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Science + Technology

Can Diabetes Alert Dogs Help Sniff Out Low Blood Sugar?

Jul 29, 2016

For people with diabetes who take insulin, the risk of losing consciousness from low blood sugar is a constant fear. Devices called continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can alert wearers to dropping levels, but not everyone has access to them. And even among those who do, some prefer a furrier and friendlier alert option: a service dog with special training to alert owners when their blood sugar reaches dangerously low levels.

Researchers have found a curious purple orb near California's Channel Islands – and it's left them stumped.

'Clone Sisters' Of Dolly The Sheep Are Alive And Kicking

Jul 26, 2016

About four years ago, Kevin Sinclair inherited an army of clones. Very fluffy clones.

"Daisy, Debbie, Denise and Diana," says Sinclair, a developmental biologist at the University of Nottingham in England.

The sheep are just four of 13 clones Sinclair shepherds, but they're the most famous because of their relation to Dolly, the sheep that made headlines two decades ago as the first successfully cloned mammal.

This is a year of politics. That means everyone has opinions about where the world should be headed and how we should get there.

No matter how weird this political season has been, however, there remains a key difference between opinions and facts. That difference comes into the starkest relief when people must face their own inconsistencies in reconciling the two domains.

The trip had mechanical setbacks, and the plane's average speed would be legal on many American streets. But when the Solar Impulse aircraft touched down in Abu Dhabi in the early morning darkness Tuesday, it successfully completed a round-the-world voyage using only solar power.

Swiss pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg took turns flying the single-seat aircraft that began its trip on March 9 of 2015, flying more than 26,700 miles in a total of 17 stages (23 days) as they soared under the sun's power and then glided through the night.

The Uppermost Aristocracy of the Hoverfly Society

Jul 23, 2016

You may have seen a hoverfly before. You also may have mistaken it for something else — a bee, or a wasp. They are masters of mimicry, imitating more dangerous insects to avoid predators.

Fredrik Sjöberg is not fooled by these disguises. He's spent the last thirty years hunting for hoverflies, and can distinguish between species based on tiny differences in antennae color or wing shape.

Sjöberg is an amateur entomologist, but a committed one.

"You want to know something that no one else knows," he explains, "you want to become the real expert."

Spacefaring Stamp Sets World Record

Jul 19, 2016

A postage-paid space voyage!

An interplanetary "Ha!"

Or, maybe just a postal metaphor writ large.

However you phrase it, a 29-cent stamp has boldly reached Pluto and then some, making it the farthest-traveling postage stamp, according to the Guinness World Records organization.

If you think it's been hot this year, you're right. The latest temperature numbers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the first six months of 2016 were the hottest on record around the planet.

Summer vacations: We wait for them all year. We pour time, energy and money into planning them. Expectations can run unreasonably high.

On this week's show, a summer edition of Stopwatch Science with Daniel Pink that explores what social science research has to say about vacations: How to make them better and what pitfalls to avoid.

Stopwatch Science

In northern New York state, logger Greg Hemmerich and his crew are clearing out an old pasture at the edge of a forest.

"There's a lot of balsam, lot of spruce, thorn apple trees," Hemmerich says. "Ninety percent of this lot is low-grade wood."

In other words, it's no good for furniture or paper or sawmills. But he'll make $80,000 to run the wood through a chipper and truck the chips to a nearby biomass plant.

"Everybody said that green power was supposed to be the wave of the future," Hemmerich says. "So I went full in."

There are some big companies out there that you've probably never heard of, that know more about you than you can imagine.

They're called data brokers, and they collect all sorts of information — names, addresses, income, where you go on the Internet and who you connect with online. That information is then sold to other companies. There are few regulations governing these brokers.

Every semester, college instructors face a choice: whether to restrict the use of laptops and other devices in their classrooms or to, instead, let students decide for themselves.

And for classrooms that do allow devices, students face an ongoing set of choices: to take notes electronically or by hand, to check the textbook or the text message, to check Instagram or Twitter.

Webcast: Your Workplace And Your Health

Jul 11, 2016

Your workplace may be affecting your health — for better or worse.

It can raise your stress level and affect your eating and sleeping habits. Negative impacts from work may arise from concern about such things as workplace violence, toxic exposures and a bullying boss.

Some companies have expansive programs to eliminate these problems and help workers improve health. But are workers taking advantage of them?

The way clouds cover the Earth may be changing because of global warming, according to a study published Monday that used satellite data to track cloud patterns across about two decades, starting in the 1980s.

Clouds in the mid-latitudes shifted toward the poles during that period, as the subtropical dry zones expanded and the highest cloud-tops got higher.

There's no denying the Philistines have taken some guff over the past, well, thousands of years. After all, they're one of the Hebrew Bible's most infamous villains, seed of both Delilah's treachery and Goliath's menace — not to mention some ineptness when it comes to slingshots. They're so reviled their very name has wriggled into our dictionaries, paired with some less than flattering definitions.

Theranos was poised to revolutionize the blood testing industry by using only a few drops of blood in inexpensive tests. But now, federal regulators say they will bar the company's dynamic founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes from owning or operating a lab for at least two years.

"Last year the government began to scrutinize the company after experts found that the results of the blood tests were inaccurate," as NPR's Laura Sydell told our Newscast unit.

The story is a familiar one: the saga of a loving parent's quest to save a child. This time it's about the mother of a boy with autism. The mother scours the medical literature in search of any kind of treatment, however far-fetched and experimental. She finds one that seems promising, something involving magnetic fields, and moves mountains to get it for her son as part of a research protocol.

Scientists have created a synthetic stingray that's propelled by living muscle cells and controlled by light, a team reports Thursday in the journal Science.

And it should be possible to build an artificial heart using some of the same techniques, the researchers say.

The year is half over. So I took a moment over the long holiday weekend to triumphantly write, "Mission accomplished!" in ink next to each of my New Year's resolutions.

To the average pedestrian, it was just a curb. To an observant one, perhaps, it was an oddly misaligned curb.

To geologists, it was a snapshot of the earth's shifting tectonic plates — an accidental experiment, a field trip destination for decades.

But to the town of Hayward, Calif., it was just a bit of subpar infrastructure.

The Los Angeles Times sums up what happened next:

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