Science + Technology

Science + Technology
3:24 am
Mon December 23, 2013

Could Big Batteries Be Big Business In California?

Strong gusts in Palm Springs, Calif., generate plenty of energy, thanks to turbine farms. But being able to store all of that energy is just as important.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 11:12 am

The California Public Utilities Commission has called on utilities and private companies to install about $5 billion worth of batteries and other forms of energy storage to help the state power grid cope with the erratic power supplied by wind and solar energy.

The need to store energy has become urgent because the state is planning to get a third of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade. And the shift in strategy could open up some big opportunities for small startups, including one called Stem.

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Science + Technology
11:57 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Animal Rescues: An End-Of-Year Celebration

Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 3:09 pm

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Science + Technology
3:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

To Make Science Real, Kids Want More Fun

Hands-on science activities like making bubble mitts at the Mission Science Workshop teach students about things like surface tension.
Justin Jach Courtesy of Mission Science Workshop

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:30 am

Are American kids being adequately prepared in the sciences to compete in a highly competitive, global high-tech workforce? A majority of American parents say no, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

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Science + Technology
3:04 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Environmentalists Split Over Need For Nuclear Power

Southern California's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, shown here in April 2012, was closed after small radiation leaks.
Lenny Ignelzi AP

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:30 am

California is regarded as the leading state when it comes to addressing climate change. But in 2012, according to analysts at Rhodium Group, California's carbon emissions actually increased more than 10 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases. That's in large part because California shut down one of its few remaining nuclear power plants.

That rise in carbon emissions underscores the huge impact nuclear power can have in efforts to combat climate change.

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Science + Technology
1:36 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

Scientists Map Vast Reserves Of Freshwater Under The Seabed

Scientists published the first global survey of the known undersea freshwater reserves. Water is relatively cheap now, but the reserves could be valuable if it becomes scarcer in the future.
Olivier Morin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 7:31 pm

Not all the water in the sea is seawater.

Scientists think there are vast reserves of fresh groundwater buried under the oceans — a potentially valuable resource for coastal cities that need freshwater.

A recent report in Nature estimates the amount of fresh groundwater around the world at about 120,000 cubic miles — that's 100 times more than all the groundwater that has been pumped up from wells since the 1900s. The reserves are scattered across coastal regions around the world.

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Science + Technology
12:44 pm
Fri December 13, 2013

NASA: Trouble With Space Station Cooling System Is No Emergency

Commander Oleg Kotov (left) and Sergey Ryanzansky, preparing for a spacewalk aboard the ISS on Nov. 9.
NASA

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 8:37 pm

One of two cooling systems aboard the International Space Station is experiencing problems, but there's no imminent danger to the crew of six, NPR's Joe Palca reports.

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Science + Technology
5:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Long Island Wins Ultimate Faceoff Against Hurricane Sandy

Sediment samples from the seafloor near Long Island.
UT Austin Institute for Geophysics

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:50 pm

Hurricane Sandy last year did more harm to coastal cities and homes than any hurricane in U.S. history, except Katrina. Most of that damage has been repaired. But there's other damage that people can't see to the underwater coastline, known as the shore face.

Apparently, Long Island's shore face did remarkably well against the storm of the 21st century.

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Science + Technology
5:09 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Big Batteries Needed To Make Fickle Wind And Solar Power Work

PG&E, a Northern California utility company, is already experimenting with big batteries to store wind-generated electricity at its Vaca-Dixon Substation.
Richard Harris NPR

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:57 am

Giant batteries are coming to a power grid near you. In fact, they're already starting to appear on the grid in California.

That's because California is planning to rely increasingly on power supplies that aren't necessarily available every minute of every day. The state plans to get one-third of its electricity from wind and solar energy by 2020.

Utilities in the state are trying to figure out how they can cope with that uncertain power supply. Batteries aren't a panacea, but they could help.

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Science + Technology
11:27 am
Tue December 10, 2013

Curiosity Finds Evidence Of Ancient Freshwater Lake On Mars

Originally published on Mon December 9, 2013 4:41 pm

NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence of an ancient (nearly) freshwater lake on Mars that could have sustained life billions of years ago.

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Science + Technology
1:25 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

How Important Is A Bee?

Robert Krulwich NPR

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 10:37 am

This is an alarming story, not because it ends badly. It's alarming because it ends well. It shouldn't have, but it did, and biologists (and especially conservationists) now have a puzzle to ponder.

The story begins in central China, in an apple-growing region called Maoxian County, near the city of Chengdu. In the mid-1990s, the bees that regularly showed up there every spring suddenly didn't. Apple farmers, obviously, need bees. Bees dust their way through blossoms, moving from flower to flower, pollinating, which helps produce apples in September.

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Science + Technology
5:34 am
Sun December 8, 2013

Between Pigs And Anchovies: Where Humans Rank On The Food Chain

An animal's ranking on the food chain depends on where its meals place on the ladder. That puts plants on the bottom (they make all their food), polar bears on top and people somewhere between pigs and anchovies.
Lisa Brown for NPR

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 10:28 am

When it comes to making food yummy and pleasurable, humans clearly outshine their fellow animals on Earth. After all, you don't see rabbits caramelizing carrots or polar bears slow-roasting seal.

