Science + Technology

Science + Technology
8:59 am
Mon December 29, 2014

EPA Expected to Issue Million-Year-Long Regulation

Originally published on Wed November 22, 2006 2:17 pm

In the coming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to issue a regulation that will extend 1 million years into the future.

The timescale of the regulation, which deals with the disposal of power plant nuclear waste, is unprecedented territory for the EPA.

"This will be the only rule that applies for such a long duration into the future," says Elizabeth Cotsworth, the EPA director of radiation and indoor air. "Most EPA rules apply for the foreseeable future -- five or six generations. This rule is for basically 25,000 generations."

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Science + Technology
2:43 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Road Salt Contributes To Toxic Chemical Levels In Streams

Salt is unloaded at a maintenance yard in Scio Township, Mich., in September.
Carlos Osorio AP

Originally published on Tue December 30, 2014 10:05 am

This is the time of year when it's not uncommon to see big trucks barreling down highways and streets spreading road salt.

Steve Corsi, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says that translates into high levels of chloride concentrations for rivers like the Milwaukee in Wisconsin or 18 other streams near urban areas in Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and several other states.

"At many of the streams, concentrations have now exceeded those that are harmful to aquatic life," he says.

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Science + Technology
6:02 pm
Sun December 28, 2014

Mae Keane, One Of The Last 'Radium Girls,' Dies At 107

Employees of the U.S. Radium Corp. paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as "radium girls," later died of radium poisoning. One of the last radium girls died this year at 107.
Argonne National Laboratory

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 2:49 pm

Editor's note, Jan. 15, 2015: Mae Keane was one of the last "radium girls," but not the last one. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the full correction note.


Before turning the page on 2014, All Things Considered is paying tribute to some of the people who died this year whose stories you may not have heard — including Mae Keane.

In the early 1920s, the hot new gadget was a wristwatch with a glow-in-the-dark dial.

"Made possible by the magic of radium!" bragged one advertisement.

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Science + Technology
3:31 am
Fri December 26, 2014

As Uber Expands, It Asks Cities For Forgiveness Instead Of Permission

The app-based car service Uber has had a big year for business --€” and controversy.
Ariel Zambelich NPR

Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 12:18 pm

Perhaps no single company has stirred so many emotions this year — across so many continents — as Uber.

In 2014 Uber became more — much more — than a car service: The Silicon Valley startup became a symbol for capitalism itself.

The company's value soared from under a billion to about $40 billion, making it one of the most valuable private companies on Earth. But it also has become mired in turf wars, legal battles and scandal.

Hypergrowth And Backlash

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Science + Technology
7:44 am
Tue December 23, 2014

Is Sony Hack Really 'The Worst' In U.S. History, As CEO Claims?

Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton says the computer hacking against his company is "the worst cyberattack in U.S. history." Experts say other attacks have affected more people.
David McNew Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 6:54 pm

The CEO of Sony Pictures has been saying that the cyberattack against his company is "the worst cyberattack in U.S. history." And you can see where he's coming from. An entire feature film got canned — at least for now. And his corporate networks were so damaged, Sony workers had to revert to using fax machines to communicate. That said, "the worst" is a big claim.

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Science + Technology
5:36 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Services Offer A Means To Foil Widespread 'Elder Fraud'

More than a quarter of the victims of financial fraud are over 60.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 5:50 pm

This is the season for generosity — and for con artists who take advantage of it.

Older adults are particularly vulnerable to scams; more than a quarter of the victims of financial fraud are over 60, according to the FTC. But now there are products on the market designed to protect seniors' nest eggs.

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Science + Technology
4:02 am
Fri December 19, 2014

7 Miles Beneath The Sea's Surface: Who Goes There?

The research vessel Falkor in August 2013.
Courtesy of Mark Schrope

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 10:11 am

A ship full of marine scientists is floating over the deepest part of the world: the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. They're sending down probes to study life in one of the most hostile environments on the planet.

This week the researchers are targeting the two deepest spots in the trench — the Sirena Deep and the Challenger Deep — which each extend down about 7 miles beneath the ocean's surface.

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Science + Technology
3:36 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As World Average

A lone polar bear poses on a block of arctic sea ice in Russia's Franz Josef Land.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed February 11, 2015 7:37 am

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the average rise on the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Science + Technology
12:06 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:32 pm

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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Science + Technology
1:21 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Scientists Debate If It's OK To Make Viruses More Dangerous In The Lab

The coronavirus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome (green particles) seen on camel cells in a scanning electron micrograph.
NIAID/Colorado State University

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:26 pm

Imagine that scientists wanted to take Ebola virus and see if it could ever become airborne by deliberately causing mutations in the lab and then searching through those new viruses to see if any spread easily through the air.

