Washington, DC— Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars. They’re stars’ dim, low-mass siblings and they fade in brightness over time. They’re fascinating to astronomers for a variety of reasons, but much about them remains unknown. New work from a Carnegie-led team reports the distances of a...
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Stanford, CA— Algae may hold the key to feeding the world’s burgeoning population. Don’t worry; no one is going to make you eat them. But because they are more efficient than most plants at taking in carbon dioxide from the air, algae could transform agriculture. If their efficiency could be transferred to crops, we could grow more food in less time using less water and less nitrogen fertilizer.

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Washington, DC— New work from Carnegie’s Peter Driscoll suggests Earth’s ancient magnetic field was significantly different than the present day field, originating from several poles rather than the familiar two. It is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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Washington, DC— Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe. It’s also the simplest—sporting only a single electron in each atom. But that simplicity is deceptive, because there is still so much we have to learn about hydrogen.

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Baltimore, MD—New work from Carnegie’s Allan Spradling and Lei Lei demonstrates that mammalian egg cells gain crucial cellular components at an early stage from their undifferentiated sister cells, called germ cells. This mechanism had previously only been documented in lower animals, and may be a key to understanding the egg’s unique properties. Their work is published via Science First Release.

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Fresh water constitutes less than 1% of the surface water on earth, yet the importance of this simple molecule to all life forms is immeasurable. Water represents the most vital reagent for chemical reactions occurring in a cell. In plants, water provides the structural support necessary for plant...
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The Carnegie Hubble program is an ongoing comprehensive effort that has a goal of determining the Hubble constant, the expansion rate of the universe,  to a systematic accuracy of 2%. As part of this program, astronomers are obtaining data at the 3.6 micron wavelength using the Infrared Array...
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In mammals, most lipids, such as fatty acids and cholesterol, are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. The goal of the Farber lab is to better understand the cell and...
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Globular clusters are spherical systems of some 100,000  gravitationally bound stars. They are among the oldest components of our galaxy and are key to understanding the age and scale of the universe. Previous measurements of their distances have compared the characteristics of different types of...
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Looking far into space is looking back in time. Staff astronomer Alan Dressler began his career at Carnegie some years ago as a Carnegie Fellow. Today, he and colleagues use Magellan and the Hubble Space Telescope to study galaxy evolution—how galaxy structures and shapes change, the pace and...
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Alycia Weinberger wants to understand how planets form, so she observes young stars in our galaxy and their disks, from which planets are born. She also looks for and studies planetary systems. Studying disks surrounding nearby stars help us determine the necessary conditions for planet formation....
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June 27, 2016

Washington, DC— It turns out that forests in the Andean and western Amazonian regions of South America break long-understood rules about how ecosystems are put together, according to new research led by Carnegie’s Greg Asner and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their findings could help scientists understand how tropical forests will respond to global climate change.

One of forest ecology’s fundamental undertakings has long focused on how tree growth is influenced by a host of environmental factors ranging from soils and elevation to hydrology and climate. These factors create an economy of resources that the trees must exploit through different

June 27, 2016

Washington, DC— Brown dwarfs are sometimes called failed stars. They’re stars’ dim, low-mass siblings and they fade in brightness over time. They’re fascinating to astronomers for a variety of reasons, but much about them remains unknown. New work from a Carnegie-led team reports the distances of a number of brown dwarfs, as well as low-mass stars, in The Astronomical Journal.

Brown dwarfs are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that powers stars. Their temperatures can range from nearly as hot as a star to as cool as a planet, and their masses also range between star-like and giant planet-like. They are of particular interest to scientists because they can offer

June 27, 2016

Washington, DC— Climate change assessments must be more relevant to policymakers’ needs, say Carnegie’s Katharine Mach and Stéphane Hallegatte of the World Bank’s Climate Change Policy Team.

In a commentary published by Nature and signed by colleagues, Mach and Hallegatte argue that coming off the Paris agreement late last year, ambition for fighting climate change is high. The authors assert that groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should capitalize on this increased enthusiasm by integrating studies and presenting their results in ways that are useful to policymakers.

“In the IPCCs sixth cycle of assessment, the climate-science community needs

June 24, 2016

Washington, DC— New work from Carnegie’s Peter Driscoll suggests Earth’s ancient magnetic field was significantly different than the present day field, originating from several poles rather than the familiar two. It is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Earth generates a strong magnetic field extending from the core out into space that shields the atmosphere and deflects harmful high-energy particles from the Sun and the cosmos. Without it, our planet would be bombarded by cosmic radiation, and life on Earth’s surface might not exist. The motion of liquid iron in Earth’s outer core drives a phenomenon called the geodynamo, which creates Earth’s magnetic field. This motion

Washington, DC— As astronomers continue to find more and more planets around stars beyond our own Sun, they are trying to discover patterns and features that indicate what types of planets are likely to form around different kinds of stars. This will hopefully inform and make more efficient the ongoing planet hunting process, and also help us better understand our own Solar System’s formation.  

