Science & Health

Energy
4:27 pm
Wed August 14, 2013

The Grid Of The Future Could Be Brought To You By ... You

Wind turbines at the Kahuku wind farm on Oahu's North Shore in 2011. Hawaiian energy managers are hoping to build stronger connections with customers to better manage renewable sources of energy on the grid.
Yuriko Nakao Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 7:40 am

The electricity system is experiencing growing pains these days. But it's not only demand for electricity that's expanding — it's the sources of electricity, particularly unpredictable kinds, like wind farms and solar panels.

And grid operators know that we're just at the beginning. States are requiring more renewable power to fight climate change, and it may be the customers who will play a big role in helping grid operators manage these clean, but finicky, sources of power.

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The Salt
11:31 am
Wed August 14, 2013

How A Seed Saver Discovered One Of Our Favorite Tomatoes

A Cherokee purple tomato grown in Alaska in 2011.
Sherry Shiesl Tatiana's TOMATObase

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 2:04 pm

Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. Lately, we've been tickled by the cotton candy grape and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant.

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Krulwich Wonders...
10:29 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Is There A Giant Life Form Lurking In Our Solar System? Possibly, Say Scientists

Robert Krulwich NPR

What if — just maybe — we find extra-terrestrial life in the oceans of Europa, a little moon circling Jupiter? If we do, says writer Caspar Henderson, don't expect that oceanic alien to be very big. Or very scary. Or even very visible. Nothing like this ...

The "top predator" on Europa, Henderson reports, is likely to be "a fearsome creature with the mass of one gram." That's three one-hundredths of an ounce.

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Energy
4:40 am
Wed August 14, 2013

Complex Networks Make Up U.S. Power Grid

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 8:16 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And whether it's worth paying to avoid all blackouts is a theme that has been on the mind of Steven Weissman, he's a professor of Electricity Law at the University of California, Berkeley. We reached him on this blackout anniversary to learn about how the nation's energy system is structured. Weissman says the grid is really made up of several complex networks.

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Energy
2:01 am
Wed August 14, 2013

10 Years After The Blackout, How Has The Power Grid Changed?

The sun sets over the Manhattan skyline during a major power outage affecting a large part of the Northeastern United States and Canada on Aug. 14, 2003. Ten years later, some improvements have been made to the grid to prevent another large-scale blackout.
Robert Giroux Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 14, 2013 11:58 am

Ten years ago, a sagging power line hit a tree near Cleveland, tripping some circuit breakers. To compensate, power was rerouted to a nearby line, which began to overheat and sink down into another tree, tripping another circuit. The resulting cascade created a massive blackout in the Northeast U.S., affecting power in eight states and part of Canada.

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The Salt
9:49 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Why Urban Beekeeping Can Be Bad For Bees

Beehive designer Johannes Paul (right) and Natural England's ecologist Peter Massini, with a brood frame colonized with bees from the "beehaus" beehive on the roof of his house in London in 2009.
Sang Tan AP

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Two British scientists are dumping cold water on campaigns to promote urban beekeeping. They say that trying to "help the bees" by setting out more hives is naive and misguided if the bees can't find enough flowers nearby to feed on. You'll just end up with sick and starving bees.

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All Tech Considered
2:03 am
Tue August 13, 2013

A Closer Look At Elon Musk's Much-Hyped Hyperloop

A rendering of a Hyperloop pod.
Courtesy of Elon Musk

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:59 am

You can thank brainy billionaire Elon Musk's Hyperloop proposal for bringing electro-magnetic-powered transportation and the linear induction motor back into the public consciousness.

The Hyperloop is a system for really-really rapid transit. If built, Musk claims it can carry people about 800 miles per hour, which could get you from Los Angeles to San Francisco in about 30 minutes.

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The Salt
2:02 am
Tue August 13, 2013

Colorado Vault Is Fort Knox For The World's Seeds

Dave Dierig, research leader at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, stands among the ceiling-high shelves that hold the 600,000 seed packets in this cold storage vault.
Grace Hood KUNC

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 6:59 am

When unapproved genetically modified wheat was found growing in Oregon earlier this year, it didn't take long for accusations to start flying. A flurry of initial finger-pointing cast potential blame on a federal seed vault in Fort Collins, Colo., which housed the same strain of wheat, developed by Monsanto Corp., for about seven years up until late 2011.

