Science & Health

All Tech Considered
4:28 pm
Sun June 7, 2015

What Makes Algorithms Go Awry?

By clicking "Like" and commenting on Facebook posts, users signal the social network's algorithm that they care about something. That in turn helps influence what they see later. Algorithms like that happen all over the web — and the programs can reflect human biases.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed June 10, 2015 1:23 pm

Like it or not, much of what we encounter online is mediated by computer-run algorithms — complex formulas that help determine our Facebook feeds, Netflix recommendations, Spotify playlists or Google ads.

But algorithms, like humans, can make mistakes. Last month, users found the photo-sharing site Flickr's new image-recognition technology was labeling dark-skinned people as "apes" and auto-tagging photos of Nazi concentration camps as "jungle gym" and "sport."

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Environment
6:40 am
Sun June 7, 2015

Both Sides Claim Victory Over EPA Fracking Study

Originally published on Sun June 7, 2015 11:35 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Environment
4:18 pm
Sat June 6, 2015

Once Feared, Now Celebrated, Hudson River Cleanup Nears Its End

Crews perform dredging work along the upper Hudson River in Waterford, N.Y. General Electric's cleanup of PCBs discharged into the river decades ago will end this year.
Mike Groll AP

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 5:40 pm

For half a decade, General Electric has been paying for a massive dredging operation on the upper Hudson River in New York.

The billion-dollar cleanup, designed to remove toxic PCBs, sparked fierce controversy when it was proposed. But as the project enters its final summer, it's been so successful that even some of the cleanup's most vocal critics want it expanded.

A Symbol For Sick Rivers

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The Salt
6:37 am
Sat June 6, 2015

For New Mexico's Chiles, The Enemy Isn't Just Drought But Salt, Too

Salt appears in white clumps in a newly sprouted chile field in Garfield, N.M.
Mónica Ortiz Uribe KJZZ

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 11:44 am

For some people, too much salt is bad for health. Too much salt is also bad for growing most crops.

Salty soil is a common problem for farmers in the arid West and it's gotten worse because of the ongoing drought. Water is necessary to flush salts out; without it, salt builds up over time.

In New Mexico, one crop that's suffering is the state's beloved chile pepper.

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The Salt
5:48 am
Sat June 6, 2015

Schools Say Ciao To Plastic Lunch Trays, Hello To Compostable Plates

The new lunch plates are made from recycled newsprint and are easier for kids to hold, says Eric Goldstein, chairman of the Urban School Food Alliance.
Courtesy of NRDC

Six of the largest school districts in the country have banded together to revamp school lunches — and they're starting from the plate up.

School administrators in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Dallas and Orlando in 2012 formed the Urban School Food Alliance. And in May, they announced that they were ditching polystyrene lunch trays and replacing them with compostable lunch plates. It's a significant move since all together, the schools in the Alliance serve up 2.5 million meals a day.

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Sports
5:00 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

NCAA Tests Out Flat-Seamed Baseballs To Boost Batting Averages

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 5:47 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Environment
4:26 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Los Angeles Oil Blobs Could Be Related To Santa Barbara Spill

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 10:49 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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All Tech Considered
11:09 am
Fri June 5, 2015

#RaceOnTech: Sharing The Experiences Of Diverse Innovators

Originally published on Mon June 15, 2015 9:54 pm

Editor's Note: Our #RaceOnTech public call-out for diverse innovators officially ended June 15, but we encourage you to continue engaging around the #RaceOnTech hashtag to get to know each other's work. More than 150 people and organizations were suggested to join our "Day in The Life" social storytelling series set to begin July 13. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

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TED Radio Hour
7:46 am
Fri June 5, 2015

What Does Space Sound Like?

Artist Honor Harger says Jupiter sounds like "ocean waves breaking up on the beach."
Robert Leslie Courtesy of TED

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 8:43 am

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Act Of Listening

About Honor Harger's TED Talk

Sound artist Honor Harger spent the last few years listening to the stars and recording some of the sounds of space.

About Honor Harger

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The Two-Way
2:37 am
Fri June 5, 2015

The Pentagon Wants These Robots To Save The Day

NASA's RoboSimian is among the robots taking part in the Defense Department competition. The Space Agency may one day use it to explore caves on other planets.
Dan Goods JPL

Originally published on Sat June 6, 2015 6:13 am

On Friday, 24 robots and their masters will be going head-to-head in California for a $2 million prize. The robotics challenge is sponsored by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Those fearing the Pentagon-sponsored prize could signal the dawn of Terminator-style cyborgs needn't worry. "Even though they look like us, and they may look a little bit mean, there's really nothing inside," says Gill Pratt, the program manager running this competition. "What you're really seeing is a puppet."

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Goats and Soda
6:19 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

Viral Superspreader? How One Man Triggered A Deadly MERS Outbreak

Patient one: A businessman brought the Middle East respiratory syndrome to South Korea in early May. Since then, he has likely spread the virus to more than 20 other people. Several of those have passed the virus onto others.
Maia Majumder/Health Map

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 8:20 am

An outbreak of a deadly virus in South Korea has set off alarms across the region.

In the past week, South Korea's confirmed cases of the Middle East respiratory syndrome have more than tripled to 41, with at least three deaths. About 1,600 people are quarantined and more than 1,000 schools are closed.

It's the largest outbreak of MERS outside Saudi Arabia. And researchers around the world have been trying to figure out why the outbreak in South Korea has gotten so large, so fast.

Now researchers have a clue: a superspreader event.

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Environment
6:19 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

Scientists Cast Doubt On An Apparent 'Hiatus' In Global Warming

A fully loaded container ship sails along the coast. Historically, ships have taken most of the sea measurements that go into the estimate of Earth's average surface temperature.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 7:31 pm

A team of government scientists has revised its estimate for how much the planet has been warming.

The new results, published in the journal Science, may dispel the idea that Earth has been in the midst of a "global warming hiatus" — a period over the past 20 years where the planet's temperature appears to have risen very little.

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The Two-Way
3:33 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

EPA Finds No Widespread Drinking Water Pollution From Fracking

Workers use perforating tools to create fractures in rock. An EPA study finds that "fracking" to reach and extract deep pockets of hydrocarbons has not caused widespread drinking water pollution.
Brennan Linsley AP

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 7:01 am

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing — better known as fracking — has led to widespread pollution of drinking water. The oil industry and its backers welcome the long-awaited study, while environmental groups criticize it.

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The Salt
1:42 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

California's War Over Water Has Farmer Fighting Farmer

Rudy Mussi's family has farmed in the Sacramento Delta region for nearly a century. Mussi worries that more water transfers will deplete the fragile Delta ecosystem and wipe out family farms like his.
Kirk Siegler NPR

Originally published on Thu June 4, 2015 7:50 pm

Rudy Mussi is not the California farmer you've been hearing about. He is not fallowing all his fields or ripping up his orchards due to a lack irrigation water.

For Mussi and most of his neighbors in the bucolic Sacramento Delta, the water is still flowing reliably from the pumps and into the canals lining the fields.

"If you had to pick a place where you would say, 'Okay, where should I stick my farm?' You'd come to the Delta," he says.

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Shots - Health News
1:02 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

How Many Viruses Have Infected You?

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 3:12 pm

A cheap new lab test can use just a drop of blood to reveal the different kinds of viruses you've been exposed to over your lifetime.

The test suggests that, on average, people have been infected with about ten different types of known virus families, including influenzas, and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold, according to a report published Thursday in Science.

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