Nebraska in the national news: October 2023

· 7 min read

Nebraska in the national news: October 2023

Scan of ancient scroll fragment with Greek letters highlighted
Vesuvius Challenge

A Husker undergraduate’s AI-powered breakthrough caught the attention of numerous national and international media outlets in October. The resulting stories were among 250-plus featuring Husker faculty, staff, students, centers and programs during the month.

Luke Farritor, a senior in the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management, recently won a global contest to read the first text inside a carbonized scroll from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum. That text had been unreadable since the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Farritor developed a machine-learning algorithm that detected the Greek word “purple” on the charred papyrus scroll, which is too delicate to unroll.

“I saw these letters, and I just completely freaked out,” Farritor said during the Vesuvius Challenge press conference. “I freaked out, almost fell over, almost cried.”

The challenge, which aims to decode the scroll and others like it, awarded Farritor $40,000 for his efforts.

Stories on the accomplishment appeared in Ars Technica, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, MSN, National Geographic, Nature, PC Magazine, People magazine, Popular Science, New Scientist, The New York Times, Scientific American, The Washington Post, Yahoo! News and 100-plus other media outlets. In addition to English-language coverage, stories on Farritor appeared in Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish.

Additional national news coverage in October included:

Frans Von der Dunk, space law, was the featured guest on the Oct. 2 episode of the “Tech With Soul” podcast. The episode is titled “Can You Buy a Planet?”

Jody Green, an urban entomologist with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for an Oct. 3 DW News story on the city of Paris combating bed bugs before the 2024 Summer Olympics. Green said she has received reports of bed bugs from hospitals, schools, libraries, hospice houses, retirement communities and public transit. “Bed bugs are everywhere,” she said. “It is a global insect pest of humans, and they go wherever we go.”

Von der Dunk was also interviewed for an Oct. 8 Japan Times article on countries competing over space resources, including the moon. “The first-comer (on the moon) has the choice of the best locations — the low-hanging fruit, economically speaking — and the best strategic places for venturing further out into space,” he said.

James Schnable, agronomy and horticulture, and international colleagues have created the first complete map of the corn genome, a landmark achievement that can enable major long-term advances in crop health, resilience and productivity. Stories on the research appeared in nine Nebraska media outlets, as well as Brownfield Ag News and RFD-TV.

A 2022 study led by Steve Hu, Earth and atmospheric sciences, was cited in an Oct. 8 Washington Post article on a worldwide project to map underground fungi. The study found that desert climates have spread north by up to 62 miles in parts of central Asia, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and northwestern China, since the 1980s. “Those areas would be experiencing more frequent drought and also hotter temperatures,” Hu said. (This article requires a subscription.)

An October report by the Rural and Farm Finance Policy Analysis Center at the University of Missouri, in collaboration with the Center for Agricultural Profitability at Nebraska, was featured in an Oct. 8 Nebraska Examiner article. The report shows that Nebraska’s farm income is projected to be nearly $7.8 billion in 2023, up from a projection of $7.3 billion in March. A similar story appeared in Brownfield Ag News.

Connor Biehler, beef assistant Extension educator, was interviewed for an Oct. 10 segment on RFD-TV. He discussed the new Great Plains Heifer Development Program at the Haskell Agricultural Laboratory and how cattle producers can participate. The program is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and South Dakota State University. The program was also featured in Brownfield Ag News and

Jody Green, an urban entomologist with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for an Oct. 14 Mashable article on bed bugs. She recommended that people check their luggage for bed bugs after a trip and that they heat clothing in a dryer for 30 minutes or so upon returning. “Dry heat will kill all the life stages, including the eggs,” she said.

Most rural Nebraskans see the lack of civil discourse in the political system as at least a somewhat serious problem, according to the 2023 Nebraska Rural Poll. About one-third of rural Nebraskans surveyed rate this lack of respectful discourse as either a very serious (32%) or somewhat serious problem (33%). Only 5% say it is not a serious problem. Stories on the latest batch of poll results appeared in KSNB, Nebraska Public Media, The North Platte Telegraph and the High Plains Journal.

The Targeted Observation by Radars and UAS of Supercells (TORUS) project, led by Adam Houston, Earth and atmospheric sciences, was highlighted in an Oct. 18 Knowable magazine article titled “The quest to understand tornadoes.” The multi-institutional TORUS team uses drones and other high-tech equipment to gain a deeper understanding of the supercell thunderstorms known to spawn the most dangerous and longest-lasting tornadoes. Houston was quoted in the story.

The university has launched a partnership with tech company SkillStorm to provide online, noncredit education — including some free courses — in growing computer technology related areas. Stories on the partnership appeared in KOLN/KGIN, Nebraska Examiner, Nebraska Public Media, Campus Technology and EdScoop.

Roch Gaussoin, agronomy and horticulture, was the featured guest on the Oct. 20 episode of the “USGA Green Section” podcast. He has been working on a collaborative project to standardize the testing of putting green organic matter with USGA agronomists and researchers across the country.

Jay Storz, biological sciences, and colleagues have uncovered 13 mouse mummies from Andean summits stretching nearly 4 miles above sea level — suggesting that the seemingly modest mice are scaling and somehow living on the Mars-like peaks. Stories on the research have appeared in KETV, the Omaha World-Herald, BBC, CNN, Cosmos, the Daily Mail, El Mercurio, IFL Science, Infobae, Metro, Nature, Newsweek, Popular Science, Science, Scientific American, Smithsonian Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Telegraph and 100-plus other media outlets.

A 2017 guide by Nebraska Extension’s John Fech and Cole Thompson was cited in an Oct. 24 Washington Post article on the growing popularity of grazing animals as an alternative to lawn mowers. Lawn maintenance can cost hundreds of dollars per year, according to the guide. (This article requires a subscription.)

Charlotte Narjes, community vitality educator with the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, was interviewed for an Oct. 24 segment on RFD-TV. The center works with Nebraska communities to establish co-ops that provide essential services and position those communities for growth.

With a three-year, $3.9 million federal grant, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Kansas State University are collaborating on a project to diversify the teacher workforces in Columbus, Lincoln, Schuyler, South Sioux City and Wakefield, Nebraska, and Dodge City, Kansas. The Nebraska Examiner and Kansas Reflector published articles on the project.

A Husker team led by Stephen Morin, associate professor of chemistry, has created miniscule lenses that can expand or contract in mere seconds — modifying their magnification, focal length and other optical properties in the process. Wiley Analytics Science magazine published an Oct. 27 article on the research.

Edward Deehan, food science and technology, was quoted in an Oct. 30 NPR story on satiation hormones mimicked by new medications such as Ozempic and Wegovy. The hormones are triggered by the consumption of fiber, and they may even influence how much one eats at the next meal. “If you eat a lot of fiber at one meal, by the time it’s in your colon, it’s around the time of your next meal,” Deehan said. “So you may have improved insulin responses and improved satiety, or a feeling of fullness.”

Patrice McMahon, political science, director of the University Honors Program, wrote an Oct. 31 piece for The Conversation on how the results of Poland’s parliamentary election on Oct. 15 dealt a blow to populism and may hold important lessons for reversing democracy’s decline. “The outcome of the October election should serve as a reminder that democracy’s decline is not inevitable and can be halted,” she wrote. picked up the article.

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at If you have additions to the list, contact Sean Hagewood at or 402-472-8514. If you have suggestions for national news stories, contact Leslie Reed at or 402-472-2059.

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