Science + Technology

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The demands of communication put constraints on how everyone talks, regardless of what language they are using.

These pragmatic linguistic universals are the subject of a new study published this week.

Imagine a race of beings who use language just like we do, but who never misunderstand each other; they never need to stop and ask for clarification, as language operates between them in a fluid way. Communication is like the flow of currents and they are all caught up in the flow.

"The only way to see a scale model of the solar system," Wylie Overstreet says, "is to build one." So he and a group of friends did just that, tracing out the planets' orbits and then filming a time-lapse video from a nearby mountaintop in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

In the arena of ocean ecology and conservation, Carl Safina is a superstar. Through television documentaries, his writings and the Safina Center, he's been a vital force for years in educating the public about ocean pollution, overfishing and conservation.

In the five years since earthquakes first began blitzing Oklahoma, state officials have been hesitant to agree with scientists who blamed the oil and gas industry.

The shaking doesn't appear to be slowing, but the regulatory response is ramping up as more state officials acknowledge the link between increased seismic activity and waste fluid pumped into the disposal wells of oil fields.

To show how an oil and gas boom fueled a massive surge of earthquakes, scientists used algorithms, statistics and computer models of fluid flow and seismic energy.

NASA astronauts Cady Coleman and Serena Auñón, European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan came to NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to talk with NPR's Adam Cole about space exploration, women in STEM, and common misconceptions. They also discussed what it was like to dream in space, the difficulties of coming back down to Earth, their favorite space movies and the most exciting planets in the solar system. Oh, and which foods they wished they had in space.

Last Saturday, two-time Pulitzer prize winner Amy Harmon published a fascinating article in The New York Times about a young dying woman who chose to have her brain preserved in case neuroscience could one day restore her mind back to life.

You've probably seen it when a friend has posted sad news on Facebook — someone will click the "like" button, then comment to explain that he is not, in fact, pleased with the friend's misfortune.

Soon, there may be a better option, CNBC reported Tuesday:

"The company's co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg revealed the ongoing tests during a question and answer session on Tuesday.

The results of a new poll, released last week by the Pew Research Center, suggest that the American public's scientific literacy is — to use a technical term — so-so.

How Are Our Screens Changing Us Now?

Sep 14, 2015

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Screen Time - Part I.

Host Guy Raz raises the curtain on a special two-part TED Radio Hour episode about our ambivalent relationships with our screens.

We hear audio from a Facebook press conference call in which CEO Mark Zuckerburg describes virtual reality as a development that will revolutionize our lives — like the PC, the Internet and the smartphone.

Updated at 3:35 p.m. ET

Mount Aso — a volcano on Japan's southern main island of Kyushu — has erupted, spewing black smoke and ash more than a mile into the air, the Japanese Meteorological Agency says.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries or damage, but ash fell as far as 2.5 miles from the crater.

Mount Aso, which stands 5,222 feet high, is the country's largest active volcano.

The number of mobile subscribers in Myanmar has quickly grown in a short five years from a mere 500,000 to more than 22 million — giving Burmese a crash course in all the benefits and challenges new technology can bring.

Myanmar's low electrification rates, recurring power outages and poor Internet infrastructure mean that this growth in smartphones has introduced many of the country's 53 million residents to the Web.

Scientists today laid out a truly worst-case scenario for global warming — what would happen if we burned the Earth's entire supply of fossil fuels.

Virtually all of Antarctica's ice would melt, leading to a 160- to 200-foot sea level rise.

"If we burn it all, we're going to melt it all," says Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Carl Safina, in his new book on animal minds — Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel makes a strong case for the claim that animals, such as wolves, elephants — and maybe also crayfish — have rich mental lives.

New images of the dwarf planet Ceres give fresh detail to its most intriguing features: a cluster of bright spots that NASA says "gleam with mystery" and are intensely different from anything else on Ceres' surface.

Taken from fewer than 1,000 miles away, the images may finally help NASA figure out what's behind the brightness.

On Nov. 30, world leaders will gather in Paris for a pivotal United Nations conference on climate change.

Given its importance, I want to use the next couple months to explore some alternative perspectives on the unruly aggregate of topics lumped together as "climate change."

Few questions of our time are more perplexing than the transition from non-living to living matter.

How did a sample of inorganic chemicals self-organize to become a living creature, capable of absorbing energy from the environment and reproducing? Although the question remains open, there are a few things that we can say based on present-day knowledge.

Math can be as scary as spiders and snakes, at least in the brain of an 8-year-old child. And that early anxiety about dealing with numbers can put a child at a significant disadvantage, not only in school but in negotiating life and a career. Fortunately, a study of third-graders, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests an intervention that can help. One-on-one tutoring does more than teach kids, the researchers say. It calms the fear circuitry in the brain.

In The New York Times travel section Sunday, Stephanie Rosenbloom described a hot day this summer when she sat in the Roman amphitheater in Arles, France.

As she imagined scenes Van Gogh may have observed there during the 19th century, she says, a soft whirring sound broke into her reverie. Rosenbloom writes:

Diver Dan Abbott unloads his scuba gear on a beach in Monterey, Calif. — his tank, flippers and a waterproof clipboard covered in tally marks. He spent the morning counting fish: pile perch, black perch, blue rockfish and kelp rockfish are among the 150 fish he spotted.

Abbott is diving with a team from Reef Check California, a group of volunteers doing underwater surveys by counting everything in the kelp forest in Monterey Bay.