Science & Technology

Science news

Ed White performs the first U.S. spacewalk. White floats in space with astronaut suit and attached to the shuttle by a cord. Earth is in the background.
flickr.com / Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee

Scientists say in space you cannot hear a sound. But for decades, filmmakers have tried to create the sounds of space. And perhaps they’re onto something. Asheville's Moogfest is hosting a panel "Sounds of Space," that explores both artists and scientists' perspectives on what we can hear in space if we learn to listen. Charles Lindsay, a multimedia artist and the artist in residence at SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, and Eric McDougall, founder and principal of Black Ink San Francisco, are part of the panel. 

A picture of the NCSU Forensic Anthropology Logo.
NCSU

New research from North Carolina State University has found a connection between historical stressors and physiological development in the Cherokee nation. 

In the late 19th century, anthropologist Franz Boas measured the skulls of adult Cherokees from groups who had grown up as the nation was split. Some were driven west on the Trail of Tears, and others fled to the Smoky Mountains for safety. 

NC State Forensic Anthropologist Ann Ross analyzed that data and found that Cherokees from both groups developed smaller skulls with different shapes.  

Beer sampler
Flickr: Quinn Dombrowski

Since 1980, North Carolina's beer industry has grown from four breweries to nearly 100. The craft beer explosion has far-reaching effects in the local economy, community and agriculture. It has inspired a great deal of creativity, including the development of beer made from yeast that grows on wasps.

Museum of Natural Sciences

For many comedians, the biggest dream is a packed house at a famous comedy club. But for science comedian Brian Malow, the dream is a room packed with science and engineering types, laughing at jokes only the geekiest among us might understand. Host Frank Stasio talks with Malow, curator of the Daily Planet at the Museum of Natural Sciences.

For more than 40 years, Jane Smith Patterson has been paving the way for women in North Carolina politics and digital technology. After her start as a young organizer and activist in her hometown in Columbus County, North Carolina, Patterson left home for college when she was 16 years old. 

Typhoid Vaccination
Library of Congress CALL NUMBER: LC-USW36-828 [P&P] Transfer from U.S. Office of War Information, 1944.

In April of last year, a North Carolina resident developed a fever and rash shortly after returning from a trip to India. He had contracted measles abroad, and by the end of May, the North Carolina Division of Public Health identified 22 more cases of measles in the area. Many of those infected, including the initial patient, had not been vaccinated against the disease.

Medical School Residency Match Day
Guillermo Cabrera-Rojo / Flickr/Creative Commons

Next Friday, over 17,000 U.S. medical students will find out exactly what kind of doctor they will become. The process is called ‘the match’, and it works more like high-stakes speed dating than a job application process. 

During the last year of medical school, much like in high school, medical students apply to residency programs across the country. The programs then send invitations to select applicants to interview at their institution.

For some residency fields such as family medicine, students may only have to interview at a handful of institutions because there are more spots than there are U.S. students applying for that field. But for many other fields, such as plastic surgery or ophthalmology, students often interview at 15 or more places in order to have a good chance at matching. The process takes up to 3 months and can cost thousands of dollars. (Students are expected to pay these costs themselves.) 

Dr. Anthony Atala
Screen Shot from his TED Talk

With the abundance of universities, industry and research companies, it's no surprise that North Carolina is a leader in innovation. Here are three cutting-edge medical and science advancements developed locally that may soon have global effects.

1. Printing Organs with Stem Cells

SmartSign via Flickr

A Shelby-based company is launching their own ultra-high-speed fiber optic project -- even as Google Fiber tests some North Carolina markets for connectivity.  RST Fiber says it has activated a statewide 3,100-mile fiber network.  

Brain scan
creative commons

In the future, neuroscientific evidence may be as prevalent as DNA evidence in the criminal justice system. Today on The State of Things, experts discussed the future of neuroscience and the law. Here are some highlights. 

MRI brain scan
creative commons

In the not so distant future, brain scans may be as prevalent as DNA evidence in the criminal justice system. This neuroscientific evidence has the potential to correct biases and predict criminal recidivism. But critics argue it could be misleading and difficult to refute. Exploring the brain as a means of assessing intent also raises privacy concerns. 

Dan Vermeer Executive Director of the Center for Energy Development and the Global Environment
fuqua.duke.edu / Center for Energy Development and the Global Environment

    

When he graduated from college, Daniel Vermeer did not want a job. He wanted only to wander through Asia and continue learning about world religions. But his adventures led him to some unexpected destinations, including corporate America. He led water sustainability projects for Coca-Cola and advised Fortune 50 companies on their water policies. 

UCFFool on Flickr

    

Google recently announced nine metro areas under consideration for its latest internet technology: Google Fiber.

APOPO HeroRAT tea egg training  Dammies trainee HeroRAT swaps a tea egg containing a sample of TNT he has just found for a banana treat
flickr.com / APOPO

    

Most Americans think of rats as nuisances to be trapped and destroyed. But in Tanzania, giant pouched rats use their acute sense of smell to detect landmines and other explosives. Dr. Danielle Lee is an animal behavior scientist based at Oklahoma State University and she researches the African giant pouched rat. 

Sweet potato fields in Eastern NC.
Bob Is Traveling / Flickr Creative Commons

Many farms spread human waste on cropland to fertilize it. In this case, the waste is called "biosolids". It can carry household chemicals that affect important bacteria, and that can hurt soil health.

The government has had a hard time regulating chemicals in biosolids, because the equipment that measured bacterial gases was very expensive.

But a new report from Duke University's school of engineering shows that bacterial reactions to chemicals can be assessed by changes in color. That's a cheaper test to administer.

Lithium ion battery from a laptop computer
Kristoferb / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Scientists in the Triangle might have discovered a non-flammable liquid electrolyte that could be instrumental for longer-lasting lithium-ion batteries found in cell phones, laptops, and some electric cars.

The research could also provide a solution to the recent high-profile battery fires in the Tesla Model S car, iPhones, and Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

David Haring / Duke Lemur Center

Lemur couples with infants start to smell alike. Oh sure, they smelled differently before they had offspring. But pretty soon, the lemur lovers start mirroring each other's scents. Even their "scent-marking" odor begins to change. Researchers think the change in scent could be a way to mark territory, or it could be a way to advertise their relationship to all the other would-be mates.

The study findings are in the  February issue of  Animal Behavior.

wikipedia

When we think about the bond between animals and humans, we often think of the "pet-owner" relationship. But animals influence our lives in many other ways: as part of the food supply chain, as therapeutic companions and as cohabitants of our environment. Jeannine Moga, clinical and veterinary social worker at North Carolina State University, explores the imprints animals leave on humans beyond companionship. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Moga about the relationships between animals and humans.

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski has spent two decades transforming the University of Maryland, Baltimore County into one of the most innovative research institutions in the country.  His devotion to helping minority students advance in the world of science and mathematics gained him a role as a trusted advisor to President Obama on educational issues. Host Frank Stasio talks with Dr. Hrabowski about his life, his work and STEM programs in higher education.

David Pizarro black and white photo, laughing
http://www.peezer.net/

  

Feelings of disgust can be a useful in navigating environmental threats. When we are disgusted, we avoid contaminated or poisonous things. But new research shows that disgust may also subconsciously influence our political and moral judgments. Psychology professor David Pizarro examines the ways disgust affects decision-making in the political realm.

Mars One

A North Carolina State University bioengineering student has made the first cut for a Dutch non-profit's mission to Mars. 

Of the 200,000 applicants for a mission to colonize the red planet, Raleigh's Charles Parrish made it to the recent cut of 1,058 candidates. The 23-year-old  has been passionate about space since childhood and has already done research for NASA and the Mars Society.

Obama at Vacon
Courtesy of Vacon

North Carolina State University was awarded a big task by The White House this week.

The land-grant institution will house a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute that will focus on getting the next generation of electronic chips and devices into the marketplace. 

President Barack Obama got the biggest applause of his speech when he made this announcement at NC State earlier this week:

Yan Liang / Energy Frontier Research Center UNC-Chapel Hill

The Frontier Research Center at UNC-Chapel Hill has built a system that converts solar energy into fuel, so power can be used even after the sun sets.  The US Department of Energy is funding the research.

Instead of storing solar electricity in an expensive battery, researchers use the sun's energy to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Two of the Center's papers about the process were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

House Wade Avenue Pump Station
Eric Mennel / WUNC

If you live or work in Raleigh, there's a reasonable chance you've driven by it. Maybe hundreds, or even thousands of times. And, chances are, you've never noticed anything out of the ordinary. In most ways, it's wholly unremarkable.

The house at 3215 Wade Avenue, about 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh, looks just like the rest of the houses in that neighborhood. A nice metal roof. Forest green window shutters. Doric columns line the front porch.

But there's no driveway out front. And the lights are never on. And there's no walkway to the front door.

Creative Commons

Algae may seem harmless, but toxic algae blooms can be a real problem in water supplies used by people.

They can kill wildlife in the water and be dangerous to humans. Host Frank Stasio talks with Hans Paerl, professor of Marine and Environmental Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute of Marine Sciences, Morehead City.

Creative Commons

Some scientists tout genetically modified food as a groundbreaking technology that can feed the hungry.

MediGuard App
Courtesy of Quintiles

There’s a new mobile phone app that can monitor your medications -- from pill reminders to warnings about drug interactions.

Durham-based Quintiles is providing the app for free for users of its MediGuard service.  Users can even gather information about medical research, according to this YouTube video.

The new process dissolves lignin into the PIL, leaving cellulose behind as a solid.
Ezinne Achinvu / North Carolina State University

As corn prices rise and ethanol production competes with food sources, the energy industry is looking for other ways to produce biofuels.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a simple, efficient and inexpensive way to extract energy-rich cellulose from non-edible plant matter, like corn husks, grasses, and wood chips.

PhD student Ezinne Achinivu  says labs often run into trouble trying to remove a protective material called lignin. It's bonded to the cellulose, but hinders its efficiency.

Duke scientists look into the brains of songbirds.
johnholdway.com

Scientists are learning fascinating things by studying songbirds. 

NCSU students study an array of solar panels on top of the NSF FREEDM Systems Center.
Marc Hall / North Carolina State University

The North Carolina Solar Center has become the fifth lab in the country approved to test solar hot water panels to the market standard.

The federal government requires home solar water heating systems to have Solar Rating and Certification Corporation—or SRCC—certification in order to be eligible for a 30-percent tax credit.

The Center has also been recently accredited to test efficiency and calibrate panels according to international standards.

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