Science + Technology

Shots - Health Blog
3:02 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Scientists See Upside And Downside Of Sequencing Their Own Genes

Dr. James Watson looks at a reproduction of the structure of DNA, which he helped discover, in this 1962 photograph. Decades later, Watson was one of the first people to have his entire genome sequenced.
Mondadori Mondadori via Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 4:03 pm

When scientists were looking for the first person to test a new, superfast way of deciphering someone's entire genetic blueprint, they turned to James Watson the guy who shared a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA.

"They had to sequence someone, so they got me," he says.

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:47 am
Mon September 17, 2012

Which Is Greater, The Number Of Sand Grains On Earth Or Stars In The Sky?

Gilles Chapdelaine NASA & ESA

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 9:53 am

Here's an old, old, question, but this time with a surprise twist. The question is — and I bet you asked it when you were 8 years old and sitting on a beach: Which are there more of — grains of sand on the Earth or stars in the sky?

Obviously, grains and stars can't be counted, not literally. But you can guestimate.

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The Two-Way
3:22 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Monkey, New To Science, Found In Central Africa

Researchers have identified a new species of African monkey, locally known as the lesula.
Maurice Emetshu, Noel Rowe PLOS ONE/AP

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 11:19 pm

It would seem difficult to overlook something as large as a new species of monkey, but scientists had no idea about the lesula until just a few years ago when conservation biologist John Hart discovered a specimen being kept as a pet in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In retrospect, the monkey's striking, almost humanlike face should have made it hard to miss, and Hart, who spoke with All Things Considered host Melissa Block, is the first to admit that this new monkey was apparently not such a mystery to the Congolese themselves.

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Animals
2:49 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

New Center Trains Detection Dogs To Save Lives

Eleven-week-old 11-week-old Bretagne is beginning her training as a detection dog at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, which opens Tuesday. Click here to see photos of Bretagne at the mic during her Fresh Air interview.
Sarah Griffith

Originally published on Tue September 11, 2012 3:27 pm

A detection dog-training center opens Tuesday, on the anniversary of Sept. 11, at the University of Pennsylvania so scientists can train dogs for search-and-rescue missions — and study what helps them succeed.

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Krulwich Wonders...
11:58 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Volcano Shoots Geyser Of Water Up Into Space

Michael Benson

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 11:53 am

What we have here is a moon — a small one (slightly wider than the state of Arizona) — circling Saturn.

If you look closely, you will see a small splay of light at its top, looking like a circular fountain.

That's because it is a fountain — of sorts. A bunch of volcano-like jets are sending fantastically high geysers of water vapor up into the sky, so high that you can see them in this remarkable print by Michael Benson, back lit by light bouncing off of Saturn.

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Author Interviews
1:34 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Conservation Biologist Explains Why 'Feathers' Matter

Thor Hanson's own cast of Archaeopteryx lithographica presents what he calls the "ancient wing written in stone."
Thor Hanson Basic Books

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 2:11 pm

It was the absence of feathers that got conservation biologist Thor Hanson thinking about the significance of them. Hanson was in Kenya studying the feeding habits of vultures, and he noticed the advantages that vultures had relative to other birds because of their bare, featherless heads.

"Having lost their feathers allows [vultures] to remain much cleaner and more free from bacteria and parasites and disease," Hanson tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.

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Environment
3:19 am
Tue September 4, 2012

As Temps Rise, Cities Combat 'Heat Island' Effect

An art installation of a melting fan sits on display in a subway station Thursday, June 9, 2011, in Atlanta.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 5:10 pm

More than 20,000 high-temperature records have been broken so far this year in the United States. And the heat is especially bad in cities, which are heating up about twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

High temperatures increase the risk of everything from asthma to allergies, and can even be deadly. But a researcher in Atlanta also sees this urban heat wave as an opportunity to do something about our warming planet.

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Shots - Health Blog
4:02 am
Mon September 3, 2012

Can We Learn To Forget Our Memories?

Research shows that under certain circumstances, we can train ourselves to forget details about particular memories.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 7:06 pm

Around 10 years ago, Malcolm MacLeod got interested in forgetting.

For most people, the tendency to forget is something we spend our time cursing. Where are my keys? What am I looking for in the refrigerator again? What is that woman's name?

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The Salt
9:26 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Grow Your Own Locust Kit Could Someday Help Feed African Refugees

Locusts are cheap and easy to farm, and are considered a delicacy in many countries in Africa.
Soon Wee Hong iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:36 am

When it comes to environmentally-friendly meat, insects can't be beat. As The Salt reported last year, grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles are four times more efficient at converting grasses into protein-packed meat than cattle. Insects generate less greenhouse gases than cows, eat just about anything and survive in dry, inhospitable environments.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:19 am
Wed August 29, 2012

Reading Up On Thermodynamics

Pierre Andrieu AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 1:26 pm

Thermodynamics — the branch of physics dealing with heat and its relation to other forms of energy — is profound stuff.

Rooted in the engineering realities of engines and air conditioners, it also rises above these day-to-day realities to embrace heady, universal principles in complexity, order, chaos and organization. Thermodynamics touches everything that really matters in human life, including — most famously — the nature of time. It is profound and slippery.

