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Terrorist attacks, hurricanes, a divisive U.S. election, Brexit — 2016 has not been easy. With the year coming to an end, we thought it was time to get some serious perspective — from the scale of the entire universe.

We're tackling big questions: what scientists know, and what they have yet to learn.

So before you ring in another year, take a moment to contemplate the billions of years that led to 2017 and the billions more yet to come.

Here's a timely reminder for all you would-be revelers out there: Be careful with your countdowns this New Year's Eve. There will be a little extra time to bask in the glow of a retreating 2016 — or curse its name, as the case may be.

Whatever your inclination may be, one thing is certain: Before the year is out, the world's foremost authority on time will be adding one more second to the clock.

Vera Rubin, the groundbreaking astrophysicist who discovered evidence of dark matter, died Sunday night at the age of 88, the Carnegie Institution confirms.

Rubin did much of her revelatory work at Carnegie. The organization's president calls her a "national treasure."

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rubin was working with astronomer Kent Ford, studying the behavior of spiral galaxies, when they discovered something entirely unexpected — the stars at the outside of the galaxy were moving as fast as the ones in the middle, which didn't fit with Newtonian gravitational theory.

This winter brings the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, full of familiar costumes, familiar villains, and the familiar "pew pew pew" of space guns. But you can skip the movie theatre and still hear those iconic blaster sounds if you visit a frozen lake.

The Northwest tribes feel a sense of completion knowing Kennewick Man’s ancient bones will rest again in the Earth. That’s because President Obama recently signed a law giving them control of the 9,000-year-old remains.

But scientists say they are losing a one-of-a-kind storyteller forever.

In a technological tour de force, scientists have developed a new way to probe antimatter.

For the first time, researchers were able to zap antimatter atoms with a laser, then precisely measure the light let off by these strange anti-atoms. By comparing the light from anti-atoms with the light from regular atoms, they hope to answer one of the big mysteries of our universe: Why, in the early universe, did antimatter lose out to regular old matter?

Two widely used tests to analyze the genetics of tumors often don't come to the same conclusions, according to head-to-head analyses.

Authors of two recent studies comparing these tests say doctors need to be careful not to assume that these tests are providing a complete picture of a tumor's genetic variants, when using them to select treatments for cancer patients.

The hipbone's connected to the leg bone, connected to the knee bone. That's not actually what those body parts are called, but we'll forgive you if you don't sing about the innominate bone connecting to the femur connecting to the patella. It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Wondering if your pet rat is feeling happy? You should check its ears, researchers say.

A team of scientists in Switzerland found that a rat's ears are more pinkish and are positioned at a more relaxed angle when it is experiencing positive emotions. The researchers recently published their findings in the journal Plos One.

Evan Smith wanted to get his hands on the world's biggest diamonds — the kind that sit atop royal scepters, and the ones that are always the target of elaborate movie heists.

But this wasn't for some nefarious get-rich-quick scheme. It was for science.

"The most valuable, the most prized, of all gemstones are coincidentally some of the most scientifically valuable pieces of the Earth," says Smith, a diamond geologist at the Gemological Institute of America.

An underwater volcano, some 300 miles off the Oregon Coast, is providing clues about how to better understand — and predict — eruptions.

The seamount erupted in 1998, 2011 and 2015.

Researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and the University of North Carolina found that after each eruption, the seafloor dropped by about eight feet and then gradually rose back up again over several years.

The United Kingdom's fertility regulator has put its seal of approval on the "cautious use" of techniques to create a baby from the DNA of three people. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, or HFEA, announced Thursday that it will now begin to accept applications from fertility clinics that wish to become licensed to perform the procedure.

The decision means the U.K. will sanction and regulate the techniques, known broadly as mitochondrial donation, "in certain, specific cases."

The pink bacteria clinging to this Seattle bathmat is Serratia marcescens, which loves damp, soapy environments. It's mostly harmless.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

You see them when you slack on cleaning — mysterious pink rings and streaks that form in your toilets, sinks and bathtubs.

It's a cold, damp fall day in London. But in a windowless basement laboratory, it feels like the tropics. It's hot and humid. That's to keep the mosquitoes happy.

"In this cage, we have the adult mosquitoes," says Andrew Hammond, a genetic engineer at Imperial College London, as he picks up a container made out of white mosquito netting.

The lab is buzzing with hundreds of mosquitoes. "Everything in this cubicle is genetically modified," Hammond says, pointing to the container of mosquitoes.

Scientists released this year's so-called Arctic Report Card on Tuesday, and it is a dismal one.

Researchers say the Arctic continues to warm up at rates they call "astonishing." They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco.

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