Science & Technology

Science news

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.

man with glasses, stroboscopic training, in running position
Peter Friesen @NHLCanes / Carolina Hurricanes

It's pretty amazing to think that strobe lights in a club, the ones that make you kind of dizzy, could actually help our brains process images.

Duke researchers knew that they were on to something. They had done at least one other study on "stroboscopic visual conditions." So, they teamed up with some men whose livelihoods depend on visual acuity, hockey players, to test their theories out.

They designed special glasses with kind of an internal strobe light. The glasses intermittently let vision in, and then cut it off.

CPR Training
BC Gov Photos / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University say areas with the most cardiovascular health issues are least likely to have bystanders who can perform CPR. 

A study released last week says rural and poor communities have a significantly lower number of people who have CPR training.  The report says that rate is particularly low in Southern states. 

The study's lead author Monique Anderson says communities that promote a simpler way of conducting CPR are training more people.

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

Raleigh might soon have a group-purchasing program that would make it cheaper for residents to install solar panels on their homes. North Carolina Solar Center Director Steve Kalland  says solar power is popular among state utilities. They save money buying the costly technology in bulk. Kalland says homeowners are also interested in using cheaper, greener energy.

"The opportunity to do this has been somewhat constrained in North Carolina because the cost of these smaller-scale projects is somewhat higher than the large-scale projects," Kalland says.

Siats
Jorge Gonzalez

Researchers from North Carolina and Chicago announced  the discovery a new dinosaur today.

Siats Meekerorum (known colloquially as "SEE-ahtch") is thought to have been one of the three largest predators in America, at one time even larger than the Tyrannosaurus. This particular specimen was 30 feet long... and it's an adolesent.

Dr. Lindsay Zanno, a paleontologist at N.C. State and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, is one of the co-discoverers. She told WUNC that we're still trying to figure out what led to Siats's demise. But there are theories.

Frank Stasio hosting 'The State of Things' from Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh
NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Today, The State of Things is broadcasting live from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Look below to watch the program live. 

Jorge Gonzales / Museum of Natural Sciences

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is the indisputable king of the dinosaurs, but it wasn’t always that way. Lindsay Zanno -- director of paleontology and geology research at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and assistant research professor in the department of biology at North Carolina State University -- helped discover a new dinosaur in North America. It is called Siats meekerorum, and it was one of the top three predators ever discovered in North America. In fact, it ruled over the early ancestors of the T-Rex. 

Fossil Fair at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

  

Science is a place where facts and objectivity reign supreme while politics is a blend of perspectives and opinions. So what happens when science and public policy collide?

Internet Summit

The sixth annual Internet Summit is in Raleigh this week, and organizers are hoping to leave conference goers a little starstruck.

Creative Commons

Think you’re avoiding the advertisements when you fast forward through using your DVR?

Think again. New research from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business shows that sometimes commercials are even more effective when you’re not paying attention. Host Frank Stasio talks to Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.

A plane lands at Piedmont Triad International Airport.
redlegs21 via Flickr, Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University are developing radio wave scanners that could dramatically increase the speed at which travelers are checked at security points in airports.

The scanners, which researchers say could be tested in as soon as 12 months for airport use, were one of the developing technologies that scientists showed three North Carolina congressmen in a tour yesterday of laboratories at Duke’s Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.

CMAST
NC State

A new study out of N.C. State demonstrates how oysters may rely on sound to navigate to their permanent homes on the reef.

Ashlee Lillis is a researcher in the marine sciences department at N.C. State. She recorded underwater sounds then tested larval oysters to determine whether settlement rates increased when they were exposed to reef sounds versus the open sea floor. 

“We've got differences in water flow over a hard structure compared to just a sandy bottom that's going to make it distinct as well as a lot of fish,” says Lillis.

When experimental drugs or treatments need to be tested for the market, they generally go through a series of clinical trials. However, a new study shows that nearly one third of all large clinical trials go completely unpublished. This means that information about certain drugs and treatments are not accessible to the public.

creative commons

Bats are the subject of much folklore and derision in human society. Some say they are vermin who carry rabies. Others equate them with the undead vampire of legend. 

creative commons

Ever wonder how people came up with the idea for vampires, zombies or witches?

wikipedia.org

In this Halloween fright fest, The State of Things tackles the so-called Vampire Squid and Vampire Flying Frog. 

Creative Commons

Pharmaceutical companies spend billions developing the next big drug. But sometimes, all a patient needs is a sugar pill. The placebo effect is a well-documented phenomenon where the belief that a treatment is helping can actually cause symptoms to subside, even if the treatment is imaginary.

Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture by Ytasha Womack
ytasha womack / http://www.iafrofuturism.com/

    

Recently, the Voyager One space craft entered interstellar space, the farthest a man-made object has ever traveled. But as we push the bounds of space travel, the number of people of color in space-related careers remains low. This weekend, Duke University is holding the first conference to explore the intersection of identity and space exploration, “Race in Space.” Host Frank Stasio speaks with conference participants about the involvement of people of color in space-related careers.

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.

Pages