Science + Technology

Science + Technology
1:42 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

Arctic Temperatures Create Enormous Ice Formations At Niagara Falls

A partially frozen American Falls in sub-freezing temperatures is seen in Niagara Falls, Ontario, on Tuesday. Temperature dropped to 6 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning for western New York from midnight Wednesday to Friday.
Lindsay DeDario Reuters/Landov

The Arctic cold snap that has gripped much of the U.S. lately may be causing hardship for many, but it's also creating some spectacular ice formations at Niagara Falls. The spectacle is drawing huge crowds on both the Canadian and American side of the border.

The air temperature is so cold that the water and mist coming off the falls is frozen in place. Some of the formations look like massive boulders, others look like long shards of white glass.

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Science + Technology
9:38 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Shock, Awe And Science

Artist depiction of the rings of planet J1407b with Saturn and its rings (in the distance) shown for comparison.
Ron Miller Courtesy of Eric Mamajek

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 2:38 pm

Imagine you walked outside one morning and there was a 30,000-pound cat sitting in your front yard. Imagine that, on the way to work, you walked past a mushroom the size of a house. Imagine that, in the midst of all the mundane, day-to-day things you take for granted, something utterly new — and utterly unexpected — plopped itself into your reality.

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Science + Technology
7:03 am
Tue February 17, 2015

Pity For Penguins: They Can't Taste Their Dinner

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 12:08 pm

The emperor penguin chases its prey through nearly freezing waters. Once it locates food, usually a fish or squid, it catches the animal in its powerful jaws and devours it.

But after all that work, the penguin can't actually taste the savory flavor of its meal.

Researcher Jianzhi Zhang, a molecular and genomic evolution professor at the University of Michigan, recently examined the emperor penguin's genome. But he says he couldn't find the bird's genes to taste umami, the savory flavor of meat or fish.

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Science + Technology
3:33 am
Tue February 17, 2015

You Might Want To Take Another Pass At Your Passwords

They might be hard to remember sometimes, but good passwords may be the best defense against hackers.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue February 17, 2015 12:24 pm

Compromises of private corporate or consumer data are all too common. This month, health insurer Anthem announced its customer data was hacked.

Yet even President Obama last week poked fun at our common line of defense: the lazy password.

"It's just too easy for hackers to figure out usernames and passwords like 'password' or '123457.' Those are some of my previous passwords," he said.

In short, passwords have, in some cases, undermined their own security intent.

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Science + Technology
11:24 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Internet Pioneer Warns Our Era Could Become The 'Digital Dark Ages'

Vint Cerf in a photo from last year. Cerf is warning of a possible "digital Dark Ages" if the world's data isn't permanently preserved.
Andre Penner AP

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 12:31 pm

What happens when today's high-tech data storage systems become tomorrow's floppy discs?

Google Vice President Vint Cerf is concerned about the answer and its implications for preserving history. Speaking at an annual conference of top American scientists, Cerf described such a loss of important information as a possible "digital Dark Ages."

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Science + Technology
7:13 am
Fri February 13, 2015

Obama: Cyberspace Is The New 'Wild West'

Hoping to prevent or limit data breaches like the one that recently hit health insurer Anthem, President Obama is urging companies to work together to protect their data.
Gus Ruelas Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 4:43 pm

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET

President Obama called cyberspace the "wild West" and that everyone is looking to the government to be the sheriff. But he said in his address to leaders in the tech industry, that private industry, policy makers and security experts had to do more to stop cyber attacks, the Associated Press reported.

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Science + Technology
9:09 am
Thu February 12, 2015

How Removing Checkpoints Could Make Israelis More Secure

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 3:33 pm

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Science + Technology
3:31 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

The 50 Most Effective Ways To Transform The Developing World

Students use tablets in a classroom in Mae Chan, a remote town in Thailand's northern province.
Christophe Archambault AFP/Getty Images

There are so many projects in global health that sometimes it's hard to figure out which ones are the most important.

So Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to list the 50 breakthroughs that would most transform the lives of the poor, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Shashi Buluswar, an author of the study, spoke with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne. Here's a sampling:

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Science + Technology
12:45 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

PHOTO: Rosetta Sends 'An Impressive New Perspective' On Comet

An image of Comet 67P/C-G taken on Feb. 6 from a distance of about 77 miles to the comet center.
ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Space, Douglas Adams wrote, is big. Really big. And from this vastness comes "an impressive new perspective" on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko taken by the Rosetta probe from about 77 miles away.

We won't disagree.

The European Space Agency, which operates Rosetta, says, "The image is the first single frame image capturing the entire comet nucleus since leaving bound orbits last week."

