Science & Technology

Science news

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


 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."

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. 

Carnufex carolinensis
Jorge Gonzalez / Scientific Reports

North Carolina State University researchers have identified a new species that might have been the top predator in North America before the dinosaurs. The Carnufex carolinensis has been nicknamed the 'Carolina Butcher'. 

Lindsay Zanno and Susan Drymala co-authored the study  in the journal Scientific Reports. Drymala says this Triassic ancestor of the crocodile lived at a time before mammals and reptiles split into different classes.

Today's segment on What Animals Tell Us About Love And Relationships is a rebroadcast. 

After a bad end to a long-term relationship, animal behavior expert Jennifer Verdolin decided to look to the animal kingdom for new insight on dating. 

She dug into animal behavior literature and applied her findings to the dating world. She approached each new date as if she were an animal trying to find a mate. Her new book, Wild Connection: What Animal Courtship And Mating Tell Us about Human Relationships (Prometheus Books/2014), compares the courtship rituals and mating behaviors of animals to their human equivalents. 

A laser beam is projected from the Keck II telescope in Hawaii.
Paul Hirst / Creative Commons

This week, Duke University is hosting a conference with the world's foremost experts in light-based technologies.

The science of photonics studies how light interacts with matter. Fiber optic cable and lasers are two goods that were developed through photonics.

Janna Register is an organizer of this week's symposium at Duke’s Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics.

Split-brain studies have illuminated how the brain functions and raised bigger philosophical questions like: what is a mind, and what would it mean to have two minds?
Wikimedia Commons

Cognitive neuropsychology is a branch of psychology that uses brain damage or atypical brains to theorize about the structure of the mind.

Elizabeth Schechter is a philosopher who uses cognitive neuropsychology to ponder bigger philosophical questions like: What is a mind? What is self consciousness? What would it mean to have two minds?

Mary-Dell Chilton is a pioneer in the field of agricultural biotechnology. As a young scientist at Washington University, she led the team of researchers that produced the first genetically-modified plant. Chilton moved to North Carolina in the early 1980s to begin her corporate career and has continued to conduct research that shapes the agricultural production of corn, cotton, and other crops.

Google Fiber logo


Faster internet is coming to North Carolina. Tech giant Google announced it will build ultra-high-speed broadband networks in the Triangle and Charlotte areas. 

Human brain
Creative commons

Today's program is a rebroadcast of The Mysterious Relationship Between Brain And Body.

Broadband internet, computers,


President Obama used last night’s State of the Union address to position himself as a champion of the middle class.

He called on Congress to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans to pay for services like child care and rising health costs.

But he also took a minute to ask Congress to pass a bill that would beef up this nation’s cybersecurity.

NC Museum Natural Sciences

The State of Things is broadcasting live from the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

Cape Hatteras

Scientists and even politicians agree: sea levels along the North Carolina coastline are rising. But the Coastal Resource Commission’s Science Panel says the rise varies in different spots along the state’s 300 miles of oceanfront property. Their draft report outlining the change was just released. The panel is the same body that made the prediction of a 39-inch sea level rise back in 2010. The report prompted Republican lawmakers to throw out the findings and order a new report. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC environmental reporter Dave Dewitt about the latest.


Dinosaurs can be fascinating exhibits in a museum. But what is their relevance to modern life? A new exhibit at the Museum of Natural Sciences looks at the biology of dinosaurs.

Dan Ariely / Duke Photography

Dan Ariely works in contradictions. He studies behavioral economics and points out that humans are logical but irrational beings.

How do we assign monetary value to a thought or an idea? How do we decide when a lie is more valuable than the truth? Are we really in control of the decisions we make on a daily basis?

At the crossroads of psychology and economics, Ariely has made it his life’s work to study the idea that some of our best intentions can lead to our most irrational behavior.

