Discoveries, breakthroughs and data

From researchers at the University of Washington.

Acapella in the ocean

Dive into the ocean east of Greenland during the winter and you will be treated to bowhead whales singing loudly 24 hours a day. That was one of the findings of research by Kate Stafford, an oceanographer at the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory. A 2012 study by Stafford reported that the whales were singing continuously during the winter breeding season, the first hint that there may be a healthy population in the area. Bowhead whales were hunted nearly to extinction in the 1600s. Read more.

Cavities, beware: Peptides are coming

Imagine not going through costly and uncomfortable dental treatments to rebuild tooth enamel and treat dental cavities. The UW has designed a natural product that uses proteins to fix those problems. “Remineralization guided by peptides is a healthy alternative to current dental care,” says lead author Mehmet Sarikaya, professor of materials science and engineering. “Peptide-enabled formulations will be simple and would be implemented in over-the-counter or clinical products.” Read more.

Alternative energy equals better health

Global health stands little chance of getting better as long as electricity and transport fuels are still in use. That is the finding of Scott Montgomery, geoscientist and affiliate in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, who says that diseases caused or worsened by air pollution and unsafe drinking water go hand in hand with rapidly growing economies. “Energy is the key to many things dealing with public health,” he explains. Read more.

Paparazzi catches up with this runaway star

A supergiant star is hurtling through space at 300,000 miles per hour, a velocity that would get you from the Earth to the Moon in about 48 minutes. Kathryn Neugent, a doctoral student in astronomy and the lead author of a paper in The Astronomical Journal, was part of the team that discovered this runaway star in one of the Milky Way’s satellite galaxies. What are the chances of it hitting anything? Not great. “Space,” Neugent says, “is big!” Whew. Read more.

Where have you been hiding all these years?

Never had humans laid eyes on a fearsome-looking anglerfish and her parasitically attached mate that makes its home deep down off Sao Jorge Island in the Azores, west of Portugal. Then a submersible operated by the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation recorded video footage of these elusive creatures. “This is a unique and never-before-seen-thing,” raved Ted Pietsch, professor emeritus of aquatic and fishery sciences and curator emeritus of fishes at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Read more.

Making the foreign familiar

Introducing babies to a foreign language ignites learning and improves cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving. But what if a second language is not spoken in the home? A study from the Institute of Learning & Brain Sciences found that babies can learn a second language outside of the home using a play-based, intensive, English-language method and curriculum. Read more.

Dementia and friendship

When a person develops dementia, it’s easy for that person’s friends to bail out. But there is a lot to learn from those folks who have found ways to keep up those friendships, says anthropology professor Janelle Taylor in a new study. “People I have spoken with found expected positive things—being childlike, for example, in ways they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to before. They felt free to to hold hands or sing songs together—the sweet and nice things that grownups learn not to do.” Read more.

Trawling for trouble

Fishermen drag nets along the bottom of the sea to catch about one-fifth of the fish consumed worldwide. Fisheries Professor Ray Hilborn’s study discovered that it took between two and six years for the marine plants and animals to recover. Hilborn: “These findings enable us to evaluate the trade-off between fish production for food, and the environmental cost of different harvesting techniques.” Read more.

City centers and residential centers

Even with a nationwide resurgence of downtown living, the average white person still lives farther from the city center than the average person of color. That’s the finding of Lee Fiorio, a graduate student fellow at the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology. Examining data from 52 metropolitan areas, Florio found that each of four racial and ethnic groups moved, to some degree, away from the city center but blacks remained the closest and whites moved farthest. Read more.

Plastic is not beachy clean

Go to a Puget Sound beach and you will find much more than sun, sand and waves. You will also come across plastic microfibers smaller than a grain of rice, according to oceanography student Frances Eshom-Arzadon, who made this discovery as part of her senior thesis project. As for the impact? Says UW Tacoma lecturer Julie Masura: “We have yet to correlate the presence of plastic and other environmental factors.” Read more.

Conservation won’t keep you healthy

If you thought conservation projects that protect forests and encourage a diversity of plants and animals will benefit human health, think again. The fact is, it won’t protect humans from infectious disease, according to a study led by Chelsea Wood, assistant professor in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. “Conservation is not a disease-control tool,” she explains. “Urbanization is good for people’s health.” Read more.

The plague of stereotypes

When you think of a 6-year-old child, what comes to mind? A wide-eyed kid eager to learn. Not someone harboring stereotypes. But the fact is, first-graders already embrace stereotypes that boys are better than girls at robotics and computer programming. “If a girl thinks that boys are going to better than girls at robotics and programming, she might think, ‘Why should I put myself out there,’” says Allison Master, research scientist with the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. Read more.

Transgender and serving in the military

Transgender people make up a small percentage of active-duty U.S. military personnel but their experience in the service may yield long-term, positive effects on their mental health and quality of life. So says a School of Social Work research study that is part of a national, groundbreaking longitudinal study of older LGBT adults. One study estimates about 134,000 transgender veterans in the U.S. Read more.

The payoff of private school

If states provided financial incentives to attend private colleges over comparable public schools, states could increase college graduation rates and save money. That’s the finding of a report by William M. Zumeta, professor of public policy and higher education in the College of Education. For a large number of students, receiving as little as $1,000 in extra state aid would help them get through private school and save the state government money.

Photograph your food, lose weight

That tantalizing Instagram photo of your lunch not only can make your friends jealous. It also can help you eat healthy and lose weight. It’s even more effective than keeping a journal of the food you consume. “The benefit of photos is that it’s more fun to do than taking out a booklet or typing hundreds of words of descriptions in an app,” explains Christina Chung, a doctoral student in human centered design and engineering who was the lead author in the study. Read more.