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Kurt Vonnegut in the ‘House of Magic’

Dec 5, 2015

The little-known world of endangered plant poaching

Nov 30, 2015
Becky Fogel

There are plenty of news stories about lions, leopards and elephants being poached, but animals aren’t the only endangered species out there. Rare and protected plants are also harvested by poachers, smuggled across borders and illegally sold online. 

What brainless slime mold can teach us about making better decisions

Nov 30, 2015

There is a mindless, senseless yellow-tinted blob of an organism that lives on the forest floor. It’s called slime mold and even though it lacks a brain, it can be relied upon to make a healthy decision more often than most humans. 

“It lives on the forest floor, and it loves moisture and darkness. And it just meanders around looking for food,” Science Friday video producer Luke Groskin. “It has no eyes, and it can only feel for food. So how does it make a decision? How does that creature decide, ‘Oh, it's time to go over here. It's time to go over there.'”

Randall Munroe’s Thousand-Word Challenge

Nov 28, 2015

Scientists say they have a new cure for hearing loss

Nov 28, 2015
Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Jay Alan Zimmerman is a successful composer who writes music for movies and musicals. There's something that sets him apart from other composers, however. He's deaf. 

Zimmerman wasn’t always deaf. He came to New York and began his career in music. Over time he realized he had lost quite a bit of hearing at the top of his range. He didn’t realize just how bad his hearing loss was until one day when he was trying to work on a new track. 

This is a microscopic image of MDMA, the psychoactive drug popularly known as ecstasy, or Molly, that “produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and empathy toward others, and distortions in sensory and time perception,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The smell inside the warehouse of Nine Pin Ciderworks in Albany, New York, on a recent afternoon was unmistakable: alcohol, with a hint of sweetness.

The aroma wafted from three large plastic vats nearly filled to the brim with the juice of 21,000 pounds of apples recently picked from a nearby orchard. Gurgling loudly, the liquid belched carbon dioxide in a process crucial to turning pure apple juice boozy — fermentation. A gaseous haze hung over the vats at eye level.

The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have reopened the debate over whether the government should have expanded abilities to crack open encrypted messages and access encrypted devices. The director of the FBI in testimony on Capitol Hill this week that messages are going unread, even from those responsible for known attacks.

Two experts, however, say the real problem isn’t lack of access, but lack of analysis. 

After the Paris attacks CIA Director John Brennan warned that encryption could hinder security services from tracking potential dangers.

The Carolina SqiQuarium opened in 2013 as part of expansion plans for the whole Greensboro Science Center. The aquarium features African penguins, sharks, otters and stingrays, among others.
Greensboro Science Center

The Greensboro Science Center is the only institution in North Carolina to house a zoo, aquarium and museum under one roof, and it's one of a handful in the country. The Science Center has been in the Triad since the 1950s, but recent expansion has dramatically grown the facility into a true 3-in-1 destination.

The Evolution Of Bats

Nov 13, 2015
Gregg Gunnell studies bat fossils, a relatively small field given the small amount of bat fossils that exist. Experts still don't know the evolutionary origin of bats.
Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr Creative Commons

Scientists have found bat fossils dating back 55 million years ago, but they still do not know the genesis of their evolution. As time passed since those early bats, the animals found little competition during the night and proliferated.

Bats currently comprise 20 percent of all mammals. There are many types of bats, from the insect-eating to the fruit-eating to the blood-sucking vampire bats. These creatures are also the only mammals with powered flight or a sophisticated echolocation system. 

Fosa: King Of The Madagascar Jungle

Nov 4, 2015
Fosa are the top mammalian predator on Madagascar, and their diet includes lemurs.
kellinahandbasket / Flickr Creative Commons

In the jungles of Madagascar roams an endemic beast known as the fosa. It has the frame of a small cougar and head of a mongoose, hunting any animal with a heartbeat, including lemurs.

Though the fosa rests atop the food chain in Madagascar, slash and burn agriculture threaten the future of this already dwindling population.

