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The Lead

“Upside-down planet” reveals new method for studying binary star systems

April 22, 2014 8:12 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

What looked at first like an upside-down planet has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, discovered by a Univ. of Washington (UW) student astronomer. Working with UW astronomer Eric Agol, doctoral student Ethan Kruse has confirmed the first “self-lensing” binary star system: one in which the mass of the closer star can be measured by how powerfully it magnifies light from its more distant companion star.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not...

Greenland ice cores show industrial record of acid rain

April 11, 2014 11:29 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The rise and fall of acid rain is a global experiment whose results are preserved in the...

Scientists build thinnest-possible LEDs to be stronger, more energy efficient

March 10, 2014 1:11 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Most modern electronics, from flatscreen TVs and smartphones to wearable technologies and...

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Battery-free tech brings gesture recognition to all devices

February 27, 2014 12:56 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

Univ. of Washington computer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called “AllSee,” uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user’s gesture command.

Credit card-sized device could analyze biopsy

February 7, 2014 7:44 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly devastating disease. At least 94% of patients will die within five years, and in 2013 it was ranked as one of the top 10 deadliest cancers. Routine screenings for breast, colon and lung cancers have improved treatment and outcomes for patients with these diseases. But because little is known about how pancreatic cancer behaves, patients often receive a diagnosis when it’s already too late.

Greenland’s fastest glacier sets new speed record

February 5, 2014 8:27 am | by Hannah Hickey and Bárbara Ferreira News and Information | European Geosciences Union | News | Comments

The latest observations of Jakobshavn Glacier show that Greenland’s largest glacier is moving ice from land into the ocean at a speed that appears to be the fastest ever recorded. Researchers from the Univ. of Washington and the German Space Agency measured the speed of the glacier in 2012 and 2013.

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Solving a physics mystery: Those “solitons” are really vortex rings

February 4, 2014 8:51 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

The same physics that gives tornadoes their ferocious stability lies at the heart of new Univ. of Washington research, and could lead to a better understanding of nuclear dynamics in studying fission, superconductors and the workings of neutron stars. The work seeks to clarify what Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers witnessed when in 2013 they named a mysterious phenomenon.

Neanderthal lineages excavated from modern human genomes

January 30, 2014 8:51 am | by Leila Gray, UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine | News | Comments

A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new approach applied to analyzing whole-genome sequencing data from 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20% of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.

Facelift complications eased with help of 3-D imaging technique

January 28, 2014 7:49 am | News | Comments

Millions of people each year remove wrinkles, soften creases and plump up their lips by injecting a gel-like material into their facial tissue. These cosmetic procedures are sometimes called “liquid facelifts” and are said to be minimally invasive. It’s rare, but sometimes things go wrong. In a matter of minutes, patients’ skin can turn red or blotchy white and the injected area becomes painful.

Researchers patent new antibacterial agent

January 22, 2014 8:54 am | by Rhona Schwartz, Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry | News | Comments

Four Univ. of Washington School of Dentistry faculty members have received a patent for a new way of using titanium-based materials to fight oral bacteria. The patent culminates several years of work in which the group studied a novel class of substances called titanates and peroxotitanates, which can inhibit bacterial growth when bound to metal ions.

Beast quake: Seahawks fans rock stadium again

January 13, 2014 11:27 am | News | Comments

Seismologists say Seahawks fans shook the ground under Seattle's CenturyLink Field during Saturday's defeat of the New Orleans Saints, causing another fan-generated earthquake even stronger than Marshawn Lynch's famous "beast quake" touchdown run three years ago. That quake registered a magnitude 1 or 2.

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On-demand vaccines possible with engineered nanoparticles

January 8, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Vaccines combat diseases and protect populations from outbreaks, but the life-saving technology leaves room for improvement. Vaccines usually are made en masse in centralized locations far removed from where they will be used. They are expensive to ship and keep refrigerated and they tend to have short shelf lives. However, Univ. of Washington engineers have developed hope for on-demand vaccines.

El Nino tied to melting of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier

January 2, 2014 2:21 pm | News | Comments

Pine Island Glacier is one of the biggest routes for ice to flow from Antarctica into the sea. The floating ice shelf at the glacier’s tip has been melting and thinning for the past four decades, causing the glacier to speed up and discharge more ice. Understanding this ice shelf is a key for predicting sea-level rise in a warming world.

Single bacterial super-clone behind epidemic of drug-resistant E. coli

December 18, 2013 3:38 pm | News | Comments

Virulent, drug-resistant forms of E. coli that have recently spread around the world emerged from a single strain of the bacteria. The strain causes millions of urinary, kidney and bloodstream infections a year. It could have a far greater clinical and economic impact than any other strain of bacteria, including the so-called MRSA superbug.

Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

December 11, 2013 4:07 pm | News | Comments

An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, Univ. of Washington astronomers have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds. The paper uses basic physics to show why this happens, and suggests that tropopauses are probably common to billions of thick-atmosphere planets and moons throughout the galaxy.

“Spooky action” builds a wormhole between entangled particles

December 4, 2013 8:07 am | News | Comments

Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived. A team of physicists believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.

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Cost-effective method accurately orders DNA sequencing along entire chromosomes

November 13, 2013 7:11 am | News | Comments

A new computational method has been shown to quickly assign, order and orient DNA sequencing information along entire chromosomes. The method may help overcome a major obstacle that has delayed progress in designing rapid, low-cost—but still accurate—ways to assemble genomes from scratch. Data gleaned through this new method can also validate certain types of chromosomal abnormalities in cancer, research findings indicate.

Crashing rockets could lead to novel sample-return technology

October 30, 2013 8:33 am | Videos | Comments

During spring break the last five years, a Univ. of Washington class has headed to the Nevada desert to launch rockets and learn more about the science and engineering involved. Sometimes, the launch would fail and a rocket smacked hard into the ground. This year, the session included launches from a balloon that were deliberately directed into a dry lakebed.

New strategy lets cochlear implant users hear music

October 10, 2013 11:36 am | News | Comments

For many, music is a universal language that unites people when words cannot. But for those who use cochlear implants hearing music remains extremely challenging. Univ. of Washington scientists hope to change this. They have developed a new way of processing the signals in cochlear implants to help users hear music better.

Inventing programming language to build synthetic DNA

October 1, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Similar to using Java to write code for a computer, chemists soon could be able to use a structured set of instructions to “program” how DNA molecules interact in a test tube or cell. A Univ. of Washington team has developed a programming language for chemistry that it hopes will streamline efforts to design a network that can guide the behavior of chemical-reaction mixtures in the same way that embedded electronic controllers guide cars.

Computer-designed proteins recognize, bind small molecules

September 5, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Computer-designed proteins that can recognize and interact with small biological molecules are now a reality. Scientists have succeeded in creating a protein molecule that can be programmed to unite with three different steroids. The achievement could have far wider ranging applications in medicine and other fields, according to the Protein Design Institute at the Univ. of Washington.

Researcher controls colleague’s motions in first human brain-to-brain interface

August 27, 2013 2:50 pm | by Doree Armstrong and Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher. Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.

Microneedle patch could replace standard tuberculosis skin test

August 27, 2013 7:40 am | News | Comments

Each year, millions of people in the U.S. get a tuberculosis skin test to see if they have the infection. But the standard diagnostic test is difficult to give, because a hypodermic needle must be inserted at a precise angle and depth in the arm to successfully check for tuberculosis. Now, a team has created a microneedle patch that can penetrate the skin and precisely deliver a tuberculosis test.

Physicists pinpoint key property of material that both conducts and insulates

August 21, 2013 2:38 pm | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

It is well known to scientists that the three common phases of water (ice, liquid and vapor) can exist stably together only at a particular temperature and pressure, called the triple point. Scientists now have made the first-ever accurate determination of a solid-state triple point in a substance called vanadium dioxide, which is known for switching rapidly from an electrical insulator to a conductor.

Magma can survive in upper crust for hundreds of millennia

August 20, 2013 12:33 am | by Vince Stricherz, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Reservoirs of silica-rich magma can persist in Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new modeling research. That means an area known to have experienced a massive volcanic eruption in the past, such as Yellowstone National Park, could have a large pool of magma festering beneath it and still not be close to going off as it did 600,000 years ago.

Wireless devices go battery-free with new communication technique

August 15, 2013 8:32 am | News | Comments

We might be one step closer to an Internet-of-things reality. Univ. of Washington engineers have created a new wireless communication system that allows devices to interact with each other without relying on batteries or wires for power. The new communication technique, which the researchers call “ambient backscatter,” takes advantage of the television and cellular transmissions that already surround us around the clock.

Regulating electron “spin” may be key to making organic solar cells competitive

August 8, 2013 11:46 am | News | Comments

Organic solar cells that convert light to electricity using carbon-based molecules have shown promise as a versatile energy source but have not been able to match the efficiency of their silicon-based counterparts. Now, researchers have discovered a synthetic, high-performance polymer that behaves differently from other tested materials and could make inexpensive, highly efficient organic solar panels a reality.

Q-glasses could be a new class of solids

August 7, 2013 10:13 am | News | Comments

There may be more kinds of stuff than we thought. A team of researchers has reported possible evidence for a new category of solids, things that are neither pure glasses, crystals nor even exotic quasicrystals. Something else. The research team analyzed a solid alloy that they discovered in small discrete patches of a rapidly cooled mixture of aluminum, iron and silicon.

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