Washington, DC–Renowned astrophysicist and National Medal of Science awardee Vera Rubin passed away in Princeton N.J., the evening of December 25, 2016, at the age of 88. Rubin confirmed the existence of dark matter—the invisible material that makes up more than 90% of the mass of the universe. She...
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    It isn’t often that our Capital Science Evening speaker hints at soon-to-be-breaking news right from the stage.

    Tuesday night, Pierre Cox, Director of the Atacama Large Milimiter/submillimeter Array, a collection of 66 radio telescopes commonly known as ALMA, let the audience know that his organization would be releasing hot news about ancient galaxies the following day.

    Or, rather, cold news.

    Watch This Video

New work from a joint team of plant biologists and ecologists has uncovered the factor behind an important innovation that makes grasses—both the kind found in native prairies and the kind we’ve domesticated for crops—among the most-widespread plants on the planet. Their findings may enable the production of plants that perform better in warmer and dryer climate conditions.

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Rock samples from northeastern Canada retain chemical signals that help explain what Earth’s crust was like more than 4 billion years ago, reveals new work from Carnegie’s Richard Carlson and Jonathan O’Neil of the University of Ottawa. There is much about Earth’s ancient crust that scientists don’t understand. This is because most of the planet’s original crust simply isn’t around any longer to be studied directly—it has either sunk back into the planet’s interior due to the action of plate tectonics or been transformed by geological activity at Earth’s surface to make new, younger rocks.

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New work from a team including Carnegie’s Guoyin Shen and Yoshio Kono used high pressure and temperature to reveal a kind of “structural memory” in samples of the metal bismuth, a discovery with great electrical engineering potential.

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Baltimore, MD—A first-of-its-kind study on almost 20,000 K-12 underrepresented public school students shows that Project BioEYES, based at Carnegie’s Department of Embryology, is effective at increasing students’ science knowledge and positive attitudes about science. Younger students had the greatest attitude changes. The study covered five years and tested students before and after the one-week BioEYES program.

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The Carnegie-Spitzer-IMACS (CSI) survey, currently underway at the Magellan-Baade 6.5m telescope in Chile, has been specifically designed to characterize normal galaxies and their environments at a distance of about 4 billion years post Big Bang, expresses by astronomers as  z=1.5. The survey...
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Carnegie is renowned for its post-doctoral and graduate student fellowship programs, which operate on each of the Carnegie campuses. Our fellows participate fully in the institution’s vigorous intellectual life, and have complete access to the laboratory instruments and facilities at the...
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The recent discovery that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate has profoundly affected physics. If the universe were gravity-dominated then it should be decelerating. These contrary results suggest a new form of “dark energy”—some kind of repulsive force—is driving the universe. To get...
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Astronomy Lecture Series
Monday, April 3, 2017 -
7:30pm to 8:30pm

Supernovae are cosmic explosions where a single star can become as bright as a billion stars combined. Even though supernovae are crucial to the Universe, including producing the elements...

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Capital Science Evening Lectures
Thursday, April 6, 2017 -
6:30pm to 8:00pm

Dr. Ostrander’s team has taken advantage of naturally occurring variations in dog populations in order to reveal the genetic mechanisms underlying both simple and complex traits. She will show how...

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Astronomy Lecture Series
Monday, April 17, 2017 -
7:30pm to 8:30pm

The formation of galaxies like our Milky Way involves gravity, dark matter, gases, star formation, and stellar explosions. Theoretical astrophysics is now revealing this complex process by using...

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Eric Persson heads a group that develops and uses telescope instrumentation to exploit new near-infrared (IR) imaging array detectors. The team built a wide-field survey camera for the du Pont 2.5-meter telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, and the first of two cameras for the...
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Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s...
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François Schweizer studies galaxy assembly and evolution by observing nearby galaxies, particularly how collisions and mergers affect their properties. His research has added to the awareness that these events are dominant processes in shaping galaxies and determining their stellar and gaseous...
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Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science
March 16, 2017

Palo Alto, CA—New work from a joint team of plant biologists and ecologists from Carnegie and Stanford University has uncovered the factor behind an important innovation that makes grasses—both the kind that make up native prairies and the kind we’ve domesticated for crops—among the most-common and widespread plants on the planet. Their findings may enable the production of plants that perform better in warmer and dryer climate conditions, and are published by Science.

