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Hedy Lamarr’s scientific inventions topic of film, talk

Leslie New
Leslie New

We’ve inherited this idea that the species known as “inventor” is easily identified by markings like a white lab coat, furrowed brow, bottle-thick glasses and, of course, male-pattern baldness.

In which case, where does Hedy Lamarr fit in? Today, the self-taught scientist and inventor is credited (along with an equally unlikely collaborator, music composer George Antheil) with the visionary thinking, and tinkering, that resulted in military “radio-skipping” technology, aimed at blocking Axis powers from intercepting and jamming signals from radio-controlled Allied missiles during World War II.

“She and many other women have contributed to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but have been dismissed or deliberately forgotten by virtue of their gender,” said Leslie New, an assistant professor of statistics at Washington State University Vancouver.

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The Columbian 

 

Dramatic decline in genetic diversity of Northwest salmon charted

Bobbi Johnson

Columbia River Chinook salmon have lost as much as two-thirds of their genetic diversity, Washington State University researchers have found.

Writing in the journal PLOS One, the researchers say their analysis “provides the first direct measure of reduced genetic diversity for Chinook salmon from the ancient to the contemporary period.”

 “The big question is: Is it the dams or was it this huge fishing pressure when Europeans arrived?” said Bobbi Johnson, who did the study as part of her WSU doctorate in biological sciences. “That diversity could have been gone before they put the dams in.”

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Dear Dr. Universe: What can you tell me about parasites?

Lisa Shipley

A parasite is an organism that steals resources from another organism in order to survive. Our planet is home to all kinds of parasites and organisms that host them.

While some parasites live off plants, other parasites need animals. Lisa Shipley, a WSU professor who works with animals in the deer family, said some reindeers are host to a parasite that is so small we’d need a microscope to see it. It’s a kind of nematode more commonly called a brain worm.

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Ask Dr. Universe

Self-fertilizing fish reveal surprising genetic diversity

Luana Lins

As weird animals go, the mangrove killifish is in a class of its own.

It flourishes in both freshwater and water with twice as much salt as the ocean. It can live up to two months on land, breathing through its skin, before returning to the water with a series of spectacular 180-degree flips.

And it is one of only two vertebrates — the other is a close relative — that fertilizes itself.

This last part intrigues scientists like Luana Lins, a postdoctoral researcher in the Washington State University School of Biological Sciences.

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WSU News

WSU researchers see gene influencing performance of sleep-deprived people

Paul Whitney
Paul Whitney

Washington State University researchers have discovered a genetic variation that predicts how well people perform certain mental tasks when they are sleep-deprived.

Their research shows that individuals with a particular variation of the DRD2 gene are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when completing tasks that require cognitive flexibility, the ability to make appropriate decisions based on changing information.

“Our work shows that there are people who are resilient to the effects of sleep deprivation when it comes to cognitive flexibility. Surprisingly these same people are just as affected as everyone else on other tasks that require different cognitive abilities, such as maintaining focus,” said Paul Whitney, a WSU professor of psychology and lead author of the study, which appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.

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