Professor of Astrophysics Chryssa Kouveliotou and Assistant Professor of Astrophysics Alexander van der Horst were members of an international team of scientists who identified previously unseen components of gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the cosmos. These explosive events emit extreme amounts of energy and are accompanied by an afterglow of light over a broad range of energies that fades with time. The researchers observed a gamma-ray burst with an afterglow that featured the highest energy photons—a trillion times more energetic than visible light—ever detected in a burst. Their discovery was published in the journal Nature.
Professor of Physics Neil Johnson led a team of researchers in developing a mapping model, the first of its kind, to track how online hate clusters thrive. Online hate spreads globally through self-organized, scalable clusters that interconnect to form resilient networks across multiple social media platforms, countries and languages. Published in the journal Nature, the team’s project seeks to understand how hate evolves online by mapping how clusters spread their narratives and attract new recruits. The mapping model could help social media platforms and law enforcement in the battle against hate online.
The Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics (IDDP), a newly created GW research platform supported by a $5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will fight the rise of distorted and misleading information online. With a team of researchers spanning political communication, journalism, physics, international affairs, computer science and engineering, IDDP will work to educate national policymakers and journalists on strategies to grapple with the threat to democracy posed by digital propaganda and deception. IDDP is supported by a $5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Associate Professor of Anthropology David Braun joined an archaeological team in Ethiopia that discovered the oldest evidence of stone tool production, dating back more than 2.58 million years. The excavation took several years before the researchers exposed a layer of animal bones and hundreds of pieces of chipped stone representing the earliest evidence of our direct ancestors making and using stone knives.
Assistant Professor of Biology Keryn Gedan co-authored new research that highlights the growing recognition that sea-level rise will mostly impact rural land—much of which is privately owned—complicating the complex tradeoffs between the value of different land uses. Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, their work is the first to synthesize the growing number of studies of land conversion driven by sea-level rise.
Detailed Early Observations of a Nearby Supernova and Associated Jet Cocoon Provide New Insights about Gamma-ray Bursts
Professor of Astrophysics Chryssa Kouveliotou and an international team of researchers provided new insights into Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most powerful explosions in the cosmos, and their relations to supernova. GRB explosions are so massive that they should always produce visible supernovae. But some supernova do not have associated GRBs. The global research group observed a hot cocoon around the jets of matter that serves as the missing link connecting supernovae and GRBs.
James Clark, the Ronald Weintraub Professor of Biology, led an international team of researchers who discovered a new bird-like species of dinosaur called Xiyunykus pengi during an expedition to Xinjiang, China. The discovery fills in a missing evolutionary link for an enigmatic group of dinosaurs that share many characteristics with birds, including bird-like skulls and many small teeth instead of the large, sharp teeth seen in other dinosaurs.
A collection of censored political cartoons by fired Pittsburgh Post-Gazette artist Rob Rogers were first seen by a public audience at a nationally recognized Corcoran School of the Arts and Design exhibition titled “Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers.” The gallery features 10 unpublished Rogers cartoons and eight sketches.
The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design acquired hundreds of sculptures, paintings and photographs from the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s permanent collection, laying the foundation for an estimable research collection that will be accessible to Corcoran students as well as faculty, staff and the public. The 18 paintings, 642 photographs, 93 prints and 15 sculptures gifted to the Corcoran School include works by Ansel Adams, Eugene Delacroix, Sally Mann, Mary Ellen Mark and William Wegman.
Professor of Chemistry Stuart Licht and his team of researchers are finalists in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition for their C2CNT project, a low-energy, low-cost method of transforming carbon dioxide into harmless and widely-used carbon nanotubes. The greenhouse gas reduction technology developed in Licht’s lab may potentially impact climate change.
Professor of Anthropology Alison Brooks led a team of international collaborators, including scientists from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, that discovered evidence of early humans in East Africa using coloring materials and obtaining a range of raw materials from distant sources— activities which imply the existence of social networks—about 320,000 years ago, much earlier than previously thought.
A study by Bernard Wood, professor of human origins at the GW Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, and a team of Columbian College alumni showed that the average brain size of human ancestors increased gradually over 3 million years, growing to more than three times larger than our closest living relatives.
Four Columbian College astrophysicists are part of a global group of scientists who collaborated to identify and study the first confirmed observation of two merging neutron stars, a so-called kilonova. The existence of a kilonova—an explosive event roughly 1,000 times brighter than a nova—had long been suggested but was never definitively witnessed until now.
An international team of scientists including Arnaud Martin, assistant professor of biology, made a breakthrough in understanding how genetics and evolution work in concert to shape biodiversity by investigating the complex color patterns of butterfly wings. Martin used CRISPR gene-editing technology to study the role of the WntA gene in the formation of shapes and colors on butterfly wings—and how they diversify.