The ESA adds:

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Science + Technology
11:41 am
Wed February 11, 2015

From The Cold Depths Of Space, A Smile Emerges

An image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of the galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849 shows that it seems to be smiling. The space agency says it's the result of a symmetrical alignment of the galaxy cluster and the telescope — along with a powerful gravity field that can bend light.
NASA & ESA

Space, you may have heard, can be a cold and lonely place. But the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has identified a particularly well-adjusted corner of space — or at least that's what a recent image suggests, with the help of an effect called an Einstein Ring.

In the Hubble image of galaxy cluster SDSS J1038+4849, two bright galaxies resemble eyes, NASA says, "and the misleading smile lines are actually arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing."

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Science + Technology
11:03 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Scientific Pros Weigh The Cons Of Messing With Earth's Thermostat

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 spewed almost 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, causing worldwide temperatures to drop half a degree on average.
Arlan Naeg AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 20, 2015 3:20 pm

Before anyone tries to cool the Earth with technologies that could counteract global warming, there needs to be a lot more research into the benefits and risks. That's the conclusion announced Tuesday by a scientific panel convened by the prestigious National Research Council to assess "climate geoengineering" — deliberate attempts to alter the global climate.

Geoengineering has been seen as the potential last-ditch option to stave off the worst effects of climate change, given that agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been slow in coming.

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Science + Technology
10:50 am
Tue February 10, 2015

The Moon Like You Have Never Seen It Before

YouTube

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 9:58 am

There are many invisible realities that lie hidden from us. Some things happen too fast for us to see. Some things are too small to see. Some things are too far away. Some things, however, are right in front of us, but we are just in the wrong position to get a clear view.

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Science + Technology
10:49 am
Tue February 10, 2015

WATCH: A Robot That Just Won't Quit Even When It's Kicked

A Boston Dynamics robot called Spot is kicked by a human.
Boston Dynamics via YouTube

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 10:38 am

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Science + Technology
5:16 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Shake, Rattle And Toll: Berkeley's Bells Play Sounds Of Earth

In a project called "Natural Frequencies," the bells in the Campanile on the University of California, Berkeley campus were recently programmed to play a score composed in real time by the seismic shifts taking place along the Hayward fault.
Eric Risberg AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:04 am

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Science + Technology
5:16 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Q&A: Sen. Ed Markey On Protecting Data Our Cars Are Sharing

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., says our cars are becoming increasingly vulnerable to hacking.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 6:27 pm

Cars and trucks today are computers, and a new report overseen by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., comes with a warning: As more vehicles have wireless connections, the data stored in them is vulnerable to stealing, hacking and the same invasions faced by any technical system today.

How safe are we in our connected cars?

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Science + Technology
2:21 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Psychological Biases Play A Part In Vaccination Decisions

Gazi Alam iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 7:49 am

With the recent outbreak of measles originating from Disneyland, there's been no shortage of speculation, accusation and recrimination concerning why some people won't vaccinate their children.

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Science + Technology
3:58 am
Fri February 6, 2015

Listeners To NPR: Why Don't We Track Planes Like We Do Ships?

SkyTruth followed the ship Shin Jyi Chyuu 33 during one week last month. Planes are connected to a satellite network just like ships, but the information is only collected if the airline pays for it.
Courtesy of SkyTruth via Exact Earth ShipView

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 11:25 am

A couple of listeners wrote to Morning Edition on Thursday with the same idea.

"Did anyone notice that shortly after reporting on the difficulty of tracking airliners in flight, you aired a story about a gentleman in West Virginia who was able to work with Google to track fishing boats in real time?" wrote Paul Douglas from Simsbury, Conn.

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Science + Technology
4:52 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

Anthem Hack Renews Calls For Laws To Better Prevent Breaches

Anthem says 80 million company records were accessed in what may be one of the largest health care data breaches to date.
Aaron P. Bernstein Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 2:46 pm

The call for more systemic changes to prevent mega-hacks is getting louder after hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer. The company says cyberthieves gained access to the addresses, employment information and Social Security numbers of 80 million customers and employees.

Eighty million individuals is a lot — it's roughly the populations of California, Texas and Illinois combined.

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Science + Technology
8:24 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Fossil Provides Evidence Of Early Human Migration To Europe

Dr. Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority holds an ancient skull found inside a cave near the northern Israeli city of Nahariya.
Dan Balilty AP

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:38 am

Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don't know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.

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Science + Technology
7:03 am
Wed February 4, 2015

FCC Chairman Wheeler Backs Regulating Internet As Public Utility

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his plan in a Wired op-ed on Wednesday. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the proposal Feb. 26.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:48 am

Updated Feb. 4, 11:52 a.m. ET: Wheeler Outlines His Proposal In Wired.

Today is the day net neutrality watchers had been waiting for, according to numerous reports. After months of debate, discussion and the culling of nearly 4 million public comments on the matter, the Federal Communications Commission appears poised to decide how it will regulate the Internet.

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