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The Lead

Spectrum of life

June 23, 2015 12:15 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To find life in the universe, it helps to know what it might look like. If there are organisms on other planets that do not rely wholly on photosynthesis, how might those worlds appear from light-years away? That’s among the questions a Univ. of Washington team sought to answer in research published in Astrobiology.

Atmospheric signs of volcanic activity could aid search for life

June 11, 2015 10:25 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without...

Warmer, lower-oxygen oceans will shift marine habitats

June 5, 2015 10:20 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Modern mountain climbers typically carry tanks of oxygen to help them reach the summit. It’s the...

Physicists precisely measure interaction between atoms, carbon surfaces

May 29, 2015 7:36 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Physicists at the Univ. of Washington have conducted the most precise and controlled...

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Molecular switch that promotes heart cell maturation discovered

May 13, 2015 7:34 am | by Michael McCarthy, Univ. of Washington Health Services | News | Comments

A molecular switch that seems to be essential for embryonic heart cells to grow into more mature, adult-like heart cells has been discovered. The discovery should help scientist better understand how human hearts mature. Of particular interest to stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers, the finding may lead to laboratory methods to create heart cells that function more like those found in adult hearts.

Revealing security flaws in teleoperated surgical robots

May 8, 2015 8:17 am | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To make cars as safe as possible, we crash them into walls to pinpoint weaknesses and better protect people who use them. That’s the idea behind a series of experiments conducted by a Univ. of Washington engineering team who hacked a next-generation teleoperated surgical robot to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.

Seafloor sensors record possible eruption of underwater volcano

May 4, 2015 8:41 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

If a volcano erupts at the bottom of the sea, does anybody see it? If that volcano is Axial Seamount, about 300 miles offshore and 1 mile deep, the answer is now: yes. Thanks to a set of high-tech instruments installed last summer by the Univ. of Washington to bring the deep sea online, what appears to be an eruption of Axial Volcano on April 23 was observed in real time by scientists on shore.

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Engineering a better solar cell

May 1, 2015 7:57 am | by Renee Gastineau, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

One of the fastest-growing areas of solar energy research is with materials called perovskites. These promising light harvesters could revolutionize the solar and electronics industries because they show potential to convert sunlight into electricity more efficiently and less expensively than today’s silicon-based semiconductors.

3D-printed blossoms a growing tool for ecology

April 17, 2015 10:36 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

3D printing has been used to make everything from cars to medical implants. Now, Univ. of Washington ecologists are using the technology to make artificial flowers, which they say could revolutionize our understanding of plant-pollinator interactions.

Violent methane storms on Titan may solve dune direction mystery

April 14, 2015 7:28 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

With its thick, hazy atmosphere and surface rivers, mountains, lakes and dunes, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is one of the most Earth-like places in the solar system. As the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft examines Titan over many years, its discoveries bring new mysteries. One of those involves the seemingly wind-created sand dunes spotted by Cassini near the moon’s equator, and the contrary winds just above.

Building a nanolaser using a single atomic sheet

March 25, 2015 12:33 pm | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser that is energy efficient, easy to build and compatible with existing electronics. Lasers play essential roles in countless technologies, from medical therapies to metal cutters to electronic gadgets. But to meet modern needs in computation, communications, imaging and sensing, scientists are striving to create ever-smaller laser systems that also consume less energy.

Some habitable exoplanets could experience wildly unpredictable climates

March 13, 2015 11:28 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

As telescopes of ever-greater power scan the cosmos looking for life, knowing where to look, and where not to waste time looking, will be of great value. New research by Univ. of Washington astronomers describes possible planetary systems where a gravitational nudge from one planet with just the right orbital configuration and tilt could have a mild to devastating effect on the orbit and climate of another, possibly habitable world.

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Injectable polymer could prevent bleeding to death

March 11, 2015 8:09 am | by Jennifer Langston, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Most military battlefield casualties die before ever reaching a surgical hospital. Of those soldiers who might potentially survive, most die from uncontrolled bleeding. In some cases, there’s not much medics can do. That’s why Univ. of Washington researchers have developed a new injectable polymer that strengthens blood clots, called PolySTAT.

On thin ice

March 3, 2015 10:41 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s no surprise that Arctic sea ice is thinning. What is new is just how long, how steadily, and how much it has declined. Univ. of Washington researchers compiled modern and historic measurements to get a full picture of how Arctic sea ice thickness has changed. The results show a thinning in the central Arctic Ocean of 65% between 1975 and 2012.

Ancient rocks show life on Earth 3.2 billion years ago

February 17, 2015 9:13 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A spark from a lightning bolt, interstellar dust or a subsea volcano could have triggered the very first life on Earth. But what happened next? Life can exist without oxygen; but without plentiful nitrogen to build genes, life on the early Earth would have been scarce. The ability to use atmospheric nitrogen to support more widespread life was thought to have appeared roughly 2 billion years ago.

