molecules called asymmetric organocatalysis.

Organic molecules, such as carbohydrates, are called that because they build all living things. The researchers discovered “cheaper, smaller and safer” catalysts that used organic molecules had the same rich chemistry as metal compounds, according to Tehshik Yoon, a chemist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Their technique was also simpler and more environmentally friendly.

Facebook’s whistleblower report confirms what researchers have known for years

The Verge

Quoted: Megan Moreno, principal investigator of the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says Haugen’s interpretation of the internal research squares perfectly with other work done on social media, especially Instagram.

“For a certain population of youth, exposure to this content can be associated with diminished body image, or body image concerns,” Moreno says. “I didn’t feel like it was tremendously surprising.”

Conservative group raises issue with UW-Madison over counseling services for students of color

Wisconsin Public Radio

A conservative Wisconsin law firm accused the University of Wisconsin-Madison of racial discrimination following an announcement of new mental health coordinators who would “exclusively serve students of color.” Now, an attorney with the firm says they’re giving the university “the benefit of the doubt” after it changed the wording of the near month-old press release about the hires.

UW Athletics help East Side Youth Football Program replace equipment lost in a fire

Madison 365

University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Director Chris McIntosh and UW Head Football Coach Paul Chryst recently showed their support for the East Side Youth Football Program, helping them replace the football equipment that they lost in a tragic fire. On Sept. 14, they gave the young people a special surprise showing up at practice at Madison East High school to present equipment and speak to the young people.

These college students want to teach history, but they’re uneasy as lawmakers and parents argue about how to discuss racism, culture

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Simone Schweber, a professor of education and Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said it’s a common misconception that it’s better to avoid talking about painful subjects in history and current events.

“One of the easy pitfalls is that you think sometimes by teaching this stuff that it necessarily replicates,” Schweber said. “That if you teach about the history of racism that you’re necessarily replicating the institutions that are racist. And I understand where that fear comes from, but I think it’s a real disservice to what it means to teach.”

Education Needs the Arts

For her first show as the Tuesday host, Ali Muldrow turns her attention back to the vital need for arts programming in the classroom. Her guest is Erica Halverson, education professor and author of the new book How the Arts Can Save Education.
Erica Halverson is a professor of curriculum & instruction in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of a new book, How the Arts Can Save Education: Transforming Teaching, Learning, and Instruction (Teachers College Press, 2021).

Could COVID-19 infection immunity substitute for vaccine? Don’t count on it, says expert

Wisconsin Examiner

Quoted: “Natural infection does produce an immune response, but not all immune responses will be durable enough and heightened enough to ward off reinfection at some point,” said Ajay Sethi, faculty director for the  Master of Public Health program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine & Public Health. “So the question becomes, which source of immunity will provide more reliable protection — and vaccines afford that.”

Vehicle emissions in Wisconsin declined temporarily during COVID-19 shutdowns

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Power plant and industry emissions didn’t see a steep drop or any decline during stay-at-home orders. The findings are consistent with what one would expect to see from people traveling less during the pandemic, said Tracey Holloway, professor with the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“They did not see that much of a change in pollution from power plants and some industries, and that also is consistent because we’re still using electricity,” said Holloway. “We’re still running our air conditioners and the kind of things that drive a lot of demand for electricity were still happening.”

UW-Madison School of Business On Teaching Environmental Sustainability

Wisconsin Public Radio

Many businesses are adopting sustainable principles and practices, which is changing the way business and economics are taught in higher education. We talk about how the UW-Madison School of Business is integrating concepts of environmental sustainability into its curriculum, and we learn how this fits within the new framework of capitalism.

Evers announces $4.5M in state tax credits for new, automated cheese plant

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Steve Deller, professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said he thinks the new technology makes the plant a worthwhile investment for state tax credits and will hopefully help the state’s dairy industry move into the future.

“This is a pretty good shot in the arm for the Wisconsin dairy industry,” Deller said. “Any time we see new investment like this is a positive sign because a lot of the growth in the dairy industry has really not been occurring in Wisconsin.”

360: Voters, lawmakers weigh in on GOP investigations into 2020 Wisconsin presidential election


Quoted: UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden is the director of a non-partisan elections research center. He’s been following the election investigations closely.

“It’s really unclear what’s happening in each investigation because these things are mostly not being done in a public way,” Burden said.

Burden believes it’s unlikely that the probes will uncover anything problematic or new due to a lack of evidence to support claims of fraud.

“The motivation for what they’re doing is sort of hard to figure out,” he said. “It may be that they’re looking for reasons or justification to make some changes to state law. It might also be a way just to keep this issue on the front burner going into the next election cycle just to keep their voters energized.”

Hundreds take part in Madison march for abortion rights

Wisconsin Public Radio

Noted: The Madison Bans Off Our Bodies march was cosponsored by Indivisible Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison BIPOC Coalition; however, on Friday, the UW-Madison BIPOC Coalition announced its rescindment from the event.

“We are officially rescinding our cosponsorship and endorsement of this event because the primary organizers have repeatedly failed to recognize their privilege, be inclusive of all folks with uteri, and understand that BIPOC, queer, disabled, and/or low-income folks do not owe cis-gender, middle-class white women their support, nor labor in a movement that white women co-opted,” the organization said in a statement.

Highly contagious delta variant means more hospitalizations for Wisconsin kids, stress on health system

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Still, kids’ risk of severe disease is much lower than that of adults, and doesn’t seem to be any higher with delta than it was with earlier iterations of the virus, said Dr. Greg DeMuri, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“It’s just that there are more cases, so a small percentage of a large number is still a significant number,” he said.

Rebecca Kleefisch won’t mandate vaccines or masks but has yet to release plan to navigate COVID-19 as governor

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Patrick Remington, a former epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s preventive medicine residency program, said leaning on the Wisconsin Emergency Response Plan is important to coordinate different entities but ideally, state officials would adopt an additional statewide plan that focuses on preventing and controlling the spread of the virus to combat the outbreak.

“That’s appropriate in the middle of an emergency, you need to have command and control and have top-down response. … It’s only part of the approach. You need to have a prevention and control plan that accompanies an emergency response plan,” Remington said.

Nurses turning to traveling jobs to make more money, while local hospitals have to recruit


A recent survey by the Wisconsin Center for Nursing and the School of Nursing at UW Madison shows an impending nursing shortage.

Anywhere from 10-20,000 nurses plan to retire in the next 10 years, and that could cause a crisis for the state. Right now many healthcare companies are finding it hard to staff nurses, so many are offering bonuses and high salaries to professionals from out of town.

Federal Financial Aid Applications From High School Students Drop Significantly During Pandemic

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: Heidi Johnson is the advising and training manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid and president of the statewide Wisconsin Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. She told WPR the coronavirus pandemic and the year of online classes it brought to the state meant in-person meetings about FAFSA applications between students and high school counselors were halted.

As a result, Johnson said it wasn’t as easy for counselors to offer “friendly nudges” to encourage students to fill out the applications when mulling whether to attend college.

“So, I think certainly the timing of it, especially for that particular senior class, played a part,” said Johnson. “And just the fact that things stayed virtual, I think much longer than any of us planned for in the beginning.”