Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

All content by Robert Starr

After four years, writer has column down to a science

Robert Starr May 8, 2015

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing senior staffers to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting...


Science Buzz: Sexist reviewers, bullies, universal blood and smartphone pain relief

Robert Starr May 4, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link...


Science Scene: Vaping not as bad as smoking, but still raises health concerns

Robert Starr April 29, 2015

Cigarette use in teenagers fell by over 40 percent from 2011–2014, according to a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA released this past month. That’s the good news. The...


Science Buzz: Invisibility, homeopathy hearings and bees

Robert Starr April 27, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...


Science Buzz: Dog bonding, dark matter interactions and eating crickets

Robert Starr April 20, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...


Science Scene: Scientists dream of understanding why we dream

Robert Starr April 15, 2015

You may not understand why you dreamed about riding Bevo naked down Sixth Street last night, but neither do the best scientists in the field of dream research. Scientists have several theories on why...


Science Buzz: Brontosaurus revenge and Daspletosaurus bites, exercising spouses, fast-food recovery and eating out

Robert Starr April 13, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...


Science Buzz: The LHC is back, free apps aren’t free, rats and Texas tarantulas

Robert Starr April 7, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...


Science Scene: Sexual attraction based on cultural and individual preferences

Robert Starr April 1, 2015

With Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” hitting the top of the charts, it was only a matter of time before scientists looked into whether “boys like a little more booty to hold...


Science Buzz: Twin astronauts, water shortages, Martian marathons and too much math homework

Robert Starr March 30, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...


Science Buzz: 3-D printers, untraditional tongues and very resilient beetles

Robert Starr March 23, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week's top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link...

Distractions in lecture lead to D-grades in class

Robert Starr March 5, 2015

1920s stage performer Harry Kahne, “The Man with the Multiple Mind,” had an act in which he would write five words on a chalkboard simultaneously, using chalk in both hands, both feet and his...


Science Buzz: The dress that stopped the Internet, in vitro fertilization, p-values and video game AI

Robert Starr March 2, 2015

Editor’s note: In this recurring column, science writer Robert Starr rounds up the previous week’s top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your link might...

Science Buzz: HIV treatments and tasteless penguins

Robert Starr February 23, 2015

Editor’s note: In this new recurring column, science writer Robert Starr will round up the previous week's top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and...


Science Buzz: Droughts, Plastics, Vaccines and Lasers

Robert Starr February 16, 2015

Editor’s note: In this new recurring column, science writer Robert Starr will round up the previous week's top science stories. Have a suggestion? Send a tweet to @RobertKStarr, and your...


Science Scene: Study sheds light on dark side of binge-watching

Robert Starr February 5, 2015

When the “Are you still watching ‘Glee’?” message pops up on your TV after 10 straight hours of powering through the second season, it’s hard not to think Netflix is judging...


Science Scene: Donated blood goes on journey

Robert Starr January 22, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series on blood donations. The first installment focused on what happens during the blood donation process. The second focuses on what happens to blood...

Blood_Donation illo-page-001

Science Scene: Donating blood is A-Positive way to help others

Robert Starr January 21, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series on blood donations. The second installment, which focuses on what happens to blood after it has been donated, will run in the paper tomorrow. Doctors...


Science Scene: Condom failure could be attributed to incorrect application

Robert Starr November 20, 2014

A 2012 Huffington Post article named UT the number one “Most Sexually Liberated College” in the country. While this distinction has yet to make it into the Longhorn promotional materials for...


Science Scene: UT postdoctoral student studies rapid evolution in lizards

Robert Starr November 6, 2014

As a child, Yoel Stuart played with snakes. Now as a postdoctoral researcher at UT, he plays with anole lizards as a scientist. A recent study he worked on has received a lot of attention after his...


Ouija board illusion is a result of ideomotor effect

Robert Starr October 23, 2014

With the iOS 8 update this week, UT students can now use their new iPhones to purchase snacks at vending machines across campus, and this is in addition to the set of features that allows owners to communicate...


Stradivarius violins don’t separate themselves in terms of sound from new violins

Robert Starr October 9, 2014

ACL kicked off with a bang last weekend and will conclude this weekend with its raucous embodiment of the “work hard, play hard” UT mentality. In our world of Spotify, earbuds and iPhones,...


Researchers look for the best strategy to beat the class curve

Robert Starr September 25, 2014

When classes are graded on a curve, friends can turn to foes. Two students can study together, but there’s often still an element of distrust. When one of the students tells another a piece of information,...


