UW Today

Science


November 3, 2015

Life, enhanced: UW professors study legal, social complexities of an augmented reality future

A mockup of an augmented reality mobile phone using a curved LED screen that renders augmented reality data for the wearer/user from cameras mounted on one or both sides.

A report from the interdisciplinary UW Tech Policy Lab on the challenges of augmented reality suggests such systems should be adaptable to change, resistant to hacking and responsive to the needs of diverse users.


November 2, 2015

Children’s self-esteem already established by age 5, new study finds

stock photo of children dressed as superheroes

By age 5 children have a sense of self-esteem comparable in strength to that of adults, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.


October 29, 2015

UW scientists are the first to simulate 3-D exotic clouds on an exoplanet

Artistic depiction of exoplanet GJ1214b.

A nearby exoplanet has an atmosphere that might be similar to Earth’s before life evolved. In an attempt to simulate the structure of this exoplanet’s atmosphere, UW researchers became the first to simulate three-dimensional exotic clouds on another world.


October 28, 2015

Alaskan trout choose early retirement over risky ocean-going career

dolly varden trout

A new study in Ecology shows that Alaskan Dolly Varden trout, once they reach about 12 inches in length, can retire permanently from going to sea. They rely on digestive organs that can massively expand and contract and a unique relationship with sockeye salmon.


October 22, 2015

New UW model helps zero in on harmful genetic mutations

gene splicing illustration

By more accurately predicting how variations in DNA sequences affect gene splicing, a new UW model and publicly available Web tool can help narrow down which genetic mutations cause disease and which have little effect on a person’s health.


October 21, 2015

Gear, not geoducks, impacts ecosystem if farming increases

Geoduck clams after harvesting.

The equipment used to farm geoducks, including PVC pipes and nets, might have a greater impact on the Puget Sound food web than the addition of the clams themselves. That’s one of the findings of the first major scientific study to examine the broad, long-term ecosystem effects of geoduck aquaculture in Puget Sound.


October 20, 2015

UW study: Will Puget Sound’s population spike under climate change?

Seattle panorama at night

A UW graduate student’s research paper is the first serious study of whether climate change is likely to cause human migration to the Puget Sound region.


October 19, 2015

In astronomy-themed concert, Benaroya Hall launches audience to the cosmos

Andromeda galaxy.

A Nov. 7 concert in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall promises to offer the audience a decidedly stellar musical experience. The event, “Origins: Life and the Universe,” will pair live performances of new compositions with video and slideshow scenes depicting cosmic events like the Big Bang, as well as scenes from distant worlds and Earth’s own life-filled…


October 16, 2015

Chemistry’s Brandi Cossairt named a 2015 Packard Fellow

Brandi Cossairt, UW assistant professor of chemistry and 2015 Packard Fellow.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has named the University of Washington’s Brandi Cossairt, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, as one of 18 Packard Fellows for 2015.


October 14, 2015

New study uses high-speed search methods to better estimate climate threats to biodiversity

Yellow-banded poison dart frog

In a study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers have used new high-performance computing methods and comprehensive data on the distribution of thousands of species to map the threat that climate change poses to birds, mammals and amphibians across the Western Hemisphere. They found that although Arctic areas have experienced the most rapid warming to date, climate-related threats to the Amazon basin’s biodiversity will eclipse those in other regions by the year 2100.


Bubble plumes off Washington, Oregon suggest warmer ocean may be releasing frozen methane

Sonar image of bubbles rising from the seafloor off the Washington coast.

The location of bubble plumes off the Pacific Northwest coast supports the idea that gradual ocean warming at about a third of a mile depth may be releasing frozen methane in the seafloor, causing it to bubble up as a gas.


October 7, 2015

Student collaboration leads to first results describing sick sea star immune response

Students in the Ecology of Infectious Marine Diseases course do surveys for eelgrass disease.

A group of young marine-disease researchers from around the country has contributed key information about sea stars’ immune response when infected with a virus that is thought to cause a deadly wasting disease. It’s the first time researchers have tracked how genes behave when encountering this naturally occurring pathogen, which could help explain how sea stars attempt to fight the virus and why they develop lesions and appear to melt.


October 6, 2015

Documents that Changed the World: Alfred Nobel’s will, 1895

Alfred Nobel (1801 - 1872).

Alfred Nobel is remembered for the annual prizes given in his name. But were it not for his confused but effective will, we might remember him as the inventor of dynamite, who grew rich inventing and developing lethal explosives.


October 5, 2015

Where to look for life? UW astronomers devise ‘habitability index’ to guide future search

The James Webb Space Telescope, a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror, is scheduled to be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October of 2018 and will be the premier NASA observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers around the world.