When a star is young, it is surrounded by a rotating disk of gas and dust, from which its planets form. As such, it’s expected that chemical composition of the star should in some way affect the compositions of the planets orbiting it. Indeed, previous research has demonstrated that gas

Popular Mechanics: Clyde Tombaugh still discovered the dwarf planet, but this is the latest "precovery" image to be unearthed. More

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The 19th International Conference on Arabidopsis Research occured in Montreal, Canada from July 23 - 27. The 6 community-organized workshops were well-attended and included topics such as Plant Systems Biology, Phytohormone Signaling/Biosynthesis, Laser Microdissection, Proteomics, Bioinformatic Resources for Arabidopsis, and Annotation at TAIR/AraCyc. The conference opened with a keynote lecture by Chris Somerville, former director of Carnegie's Deparment of Plant Biology, on Developing Cellulosic Biofuels.Somerville is now director of the Energy

Washington, D.C.— A team of Carnegie scientists have found “beautifully preserved” 15 million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. Their findings are published in the inaugural issue of Geochemical Perspectives Letters.

The team—John Nance, John Armstrong, George Cody, Marilyn Fogel, and Robert Hazen—collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era—between 8 and 18 million years ago.

Ecphora is known for an unusual reddish-brown shell color, making it one of the most

Coral reefs are havens for marine biodiversity and underpin the economies of many coastal communities. But they are very sensitive to changes in ocean chemistry resulting from greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to pollution, warming waters, overdevelopment, and overfishing. Reefs use a mineral called aragonite, a naturally occurring form of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, to make their skeletons.  When carbon dioxide, CO2, from the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, it forms carbonic acid—the same stuff that makes soda fizz--making the ocean more acidic and thus more difficult for many marine organisms to grow their shells and skeletons and threatening coral reefs globally.


Fifty years ago, Americans led the world in math and science, claiming some of the most important inventions and technological breakthroughs of the 20th century.  Today, American 15-year-olds rank 25th in math compared to their peers worldwide.  Math for America strives to reclaim America’s reputation for scientific greatness by recruiting and supporting the very best secondary education math teachers.

Here in Washington DC, the majority of secondary school students are not math proficient.  Only about two thirds of secondary school math teachers are fully certified.Our goals follow:

Recruit candidates with strong math knowledge and teaching aptitude, which enhances the

Carnegie's Paul Butler has been leading work on a multiyear project to carry out the first reconnaissance of all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars within 150 light-years of the solar system (1 lightyear is about 9.4 trillion kilometers). His team is currently monitoring about 1,700 stars, including 1,000 Northern Hemisphere stars with the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the UCO Lick Observatory telescope in California, and 300 Southern Hemisphere stars with the Anglo-Australian telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The remaining Southern Hemisphere stars are being surveyed with Carnegie's new Magellan telescopes in Chile. By 2010 the researchers hope to have completed their planetary census.

Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Now that many genomes from algae to mosses and trees are publicly available, this information can be mined using bioinformatics to build models to understand gene function and ultimately for designing plants for a wide spectrum of applications.

 Carnegie researchers have pioneered a genome-wide gene association network Aranet that can assign functions to genes for which no function had

Roiling cauldrons of liquid-laden material flow within Earth’s rocky interior. Understanding how this matter moves and changes is essential to deciphering Earth’s formation and evolution as well as the processes that create seismic activity, such as earthquakes and volcanoes. Bjørn Mysen probes this hidden environment in the laboratory and, based on his results, models can help explain what goes on in this remote realm.

Mysen investigates changes in the atomic properties of molten silicates at high pressures and temperatures that pervade the interior Earth. Silicates comprise most of the Earth's crust and mantle. He uses devices, such as the diamond anvil cell, to subject melts

Ronald Cohen primarily studies materials through first principles research—computational methods that begin with the most fundamental properties of a system, such as the nuclear charges of atoms, and then calculate what happens to a material under different conditions, such as pressure and temperature. He particularly focuses on properties of materials under extreme conditions such as high pressure and high temperature. This research applies to various topics and problems in geophysics and technological materials.

Some of his work focuses on understanding the behavior of high-technology materials called ferroelectrics—non-conducting crystals with an electric dipole moment similar

John Mulchaey, director of the Observatories,  investigates groups and clusters of galaxies, elliptical galaxies, dark matter—the invisible material that makes up most of the universe—active galaxies and black holes. He is also a scientific editor for The Astrophysical Journal and is actively involved in public outreach and education.

Most galaxies including our own Milky Way, exist in collections known as groups, which are the most common galaxy systems and are important laboratories for studying galaxy formation and evolution. Mulchaey studies galaxy groups to understand the processes that affect most galaxies during their lifetimes.

As a graduate student, Mulchaey led

For three decades, Chris Field has pioneered novel approaches to ecosystem research to understand climate and environmental changes. He is the founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology on the Stanford University campus—home to a small, but remarkably productive team of researchers who investigate the basics of climate change. Field has authored more than 200 scientific publications and is cochair of the U. N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 2. The IPCC Fourth Assessment, for which Field was a coordinating author, was published in 2007. He was coeditor of the March 2012 IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme