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Fruit flies, fighter jets use similar tactics when attacked

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  4 days ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "When startled by predators, tiny fruit flies respond like fighter jets – employing screaming-fast banked turns to evade attacks. Researchers at the University of Washington used an array of high-speed video cameras operating at 7,500 frames a second to capture the wing and body motion of flies after they encountered a looming image of an approaching predator.

“Although they have been described as swimming through the air, tiny flies actually roll their bodies just like aircraft in a banked turn to maneuver away from impending threats,” said Michael Dickinson, UW professor of biology and co-author of a paper on the findings in the April 11 issue of Science. “We discovered that fruit flies alter course in less than one one-hundredth of a second, 50 times faster than we blink our eyes, and which is faster than we ever imagined.”

In the midst of a banked turn, the flies can roll on their sides 90 degrees or more, almost flying upside down at times, said Florian Muijres, a UW postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the paper. “These flies normally flap their wings 200 times a second and, in almost a single wing beat, the animal can reorient its body to generate a force away from the threatening stimulus and then continues to accelerate,” he said."

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New software lets you see how a child will age

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about a week ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Parents like to ponder: What will my child look like when she grows up? A computer could now answer the question in less than a minute. University of Washington researchers have developed software that automatically generates images of a young child’s face as it ages through a lifetime. The technique is the first fully automated approach for aging babies to adults that works with variable lighting, expressions and poses.

“Aging photos of very young children from a single photo is considered the most difficult of all scenarios, so we wanted to focus specifically on this very challenging case,” said Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. “We took photos of children in completely unrestrained conditions and found that our method works remarkably well.” The research team has posted a paper on the new technique and will present its findings at the June IEEE Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Columbus, Ohio."

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Greenland's fastest glacier sets new speed record

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 2 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "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 University of Washington and the German Space Agency measured the speed of the glacier in 2012 and 2013. The results were published Feb. 3 in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union.

Jakobshavn Glacier, which is widely believed to be the glacier that produced the large iceberg that sank the Titanic in 1912, drains the Greenland ice sheet into a deep-ocean fjord on the west coast of the island. This speedup of Jakobshavn means that the glacier is adding more and more ice to the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise.

“We are now seeing summer speeds more than four times what they were in the 1990s, on a glacier which at that time was believed to be one of the fastest, if not the fastest, glacier in Greenland,” said lead author Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the UW’s Polar Science Center.

The new observations show that in summer of 2012 the glacier reached a record speed of more than 10 miles (17 km) per year, or more than 150 feet (46 m) per day. These appear to be the fastest flow rates recorded for any glacier or ice stream in Greenland or Antarctica, researchers said."

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Climate change casts pall over penguins -- with photos

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Climate change is killing penguin chicks from the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins, not just indirectly – by depriving them of food, as has been repeatedly documented for these and other seabirds – but directly as a result of drenching rainstorms and, at other times, heat, according to new findings from the University of Washington.

Too big for parents to sit over protectively, but still too young to have grown waterproof feathers, downy penguin chicks exposed to drenching rain can struggle and die of hypothermia in spite of the best efforts of their concerned parents. And during extreme heat, chicks without waterproofing can’t take a dip in cooling waters as adults can."

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Neanderthal lineages excavated from modern human genomes

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "A substantial fraction of the Neanderthal genome persists in modern human populations. A new analysis of 665 people from Europe and East Asia shows that more than 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome survives in the DNA of this contemporary group, whose genetic information is part of the 1,000 Genomes Project.

University of Washington scientists Benjamin Bernot and Joshua M. Akey, both population geneticists from the Department of Genome Sciences, report their results Jan. 29 in Science Express."

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How strong of a football fan are you? There's a test for that

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "So, you think you’re a loyal supporter of a certain football team? Would you care to put that to a scientific test?

University of Washington psychologist Anthony Greenwald has developed a new version of his Implicit Association Test to measure the strength of one’s support for one of several football teams. Greenwald created the original Implicit Association Test in 1998 to gauge a person’s unconscious beliefs and hidden biases. He and colleagues have since adapted it for numerous scenarios, including racial attitudes during the 2012 presidential election.

Greenwald developed the current football test with psychologist Colin Smith at the University of Florida. It is designed for fans of the four teams that played in the NFC and AFC conference championships: Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. The 10-minute online test asks participants to respond quickly to images and words on the screen."

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DNA detectives'count' thousands of fish using a glass of water

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there. Researchers also discerned which of the species were most plentiful in the tank.

Being able to determine the relative abundance of fish species in a body of water is the next step in possibly using modern DNA identification techniques to census fish in the open ocean, according to Ryan Kelly, University of Washington assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, and lead author of a paper in the Jan. 15 issue of PLOS ONE.

