TCNJ Magazine - Winter 2020

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9 WINTER 2020 BILL CARDONI electron microscope, acquired under a bond referendum approved by New Jersey voters in 2012. They used it to examine the specimens Madden collected from playground equipment with paper towels. The instrument, rarely found on campuses without graduate science programs, showed that the dust had the sharp edges characteristic of desert sand, as opposed to the more rounded aspect of ocean sand. Moreover, the samples matched the known chemical composition of the sands in the western Sahara. Putting it all together, Magee and Lynn concluded that the dust went airborne on winds in the Grand Erg Oriental sand sea in Algeria, took off like a skateboarder on a ramp as it passed over the Atlas Mountains, and formed a plume that reached four miles into the sky. Impelled across the Mediterranean on 50 mph winds, the khaki-hued nimbus was unmistakable in satellite images, and would have been visible to anyone in a boat, Magee says. But following a 600-mile journey, the dust cloud apparently went unnoticed in Mallorca, because it got there late in the evening. "The main part of the dust arrived after the sun went down, and then it rained, and the air mass moved on, and so the dust cloud was pretty much gone by the time the sun came up," says Magee. Lynn was utterly stoked. "It's like solving a mystery," he says. Madden decided that all this technological sleuthing would be ideal material for "a really good, sciencey children's book." "It's about these tiny dust particles and giant wind patterns," she says, "and this takes those abstract concepts and makes them concrete for children." To make the book a reality, Magee and Lynn are putting their work into simple language. Jill Turner '14, a special education teacher, will illustrate. Craig Kapp '99, is developing an augmented reality supplement to make images from the microscope accessible. And Jack Meyer, an elementary school teacher who attended the Mallorca program, will translate it into Spanish. And to think, an idle conver- sation about the weather set the whole thing in motion. ■ —John T. Ward Magee (seated) and Lynn study wind-borne African dust samples under an electron scanning microscope.

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