Science

Happy Accidents
3:31 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Chance Finding at WSU Lights Up Possibilities in Physics, Computing

Researcher Marianne Tarun seals an ampoule containing a unique crystal.
Washington State University

An accidental breakthrough by Washington State University researchers might someday lead to much more powerful computers.

It began when graduate student Marianne Tarun was working with a particular kind of crystal, strontium titanate, in a WSU physics lab. The crystal has strange electrical properties, which interests engineers and computer scientists.

One day she discovered, to her surprise, that something had changed.

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Marijuana DUI
9:15 am
Thu November 7, 2013

A Timeline of Wash. State's Changing Drugged Driving Laws

Associated Press

Before December, 2012: 

It's a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana if the intoxicant impairs your driving "to an appreciable degree." Prosecutors can use blood analysis, along with other evidence, to prove a person is impaired. But even though marijuana itself is illegal, there's no agreement on what level of THC in the blood constitutes a crime. 

As of December, 2012: 

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health alert
2:03 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Health Officials Perplexed by Spike in Number of Gonorrhea Cases

Steven Hurd Flickr

Health officials officials across the Northwest are trying to figure out why they’re seeing a big upswing in the number of people with gonorrhea this year. Washington announced Thursday five counties are in the midst of an outbreak of the infection.

The Washington outbreaks are in Spokane, Benton, Yakima, Kitsap, and Thurston counties. Overall, the state has seen a 34 percent increase in gonorrhea cases over this time last year.

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Brain Health
1:59 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Brains Sweep Themselves Clean Of Toxins During Sleep

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 2:35 pm

While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, researchers say.

During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours, a study of mice found.

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Science
5:01 am
Mon October 14, 2013

UW Engineer's Design Could Help Deaf People Enjoy Music

Cochlear implants are a lifesaver for many deaf people, but they can't recognize changes in pitch.
National Institutes of Health

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a way for some deaf people to enjoy music. The findings could help people with cochlear implants, a bionic inner ear that allows deaf or hearing-impaired people to hear speech, albeit in kind of a robot voice.

Cochlear implants can be a lifesaver for people without hearing, but when it comes to music, this very practical device can’t carry a tune to save its life.

The implants simply aren’t sensitive to pitch and what’s called timbre—the qualities of a sound that make, say, a guitar sound different from a harp.

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Telemedicine
2:51 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Virtual Urgent Care: The Doctor Will Skype You Now

Colehour and Cohen

Originally published on Mon September 23, 2013 6:04 pm

Telemedicine is rising to new levels of accessibility thanks to the increasing prevalence of smartphones, tablets and webcam equipped computers.

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Science
4:12 pm
Wed September 11, 2013

Seattle Scientist's Discovery Leads to Promising Brain Cancer Results

Glioblastoma is teh most common kind of brain tumor, and carries a grim prognosis.
jbrandner Wikimedia Commons

A promising but preliminary new study based on a Seattle scientist's discovery has shown dramatic increases in survival for people with brain cancer.

Charles Cobbs, now head of the Ben and Cathy Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, figured out a key feature of the most common kind of brain tumor, glioblastoma.

The tumor appears to be connected to a virus that most of us carry, called CVM. It’s harmless in most people, but for some, it seems to promote tumor growth.

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Weird Science
4:25 pm
Tue August 27, 2013

UW Researchers Use Brain of One to Control Body of Another

University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind. Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right, wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain.
University of Washington

Two researchers at the University of Washington have managed to pull off something right out of a sci-fi story: one used his brain to control the body of another.

The setup involved two labs on different ends of campus. In one lab sat the receiver, Andrea Stocco, with a device on his head that beams a focused magnetic field into his brain. Across campus, in another lab sat the sender, Rajesh Rao, wearing a cap outfitted with electrodes.

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Science
10:10 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

UW Team Hunts Tiny Genetic Flaws Linked to Big Problems

A rendering shows how synthetic DNA bonds with real DNA, revealing the presence of a flaw.
Courtesy of University of Washington / Nature Chemistry

Even the tiniest misprint in a person’s genetic code can cause big health problems, but they can be hard to find. Now members of a team at University of Washington say they’ve designed a better way to track down those mutations.

If you think of DNA as a twisted ladder, each rung is made of two little structures called bases, stuck together. If even one of the billions of these rungs gets copied wrong it can have serious consequences, such as which kind of tuberculosis you get.

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A Volcano's Scream
10:51 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Before an Eruption, Scientists Record a Volcano's Primal Scream

Mt. Redoubt erupted violently in 2009, after letting out a primal "scream."
Max Kaufman Alaska Volcano Observatory/University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute

Most volcanoes rumble before they erupt, but Washington and Alaska researchers say a big recent eruption was preceded not by a rumble, but a scream.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt blew its top several times in 2009. Leading up to many of the explosions were a series of little earthquakes—not uncommon for an active volcano. But these quakes began to accelerate, one after another, like a drumbeat building to a climax.

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exercise and obesity trends
5:01 am
Thu July 11, 2013

Health mystery: Wash. bucks national trend, now less active

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

There’s some truth to Washington’s image as a mecca for the physically active. When it comes to exercise, several counties in the state rank in the top 50 out of more than 3,000 counties in the country. But that ranking hides a less flattering trend.

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exoskeletons & prosthetics
10:34 am
Tue June 25, 2013

Horse-inspired mechanical legs helping stroke patients walk again

Albert Azizian, a user of the Kickstart device was previously unable to walk for 11 years following a stroke.
Chie Kawahara Cadence Biomedical

A research idea that was supposed to give people super-powered legs is instead helping stroke patients and other people who can’t walk. 

It’s a new medical device, using a combination of springs, cables, and Velcro. The inventors in Seattle are hoping to transform the possibility of recovery for thousands of people.

The idea started with a horse.

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Science
4:57 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Underwater robots evolve, teach us about nature

This photo shows a side view of the robotic fish.
University of Washington

Robots are everywhere these days. They’re working in factories, and are the focus of student competitions. They are also teaching us about nature, especially in the case of robotic fish.

It might seem a little Hollywood to talk about "robo-fish." And as an engineering professor, Kristi Morgansen is a little shy about that.

“We usually call them fish robots, or robotic fish,” she said.

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Parenting
2:26 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

When Sibling Fights Go Beyond Harmless Kid Stuff

Beheading Barbie is the kind of aggression that can cause sibling distress.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 6:45 am

I'll never forget the time my big brother sank his fork in the back of my hand after I snitched food off his plate.

But all siblings fight, right? So I was more than a little skeptical of a study saying that sibling aggression can cause serious mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

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Science
5:01 am
Mon June 17, 2013

'Sort of' alive: Researchers probe how kids think about robots

Marcus likes his robo-pal Pleo, but wouldn't trade in his leopard gecko.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

One way young kids learn to organize the world is by dividing it into living and non-living things. But now that robots vacuum our floors and smart phones talk back to us, do children think of technology as alive? A team of Washington researchers is exploring how kids interact with robots, and what that might reveal about both their brains and ours.

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