Science

Science
10:18 am
Tue December 24, 2013

Repairs Done, Astronauts Wrap Up Spacewalk

Astronaut Mike Hopkins during Saturday's spacewalk. He's going out again Tuesday.
NASA.gov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 3:12 pm

Spacewalking astronauts have successfully replaced a failed coolant pump on the International Space Station.

NPR's Joe Palca reports that American spacewalkers Michael Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio had to bolt the massive pump in place (on the ground, it weighs 780 pounds), connect four ammonia lines and plug in five electrical cables. The ammonia is a refrigerant used in the station's two-part cooling system, which is necessary to dissipate heat from the onboard electrical equipment.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
12:06 pm
Fri December 20, 2013

Why Attractive People Get More Opportunities

Credit blog.ifabbo.com

When it comes to what humans find attractive, many factors play a role.

Evolutionarily speaking, we tend to be attracted to symmetry and markers that indicate health and wellness. In social terms it has more to do with what’s in fashion at a given moment. But it's when we begin to react to attractiveness that things get tricky.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
10:35 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Why Creative Minds Think Alike

Credit hongkiat.com

The part of our brains that is responsible for generating creativity evolved throughout human existence to serve a problem-solving function. 

If you lived in the great, wild, open world as a primitive human, and your problems were things like predators, or food security sources, or a need for shelter, what would your brain do? 

Your brain would concoct creative strategies to solve those problems, and that’s what our minds have built a capacity to do as we’ve evolved – create solutions. Drs. Art Markman and Bob Duke give you more of the details.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
8:45 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Protecting Your Brain as You Age

You're only as old as you feel: Continued activity - both physical and mental - protects you as you age.
flickr.com/jvandoor

Whether we like it or not, time marches on. And as it does, we age. 

One of the most challenging realities for everyone to face in life is that we are all, inevitably, destined to grow old (if we’re lucky, that is).

Aging correlates to a steady decline of functional abilities, both physical and mental. Memory and cognition peak in our early twenties, and we begin a very slow, steady decline of those functions as we near our senior years.  

After age 80, many bodily functions – including brain function – seem to have reached the average limit of their operation. So what can we do to preserve our brains for as long as possible?

Read more
Science
2:10 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

With Jell-O and Lasers, UT Scientists Build Tiny Cages for Bacteria

Rendering of a bacteria colony confined in a toroid-shaped gelatin "house."
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.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
9:37 am
Fri November 29, 2013

We Can Choose Our Delusions

Credit wikimedia.org

Merriam-Webster defines delusion as “a belief that is not true; a false idea.” But who’s to decide what is true? 

Being tagged as delusional carries a negative, unpleasant connotation – calling to mind straight jackets, or maybe some scenes from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” But thanks to our powers of perception – and Drs. Bob Duke and Art Markman – you can choose to change your definition of delusion. 

When you get down to it, much of human existence is delusional. We use our imaginations to fill in meaning, value, expectations and definitions around a small sliver of what we can actually observe in our surroundings. Our mental state – essentially our level of happiness or unhappiness – is based on how we choose to define and perceive our circumstances. 

Read more
Science
6:16 am
Thu November 28, 2013

'The Coolest Thing Ever': How A Robotic Arm Changed 4 Lives

Dee Faught tests a robotic arm installed on his wheelchair in September. Commercially produced robotic arms can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but three Rice engineering students built one for Dee for about $800.
Eric Kayne for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 9:00 am

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.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
12:04 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

The Psychological Dynamics of Thanksgiving Dinner

flickr.com/pinksherbet

For many of us, Thanksgiving means spending time with our families, carrying out traditions that we’ve practiced for years.

While it can be very stressful, messy, and challenging to spend time with family members you don’t see very often, it can also be a beautiful time of recentering. 

Traditions serve a psychological function. By repeating the same traditional activity with the same group of people over the years, we construct a chronological record of who we’ve been before – and who we are now. It’s a hidden way of staying in touch with the consistent elements of our identities, and it allows us to track ourselves as we develop and change. 

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
11:00 am
Fri November 15, 2013

How Words Are More Than Words

flickr.com/feuilllu

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’

Popular as they are, those words really aren’t as accurate as we would like them to be.