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Science
3:51 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

A Ball Dropped Through The Earth Becomes A Permanent Pendulum

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 5:03 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Occasionally, when it's a slow news day, we wind up with holes in the show; gaps of a minute or two that the news of the day doesn't quite fill.

NPR science correspondent Joe Palca offered to fill those with science stories about holes.

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Research News
3:51 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Particle Physicists Want A New Collider To Study The Higgs

This simulated image shows what information about a Higgs particle would look like in the proposed International Linear Collider.
Norman Graf interactions.org

Originally published on Mon August 12, 2013 5:03 pm

"It's a very curious time in high-energy physics," says Michael Peskin, a researcher at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. On the one hand, researchers have just made the most significant discovery in decades: In July of last year, they announced they had found the Higgs particle at a collider in Switzerland. The Higgs is part of the mechanism that gives mass to everything. It is so fundamental that without it, we wouldn't exist.

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Shots - Health News
3:47 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Dementia Test Tweaked For Gen X: Hirohito Out, Oprah In

Is Oprah Winfrey a celebrity for the ages?
Surian Soosay Flickr

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 6:56 am

It's bad enough to have to be tested for dementia. It's even worse if the test isn't fair. Researchers in Chicago found they needed to update the screening test for a type of early onset dementia so that the measure would more accurately pick up symptoms among a new wave of patients — baby boomers and Gen Xers.

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Shots - Health News
2:03 pm
Mon August 12, 2013

Brains Of Dying Rats Yield Clues About Near-Death Experiences

Could the images common in accounts of near-death experiences be explained by a rush of electrical activity in the brain?
Odina iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue August 13, 2013 6:57 am

A burst of brain activity just after the heart stops may be the cause of so-called near-death experiences, scientists say.

The insight comes from research involving nine lab rats whose brains were analyzed as they were being euthanized. Researchers discovered what appears to be a momentary increase in electrical activity in the brain associated with consciousness.

Although the experiment relied on animals, the results could apply to humans, too, the researchers say.

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:00 am
Mon August 12, 2013

This Pulsing Earth

John Nelson IDV Solutions

It's breathing, he thought. "All of a sudden I see a thing with a heartbeat."

John Nelson is a designer, well known for tracing complex weather patterns or cultural information on maps, so considering what he usually does, this was easy. NASA's Visible Earth team publishes pictures of our planet every month of the year, so John thought, why not stitch them together, and see what the seasons look like from outer space?

So he stitched, and then looked.

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Science & Health
8:14 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Stingray Influx Prompts Warning on Ala Coast

Beach officials posted purple flags on Alabama beaches after several beachgoers reported being stung by stingrays.
iamwilderness.org

Officials say a stingray invasion prompted warnings for beachgoers along the Alabama coast.

   Purple flags are flying on beaches because of a large number of stingray sightings, and more than 20 people have complained about coming into contact with them.

   The beach safety director in Orange Beach, Melvin Shepard, tells WALA-TV (http://bit.ly/14CyMSR ) several people have been stung.

   Stingrays get their name from a barb in their tail, which they swing as a defense mechanism. The barb can hit anyone walking in the water on the lower leg.

Monkey See
7:31 am
Mon August 12, 2013

Can You Really Dissolve A Guy In A Bathtub? 'Mythbusters' Tackles 'Breaking Bad'

Adam Savage and Aaron Paul trade some information on Monday night's Mythbusters.
Don Feria Discovery

Perhaps you heard that last night, a plucky little drug dealer named Walter White returned to television for his last eight episodes of the award-hoarding Breaking Bad.

But before he began his life of crime, Walter White was a chemistry teacher, and chemistry is what originally made him such a great meth cook. Breaking Bad has always included a lot of science talk, especially in the early days, and the time has come for someone to see whether it holds up.

And by "someone," I mean "Mythbusters."

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