Science Scene: “Freshman 15” is closer to “Freshman Five”

Robert Starr September 18, 2014

Of all the myths that strike fear into incoming freshmen — hours of dry textbook reading, choosing the wrong major, ending up with a homicidal roommate — none inspire more terror than the dreaded “Freshman...


Despite claims, handwriting is not a window to the soul

Robert Starr September 11, 2014

From love letters hesitantly passed across middle school classrooms to cryptic prescriptions scrawled by doctors, handwriting has long been overanalyzed. Statements like, “Look at the way he...


Science Scene: Helping Others Increases Happiness

Robert Starr September 4, 2014

The average social media stream as of late has been overrun with people, across all ages, genders and backgrounds, taking the “ice bucket challenge.” The specifics of the challenge vary, but...


Keyboards use QWERTY for historical reasons rather than practical

Robert Starr August 28, 2014

Back in 2010, Austin was home to the Ultimate Typing Championship, where the winner, Sean Wrona, typed an extremely difficult passage full of unusual symbols and punctuation with an average speed of 124...


Science Scene: Need a shot of inspiration for that essay due tomorrow? Maybe try a shot of vodka

Robert Starr August 4, 2014

“Write drunk; edit sober” is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, even though he never said it. Still, there may be something to the sentiment. Hemingway was certainly known for his indulgences...


Science Scene: Sick of breathing air? Try fluorocarbons.

Robert Starr July 21, 2014

Science doesn’t need to justify itself. Much like climbing Mount Everest because it was there, there’s a solid amount of research that was done just because the scientists could. A stand out...


Summer has finally started in Austin; here’s how to not get burned.

Robert Starr July 14, 2014

After a tough winter full of snow, ice, thunder, sleet and other weather phenomena we didn’t know existed, Austin has finally made it to summertime. With day after day of 90+ degree weather...


Study: sexual arousal may lower the disgust impulse

Robert Starr July 7, 2014

“Be careful what you click” — so begins the first lesson of Internet browsing. That link from a friend could very well be exactly what she says it is, but, then again, it might not be....


Preventing Star-Spangled Barkers

Robert Starr June 30, 2014

While we, the humans, may sit in awe on Fourth of July, admiring the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air, many dogs don’t feel the same patriotism. It’s not difficult to see...


Good friends share laughs, tears and possibly yawns, too

Robert Starr June 16, 2014

Babies yawn. Animals yawn. In a way, fish yawn, and so do fetuses, though there’s some debate on the subject. You yawn when you’re bored in class or when you’re tired at the end of a...


Second Season of “Orange” First Rate

Robert Starr June 16, 2014

For whatever flaws “Orange Is the New Black” may have had during the first season — and there weren’t many — the diversity and energy of the cast weren’t among them....


Science Scene: Could Z’s lead to A’s?

Robert Starr May 1, 2014

Final exams are almost here, which means it’s time to choose between sacrificing either sleep or study time, unless there’s some way to combine the two. Maybe, just maybe, if you listen to...


Evidence doesn’t support roommate menstrual cycle synchronization

Robert Starr April 24, 2014

In 1971, Martha McClintock published a pilot study in Nature science journal as a sole author. This is an impressive feat, even for tenured professors, but she pulled it off as an undergraduate. The...


Science Scene: Cell phone users oblivious to unicycling clown

Robert Starr April 17, 2014

If you walked around Western Washington University during the spring of 2009, you might have noticed a clown unicycling around the plaza.  But, then again, you might not have. The clown was...


Science Scene: Practice makes roughly 30 percent of perfect

Robert Starr April 3, 2014

The jazz legend Charlie “Bird” Parker once told an interviewer that he put in at least 11 to 15 hours a day on his saxophone for more than three years. That is more than the 10,000 hours writer...


Science Scene: Dead fish reveal bad math

Robert Starr March 20, 2014

A study published in the now defunct Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results featured researchers showing several pictures of people interacting to a subject who sat inside an fMRI machine that...


Trolley problem reveals moral inconsistencies

Robert Starr February 27, 2014

A runaway trolley heads down the tracks, aimed at five innocent bystanders. In front of you lies a switch. Pulling it diverts the trolley to another track, where it will only hit one person. You have five...


Science Scene: Researching Coriolis effect leaves scientists drained

Robert Starr February 20, 2014

Everything in Australia is backward: Its winter is our summer, cars drive on the left side of the road, mammals lay eggs and toilets flush in the opposite direction. Well, not quite on that last...


