Science + Technology

Updated at 4:48 p.m. ET

President Obama is expected to lay out plans today intended to make it easier for cities, towns and rural communities to offer their citizens fast and cheap broadband Internet.

Over the years, I've been collecting thought fragments and sentences that come to me during the day or in the course of my writing books and essays.

Since this is a time of introspection and self-analysis, I wanted to share some of them with the 13.7 readers — along with my wishes for a creative and healthy 2015. I hope these may be useful to you in one way or another. Here it goes:

Limits are not obstacles but triggers that expand your boundaries.

Boundaries can be jails or invitations — it all depends on how you see them.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

Sometime in 2014, I read Brigid Schulte's Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time and was struck by this passage comparing the culture of work in America with that in Denmark:

"Most Danes don't feel obligated to check their smartphones and e-mail after hours. In fact, they say, people who put in long hours and constantly check e-mail after hours are seen not as ideal worker warriors, as in America, but as inefficient."

Cuba has promised its citizens better Internet access in this New Year. The few Cubans who now manage to get online find it expensive and slow.

Warming ties with the U.S. have stirred hope for improved telecommunications. But until then, many residents have devised an ingenious work-around, or should we say walk-around.

On Havana's Malecon, roaming guitarists play for the crowds resting against the iconic sea wall. In this nightly gathering spot, it's old fashioned interacting. No one is on a cell, no eyes glued to smart phones.

The average American produces an estimated 66 pounds of electronic waste every year. You can't compost it; it's gotta go somewhere.

Often, in violation of the law, that means a dump in the developing world — like the region of Agbogbloshie in the West African nation Ghana.

When Jim McGuire and some colleagues recently cut open a frog that they'd collected and euthanized on an Indonesian island, they got quite a shock.

"Out came the tadpoles, and they were alive!" recalls McGuire, a herpetologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

The researchers had just found the first frog known to give birth to live tadpoles.

Lt. Heidi Beemer has dreamed of going to Mars since she was 8 years old. She's carefully planned her life, from her education to her career, with a goal of getting to the red planet.

In January she got a step closer to that goal by making first cut of applicants for Mars One — a Netherlands-based nonprofit that has a goal of establishing a permanent, sustainable human settlement on Mars by 2025.

Now, she's preparing to interview for the next round.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit



Any color you choose can be matched by a mixture of short, medium and long wavelength light (i.e., blue, green and red light). This perceptual observation led to the formulation, early in the 19th century, of a neurophysiological hypothesis: The eye contains three kinds of distinct color-sensitive receptors (cones); just as colors themselves can be composed of lights of different spectral character, so we can see the vast range of visible color thanks to the joint operation of only three distinct kinds of receptors.

In the coming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue a regulation that will extend 1 million years into the future.

The timescale of the regulation, which deals with the disposal of power plant nuclear waste, is unprecedented territory for the EPA.

"This will be the only rule that applies for such a long duration into the future," says Elizabeth Cotsworth, the EPA director of radiation and indoor air. "Most EPA rules apply for the foreseeable future -- five or six generations. This rule is for basically 25,000 generations."

This is the time of year when it's not uncommon to see big trucks barreling down highways and streets spreading road salt.

Steve Corsi, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says that translates into high levels of chloride concentrations for rivers like the Milwaukee in Wisconsin or 18 other streams near urban areas in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and several other states.

"At many of the streams, concentrations have now exceeded those that are harmful to aquatic life," he says.

Editor's note, Jan. 15, 2015: Mae Keane was one of the last "radium girls," but not the last one. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the full correction note.

Before turning the page on 2014, All Things Considered is paying tribute to some of the people who died this year whose stories you may not have heard — including Mae Keane.

In the early 1920s, the hot new gadget was a wristwatch with a glow-in-the-dark dial.

"Made possible by the magic of radium!" bragged one advertisement.

Perhaps no single company has stirred so many emotions this year — across so many continents — as Uber.

In 2014 Uber became more — much more — than a car service: The Silicon Valley startup became a symbol for capitalism itself.

The company's value soared from under a billion to about $40 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies on Earth. But it also has become mired in turf wars, legal battles and scandal.

Hypergrowth And Backlash

The CEO of Sony Pictures has been saying that the cyberattack against his company is "the worst cyberattack in U.S. history." And you can see where he's coming from. An entire feature film got canned — at least for now. And his corporate networks were so damaged, Sony workers had to revert to using fax machines to communicate. That said, "the worst" is a big claim.

This is the season for generosity — and for con artists who take advantage of it.

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to scams; more than a quarter of the victims of financial fraud are over 60, according to the FTC. But now there are products on the market designed to protect seniors' nest eggs.

A ship full of marine scientists is floating over the deepest part of the world: the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They're sending down probes to study life in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

This week the researchers are targeting the two deepest spots in the trench — the Sirena Deep and the Challenger Deep — which each extend down about 7 miles beneath the ocean's surface.

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

Imagine that scientists wanted to take Ebola virus and see if it could ever become airborne by deliberately causing mutations in the lab and then searching through those new viruses to see if any spread easily through the air.

Would that be OK?