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Science + Technology

If you want to feel virtuous the next time you chug a brewski, consider the Long Root Ale. This new beer, mildly fragrant and with a rye-like spiciness, is the first to use Kernza, a kind of wheat that could make agriculture more sustainable, especially in the face of climate change. What makes Kernza environmentally friendly is its biology. It's a perennial plant, meaning it grows year-round, season after season. So, farmers who produce it don't need to plow up their land and replant the...

In 1950, less than 50 percent of the world's population lived in cities. As of 2014, more than half of people on Earth occupied space in urban areas. By 2050, it is expected that the city dwellers will grow to 66 percent. The tipping point has been crossed. More important, our rapid urbanizing comes at exactly the same moment the planet begins its transition to a new (and unknown) climate state. There are dangerous links between this climate change and our relentless city building. How...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3N0FY-fe_hA When scientists recently announced that they had discovered a new planet orbiting our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centuri, they also released an artist's conception of the planet. The picture of a craggy canyon, illuminated by a reddish-orange sunset, looked like an image that could have been taken on Mars by one of NASA's rovers. But the alien scene was actually completely made-up. It's part of an ever-increasing gallery of images depicting...

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Neb., leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday. Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Radio has gotten bigger and bigger over the last few years. Back in 1996, a change in the law allowed a few large media giants to buy up hundreds of radio stations. Local shows were replaced with nationally syndicated programs. In an effort to increase local programming, The Federal Communications Commission introduced low power FM back in 2000, mostly in rural areas. Now the FCC has expanded that program to...

An experimental lander from the European Space Agency is making its final descent toward Mars, preparing for a controlled landing on Wednesday. The Schiaparelli probe detached from its mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, on Sunday. There was a moment of alarm when, after separating from the ship, Schiaparelli didn't send the expected signals back to scientists on earth. It did send back a "carrier signal" to show it was operational, but didn't communicate any telemetry data about its status or...

Counting all the galaxies in the universe is hard. So hard, it seems, that it's possible to miss billions of them. A new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data finds there are almost 10 times more galaxies in the universe than we once thought there were — about 2 trillion of them, up from about 200 billion. It's the first major revision to the number since 1995, when scientists turned Hubble's gaze on one section of sky for 10 days and created an image, unveiled in 1996, that NASA called ...

In the world of illegal wildlife trade, the most valuable appendage — even more than elephant ivory — is the horn of the rhinoceros. Investigative journalist Bryan Christy estimates that the wholesale market for rhino horn is roughly a quarter of a billion dollars. Christy, who traveled to Africa while investigating the rhino horn trade for National Geographic Magazine, tells Fresh Air 's Terry Gross that he looked forward to seeing his first rhino in the field while on assignment. But...

The teenage brain has been characterized as a risk-taking machine, looking for quick rewards and thrills instead of acting responsibly. But these behaviors could actually make teens better than adults at certain kinds of learning. "In neuroscience, we tend to think that if healthy brains act in a certain way, there should be a reason for it," says Juliet Davidow, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University in the Affective Neuroscience and Development Lab and the lead author of the study ...

Human life spans have been increasing for decades thanks to advances in treating and preventing diseases and improved social conditions. In fact, longevity has increased so much in recent decades that some researchers began to wonder: What is the upper limit on human aging? "We never had so many centenarians as we have now," says Jan Vijg , who studies molecular genetics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "Maybe we can actually live much longer than 100. Maybe this goes...

I start with a remarkable quote: "The passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought, and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously, we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass by a process of reasoning from the one phenomenon to the other. They appear together but we do not know why. Were our minds and senses so expanded,...

Some cutting-edging science today relies on the centuries-old art of glassblowing. When researchers in chemistry, physics and medicine need special glass tools for complex experiments, they sometimes sit down with a glassblower to sketch out designs for customized beakers, flasks and condenser coils. New Jersey's Salem Community College is trying to keep that tradition going with the country's only degree program in scientific glassblowing. Housed among corn and soybean fields about an hour...

The largest radio telescope in the world officially opened on Sunday, according to China's official Xinhua News . The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, is named after its diameter, which at 500 meters makes it 195 meters wider than the second largest telescope of its kind, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico . Xinhua reports the telescope cost $180 million, and displaced 8,000 people from their homes to create the necessary 3-mile radius of radio silence around the...

In 1970, archaeologists excavating the site of an ancient synagogue in Israel dug up a cylindrical lump of charcoal that looked like the remains of a scroll. The animal-skin document was badly burned and battered . It was so delicate, just touching its surface sent pieces flaking off. To attempt to read it by unwrapping the layers would be to destroy the artifact forever. For curious scholars hoping to know what was written inside, the so-called En-Gedi scroll was a hopeless enigma. Until now...

When the phone rang, Rebecca Richards-Kortum thought it was a telemarketer. Instead, it was the MacArthur Foundation calling her at home to tell her she'd just won a grant totaling $625,000. And she hadn't even been aware that she'd been nominated for the prestigious award. The MacArthur Fellowships, as they're officially called, are often dubbed the "genius grants." They're given out each year to 20 to 30 people who — according to the Foundation's confidential selection committee — show ...

A scientist in Sweden has started trying to edit the DNA in healthy human embryos, NPR has learned. The step by the developmental biologist Fredrik Lanner makes him the first researcher known to attempt to modify the genes of healthy human embryos. That has long been considered taboo because of safety and ethical concerns. Lanner is attempting to edit genes in human embryos to learn more about how the genes regulate early embryonic development. He hopes the work could lead to new ways to...

Five people. Ten bears. One desperate call for help. On a remote Arctic island, five researchers at a weather station found themselves "besieged" by polar bears over the weekend, Russia's TASS news agency reports. Vadim Plotnikov, the head of the weather station on Troynoy Island, told the news agency on Monday that the staff there had seen 10 adult bears around the station, as well as several cubs. Two weeks ago, a polar bear ate one of the weather station's two dogs — and hadn't left the...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This election season, voters should be evaluating the presidential candidates' attitudes toward science. ScienceDebate.org proposes a set of 20 science and science policy questions for all candidates , suggesting that "science impacts voters at least as much as the economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values candidates share on the campaign trail." Yet beyond questions about specific scientific issues are broader questions about how each candidate understands the value of science...

A deadly fungus that's been devastating frog populations is spreading across the globe — it's helped drive the extinction of 200 species so far. In California, the chytrid fungus has moved inexorably across the Sierra Nevada, leaving thousands of frogs dead. But scientists are trying to turn the tide against the fungus with an experimental treatment, one that could matter to frogs worldwide. They're making a last-ditch effort to save the endangered mountain yellow-legged frog by immunizing it...

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