But in terms of the global food chain, Homo sapiens are definitely not the head honchos.

Instead, we sit somewhere between pigs and anchovies, scientists reported recently. That puts us right in the middle of the chain, with polar bears and orca whales occupying the highest position.

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Science + Technology
2:46 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Shanghai's Choking Smog Registers 'Beyond Index'

A building under construction is covered with haze in Shanghai on Friday. The city's pollution index is at its highest ever, officials say.
Eugene Hoshiko AP

In the latest smog-related health scare in China, officials in Shanghai on Friday ordered schoolchildren to stay indoors, halted all construction and even delayed flights in and out of the city, which has been enveloped in a thick blanket of haze, reducing visibility in places to less than 150 feet.

NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Shanghai that the commercial capital's Air Quality Index soared above 500 for the first time ever, according to government sensors. He says officials described the readings as "beyond index" — in layman's terms, off-the-charts awful.

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Science + Technology
12:24 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Hoped-For AIDS Cures Fail In 2 Boston Patients

The HIV virus has proven once again that it can evade detection in the body.
BSIP UIG via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 1:15 pm

HIV has reappeared in the blood of two Boston patients who scientists had hoped had been cured of their infections.

This disappointing development, reported by The Boston Globe's Kay Lazar, is yet another cautionary tale of how researchers can never afford to underestimate the human immunodeficiency virus's ability to hide out in patients' bodies and overcome their most ingenious efforts to eliminate it.

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Science + Technology
5:01 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Ready — Or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most

Puddled meltwater very likely primed this ancient edge of the Antarctic's Larsen Ice Shelf to rapidly disintegrate over just several weeks. This view of the splintered mix of frozen bergs is from a Feb. 21, 2002, satellite image.
Landsat 7 Science Team/NASA/GSFC

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 8:09 pm

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.

The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren't doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.

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Science + Technology
1:36 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

The Man Who Knew Comets

Giotto looked into the heart of Halley's Comet as it approached the sun. Data from Giotto's camera were used to generate this enhanced image of the comet's potato-shaped nucleus, measuring roughly 15 kilometers across." href="/post/man-who-knew-comets" class="noexit lightbox">
In 1986, the European spacecraft Giotto looked into the heart of Halley's Comet as it approached the sun. Data from Giotto's camera were used to generate this enhanced image of the comet's potato-shaped nucleus, measuring roughly 15 kilometers across.
Halley Multicolor Camera Team/Giotto Project/ESA NASA

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 2:14 pm

Imagine stepping into an elevator and bumping into Lou Reed or Maya Angelou or Paul Newman. What would you do? What would you say? And what if the legend you bumped into on your ride up the 32nd floor was none other than the father of the comet (kind of)?

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Science + Technology
12:38 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Time Travel Saves The Day

The Cathedral Spires in the Black Hills of South Dakota are just one of innumerable formations across the planet that speak to the Earth's ancient history.
K. Scott Jackson/Ohio Water Science Center USGS

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 9:10 pm

So I'm standing on the top of this hill near my house wondering about thankfulness. I needed to take a walk after getting double-teamed by news about the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan and a NY Times article about the coming crisis in food production due to climate change. Thanksgiving was just a week away and it was hard to square my own manifold blessings with a world full of difficulty and suffering.

And then I remembered time.

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Science + Technology
2:54 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Comet Fans Psyched For A Celestial Feast On Thanksgiving Day

Comet ISON on Nov. 14.
Courtesy of Mike Hankey

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

While most Americans are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, astronomers will be looking up at an unusual comet passing near the sun.

The comet, known as ISON, has been hyped as "the comet of the century." It may not quite live up to that billing, but astronomers say it is a one-of-a-kind object.

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Science + Technology
2:51 am
Tue November 26, 2013

What's In It For U.S. To Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

The chimneys of the Kolaghat Thermal Power Station loom above a field flooded for rice farming near Mecheda, West Bengal, India, in July 2011.
Dibyangshu Sarkar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 1:28 pm

The United Nations negotiations in Warsaw over a climate treaty are moving at glacial speed — and that's in part because there's a fundamental problem.

In the coming decades, carbon dioxide emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries are expected to grow quickly. Residents there aspire to lifestyles Americans and Europeans enjoy today, and those nations aren't willing to slash emissions, because doing so could slow their economic growth.

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Science + Technology
1:52 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Researchers Find Ancient Seawater Had Twice The Salt

A map showing the impact areas of a large asteroid or comet that struck the Chesapeake Bay some 35 million years ago.
U.S. Geological Survey

Originally published on Tue November 19, 2013 6:57 pm

Scientists have discovered a pocket of ancient seawater that's been trapped underground near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay since the time of the dinosaurs — strong evidence that the Atlantic Ocean was once much saltier than today.

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Science + Technology
3:23 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Profit, Not Just Principle, Has Tech Firms Concerned With NSA

Google and five other companies sent a letter last month to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee supporting legislation to reform NSA surveillance programs.
Marcio Jose Sanchez AP

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 12:51 pm

Along with the privacy advocates and the national security establishment, there is another set of players with strong views on NSA surveillance programs: U.S. tech companies.

Google and five other companies weighed in on the surveillance debate last month, sending a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supporting legislation to reform National Security Agency surveillance programs.

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