3D printing with custom molecules creates low-cost mechanical sensor

February 10, 2015 8:03 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Imagine printing out molecules that can respond to their surroundings. A research project at the Univ. of Washington merges custom chemistry and 3D printing. Scientists created a bone-shaped plastic tab that turns purple under stretching, offering an easy way to record the force on an object.

New tool monitors effects of tidal, wave energy on marine habitat

February 6, 2015 12:07 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

Researchers building a new underwater robot they’ve dubbed the “Millennium Falcon” certainly have reason to believe it will live up to its name. The robot will deploy instruments to gather information in unprecedented detail about how marine life interacts with underwater equipment used to harvest wave and tidal energy.

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Some potentially habitable planets began as gaseous, Neptune-like worlds

January 29, 2015 7:45 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, Univ. of Washington astronomers have found. The astronomers say tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity could combine to transform uninhabitable “mini-Neptunes” into closer-in, gas-free, potentially habitable worlds.

Tiny plant fossils a window into Earth’s landscape millions of years ago

January 15, 2015 3:30 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Minuscule, fossilized pieces of plants could tell a detailed story of what the Earth looked like 50 million years ago. An international team led by the Univ. of Washington has discovered a way to determine the tree cover and density of trees, shrubs and bushes in locations over time based on clues in the cells of plant fossils preserved in rocks and soil.

How the “Beast Quake” is helping scientists track real earthquakes

January 9, 2015 10:31 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It’s not just the football players who have spent a year training. Univ. of Washington seismologists will again be monitoring the ground-shaking cheers of Seahawks fans, this year with a bigger team, better technology and faster response times. Scientists with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network will install instruments this Thursday to provide real-time monitoring of the stadium’s movement during the 2015 NFL playoffs.

“Mirage Earth” exoplanets may have burned away chances for life

December 3, 2014 11:21 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars are prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. But new research led by an astronomy graduate student at the Univ. of Washington indicates some such planets may have long since lost their chance at hosting life because of intense heat during their formative years.

Moving cameras talk to each other to identify, track pedestrians

November 13, 2014 10:11 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

It’s not uncommon to see cameras mounted on store ceilings, propped up in public places or placed inside subways, buses and even on the dashboards of cars. Cameras record our world down to the second. This can be a powerful surveillance tool on the roads and in buildings, but it’s surprisingly hard to sift through vast amounts of visual data to find pertinent information, until now.

Study shows direct brain interface between humans

November 6, 2014 10:20 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago.              

Changing temperature powers sensors in hard-to-reach places

September 4, 2014 10:04 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

A centuries-old clock built for a king is the inspiration for a group of computer scientists and electrical engineers who hope to harvest power from the air. The clock, powered by changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure, was invented in the early 17th century by a Dutch builder. Three centuries later, Swiss engineer Jean Leon Reutter built on that idea and created the Atmos mechanical clock that can run for years.

Smartphone app can detect newborn jaundice in minutes

August 27, 2014 11:40 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Newborn jaundice: It’s one of the last things a parent wants to deal with, but it’s unfortunately a common condition in babies less than a week old. Skin that turns yellow can be a sure sign that a newborn is jaundiced and isn’t adequately eliminating the chemical bilirubin. But that discoloration is sometimes hard to see. Researchers have developed a smartphone application that checks for jaundice in newborns.

Scientists craft atomically seamless, thinnest-possible semiconductor junctions

August 26, 2014 4:13 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have developed what they believe is the thinnest-possible semiconductor, a new class of nanoscale materials made in sheets only three atoms thick. They have demonstrated that two of these single-layer semiconductor materials can be connected in an atomically seamless fashion known as a heterojunction. This result could be the basis for next-generation flexible and transparent computing.

Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in Atlantic Ocean

August 22, 2014 9:34 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Following rapid warming in the late 20th century, this century has so far seen surprisingly little increase in the average temperature at the Earth’s surface. At first this was a blip, then a trend, then a puzzle for the climate science community. More than a dozen theories have now been proposed for the so-called global warming hiatus, ranging from air pollution to volcanoes to sunspots.

Univ. of Washington project becomes focal point in hunt for dark matter

August 21, 2014 8:47 am | by Vince Stricherz, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Three major experiments aimed at detecting elusive dark matter particles believed to make up most of the matter in the universe have gotten a financial shot in the arm. Two of the projects are at large national laboratories; the other is at the Univ. of Washington (UW). The selection will bring greater intensity to the UW research, with more equipment and scientists involved in the work.

Snow has thinned on Arctic sea ice

August 13, 2014 11:30 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the Univ. of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

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