Words are a part of almost every aspect of our lives, and the words we use impact not only those we are speaking to, but the very way we see the world – and even the chemicals released in our brain.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
12:38 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

The Psychology of Rivalries

flickr.com/lifementalhealthpics

Even though competing sports teams who consider themselves rivals like to highlight their supposedly apparent differences – in actuality, rivals are more alike than they are different. They share a common goal, for which they are competing.

Rivalries allow us as humans to have a friendly competition. They can be energizing, and allow us to bond with our communities over success or failure. 

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
3:00 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

What is Texting and Email Doing to Face-to-Face Communication?

How does immediate mobile contact affect our relationships in real life?
flickr.com/cristiano_betta

If you live in the modern world – as you most likely do – you’re probably seen it: two people standing next to each other, engrossed in text conversations happening on their mobile devices, while oblivious to each other or anything else happening around them. 

Does that common occurrence make you reminisce about the good old days of landlines? You’re not alone. Many people pine for simplicity in this new world of immediate contact – all possible through our nifty mobile gadgets. 

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
2:53 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

When Our Brains Go on Autopilot

Mindless eating in front of the TV is one example of automaticity.
Flickr user apdk, bit.ly/Rvw4I8

We may think we’re making conscious decisions about everything we do on a daily basis – but a large portion of things we do during each day, we do without thinking about them.

Take turning on a light, or consuming snacks in front of the TV. These automatic behaviors are great because they allow our brains to consider more complex ideas and thoughts. They’re great, that is, until we are doing things automatically that are harmful to others or ourselves.

Read more
Technology
9:25 am
Mon October 28, 2013

UT Engineering Students Develop Drone Software for NASA

Miki Szmuk oversees the operations of the drone and rover in the field. At this point there is no human intervention between the engineered products.
Matthew Alvarez for KUT News

New unmanned aerial vehicles – better known as drones – could soon roam over the Arctic and Polar regions of the planet. And at the University of Texas, engineering students aren’t working on the planes themselves, but rather the autonomous flight capability of the unmanned aircraft.

UT grad students at the Cockrell School of Engineering recently headed out to an open field with a movable sensor – called a rover –and a small drone aircraft to perform a test flight. The drone was programmed with an operating system that charts a path for performing a task, also known as an algorithm. It instructed the drone to follow the rover, which acted as a moving target.

Read more
Space
12:00 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Texas Astronomer Finds Most Distant Galaxy Yet

An artist's rendition of the newly discovered most distant galaxy z8_GND_5296.
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.” 

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
3:39 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

How to Learn From Failure

Success and failure: What's the difference? What's the value?
Credit stockmonkey.com

Failure is a scary word that carries a very negative connotation: “I’m a failure.” “He’s a failure.” “I don’t want to be a failure.” 

The word failure arouses emotional responses that we’d usually rather avoid.  What about the word success  The thought of success arouses images of comfort, ease and satisfaction.  Why?  It’s because of something in our brains. 

We’re wired with a dopamine reward system that releases positive or negative chemical affect in our brains depending upon the success or failure of our efforts.  Success feels good, while failure feels bad.  So we tend to seek success and avoid failure. It’s simple.  

But hang on a minute and let the Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, tell you about a function of failure that is too often overlooked and discredited: Failure is a learning tool. 

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
1:12 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

Who Controls Your Destiny?

Should I stay or should I go? Recognizing our ability to get up and leave stressful situations represents an internal locus of control – a belief in our inherit ability to control situations.
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.)

Read more
Higgs boson
8:32 am
Tue October 8, 2013

How Texas Lost Its Chance at Finding the 'God Particle'

The Superconducting Super Collider site in Waxahachie, Texas in 2008.
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.

Read more
Two Guys on Your Head
2:33 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

This is Your Brain on Music

Learning an instrument, especially as adults, provides us with a type of "brain food" that can help to protect our brains against damage. Experiencing music together is also an important part of being human.

We like to be in sync. Experiencing live music with others, whether you're playing an instrument or not, provides a certain synchronized relationship that boosts our feelings of togetherness and enjoyment.

Read more
Two Guys on your head
2:20 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

How Advertising Works On Your Brain

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.

Read more
Science
12:37 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Listen: 'Bending' Sound Makes It Difficult to Hear Firefighter Alarms

An unnamed Austin Fire Department member in a training exercise. This year, a standard alarm tone was set for firefighters’ Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS).
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.

Read more

Pages