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From the College of Natural Sciences

Marc Airhart is the Communications Coordinator for the College of Natural Sciences. A long time member of the National Association of Science Writers, he has written for national publications including Scientific American, Mercury, The Earth Scientist, Environmental Engineer & Scientist, and StarDate Magazine. He also spent 11 years as a writer and producer for the Earth & Sky radio series. Contact me

Computer Scientists Find Mass Extinctions Can Accelerate Evolution

Computer Scientists Find Mass Extinctions Can Accelerate Evolution

At the start of the simulation, a biped robot controlled by a computationally evolved brain stands upright on a 16 meter by 16 meter surface. The simulation proceeds until the robot falls or until 15 seconds have elapsed. Image credit: Joel Lehman.

A computer science team at The University of Texas at Austin has found that robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs. Beyond its implications for artificial intelligence, the research supports the idea that mass extinctions actually speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.

New Approach May Spot Counterfeit Olive Oil, Help Pre-Diabetics

New Approach May Spot Counterfeit Olive Oil, Help Pre-Diabetics

Just days after new dietary guidelines came out telling Americans to pay more attention to the types of fats, not the amounts, that they eat, scientists announced they've found a new, better and faster way to detect distinctions in the fats found in food.

Graduate Students’ Class Project Produces New Tool for Neuroscience

Graduate Students’ Class Project Produces New Tool for Neuroscience

As new graduate students in the neuroscience department, Kenneth Latimer and Jacob Yates did a class project in a business class that eventually resulted in a prestigious publication in the journal Science, as well as a new tool for neuroscience.

Fun With Chemistry (Audio)

Fun With Chemistry (Audio)

Meet chemistry faculty member Kate Biberdorf, founder of the wildly popular outreach program Fun With Chemistry. Learn more at: Fun With Chemistry

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New Device Bends Light at Sharp Angles

New Device Bends Light at Sharp Angles

Most modern computers and communications devices use electrons to transmit and process information. But when they're crammed onto smaller and smaller devices, electrons become unruly, generating a lot of heat. Scientists have long dreamed of replacing electrons with particles of light called photons. Because photons don't generate much heat and move at light speed, computer chips could theoretically be made much smaller and faster than current chips.

Scientists Create New Tool to Study Emerging Materials for Spintronics

Scientists Create New Tool to Study Emerging Materials for Spintronics

As traditional electronics begin to reach their physical limits of compactness and speed, scientists and engineers are looking for new ways to stay on track with Moore's Law. One possible solution is to develop spintronics, devices that use a property of electrons known as spin to represent the 0's and 1's in computers. A class of materials called topological insulators (TIs) might have the right properties for spintronics, but since they were discovered less than a decade ago, scientists still know little about their properties.

Medication May Help Stop Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Medication May Help Stop Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have successfully stopped cocaine and alcohol addiction in experiments using a drug already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat high blood pressure. If the treatment is proven effective in humans, it would be the first of its kind — one that could help prevent relapses by erasing the unconscious memories that underlie addiction.

2015 Summer Blockbusters: Meet Our Science Truth Detector

2015 Summer Blockbusters: Meet Our Science Truth Detector

With summer movie season in full swing, cinema-goers are leaving theaters with one big question in mind: “Wait, could that really happen?”

Researchers Discover First Sensor of Earth’s Magnetic Field in an Animal

Researchers Discover First Sensor of Earth’s Magnetic Field in an Animal

A team of scientists and engineers at The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first sensor of the Earth’s magnetic field in an animal, finding in the brain of a tiny worm a big clue to a long-held mystery about how animals’ internal compasses work.

Researchers Build World's Thinnest Light Bulb from Graphene

Researchers Build World's Thinnest Light Bulb from Graphene

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A team of scientists and engineers from Columbia University, Seoul National University (SNU), Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) and The University of Texas at Austin have demonstrated — for the first time — a visible light source using graphene, an atomically thin form of carbon. This new type of light source could form the basis of faster communications devices and computer displays that are thin, flexible and transparent.