Science & Technology

Science news

Jason T. Cantley

Yes, what you see here is, in fact, a tomato. Crack open the spiky burr, and if the tomato fruit isn’t quite ripe, you’ll see something resembling the fleshy, seedy tomatoes you might find in your supermarket aisle. But the color will look more “like the interior of a Granny Smith apple — that whitish [color with] a little bit of green tint,” says Chris Martine, a biology professor at Bucknell University. In a matter of minutes, though, that fruit will begin to turn redder and redder,...

It sounds like science fiction: a hyperloop that propels passengers traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in levitating pods through a nearly airless tube. Their pace rivals the speed of sound. The journey takes only 30 minutes. According to Brogan BamBrogan , former SpaceX engineer and now chief technology officer for Hyperloop One , however, the hyperloop is not only more than science fiction: it’s close to becoming reality.  In May, startup Hyperloop One demonstrated a public test of...

Flowers give off electrical signals to bees

Jun 26, 2016

Bumblebees use a lot of tools to find nectar in flowers like visual cues and chemical signs. But, as it turns out, they’re also able to detect weak electrical signals that flowers give off. “We're not talking about color, we're talking about a static electrical field — the same thing as when you charge up a balloon on your head,” explains biomechanics engineer Gregory Sutton. “There is a static electrical charge that pulls on the hair on your head and the static electric charge on a flower’s...

Here are the people who make Google Doodles

Jun 26, 2016

Chances are, you know the thrill of heading to Google to do a search and finding … a doodle. Doodles — periodic illustrated takeovers of the Google logo — have graced the company’s homepage since before the company was even incorporated.  “There are one or two geeks at Google that get excited about things like this,” says Google Doodle team leader Ryan Germick . “If you walked around a cafeteria at lunchtime you'd hear some pretty interesting things.”  Doodles have celebrated the likes of...

These are some of the darkest mysteries of our universe

Jun 26, 2016

Both philosophers and scientists are captivated by the concept of dark matter, dark energy and black holes. “Human beings by nature have always been intrigued by the invisible,” says astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, author of " Mapping the Heavens ." Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University. She's also spent much of her academic career studying philosophy.  “I think the philosophical angle helps to sort of keep everything in...

Chicken guns and other bizarre stories of the science of war

Jun 25, 2016

There are weapons we’ve all heard of: assault rifles, bombs, grenades and rocket launchers. But there are many tools of warfare that are less famous: chicken guns, stink bombs and maggots, for instance.  Author Mary Roach has long been interested in the strange science of the human condition and in her new book, “ Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War ," she goes behind the front lines to investigate the sometimes bizarre science of humans at war.  “All the things that we ordinary...

Aminatou Sow

Note: This program is a rebroadcast. A bout five years ago, Aminatou Sow was working for a technology company in Washington D.C. and came across an article detailing how few women work in tech. The statistic did not match her personal experience as she knew of a number of women working in tech-related fields, from NASA to the National Security Agency. She decided to find a way to bolster the community and amplify their voices. She and a friend started the listserv ‘Tech LadyMafia’ with a few...

Try these backyard science projects with your kids this summer

Jun 20, 2016
Albert Gea/Reuters

School might be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean the science fun needs to stop. There are experiments that kids can try in the backyard all summer long. Liz Heinecke, aka  The Kitchen Pantry Scientist , is on a mission to inspire kids and parents to get their hands into some science by making it fun, inexpensive, and easy. She’s written two books, Kitchen Science Lab for Kids and Outdoor Science Lab for Kids, and makes regular appearances on Minneapolis area TV stations. She says...

Inside the minds of zoo animals

Jun 19, 2016
Steve Harris/Flickr

Among the many reactions to this month's killing of Harambe, the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, is a question: Can animals, especially smart ones like gorillas, ever be truly happy in zoos? Terry Maple, a professor of comparative psychobiology at Florida Atlantic University, and the former director of the Atlanta and Palm Beach zoos, has built a career on trying to understand animals and improve their environments.  When he saw the video of Harambe with a toddler at the Cincinnati Zoo, he...

The Ant Man

Jun 14, 2016
photo of Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith

The trail of ants across the kitchen counter may be a nuisance to some, but to biologist Adrian Smith , it is a fascinating phenomenon full of mystery. Smith studies the evolution of different ants and their social patterns. He also films the insects to document their intriguing characteristics. Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with Smith, director of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the Museum of Natural Sciences . Smith speaks at the Museum’s Science café on Thursday...

