Science & Technology

Science news

Checking In on Our Planetary Neighbors

Jul 1, 2016
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Jason T. Cantley

Yes, what you see here is, in fact, a tomato.

Crack open the spiky burr, and if the tomato fruit isn’t quite ripe, you’ll see something resembling the fleshy, seedy tomatoes you might find in your supermarket aisle. But the color will look more “like the interior of a Granny Smith apple — that whitish [color with] a little bit of green tint,” says Chris Martine, a biology professor at Bucknell University.

In a matter of minutes, though, that fruit will begin to turn redder and redder, shriveling up into a hardened, dark mass.

It sounds like science fiction: a hyperloop that propels passengers traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in levitating pods through a nearly airless tube. Their pace rivals the speed of sound. The journey takes only 30 minutes.

Flowers give off electrical signals to bees

Jun 26, 2016

Bumblebees use a lot of tools to find nectar in flowers like visual cues and chemical signs. But, as it turns out, they’re also able to detect weak electrical signals that flowers give off.

Here are the people who make Google Doodles

Jun 26, 2016

Chances are, you know the thrill of heading to Google to do a search and finding … a doodle. Doodles — periodic illustrated takeovers of the Google logo — have graced the company’s homepage since before the company was even incorporated. 

“There are one or two geeks at Google that get excited about things like this,” says Google Doodle team leader Ryan Germick. “If you walked around a cafeteria at lunchtime you'd hear some pretty interesting things.” 

These are some of the darkest mysteries of our universe

Jun 26, 2016

Both philosophers and scientists are captivated by the concept of dark matter, dark energy and black holes.

“Human beings by nature have always been intrigued by the invisible,” says astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, author of "Mapping the Heavens."

Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University. She's also spent much of her academic career studying philosophy. 

Chicken guns and other bizarre stories of the science of war

Jun 25, 2016

There are weapons we’ve all heard of: assault rifles, bombs, grenades and rocket launchers. But there are many tools of warfare that are less famous: chicken guns, stink bombs and maggots, for instance. 

Author Mary Roach has long been interested in the strange science of the human condition and in her new book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War," she goes behind the front lines to investigate the sometimes bizarre science of humans at war. 

Aminatou Sow

Note: This program is a rebroadcast.

About five years ago, Aminatou Sow was working for a technology company in Washington D.C. and came across an article detailing how few women work in tech. The statistic did not match her personal experience as she knew of a number of women working in tech-related fields, from NASA to the National Security Agency.

Try these backyard science projects with your kids this summer

Jun 20, 2016
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Albert Gea/Reuters

School might be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean the science fun needs to stop. There are experiments that kids can try in the backyard all summer long.

Inside the minds of zoo animals

Jun 19, 2016
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Steve Harris/Flickr

Among the many reactions to this month's killing of Harambe, the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, is a question: Can animals, especially smart ones like gorillas, ever be truly happy in zoos?

Terry Maple, a professor of comparative psychobiology at Florida Atlantic University, and the former director of the Atlanta and Palm Beach zoos, has built a career on trying to understand animals and improve their environments. 

When he saw the video of Harambe with a toddler at the Cincinnati Zoo, he says he thought he could tell what Harambe might have been thinking. 

The Ant Man

Jun 14, 2016
photo of Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith

The trail of ants across the kitchen counter may be a nuisance to some, but to biologist Adrian Smith, it is a fascinating phenomenon full of mystery. Smith studies the evolution of different ants and their social patterns. He also films the insects to document their intriguing characteristics.

How we react to vocal fry in music depends on the gender of the singer

Jun 13, 2016
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Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters

Vocal fry, a speech pattern that is characterized by a throaty, low register, has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation. That creaky sound can be heard in pop music from artists like Britney Spears and Enrique Iglesias. Unsure of how to create vocal fry? 

“You just have to try talking like a Kardashian and see what comes out of that,” says vocalogy researcher at the University of Texas San Antonio Mackenzie Parrott. 

Still not sure what it sounds like? 

Could brain infection set the stage for Alzheimer’s?

Jun 13, 2016
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Doctor Jana/Creative Commons

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of the protein amyloid-beta in the brain. Several years ago neurobiologist Rob Moir began wondering about the function of amyloid-beta. Surely it couldn’t just be junk, gumming up the brain? His studies on this protein may be overturning some 30 years of assumptions about what causes Alzheimer’s. 

Moir first began wondering about amyloid-beta over Friday night drinks at a bar. 

How your phone could help scientists detect and measure an earthquake

Jun 12, 2016
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David Moir/Reuters

Developers are creating apps that can tap into the sensors in your smart device to measure different aspects of your environment, such as your number of footsteps or your heartbeat. And now there’s an app to measure your surrounding seismic activity.

Seismologist Richard Allen, who worked to develop MyShake, says the app uses the sensing abilities already built into smartphones. 

What science says about e-cigarettes

Jun 12, 2016
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JohnWilliams/Flickr/CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Battery-powered e-cigarettes have become wildly popular over the last decade, especially among teenagers and young adults. At least some of this popularity stems from their marketing as safe alternatives to conventional, combustible cigarettes, as well as their many, often fruity flavors.

But how much do we understand about the safety of e-cigarettes, or the more than 7,000 e-liquids on the market?

The Hyperloop: From Pipe Dream to Possible

Jun 10, 2016

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Courtesy of Beyond Meat

When California-based food company Beyond Meat soft-launched its new plant-based burger at a Whole Foods in Colorado in May, it sold out in one hour. The startup says the Beyond Burger is completely vegan, has no soy or gluten, and will cook like a real beef burger.

Research Finds Wildlife Unfazed By Hunters And Hikers

Jun 8, 2016
Courtesy of eMammal

A new study from North Carolina State University finds most wildlife species are not disturbed by hiking and hunting in protected forests.

You’ve heard of seed banks — precious vaults that keep plant genetic material frozen for posterity’s sake. But what about coral banks?

For more than a decade, marine biologist Mary Hagedorn has been cultivating the art of carefully freezing coral sperm through a process known as cryopreservation. Her goal is to bank as many species as possible for use in future research and restoration, and to train other scientists to follow her lead.

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