Science + Technology

Science + Technology
4:47 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

By Tracking Sugar In Tears, Contact Lens Offers Hope For Diabetics

While years of research remain to see if such a system is medically viable, Google's development of a tiny, flexible wireless computer embedded in a soft contact lens is a first.
Google

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 1:39 pm

The latest project from Google X is a smart contact lens, a tiny, flexible computer capable of monitoring glucose levels in tears. Researchers at Google are hopeful that one day this technology might be used to help diabetes patients better control their disease.

"I think the Google X device could be a huge game changer," says Dr. John Buse, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. He's also chairman of the National Diabetes Education Program for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Science + Technology
5:35 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

To Save Threatened Owl, Another Species Is Shot

A northern spotted owl in a Redwood forest.
Michael Nichols Getty Images/National Geographic Creative

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 12:19 pm

In desperation to save the rare northern spotted owl, biologists are doing something that goes against their core — shooting another owl that's rapidly taking over spotted owl territory across the northwest.

"If we don't do it, what we're essentially doing, in my view, is dooming the spotted owl to extinction," says Lowell Diller, senior biologist for Green Diamond, a timber company.

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Science + Technology
1:12 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

It's Not Magic On The Mountain, It's A Rain-Making Machine

A ground-based cloud-seeding tower at Alpine Meadows ski area near California's Lake Tahoe. It spits out silver iodide particles that are the right size and shape to help precipitation form.
Lauren Sommer KQED

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 7:36 pm

The snowpack in the Mountain West this year is at just a small fraction of its normal level. In fact, 2013 was the driest year ever recorded in many parts of California, and there's little relief in sight. But water managers are trying to squeeze every last raindrop out of Mother Nature with a technology developed in the state more than 50 years ago: cloud seeding.

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Science + Technology
9:47 am
Tue January 14, 2014

We Have A Science Tumblr, And Its Name Is 'Skunk Bear'

Haoxiang Luo Vanderbilt University

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 1:47 pm

This week, we're launching Skunk Bear, our new science tumblr.

What will I find on this tumblr?

Cool things! Cool science things!! Stuff we make or discover on the Internet that makes us laugh, or think, or turn to each other and say, "Hey, look at this cool thing!"

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Science + Technology
3:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

When Big Carnivores Go Down, Even Vegetarians Take The Hit

Ask not for whom the wolf stalks ...
Holly Kuchera iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:45 pm

Big, fierce animals — lions and tigers and bears, for example — are relatively scarce in nature. That's normal, because if you have too many, they'll eat themselves out of prey.

But top predators are now so rare that many are in danger of disappearing. That's creating ripple effects throughout the natural world that scientists are still trying to figure out.

What they're exploring is ecology — the interplay of animals and plants in nature. It's not rocket science. It's harder.

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Science + Technology
11:37 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Solar Flare Will Hit Earth Thursday; Northern Lights May Expand South

Coming At You: An image created by NASA combines two pictures from its Solar Dynamics Observatory. One shows the location of a large sunspot; the other shows Tuesday's massive solar flare.
NASA/SDO

Originally published on Thu January 9, 2014 3:51 pm

Tired of reading about intensely cold temperatures? Here's some news that might help take your mind off this week's deep freeze. It could even give you an excuse to hang around outside Thursday.

An intense solar flare is being blamed for disrupting a NASA mission and could force airlines to reroute some flights. That's the bad news. The good news is that the flare is also expected to expand the viewing field of the aurora borealis southward, perhaps down to Colorado and Illinois.

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Science + Technology
3:38 am
Thu January 9, 2014

There She Blew! Volcanic Evidence Of The World's First Map

A reproduction of the mural from a room in Catalhoyuk, a Neolithic settlement in Turkey.
Sarah Murray Flickr

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:21 am

A new study of volcanic rocks suggests that an ancient mural may indeed depict an erupting volcano, adding new weight to a theory that this image is a contender for the world's oldest known landscape painting or map.

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Science + Technology
9:57 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Tonight's Meteor Shower: Live, From Space, It's The Quadrantids

The Quadrantid meteor shower is seen shortly after 5 a.m. on Jan 3, 2013. This year's shower will be helped by a new moon that will keep the night sky dark.
Mike Lewinski Flickr

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 8:07 pm

It's early January, and that means it's time for the Quadrantid meteor shower to peak. Despite winter weather that might cloud the skies in some areas, forecasters say this year's event is worth getting up for, citing lunar conditions that will darken the night sky.

If you haven't heard of the Quadrantids, don't worry. Even NASA calls them "a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation."

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Science + Technology
3:24 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Could Big Batteries Be Big Business In California?

Strong gusts in Palm Springs, Calif., generate plenty of energy, thanks to turbine farms. But being able to store all of that energy is just as important.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 11:12 am

The California Public Utilities Commission has called on utilities and private companies to install about $5 billion worth of batteries and other forms of energy storage to help the state power grid cope with the erratic power supplied by wind and solar energy.

The need to store energy has become urgent because the state is planning to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. And the shift in strategy could open up some big opportunities for small startups, including one called Stem.

