Science & Technology

Science news

Wikimedia Commons

    

A federal government report on Internet access ranked North Carolina last in the country for the rate of Internet subscription.  

Only 17 percent of North Carolina households have fixed Internet connections at a speed the FCC deems the "minimum required to engage in modern life."  Rural residents say that they have difficulty getting coverage while providers claim rural North Carolina has adequate service.

Syngenta
Leoneda Inge

Some of the top, fast-emerging Ag Biotech companies in North Carolina pitched their goods before investors yesterday in RTP.

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center hosted its first Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase.  The competition was fierce since the state is known world-wide as a top spot for Ag Biotech.   

What Does A Peahen See In A Peacock?

Oct 10, 2013
Peacocks at Noah's Landing in Coats, NC
Daniel Lane

When a guy goes out to the club, he might throw on his best clothes or a flashy chain or spike up his hair to impress the ladies. People call this “peacocking” after the birds who fan their colorful tails to attract mates.

But scientists are still researching what benefits peacocks get from their fashionable feathers.  

Peacocks are notoriously noisy birds. So when I visited Noah’s Landing, a small zoo in Coats, North Carolina to record some peacocks and peahens - the girl birds - I figured something would happen quickly

catwarren.com
catwarren.com / catwarren.com

Cat Warren is a North Carolina State University professor by day and a superhero by night. Well, sort of. Her dog Solo is a cadaver dog. Warren takes him out to suspected crime scenes to help police find the bodies of the missing and presumed deceased.

The hobby started innocently enough as a way to keep Solo’s energy in check. He wasn't very well behaved, and he flunked out of obedience school a number of times.

“He was a singleton, so he didn’t relate well with dogs," Warren said on The State of Things.

Google Glass
Leoneda Inge

Durham is the first stop on the national Google Glass tour.

No, these titanium framed wearable computers are not for sale yet.  The Google X Team says it will be sometime next year. These science fiction-like frames come in several colors – including Sky, which looks a lot like Carolina Blue.

“To talk to your Google Glass, you have to say Okay Glass," Reporter Leoneda Inge said while trying on a pair.

She'll need several more lessons.  Wilson White is Public Policy Counsel for Google Glass.  

CED Tech Venture
CED

Today kicks off the 29th annual CED Tech Venture Conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. 

This year, the Council for Entrepreneurial Development was a bit more selective in the start-up companies being featured at its annual event.  Only 32 start-ups were chosen to fast-pitch before venture capitalists.

Mike Elliott of Atlanta-based venture capital group Noro-Moseley is this year’s conference chairman. He’s impressed with the group.

Hurricane Irene
nasa.gov

The 2013 Atlantic storm season has been milder than expected so far. Only eight named storms have formed by the season's midpoint.  The latest -- Humberto -- is the first hurricane to form.

A Coquerel's Sifaka lemur at the Duke Lemur Center.
Laura Candler

Researchers at Duke University say studying hibernation in a certain species of lemur is giving them a better understanding of how sleep might help people with serious injuries or diseases. 

NC Biotech
NC Biotechnology Center

Major cuts have been made to education and training programs at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.  When the latest state budget was signed, the North Carolina Biotech Center was told it had to cut 27% of its budget.  That meant a cut of $4.6 million.

Norris Tolson is president and CEO of the Biotech Center.  He says an example of programs they had to cut were the Summer Workshops for Educators, that trained 200 teachers a year.

Madhu Beriwal (on right cutting the ribbon) when headquarters were moved from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
iem.com / innovative emergency management

  

In 1985, Madhu Beriwal was conducting hurricane research for the state of Louisiana. She charted possible directions and outcomes that different storm conditions would bring to New Orleans. Looking at the atlas in 2005, Beriwal said it almost perfectly predicted the severity of Hurricane Katrina. 

Google named Cary the state's 2013 eCity for the high online connectivity of its small businesses.
Google

Google has announced its first eCity awards, recognizing one city in every state for the strength of its online business community. In North Carolina, Google gave that distinction to Cary for the high percentage of small businesses that leverage the Internet to connect with customers. Being an eCity won’t earn Cary cash prizes or awards, but it does earn the mayor a congratulatory phone call from Google and some hefty bragging rights.

