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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.
Scientists Decode Genomes to Infer Lifestyles of Subsurface Microbes

Scientists Decode Genomes to Infer Lifestyles of Subsurface Microbes

An international team led by microbiologists Brett Baker of The University of Texas at Austin and Thijs Ettema of Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered genetic evidence that a group of subsurface microbes consumes carbon monoxide, a weak greenhouse gas, to produce energy. These microbes, first discovered in a gold mine two miles below South Africa, live in environments devoid of oxygen and light. So far, no one has successfully grown them in the laboratory, so it wasn't clear how these microbes generate energy.

Common Colds at School a Primary Driver of Asthma Hospitalizations for Children

Common Colds at School a Primary Driver of Asthma Hospitalizations for Children

The most dangerous times of year for children with asthma are soon after their schools reopen after a break, and a new study finds that cold viruses are largely to blame.

Scientists Discover How We Play Memories in Fast Forward

Scientists Discover How We Play Memories in Fast Forward

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered a mechanism that may explain how the brain can recall nearly all of what happened on a recent afternoon — or make a thorough plan for how to spend an upcoming afternoon — in a fraction of the time it takes to live out the experience. The breakthrough in understanding a previously unknown function in the brain has implications for research into schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, Alzheimer's disease and other disorders where real experiences and ones that exist only in the mind can become distorted.

When we think about past or future events, we use a special brain wave frequency that allows us to play them in fast forward, although at a lower resolution. Illustration by Juliette Pepperell
Ronny Hadani Comes in Loud and Clear

Ronny Hadani Comes in Loud and Clear

​Ronny Hadani, associate professor of mathematics in the College of Natural Sciences and co-founder of Cohere Technologies, is developing technologies to make wireless communications faster and more reliable.

Photo by Jeff Wilson
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Why a Simple Law Governs Tropical Rainforest Trees

Why a Simple Law Governs Tropical Rainforest Trees

Tropical rainforests play a vital role in the well-being of our planet, soaking up carbon dioxide and helping stabilize the global climate. Around the world, tropical rainforests vary widely in climate and species composition, but when scientists plot out the numbers of trees by size, a puzzling consistency emerges: each rainforest follows the same pattern in the distribution of trees of different heights.

Audio: Pyramid Probe

Audio: Pyramid Probe

What would you do if you had Superman's x-ray vision? In today's episode of the Point of Discovery Podcast, we talk to a physicist about how he's using his superhuman powers to explore the insides of ancient Mayan pyramids without digging.

What you probably don’t know about holiday weight gain

What you probably don’t know about holiday weight gain

Molly Bray, chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, penned a Texas Perspectives piece in late December warning of the dangers of overeating during the holiday season that was picked up by several Texas newspapers:Dallas Morning NewsFort Worth Star-TelegramAustin American Statesman
Weight Loss Programs Tailored to a Person's Genome May Be Coming Soon

Weight Loss Programs Tailored to a Person's Genome May Be Coming Soon

Some health experts predict that the next big advance in helping overweight people achieve a healthier weight will be to use an individual's genetic data to customize diets and physical activity plans, an approach known as "precision weight loss." A recent summary report on the genetics of weight loss, developed by some of the leading experts in this field, finds that the biggest challenge to realizing this dream is the need for better analytical tools for discovering the relationships between genetics, behavior and weight-related diseases

Photo credit: Bill Branson, NIH
Testing General Relativity

Testing General Relativity

This is the third of a three-part series on general relativity.

The Theory of General Relativity—Einstein's century-old description of gravity—presented physicists with some pretty bizarre predictions. To test them, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin have traveled to the Sahara Desert to observe a rare eclipse, launched into Earth orbit the densest known object orbiting anywhere in the Solar System, and used computers to model ripples in space and time unleashed by the mergers of black holes.

A team from the University of Texas at Austin constructed a temporary telescope house from plywood and styrofoam in the Sahara Desert to observe the bending of starlight by the sun during a total solar eclipse in June 1973. Photo: Richard Matzner.
Audio: The Race for Dark Energy

Audio: The Race for Dark Energy

This is the second of a three-part series on general relativity.

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, which describes how gravity works, turns 100 this month. The theory has successfully explained a lot of what we observe out in the universe; but there are signs that it's incomplete. In the 1990s, astronomers observed that the expansion of the universe is speeding up, as if some mysterious force is pushing everything apart faster and faster. Nearly 20 years later, one of the biggest unanswered questions in science is: what is this dark energy? Not only was dark energy not predicted by general relativity, but its mere existence might mean that the theory needs to be tweaked or even replaced.