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Science + Technology
11:57 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Animal Rescues: An End-Of-Year Celebration

Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 3:09 pm

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Science + Technology
3:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

To Make Science Real, Kids Want More Fun

Hands-on science activities like making bubble mitts at the Mission Science Workshop teach students about things like surface tension.
Justin Jach Courtesy of Mission Science Workshop

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:30 am

Are American kids being adequately prepared in the sciences to compete in a highly competitive, global high-tech workforce? A majority of American parents say no, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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Science + Technology
3:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power

Southern California's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shown here in April 2012, was closed after small radiation leaks.
Lenny Ignelzi AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:30 am

California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at Rhodium Group, California's carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. That's in large part because California shut down one of its few remaining nuclear power plants.

That rise in carbon emissions underscores the huge impact nuclear power can have in efforts to combat climate change.

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Science + Technology
1:36 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Scientists Map Vast Reserves Of Freshwater Under The Seabed

Scientists published the first global survey of the known undersea freshwater reserves. Water is relatively cheap now, but the reserves could be valuable if it becomes scarcer in the future.
Olivier Morin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:31 pm

Not all the water in the sea is seawater.

Scientists think there are vast reserves of fresh groundwater buried under the oceans — a potentially valuable resource for coastal cities that need freshwater.

A recent report in Nature estimates the amount of fresh groundwater around the world at about 120,000 cubic miles — that's 100 times more than all the groundwater that has been pumped up from wells since the 1900s. The reserves are scattered across coastal regions around the world.

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Science + Technology
12:44 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

NASA: Trouble With Space Station Cooling System Is No Emergency

Commander Oleg Kotov (left) and Sergey Ryanzansky, preparing for a spacewalk aboard the ISS on Nov. 9.
NASA

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 8:37 pm

One of two cooling systems aboard the International Space Station is experiencing problems, but there's no imminent danger to the crew of six, NPR's Joe Palca reports.

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Science + Technology
5:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Long Island Wins Ultimate Faceoff Against Hurricane Sandy

Sediment samples from the seafloor near Long Island.
UT Austin Institute for Geophysics

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:50 pm

Hurricane Sandy last year did more harm to coastal cities and homes than any hurricane in U.S. history, except Katrina. Most of that damage has been repaired. But there's other damage that people can't see to the underwater coastline, known as the shore face.

Apparently, Long Island's shore face did remarkably well against the storm of the 21st century.

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Science + Technology
5:09 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Big Batteries Needed To Make Fickle Wind And Solar Power Work

PG&E, a Northern California utility company, is already experimenting with big batteries to store wind-generated electricity at its Vaca-Dixon Substation.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:57 am

Giant batteries are coming to a power grid near you. In fact, they're already starting to appear on the grid in California.

That's because California is planning to rely increasingly on power supplies that aren't necessarily available every minute of every day. The state plans to get one-third of its electricity from wind and solar energy by 2020.

Utilities in the state are trying to figure out how they can cope with that uncertain power supply. Batteries aren't a panacea, but they could help.

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Science + Technology
11:27 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Curiosity Finds Evidence Of Ancient Freshwater Lake On Mars

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:41 pm

NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence of an ancient (nearly) freshwater lake on Mars that could have sustained life billions of years ago.

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Science + Technology
1:25 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

How Important Is A Bee?

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 10:37 am

This is an alarming story, not because it ends badly. It's alarming because it ends well. It shouldn't have, but it did, and biologists (and especially conservationists) now have a puzzle to ponder.

The story begins in central China, in an apple-growing region called Maoxian County, near the city of Chengdu. In the mid-1990s, the bees that regularly showed up there every spring suddenly didn't. Apple farmers, obviously, need bees. Bees dust their way through blossoms, moving from flower to flower, pollinating, which helps produce apples in September.

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Science + Technology
5:34 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Between Pigs And Anchovies: Where Humans Rank On The Food Chain

An animal's ranking on the food chain depends on where its meals place on the ladder. That puts plants on the bottom (they make all their food), polar bears on top and people somewhere between pigs and anchovies.
Lisa Brown for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 10:28 am

When it comes to making food yummy and pleasurable, humans clearly outshine their fellow animals on Earth. After all, you don't see rabbits caramelizing carrots or polar bears slow-roasting seal.

But in terms of the global food chain, Homo sapiens are definitely not the head honchos.

Instead, we sit somewhere between pigs and anchovies, scientists reported recently. That puts us right in the middle of the chain, with polar bears and orca whales occupying the highest position.

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Science + Technology
2:46 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Shanghai's Choking Smog Registers 'Beyond Index'

A building under construction is covered with haze in Shanghai on Friday. The city's pollution index is at its highest ever, officials say.
Eugene Hoshiko AP

In the latest smog-related health scare in China, officials in Shanghai on Friday ordered schoolchildren to stay indoors, halted all construction and even delayed flights in and out of the city, which has been enveloped in a thick blanket of haze, reducing visibility in places to less than 150 feet.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai that the commercial capital's Air Quality Index soared above 500 for the first time ever, according to government sensors. He says officials described the readings as "beyond index" — in layman's terms, off-the-charts awful.

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