Science + Technology

"European society is very advanced, very civilized. Between holocausts."

The painter Barnett Newman is said to have replied along these lines to a friend who was bemoaning the sorry state of American political life and praising European social democracy.

It's a good joke. It casts light on the whole religion versus science controversy as well.

There once was a place on Earth so overrun with giant, meat-eating predators that even a Tyrannosaurus rex would have been nervous. One predator there was even bigger than T. rex, and scientists now say it's apparently the only aquatic dinosaur ever found.

The swimming monster is called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. It was 50 feet long — longer than a school bus, and 9 feet longer than the biggest T. rex.

Is Amazon's Failed Phone A Cautionary Tale?

Sep 11, 2014

It's been a big week in the world of gadgets. Apple announced its newest iPhones, the 6 and 6 Plus, and they're bigger than any other before. And on the smaller side, there's an Apple Watch — that does a lot of the same things. Meanwhile, Amazon took a nosedive with its foray into the smartphone marketplace. Here are some questions we had:

Amazon slashed the price of the Fire phone from $199 To 99 cents. Why?

You'll find spinning wheels at the top of Netflix, Etsy, Foursquare and other top sites today, as they take part in Internet Slowdown Day. While sites won't slow down for real, participating Internet companies will be covered with the symbolic loading icons "to remind everyone what an Internet without net neutrality would look like," the organizers write on their website.

We have pocket watches, pocket cameras and now — with smartphones — pocket computers.

So why shouldn't doctors and scientists around the world have pocket microscopes?

Given that science is believed to be about certainty, betting on a scientific idea sounds like an oxymoron.

Yet scientists bet on ideas all the time, even if mostly for jest. Of course, this only makes sense before we have any data pointing toward the correctness of the disputed hypothesis.

What can yesterday's weather tell us about how the climate is changing today? That's what an army of volunteers looking at old ships' logs is trying to answer through the Old Weather project.

One of those volunteers — or citizen scientists, as the project calls them — is Kathy Wendolkowski of Gaithersburg, Md.

What We Really See When We Go See A Movie

Aug 29, 2014
Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Let's say you're in a movie theater. You're watching an action movie - let's say "Iron Man 2."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IRON MAN 2")

Well into the 21st century, it is indisputable that we know more about the universe than ever before.

So that we don't get lulled into a false sense of confidence, today I provide a short list of open questions about the cosmos, focusing only on its composition. These are some of the mysteries that keep many fundamental physicists and astronomers busy and hopeful.

Two volcanoes half a world apart are causing havoc today: Several flights have been diverted around an eruption in Papua New Guinea, and authorities in Iceland briefly put aviation on highest alert (again) owing to a temperamental Mount Bardarbunga, which has been rumbling for the past week.

Scientists examining an unusual African fish that can walk and breathe air think they've learned a thing or two about how our distant ancestors made the leap from the oceans to terra firma some 400 million years ago.

Some Call For More Sharing In Ridesharing

Aug 25, 2014

Taxicabs are fighting tooth and nail against Uber, the company that enables car owners to drive part time or full time for pay, like cabbies.

But behind this battle, there's another one brewing inside the world of ridesharing. Uber and its competitors in San Francisco are sparring over cash, over drivers, and over some basic values, too.

But a researcher says branding the startups Uber and Lyft as ridesharing services isn't quite accurate. Now, an emerging set of services promises to be more about sharing.

Chauffeur Vs. Your Friend With A Car

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Playlist: Explore The Cosmos

Aug 25, 2014

We made playlists of TED Radio Hour stories that will keep you curious about big ideas throughout the summer.

Transport yourself to a galaxy far, far away with this TED Radio Hour playlist. It includes stories about the wonder and awe of journeying to space, and defending our own planet from asteroids.

Luckily, a historic magnitude-6.0 earthquake in California over the weekend has not resulted in the loss of any human life.

The wine country, however, was deeply affected. While it's still too early to tell just how much the quake will cost Napa Valley, what's clear is that some wineries lost some of their most cherished reserves, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Air pollution is clogging the skies of our planet. Now one scientist thinks Earth may be just one of many polluted worlds — and that searching for extraterrestrial smog may actually be a good way to search for alien intelligence.

"People refer to 'little green men,' but ETs that are detected by this method should not be labeled as green," says Avi Loeb, an astronomer at Harvard University.

The idea of finding alien polluters may be a bit of a long shot, but Loeb says it's possible.

Cyclists may soon have a convenient way to discourage bike thieves, thanks to new designs that use parts of the bikes themselves as locks. Two projects — one based in Chile, another in Seattle — are promising to provide peace of mind without the fuss of carrying a separate lock.

Back in the 1990s, historical societies, museums and symphonies across the country began transferring all kinds of information onto what was thought to be a very durable medium: the compact disc.

Now, preservationists are worried that a lot of key information stored on CDs — from sound recordings to public records — is going to disappear. Some of those little silver discs are degrading, and researchers at the Library of Congress are trying to figure out why.

Scientists Test The World's Seas On Ocean Sampling Day

Aug 18, 2014
Copyright 2014 Georgia Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit http://www.gpb.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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