How we react to vocal fry in music depends on the gender of the singer

Jun 13, 2016
Alessia Pierdomenico/Reuters

Vocal fry, a speech pattern that is characterized by a throaty, low register, has become an increasingly popular topic of conversation. That creaky sound can be heard in pop music from artists like Britney Spears and Enrique Iglesias. Unsure of how to create vocal fry?  “You just have to try talking like a Kardashian and see what comes out of that,” says vocalogy researcher at the University of Texas San Antonio Mackenzie Parrott.  Still not sure what it sounds like?  “It’s kind of like Lurch...

Could brain infection set the stage for Alzheimer’s?

Jun 13, 2016
Doctor Jana/Creative Commons

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of the protein amyloid-beta in the brain. Several years ago neurobiologist Rob Moir began wondering about the function of amyloid-beta. Surely it couldn’t just be junk, gumming up the brain? His studies on this protein may be overturning some 30 years of assumptions about what causes Alzheimer’s.  Moir first began wondering about amyloid-beta over Friday night drinks at a bar.  “Well, it wasn't a bar so much as it was that every...

How your phone could help scientists detect and measure an earthquake

Jun 12, 2016
David Moir/Reuters

Developers are creating apps that can tap into the sensors in your smart device to measure different aspects of your environment, such as your number of footsteps or your heartbeat. And now there’s an app to measure your surrounding seismic activity. Seismologist Richard Allen, who worked to develop MyShake, says the app uses the sensing abilities already built into smartphones.  “We developed a classifier analysis that can recognize an earthquake type of shaking as opposed to all those other...

What science says about e-cigarettes

Jun 12, 2016
JohnWilliams/Flickr/CC BY-NC 3.0 US

Battery-powered e-cigarettes have become wildly popular over the last decade, especially among teenagers and young adults. At least some of this popularity stems from their marketing as safe alternatives to conventional, combustible cigarettes, as well as their many, often fruity flavors. But how much do we understand about the safety of e-cigarettes, or the more than 7,000 e-liquids on the market? “The picture is still unclear,” says Aruni Bhatnagar, a professor of medicine at the University...

The Hyperloop: From Pipe Dream to Possible

Jun 10, 2016

Courtesy of Beyond Meat

When California-based food company Beyond Meat soft-launched its new plant-based burger at a Whole Foods in Colorado in May, it sold out  in one hour . The startup says the  Beyond Burger  is completely vegan, has no soy or gluten, and will cook like a real beef burger. The primary ingredient in the burger is protein from yellow peas. “It turns out pea protein gives a nice texture,” says Joseph D. Puglisi, a professor of structural biology at Stanford University who is also head of the...

Research Finds Wildlife Unfazed By Hunters And Hikers

Jun 8, 2016
Courtesy of eMammal

A new study from North Carolina State University finds most wildlife species are not disturbed by hiking and hunting in protected forests.

You’ve heard of seed banks — precious vaults that keep plant genetic material frozen for posterity’s sake. But what about coral banks? For more than a decade, marine biologist Mary Hagedorn has been cultivating the art of carefully freezing coral sperm through a process known as cryopreservation. Her goal is to bank as many species as possible for use in future research and restoration, and to train other scientists to follow her lead. “We need to be gathering this genetic diversity and...

Watch this video of tiny flying RoboBees in action

Jun 6, 2016

A group of Harvard scientists have a vision: to build a tiny robot that can fly, work together in groups, and even pollinate flowers like a honeybee. Meet RoboBee, whose latest feat was published in Science . The 80-milligram robot can fly to a surface, perch on it using electrostatic forces, and gently take off from that surface — saving valuable energy in the process. E. Farrell Helbling, a Ph.D. candidate in the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard...

Did you know GPS used to be controversial? Here’s how it survived.

Jun 5, 2016

In the early 1970s, the idea for a satellite-based modern navigation system was controversial within the United States Air Force. Many in leadership didn’t want anything to do with the project that would become our now-ubiquitous GPS — they thought the money was better spent on putting more planes in the air. “It was almost guaranteed that it wouldn't go anywhere because it had been floundering for four or five years,” says engineer and former Air Force colonel Bradford Parkinson , who was...

How much of your personal data do you give up when you use your smartphone?

Jun 4, 2016

Each call, post, or search from your smartphone leaves a trail of hidden digital data that you might not see, but that can be collected by organizations interested in your info. In 2013, Edward Snowden leaked documents that showed the NSA was collecting phone metadata. After these leaks, the NSA changed its guidelines. But where do we stand now? Have these NSA changes increased our privacy? What exactly has changed? “Last summer the USA Freedom Act was passed and this actually restricted the...