All land plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and “exhale” oxygen and water vapor. This exchange is required for plant growth; the carbon dioxide is made into sugars by photosynthesis, the process

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science
March 16, 2017

Washington, DC—Rock samples from northeastern Canada retain chemical signals that help explain what Earth’s crust was like more than 4 billion years ago, reveals new work from Carnegie’s Richard Carlson and Jonathan O’Neil of the University of Ottawa. Their work is published by Science.  

There is much about Earth’s ancient crust that scientists don’t understand. This is because most of the planet’s original crust simply isn’t around any longer to be studied directly—it has either sunk back into the planet’s interior due to the action of plate tectonics or been transformed by geological activity at Earth’s surface to make new, younger rocks.

“Finding remnants of this

March 15, 2017

Washington, DC—When planets first begin to form, the aftermath of the process leaves a ring of rocky and icy material that’s rotating and colliding around the young central star like a celestial roller derby. Analogs to our own Solar System’s Kuiper Belt, these disks of debris left over from planet formation can be detected by astronomers and studied to help understand the processes that create planetary systems.

Determining how the gravity of existing planets influences a disk’s architecture is one important area of study. Most of this research focuses on how planets that exist inside the debris disk define its shape, which is one of the few disk characteristics that can be

Carnegie Science, Carnegie Institution, Carnegie Institution for Science
March 13, 2017

Washington, DC— New work from a team including Carnegie’s Guoyin Shen and Yoshio Kono used high pressure and temperature to reveal a kind of “structural memory” in samples of the metal bismuth, a discovery with great electrical engineering potential.

Bismuth is a historically interesting element for scientists, as a number of important discoveries in the metal physics world were made while studying it, including important observations about the effect of magnetic fields on electrical conductivity. 

Bismuth has a number of phases. A chemical phase is a distinctive configuration of the molecules that make up a substance. Water freezing into ice or boiling into steam are

April 3, 2017

Supernovae are cosmic explosions where a single star can become as bright as a billion stars combined. Even though supernovae are crucial to the Universe, including producing the elements necessary for life, many mysteries remain. What powers them? Which stars are exploding? How do stars die? Astrophysicists are combining clues from observations with theoretical modeling to finally address these issues. And just like with any good mystery, often the answers lead to even more questions.

Tony Piro, George Ellery Hale Distinguished Scholar in Theoretical Astrophysics, Carnegie Observatories

Registration opens Wednesday, February 15. Registration is required. 

April 6, 2017

Dr. Ostrander’s team has taken advantage of naturally occurring variations in dog populations in order to reveal the genetic mechanisms underlying both simple and complex traits. She will show how findings related to the genetic basis for canine disease, behavior, and morphologic traits frame our thinking of human growth regulation, disease, and population migration.

Dr. Elaine Ostrander, Chief, Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health
#DogGenetics

The Capital Science Evenings are made possible in part by the generous support of Margaret and Will Hearst.

Check back one week prior to the

April 17, 2017

The formation of galaxies like our Milky Way involves gravity, dark matter, gases, star formation, and stellar explosions. Theoretical astrophysics is now revealing this complex process by using the world’s most powerful supercomputers to simulate galaxy formation. Dr. Wetzel will describe dramatic new advances in understanding how galaxies form within the cosmic web of the Universe.

Andrew Wetzel, Caltech-Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellow

Registration opens Wednesday, February 15. Registration is required. 

