Science + Technology

The Fierce People. That's what anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon called the indigenous Ya̧nomamö Indians of Venezuela in his 1968 book Ya̧nomamö: The Fierce People. It's one of the best-selling anthropology texts of all time and is still in wide use.

Some of the most healthful foods you can think of — blueberries, cranberries, apples, almonds and squash — would never get to your plate without the help of insects. No insects, no pollination. No pollination, no fruit.

There are few things in life more joyful than discovering a giant oil or natural gas field in Texas. You're suddenly rich beyond your wildest dreams. When the scope and size of the natural gas reservoir in the Barnett Shale in North Texas first became apparent, there were predictions that the find would last 100 years.

Well, that was over the top. But University of Texas geology professor Scott Tinker, who designed and authored a new study of the Barnett Shale, says there's still a lot of gas down there, even after a decade of drilling.

The world's first space tourist is financing a project that aims to launch an American man and woman on a mission to fly by Mars in 2018.

Back in 2001, businessman Dennis Tito shelled out about $20 million to ride a Russian spaceship up to the International Space Station. Now he's unveiled a new nonprofit group called the Inspiration Mars Foundation.

This is no ordinary family heirloom.

The granddaughter of English scientist Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA who passed away in 2004, is putting his Nobel Prize medal up on the auction block.

Scientists from Colombia believe they have pinpointed the origin of the giant meteor that smashed into a remote region of Russia earlier this month, injuring more than 1,000 people.

The meteor that caused at least 1,000 injuries in Russia after a startling and powerful daytime explosion one week ago has been identified as a chondrite. Russian scientists who analyzed fragments of the meteor, whose large size and well-documented impact made it a rarity, say that its composition makes it the most common type of meteor we encounter here on Earth.

Earth As Art: 'How Did Nature Do That?'

Feb 22, 2013

Satellites are powerful tools. They beam our TV signals, phone calls and data around the planet. They help us spy, they track storms, they power the GPS signals in our cars and on our phones. But they also send back striking, totally disarming images of planet Earth.

This set of images is all about showing off the "beauty of the Earth," says Lawrence Friedl, the director of NASA's Applied Sciences Program and the editor of a project called Earth as Art. "We want people to look at these images and say, 'How did nature do that?' "

Flowers are nature's ad men. They'll do anything to attract the attention of the pollinators that help them reproduce. That means spending precious energy on bright pigments, enticing fragrances and dazzling patterns.

Now, scientists have found another element that contributes to flowers' brand: their distinct electric field.

Anne Leonard, who studies bees at the University of Nevada, says our understanding of pollinator-flower communication has been expanding for decades.

Bees are democrats. They vote. When a community of bees has to make a choice, like where to build a new hive, they meet, debate and decide. But here's what they don't do: they don't filibuster. No single bee (or small band of bees) will stand against the majority, insisting and insisting for hours. They can't.

Bee biology prevents it.

For a universe so old and so illustrious, the end may be boring and lightning quick: According to one Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory theoretician, if what we know about the Higgs boson subatomic particle is true, the universe may come to an end when another universe slurps us up at light speed.

This interview was originally broadcast on Dec. 13, 2010.

The HeLa cell line — one of the most revolutionary tools of biomedical research — has played a part in some of the world's most important medical advances, from the polio vaccine to in vitro fertilization.

Growing Resistance, Oregon Hazelnuts Battle Blight

Feb 18, 2013

Although Oregon is known for many exports — from timber to hipster irony — few people are aware that it's actually the country's leading source of hazelnuts.

If you've ever played around with one of those carbon or water footprint calculators, you probably know that meat production demands a lot from the environment — a lot of oil, water and land. (Check out the infographic we did on what goes into a hamburger last year for Meat Week.)

But have you thought about your meat's phosphorus footprint? Probably not.

Russians might be forgiven for thinking they have a big, fat celestial bull's-eye painted on their heads.

Federal Charges Filed In Ohio Dumping Case

Feb 15, 2013

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Youngstown, Ohio, the owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company has been charged with a violating the Federal Clean Water Act. He's accused of dumping tens of thousands of gallons of drilling waste water into a storm sewer that eventually runs into a local river.

From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze has more.

So, on the day when an asteroid the size of an office building buzzed the planet, there's this unsettling news:

When it comes to treating a lazy eye, there's evidence that turning the lights off may help — if you're a kitten.

A study in the latest issue of Current Biology reports that kittens with a type of visual impairment known as amblyopia, or lazy eye, were able to regain normal eyesight after being plunged into total darkness for 10 days.

When the X-ray was invented, people clamored to get one. Not for any medical reason, but just to see what was typically hidden inside their bodies.

Something like that seems to be happening with DNA sequencing technology. First it was companies offering to sequence people's genomes. Now it's learning all about your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living on and in your body.

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