Science & Technology

Science news

Bugs Hiding In Our Homes

Jun 28, 2012

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the Museum of Natural Science are trying to uncover the unknown bug species in our homes.

Asma Khalid: Sure, you may see the occasional centipede crawl across the living room floor, or worse, a cockroach scuttle across the kitchen. But, Michelle Trautwein says there are dozens more bug species right under our noses.

Apple Incorporated has the go-ahead to provide power for its new data center in western North Carolina.

Business leaders met in Cary today to discuss security threats to their corporate networks.

Gurnal Scott: No business is immune to cyber attacks. Several locally-based companies took part in an exercise to see how vulnerable computer systems can be. Cyber technology expert Joan Myers says breaches are expensive.

Joan Myers: It's up to a trillion dollars just last year in lost intellectual property.

A training center opens in Raleigh this afternoon to highlight the latest uses for propane. North Carolina is the second largest user of the fuel behind California. John Jessup is the executive director of the North Carolina Propane Gas Association. He says propane burns cleaner and is cheaper than gasoline and diesel. He also says the natural gas boom is behind the boost in the propane supply.

That's the sound of a penny rolling round and round in a device called a gravity funnel. This was recorded at the Natural Science Center in Greensboro using WUNC's Make Radio iPhone app. It's part of a collaboration with the North Carolina Science Festival. You've likely seen this game, the coin launches from the top of a big round funnel and then spins, on edge, down to the collection jar underneath the hole at the bottom of the cone.

The Nature Research Center is now officially open. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences held a grand opening for the new wing over the weekend.

Dave DeWitt: About 70,000 people attended the 24-hour grand opening of the Nature Research Center. Those who made it inside the 80,000 square foot facility touched animal skeletons, conducted robotic surgeries, and interacted with scientists.

Nature Research Center
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Today is a long-awaited day in Raleigh, the Nature Research Center will open its doors to the public for the first time. It’s a $56 million wing of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The 24-hour opening will feature demonstrations, bands, and live walk-throughs of the facility. The Nature Research Center is a dazzling array of technology, built to engage young minds.

The scientific concept of nano-technology became popular in the 1990s.  A conference this week in Durham focuses on the commercial applications of nano-technology.

Leoneda Inge:  Today kicks off a two-day Nanotech Commercialization Conference at American Tobacco in Durham.   John Hardin heads the office of Science and Technology at the North Carolina Department of Commerce, a sponsor of the conference.   He says there will be many researchers at the conference but also many business developers.

A major center for Smart Grid technology will be dedicated today in Raleigh.

Dave DeWitt: Engineers, faculty, and political leaders say the Triangle is fast becoming the east coast’s “Smart Grid Valley.” The comparison to Silicon Valley comes a little closer to reality today, when the first-ever demonstration center and testing lab for electric utilities in the nation is dedicated on N.C. State’s Centennial Campus.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is introducing a Bio Tech facility later today in Winston-Salem.

Jeff Tiberii: What used to be an RJ Reynolds tobacco manufacturing and storage facility will now serve as Wake Forest BioTech place. The 242-thousand square foot facility will house about 450 people by the end of this year. It’s part of the Piedmont triad Research Park. Medical Center V.P. Doug Edgeton says the new site will have research projects in bio-chemistry, pharmacology, physiology, biomedical engineering and micro-biology.

North Carolina continues to be one of the national hot-beds for the Life Sciences.  Entrepreneurs, scientists and venture capitalists in the field are gathering today and tomorrow in Raleigh.

Leoneda Inge:  The CED Life Science Conference is in its 21st year and is one of the biggest events of its type in the southeast.  The idea is to bring some of the best and brightest Life Science companies face-to-face with investors.  Bob Ingram, a General Partner with Hattaras Venture Partners is one of the events co-chairs.

Scientists are used to relying on grants for funding, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. But a recent trend called "crowd-sourcing" could help small projects get underway. It's basically a kick starter campaign where the general public gives online donations for scientists' research. North Carolina State chemistry professor Walter Weare was able to pay for new equipment for his solar energy research using the method.

Researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill are studying how doctors might use human genome sequencing in their private practices. The university is one of five institutions to receive a $6.4 million grant for the project. Scientists have spent the last two decades identifying and mapping each of the three billion groups of molecules that make up human DNA. UNC School of Medicine doctor Jim Evans says the next step is developing genomes as a reliable way to identify genetic diseases.

Researchers from NC State and UNC Chapel Hill are working on an improved blueprint for the Internet. The project is part of the National Science Foundation’s effort on “Future Internet Architecture.”  The team in North Carolina is focused on making more choices available to end-users. Ilia Baldine is a senior researcher at UNC.

Scientists from Duke University and the U-S Geological Survey will soon be collecting water samples in communities where there is the potential for shale gas exploration.  

Scientists will be collecting baseline data in Lee and Chatham counties.  The samples will come from private and public water supply wells.  Holly Weyers is director of the U-S Geological Survey North Carolina Water Science Center.  She says it’s important to get ground-water quality data before any drilling.

Some of the top bloggers and tech-savvy professionals will be in Raleigh for the next two days for the annual Internet Summit.

