In summer 2010, Los Angeles was losing about 100 gallons of water per person per day to the atmosphere through the evaporation and plant uptake of lawns and trees. Lawns accounted for 70 percent of the water loss, while trees accounted for 30 percent, according to a University of Utah study published in Water Resources Research.
The results, based on measurements taken before Los Angeles enacted mandatory watering restrictions in 2014, shows a pattern of systemic overwatering in the city’s lawns, and a surprising water efficiency in tree cover. Further, the researchers found a correlation between water loss and household income.
“The soil was so moist that plants were not limited in water use,” says Elizaveta Litvak, postdoctoral scholar and first author of the new study. “It was the maximum water loss possible.”
Three years ago, a University of Utah-led team discovered that an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy contained a supermassive black hole, then the smallest known galaxy to harbor such a giant black hole. The findings suggested that the dwarfs were likely tiny leftovers of larger galaxies that were stripped of their outer layers after colliding into other, larger galaxies. Now, the same group of U astronomers and colleagues have found two more ultra-compact dwarf galaxies with supermassive black holes. Together, the three examples suggest that black holes lurk at the center of most of these objects, potentially doubling the number of supermassive black holes known in the universe. The black holes make up a high percentage of the compact galaxies’ total mass, supporting the theory that the dwarfs are remnants of massive galaxies that were ripped apart by larger galaxies.
Tabitha Buehler, Assistant Professor (Lecturer) in the Physics and Astronomy Department, is developing top-notch astronomy education and outreach programs with a student group called the AstronomUrs. These students, with Buehler’s guidance, give presentations on-campus and off-campus to local schools, Boy Scouts, and other community groups. They also hold free public star parties on-campus each Wednesday evening, weather permitting.
“We estimate that about 2,000 people attended our weekly star parties last year, and the AstronomUrs presented to over 75 additional groups, reaching upwards of 10,000 people in the community last year,” says Buehler. “This success is largely due to Paul Ricketts, my associate, who gives most of the presentations and hosts the star parties.”
The College of Science Research Scholar Award is given annually to one graduating student the graduating class who demonstrates a record of exceptional success in research and education. From the Class of 2017, we have selected Ethan Lake, a highly-accomplished student who is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Physics and Mathematics this year.
Doon Gibbs is currently the Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Brookhaven is a multi-program U.S. Department of Energy laboratory with nearly 3,000 employees, more than 4,000 facility users each year, and an annual budget of about $600 million.
Despite their mysterious nature, two black holes recently discovered by University of Utah scientists are shedding light on how galaxies form. The black holes, located in the Virgo galaxy cluster, are the second and third that U. astrophysicists have discovered at the center of what they call "ultracompact" galaxies, formations that could illuminate how the universe formed and evolved.
University of Utah professors Bradley R. Cairns, professor and chair of Oncological Sciences and senior director of Basic Science; Dana Carroll, distinguished professor of Biochemistry; and Christopher D. Hacon, distinguished professor of Mathematics, were raised to a high honor in science today with their election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
The basement of the James Fletcher building has no windows, but the view is anything but boring. Dozens of rows of exhibit cases burst with wires, gadgets and myriad materials fit for a mad scientist’s workshop. The scientist himself stands out from the chaos in a technicolor shirt and a tie-dye lab coat. Adam Beehler, the lecture demonstration specialist for the Department of Physics & Astronomy, is the U’s own Bill Nye; he uses the facility to develop and build demonstrations to help instructors teach complex physical concepts with engaging activities.
One of the most baffling mysteries of the universe has triggered a major new effort in western Utah — a dramatic expansion of a vast scientific instrument spread across the desert.
"We're going from 300 square miles to 1,200 square miles," said John Matthews, a research professor at the University of Utah and program manager of the Cosmic Ray Physics Group.
Scientists hope the expanded array of cosmic ray detectors will zero in on a possibly violent force in the cosmos and — perhaps — finally explain an astounding observation 25 years ago. That's when scientists in Utah detected a tiny proton that was so incredibly powerful it was dubbed the "God particle."
Tom Alberts, assistant professor of mathematics, has a wide range of research interests in statistical mechanics and probability theory.
Since joining the U in 2013, Alberts has worked with numerous undergraduate and graduate students, including Mackenzie Simper – who won a prestigious Churchill Scholarship in 2016 and is now at Cambridge University.
“Working with students on research problems is probably the best aspect of being a math professor. A student’s curiosity about math is infectious, and it is very rewarding to see them become attached to a specific problem, gain their own intuition for it, and try out their own ideas for attacking it. Students often have a completely original perspective on old problems that, with proper guidance, can often lead to significant breakthroughs,” says Alberts.