Science & Technology

Science news

UNC professor Paul Jones located a Web page from 1991 on his old NeXT computer
screen shot

It might not be much to look at, but in the history of the World Wide Web,  this image is a landmark. It's the earliest web page found so far, according to scientists at the nuclear research group CERN (the same organization that developed the Large Hadron Collider) who are trying to locate the genesis of the Web.  The page was brought to their attention by Paul Jones, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

www.dukedive.org / www.dukedive.org

Editor's Note: The Duke Immersive Virtual Environment is incorrectly named in the audio.

Researchers at Duke University are using a virtual reality center to test experiments that aren’t feasible in the real world.

It’s called the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, or the DIVE, for short. In reality, it’s a cube. Six sides. You get inside. Images are projected on each wall. With the help of special goggles, the images become an immersive 3-D world. A special wand allows you to interact with the world.

The Shearon Harris nuclear power plant
Nuclear Regulatory Commission / nrc.gov

An annual public meeting about the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant will likely raise questions about the recent decision to shut down the reactor. 

Seal of Winston-Salem
City of Winston-Salem

  The Rhino Times has been the signature conservative newspaper in the Triad since January of 1992. But it’s recently announced its closing, after 21 years of service. In other news, today marks the centennial anniversary of the joining of Winston and Salem, to become Winston-Salem.

Underwater photo of a whale
UNCG BioMusic

Music production is often considered a very “human” creation. But scientists have recently discovered the songs of mice, elephants, and other animals that human ears are unable to capture.  Scientists and musicians in Greensboro have been exploring the world of biomusic, music produced by nature, beneath the ocean surface.

strawberries
NC Strawberry Association

Researchers at N.C. State say oils extracted from herbs and spices could act as a natural disinfectant for fruits and vegetables. 

A joint project with the University of Tennessee aims to find an alternative to chlorine used on produce grown for mass consumption. Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie is a horticultural science professor at N.C. State's research campus in Kannapolis.  She says pungent spices tend to be best at fighting harmful germs.

"They have a very distinct odor, like cinnamon, for instance," Perkins-Veazie says.

Jud Bowman; CEO of Appia
https://twitter.com/judbowman / Twitter

In the late '90s the Internet was king and everybody wanted a piece of it. Jud Bowman was a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Math when he had an idea for an Internet start up. It was called Motricity, and he managed to get investors onboard before things went south in the Internet market.

A hog farm in Lyons, Georgia.
Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS

Researchers at Duke University say they have shed more light on the prospects of using hog waste to produce energy. 

Mae Jemison and Safety Club Kids
MMI

Bayer CropScience joined renowned astronaut Mae Jemison in southeast Raleigh Thursday to announce a new urban revitalization initiative.  A big part of the green space near the Brown Birch housing development will be turned into a community garden – thanks to a $600,000 grant from the Bayer USA Foundation.

Butch Grove, Wake Tech’s associate vice president of creativity, sustainability and college improvement, announces Joulebug.
Wake Tech

Wake Tech Community College is backing up its commitment to sustainability with the launch of a new partnership with JouleBug, a mobile app customized for its students. The free JouleBug app was created in Raleigh and gives users points, pins, and rewards for making sustainable choices – like taking shorter showers, recycling, or eating on campus to reduce vehicle emissions.

Construction workers monitor the a solar farm in Fuquay Varina
http://www.stratasolar.com / Strata Solar

North Carolina companies are in the midst of a sustainable energy boom. Solar farms have bloomed, wind farms could be on their way, and local entrepreneurs are experimenting with biofuels and solar power. But cheap natural gas and new legislation could slow sustainable energy growth.

Experts are discussing these advancements at the North Carolina Department of Commerce's 10th Annual Sustainable Energy Conference in Raleigh today. Keynote speaker Marilyn Brown is a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She said today on The State of Things that many people are looking to fracking for natural gas to solve our energy needs.

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.

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