Science & Technology

Science news

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.

Duke University

Duke University has forged a relationship with South Sudan that it hopes will fill the stomach and the soul. 

What is this ability to step into someone else’s shoes? To imagine how they feel, to hurt for them or to be happy for them? 


Mental health is a focus of national dialogue in the wake of mass shootings around the country. What makes people kill, seemingly without remorse?

cathydavidson.com

  Is a teacher lecturing in front of a classroom effective?  Is it possible that the way we teach our children is outdated?

solar panels
Strata Solar

A North Carolina renewable energy company says it plans to build a large solar farm in Duplin County.  Strata Solar announced yesterday it's developing 400 acres of land for solar panels with a capacity of 100 Megawatts.  It's one of the largest solar farms in production on the east coast.  Strata CEO Markus Wilhelm says his company will file its plans with the state Utilities Commission by the end of the month.

brianhare.net

The last ten years have seen a revolution in our understanding of dogs, and Brian Hare has led the way.

Hare is an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University and the co-author – with his wife, Vanessa Woods - of “The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think.”

“Everybody who has a dog is excited to tell you how smart they are,” he said on The State of Things. “But what science is able to contribute is that we compare dogs to other species and we’ve found that dogs are really remarkable.”

How remarkable?

Without training, Hare says dogs are able to learn words and make inferences. Some dogs learn words the first time they encounter them.

Dogs self-domesticated about 40,000 years ago, Hare says. “They chose us, so they got friendlier and they got smarter as a way to live with humans.”



Dogs are very good at solving problems on their own, but they may not be the heroic animals they are often made out to be in popular culture. Hare cites the “bookcase test” where a research project was done to test what dogs would do when its master was pinned under a bookcase and calling for help.

“The truth was, the dog didn’t run off and seek help,” Hare said. “In fact, the dogs just sort of stand around doing nothing.”

Hare has started a website, dognition.com, that will allow dog owners to play a series of science-based games that will reveal their dog’s unique abilities and help build a stronger dog/owner relationship.

A cockroach cleaning an antenna
Ayako Wada-Katsumata

A new study from researchers at N.C. State finds that cockroaches must clean themselves incessantly in order to function properly. The findings are important not just for scientists studying insect behavior, but also – to the relief of those who suffer from infestations – might provide clues in developing more effective pesticides.

naturalsciences.org

  Meet Betsy Bennett: Betsy Bennett recently retired from two decades as the director for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. It's was part of her longer history as an educator and politician in the South. Betsy got her start training teachers in Charlottesville, Virginia on how to integrate their classrooms. She also helped desegregate Charlotte schools before heading to the Natural Sciences Museum and growing it to one of the most successful in the country. Betsy joins our host Frank Stasio to talk about her life history in education.

Xuanhe Zhao
www.pratt.duke.edu

A new material developed by Duke University engineers may help ships rid accumulated scum from their vessels. The material can be applied like paint to the hull of a ship and can move in response to an electric current to dislodge bacteria and prevent accumulations on the ship’s surface. Bacterial buildup on ships increases drag and reduces the fuel economy of the vessel, as well as blocking or clogging undersea sensors.

 

In the age of constant digital stimulus, it can be hard to truly listen to all that's around you. Duncan Laurie will tell you that listening a little closer might bring you happiness or healing. Duncan has found ways to tap into the sonic energy of organic materials, like plants and rock.

A new study from Duke University looks into how male sparrows express their anger. Although they are capable  of fighting to the death, the new study reveals that they often wave their wings wildly before attacking in an attempt to avoid a possibly fatal brawl.

Scientists say they may have found a new clue that sheds light on the sinking of Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley during the Civil War. The new evidence lies in a pole, called a spar, once placed on the front of the sub and used to plant explosives on enemy ships.  Scientists announced Monday that 135 pounds of gunpowder was attached to the spar at the front of the vessel.

Dominion North Carolina Power plans to study the prospect of wind and solar energy on the Outer Banks for small-scale power grids.  The utility is launching a three-year research project at its office in Kitty Hawk. The plans include four wind turbines, solar panels and a storage battery that will work to reduce the amount of power the office pulls from the grid.  Project manager Sarah Cosby says that network creates a so-called micro-grid that could be useful for small communities during power outages.

canopymeg.com
canopymeg.com

Meg Lowman has spent her life exploring the treetops. She was dubbed the real-life “Lorax” by National Geographic for her work exploring forest canopies and identifying the species that live there.

Online networking sites have become one of the primary ways humans forge connections with each another. Ian Gilby tells us that Gombe chimps might be just as interested in social networking as we are. He's been studying the ways chimpanzees form coalitions with one another in order to thrive and reproduce.

The City of Raleigh will be one of the first US cities to try out new wireless technology for electric vehicles.   

Just like everything else – even electric vehicle charging stations are going wireless. 

Evatran Video:  Unleash your EV. To learn more, visit Plug-less Power dot com.

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