<strong>Ultraviolet (false color).</strong> Bees and other pollinators can see the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. They are guided by patterns on flowers that are invisible to humans.
Credit Kevin Collins
<strong>Fragrance plume (artist's depiction).</strong> Bees follow specific odors to locate flowers and, once they arrive, use scent maps to move toward the center of the flower. Fragrance that clings to a bee provides information for other bees back at the hive.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
<strong>Electric field (artist's depiction).</strong> Flowers have a weak negative electric charge relative to the air around them. Different flowers have different electric fields, often with charge concentrated at the tips of the petals.
Credit Adam Cole / NPR
<strong>Visible spectrum.</strong> Certain bright colors and petal shapes attract certain pollinators.
Flowers are nature's ad men. They'll do anything to attract the attention of the pollinators that help them reproduce. That means spending precious energy on bright pigments, enticing fragrances and dazzling patterns.
Now, scientists have found another element that contributes to flowers' brand: their distinct electric field.
Anne Leonard, who studies bees at the University of Nevada, says our understanding of pollinator-flower communication has been expanding for decades.
Health officials around the world are on constant lookout for the deadly bird flu. Here a worker collects chickens on a farm in Kathamndu, Nepal, where the virus was suspected of infecting poultry last October.
Credit Prakas Mathema / AFP/Getty Images
Research on the H5N1 virus is conducted in high-containment laboratories with airlock systems that make sure nothing can escape.
Credit Bryce Richter / University of Wisconsin-Madison
Bird flu researchers use ferrets to study how the virus mutates and spreads. Here virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka points to the ferret cages in his laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Credit Bryce Richter / University of Wisconsin-Madison
The most heated part of the fight between the Obama administration and religious groups over new rules that require most health plans to cover contraception actually has nothing to do with birth control. It has to do with abortion.
Originally published on Fri February 22, 2013 12:25 pm
This year's flu vaccine appears to be doing a unusually poor job of protecting the elderly, federal health officials reported Thursday.
Overall, this year's flu vaccine appears to be only about 27 percent effective for people ages 65 and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
State Health Officer Don Williamson told Alabama lawmakers that money will be available to fund Alabama's Medicaid program at a minimal level through 2014.
But Williamson told a joint meeting of the House and Senate General Fund budget committees Wednesday he did not know where the money would come from after 2014 to run the health insurance program for the economically disadvantaged.
Williamson is also the interim director of the Alabama Medicaid Program.
Melissa Block speaks with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple chairman Art Levinson about the multimillion-dollar prize they've created with other Silicon Valley illuminati to award advancements in research aimed at curing intractable diseases and extending human life. Eleven scientists have been named winners of the Breakthrough Prize this year.
Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 5:44 am
As many as 30 million people living from Oklahoma to the Ohio Valley are in the path of a storm moving east out of California that could dump several inches of snow in some areas and freezing rain and sleet elsewhere in the next few days.
According to the Weather Channel, the storm is caused by an "upper-level dip in the jet stream," on Wednesday.
<strong>Carnegie Lake</strong><strong>, Australia</strong><strong>, 1999 </strong>Carnegie Lake in Western Australia fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh. Flooded areas appear dark blue or black, vegetation appears in shades of dark and light green, and sands, soils and minerals appear in a variety of colors.
<p><strong>Richat Structure, Mauritania, 2001</strong></p><p>The 31-mile-wide bull's-eye in the western Sahara is a landmark for astronauts. The structure formed when a volcanic dome hardened and gradually eroded, exposing the onion-like layers of rock. Desert sands appear white and pale yellow at the corners; less sandy, rocky areas are green; and volcanic rocks are blue.</p>
<p><strong>Kalahari Desert, Southern Africa, 2000</strong></p><p>The large stretch of semiarid, sandy savanna covers part of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. The desert has vast areas covered by red sand without any permanent surface water. The red dot near the Nossob River in the center of this image represents a farm made possible by a center-pivot irrigation system.</p>
<p><strong>Bombetoka Bay, Madagascar, 2000</strong></p><p>Islands and sandbars have formed where the Betsiboka River flows into the Mozambique Channel. The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of sediment moved by the river and deposited in the estuary. Dense vegetation is deep green, and water is sapphire, tinged with pink where sediment is particularly thick.</p>
<p><strong>Great Salt Desert, Iran, 2003</strong></p><p>A mix of salt marshes, mud flats, wadis, steppes and desert plateaus color the landscape of Iran's Great Salt Desert, Dasht-e Kavir. The region covers an area of more than 29,000 square miles. Dramatic daily temperature swings and violent storms are the norm, and extreme heat leaves the marshes and mud grounds with crusts of salt.</p>
<p><strong>Carnegie Lake</strong><strong>, Australia</strong><strong>, 1999</strong></p><p>Carnegie Lake in Western Australia fills with water only during periods of significant rainfall. In dry years, it is reduced to a muddy marsh. Flooded areas appear dark blue or black, vegetation appears in shades of dark and light green, and sands, soils and minerals appear in a variety of colors.</p>
