In our December 2023 issue, we shared some of the most interesting recent findings from Michigan researchers, along with some fun facts about the state. Explore some of those findings here.
Intriguing findings from researchers across Michigan
Covid-19 Didn’t Change Politics (Much)
Conventional wisdom in the social sciences says that people’s beliefs will become more conservative when they experience a significant threat — such as a pandemic. But the reality may be more complicated, according to a study from Michigan State University and Tilburg University researchers.
The study, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans between spring 2019 and May 2020, measured 84 different political attitudes and found those attitudes did not change significantly during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with just 18 beliefs undergoing shifts, including slightly more favorable views of economic stimulus and unemployment benefits.
“We hope that this study helps social scientists understand how attitudes respond to real-world events,” says Mark Brandt, MSU psychology professor. “[Our study] suggests that people’s attitudes are pretty resistant to changes, even when the conditions of society radically change.”
AI Helps Hone Antibodies
New models created at the University of Michigan are harnessing machine learning to improve the efficacy of antibody medicines.
Antibodies are a key element of the immune system; they bind to molecules called antigens found on disease-causing agents in order to eliminate them. But antibody treatments can sometimes fail by binding to non-antigen molecules or other antibodies. That’s where U-M’s machine-learning algorithms come in.
The models, which were trained using data from 80 clinical-stage antibodies, pinpoint the structural issues within antibodies that cause them to bind to the wrong molecules and then determine how to fix them, saving drug researchers time and resources.
The research team behind the algorithms has filed for a patent and is already employing their models to help biotech companies develop better antibodies.
Grasslands Going to Seed
Soil seed banks — the natural reserve of seeds stored in the soil layer — can’t always replace lost biodiversity in grasslands, despite scientists’ hopes, say MSU plant biologist Lauren Sullivan and her team in a new study.
The researchers collected seed bank samples at seven sites on four continents with different environmental conditions. They then waited for seeds in the samples to germinate over several years. The results indicated that the seed banks had experienced similar decreases in biodiversity to the aboveground communities, a finding that was particularly alarming given grasslands’ status as the most endangered ecosystem in the world.
“We were hoping that the seedlings would be this cryptic reservoir of diversity,” Sullivan says, “but we found that … in order to add biodiversity to an area, you would have to introduce new seeds.”
Fun Michigan stats and facts for December 2023.
The number of areas where you can live that are named “Detroit” in the world (which all happen to be in the United States). You’ll find Detroit in Illinois, Maine, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Kansas, and Oregon. However, most are small, and some aren’t incorporated communities.
With just over 700 residents, the town of Detroit, Texas, is the world’s third most populated place called Detroit. It was named in 1887 by railway agent J.M. Stephens after his Michigan hometown.
Possibly the greatest number of years any Michigander has ever lived. Irene Dunham of Lansing was that age when she died last year. On her 114th birthday, she was America’s third oldest person and the 10th oldest in the world.
The median amount (in square feet) of living space per person in Detroit. It’s about 43 percent of the national average of 1,841 square feet, according to a recent survey from All Star Home.
The city ranked eighth out of 15 major cities on All Star’s list of those with the smallest living spaces. At just 667 square feet per person, San Francisco residents have the tightest squeeze.
Where Michigan ranks on Appy Pie’s list of the best states in which to start a tech company. In a 2023 study, the app builder analyzed six metrics: startup survival rates, venture capital growth, patent innovation, public funding, and the number of tech firms and workers.
Michigan has seen a surge in venture capital activity — the second highest of any state, up 842 percent — in the past five years.
This story is from the December 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.