Originally published on Mon February 17, 2014 1:41 pm
The world's largest solar power plant, made up of thousands of mirrors focusing the sun's energy, has officially started operations in the Mojave Desert, just inside southeastern California near the border with Nevada.
The $2.2 billion, 400-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, which covers 5 square miles and has three 40-story towers where the light is focused, is a joint project by NRG Energy, Google and BrightSource Energy. The project received a $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee.
We're doomed to be miserable if we don't get what we want — right? Not quite, says psychologist Dan Gilbert. He says our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned.
When are humans most happy? To answer this question, researcher Matt Killingsworth built an app, Track Your Happiness, that let people report their feelings in real time. Among the results: We're often happiest when we're lost in the moment.
A residential area is covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Friday.
Credit Bimo Satrio / EPA/Landov
Indonesian workers check a Citilink airplane covered with ash from Mount Kelud at Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Friday. The eruption has forced seven of the region's airports to close.
Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 1:06 pm
The second major volcanic eruption in as many weeks in Indonesia has killed at least three people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands on the island of Java, as Mount Kelud spewed ash and debris 12 miles into the sky.
Thursday night's eruption of the volcano, located 50 miles southwest of the country's second-largest city of Surabaya, could be heard up to 125 miles away, Indonesia's disaster agency says, according to The Associated Press.
Nearly 44,000 Alabamians have used the federal health care law to sign up for insurance through Alabama's federally operated insurance exchange.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 18,024 Alabamians signed up in January. The sign-ups began in October with 624, grew to 2,824 by the end of November and increased to 25,839 in December. They grew to 43,863 by the end of January.
Termites can build huge, elaborate mounds that rise up from the ground like insect skyscrapers; scientists have now created little robots that act like termites to build a made-to-order structure.
"Termites are the real masters of construction in the insect world," says Justin Werfel of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. "The largest termite mound on record was 42 feet tall."
The mysterious Clovis culture, which appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago, appears to be the forerunner of Native Americans throughout the Americas, according to a study in Nature. Scientists have read the genetic sequence of a baby from a Clovis burial site in Montana to help fill out the story of the earliest Americans.
Olympic sports are marvels of power and beauty. They're also marvels of physics. Take ski jumping. Skiers launch themselves into flight at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. They fly through the air for the length of a football field or more and land usually gracefully. We asked physics professor John Eric Goff, at Lynchburg College, to explain the physical forces at work in ski jumping. He wrote the book "Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports."
There's new evidence out today that's raising questions about whether women in their 40's and 50's should routinely undergo mammography to detect breast cancer. A new analysis of a big Canadian study found no evidence that regular mammograms save lives. The study even suggests that for many women, regular breast X-rays may do more harm than good.
NPR's Rob Stein joins us now to talk about this report. It appears in the British medical journal BMJ.
Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. At least one economist, for example, says we can make a lot of progress if at least half the world agrees to put a price tag on the carbon we dump into the atmosphere.
But some big thinkers also see a grim, potentially dangerous world ahead — one where nations, confronting a climate crisis, will instead reach for a risky technological fix.
The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid.
Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.
Researchers at a laboratory in California say they've had a breakthrough in producing fusion reactions with a giant laser. The success comes after years of struggling to get the laser to work and is another step in the decades-long quest for fusion energy.
Omar Hurricane, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says that for the first time, they've produced significant amounts of fusion by zapping a target with their laser. "We've gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel," he says.