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Science news

A screen shot from the Surge Guidance System shows storm surge data from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the east coast in October 2012.
RENCI

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are using storm surge data to give coastal communities a better idea of what they can expect during hurricanes. 

The university's Renaissance Computing Institute, or RENCI, has a network called the Surge Guidance System.  It gathers intricate details of ocean activity to calculate where, how and when storm surge will affect certain areas. 

The falling forward motion the baseball pitcher affects the amount of force applied to the ball.
Adrian Bejan

Scientists have known for years that the athletes topping the podium in speed sports, like swimming and running, have grown taller over the past century. Now, new research from Duke University shows that athletes in a range of other sports, including certain team sports, are following a similar trend.

Optical fiber used for high speed internet.
Michel Tronchetti

The city of Wilson has finished installing a fiber optic Internet system.  It's the first such project in North Carolina that will provide the city of about 50,000 people with ultra-high speed Internet. 

Take Me to the Beach helps people find the right beach in the Outer Banks.
Inductice Ideas LTD

Have you ever visited the North Carolina coast only to have a hard time finding the right public beach access? That’s the situation that Sara Brubaker found herself in when she moved to the Outer Banks three years ago. So Brubaker got in touch with the app development company Inductive Ideas LTD to find a solution to the problem.  The result is a new smartphone app called Take Me to the Beach, a guide to Outer Banks beaches that provides information about public access, beach amenities, lifeguards, and distances from beaches to food and drink.

Diagram of human brian.
Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University say the same area of your brain that puts a dollar value on an item also places an emotional value on that item. 

The German cockroach
Sarah Camp / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at N.C. State are trying to pinpoint mutations that have allowed some cockroaches to avoid sugar-based insecticides. 

Many household roach baits use sugars to lure the insects toward the poison.  But recent studies have shown some German cockroaches have adapted to be genetically averse to glucose and therefore the insecticides within the bait. 

Duke researcher Ari Friedlaender attaching a suction-cup tag to the back of a blue whale off the coast of southern California.
Courtesy of Ari Friedlaender; NMFS Permit 14534

New research from Duke University looks at how whales are impacted by military sonar used in underwater training exercises.  The study was conducted off the coast of California and found that whales might avoid important feeding sites when exposed to mid-frequency sonar routinely produced at a nearby military training site.

A roach hooked up to a computer controlled by video game software.
Alper Bozkurt

Do you ever wish that you could control roaches? That technology has now been developed, thanks to researchers at North Carolina State University. 

Unfortunately, it requires catching the roaches first.

A new study finds that video gamers' vision may be better than that non-gamers.
Rebecca Pollard via flickr, Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University say people who play video games regularly tend to see more around them.  A recent study used a fast-paced visual memory test on gamers who often play action games like first-person shooters, and compared the results to non-gamers.  It found the gamers consistently scored better, meaning they were able to gather more information in a short amount of time. 

Optical fiber used for high speed internet.
Michel Tronchetti

The town of Holly Springs is interested in laying a fiber optic network that could lead to super high-speed Internet for local residents and businesses. 

The Town Council voted unanimously to move forward with the project, which would install 16 miles of fiber optic cable in two loops underneath the town.  Joanne Hovis is president of CTC Technology, which the town hired to design the network.  She told the council at a recent meeting the service would start out as a communications system for the town, but lays the groundwork for Internet Service Providers to build commercial and residential connections.

UNC professor Paul Jones located a Web page from 1991 on his old NeXT computer
screen shot

It might not be much to look at, but in the history of the World Wide Web,  this image is a landmark. It's the earliest web page found so far, according to scientists at the nuclear research group CERN (the same organization that developed the Large Hadron Collider) who are trying to locate the genesis of the Web.  The page was brought to their attention by Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

www.dukedive.org / www.dukedive.org

Editor's Note: The Duke Immersive Virtual Environment is incorrectly named in the audio.

Researchers at Duke University are using a virtual reality center to test experiments that aren’t feasible in the real world.

It’s called the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, or the DIVE, for short. In reality, it’s a cube. Six sides. You get inside. Images are projected on each wall. With the help of special goggles, the images become an immersive 3-D world. A special wand allows you to interact with the world.

The Shearon Harris nuclear power plant
Nuclear Regulatory Commission / nrc.gov

An annual public meeting about the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant will likely raise questions about the recent decision to shut down the reactor. 

Seal of Winston-Salem
City of Winston-Salem

  The Rhino Times has been the signature conservative newspaper in the Triad since January of 1992. But it’s recently announced its closing, after 21 years of service. In other news, today marks the centennial anniversary of the joining of Winston and Salem, to become Winston-Salem.

Underwater photo of a whale
UNCG BioMusic

Music production is often considered a very “human” creation. But scientists have recently discovered the songs of mice, elephants, and other animals that human ears are unable to capture.  Scientists and musicians in Greensboro have been exploring the world of biomusic, music produced by nature, beneath the ocean surface.

strawberries
NC Strawberry Association

Researchers at N.C. State say oils extracted from herbs and spices could act as a natural disinfectant for fruits and vegetables. 

A joint project with the University of Tennessee aims to find an alternative to chlorine used on produce grown for mass consumption. Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie is a horticultural science professor at N.C. State's research campus in Kannapolis.  She says pungent spices tend to be best at fighting harmful germs.

