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From astropolitics to prime numbers: NMSU colloquia offers something for everyone

Astropolitics, chemical measurements, post-Soviet Siberia, criminal justice reforms, pastoralism in Navajo country, and the connection between national security, shopping and prime numbers are all topics of discussion to be offered during this year's College of Arts and Sciences' Spring 2007 Colloquia at New Mexico State University.

nts are open to the public and will begin at 4 p.m. in Room 107 of the NMSU Science Hall.

Professor Reta Beebe of the Department of Astronomy will kick off this year's colloquia Feb. 13, discussing her "Life as an Astropolitician." From Aug. 1997 to Jan. 2000, Beebe managed research programs at NASA headquarters. From July 2002 to June 2006, she chaired the Committee on Lunar and Planetary Exploration, the National Academy of Sciences committee that provides critical reviews to NASA, the National Science Foundation and Congress concerning government-sponsored exploration and research programs. Beebe continues to be involved in international programs.

The next presenter will be Gary Eiceman of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Eiceman's talk, scheduled for Feb. 27, is "Chemical Measurements from the Valleys of New Mexico to the International Space Station." Eiceman has worked with ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), which is used to detect and identify volatile organic compounds based upon the mobilities of gas phase ions in weak electric fields. The small size, low weight and low power requirements of ion mobility spectrometers have led to the detection of chemical warfare agents in battlefield venues, the screening of hydrazines (colorless liquids that are used as reducing agents and as jet propulsion fuels) on spacesuits aboard the US space shuttle, and the monitoring of explosives in specialized venues.

On March 13, Andrew Wiget of the Department of English will discuss "Black Snow: The Native Peoples of Post-Soviet Siberia." Wiget directs the New Mexico Cultural Heritage Center. He first visited Russia in 1990, where he started a research program on the common folkloric inheritance of indigenous Siberians and Native Americans, building on the ancient historical relationship between these two populations. After his first Siberian fieldwork in 1992, Wiget knew the experiences of Native Americans would greatly benefit Russia's indigenous peoples. He has worked with Russian government officials, the World Bank and Siberian native leaders to take contemporary American methods of cultural impact assessment to help the native peoples in Siberia.

"Blind Ambition: Why Good Reforms Go Bad" is the topic of Dana Greene's talk on March 27. Greene, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, will describe how collective action aimed at reducing the punishment system actually expands the penal landscape. She has taught corrections officers at Riker's Island - the largest penal colony in the free world. Before coming to NMSU, Greene conducted day-long workshops for police officers and corrections officers on bigotry, racial and ethnic hatred, and personal responsibility at the New York Tolerance Center, the educational arm of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Marsha Weisiger, an assistant professor in the Department of History, will have the audience "Dreaming of Sheep in Navajo Country" on April 3. Her talk will focus on the role of Diné women in the resistance to stock reduction in the 1930s and on how they helped create a historical memory that continues to complicate conservation programs on the reservation. This topic is from her upcoming book of the same title, which offers an environmental, cultural and social history of Diné pastoralism.

Jens Funke of the Department of Mathematical Sciences will be the final presenter. His topic, "National Security, Shopping, and Prime Numbers," will be discussed April 10. Funke will discuss the role of number theory in cryptography. Number theory is the study of positive integers, especially prime numbers. Cryptography, the study of codes and encryption schemes for secret communication, is used in military matters, online shopping and banking. Funke says his audience will not need a mathematical background higher than middle-school algebra.