Astronomers with the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have created the “habitility index for transiting planets” to rank exoplanets to help prioritize which warrant close inspection in the search for life beyond Earth.


October 1, 2015

Simulating path of ‘magma mush’ inside an active volcano

colored image of mixing

The first simulation of the individual crystals in volcanic mush, a mix of liquid magma and solid crystals, shows the mixing to help understand pressure buildup deep inside a volcano.


September 30, 2015

Known fish species living in the Salish Sea increases in new report

An illustration of the longfin sculpin (Jordania zonope).

A new report published Tuesday documents all of the fishes that live in the Salish Sea. In total, 253 fish species have been recorded, and that’s about 14 percent more than in the last count.


September 28, 2015

Earth-like planets around small stars likely have protective magnetic fields, aiding chance for life

magneticfields_RoryBarnes

Earth-like planets orbiting close to small stars probably have magnetic fields that protect them from stellar radiation and help maintain surface conditions that could be conducive to life, according to research by UW astronomers.


A new single-molecule tool to observe enzymes at work

nanopore channel

A team of scientists at the University of Washington and the biotechnology company Illumina have created an innovative tool to directly detect the delicate, single-molecule interactions between DNA and enzymatic proteins. Their approach provides a new platform to view and record these nanoscale interactions in real time. As they report Sept. 28 in Nature Biotechnology, this tool should provide fast and reliable characterization of the different mechanisms cellular proteins use to bind to DNA strands — information that could shed new light on the atomic-scale interactions within our cells and help design new drug therapies against pathogens by targeting enzymes that interact with DNA.


September 24, 2015

Cooled down and charged up, a giant magnet is ready for its new mission

The fully assembled magnet at Fermilab.

The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory — or Fermilab — announced that a 680-ton superconducting magnet is secure in its new home and nearly ready for a new era of discovery in particle physics. This achievement follows the delicate, 3,200-mile transport of the magnet’s 17-ton, 50-foot-wide housing ring to the U.S. Department of Energy facility outside Chicago two years ago. The fully assembled magnet will drive high-energy particle experiments as part of an international partnership among 34 institutions, of which the University of Washington is a leading contributor.


September 23, 2015

UW team links two human brains for question-and-answer experiment

Respondent2

Imagine a question-and-answer game played by two people who are not in the same place and not talking to each other. Round after round, one player asks a series of questions and accurately guesses the object the other is thinking about. Sci-fi? Mind-reading superpowers? Not quite. University of Washington researchers recently used a direct brain-to-brain…


September 17, 2015

Scientists: Let wildfires burn when prudent

forest fire burning

In a commentary published Sept. 17 in Science, a team of scientists, including University of Washington researchers Jerry Franklin and James Agee, describe unique opportunities and provide suggestions to reform forest fire management to reduce the impacts of inevitable wildfires in future years.


September 15, 2015

Young chum salmon may get biggest nutrition boost from Elliott Bay restored beaches

UW researchers sample for young salmon and invertebrates along a restored beach at Seacrest Park in Seattle's Elliott Bay.

University of Washington researchers have found the types of organisms in Seattle’s Elliott Bay change depending on the shoreline nearby, either armored or restored beaches. Young chum salmon adjusted their diets based on these changes.


September 14, 2015

A more acidic ocean will bend the mermaid’s wineglass

Mermaid's wineglass algae.

New research from the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories shows that a more acidic ocean can weaken the protective shell of a delicate alga. The findings, published Sept. 9 in the journal Biology Letters, come at a time when global climate change may increase ocean acidification.


September 8, 2015

UW scientists are pioneering research on ‘body maps’ in babies’ brains

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For more than half a century, scientists have studied how the surface of the body is mapped in parts of the brain associated with touch. That research has focused largely on “body maps” that show how certain parts of the brain correspond point-for-point with the body’s topography. These body maps have been studied extensively in…


September 4, 2015

September launch could give UW team rare measurements of ‘dusty plasmas’

An experimental atmospheric rocket

Researchers from the University of Washington are awaiting the launch an over 50-foot-long rocket from a launch site in Norway into the upper reaches of the atmosphere to observe and measure a puzzling phenomenon.


Poplar trees are best bet for biofuel in UW-led research project

Poplar materials, including bark, leaves and wood, are used to make cellulosic ethanol.

A five-year, $40 million study is laying the foundation for a Pacific Northwest industry that converts sustainably produced poplar feedstock into fuels and chemicals. The research, led by the University of Washington, will seed the world’s first wood-based cellulosic ethanol production facility.


Climate change could leave Pacific Northwest amphibians high and dry

frog peeking out of water

A new model for snow-fed mountain wetlands projects that the extremely dry conditions seen this year could be commonplace by the 2070s, affecting mountain species.