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Monkey See
8:33 am
Tue August 28, 2012

YouTube Trends: Politics And Pop, Yes, But Education And Science, Too

Originally published on Tue August 28, 2012 9:32 am

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Shots - Health Blog
3:27 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Can You Learn While You're Asleep?

Research suggests basic forms of learning are possible while snoozing.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri August 31, 2012 9:44 am

If you're a student, you may have harbored the fantasy of learning lessons while you sleep. Who wouldn't want to stick on a pair of headphones, grab some shut-eye with a lesson about, say, Chinese history playing in his ears — and wake up with newly acquired knowledge of the Ming Dynasty?

Sadly, it doesn't work. The history lesson either keeps you from going to sleep, or it doesn't — in which case you don't learn it.

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The Two-Way
3:46 pm
Sat August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, First Man To Walk On The Moon, Dies

Armstrong in the lunar module after the historic moonwalk.
AP NASA

Originally published on Sun August 26, 2012 5:28 pm

Former astronaut Neil Armstrong, known for his words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," has died. The first man ever to walk on the moon was 82.

Update at 5:15 p.m. ET:

Armstrong's family has released a statement, saying he died following cardiovascular procedures. NASA published it here. They say, "Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."

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Author Interviews
11:22 am
Fri August 24, 2012

'Incognito': What's Hiding In The Unconscious Mind

Dr. David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and writer. He directs the Laboratory of Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine.
Sharon Steinmann Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas, Houston Medical School

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 12:48 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on May 31, 2011. David Eagleman's Incognito is now out in paperback.

Your brain doesn't like to keep secrets. Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, have shown that writing down secrets in a journal or telling a doctor your secrets actually decreases the level of stress hormones in your body. Keeping a secret, meanwhile, does the opposite.

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Science
3:50 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Web Cartoonist Raises $1 Million For Tesla Museum

Tesla reads in front of the spiral coil of his high-frequency transformer at his lab on Houston Street in New York.
Marc Seifer Archives

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 1:12 pm

The only remaining laboratory of one of the greatest American inventors may soon be purchased so that it can be turned into a museum, thanks to an Internet campaign that raised nearly a million dollars in about a week.

The lab was called Wardenclyffe, and it was built by Nikola Tesla, a wizard of electrical engineering whose power systems lit up the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 and harnessed the mighty Niagara Falls.

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All Tech Considered
3:18 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Is The Cloud In Gamers' Future?

Nintendo's Wii U is the only new game system on the horizon as console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:56 am

Last year, consumers spent $17 billion on video games. That sounds like a lot, but it was nearly $1.5 billion lower than the previous year. One reason: there haven't been any new game consoles out to excite buyers.

Only Nintendo's Wii U might be on shelves for the holiday season.

The console makers are having a hard time figuring out how to improve on what they've got.

Try asking a gamer like Ryan Block what would entice him to drop a few hundred bucks on a new console.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:48 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Famous Gorilla Ivan Dies At Age 50: An Animal Obituary

Ivan chews on his finger at Zoo Atlanta in 1996.
John Bazemore AP

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 2:11 pm

I've written before in this space about how an animal obituary may help mark a life of significance. Here is my obituary for Ivan the gorilla.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:33 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Sky Sighting: Is That A Thread Of Dark Matter I Spy?

A tenuous thread of dark matter is seen connecting the galaxy clusters Abell 222 and 223.
Courtesy Jörg Dietrich/Universitäts-Sternwarte München

When astronomers survey the universe, the landmarks are galaxies, those gigantic agglomerates of stars and interstellar gas spread across the immensity of space. A typical spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, boasts hundreds of billions of stars grouped along hundreds of thousands of light-years. That means that it takes a beam of light all that time to go from one extreme of the galaxy to the other, traveling, as light does in a vacuum, at 186,282 miles per second.

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Shots - Health Blog
3:23 am
Mon August 20, 2012

Why Can Some People Recall Every Day Of Their Lives? Brain Scans Offer Clues

Researchers are using MRI scans to learn more about the brains of people with extraordinary memory.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 1:50 pm

Six years ago, we told you about a woman, identified as A.J., who could remember the details of nearly every day of her life. At the time, researchers thought she was unique. But since then, a handful of such individuals have been identified. And now, researchers are trying to understand how their extraordinary memories work.

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All Tech Considered
4:12 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

At This Camp, Kids Learn To Question Authority (And Hack It)

DefCon Kids camp co-founder Chris Hoff, with Conner Gilliam (from left), Conner Fine and Ethan Lai, work on a machine that draws designs on ping-pong balls. The camp is held in Las Vegas.
Steve Henn NPR

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 7:54 pm

Some kids go to band camp; others go to swim camp. But for the children of the world's digital rabble-rousers, there is hacking camp. It's called DefCon Kids.

This camp, held in Las Vegas, encourages kids to take a hard, skeptical look at the machines that surround them, and teaches them to hack apart everything they can lay their hands on.

One of the most popular activities is lock-picking.

"I had fun with some of the harder locks," says 16-year-old Alaetheia Garrison Stuber.

But did she learn any new tricks?

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