Science + Technology

Science + Technology
12:06 pm
Wed December 17, 2014

Behind The Scenes At The Lab That Fingerprints Microbiomes

Rob Knight, co-founder of the American Gut Project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, works in the lab where the samples are processed.
The American Gut Project

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 5:32 pm

The gut microbiome may soon reveal important answers to questions about our health. But those answers aren't yet easy to spot or quick to obtain.

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Science + Technology
1:21 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Scientists Debate If It's OK To Make Viruses More Dangerous In The Lab

The coronavirus responsible for Middle East respiratory syndrome (green particles) seen on camel cells in a scanning electron micrograph.
NIAID/Colorado State University

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 4:26 pm

Imagine that scientists wanted to take Ebola virus and see if it could ever become airborne by deliberately causing mutations in the lab and then searching through those new viruses to see if any spread easily through the air.

Would that be OK?

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Science + Technology
5:39 pm
Sun December 14, 2014

More Than Just Cute, Sea Otters Are Superheroes Of The Marsh

This sea otter, about to eat a crab in the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, is cute, sure. But more importantly, it's indirectly combating some harmful effects of agricultural runoff and protecting the underwater ecosystem.
Rob Eby AP

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 11:28 am

On the roof of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., in a large plastic tank, a sea otter mother named Abby floats with her adopted pup, known as 671.

For up to nine months, Abby will raise her little adoptee, and when 671 is ready, she will be released into a protected inland salt marsh called Elkhorn Slough, just off Monterey Bay.

That's where 671 will set to work to preserve the estuary, says Tim Tinker, who tracks otters for the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Science + Technology
4:57 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Oh, Snap! NASA Promises Best Photo Yet Of Faraway Pluto

NASA/ESA/M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)

Originally published on Mon December 8, 2014 10:22 am

Humanity has snapped detailed portraits of planets and moons throughout our solar system. But there's one missing from the album: Pluto.

Although Pluto was discovered in 1930, it has remained stubbornly hard to photograph. The Hubble Space Telescope has taken the best pictures, and frankly, they stink.

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Science + Technology
2:05 pm
Tue December 2, 2014

Confessions Of An Astrophysicist: I'm In Love With A Star

The star Mira, commentator Adam Frank's love interest, leaves a trail of gas — light-years across — as it hurtles through space.
NASA

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 2:37 pm

So, I'm in love and it's not an easy thing.

Though my beloved is beautiful and subtle and bestowed of great grace, there also is a terrible distance between us. Nothing I do can bridge that gulf, and the object of my affections will not acknowledge me. But I don't care. For those in love know that enduring the indifference and the distance is nothing but a tiny price to pay.

My love, of course, is a star. Her name is Mira.

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Science + Technology
5:45 am
Tue December 2, 2014

NASA Prepares To Test New Spacecraft (That You've Likely Never Heard Of)

The Orion capsule is poised to make its first test flight Thursday. If all goes as planned, the unmanned vehicle will orbit Earth twice before splashing into the Pacific Ocean.
Kim Shiflett NASA

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 3:43 pm

NASA is about to launch a new spaceship into orbit, and Mallory Loe has never heard of it.

"I mean, technically, NASA doesn't have another spaceship, do they?" she asks incredulously during a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

She's hardly the only one who doesn't know about this new spacecraft. In fact, none of a half-dozen tourists NPR interviewed in the museum's lobby was aware of the Orion spaceship.

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Science + Technology
2:26 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Does It Matter Who Accepts Evolution?

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 6:32 pm

Since 1982, Gallup has been tracking the American public's views on human origins, providing three mutually exclusive options from which to choose. According to the most recent poll, 42 percent of Americans endorse the idea that God created humans in their present form within the past 10,000 years or so, 31 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with God guiding the process, and 19 percent say that humans evolved over millions of years with no role for God at all.

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Science + Technology
12:29 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Ebola In The Air: What Science Says About How The Virus Spreads

Viruses can spread through the air in two ways: inside large droplets that fall quickly to the ground (red), or inside tiny droplets that float in the air (gray). In the first route, called droplet transmission, the virus can spread only about 3 to 6 feet from an infected person. In the second route, called airborne transmission, the virus can travel 30 feet or more.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 8:58 am

Here's an Ebola puzzle for you: If the virus isn't airborne, why do doctors and nurses need to wear full protective suits, with face masks, while treating patients?

After we dug through studies and talked to scientists, the answer slowly emerged.

Ebola does spread through the air. But not through the airborne route.

Oh, goodness! No wonder there's been such a kerfuffle about how the virus is transmitted.

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Science + Technology
5:21 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Amazon Unleashes Robot Army To Send Your Holiday Packages Faster

Kiva robots maneuver around one of Amazon's newest distribution centers on Sunday in Tracy, Calif.
Brandon Bailey AP

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 7:42 pm

For many online retailers, Cyber Monday is likely to be the peak shopping day of the year. To handle the onslaught of orders, Amazon has begun rolling out a new robot army.

