Natural Sciences

The tale of a kangaroo's tail

Kangaroos may be nature’s best hoppers. But when they are grazing on all fours, which is most of the time, their tail becomes a powerful fifth leg, says a new study.

Technology developed at CU-Boulder could allow for more powerful atomic collisions

In 2012, people across the globe were dazzled to learn that the Large Hadron Collider—a 17-mile ring buried underground on the border of Switzerland and France—had for the first time provided evidence of the elusive Higgs Boson.

The discovery was made after scientists accelerated two beams of protons in the underground tube to nearly the speed of light and then crashed them into each other. The violent collision produced an array of exotic subatomic particles, including the Higgs Boson, that live only briefly before decaying away.

Sample of a frog’s slimy skin predicts susceptibility to disease

A simple sample of the protective mucus layer that coats a frog’s skin can now be analyzed to determine how susceptible the frog is to disease, thanks to a technique developed by a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The same method can be used to determine what kind of probiotic skin wash might be most effective at bolstering the frog’s defenses without actually exposing the frog to disease, according to a journal article published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Front Range oil and gas operations leak 3x more than estimated

During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado’s Front Range leaked nearly three times as much methane, a greenhouse gas, as predicted based on inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a regulated air toxic.

Researcher looking at how to use solar energy to produce fuels

Assistant Professor Gordana Dukovic is all for using sunlight and solar panels to produce electricity that can power homes and buildings.

But what she really wants to do is to better understand how to use sunlight to drive useful chemical reactions – essentially using solar energy to produce fuels rather than electricity. A fuel is basically a way of storing energy, she says, and the idea is to produce fuels that can be transported and used as needed, even when the sun is not shining. 

Researchers in Antarctica

Colorado is heading full force into winter, which means it's that time of year again: science season in Antarctica.

Every North American winter, buff "beakers," the slang term used in Antarctica for scientists, head south to the U.S. resarch center on Ross Island, called McMurdo Station, which is in the throes of summer.

CU-Boulder researchers use video games to spark kids' interest in coding

In grade school classrooms across the country, students have been hard at work this semester trying to figure out how to smash a virtual frog with a virtual truck. They’re building their own video games—inspired by the 1980s classic Frogger—and there are a thousand details to work out. 

In the end, the students will have built a video game. But more important, the students will have learned how to code—whether they knew it at the time or not.

Tallgrass prairie restoration could be bolstered by understanding rare microbes

In the first half of the nineteenth century, American settlers pushed westward into the Great Plains, lured to the prairies by the agricultural promise of their dark, rich soils.

Within a century, America’s tallgrass prairies—which once stretched across more than 150 million acres, from Minnesota south to Texas and from Illinois west to Nebraska—had all but vanished under settlers’ plows. The demise of the tallgrass prairie also meant the demise of dozens of species of grasses that could grow to the height of a man, hundreds of species of flowers and herds of roaming bison.

Bugs that don't blend in can endanger larger insect community

One badly disguised bug easily becomes a snack for a bird.

But the impact reaches far beyond one poorly camouflaged insect. The bird, drawn to the insect that doesn't blend in, sticks around to eat all the other insects that live on the same plant. Those insects, in turn, are not able to feed on the leaves of the plants as they normally would.

Satellite designed and built by CU-Boulder students now in orbit

DANDE has left the planet.

A beach ball-sized satellite designed and built by a team of CU-Boulder students is now whipping around the planet in a polar orbit. Roughly 150 students have been involved in the project since 2007.

The satellite, known as the Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer satellite, or DANDE, will investigate how atmospheric drag can affect satellite orbits.

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