Science

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.” 

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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. 

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Science
7:55 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Sounding Out a Better Beacon for Firefighters in Danger

http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewhitewolves/

Every year in the U.S., dozens of firefighters are killed in the line of duty. But there are hundreds more close calls, where a firefighter needs to be rescued after becoming injured or otherwise incapacitated. Virtually all firefighters, both volunteer and professional, rely on a simple device designed to alert their fellow firefighters when they need help.

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Two Guys on your head
12:58 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Why You're Not as Good at Multitasking As You Think

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.

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Science
10:06 am
Mon July 1, 2013

This Austin Scientist is Scanning His Own Brain Over 100 Times

UT neuroscientist Russ Poldrack is studying his own brain, looking at how it changes over time.
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.

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Two Guys on your head
4:54 pm
Sun June 9, 2013

What's Happening Inside Your Head When You Sleep

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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Science
12:20 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Longhorn Astronaut Karen Nyberg Returns to International Space

The latest International Space Station crew (including Nyberg) blasted off from Kazakhstan on May 29, 2013 (Kazakh time).
NASA/Bill Ingalls

There’s a UT Longhorn in space right now.

This week, Karen Nyberg blasted off to the International Space Station. She was the sole NASA astronaut aboard the Russian Soyuz rocket that left May 28. She was joined by Fyodor Yurchikhin with the Russian Federal Space Agency, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency.

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Technology
3:24 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Google's Privacy Shift Powers New Customized Maps

The new Google Maps features tailor-made results based on users' habits and search histories.
Google

Originally published on Fri May 17, 2013 10:15 am

This week, Google, already a leader in mapping, created more space between itself and its competitors by more deeply mining the data users provide the company when using its various services.

At the Google developers' conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Daniel Graf, director of Google Maps, crowed about the company's mapping app for the iPhone — and couldn't quite stop himself from taking a dig at Apple.

"People called it sleek, simple, beautiful, and let's not forget, accurate," he said.

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Technology
4:57 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Interview: U.T. Law Student Fires First 3D-Printed Gun

Cody Wilson succesfully test fired a mostly plastic gun created with a 3D printer.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

 A University of Texas law student has become the first person to fire a bullet from a gun made with a 3D printer. Forbes reporter Andy Greenberg recorded a video of the test shooting, then wrote about it. 

Wilson says he did it partly to make a political point about gun control.

“Especially at a time when all these actors on the Hill are pretending that we can control firearms and we can better regulate them. I’m seeing a future, a vision of the future where that’s not really possible," he told KUT News. 

Listen to our interview with Wilson by clicking the player above. 

Technology
1:14 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Gun Made With 3-D Printer Is Successfully Fired

The Liberator — a plastic handgun made with a 3-D printer.
Defense Distributed

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 12:22 pm

The Texas-based company Defense Distributed is getting quite a bit of attention this week for its Liberator — a handgun made almost entirely by a 3-D printer.

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Science
5:08 pm
Sun May 5, 2013

Solar-Powered Airplane Completes First Leg Of U.S. Flight

The Solar Impulse takes off from Moffett Field NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., Friday, as a team member rides an electric bike alongside the plane.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun May 5, 2013 4:04 pm

The Solar Impulse, an airplane traveling across the United States using only solar power, is in Phoenix today, after reaching Arizona from California Saturday. It took the plane about 20 hours to travel from Mountain View, Calif., near San Francisco.

The aircraft is capable of flying at night as well as in daytime; the plane had about 75 percent of its battery power remaining when it landed in Arizona.

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