Aziz Sancar is a professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine and 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Max Englund / UNC Health Care

Aziz Sancar grew up as a farm boy in a small town in Turkey. He was a bright child and attended medical school. He returned to his hometown and practiced medicine for a few years.

But even in his daily practice, Sancar had questions about how things worked on the molecular level.

Roland Kays is the director of the biodiversity lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and a professor at N.C. State University. He has an interest in the ecology and conservation of animals, particularly mammals.
Roland Kays

Roland Kays has spent his life studying the behavior and history of animals.

It started in high school when he ran the eggs of a fruit fly through an x-ray machine at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. The experiment did not yield the results he wanted, but it did lead to a life as a zoologist. 

Today, Roland has a number of expeditions under his belt, including trips to Africa and South America. In 2013, he was part of the team that discovered a new relative of the raccoon, called the olinguito.

A picture of a flooded New Jersey pumpkin patch.
Jackie / Wikipedia

The worst of the stormy weather has passed. But Brian Long of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says the trouble is still ahead for farmers.

"Unfortunately, the impacts are on some of the crops that are major for North Carolina: Peanuts, sweet potatoes, cotton, tobacco, soybeans, in particular. And then you think about farmers, such as pumpkin farmers, that this is the time of year when their crop is in demand, and we're hearing some reports of pumpkins, you know, actually just floating in water in fields."

Duke University Opens Coastal Drone Lab

Aug 25, 2015
Drone in flight
Don McCullough / Flickr Creative Commons

More and more drones are flying in North Carolina skies every day, and researchers at Duke University are beginning to explore how drones could benefit marine sciences.

The school recently opened a research and training facility for students and professionals in Beaufort, N.C. where they hope to use drones to research nesting habits for birds and sea turtles.

Stethoscope
jasleen_kaur / Flickr Creative Commons

Scientists have set their sights on finding a cure for AIDS. At the opening of the International AIDS Society conference in Vancouver, AIDS researchers made a call to action for a worldwide shift in HIV treatment.

They now suggest that doctors provide medication immediately after a diagnosis instead of first waiting for the signs of illness to appear.

Image of Marshall Brain, creator of howstuffworks.com and a professor at N.C. State
N.C. State University

North Carolina State University professor Marshall Brain grew up in southern California with a father who was a computer scientist at NASA during the agency's heyday.

Brain watched his father work on lunar excursion modules for the Apollo missions and later, major train systems in San Francisco and Atlanta.

In his spare time, he helped Marshall build a bubble machine out of spare parts. It was an enchanting childhood, and it is no wonder that Marshall was a curious boy who developed a love for all things mechanical. 

Jay Price/WUNC

The state that boasts of being “First in Flight” is preparing for another major aviation development – an expected surge in unmanned flight.

An image of a dog wearing a computerized harness
David Roberts

Remember the animated Pixar movie "UP" where a grumpy, old man is softened by a talking dog named Dug? A futuristic collar translates Dug’s thoughts into words, but the trouble is Dug never really stops talking.
 

Google Fiber logo
Wikipedia

 

 Google Fiber and the Nonprofit Technology Network are trying to  help more people get online. The groups launched the Digital Inclusion Fellowship Thursday to get the more than 60 million Americans not using the Internet plugged into online resources

 

Image of Katharine Wright sitting beside Wilbur before her first flight in 1909.
Courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University

The state of North Carolina has many claims to fame, but there is likely none more popular or controversial than the slogan on the state license plate: “First In Flight.” The phrase commemorates the spectacular achievement of brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright who piloted their first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903.

    

The Man Who Touched His Own Heart, is a history of science and medical efforts to understand the heart.
Little, Brown & Co/2015

Biologist, writer and professor Rob Dunn was not always going to be a scientist, but he was probably born to be one. 

Students participate in the 2014 NC Science Festival.
NC Science Festival

What do hip-hop and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) have in common?

N.C. State University professor Rupert Nacoste's latest book is "Taking on Diversity."
makinggumbo.com

Rupert Nacoste served in the U.S. Navy during military race riots in the 1970s.

His commanding officers chose him to facilitate conversations about race relations among his fellow sailors. The experience prompted him to pursue a career as a social psychologist. 

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