Science + Technology

Astronomers have spotted what they believe to be the most distant object ever seen in our solar system.

The dwarf planet, known for now simply as V774104, is more than 100 times farther from the sun than we are. Astronomers aren't sure what it's doing out there, but they're hoping follow-up studies of its orbit will teach them more.

With their garish blooms, there's something special about orchids, and in the U.S., no place has more native species than Fakahatchee Strand Preserve. The state park in Southwest Florida was the setting for the 1998 book The Orchid Thief. Scientists there are working to bring back varieties lost through the years to poachers and habitat destruction.

If you live in an apartment building or another densely populated area and your Wi-Fi is slow, your neighbors bingeing on Netflix may be to blame.

Your and your neighbors' Wi-Fi networks have a limited number of wireless frequency channels to move your data. And when things get crowded and busy, Wi-Fi networks can overlap and bump into each other and slow down your Internet connection.

When physicist Erwin Schrodinger considered the question "What Is Life?" his answer was the creation order amidst a cosmic sea of chaos.

In other words, life is a local triumph over entropy. But to hear that idea is one thing; seeing its reality is quite another.

Jihae Shin was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, preparing to enter the academic job market. She had set her sights on finding a fabulous faculty position, but wasn't sure she was going to get one.

The safe thing was to have a backup plan — to apply for a number of other jobs as well. But the thought of doing so made her worried: would the presence of the backup options diminish her motivation to get the job she really wanted?

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren left the International Space Station on Friday for their second spacewalk in less than two weeks. Their assignment was to configure a vent door on the port side ammonia tank. That meant they were outside the space station, tied only with a tether, floating in outer space.

State officials have closed both recreational and commercial fishing for Dungeness and rock crab on the California coast north of Santa Barbara to the Oregon border, due to a large algae bloom that's making the crab unsafe for consumption.

The bloom, created by an organism called Pseudo-nitzschia, produces a neurotoxin called domoic acid that can build up in marine life. It causes vomiting, diarrhea and cramping in humans — and even death, in severe cases.

It's getting harder to see the stars in North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and it's due to flares, drilling rigs and all the lights from the Bakken oilfield.

Since 2010, scientists with the National Park Service have measured a 500 percent increase in the amount of anthropogenic light there — no other national park in America has seen such a rapid increase in light pollution.

Kent Friesen is standing in a dark field in the North Dakota Badlands, peering into a huge telescope.

Climate change isn't just something to worry about here on Earth. New research published today shows that Mars has undergone a dramatic climate shift in the past that has rendered much of the planet inhospitable to life.

About 3.8 billion years ago, Mars was a reasonably pleasant place. It had a thick atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide that kept it warm. Rivers trickled into lakes across its surface. Some researchers think there might even have been an ocean.

In September, we reported on a charming little study that found people who feel blue after watching sad videos have a harder time perceiving colors on the blue-yellow axis.

Now the researchers may be feeling blue themselves. On Thursday they retracted their study, saying that errors in how they structured the experiment skewed the results.

Biologist Ethan Bier runs a laboratory at the University of California, San Diego where fruit flies are used to help unravel the processes that lead to some human diseases. One day recently, a graduate student in the lab called him over to take a look at the results of the latest experiment.

Bier was stunned by what he saw. "It was one of the most astounding days in my personal scientific career," Bier says. "When he first showed me, I could not believe it."

Our world is made of matter. "Everything you see and feel — your laptop, your desk, your chair — they are all ordinary matter," says Aihong Tang, a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

But matter has a counterpart called antimatter. Each kind of fundamental particle of matter has an antimatter nemesis lurking in the shadows. And true to science-fiction stereotype, if matter and antimatter ever meet, they annihilate in a flash of light.

In this part of the Amazon rain forest, they call it "the war over wood."

It has front lines.

One of them is here, in Machadinho d'Oeste in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia.

The self-described "Guardians of the Forest" defending the land don't look like fighters, at least when we first meet them. But they are pitting themselves against criminal logging gangs that have infiltrated their protected reserves.

There are many thought-provoking moments in the new movie The Martian.

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Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Jane Goodall has learned a lot about chimpanzees in her 55 years of studying them. She has learned a lot from them, too.

And she's putting those lessons into practice.

That's what she explains after giving a lecture at the U.S. State Department.

Uber has shaken up what it takes to get from point A to point B in cities across the country with a simple premise: If you need a ride, a driver nearby could pick you up within minutes.

Behind that idea is an algorithm, which promises to keep supply and demand in constant balance, encouraging drivers toward busy areas and tempering customer requests by increasing the price of each ride. It's called surge pricing.

Dr. Tim Littlewood handles more gross and terrifying creatures than just about anyone in London.

And he loves it.

"I'm a parasitologist," he explains, "so I tend to work on things that live inside other animals. And most people think of them as quite gross and revolting. But upon looking at these things and studying them, [I find] they are the most beautiful, spectacular animals you can find."

Although you wouldn't want to get one inside of you.

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