Science Scene: Praying mantis won’t offer head to mates

Robert Starr February 13, 2014

Feb. 12 of every year marks Darwin Day, a holiday celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the famous scientist who offered what is, arguably, the single greatest theory of modern times. Natural selection...


Science Scene: Babies and their toys shed light on gender differences

Robert Starr January 30, 2014

The triplewart seadevil can grow to 44 centimeters long, according to FishBase, but no male of the species exceeds 7.3 centimeters. The male finds a female seadevil, attaches himself to her and impregnates...

James Magnuson’s ‘Famous Writers’ entertains despite familiarity

Robert Starr January 21, 2014

Upon first arrival, Austin can be something of a shock. A pleasant one, but not one without its little quirks that we put up with, like strange roads that never lead where one wants them to and intense...


Science Scene: Decision to circumcise is far from clear cut

Robert Starr January 16, 2014

The AIDS epidemic continues to devastate the world, particularly in Southern Africa, where the World Health Organization estimates that some countries have infection rates as high as 26 percent. Without...


What to get for your techie friend:

Jeremy Hintz and Robert Starr December 6, 2013

Maybe these gifts are better asked for than given on a college budget.    Google Chromecast,, $35 When you’re spending time with your family, you might be stuck having...


Science Scene: Gifts come with obligation

Robert Starr and Paepin Goff December 5, 2013

In a 1971 study, experimenters asked a subject to rate paintings alongside a confederate who pretended to be part of the study. During a break, the confederate would leave and come back with two sodas,...


Science Scene: JFK assassination a conspiracy of one

Robert Starr November 21, 2013

Fifty years ago, Lee Harvey Oswald, a 24-year-old high school dropout, brought a high-powered rifle up to the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository and with three shots, changed the course of...


Science with a little help from your friends

Robert Starr October 31, 2013

Comparing yourself to others is a recipe for low self-esteem. There’s an illusion that comes from comparing ourselves to those around us and it’s not just psychological: It’s mathematical. In...

“Now I Know” both interesting and addictive

Robert Starr October 21, 2013

The problem with most factoids is that they aren’t true. No, people don’t swallow eight spiders per year, NASA didn’t spend millions of dollars developing a pen that worked in space while...


Science Scene: Gender gap in mathematics a harmful myth

Robert Starr October 17, 2013

Walking into a math department is like walking into a boys’ club. Many in the field offer explanations for why this is, which range mostly from the offensive to the extremely offensive. Whether pointed...

The Daily Horror Movie takes a philosophical turn with “Synecdoche, New York”

Robert Starr October 14, 2013

For movie buffs, the month of October means one thing: 31 days of horror movies. With tons of horror flicks to choose from, The Daily Texan is going to be providing a daily horror recommendation. Whether...


Best American Science and Nature writing entertains and fascinates

Robert Starr October 10, 2013

Every year, around this time, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt releases its “Best American” books, which compile articles from the previous year into collections that are well worth seeking out. These...


World of the atomically small is stranger than we can imagine

Robert Starr October 3, 2013

Atoms are small. Very small. If all 7 billion people on earth were the size of a hydrogen atom, and they all hugged each other tightly to form a giant ball, that ball would still only be about 1 billionth...


Prominent scientists publish droll memoirs

Robert Starr September 26, 2013

In one corner, we have prominent astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, well-known for his books about the universe. In the other, we have evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who popularized the “selfish...


Psychology studies limited by WEIRD societies

Robert Starr September 19, 2013

There’s an old joke about an engineer, a physicist and a philosopher who end up in Scotland and see a black sheep. “Sheep here are black,” says the engineer. “Some sheep here...


Claims of 9/11 conspiracies more paranoid than factual

Robert Starr September 12, 2013

There were a number of questions on everyone’s minds on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, but most of them weren’t related to engineering. Planes hit tall buildings and then, later that day, those...


Computers still not as smart as humans

Robert Starr September 5, 2013

Let’s go back a few years to 1968, when Stanley Kubrick released his revolutionary sci-fi flick “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which gave viewers one of the most iconic cinematic renditions...

PA_Chelsea Cain Press Art

Characters propel serial killer novel past familiar elements

Robert Starr September 3, 2013

It’s an unfortunate truth that every serial killer series, no matter how good, will ultimately be compared to Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels. On the surface, Chelsea Cain’s anti-hero,...

Atheist may be happy, but he covers familiar ground

Robert Starr August 29, 2013

The development of the blogging world over the past decade or so has resulted in an explosion of wonderful popular science writing. Science news coverage was once limited to only the most significant stories,...