Would that be OK?

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Science + Technology
5:39 pm
Sun December 14, 2014

More Than Just Cute, Sea Otters Are Superheroes Of The Marsh

This sea otter, about to eat a crab in the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, is cute, sure. But more importantly, it's indirectly combating some harmful effects of agricultural runoff and protecting the underwater ecosystem.
Rob Eby AP

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 11:28 am

On the roof of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., in a large plastic tank, a sea otter mother named Abby floats with her adopted pup, known as 671.

For up to nine months, Abby will raise her little adoptee, and when 671 is ready, she will be released into a protected inland salt marsh called Elkhorn Slough, just off Monterey Bay.

That's where 671 will set to work to preserve the estuary, says Tim Tinker, who tracks otters for the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Science + Technology
4:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Oh, Snap! NASA Promises Best Photo Yet Of Faraway Pluto

NASA/ESA/M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 10:22 am

Humanity has snapped detailed portraits of planets and moons throughout our solar system. But there's one missing from the album: Pluto.

Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it has remained stubbornly hard to photograph. The Hubble Space Telescope has taken the best pictures, and frankly, they stink.

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Science + Technology
2:05 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Confessions Of An Astrophysicist: I'm In Love With A Star

The star Mira, commentator Adam Frank's love interest, leaves a trail of gas — light-years across — as it hurtles through space.
NASA

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 2:37 pm

So, I'm in love and it's not an easy thing.

Though my beloved is beautiful and subtle and bestowed of great grace, there also is a terrible distance between us. Nothing I do can bridge that gulf, and the object of my affections will not acknowledge me. But I don't care. For those in love know that enduring the indifference and the distance is nothing but a tiny price to pay.

My love, of course, is a star. Her name is Mira.

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Science + Technology
5:45 am
Tue December 2, 2014

NASA Prepares To Test New Spacecraft (That You've Likely Never Heard Of)

The Orion capsule is poised to make its first test flight Thursday. If all goes as planned, the unmanned vehicle will orbit Earth twice before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Kim Shiflett NASA

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 3:43 pm

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

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Science + Technology
2:26 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Does It Matter Who Accepts Evolution?

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:32 pm

Since 1982, Gallup has been tracking the American public's views on human origins, providing three mutually exclusive options from which to choose. According to the most recent poll, 42 percent of Americans endorse the idea that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years or so, 31 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with God guiding the process, and 19 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with no role for God at all.

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Science + Technology
12:29 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Ebola In The Air: What Science Says About How The Virus Spreads

Viruses can spread through the air in two ways: inside large droplets that fall quickly to the ground (red), or inside tiny droplets that float in the air (gray). In the first route, called droplet transmission, the virus can spread only about 3 to 6 feet from an infected person. In the second route, called airborne transmission, the virus can travel 30 feet or more.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 8:58 am

Here's an Ebola puzzle for you: If the virus isn't airborne, why do doctors and nurses need to wear full protective suits, with face masks, while treating patients?

After we dug through studies and talked to scientists, the answer slowly emerged.

Ebola does spread through the air. But not through the airborne route.

Oh, goodness! No wonder there's been such a kerfuffle about how the virus is transmitted.

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Science + Technology
5:21 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Amazon Unleashes Robot Army To Send Your Holiday Packages Faster

Kiva robots maneuver around one of Amazon's newest distribution centers on Sunday in Tracy, Calif.
Brandon Bailey AP

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 7:42 pm

For many online retailers, Cyber Monday is likely to be the peak shopping day of the year. To handle the onslaught of orders, Amazon has begun rolling out a new robot army.

The Amazon order-fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., is more than a million square feet — or 28 football fields, if you prefer — filled with orange and yellow bins flying this way and that on conveyor belts. Chances are, if you ordered a bunch of items in the San Francisco Bay Area recently, Amazon put that box together here.

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Law
4:01 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Is A Threat Posted On Facebook Really A Threat?

At his trial, Elonis argued that he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, which he also says he wrote on his Facebook page.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 8:17 am

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,

And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,

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Science + Technology
4:53 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

After The Ferguson Decision, A Poem That Gives Name To The Hurt

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 6:22 pm

Since George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, I've been repeating these words by the poet Audre Lorde like a prayer. She writes:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

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Science + Technology
3:30 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Researchers To Attempt Robotic Landing On Comet's Surface

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is about to send a lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am

Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.

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