“It might be unpleasant to think about when going for a swim in the ocean, but the water is a soup of cells shed by what lives there,” Kelly said. Fish shed cells from their skin, damaged tissues and as body wastes.

“Every one of those cells has DNA and if you have the right tools you can tell what species the cell came from. Now we’re working to find the relative abundance of each species present,” he said."

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Scientists to observe seismic energy from Seahawks' '12th man' quakes

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "University of Washington seismologists this week installed two strong-motion seismometers at CenturyLink Field in Seattle to augment an existing station in recording shaking from “earthquakes” expected on Saturday during the NFC divisional game between the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is preparing a special website at www.pnsn.org/seahawks for the game to display seismograms from all three seismic stations in near-real time, and seismologists will also be available to explain interesting signals. Seismologists also will highlight interesting signals in tweets (@PNSN1) and on Facebook (thePNSN).

Seahawks fans, collectively known as “the 12th man,” have a well-known reputation for generating noise and shaking in the stadium during games. Perhaps the best-known example occurred on Jan. 8, 2011, during a 67-yard touchdown run by the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch that helped Seattle defeat New Orleans in an NFC Wild Card game. Scientists hope to record similar shaking during Saturday’s game to better understand how the stadium responds to the activity, and to measure the energy transmitted to the ground within the stadium and within the surrounding neighborhood. “Because the fault ruptures that generate earthquake waves are almost always buried by miles of rocks, scientists aren’t sure about the action at the source that results in seismic shaking. In a way, the Seahawks’ 12th man provides us an opportunity to get inside the source that’s generating seismic waves,” said seismic network operations manager Paul Bodin, a UW research associate professor of Earth and space sciences."

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'Baby talk' helps babies master more words

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "New parents often hear the advice that the more they talk to their baby, the more their baby will learn language. Now new findings show that what spurs early language development isn’t so much the quantity of words as the style of speech and social context in which speech occurs.

The more parents exaggerated vowels – for example “How are youuuuu?” – and raised the pitch of their voices, the more the 1-year olds babbled, which is a forerunner of word production. Baby talk was most effective when a parent spoke with a child individually, without other adults or children around.

Parents can use baby talk when going about everyday activities, saying things like, “Where are your shoooes?,” “Let’s change your diiiiaper,” and “Oh, this tastes goooood!,” emphasizing important words and speaking slowly using a happy tone of voice.

“It’s not just talk, talk, talk at the child,” said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “It’s more important to work toward interaction and engagement around language. You want to engage the infant and get the baby to babble back. The more you get that serve and volley going, the more language advances.”"

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El Niño tied to melting of Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 3 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "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. A paper published Jan. 2 in the advance online version of the journal Science shows that the ice shelf melting depends on the local wind direction, which is tied to tropical changes associated with El Niño. The study, led by author Pierre Dutrieux at the British Antarctic Survey, uses new data to show how winds and topography control how much warm water reaches the ice shelf. University of Washington co-authors provided atmospheric modeling expertise to help interpret the observations and show how they are related to climate conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean. “These new results show that how much melt the Antarctic ice sheet experiences can be highly dependent on climatic conditions occurring elsewhere on the planet,” said co-author Eric Steig, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. The Pine Island ice shelf has thinned nearly continuously since observations began in the 1970s. Earlier studies have shown that warm deep-ocean water is melting the ice shelf from below, suggesting that warming global oceans are gradually targeting the underside of the ice sheet. But the picture is more complex, say authors of the new study. The deep ocean has been getting warmer but, more importantly, more warm water has been reaching the ice shelf."
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Scientists discover second code hiding in DNA

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA that contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease. A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery. The findings, reported in the Dec. 13 issue of Science, are part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute. Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said Stamatoyannopoulos. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.” The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The UW team discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one related to protein sequence and one related to gene control. These two meanings seem to have evolved in concert with each other. The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made. The discovery of duons has major implications for how scientists and physicians interpret a patient’s genome and will open new doors to the diagnosis and treatment of disease."

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Astronomers solve temperature mystery of planetary atmospheres

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "An atmospheric peculiarity the Earth shares with Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune is likely common to billions of planets, University of Washington scientists have found, and knowing that may help in the search for potentially habitable worlds. For more than a century it has been known that there is a point in Earth's atmosphere at about 40,000 to 50,000 feet, called the tropopause, where the air stops cooling and begins growing warmer, In the 1980s, NASA spacecraft discovered tropopauses in the atmospheres of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as Saturn’s largest moon, Titan — and all occurring at about one-tenth of the air pressure at Earth’s surface.