The Amazon order-fulfillment center in Tracy, Calif., is more than a million square feet — or 28 football fields, if you prefer — filled with orange and yellow bins flying this way and that on conveyor belts. Chances are, if you ordered a bunch of items in the San Francisco Bay Area recently, Amazon put that box together here.

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Law
4:01 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Is A Threat Posted On Facebook Really A Threat?

At his trial, Elonis argued that he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, which he also says he wrote on his Facebook page.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 8:17 am

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,

And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,

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Science + Technology
4:53 pm
Fri November 28, 2014

After The Ferguson Decision, A Poem That Gives Name To The Hurt

Originally published on Fri November 28, 2014 6:22 pm

Since George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin, I've been repeating these words by the poet Audre Lorde like a prayer. She writes:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

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Science + Technology
3:30 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Researchers To Attempt Robotic Landing On Comet's Surface

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is about to send a lander to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
ESA/Rosetta/NavCam

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 10:12 am

Humans have never landed anything on a comet's surface. That may change tomorrow.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission is poised to send out a small probe to land on a comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta spent 10 years chasing the comet before arriving in August.

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Science + Technology
3:03 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Combining The DNA Of Three People Raises Ethical Questions

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 5:03 pm

In a darkened lab in the north of England, a research associate is intensely focused on the microscope in front of her. She carefully maneuvers a long glass tube that she uses to manipulate early human embryos.

"It's like microsurgery," says Laura Irving of Newcastle University.

Irving is part of a team of scientists trying to replace defective DNA with healthy DNA. They hope this procedure could one day help women who are carrying genetic disorders have healthy children.

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Science + Technology
3:02 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Whether Green With Envy Or Tickled Pink, We Live In A Color-Coded World

An employee at a frozen foods company in eastern Germany checks carrots for quality.
Michael Urban AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 10, 2014 11:00 am

Red means stop; green means go. You live in a red or a blue state. You feel green with envy, or you're tickled pink. Colors alert, provoke, attract, divide and unite us.

Thinkers from Plato to Einstein to a new cottage industry of color psychologists have studied the importance of color in our daily lives. But, as Joann and Arielle Eckstut write in their book The Secret Language of Color: "Anyone who claims to be an expert on color is a liar."

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Science + Technology
9:53 pm
Sun November 9, 2014

Can Dancing Teach You Quantum Physics?

iStockphoto

I was being pushed back into the chair. The bass notes were so deep and came so fast it was like someone pounding on my chest. Visions of atoms, galaxies and pure data exploded on the stage as words and symbols, pulses across banks of HD screens.

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Science + Technology
6:33 pm
Sat November 8, 2014

In Space, No One Can Hear You Sample

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES: Hear that? That's what our planet sounds like from space. And that?

(SOUNDBITE OF LIGHTENING ON JUPITER)

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Science + Technology
3:27 am
Fri November 7, 2014

How A Tilt Toward Safety Stopped A Scientist's Virus Research

Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome virus particles cling to the surface of an infected cell.
NIAID/Flickr

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 4:27 pm

As cases of a worrisome respiratory virus continue to pop up in the Middle East, scientists who study it in the U.S. are struggling to understand how they'll be affected by a government moratorium on certain kinds of experiments.

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Science + Technology
4:01 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Astronomers Glimpse Distant Planetary Nursery

ALMA image of the protoplanetary disk around HL Tauri.
Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 7:57 pm

Astronomers have long theorized that planetary systems, including our own, are formed by spinning discs of dust and gas that slowly coalesce. Now, by combining input from an array of radio telescopes located in the Chilean desert, they have sharp images showing what they believe to be just such planet formation.

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Science + Technology
12:40 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Weekly Innovation: Harness Could Allow Dogs, Humans To Communicate

David Roberts says the Cyber-Enhanced Working Dog harness will allow humans to monitor dogs' physical and emotional states remotely, such as in search and rescue operations.
Becky Kirkland North Carolina State University

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 6:46 pm

The relationship between man and dog is unlike any other.

Many people dream of understanding what their dogs are thinking and feeling. Technology even lets us strap a camera on a dog's head to see what it sees.

Soon, we may be able to talk to our dogs — but not exactly with our voices.

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Science + Technology
3:26 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Republican Sweep Highlights Climate Change Politics In Alaska

Oil, carried here by the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, is fundamental to the state's economy. But Alaskans also face the effects of climate change in their daily lives.
Al Grillo AP

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 11:15 am

On election night in a hotel ballroom in Anchorage, Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski picked up a chair and waved it over her head.

"I am the chairmaaaaaaaaaaan!" she shouted.

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