University of Texas at Austin

Friday, May 22, 2009

Covering the over and under

Richard Matzner, digs black holes

Richard Matzner, digs black holes

[caption id="attachment_585" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Pablo Munguia, digs pen shell clams"]Pablo Munguia, digs pen shell clams[/caption]Today, Further Findings points readers to two research stories–one in outer space and the other under the sea–posted elsewhere on The University of Texas at Austin Web site.

Aaron Dubrow, the science writer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), writes about the research of Richard Matzner, an astrophysicist at the university.

Matzner uses TACC’s Ranger supercomputer to simulate binary black hole mergers and search for gravitational waves. The waves were predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but have yet to be observed. Matzner thinks we’re getting close.

The discovery of gravitational waves “will be a new way of looking at very distant parts of the universe,” Matzner said, “and we anticipate that those results will be very important for cosmology.”

On the College of Natural Sciences Web site, writer Daniel Oppenheimer’s story gets under the surface of Pablo Munguia’s research to understand how habitat destruction affects different kinds of species and communities.

Munguia, an assistant research professor at the Marine Science Institute, uses a seawater bivalve, the pen shell, as his test subject.

He explains why:

“… if one is interested in understanding habitat destruction, you can’t just go around destroying whole forests–it is logistically impossible and ethically wrong,” Munguia said. “But with pen shells, you can create them and simulate destruction by removing them. Pen shell communities can be moved around, placed either close together or far apart, and anchored at different times of the year. You can’t do that with coral reefs or forests.”

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