News: Research


Parker Solar Probe’s first discoveries: odd phenomena in space weather, solar wind 

December 4, 2019

In four papers published Dec. 4 in Nature, researchers describe a flood of new data from the Parker Solar Probe's landmark mission that will help us understand everything from the nature of stars to improving our forecasting of solar storms that can affect electronics on Earth.  In its first year, the Parker Solar Probe learned new information about two types of major space weather events. It also saw the first signs of the zone around the sun where cosmic dust disappears—predicted decades ago, but never seen—as well as an entirely new phenomenon: bizarre “switchbacks” in the solar wind that flows off the surface of the sun.  

Alum and pioneering inventor of the lithium-ion battery to receive Nobel Prize on Dec. 10 

December 4, 2019

At a Dec. 10 ceremony in Sweden, John B. Goodenough will be honored for pioneering breakthroughs that led to the widespread use of the lithium-ion battery—and helping spark the wireless revolution. The descendants of his batteries now power modern smartphones and hold the potential to one day sustainably harvest solar and wind power.

Astronomers propose a novel method of finding atmospheres on rocky worlds 

December 4, 2019

In a series of four papers in the Astrophysical Journal, a team of astronomers, including Assoc. Prof. Jacob Bean, proposes a new method of using NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to determine whether a rocky exoplanet has an atmosphere. The technique, which involves measuring the planet’s temperature as it passes behind its star and then comes back into view, is significantly faster than more traditional methods of atmospheric detection like transmission spectroscopy.  

Chemists invent innovative way to create commonly used molecules called olefins 

December 4, 2019

UChicago chemists have discovered an efficient method to make tetra-substituted olefins, a kind of olefin with four different attachments—used in everything from medicines to new ways to store data. With the new method, they can easily and precisely select the four different attachments. Additionally, their catalyst cuts the number of steps to make the compounds from around seven to two or three.

Study finds ‘dark patterns’ that influence shoppers’ decision-making

December 4, 2019

In a first-of-its-kind survey, a group of University of Chicago and Princeton researchers found that “dark patterns” on shopping websites were startlingly common—appearing on more than 1 out of 10 sites and used frequently by many of the most popular online merchants. Dark patterns include sites that sign you up for recurring payments under the guise of a free trial, use countdown clocks that warn you a product is running out of stock, or that tell you other people in your area have already purchased the item. 

WTTW: Prof. Dan Hooper explains the four fundamental puzzles stumping cosmologists

November 26, 2019

Prof. Dan Hooper appears on WTTW to discuss the very first moments of the universe. In his new book, “At the Edge of Time: Exploring the Mysteries of our Universe’s First Seconds,” Hooper explains that there are four big fundamental puzzles stumping cosmologists right now: why does matter exist; what are dark matter and dark energy; and what caused cosmic inflation?

PSD in the News - November 2019

November 25, 2019

This month, PSD researchers have been featured for inventing tiny organic films that could enable new electronics, discovering a new mathematical formula while studying neutrinos, and demonstrating how hackers could use Wi-Fi signals to track you inside your home.

Big Brains Podcast: The hunt for alien life and exoplanets

November 18, 2019

David Charbonneau, astronomer at Harvard University and recipient of an honorary degree from UChicago, has made it his life’s goal to search the stars for habitable planets and alien life. On this episode of Big Brains, he tells his fascinating story about the history of exoplanetary research, his journey as a planet hunter and the stunning discoveries he’s made along the way. 

Scientists at Fermilab break ground on beamline for pioneering DUNE experiment

November 15, 2019

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and its international partners on Nov. 14 broke ground on an innovative experiment that aims to answer some of the biggest questions about the universe.

The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility will one day produce the world’s most intense, high-energy neutrino beam, sending trillions of particles 1,300 kilometers underground to South Dakota as part of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Hosted by Fermilab, a U.S. Department of Energy lab affiliated with the University of Chicago, DUNE brings together more than 1,000 people from 30-plus countries to tackle questions that keep physicists awake at night: Why is the universe full of matter and not antimatter, or no matter at all? Do protons, one of the building blocks of atoms (and of us), ever decay? How do black holes form? 

​Neutrinos lead to unexpected discovery in basic math

November 15, 2019

Quanta Magazine highlights three physicists--Stephen Parke of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Xining Zhang of the University of Chicago and Peter Denton of Brookhaven National Laboratory—who discovered a new mathematical formula while studying neutrinos. 

How hackers could use Wi-Fi to track you inside your home

November 15, 2019

A new study from University of Chicago and University of California, Santa Barbara researchers finds that external attackers can use inexpensive technology to turn Wi-Fi signals into motion detectors, monitoring activity inside a building without being detected themselves. 

 With only a small, commercially available Wi-Fi receiver, an attacker from outside the target site can measure the strength of signals emitted from connected devices and monitor a site remotely for motion, sensing whether a room is occupied. The research, led by leading UChicago computer scientists Heather Zheng and Ben Zhao, reveals the technique of these attacks as well as potential defenses. 

​Invention of teeny-tiny organic films could enable new electronics

November 8, 2019

Scientists at the University of Chicago, in collaboration with researchers at Cornell University and Argonne National Laboratory, have discovered an easy, efficient way to grow extremely thin films of organic materials. The findings, published Nov. 7 in Science, could be a stepping-stone to future electronics or technologies with new abilities. 

UChicago researcher part of $4 million collaboration to combine English, computational literacy

October 31, 2019

With a $4 million grant over five years, a team of researchers including Prof. Diana Franklin, research associate professor at UChicago CS and director of computer science education at UChicago STEM Education, will develop, pilot, and implement a new curriculum designed to promote both computational thinking and language arts in young students.

PSD in the News - October 2019

October 30, 2019

This month, PSD researchers have been featured for shaping the emerging field of AI, developing blood tests to detect diabetic complications and cancer, creating new models for moon formation, and more.

A proof about where symmetries can’t exist

October 30, 2019

A year ago a trio of mathematicians solved what’s called Zimmer’s conjecture, which is named after mathematician and University of Chicago president, Robert Zimmer. Their proof stands as one of the biggest mathematical achievements in recent years. President Robert Zimmer discusses the original question and geometric symmetries with Quanta Magazine.