A week in UW research: fusion, racing and sleep

A week in UW research: fusion, racing and sleep

Madison, Wis. — Recently UW researchers have put enough monitoring equipment on a bicycle to make your head spin, addressed shockwaves in fusion reactors with soap bubbles, and found losing sleep makes you hungry. Interested? Read on.

Monitor predicts energy toll for long-distance atheletes

Put a GPS monitor on a bicycle, add devices that measure the rider’s heart rate and the wattage, torque and rhythm created by their peddling, record it all at the same time, and – almost done – add information about the route itself.
If you did all that, you’d have an idea of what UW-Madison researchers and the Saris Cycling Group of Madison came up with in an effort to help cyclists and long-distance runners measure their performance and energy expenditure.
Saris plans to make the combined technology into a commercializable tool, hopefully in time for the Tour de France next summer.
Jeff Sledge, the UW researcher who outfitted his own bicycle this way while working toward his Ph. D. in land resources, wanted find new uses for geographic information systems, or GIS. These systems are used planning departments to show composite, many-faceted information on terrain and the environment.
Sledge wanted to focus on how atheletes could use the terrain, so he and his colleagues at the Land Information and Computer Graphics Facility worked to combine geographic data with real-time information.
“As the race progresses, you can find out when you need to eat to replenish your energy, when you need to go faster to make your goal and how much energy you have left to burn,” he said in a statement. “You can even balance efforts among members of a race team.”

Fusion researchers examine shock waves

The second-story top of the Shock Tube’ Laboratory’ main research instrument is wrapped in a blanket for muffling. Photo courtesy of UW-Madison.

Nuclear fusion – smacking hydrogen isotopes together with enough force to fuse them together – is hard enough. Getting more energy out of the resulting transformation into helium atoms than you put in, that’s tricky.
For now, Riccardo Bonazza would like to know more about what exactly happens during the fusion reaction, and how to predict and control the results.
The UW-Madison associate professor has come up with experiments at the Wisconsin Shock Tube Laboratory, a vertical tube that rises from the basement to the second floor of its campus building. That’s where the soap bubbles come in. Read more at the UW Engineering site.

Sleep is good for you and your waistline

Good food and exercise may be the staples of keeping slim, but failing that, sleeping could be better for your gut than just laying around.
In a study of 1,024 volunteers at UW-Madison, researchers from Stanford and UW found that sleep regulated the production of hormones related to appetite. People who slept less tended to want to eat more.
Sleep deprivation led to lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, the study found. The combined effect is likely to increase appetite.
The project, named the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, has lasted more than 15 years, allowing the researchers to see long-term changes and trends in the sleep diaries and lab tests of participants. Longitudinal studies such as this, though time-consuming, can provide a different view than snapshots of a study group at one point in time.
Results have been published in the Public Library of Science Medicine, a free online peer-reviewed journal established as an alternative to costly print journals.
The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study allowed publication of papers on a variety of topics, including breathing problems.