Making Space

Dec 5, 2014
Duke Professor Jennifer Groh's new book "Making Space" takes a look at our brain's ability to handle spatial relationships.
Harvard University Press

Our brains devote incredible amounts computational power trying to figuring out the simplest details about spatial relationships. 

Broadband internet, computers,

The high-tech nonprofit behind the North Carolina Research and Education Network is celebrating advances in broadband infrastructure. 

MCNC brings high speed Internet access to Universities, community colleges and the state's K-12 public schools. 

The organization's new President and CEO Jean Davis says the next step involves even faster connectivity.

A hummingbird in flight
Ed Yoo / Endeavors Magazine, UNC

New modeling from Vanderbilt and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill gives a 3-D breakdown of how a hummingbird's wings work. The method by which the birds move has eluded scientists for some time. But new video imaging shows the airflow the birds create which allows their agility.

Wonder what that proposed 17-mile light rail project that would connect Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina would look like? Take a look at the latest model. It's made using Google Earth's virtual tour capabilities and other 3D software:

Project planners will have an environmental impact statement ready for public review in early 2015. The project is set to be constructed between 2020 and 2026 depending on approvals and funding.

Patches relaxes at the zoo.
NC Zoo

The North Carolina Zoo's popular polar bear, Patches, died on Sunday.

In recent weeks, Patches had become uninterested in food, and was lethargic, according to Ken Reininger, the zoo’s general curator. Tests revealed the female bear had an extensive lung mass which was likely cancer.

“In the wild the average life span of a polar bear is 15-to-18 years old,” said Dr. David Jones, director of the zoo. “Patches was 26-years-old. She exceeded wildlife expectations by living a long life.”

The odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile) was the most common species found in parks and forests, but was absent in street medians.
Adrian Smith

A new study out of North Carolina State University suggests there's a remarkably high diversity in the types of ants found in cities.

Published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, the paper looks at different environments along Broadway Avenue in Manhattan. Researchers found more than 20 different species of ants in the median of the road alone. They found more than 20 other species in the surrounding parks and urban forests.

Image of Duke Professor Missy Cummings, drone advocate and expert.
Missy Cummings


Although the word drone may at first evoke an image of a stealth killing machine, the work of Mary 'Missy' Cummings proves drones are much more than that initial thought. 

Holden Mora shows his new hand, and a pumpkin spice cookie.
Carol Jackson

Seven-year-old Holden Mora's hand is something that Iron Man might envy. It's bright red, and appears indestructible. Holden was born with something called Symbrachydactyly, and his hand didn't develop properly in the womb.

The 3D hand was created specially for Holden by a UNC  biomedical engineering student, Jeffrey Powell. Powell didn't use high-tech prosthetic engineering tools to create the hand. He used a 3D printer.

The State of Things is broadcasting live from the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Watch here:

Florida predatory stink bug nymph
Matt Bertone, 2014


Stink bugs, moths, fireflies, and caterpillars are just a few of the creepy crawlers featured at Bugfest, a showcase of more than 100 exhibits about an array of arthropods at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Alison Moyer poses with Dreadnoughtus' neck bone, which she uncovered.
Alison Moyer

Last week, researchers revealed one of the biggest discoveries ever in the dinosaur world. "Dreadnoughtus" is 85 feet long, two stories tall, and as big as a jumbo jet. It's estimated to weigh as much as seven T. rex dinosaurs put together, and experts believe it was not yet fully grown when it died. Alison Moyer spent several months on her knees in southern Argentina using picks, dust brushes, and tweezers to uncover parts of Dreadnoughtus' skeleton. Moyer is a Ph.D candidate at N.C. State University. This was her first dig.

What was your role?

NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Officials with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences are renovating its Museum of Forestry facility in Whiteville.  But the forestry museum's board will have to raise $100,000 as part of the process. 

Legislators wrote into the state budget a requirement for the fundraising effort as a means of proving the facility has value to the Whiteville community.

Museum of Natural Sciences director Emlyn Koster says plans are to turn the building into a hands-on community learning facility.