<p><strong>Ice Waves, Greenland, 2001</strong></p><p>The undulating swirls shown here along the eastern coast of Greenland are slurries of sea ice, newly calved icebergs, and older weathered bergs. During the summer melting season, the southward-flowing East Greenland Current twirls these mixtures into stunning shapes. The exposed rock of mountain peaks are tinted red.</p>
<p><strong>Lena River Delta, Russia, 2000</strong></p><p>The Delta extends 62 miles into the Laptev Sea and Arctic Ocean, and includes a protected wilderness area and wildlife refuge. The delta is frozen tundra for about seven months of the year, and spring transforms it into a lush wetland. Vegetation appears as shades of green, sandy areas as shades of red, and water as purples and blues.</p>
<p><strong>Nazca Lines, Peru, 2000</strong></p><p>The ancient geoglyphs, located in southern Peru, are estimated to be created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 A.D. The Nazca Lines were made by removing reddish iron-oxide pebbles that cover the surface of the desert. When the gravel is removed, the lines contrast with the light color underneath.</p>
<p><strong>Meandering Mississippi, U.S., 2003</strong></p><p>Graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River encircle fields and pastures on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi. The Mississippi is the largest river system in North America and forms the second largest watershed in the world.</p>
<p><strong>Garden City</strong><strong>, Kan., U.S.</strong><strong>, 2000</strong></p><p>Garden City, Kan., has a semi-arid steppe climate with hot, dry summers and cold, dry winters. Center-pivot irrigation systems created the circular patterns. The red circles indicate irrigated crops of healthy vegetation, and the light-colored circles denote harvested crops.</p>
<p><strong>Mayn River</strong><strong>, Russia</strong><strong>, 2000</strong></p><p>The Mayn River is a tributary of the larger Anadyr River, which flows through the far northeastern corner of Siberia. While these rivers are frozen for about eight to nine months in a year, they are home to chum and sockeye salmon during the summer months.</p>
<p><strong>Von Kármán Vortices, Southern Pacific Ocean, 1999</strong></p><p>Swirling clouds line up in a formation known as a von Kármán street. They appear when wind-driven clouds encounter an obstacle, in this instance Alexander Selkirk Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.</p>
<p><strong>Terkezi Oasis, Chad, 2000</strong></p><p>A series of rocky outcroppings emerge from the sand in the Sahara Desert near the Terkezi Oasis. Stretching across the immense desert are vast plains of sand and gravel; seas of sand dunes; and barren, rocky mountains. Only 10,000 years ago, grasses covered the region, and mammals such as lions and elephants roamed the land.</p>
<p><strong>Himalayas, Central Asia, 2001</strong></p><p>The soaring, snow-capped peaks and ridges of the eastern Himalaya Mountains create an irregular patchwork between major rivers in Tibet and southwestern China. Covered by snow and glaciers, the mountains here rise to altitudes of more than 16,000 feet. Vegetation at lower elevations is colored red.</p>
<strong>Phytoplankton Bloom, Baltic Sea, 2005 </strong>Massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that form the first link in nearly all ocean food chains. Blooms of phytoplankton, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 12:04 pm
Satellites are powerful tools. They beam our TV signals, phone calls and data around the planet. They help us spy, they track storms, they power the GPS signals in our cars and on our phones. But they also send back striking, totally disarming images of planet Earth.
This set of images is all about showing off the "beauty of the Earth," says Lawrence Friedl, the director of NASA's Applied Sciences Program and the editor of a project called Earth as Art. "We want people to look at these images and say, 'How did nature do that?' "
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 12:33 pm
Two reports on troubles with lithium ion batteries aboard Boeing's 787 Dreamliner:
In Japan, where a battery on an All Nippon Airlines 787 overheated and began smoking on Jan. 16, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing, the Transport Ministry released a report Wednesday saying it found that the battery in question had been improperly wired.
What if, before your children were born, you could make sure they had the genes to be taller or smarter? Would that tempt you, or would you find it unnerving?
What if that genetic engineering would save a child from a rare disease?
As advancements in science bring these ideas closer to reality, a group of experts faced off two against two in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate on the proposition: "Prohibit Genetically Engineered Babies."
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 12:56 pm
For years, I've been hearing stories about the changing agricultural landscape of the northern plains. Grasslands are disappearing, farmers told me. They're being replaced by fields of corn and soybeans.
Bees are democrats. They vote. When a community of bees has to make a choice, like where to build a new hive, they meet, debate and decide. But here's what they don't do: they don't filibuster. No single bee (or small band of bees) will stand against the majority, insisting and insisting for hours. They can't.
There's been a debate raging in academic circles for years. Does having children really make one happier? Most parents say their kids absolutely make them happy, but some researchers have come to question that.
NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam sat down with MORNING EDITION's Steve Inskeep to take on this question.