Science & Technology

Science news

How to make biometric technology more secure

Sep 2, 2017

Fingerprint scanners now come standard on most new smartphones, and some devices even feature iris scanners and 2-D facial recognition technology. But with every new step forward in biometrics, it seems a way to “spoof” the technology follows soon behind — from fingerprint replicas to high-resolution photographs of faces and eyes. So, what’s on the horizon in biometric security, and how can we make the technology more secure?

What happened to the moon’s magnetic field?

Sep 2, 2017

The moon doesn’t have a magnetosphere, unlike Earth. The protective bubble shields our upper atmosphere from solar wind — and, it's what makes compasses point north. But billions of years ago, scientists say, the moon did have its own magnetic field. 

Hurricane Harvey And The New Normal

Sep 2, 2017
Courtesy of James Costa

There is no doubt that Charles Darwin’s trip to the Galapagos Islands in the 1830s changed his life’s work. It  put him on the path to develop his game-changing theory of evolution. But Darwin’s observations were not isolated to one exploration. For years after his pivotal excursion, Darwin conducted unorthodox and innovative experiments to test his speculations, and he often did so in his own backyard. 

Jurassic Park at Universal Studios
Marco Becerra / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/aKoNmk

Dinosaurs have graced the silver screen since the early 20th century. But depictions of the pre-historic creatures in movies are often comically inaccurate. 

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National Park Service

When it comes to volcanoes, there isn’t exactly a crystal ball that will tell scientists when the next eruption will take place, but there is crystal debris that is helping researchers see what’s going on below the surface of a volcano.

These crystals, formed in the magma chamber, are ejected along with the lava and volcanic ash during an eruption. Trapped inside these crystals is a bit of magma, preserving all the details of what it was like inside the chamber.

Sweating is an essential and uniquely human function

Aug 28, 2017

Most furry mammals pant to regulate their body temperature. Other animals, like ectotherms — lizards, amphibians, and insects — have other behaviors that help keep them cool. Humans, however, are in a category of our own.

We are the only mammal that relies on secreting water onto the surface of our skin to stay cool: We call it sweating. But how did we develop this ability? When did we ditch the fur of our primate ancestors in favor of sweaty skin?

Why are humans so curious?

Aug 27, 2017
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Pixababy

Humans are innately curious creatures. But have you ever wondered why?

Astrophysicist Mario Livio has. And now, he explores this question in a new book, "Why? What Makes Us Curious."

“I chose this particular word, ‘why,’ because this particular question is uniquely human,” Livio says. “Other animals are curious, but only humans are worried and curious about reasons and causes for things. Only humans really ask the question, ‘Why?’”

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OHSU

In early August, researchers announced they had genetically edited human embryos, the first such experiment reported in the United States.

In an article, published in the journal Nature, scientists revealed that CRISPR — a type of “molecular scissors” — could be used to switch a mutated gene from one parent for a healthy gene inherited from another parent. (The embryos, created in a lab dish, were destroyed after several days, as planned.)

Don’t Throw Away Those Eclipse Glasses!

Aug 26, 2017

Your Teenager’s Brain Isn’t Deficient

Aug 26, 2017
Jedediah Purdy and Norman Wirzba sit together on some rocks.
Donn Young / Duke University

The Anthropocene is considered by many scholars and scientists to be the epoch in which humans became a dominant force in shaping the world around us. 

The threat of an asteroid hurtling towards Earth may be the stuff sci-fi thrillers are made of, but it’s also a real-life concern. In 2013, for instance, a roughly 20-meter-wide meteor exploded over Russia, injuring about 1,500 people with its shock wave.

The Midnight Scan Club sheds new light on the human brain

Aug 20, 2017
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Midnight Scan Club

Back in 2013, Dr. Nico Dosenbach had a problem. He wanted to study the brain activity of individual people, but as a junior-level researcher, he couldn’t afford the daytime hourly rate to use the scanning machine he needed. That’s when the Midnight Scan Club was born — a group of curious researchers who were willing to scan their own brains late at night, starting with Dr. Dosenbach himself.

The physics behind 2017’s biggest superhero movies

Aug 20, 2017

This blockbuster movie season has already delivered high-octane superhero films like "Wonder Woman" and "Spider-Man: Homecoming," with others like "Thor: Ragnarok" due out later this year.

The science of engineering touch

Aug 19, 2017
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<a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-white-smartphone-141362/">kote baeza</a>/<a href="https://www.pexels.com/photo-license/">CC BY 2.0 (image cropped)</a>&nbsp;

How do you digitize touch?

You may have played video games where the controller shakes and buzzes, heightening the effect of onscreen crashes. In fact, you can find that digital touch sensation — known as haptic technology — in devices from your smartwatch to your cellphone.

But as engineer Katherine Kuchenbecker explains, the haptic possibilities don’t end with our entertainment and communication tools — haptics are now being used to “smarten” everything from virtual reality to robotics technology.

An image of the total Solar eclipse 1999 in France
Luc Viatour

On Monday, Aug. 21 millions of Americans will experience a cosmic event of a lifetime: a total solar eclipse. This is the first time in 99 years that people from coast to coast can witness the moon completely covering the sun.

Why we still remember a ‘relatively’ important eclipse nearly a century later

Aug 17, 2017

Millions of onlookers may find themselves pausing in awe of the cosmos on Aug. 21, as a total solar eclipse darkens swaths of North America. (And at PRI, we want your eclipse plans, stories and photos.)

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