"They have a very distinct odor, like cinnamon, for instance," Perkins-Veazie says.

Jud Bowman; CEO of Appia
https://twitter.com/judbowman / Twitter

In the late '90s the Internet was king and everybody wanted a piece of it. Jud Bowman was a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Math when he had an idea for an Internet start up. It was called Motricity, and he managed to get investors onboard before things went south in the Internet market.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Researchers at Duke University say they have shed more light on the prospects of using hog waste to produce energy. 

Mae Jemison and Safety Club Kids
MMI

Bayer CropScience joined renowned astronaut Mae Jemison in southeast Raleigh Thursday to announce a new urban revitalization initiative.  A big part of the green space near the Brown Birch housing development will be turned into a community garden – thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Bayer USA Foundation.

Butch Grove, Wake Tech’s associate vice president of creativity, sustainability and college improvement, announces Joulebug.
Wake Tech

Wake Tech Community College is backing up its commitment to sustainability with the launch of a new partnership with JouleBug, a mobile app customized for its students. The free JouleBug app was created in Raleigh and gives users points, pins, and rewards for making sustainable choices – like taking shorter showers, recycling, or eating on campus to reduce vehicle emissions.

Construction workers monitor the a solar farm in Fuquay Varina
http://www.stratasolar.com / Strata Solar

North Carolina companies are in the midst of a sustainable energy boom. Solar farms have bloomed, wind farms could be on their way, and local entrepreneurs are experimenting with biofuels and solar power. But cheap natural gas and new legislation could slow sustainable energy growth.

Experts are discussing these advancements at the North Carolina Department of Commerce's 10th Annual Sustainable Energy Conference in Raleigh today. Keynote speaker Marilyn Brown is a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She said today on The State of Things that many people are looking to fracking for natural gas to solve our energy needs.

Students learning about a weather balloon at last year's North Carolina Science Festival.
NC Science Festival

At the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC Chapel Hill this morning! The experiment is one of many happening this week and next as a part of the North Carolina Science Festival, a statewide series of science-related happenings that began on April 5. Today, the Festival is encouraging people to participate in Experi-Minute, an attempt to engage all North Carolinians in some kind of science-related activity for at least one minute on Friday morning.

teen driver
State Farm Insurance, via Flickr, Creative Commons

Teaching a teenager to drive can be a scary experience for both teens and parents. But a new iPhone app developed by the UNC Highway Safety Research Center and the Center for the Study of Young Drivers aims to lessen that anxiety by helping teens and parents log driving time and meet driving goals before the teen applies for a driver’s license.

The app is called Time to Drive, and it’s rooted in research showing that many teens do not receive adequate driving practice in a variety of potentially challenging conditions, such as on interstates, at night, in heavy traffic, or in poor weather. The app can monitor driving time and keep track of road conditions and routes, allowing parents and teens to meet certain driving goals during the learning process.

NC Biotechnology Center
NC Biotechnology Center

Biotech researchers and entrepreneurs from across the region will gather for a networking conference intended to link researchers to funding partners this week. The first Southeast Venture Philanthropy Summit will take place at the at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill April 3-4, and more than 30 foundations will attend, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.  The summit seeks to help local companies tap into philanthropic venture capital.

A scene from last year's Science Festival.
NC Science Festival

The N.C Science Festival – a series of more than 300 science-related events at locations across the state – kicks off this Friday.  It’s the third year for the festival, and it's expected to draw more than 200,000 participants. The first event is a stargazing party for all ages at 45 different sites across the state. Triangle-area venues include the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, Marbles Kids Museum and Imax Theater in Raleigh, the Morehead Observatory in Chapel Hill and Jordan Lake in Apex. 

A MQ-9 Reaper drone.
U.S. Air Force photo by Paul Ridgeway

North Carolina is vying to host one of six national test sites for unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones.  The prospect of a burgeoning domestic drone industry in the state has some people excited.  But others are voicing concerns.

An Asian Needle Ant (left) stings a termite.
Benoit Guenard / NC State University

Researchers from N.C. State say an invasive species of ant is slowly spreading through North Carolina's forests.

2010 tornado in Iredell County, NC
England / Flickr

A new tornado app from the American Red Cross is out this week. Available in both English and Spanish, it gives users instant access to local, real-time information on severe weather alerts and warnings. Barry Porter from Triangle Red Cross says it's linked directly to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Surveys showed older adults who play video games scored higher on well-being tests than those who don't.
Anne McLaughlin / ncsu.edu

Researchers at N.C. State say playing video games might have positive psychological effects later in life.  A report released this week says a study of people who were 63 or older found those who play video or computer games at least occasionally reported more positive emotions in a mental health survey than those who don't.


"There's a whole gaming industry that's focused on the 12-year-old to 21-year-old demographic," says Dr. Jason Allaire, lead author of the study.

Customers of Cary's public water utility can now monitor how many gallons they use on an hourly basis.  The town invested $172,553 in a system that updates water usage online.  Cary Financial Director Karen Mills says the new system is meant to make customers more aware of how much water they're using or wasting.

"They can see what's going on with their usage, understanding, for example, their irrigation usage if they have an automated system; when it's running, how long it's running," Mills says.

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