Internet Summit 2011 will feature more than 120 speakers and 80 presentations and panels.  This year’s keynote presenter is popular blogger, author and wine aficionado Gary Vaynerchuck of Wine Library T-V and Daily Grape.

North Carolina has seen its fair share of both flooding and drought over the past several years. One of the problems has been getting accurate information, especially in rural areas. Francios Birgand is a biological engineering researcher at N.C. State. He led the development of the 'Gauge-Cam'. He says he and his team wanted to explore the possibility of using wireless imaging technologies to help track water flows in streams and rivers.

Go Triangle
gotriangle.org

Triangle commuters with high tech devices like smart phones will have a new source for busing information. GoLive aims to be a one-stop source for all the information a bus rider might need. That includes arrival times and routes across different systems. John Tallmadge is Director of Commuter Resources for Triangle Transit. He says right now Triangle commuters can pull up a tool to find out information about certain bus systems.

Wake Forest University researchers are participating in a project aimed at better projecting upcoming world events.

Instead of using traditional experts, researchers are now enlisting about 1500 everyday citizens as part of a new crowdsourcing model. Wake Forest Associate Psychology Professor Eric Stone says researchers hope to one day better predict political uprisings, terrorist attacks, and even World Cup Winners.

The Triangle's four major universities are collaborating on a multi-year study of "soft matter." The National Science Foundation awarded a 6-year grant worth nearly 14-million dollars to researchers at Duke, UNC, NC State, and NC Central Universities. Soft matter is usually material that is squishy like proteins, D-N-A solutions, polymers, and gels. They can be assembled into structures that researchers hope will one day prove useful.

An experimental flood forecasting system will get a test with Hurricane Irene. Scientists have been experimenting with computer models since Hurricane Floyd produced heavier than expected flooding in 1999. The models are designed to predict how fresh water stream flow, ocean tides, and storm surge will interact. Suzanne VanCooten is a research hydro-meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory. She says one thing that's different this year from the lead-up to Hurricane Floyd is that many eastern North Carolina counties have been in a drought.

Example of the image produced by the scanners
tsa.gov

Raleigh-Durham International Airport is beefing up its security with new imaging technology designed to protect passenger privacy. The Transportation Security Administration is installing five new scanners at RDU. They should be up and running in the next few days. RDU's TSA Federal Security Director Michael Zunk says previous scanners allowed security to see a detailed image of a person's body.

There is a major move underway to grow the state’s Biotechnology industry by diving for opportunities off the coast.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center has approved a 2-point-5 million dollar grant to establish a Marine Biotechnology Center of Innovation.  Scientists have already been using marine life to develop commercial products, but the four year grant will likely accelerate the process.   Norris Tolson is the president and C-E-O of the Biotech Center.  He says the industry is excited by such a move.

Emergency management officials in Johnston County are launching a local emergency alert system. The county has paired with the company Code Red in an effort to improve response time to natural disasters. Emergency Management coordinator Darrell Alford says the system also warns residents about localized emergencies like boil-water advisories or pipeline bursts.

One of the first Crystal Red Chevy Volts arrives in North Carolina.
Leoneda Inge

If you are in downtown Raleigh this week you may see some small, brightly painted cars on the road that look out of place.   They’re likely electric cars on display for the national electric car conference – “Plug-In 2011.”  But there are also some sporty electric cars on display that will make your head turn in disbelief.  It’s a sign of the times and just how far the industry has come. 

Atlantis
NASA

Area scientists are in Florida this week readying experiments that will go on the final shuttle launch.

Ted Bateman first worked on space experiments as an undergraduate student 20 years ago. Now, he’s an associate professor in rehabilitation engineering in the joint department of biomedical engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State.

A biologist at UNC-Chapel Hill is one of 15 scientists chosen to join a national plant research program. Dr. Jeff Dangl studies how plants recognize and respond to diseases. His research is part of a $75 million grant awarded last week by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Dangl says the program has wide implications for human health and the environment.

There is a growing cluster of “Smart Grid” companies that’s putting North Carolina on the map.  

According to a new report out of Duke University – the Triangle has become a “hot spot” for Smart Grid companies because of all the engineering talent in the area.  Smart Grid is the technology that allows energy customers to monitor and control their electricity usage via the internet. Marcy Lowe is lead author of the report Smart Grid: Core Firms in the Research Triangle Region. She says the Smart Grid cluster of nearly 60 companies has surprised a lot of people.

Syngenta Expands In RTP

May 23, 2011

Biotech giant Syngenta will be expanding it's footprint in Research Triangle Park.  Company officials announced they will be spending 71 million dollars to build a lab and greenhouse facility to do crop research next to their present building in RTP.  Syngenta spokesman Steven Goldsmith says the greenhouse will also be green. 

A major effort is underway to grow North Carolina’s Agricultural Technology Industry. Alexandria Real Estate Equities of California announced yesterday it is building a 50-thousand-square-foot Ag-Tech Center near Research Triangle Park.  More than one-third of the space will be a greenhouse. Amber Shirley is director of Biotechnology-Crops Development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.  She says Alexandria’s greenhouse space will be flexible and collaborative.

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