News

Harvard researchers develop framework to explain shape of plant stems

Harvard researchers develop framework to explain shape of plant stems

March 24, 2017

It is well known that as plants grow, their stems and shoots respond to outside signals such as light and gravity. But if all plants have similar stimuli, why are there so many different stem shapes? Why do a weeping willow branches grow downward while nearby poison ivy shoots upward?

Using simple mathematical ideas, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) constructed a framework that explains and quantifies the different shapes of plant stems.

Harvard researchers close in on how ears convert sounds into brain signals

Harvard researchers close in on how ears convert sounds into brain signals

March 22, 2017

At their simplest, the sounds that surround us — from a baby’s cry to heavy metal — are merely vibrations in the air. It’s the job of the ears to capture those vibrations and convert them into neural signals that can be processed by the brain, enabling us to make sense of our aural environment.

How does the conversion from mechanical vibration to electrical signal occur? Harvard scientists are closing in on answers.

Creative path through Harvard Forest

Creative path through Harvard Forest

March 15, 2017

When artist David Buckley Borden arrived at the modest shack that serves as his Harvard Forest workshop, he found a shelf still loaded with old gear and field equipment — holdovers from the building’s previous life as a storage shed.

His first thought was to clean house, but as he went through the objects, he understood that each said something about the forest and the people who work there. Left-behind stuff turned out to be exactly what he needed.

Poking at consciousness

Poking at consciousness

March 8, 2017

Consciousness — our sense of ourselves in the world — seems at first glance to be a profoundly human trait, the basis of civilization. But its roots may rest in biology and social behaviors we share not only with other primates, but possibly with many other living things.

7 projects win funding for climate change solutions

7 projects win funding for climate change solutions

March 6, 2017

Seven research projects led by scientists, historians, economists, and public health experts from five Harvard Schools will share about $1 million in the third round of grants awarded by the Climate Change Solutions Fund. This initiative, which was launched by Harvard President Drew Faust, encourages multidisciplinary research that seeks creative solutions to climate change.

Making math more Lego-like

Making math more Lego-like

March 2, 2017

Galileo called mathematics the “language with which God wrote the universe.” He described a picture-language, and now that language has a new dimension.

The Harvard trio of Arthur Jaffe, the Landon T. Clay Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Science, postdoctoral fellow Zhengwei Liu, and researcher Alex Wozniakowski has developed a 3-D picture-language for mathematics with potential as a tool across a range of topics, from pure math to physics.

A mother’s influence

A mother’s influence

February 28, 2017

Think of all the things your mom taught you — sit up straight, close your mouth when you chew, remember to say please and thank you … the list goes on.

When it comes to learning how to behave, though, humans aren’t alone in looking to their mothers.