Twins help solve nature/nurture debate

Robert Starr August 12, 2013

Twins are a staple of film and literature, often used as a device to show two sides of the same character — a sort of alternate reality, where two people spent at least the first nine months of their...


Encryption helps keep your personal information private

Robert Starr July 22, 2013

One of the biggest news stories of the summer is something that shouldn’t come as any surprise to even the least paranoid among us: Big Brother is watching. The National Security Agency spies on...


Time travel technology remains in the future

Robert Starr May 2, 2013

The International Journal of Modern Physics published a strange paper in 2008. In it, the authors proposed that the reason the Higgs Boson, sometimes called the “God Particle,” remained so...


Psychics’ secrets simple

Robert Starr April 25, 2013

Remember last year when all the banks around the world merged into one? What about Paris Hilton’s unexpected marriage? Or how about when a solar star dwarf, whatever that is, broke off from the sun,...


Marijuana offers risks and benefits

Robert Starr April 18, 2013

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. The past 100 years have shown a major shift in the public’s perception of marijuana. What we now understand to...


If you don’t snooze, you’ll lose

Robert Starr April 11, 2013

The final month of the semester is upon us and that means that campus, once full of eager and excited faces, is now a horde of sleep-deprived zombies running on autopilot. The college rule of thumb...


Gulp’s Science Easy to Swallow

Robert Starr April 4, 2013

Nothing makes a child giggle harder and more dependently than toilet humor. Somewhere on his path to adulthood, however, after constant parental scoldings, an external maturity develops. But that affinity...


Scientific progress full of ups and downs

Robert Starr March 29, 2013

Last week, cosmologists made a stunning discovery: The universe is nearly 100 million years older than we had previously thought. Although that sounds like a lot, it’s less than a 1 percent adjustment...


Drinking Fun Hangovers Not

Robert Starr March 21, 2013

After the long week at school following spring break, we’re ready for the weekend. For many of us, that means heading down to Dirty 6th and drinking socially with our friends while meeting new people...


Homosexuality healthy in humans, animals alike

Robert Starr March 7, 2013

Despite the persistent myth, men don’t think about sex every seven seconds: The truth isn’t that simple. The median number of times men think about sex in a given day, according to a study...


When it comes to effective treatments, acupuncturists miss the point

Robert Starr February 28, 2013

You’re tired all of the time. Or maybe you’re suffering from back pains that, no matter how many doctors you’ve seen, can’t be cured. That must be because you’re stuck in...


Chelyabinsk reveals how unprepared we are for meteor strike

Robert Starr February 21, 2013

This past week, a 55-foot-wide meteor flew over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, leaving a trail of smoke in the Siberian skies and producing a shock wave powerful enough to shatter windows and injure...


Candy tomorrow Is better than a relationship today

Robert Starr February 14, 2013

Valentine’s Day is the time of the year when those in relationships express their love for each other, and the rest of us feel nothing but resentment toward them. Our best bet is to just sit it out....


Science Scene tackles aliens

Robert Starr February 7, 2013

As you read this, two Voyager spacecrafts are traveling through the darkness of space at nearly twenty times the speed of the fastest airplane ever built. On board, they each contain a golden record. These...


Milk jumpstarting puberty is ‘Udder’ nonsense

Robert Starr January 31, 2013

During the height of the Cold War, a conspiracy theory developed, with proponents insisting that the safety of our water supply was at risk. A fluoridation process, which the Soviets clearly devised, put...


Simple bicycle is not so simple

Robert Starr January 24, 2013

Physicists are known to tackle the big problems: How did the universe originate? What is the nature of matter, energy and time? How can we make the rules that work for very small objects (quantum mechanics)...


Memories you forgot you never had

Robert Starr January 17, 2013

As the spring semester begins and classes resume, our winter vacation now remains only in our memories. These memories form an important part of who we are, and it can be surprising how often gatherings...


Birth weight genes broadly identified

Robert Starr December 6, 2012

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. Your Genes and Your Birth We often wonder what makes us who we are: is it the genes our parents gave us, the way...


Premature sperm key to male pill

Robert Starr November 29, 2012

A step closer to the male birth control pill Drug companies are eager to produce a male birth control pill, which would allow men to take a daily medication that would prevent unwanted pregnancies in...


Chromosomes get second

Robert Starr November 15, 2012

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. Most of us are born with 46 chromosomes, but because of genetic defects some people are born with one more. This “trisomy”...