April 27, 2017

‘Rocks’ from space have had a profound influence on the evolution of Earth – from the giant impact that created the Moon, to the asteroids that killed off the dinosaurs and, more locally, created the Chesapeake Bay, to tiny grains that may have brought prebiotic molecules that helped kick start life on Earth. The rate at which the Earth has accreted material from space has decayed dramatically since it formed. Nevertheless, ignoring the occasional large ‘hiccup’, some 30-40 thousand tons of extraterrestrial material fall to Earth every year as meteorites and cosmic dust. This has been a boon to science, providing samples of other stars and Mars, helping to develop our picture of the

The Spradling laboratory studies the biology of reproduction. By unknown means eggs reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging. The fruit fly Drosophila provides a favorable multicellular system for molecular genetic studies. The lab focuses on several aspects of egg development, called oogenesis, which promises to provide insight into the rejuvenation of the nucleus and surrounding cytoplasm. By studying ovarian stem cells, they are learning how cells maintain an undifferentiated state and how cell production is regulated by microenvironments known as niches. They are  also re-investigating the role of steroid and prostaglandin hormones in controlling the

High-elevation, low relief surfaces are common on continents. These intercontinental plateaus influence river networks, climate, and the migration of plants and animals. How these plateaus form is not clear. Researchers are studying the geodynamic processes responsible for surface uplift in the Hangay in central Mongolia to better understand the origin of high topography in continental interiors.

This work focuses on characterizing the physical properties and structure of the lithosphere and sublithospheric mantle, and the timing, rate, and pattern of surface uplift in the Hangay. They are carrying out studies in geomorphology, geochronology, thermochronology, paleoaltimetry,

Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain largely ignorant of the physical, chemical, and biological behavior of many of Earth’s carbon-bearing systems. The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to transform our understanding of carbon in Earth. At its heart, DCO is a community of scientists, from biologists to physicists, geoscientists to chemists, and many others whose work crosses these disciplinary lines,

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

Josh Simon uses observations of nearby galaxies to study problems related to dark matter, chemical evolution, star formation, and the process of galaxy evolution.

In one area he looks at peculiarly dark galaxies. Interestingly, some galaxies are so dark they glow with the light of just a few hundred Suns. Simon and colleagues have determined that a tiny, very dim galaxy orbiting the Milky Way, called Segue 1, is the darkest galaxy ever found and has the highest dark matter density ever found. His team has also laid to rest a debate about whether Segue 1 really is a galaxy or a globular cluster—a smaller group of stars that lacks dark matter. Their findings make Segue 1 a promising

The entire universe—galaxies, stars, and planets—originally condensed from a vast network of tenuous, gaseous filaments, known as the intergalactic medium, or the gaseous cosmic web. Most of the matter in this giant reservoir has never been incorporated into galaxies; it keeps floating about in intergalactic space, largely in the form of ionized hydrogen gas.

 Michael Rauch is interested in all aspects of the intergalactic medium. He uses large telescopes, like the Magellans, to take spectra—light that reveals the chemical makeup of distant objects— of background quasars, which are highly energetic and extremely remote. He is looking for evidence of gas clouds located between the

We are all made of stardust. Almost all of the chemical elements were produced by nuclear reactions in the interiors of stars. When a star dies a fraction of the elements is released into the inter-stellar gas clouds, out of which successive generations of stars form.

 Astronomers have a basic understanding of this chemical enrichment cycle, but chemical evolution and nulceosynthesis are still not fully understood. Andrew McWilliam measures the detailed chemical composition of Red Giant stars, which are about as old as the galaxy and retain their original chemical composition.  He is seeking answer to questions such as: What are the sites of nucleosynthesis? What modulates element

Luis Ho is a world-renowned black hole expert. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, Ho and colleagues have discovered most of the known black holes in nearby galaxies. Once thought rare, Ho and team instead established that black holes are so common they are integral galactic components. Indeed, black-hole formation appears to be an inevitable consequence of galaxy formation. Understanding why and how this phenomenon occurs is one of the dominant themes of observational and theoretical research. Ho’s particular focus is to understand the energetic events and physical processes associated with matter accreting onto these objects, and the broader connection between black hole formation and