Science + Technology

Pluto looks to be a far cry from the dead body that many scientists had long presumed. As the New Horizons probe continues to report back from the fringes of the solar system, a word that Mr. Spock might have used sums up the reaction: fascinating.

Our Robot Servants

Jul 17, 2015

Industrial robots are big machines capable of merciless speed and power. In a recent report in Time, a robot "grabbed and pushed" a man against a metal plate at a Volkswagen production plant, crushing him.

For the past quarter-century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been gathering data from more than 400 scientists around the world on climate trends.

The report on 2014 from these international researchers? On average, it was the hottest year ever — in the ocean, as well as on land.

It's easy to think we're being virtuous when we fill up the blue recycling bin and put it on the curb. But it's clear we have embraced some magical thinking when it comes to what can be recycled.

Morning Edition asked its social media followers to share what puzzles them the most about the recycling process. Then, NPR's Dianna Douglas visited a waste management plant in Elkridge, Md., to get the answers from Michael Taylor, director of recycling operations for the plant.

Lightning strikes have killed at least 20 people in the U.S. so far this year, according to the National Weather Service. That's higher than the average for recent years, the service says.

Most people who are injured or killed by lightning, it turns out, are not struck directly — instead, the bolt lands nearby.

That's what happened to Steve Marshburn in 1969. He was working inside a bank and says lightning somehow made its way through an ungrounded speaker at the drive-through window to the stool where he was sitting.

Researchers in Switzerland say they've solved a nearly 100-year-old astronomical mystery by discovering what's in the wispy cloud of gas that floats in the space between the stars.

It finally happened. On Tuesday, the space probe New Horizons passed by a mere 7,800 miles from Pluto, the closest encounter ever with a world that is, on average, 3.7 billion miles from Earth.

It took nine years for the very fast probe to get there, something that our 13.7 blogger Adam Frank estimated would take some 6,923 years by car "give or take a few decades."

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Songs For A Plutonian Road Trip

Jul 14, 2015

Alice Bowman oversees daily operations for NASA's mission to Pluto. Her language is peppered with technical terms — like "astronomical units" and "aim points."

But there's one piece of scientific nomenclature you won't hear coming from Bowman's lips: dwarf planet.

"Pluto is a planet," she says. "And that's the way I will always think of it."

IBM says it has overcome a technological hurdle by producing a prototype chip with transistors that are just 7 nanometers wide, or about 1/10,000th the width of a human hair. The smallest transistors currently in use are twice as big.

The breakthrough occurred at SUNY Polytechnic Institute's Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. It could result in the ability to place 20 billion transistors on a chip the size of a fingernail.

A controversial cyber espionage company called Hacking Team is reeling this morning after hackers gave it a taste of its own medicine by breaking into its systems, downloading hundreds of gigabytes of data and throwing it all on the open Internet.

Hacking Team has not said whether the leaked documents are legitimate, but NPR verified that at least some of the hacked personal passwords do check out.

The new Pixar animation Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter (Monster's Inc., Up), is the playful and ambitious story of the emotional life of a young girl, Riley, who is uprooted when her parents move to a new city so that her father can take up a job. Like a lot of science fiction, however, the fiction drags because the science never really makes any sense.

This summer, Morning Edition is taking you on adventures off the beaten path — trails that transport us to a special, hidden place. We start just minutes from downtown Mobile, Ala., at the point where five rivers converge in the Mobile Bay Delta. With our trail guide, we discover centuries of history, and biodiversity like no other place in the country.

The point where five rivers empty into Mobile Bay is a fisherman and hunter's paradise, but it's also a draw for naturalists and history buffs.

It has taken nearly a decade and 3 billion miles to get there, but scientists are about to get their first look at Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is closing fast on the tiny world once thought to be at the edge of our solar system. On Tuesday the probe will begin an intensive nine-day scientific study of Pluto and its moons.

In catacombs south of Cairo, researchers have discovered burial sites filled with huge numbers of mummified animals — nearly 8 million of them, mostly dogs.

The International Space Station has just received a much-needed delivery, including some groceries, aboard a Russian capsule that successfully docked after three previous attempts to resupply the orbiting laboratory had failed.

Those who spend much time on the Carolina beaches know that many shark species, and even whales, are frequent visitors during the summer. And, though it's extremely rare, those sharks have been known to attack humans.

But this year, there have already been seven shark attacks off the North Carolina coast since June. It's a number that has surprised even the most seasoned of shark-watchers.

A Rock Band And A Moon, United In Name

Jul 4, 2015
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A classic rock band and a bunch of NASA scientists met in a lab in Maryland this week, all because of a name - Styx.