Science + Technology

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On Tuesday, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a plan to send interstellar probes to the Alpha Centauri star system. The audacious project would use a giant laser on Earth to accelerate scores of postage-stamp-size spacecraft to nearly the speed of light. They would cross the void in just 20 years — virtually no time on the scale of interstellar travel.

Finding a new planet that orbits a distant star isn't such a big deal anymore — astronomers have discovered around 2,000. But no one knows if any of these planets has a moon.

That might change this year, if a moon-hunting project goes as planned.

Mark Zuckerberg has laid out a 10-year master plan for Facebook. It's bold. It's savvy. And it glosses over a key detail: the dark side of making the world more connected.

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Physicist Stephen Hawking and billionaire Yuri Milner have a vision of interstellar exploration — taking place over the course of not thousands of years, but decades.

Together with a team of scientists, they suggest that within a generation, humans could send a probe to Alpha Centauri — more than 4.3 light-years away, or 25 trillion miles — on a trip that would take just over two decades. That's 1,000 times faster than the current fastest spacecraft, the scientists say.

They're thinking big — by thinking very small.

Artificial limbs have come a long way since the days of peg legs and hooks for hands. But one thing most of these prosthetics lack is a sense of touch.

Zhenan Bao intends to change that.

Days after they declared a spacecraft emergency over the Kepler space telescope, NASA engineers say the craft has now recovered and that they're working to figure out what happened.

Kepler, which is currently nearly 75 million miles away from Earth, placed itself into Emergency Mode sometime in the middle of last week. But it wasn't until a scheduled contact on Thursday that mission engineers discovered the problem. That led NASA to declare a wider emergency, giving the mission priority access to communications through its Deep Space Network.

The number of tigers in the wild has risen from an estimated 3,200 in 2010 to about 3,890 in 2016 — a gain of more than 20 percent after a century of decline, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The group says the tiger populations have grown in at least four countries: India, Russia, Nepal and Bhutan.

A research team is now working to put a massive drill into the the Gulf of Mexico's seafloor to help peel back 65 million years of history. Their goal: to secure a nearly mile-deep core sample from the Chicxulub crater that's commonly linked to the end of the dinosaur era.

"There's a lot of questions about mass extinction events, including all the extinction or kill mechanisms out there," says one of the research team's leaders, Sean Gulick of the University of Texas, Austin.

Poaching and destruction of habitat have decimated wild tiger populations around the world, especially in Cambodia.

There are no longer any breeding tigers left in the wild in that country, and the species is considered "functionally extinct" there, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

Renewable energy and new technologies that are making low-carbon power more reliable are growing rapidly in the U.S. Renewables are so cheap in some parts of the country that they're undercutting the price of older sources of electricity such as nuclear power.

The impact has been significant on the nuclear industry, and a growing number of unprofitable reactors are shutting down.

When the first nuclear power plants went online 60 years ago, nuclear energy seemed like the next big thing.

In Chicago, one neighborhood's rat problem is about to get a lot worse.

Crews are preparing to tear down an old hospital and when the wrecking ball starts swinging, the rodents living in and underneath the aging structure will scurry.

The city and the developer are setting poison baits and traps to help control the problem, but some residents are turning to one of the rats' worst enemies instead — cats.

Construction On Old Buildings Worsens Rat Problem

On a cold night in January 2012, Dustin Bergsing climbed on top of a crude oil storage tank in North Dakota's Bakken oil field. His job was to open the hatch on top and drop a rope inside to measure the level of oil. But just after midnight, a co-worker found him dead, slumped next to the open hatch.

On July 8, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis rumbled off its launch platform and rose skyward, marking the last time we sent Americans into space using our own rockets launched from our own soil.

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are "induced" — they're caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

Three days after terrorist attacks that left Brussels in mourning, no official list of victims has been released. As people continue searching for their loved ones, they are turning to social media for help. One site in particular, Trello, is allowing friends and family to keep an active list of those who remain unaccounted for.

The rumor mill is on.

A report by an Israeli newspaper, citing anonymous industry sources, pointed the finger at an Israeli company as the firm helping the FBI get inside the locked iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Last month, I wrote a review of Eileen Pollack's The Only Woman in the Room, a memoir about Pollack's experiences as a physics major at Yale in the 1970s.

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