science

Ivan Ramirez/Tim Jones/McDonald Observatory

When Ivan Ramirez started his search about a year ago, he really didn’t think he’d find much.

"We expected it to be either one or zero," says Ramirez, an astronomer at UT-Austin.

Ramirez and his crew were looking through thousands and thousands of stars – all in order to find just the right one. 

“We're looking for the stars that were born with the sun," he says. "Because our sun, like most other stars, was born in a cluster – probably a thousand to ten thousand other stars. We know that there are a few that we can detect that are nearby, but it’s been a really tough job to do."

flickr.com/tessawatson

Update: Listen to this story on WBUR's Here and Now.

Original story (Feb. 28): You know how on cop shows, suspects get interrogated in a cramped room with a mirror on one wall? And on the other side, there's a prosecutor or other cops watching through the glass.

Those mirrors are kind of an illusion done with lighting. But the effect also illustrates perfectly how difficult it can be to break a pretty fundamental law of nature.

A group of engineers at UT has figured out how to bend – if not break – that law when it comes to sound.

Listen:

There’s endless questions we could ask about how the brain works. A particularly interesting one: what's unique about the brain during adolescence?

During adolescence our brains are wired differently than adult brains will be – and for good reason. In adolescence our brains are in a process of development – so we’re less inhibited, allowing us to take the risks we need to learn about the world. In addition, the difference in brain physiology has other ramifications on behavior and needs. Ignoring them can make life more difficult for kids and parents.

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Story originally published Jan. 2, 2014.

It’s that time of year when insects want to get out of the cold and into your house.

Most people aren’t big fans of sharing their space with these creepy-crawlers. But if you see one particular insect – you’re better off not grabbing the bug spray.

Laura Rice, KUT News

For many people, most days would not be complete without music. Whether it's exercising to your favorite playlist or jamming along to the radio on your way home for work. 

But how much do infants get out of music? And are there types of music that babies prefer?

A professor at the Children’s Research Laboratory on the University of Texas at Austin campus is trying to find out.

Jason Shear/UT

Editor's note: This story was originally published Nov. 19, prior to being rebroadcast on WBUR's Here and Now.

When you think of bacteria, you might think about a bunch of mindless, single-celled bugs blindly roaming the world in complete ignorance. But over the past few decades, scientists have found bacteria are much more complicated than that.

Now, a group of scientists at the University of Texas at Austin has come up with a new way of studying how bacteria interact with the world – and each other.

You see, scientists have a couple of problems when it comes to studying bacteria.

Three engineering undergrads at Rice University gave a teenager with a rare genetic disease something he'd always wished for: the ability to turn off the light in his room.

It may not seem like much, but for 17-year-old Dee Faught, it represents a new kind of independence.

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

The closer we get to next year's March  primaries, the faster the campaign promises fly. Republican gubernatorial frontrunner Greg Abbott recently made a splash by releasing an extensive list of items he says he’ll push for once elected.

One proposal in particular stood out a bit: safeguarding your DNA.

The proposal is a part of Abbott’s “We The People” plan. It also includes things like gun rights, campaign ethics and blocking the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. But DNA is item number one.

 

flickr.com/bill78704

The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) program has received $9.3 million from the O'Donnell Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $135 million to the university over the past 30 years.

The money will go towards student fellowships, faculty teaching and recruiting for the program, which combines the study of math, engineering and science disciplines to tackle real world problems, specifically areas like applied mathematics, software engineering and computer visualization. 

V. Tilvi, S.L. Finkelstein, C. Papovich, and the Hubble Heritage Team

A team led by a UT Austin astronomer has identified and measured the distance to the most distant galaxy found so far.

The galaxy — designated z8_GND_5296 — is so far away from Earth that the light we are now able to see from it was emitted more than 13 billion years ago. So we're seeing it as it was in the distant past.

"We're seeing it very close to the Big Bang. About 700 million years after the Big Bang," says UT astronomer Steve Finkelstein, who led the project. He says ultimately, far, far away galaxies like this one may help us understand things closer to home. “We want to study very distant galaxies to learn how galaxies change with time, which helps us understand how the Milky Way came to be.” 

flickr.com/asoundtrackforeveryone

So how do we define Locus of Control?  Essentially, it’s our positioning of ourselves within our perception of the world and the way that we perceive our power and influence. We can either feel in control of our lives – which is reassuring – or we can feel subjected to forces outside of our control – which we are then forced to endure. When that happens, we can feel stuck. 

Feeling stuck, with no other options, often leads to prolonged periods of stress. That in turn can depress our health – physically, mentally and emotionally. But since we construct our perceptions of reality, we have the option to shift our locus of power. That way we can then redefine the source of power in any circumstance – taking it when needed, or giving it up when needed. (In some stressful circumstances, having less control over the outcome of a situation can actually be preferred.)

Wikimedia Commons

Update: Scientists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert have been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics for their quest for the Higgs boson – the so-called “God particle.”

The European Organization for Nuclear Research proved its existence last year with a massive particle accelerator. But as KUT reported shortly after the particle’s  discovery, some Texas physicists say the discovery could have been made here years ago.

Original story (July 4, 2012): Scientists in Switzerland announced overnight the discovery of what appears to be a particle that’s long been hypothesized, but never proven. It’s a bittersweet moment for some Texas physicists.

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The Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas has been ranked third in the country for graduation rates among minorities, according to Diverse Issues in Higher Education. In 2012, 41 percent of the school’s graduates, or 441 students, were minorities.

Efforts by the Equal Opportunity in Engineering program at UT contributed to the gain. Program director Enrique Dominguez cites the organization’s close involvement in the academic progress of minority students. 

Don Draper from Mad Men may have been unaware of the neuropsychological reasons that he intuitively constructed advertisements the way he did, or he may not have cared, but there are reasons.

Have you ever found yourself in a shopping isle at the grocery store, mindlessly putting products into your cart? Why do you prefer one brand over another?  Why does one item seem to just call out your name? Effective advertising might be the reason.

KUT News

Virtually all firefighters rely on a simple device designed to alert their fellow firefighters when they need help.

It’s called a Personal Alert Safety System, or PASS.  It’s basically a sensor that measures whether the person wearing it is moving. If they're incapacitated or immobilized, the PASS sets off a 95 decibel alarm to draw the attention -- and assistance -- of other firefighters.

Laura Rice, KUT News

Technology is improving – and fast. The next frontier for some software designers is the human brain.

William Hurley, or “whurley," is the co-founder of Austin-based mobile studio company Chaotic Moon.

1. Brain-Altering Software Already Exists:

"Currently there are things that are considered brain-altering software. Sites like Lumosity and things like that where you do brain training and different activities."

Do you take pride in your ability to divide your focus and energy into more than one task at a time?  Do you think you’re a good multitasker?  Chances are, you’re probably not.

Russ Poldrack

At 7:30 a.m. on pretty much any Tuesday over the past eight months, you'd find Russ Poldrack lying on his back in front of the MRI scanner in his basement lab at UT, waiting to scan his brain.

Poldrack, a neuroscientist, runs the Imaging Research Center at UT-Austin.

I meet him on the morning of his 58th scan.

Three Georgetown teens have won an international student rocketry competition, beating out two teams from France and the United Kingdom.

This morning at the International Rocketry Challenge, Daniel Kelton and brothers Mark and Matthew Janecka launched their rocket, successfully propelling it to 750 feet in the air within seconds and landing their cargo, a single egg, safely at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. 

We need to sleep for a host of reasons, but what exactly is happening in our brains while we’re unconscious? We've only scratched the surface of understanding all that happens during sleep, but we do know that while our bodies are resting, our brains are very busy.

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