I noticed in The Guardian that there's a book coming out this week listing the 20 biggest challenges for modern science. I'd like to go over 10 of them today, perhaps coming back to the other 10 next week.
Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 3:07 pm
Satellite imagery and seismic data have identified two huge underground aquifers in Kenya's drought-prone north, a discovery that could be "a game changer" for the country, NPR's Gregory Warner reports.
The aquifers, located hundreds of feet underground in the Turkana region that borders Ethiopia and South Sudan, contain billions of gallons of water, according to UNESCO, which confirmed the existence of the subterranean lakes discovered with the help of a French company using technology originally designed to reveal oil deposits.
When I saw it for the first time, here's what I knew: It's a Google image found on Google Maps, taken by a satellite, plucked and blogged by photographer/sleuth, Mishka Henner. It's a patch of land near a town called Coevorden, in The Netherlands. There's a road on one side, plowed farmland all about, some trees on the lower left and then, weirdly, grey, black, white, golden, green and brown patches crunched together in an almost-rectangle. Those couldn't be natural, I thought.
Lauren Henderson goes everywhere with her service dog Phoebe — to the grocery store, Disneyland, the beach. For Henderson, who used to be paralyzed, her 100 pound, lumbering Saint Bernard is a necessity.
An actor who lives in Malibu, Calif., Henderson uses her dog for stability and balance. And if she falls, Phoebe helps pull her back on her feet.
"She's basically like a living walker," Henderson says.
Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 4:11 pm
You've heard, maybe, about "Simple Living"? It's what some people do, Gandhi-style, to simplify their lives. They shed possessions. They watch their carbon footprint. They choose to live with less. They have what they need, and that's enough.
What's the opposite of Simple Living? (Everything needs an opposite, right? Read Hegel.) Well, if you want to conjure Simple Living in reverse, it's not gluttony. Anybody can buy too many shoes. No, the opposite of Simple Living should also be a movement with a name, a style — and lots of fans.
Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 1:18 pm
Ten years ago rye whiskey was on the brink of extinction.
Despite its venerable history as the whiskey made by George Washington, only a handful of distillers were bottling this quintessentially American spirit. And you definitely couldn't order a rye Manhattan at your local cocktail lounge.
Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 3:25 pm
We've grown accustomed to choosing our food from a spectacular rainbow — care for an impossibly pink cupcake, a cerulean blue sports drink or yogurt in preppy lavender?
But there's a growing backlash against the synthetic dyes that give us these eye-popping hues. And now scientists are turning to the little-known (and little-grown) purple sweet potato to develop plant-based dyes that can be labeled as nonthreatening vegetable juice.
Thousands of messages posted on the Internet every day in China get censored. Until now, little has been known about how the Chinese censorship machine works — except that it is comprehensive.
"It probably is the largest effort ever to selectively censor human expression," says Harvard University social scientist Gary King. "They don't censor everything. There are millions of Chinese [who] talk about millions of things. But the effort to prune the Internet of certain kinds of information is unprecedented."
Look in the mirror and you won't see your microbiome. But it's there with you from the day you are born. Over time, those bacteria, viruses and fungi multiply until they outnumber your own cells 10 to 1.
As babies, the microbes may teach our immune systems how to fight off bad bugs that make us sick and ignore things that aren't a threat.
We get our first dose of microbes from our mothers, both in the birth canal and in breast milk. Family members tend to have similar microbiomes.
Of all the world's birds, perhaps none are more mystical than cranes.
From Asia to North America, these tall birds with haunting cries have been woven into paintings, literature and folk tales. But today, 10 of the world's 15 crane species are threatened, and some are on the brink of extinction.
Their grass and wetland habitats are devastated all over the world. The International Crane Foundation, based in Wisconsin, has been studying and advocating for the birds for 40 years. George Archibald founded it with another young ornithologist on a family farm near Baraboo.
Diana Nyad's successful swim from Cuba to Key West on Monday was made all the sweeter because she had tried — and failed — four times before.
She learned you should "never, ever give up," but she also learned some practical lessons to help beat the elements in those earlier attempts. Out of failure, she innovated. And out of innovation, she succeeded.