A new paper by UW astronomer Tyler Robinson and planetary scientist David Catling, published online Dec. 8 in the journal Nature Geoscience, 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. “The explanation lies in the physics of infrared radiation,” said Robinson. Atmospheric gases gain energy by absorbing infrared light from the sunlit surface of a rocky planet or from the deeper parts of the atmosphere of a planet like Jupiter, which has no surface. The research shows that at high altitudes atmospheres become transparent to thermal radiation due to the low pressure. The findings could be used to extrapolate temperature and pressure conditions on the surface of planets and work out whether the worlds are potentially habitable — the key being whether pressure and temperature conditions allow liquid water on the surface of a rocky planet."

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Some song sparrows are more effusive when defending territory

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Like humans, some song sparrows are more effusive than others, at least when it comes to defending their territories. New findings from the University of Washington show that consistent individual differences exist not only for how aggressive individual song sparrows are but also for how much they use their signals to communicate their aggressive intentions. The findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that while many birds signal their intentions clearly, other “strong silent types” go immediately to aggressive behavior and ultimately attack without first signaling their intentions. “The results are the first to explicitly link individual differences in a personality variable to communication in a wild animal,” said lead author Çalar Akçay, who did the study when he was a UW graduate student. He is now a postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. As any pet owner can attest, animals have consistent individual differences, or personalities. Some may be more aggressive or bold, shy or laid back. Such personality differences have been noted in a number of species ranging from insects to primates and, of course, humans. But the role of personality in animal communication has not been studied. “There is a growing realization in the field that factoring in personality variables will help solve many thorny problems in animal behavior, such as do animals signal honestly,” said Michael Beecher, co-author and a UW professor of psychology and biology. In other words, if a bird knew the personality of its opponent, it would have a better understanding of when to expect an attack. “The strong silent types are just as assertive as the signaling types, they just don’t advertise their aggressive intentions,” Beecher said. “You want to distinguish strong silent types from true wimps that don’t signal and won’t attack.”"
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'Spooky action' builds a wormhole between 'entangled' quantum particles

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 4 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "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. Now, some 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. But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually travel, or even communicate, through these wormholes, said Andreas Karch, a University of Washington physics professor who is co-author of a paper on the research in Physical Review Letters. Quantum entanglement occurs when a pair or a group of particles interact in ways that dictate that each particle’s behavior is relative to the behavior of the others. In a pair of entangled particles, if one particle is observed to have a specific spin, for example, the other particle observed at the same time will have the opposite spin. The “spooky” part is that, as previous research has confirmed, the relationship holds true no matter how far apart the particles are – across the room or across several galaxies. If the behavior of one particle changes, the behavior of both entangled particles changes simultaneously, no matter how far away they are. Recent findings indicate that the characteristics of a wormhole are the same as if two black holes were entangled, then pulled apart. Even if the black holes were on opposite sides of the universe, the wormhole would connect them."
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Probing the confluence of human, animal and environmental health in Africa

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Researchers are working on predicting and controlling disease by looking at the interrelationships of people, other living creatures and their habitats. Human-animal medicine explores the unprecedented convergence of human, animal and environmental health in a world that is increasingly interdependent, said Dr. Peter Rabinowitz of the University of Washington School of Public Health. “Recent global pandemics such as SARS and influenza H1N1 require that we look at new paradigms for healthy coexistence,” he said. Rabinowitz recently arrived from Yale University to direct the UW Animal-Human Medicine Project. He and Dr. Ali Mokdad of the UW Department of Global Health and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation will lead separate studies in what is called One Health, which integrates veterinary, ecological and medical sciences. Rabinowitz’s team will investigate whether intestine-cohabitating microorganisms shared between livestock and children might be a key to correcting malnutrition in developing nations. Malnutrition causes nearly half of the deaths in children under 5 worldwide. The global burden of this disease is shouldered predominately in Africa and Southeast Asia and is difficult to alleviate. In Kenya, the researchers want to see whether children living in close proximity to domestic animals harbor gut microbes that can affect nutritional status. If so, it’s possible that resetting the gut microbiome — tiny organisms residing and interacting in the lower digestive tract — in livestock can be a sustainable intervention to improve children’s health and development, the researchers say."
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Study finds digital activism is effective, mostly non-violent

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Digital activism is usually nonviolent and tends to work best when social media tools are combined with street-level organization, according to new research from the University of Washington. The findings come from a report by the Digital Activism Research Project run by Philip Howard, a UW professor of communication, information and international studies. “This is the largest investigation of digital activism ever undertaken,” Howard said. “We looked at just under 2,000 cases over a 20-year period, with a very focused look at the last two years.” He and his coauthors oversaw 40 student analysts who reviewed news stories by citizen and professional journalists describing digital activism campaigns worldwide. A year of research and refining brought the total down to 400 to 500 well-verified cases representing about 150 countries. The research took a particularly focused look at the last two years. Howard said one of their main findings is that digital activism tends to be nonviolent, despite what many may think. “In the news we hear of online activism that involves anonymous or cyberterrorist hackers who cause trouble and break into systems. But that was 2 or 3 percent of all the cases — far and away, most of the cases are average folks with a modest policy agenda” that doesn’t involve hacking or covert crime."
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Documents that Changed the World: the Zapruder film