September 3, 2015

Earth observations show how nitrogen may be detected on exoplanets, aiding search for life

The Earth as seen by the Polychromatic Imaging Camera aboard NASA's Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, July 2015. Recent research by UW grad student Edward Schwieterman shows that observations of nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere from afar might help astronomers detect the "invisible" gas in the atmospheres of planets beyond our solar system.

Observations of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere by a NASA spacecraft 17 million miles away are giving astronomers fresh clues to how that gas might reveal itself on faraway planets, thus aiding in the search for life.


August 26, 2015

Lab experiments question popular measure of ancient ocean temperatures

The study looked at Thaumarchaeota archaea, which are found throughout the world's oceans. These single-celled organisms have just one membrane sac that encloses their bodies. This organism, used in the study, was collected from a tropical-water tank at the Seattle Aquarium.

The membranes of sediment-entombed archaea are an increasingly popular way to determine ocean surface temperatures back to the age of the dinosaurs. But new results show that changing oxygen can affect the reading by as much as 21 degrees C.


August 25, 2015

Rare nautilus sighted for the first time in three decades

Nautilus pompilius swimming next to Allonautilus scrobiculatus off of Ndrova Island in Papua New Guinea.

In early August, biologist Peter Ward returned from the South Pacific with news that he encountered an old friend, one he hadn’t seen in over three decades. The University of Washington professor had seen what he considers one of the world’s rarest animals, a remote encounter that may become even more infrequent if illegal fishing…


August 24, 2015

Power lines restrict sage grouse movement in Washington

male sage grouse

Transmission lines that funnel power from hydroelectric dams and wind turbines across Eastern Washington affect greater sage grouse habitat by isolating fragile populations and limiting movement, a new study finds.


August 20, 2015

Maltreated children’s brains show ‘encouraging’ ability to regulate emotions

Regions of the brain where maltreated children had greater activity than non-maltreated children when looking at negative images.

Children who have been abused or exposed to other types of trauma typically experience more intense emotions than their peers, a byproduct of living in volatile, dangerous environments. But what if those kids could regulate their emotions? Could that better help them cope with difficult situations? Would it impact how effective therapy might be for…


August 17, 2015

UW researchers model tsunami hazards on the Northwest coast

The Pacific Northwest from space.

Recent press and social media coverage have reminded residents of the Pacific Northwest that they live in a seismically active region. Stretching offshore from northern California to British Columbia, the Cascadia subduction zone could slip at any time, causing a powerful earthquake and triggering a tsunami that would impact communities along the coast. Scientists from…


August 13, 2015

Documents that Changed the World: Charles Richter’s seismic scale, 1935

330px-CharlesRichter

A scale of simple numbers — the Richter Scale — unnerves us when we think about earthquakes, as Pacific Northwest residents have been prone to do lately. But who was Richter, and how did it all come about? Joe Janes takes a look for an installment of his Documents that Changed the World podcast series.


‘Scarface,’ an ancient cousin to mammals, unearthed in Africa

Photograph of the skull of Ichibengops munyamadziensis.

A team of scientists has identified a new species of “pre-mammal” based on fossils unearthed in Zambia’s Luangwa Basin in 2009. The ancient, Dachshund-sized creature lived some 255 million years ago, in a time just before the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history. Its discoverers include Christian Sidor, professor of biology at the University of…


August 12, 2015

CO2 emissions change with size of streams and rivers

A stream in Wyoming.

Researchers have shown that CO2 appears in streams by way of two different sources — either as a direct pipeline for groundwater and carbon-rich soils, or from aquatic organisms releasing the gas through respiration and natural decay.


August 4, 2015

New fish genus and species named for its red, fingerlike fins

Red, orange and pink color variation.

University of Washington scientists recently announced the name of a new genus and species of frogfish, which are small, stocky creatures found in most tropical and subtropical oceans around the world.


August 3, 2015

Crystals form through a variety of paths, with implications for biological, materials and environmental research

Artist's rendition of calcium carbonate crystals.

Crystals play an important role in the formation of substances from skeletons and shells to soils and semiconductor materials. But many aspects of their formation are shrouded in mystery. Scientists have long worked to understand how crystals grow into complex shapes. Now, an international group of researchers has shown how nature uses a variety of…


What would the world look like to someone with a bionic eye?

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Various sight recovery therapies are being developed by companies around the world, offering new hope for people who are blind. But little is known about what the world will look like to patients who undergo those procedures. A new University of Washington study seeks to answer that question and offers visual simulations of what someone…


July 30, 2015

Four West Coast universities funded for earthquake early warning system

map with concentric circles

The U.S. Geological Survey today announced $5 million in funding that will allow the University of Washington and three other institutions to help transition the prototype ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, under development since 2005, into a public-facing tool.



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