WCBE

Science + Technology

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.

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.

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.

Ivan Dies At 50: A Gorilla Life, Remembered

Aug 23, 2012

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.

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.

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.

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?

Sometime in the next few months, David Daniel probably will have to stand by and watch as bulldozers knock down his thick forest and dig up the streams he loves.

His East Texas property is one of more than 1,000 in the path of a new pipeline, the southern stretch of what is known as the Keystone XL system.

For years, Daniel has tried to avoid this fate — or at least figure out what risks will come with it. But it has been difficult for him to get straight answers about the tar sands oil the pipeline will carry, and what happens when it spills.

A couple of thousand years before the Egyptians preserved some of their dead, a much simpler society made the first known mummies.

The Chinchorros, the first mummy makers, lived about 7,000 years ago in South America, on the coast near the border between modern-day Peru and Chile. The desert area where they lived was so dry, dead people turned into mummies naturally.

Science journalist Michael Lemonick doesn't want to be a doomsday prophet, but he does want to be realistic about the threat of climate change. "Since I started writing about climate change all the way back in 1987, we've known what the cause is, we've known what the likely outcome is, and we've had time to act — and essentially we haven't acted," he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

Scientists have found a surprising link between deadly Ebola virus and a disease that's been killing boa constrictors in zoos and aquariums.

A New Species Discovered ... On Flickr

Aug 13, 2012

One day in May of 2011, Shaun Winterton was looking at pictures of bugs on the Internet when something unusual caught his eye.

It was a close shot of a green lacewing — an insect he knew well — but on its wing was an unfamiliar network of black lines and a few flecks of blue.

Winterton, a senior entomologist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, has seen a lot of bugs. But he hadn't seen this species before.

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/10aug_perseids/ / NASA

Perseids: here we come! Partly cloudy skies tonight, clear skies after midnight, and a meteor-a-minute. This'll be fun. (If you nab any photos, post 'em on our Facebook page!)  

Click here to read more about the meteor shower on NASA's website!

Yes, it was an amazing landing, an engineering triumph, a 150-million-mile slam dunk, spectacular in every way, except ... I think my grandpa would be disappointed. I'm not sure of this, since he died 50 years ago, but I have a hunch.

It starts with a handwritten letter he wrote back in 1907. He was a travelling salesman. He sold men's hats, and his job was to visit retailers all over the country. "One evening," he wrote, "train riding between Chicago and Kansas City or St. Louis, sitting the club car, I read a magazine, The Century..."

There's word from the wife of first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong that he's "doing great" after cardiac bypass surgery on Tuesday, NBC News reports.

And that's good, tweets second-man-on-the-moon Buzz Aldrin, because he and Armstrong have "agreed to make it [to] the 50th Apollo Anniv in 2019."

Armstrong turned 82 on Sunday.

Woah, this is one very tall tree. Nine years ago, it was the tallest known plant in the world. (See if you can spot the three people, blue shirted, hanging at different points on the trunk).

First of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Modern architecture loves glass. Glass makes interiors brighter and adds sparkle to cityscapes. But glass also kills millions of birds every year when they collide with windows. Biologists say as more glass buildings go up, more birds are dying.

How His Life Was Hacked In The Cloud

Aug 7, 2012

I spent some time at the Defcon and Black Hat conferences in Las Vegas over the past few weeks listening to hackers describe the myriad security holes and flaws in some of the most popular products and applications that roam free in the online world.

While this experience made me nervous, so far at least I have fared better than writer Mat Honan.

The last couple of years have certainly felt unusually hot in many parts of the U.S., but are they really all that unusual?

Many people wonder whether a warming climate is turning up the temperature or whether it's all just part of the normal variation in the weather. Among scientists, there's a growing view that these latest heat waves are indeed a result of climate change.

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