Science & Technology

Science news

Science Goes to the Movies: ‘Arrival’

Nov 18, 2016
<a href="">Doug Kerr</a>/<a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

Ever imagine Minnesota as a coastal state?

The idea sounds absurd (especially as winter nears), but history shows that at one time, it wasn’t so unlikely: 1.1 billion years ago, the continent was splitting apart along the Midcontinent Rift, a move that could have turned states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan into oceanfront real estate. But the rift stalled, leaving a huge scar in the Earth’s crust. What happened?


On Oct. 21, a cyberattack targeting Dyn, a New Hampshire company that provides domain registration services, "brought the internet to its knees," as numerous media put it. Websites for major outfits like the New York Times, Netflix and Twitter were all temporarily unavailable.

While this attack didn’t compromise personal data like bank accounts or Social Security numbers, cybersecurity experts agree that this won’t be the last mass internet outage we face. And next time, the damage could be even greater.

<a href="">ESO/M. Kornmesser</a>. <a href="">CC-BY-4.0</a>. Image cropped.

Earlier this year, Konstantin Batygin, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, joined Ira Flatow on Science Friday to discuss "Niku," the name for the newly discovered Kuiper Belt object with a wild orbit. (How wild, you ask?

This new 3-D printed glove can dupe fingerprint scanners

Nov 12, 2016
<a href="">West Midlands Police</a>/<a href="">CC-BY-SA 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

The latest wearable tech to get people talking isn’t an activity tracker or a watch. It’s a glove that gives the wearer an entirely new set of fingerprints, fooling even the best fingerprint scanners on the market.

An image of writer Margot Lee Shetterly
Aran Shetterly

From the 1940s through the 1960s, a group of elite black women mathematicians known as "human computers" helped NASA put rockets, and eventually astronauts, into space. The women began working with federal aeronautical agencies at the Langley Research Laboratory during World War II, computing endless sets of data while enduring racial segregation and discrimination of the Jim Crow South. 

These black women were the mathematicians behind American spaceflight

Nov 5, 2016

Before NASA, there was NACA — the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, headquartered at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. And before there were computers to analyze the NACA engineers’ data and double-check calculations, that job was done by “human computers,” or mathematicians hired to make sure the numbers were flight-ready.

Leap Into the World of Jumping Spiders

Nov 4, 2016

Six Things You Can Break Down Today

Nov 4, 2016
Image of multicolor gems. A new PBS NOVA series explores gems and precious stones, some found right in North Carolina.

Hiddenite, North Carolina, is a tiny community with a big secret. Emeralds, some of the largest in the world, along with sapphires, and other precious stones lay hidden under the earth at this site in Alexander County. A new series of the popular PBS show NOVA, titled “Treasures of the Earth,” takes a deeper look at the science behind this local phenomenon.

Are on-demand, at-home blood tests better for our health?

Oct 30, 2016
frolicsomepl/CC0. Image cropped.

In the age of internet retail, products once available only in brick-and-mortar stores are now arriving on our doorsteps. And by cutting out the “middleman," or storefronts, products are often more affordable and easier to access than before.

But what if that middleman is your doctor? And those products … medical tests?

Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

If you’ve visited a dairy farm, you may have noticed that the cows — usually Holsteins — are hornless. They weren’t born that way: Both female and male Holsteins naturally grow horns. But on farms, the horns of dairy calves are often removed (an unpleasant process for the animals), so that the cattle won’t pose a threat to one another, or the farmworkers handling them.

Researchers aim to make digital assistants like Siri less annoying

Oct 29, 2016

Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon has Alexa — and the list goes on. Today’s tech titans all offer “digital assistants” integrated into their devices, to help our lives run just a little more smoothly.

Driven by artificial intelligence, these voice assistants can navigate for us, set reminders and prod us awake with alarms. But for many consumers, frustrations with the technology can outweigh its benefits. Have you ever asked Siri what time your appointment is on Sunday, and heard her say, “How about a web search for it?”

The Microscopic World Beneath Our Feet

Oct 28, 2016