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "He only came to get the iconic footage through a series of coincidences, and later regretted what he had done. It was the last film he would ever shoot. The 26.6 seconds of color film that Abraham Zapruder shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, became arguably the most widely known, discussed and analyzed bit of film in history — showing, as it did, the assassination of a president. The Zapruder film seems a natural entry into the Documents that Changed the World series of podcasts created by Joe Janes, professor in the University of Washington Information School, who uses the podcasts to explore the origin and often evolving meaning of historical documents, both famous and less known. Though the Zapruder film in itself did not alter history, it depicted a moment when the nation changed forever. “If it’s not the most scrutinized motion picture ever, it must have the greatest ratio of eyeballs to frames of all time,” Janes said. “We all know the film, at least hazily, but as is so often the case, the small details are less widely known — all the coincidences and chance happenings that led him to get the film at all, the angle he got, the view he got ... the saga of that day in getting the film developed and copied, and then the subsequent developments through publication, investigations, government seizure — and tons of controversy.""
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In mild climates, snow melts faster under trees than in open areas

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Recent research shows that tree cover actually causes snow to melt more quickly on the western slopes of the the Pacific Northwest's Cascade Mountains and in other warm, Mediterranean-type climates around the world. At the same time, open, clear gaps in the forests tend to keep snow on the ground longer into the spring and summer. Common sense would seem to indicate the shade of a tree would help retain snow, and snow exposed to sunlight in open areas will melt, as is typical in regions such as the Northeast, Midwest and much of Canada, where winter temperatures are below freezing. But Jessica Lundquist, a University of Washington associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, found that in Mediterranean climates – where the average winter temperatures usually are above 30 degrees Fahrenheit – snow tends to melt under the tree canopy and stay more intact in open meadows or gaps in a forest. This happens in part because trees in warmer, maritime forests radiate heat in the form of long-wave radiation, contributing to snow melting under the canopy first. The finding has implications for regions such as the Pacific Northwest that, despite plentiful annual rainfall, depend heavily on melting snowpack for drinking water and healthy river flows during dry summer months."
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UW detector on the hunt for dark matter

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes "Leslie Rosenberg and his colleagues are about to go hunting. Their quarry: A theorized-but-never-seen elementary particle called an axion. The search will be conducted with a recently retooled, extremely sensitive detector that is currently in a testing and shakeout phase at the University of Washington’s Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics. The axion was first conjectured by physicists in the late 1970s as a solution to a problem in a theory called quantum chromodynamics. Little is known for sure about the axion. It appears to react gravitationally to matter, but otherwise it seems to have no other interaction. Since the 1930s, scientists have believed there must be some unseen but massive substance, a sort of gravitational glue, that prevents rotating galaxies from spinning apart. Axions, if they in fact do exist, are candidates for the makeup of cold dark matter that would act as that gravitational glue. Dark matter is believed to account for about one-quarter of all the mass in the universe. However, because axions react so little – and the reactions they are likely to produce are so faint – finding them is tricky. Rosenberg said the detector "looks for the incredibly feeble interaction between the axion and electromagnetic radiation.”"
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Surgical robot featured in new movie 'Ender's Game'

vinces99 vinces99 writes  |  about 5 months ago

vinces99 (2792707) writes ""In the spring of 2012, a director from the movie “Ender’s Game” contacted the University of Washington BioRobotics Laboratory to see about using the lab’s Raven II surgical robot on the movie set. That quickly got the attention of doctoral student Hawkeye King and his adviser, Blake Hannaford, a UW professor of electrical engineering. “‘Ender’s Game’ is one of those iconic sci-fi books,” King explained. “When we got back to the lab and told people, everyone’s jaw collectively dropped.” The movie “Ender’s Game,” which opened Nov. 1, stars Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield and directed by Gavin Hood, and is based on the 1980s military science-fiction novel by Orson Scott Card. Within a month of getting the call, King and then-UW bioengineering doctoral student Lee White packed up their lab’s surgical robot and flew to New Orleans. The students would be the sole operators of the robot during filming, and they also needed time to prepare its exterior to look less like a lab machine. Less than a week later, they were filming on the movie set, a New Orleans NASA facility that builds rockets.""
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