Pittsboro resident Marielle Hare owns a dog, Oona, that she believes might have traces of Carolina Dog in her. She is interested in testing its DNA.
Marielle Hare

The first Carolina dog that I. Lehr Brisbin took home with him smeared fecal matter all over the back seat of his car. He found her at a pound in Augusta, Georgia in the 1970s, and despite strong discouragement from the pound’s staff (they said she bit everyone who touched her), he managed to wrangle her into a carry crate in his back seat, where “she immediately had a diarrhea attack,” Brisbin recalls. But he was far from discouraged.  Brisbin wanted to take her home because he thought there was something strange and special about her. She resembled some wild dogs he’d seen in the woods along the Savannah River. And Brisbin was starting to put together an exciting hypothesis about why there were wild dogs in the South Carolina lowland that looked and acted different from most others.

At the time, I. Lehr Brisbin was a biologist studying wildlife at the Savannah River Ecology Lab, a field research station of the University of Georgia in Aiken, South Carolina. His research often took him into the 300 square mile wilderness of the Savannah River Ecology site. That’s where he first noticed the wild dogs.  They had long, pointy snouts, ears that permanently stood up and tails that curled back on themselves.  And their behavior, he noticed, was unusual, too. They dug small pits in the ground with their snouts. They hunted in packs and signaled to each other by flashing the white undersides of their tails. They moved as a pack, like wolves.  They were more like Australian Dingoes than European-bred dogs brought to America by colonists.  Brisbin hypothesized that the wild South Carolina dogs descended from canines that belonged to Native Americans, that the dogs’ ancestors had crossed the land bridge between Asia and North America with humans around 12,000 years ago.

The Brunswick Nuclear Plant was ranked one of the most vulnerable nuclear reactors to a terrorist attack.
Doc Searls via Wikimedia

A new study commissioned by the Defense Department says every nuclear reactor in America is ill-prepared for a terrorist attack. North Carolina's Brunswick Nuclear Plant was ranked among the most vulnerable to attack, because of it's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Kim Crawford is a spokesperson for Duke Energy, which manages four nuclear sites in North Carolina, including Brunswick. She says their plants are safe.

The olinguito is the first new species of carnivore discovered in the western hemisphere in 35 years.
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

A North Carolina scientist is part of a team that's made a big find: the first carnivore to be discovered in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.  

The new animal is called the olinguito (pronounced oh-lin-GHEE-toe). But for the longest time, olinguitos were thought to be olingos, small raccoon-like carnivores that live in the Andes Mountains.

The NSA is creating a partnership with N.C. State.
nsa.gov

N.C. State is partnering with the National Security Agency to launch a data-collecting research lab. 

The school announced this morning it won a $60 million contract to create the facility on the university's Centennial Campus.  Terri Lomax is vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at N.C. State.  She says the lab is meant to answer questions about how to better collect, sort and store massive amounts of computer data.

Cree's XSPR street light.
Cree

Durham-based lighting company Cree recently unveiled its latest LED creation: a low-cost, energy-saving residential street light they claim can save cities millions on their electric bills. While LED street lights have been around for years, most are created specifically for roads and interstates, not neighborhoods. Cree’s new light—the XSPR street light— is designed with residential areas in mind, and it also wears a lower price tag.

creative commons
creative commons / creative commons

Scientists generally understand that healthy bodies and healthy minds are related, but the interaction between the two isn’t as clear.

Broadband internet, computers,
www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/

A North Carolina public broadband network is touting a grant it's using to expand its bandwidth and reach into rural communities. 

The group MCNC is celebrating the $144 million grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation Monday.  Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to attend the event. 

