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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

A Cornucopia of Newly Confirmed Gravitational Wave Detections

A Cornucopia of Newly Confirmed Gravitational Wave Detections

After months of thorough analysis, two international scientific teams, including scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, have released an updated catalog of gravitational wave detections, more than tripling the number of confirmed events. Each detection of a gravitational wave represents the discovery of a pair of extremely massive objects—black holes or neutron stars—far out in the universe smashing into each other, shaking the very fabric of space and time so much that sensitive detectors on Earth could feel them, sometimes more than a billion years later. 

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Construction workers have a much higher risk of becoming hospitalized with the novel coronavirus than non-construction workers, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Department of Energy Invests in High-power Laser Network, including UT Austin

Department of Energy Invests in High-power Laser Network, including UT Austin

The University of Texas at Austin with support from the U.S. Department of Energy will expand capabilities of the Texas Petawatt Laser, one of the highest-powered lasers in the world, with a broad range of applications for basic research, advanced manufacturing and medicine.

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Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Artificial Intelligence Revs Up Evolution’s Clock (Audio)

Evolutionary biologists never have enough time. Some of the most mysterious behaviors in the animal kingdom—like parenting—evolved over thousands of years, if not longer. Human lifespans are just too short to sit and observe such complex behaviors evolve. But computer scientists are beginning to offer clues by using artificial intelligence to simulate the life and death of thousands of generations of animals in a matter of hours or days. It's called computational evolution.

Black Hole Swan Songs

Black Hole Swan Songs

Simulation of light emitted by a pair of supermassive black holes spiraling inward, viewed from above the plane of the disk. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

When scientists first detected gravitational waves, from the violent collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years in the past, the ripples in space-time made a distinctive chirp, followed by a signal like a ringing bell. (The signals actually had to be converted into frequencies we can hear.) Since that first detection in 2015, every black hole collision has sounded pretty much the same. But according to a new study based on computer simulations, black holes actually sing a more elaborate swan song.

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NSF-Funded Project Aims to Squeeze Larger Simulations onto Quantum Computers

NSF-Funded Project Aims to Squeeze Larger Simulations onto Quantum Computers

A trapped ion quantum computing system developed by Honeywell Quantum Solutions. Photo credit: Honeywell Quantum Solutions.

Quantum computers might someday make it possible to run simulations that are far too complex for conventional computers, enabling them for example to precisely model chemical reactions or the movement of electrons in materials, yielding better products from drugs to fertilizers to solar cells. Yet at the current pace of development, quantum computers powerful enough for these simulations may still be many years away.

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

A new study, currently awaiting peer review and involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston, finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper posted this week to the preprint server medRxiv, that mutation, called D614G, was also implicated in an earlier study in the UK in possibly making the virus easier to spread. The Washington Post was among several outlets reporting the findings this week.

New Grant Enables Creation of Polymer-Based Data Storage System

New Grant Enables Creation of Polymer-Based Data Storage System

Imagine a new type of security system that, rather than storing data or an encryption key on a USB drive, encodes information into a small piece of plastic that can be unlocked only via a chemical reaction using a specific type of substance. And the devices that can read this information think like human brains and have the ability to communicate seamlessly with today's electronics.

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Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response.

Breakthrough Prize Awarded to UT Physicist Steven Weinberg

Breakthrough Prize Awarded to UT Physicist Steven Weinberg

An elite prize among scientists worldwide is being given to Steven Weinberg, a professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin, for his "continuous leadership in fundamental physics, with broad impact across particle physics, gravity and cosmology, and for communicating science to a wider audience."