Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

CASW Articles

October 23, 2015

by Steph Guerra | 

Evolution—the change in heritable traits over successive generations—has long served as one of the central tenets of biology. But new research indicates much can be gained from studying regions of the genome that do not change. Termed “ultraconserved elements” or UCEs, these portions of the genome have remained unchanged for 300 to 500 million years, appearing in the same state across multiple animal species—from humans to dinosaurs to platypuses.  

October 23, 2015

by Liz Droge-Young |

To solve a problem, sometimes you need to consider the exact opposite of what you think you know. Take trying to see the minute details of biological units, such as neurons in the brain. Instead of attempting to improve magnification on such a small scale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineer Edward Boyden asked, why not increase the size of the structure?

October 23, 2015

by Kelsey Ellis | 

How do you make the outer space equivalent of a golf putt from New York City to a soup can in Los Angeles? For Alan Stern, it takes 11 years of lobbying, four years of planning and building, nine-plus years in transit, and roughly $700 million.

It also took “a labor of love, and an incredible commitment to meet this goal,” said Stern, the principal investigator for NASA’s New Horizons mission.

October 21, 2015

by Vivian Hemmelder | 

Unlike the early explorers who sailed vast oceans to reach faraway shores, planetary scientist Sara Seager will never set foot on new lands she may discover. Her goal is to find habitable exoplanets, worlds that are not merely outside our solar system but many light-years away.

October 20, 2015

by Sanjay Yengul | 

On Jan. 19, 2006, a powerful Atlas V rocket thundered off from Florida carrying NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. It got relatively little public attention. But its acceleration was singularly brutal: the destination of its payload was Pluto, over 3 billion miles away. The nuclear-powered New Horizons craft, carrying a mere 1,000 pounds of instruments, went on to set NASA interplanetary speed records the whole way.

October 17, 2015

by Andrew Tomes | 

For Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Penny Chisholm, the most exciting apps will not download to your phone. Only bacteria can run them. 

Chisholm studies a group of photosynthesizing bacteria that developed what she describes as their own “app store”—a set of genes shared and swapped between individual cells that enable them to thrive in a range of environmental conditions wider than what their competitors can tolerate.

October 17, 2015

by Jeff Bessen | 

The federal government has assembled a fast-track committee to encourage research into microorganisms, reflecting their increasingly important role in human health and the Earth’s climate. 

October 17, 2015

by Casey Gilman | 

The new big thing in space is small—cubesats. A miniature satellite or cubesat is a box a few inches on a side, around a liter in volume and weighing about as much as a medium-sized pumpkin. Cubesats have been on the space scene for about 15 years, with hundreds launched, but many still regard them as little more than toys.

October 17, 2015

by Ambika Kamath | 

Many Americans live one paycheck away from street homelessness, and those most at risk may be older, according to new research presented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Oct. 11 by Margot Kushel, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. 

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