Seizure patients’ split brains give conflicting information

Robert Starr November 8, 2012

Make up your Mind Split-brain patients — those who have had the connection between the hemispheres of their brains severed to prevent seizures — act normally except in specially designed...


Relativity entangled

Robert Starr November 1, 2012

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. A study published a month-and-a-half ago came to the conclusion that a specific variety of genetically modified corn...


Human head model will hopefully aid in developing concussion-resistant football helmets

Robert Starr October 25, 2012

Football is among the most violent of college sports, even with all the protective gear each player wears, and no season goes by without its share of injuries. Of most concern are the long-term risks,...


Annual web video contest offers Ph.D. candidates dancing their theses

Robert Starr October 18, 2012

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. While Gangnam Style sweeps the nation, our science Ph.D. candidates have been hard at work trying to present their research...


Telegraph Avenue — too much for one book

Robert Starr October 17, 2012

There is a stereotype of the first-time novelist who writes as if he’ll never have another shot, cramming everything he possibly can into his debut novel because he has nothing to lose. Michael Chabon...


Dual identities intertwine

Robert Starr October 11, 2012

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's portrayal of this week's Science Scene. Dual identities intertwine The United States is often thought of as a melting pot, a potpourri of cultures provided...


Cat-sized dino dines on veggies

Robert Starr October 4, 2012

Cancer myths prevail The results of a recent survey, reported at the ESMO (European Society for Medical Oncology) 2012 Congress in Vienna, show that the general population is uninformed when it comes...


Sexism strong even in science

Robert Starr September 27, 2012

Check out The Daily Texan Multimedia's video portrayal of this week's Science Scene. Sexism Strong Even in Science Science is an overwhelmingly male field, and despite active efforts, the...


Doubt hurts future marriages

Robert Starr September 20, 2012

Arousal suppresses disgust Sex is gross, at least when looked at objectively, but it’s also a necessity for humans to propagate. The problem is, we have also evolved a disgust mechanism, which...


Scientists unlock secrets in human genome project

Robert Starr September 13, 2012

DNA Encyclopedia Rewrites Our Understanding of the Human Genome The first results from the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) have been published this past week in 30 papers spread across three separate...


Emotional recovery hastened by alcohol

Robert Starr September 6, 2012

Emotional recovery hastened by alcohol: Got a really tough semester ahead of you? Lay off the drinking or you may still have nightmares about it years from now. A recent experiment sought to investigate...


Prior health beliefs altered by science

Robert Starr May 3, 2012

One of the arguments in favor of organic farming is that it’s more environmentally sustainable.  However, a review published in Nature suggests, as with many issues in the environmental world,...

“Baby’s in Black” won’t leave readers blue

Robert Starr May 3, 2012

There was a time when The Beatles were just a bunch of starry-eyed teens staying up past their bedtime to play a gig for whoever would hire them. And although they eventually became a worldwide sensation,...


Old data reveals life could exist on Mars

Robert Starr April 26, 2012

A research group, which published its findings in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences, believes data from the Viking 1 and 2 spacecrafts that landed on Mars in 1976 suggest that...


Deceased author’s political critiques republished

Robert Starr April 23, 2012

Christopher Hitchens never followed the rules of polite dinner party conversation. Boisterous, argumentative, stubborn and, most frustratingly, often right, he had a way of making his views — often...


Pill may cost-effectively reduce spread of HIV

Robert Starr April 19, 2012

New Method of HIV Prevention May Be Cost-Effective A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that a pill given to the right population could reduce the spread of HIV in a cost-effective...


Texas not prepared for climate change

Robert Starr April 12, 2012

After the worst year-long drought on record, along with the hottest month recorded in the state’s history (July 2011), Texas has still not taken the hint and appropriately prepared itself for climate...

kNIFE & fORK’s second release is pure art

Robert Starr April 10, 2012

Music, it often seems, is the most abstract of the art forms. Even the paintings of Kandinsky or Pollock seem more comprehensible than this mysterious medium where sounds float in midair and combine together...

Mystery novel takes risks, held back by overused characters

Robert Starr April 9, 2012

Any thriller’s going to require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief to enjoy the plot, but author Scott Sigler prides himself in minimizing that as much as possible. His latest novel, “Nocturnal,”...


3-D map shows brain ‘has a lot of nerve’

Robert Starr April 5, 2012

By looking at the way that water flows through the brain, several researchers have been able to put together a clear and beautiful picture of the nerves in the human brain. Though these nerves have been...

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