Two Oystercatchers walking along the shoreline at Oregon Inlet, NC
Jeff Lewis / http://www.flickr.com/photos/natureimages/

  

The oystercatcher is the clown of the bird world. It has pink legs, a long orange bill and bright yellow eyes. And the eastern population of the oystercatcher is in danger. There are only about 11,000 in existence, and scientists are doing everything they can to make sure they stick around. Lindsay Addison is a coastal biologist for Audobon, North Carolina. She’s involved in a project to track the migratory patterns of these beach birds. Host Frank Stasio talks to her about the project.

“What are they Thinking: The Straight facts about the risk taking, social networking, still developing teen brain” by Aaron M. White and Scott Swartzwelder
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc

    

While the verdict has long been out that adolescents are irrational and impulsive, recent research has shown that hormones are not the primary culprit for this behavior; the brain is also at fault.

Southern Cricket Frog in Person County, NC.
Catherine Stevens / http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiral_c/

You might be forgiven for thinking the apocalypse is underway. Recently on the State of Things we’ve talked about the mass deaths of both bees and bats and the scary implications for the rest of us. Today, we’re going to talk about the death of frogs. Jonathan Micancin says that this problem has been with us a long time. In fact, it could have been the first sign that something may be going horribly wrong in the environment.

Marianne LaFrance, a psychologist at Yale, makes a comparison between a genuine smile (left) and a fake smile (right).
Marianne LaFrance

Sure, it's more or less a given that we smile when we're happy and we smile when our picture is taken.  But do we also smile automatically throughout the day when we make eye contact with strangers?  How often do we smile in conversation? 

Stephen Reynolds is an astrophysicist at North Carolina State University.
http://www.physics.ncsu.edu/people/faculty_reynolds.html

In the age of the Internet, it sometimes seems as though no questions remain unanswered. But for Stephen Reynolds, the mystery is only beginning.

A seal pup on thin ice.
International Fund for Animal Welfare

A new study from Duke has found that as sea ice cover declines off the coast of eastern Canada, harp seal pups are suffering from a higher rate of strandings than their parents. It’s the first study of seal stranding rates that takes into account genetics, as well as environmental and demographic factors like age and gender.  Duke research scientist David Johnston says that genetic fitness does not affect the rate of stranding.

Brian Gundersen with his new Google Glass.
Brian Gundersen

The new supercomputer headgear Google Glass might seem like technology from the future, but in North Carolina there have already been sightings. At least three Google Glass users have made their way through the Triangle recently, and they left behind a trail of media documenting their experiences.

Some science fairs are pushing students to answer new questions rather than confirming old answers.
DML East Branch / Flickr Creative Commons

When you think of school science fair projects, you might think of baking soda volcanoes or Styrofoam models of the planets. More to the point, that’s what a lot of students think of – and what they enter – in science fairs.

But to a lot of real scientists, projects like that are a missed opportunity. They say that rather than just building models, children as young as eight or ten can do actual science and discover new things.

Potato late blight lesion, a fungus-like pathogen on a plant.
Jean Ristaino, NC State University

New research reveals the disease that wiped out millions of potatoes and led to widespread famine in Ireland is still around, and it’s more virulent than ever.  A new study led by NC State University plant pathologist Jean Ristaino investigates the history of the fungus-like organism that caused the Irish potato famine and how its genome has evolved since it first showed up in Ireland in the 1800’s.

Captain America's Shield
Pop Culture Geek/Flickr / creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

When you watch an X-men movie or read a Captain America comic, you can find a new way to look at material science. Superhero comics can be just as much science as they are magic.

A self-contained sewage recycling system being designed by Duke and Missouri engineers.
Duke University

Two years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a research competition called “Reinvent the Toilet,” challenging researchers to create a sewage disposal system that requires no electricity and could be used in developing countries. Marc Deshusses, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, pitched an idea to the Foundation and won $100,000 to take it further.

Argus II bionic eye glasses
Second Sight

Duke University Hospital has become one of only 13 sites in the nation selected to offer bionic eyes for severely blind patients.

A company called Second Sight developed the device, and they chose Duke after a lengthy selection process. The device was approved by the FDA in February.

Pages