NPR Science

NPR science
7:46 am
Wed October 24, 2012

When fire met meat, the brains of early humans grew bigger

Actors Stan Laurel and Edna Marlon play at socializing around the campfire. It turns out that early man's brain developed in part thanks to cooking.
Hulton Archive Getty

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 10:08 am

If you're reading this blog, you're probably into food. Perhaps you're even one of those people whose world revolves around your Viking stove and who believes that cooking defines us as civilized creatures.

Well, on the latter part, you'd be right. At least according to some neuroscientists from Brazil.

Read more
NPR science
9:14 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Baby Beluga, Swim So Wild And Sing For Me

This image, from an archival video, shows the white whale NOC swimming around and under researchers' boats.
Current Biology

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 1:18 am

Whales are among the great communicators of the animal world. They produce all sorts of sounds: squeaks, whistles and even epic arias worthy of an opera house.

And one whale in particular has apparently done something that's never been documented before: He imitated human speech.

The beluga, or white whale, is smallish as whales go and very cute, if you're into marine mammals. Belugas are called the "canaries of the sea" because they're very vocal.

Read more
NPR science
8:39 am
Fri October 12, 2012

The secret to genius? It might be more chocolate

A Swiss cardiologist plots a cheeky graph that shows a country's chocolate consumption may predict its chances of winning a Nobel.
John Loo Flickr.com

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 2:13 pm

Nerds, rejoice! It's Nobel season — the Oscars for lab rats, peacemakers and cognoscenti alike. Every fall, big thinkers around the world wait for a middle-of-the-night phone call from Sweden, dreaming of what they might do with the $1.2 million prize.

Read more
NPR science
2:56 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

'Softball-Sized Eyeball' Washes Up In Florida; Can You I.D. It?

Quite a baby blue.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 7:41 am

Tell us you can resist clicking on this headline from Florida's Sun Sentinel:

"Huge Eyeball From Unknown Creature Washes Ashore On Florida Beach."

It's big, it's blue and the newspaper says "among the possibilities being discussed are a giant squid, some other large fish or a whale or other large marine mammal."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has sent the eye off for study.

Read more
NPR Science
12:39 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Scientists detail a diamond encrusted super-Earth

Illustration of the interior of 55 Cancri e — an extremely hot planet with a surface of mostly graphite surrounding a thick layer of diamond, below which is a layer of silicon-based minerals and a molten iron core at the center.
Haven Giguere via Yale University

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:39 pm

Scientists have discovered a world much fancier than our homely, little Earth.

New research that will published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters details a planet that is eight times heavier than Earth and with twice its radius. But instead of being covered in water and granite, it is encrusted in graphite and diamond.

Read more
NPR science
12:37 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Fun With Physics: How To Make Tiny Medicine Nanoballs

Álvaro Marín

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 6:20 am

For the past decade, scientists have been toying with the notion of encapsulating medicine in microscopic balls.

These so-called nanospheres could travel inside the body to hard-to-reach places, like the brain or the inside of a tumor. One problem researchers face is how to build these nanospheres, because you'd have to make them out of even smaller nanoparticles.

Read more
NPR tech news
4:02 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

For Nobel winner's agency, precision is the only way to operate

NIST physicist and Nobel Prize-winner David Wineland adjusts an ultraviolet laser beam used to manipulate ions in a high-vacuum apparatus containing an "ion trap." These devices have been used to demonstrate the basic operations required for a quantum computer.
Copyright Geoffrey Wheeler National Institute of Standards and Technology

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 7:46 am

David Wineland is the American half of the scientific duo celebrating the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics today.

Wineland and French scientist Serge Haroche developed new ways for scientists to observe individual quantum particles without damaging them. This may not sound so impressive, but the work opens a world of possibilities— including the development of a quantum computer and super-precise clock.

But who needs a better clock? Don't we have pretty good ones already?

Read more
NPR science
6:19 am
Tue October 9, 2012

French and American scientists share physics Nobel Prize

The medal for the Nobel in Physics. According to the Nobel committee, the inscription reads: " 'Inventas vitam juvat excoluisse per artes' loosely translated 'And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery.' "
NobelPrize.org

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 5:07 am

The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche of France and David Wineland of the United States for their work on the "fundamental interactions between light particles and matter."

"The Nobel laureates have opened the door to a new era of experimentation with quantum physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual quantum particles without destroying them," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

Read more
NPR Science
7:03 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Nobel Winners Unlocked Cells' Unlimited Potential

Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University was named the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering how mature, adult cells can be reprogrammed into immature stem cells.
Shizuo Kambayashi Associated Press

Originally published on Mon October 8, 2012 12:28 pm

The two scientists who won this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine discovered that cells in our body have the remarkable ability to reinvent themselves. They found that every cell in the human body, from our skin and bones to our heart and brain, can be coaxed into forming any other cell.

Read more
NPR science
7:02 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out, Columbus: A Sailing Ship That Travels On Sunshine

Emmanuel Leutze Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 8:29 am

Columbus, they say, crossed the Atlantic at a speed of roughly four knots. That's four-plus miles an hour. When the wind gusted, he could hit 9.2 mph. In 1492, that was speedy.

Read more
NPR Science
4:55 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

Scientists create fertile eggs from mouse stem cells

Each of these mouse pups was born from an egg scientists created using embryonic stem cells. It's possible the technology could change future treatment for human infertility.
Katsuhiko Hayashi

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 5:45 pm

Scientists in Japan report they have created eggs from stem cells in a mammal for the first time. And the researchers went on to breed healthy offspring from the eggs they created.

While the experiments involved mice, the work is being met with excitement — and questions — about doing the same thing for humans someday.

Read more
NPR science
10:54 am
Wed October 3, 2012

New, house-cat-sized dinosaur (note massive fangs!) is identified

With jaws only 1 inch in length, the plant-eating Pegomastax ("thick jaw") was one of the smallest dinosaurs ever discovered. The photo above is of a close relative of the Pegomastax.
Tyler Keillor The University of Chicago

Originally published on Sun October 7, 2012 2:09 pm

What we learn about dinosaurs keeps surprising us. Today in the journal ZooKeys we get a peek into an odd, new kind of dinosaur that was lighter than a house cat and just as small but had a terrifying set of teeth and a short, birdlike beak.

The fossil used to re-create the creature was actually discovered in southern Africa in the 1960s, but it is described for the first time today by Paul Sereno, paleontologist and professor at the University of Chicago.

Read more
NPR science
8:08 am
Wed October 3, 2012

Are those spidery black things on Mars dangerous? (Yup.)

Michael Benson NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/Kinetikon Pictures

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 1:43 pm

You are 200 miles directly above the Martian surface — looking down. This image was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 27, 2010. (The color was added later.) What do we see? Well, sand, mostly. As you scroll down, there's a ridge crossing through the image, then a plain, then dunes, but keep looking. You will notice, when you get to the dunes, there are little black flecks dotting the ridges, mostly on the sunny side, like sunbathing spiders sitting in rows. Can you see them?

Read more
NPR science
9:05 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Nail Biting: Mental Disorder Or Just A Bad Habit?

Pathological nail biting may be a form of grooming on steroids, but it also makes the biter feel good, unlike fear-driven OCD.
Andrea Kissack for KQED

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 6:54 am

Do you bite your nails? For 30 years, I did. We nail biters can be "pathological groomers" — people for whom normal grooming behaviors, like skin picking or hair pulling, have become virtually uncontrollable.

Read more
NPR science
6:30 pm
Sun September 30, 2012

A tiny ocean world with a mighty important future

Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life and provide half of the oxygen on the planet. Scientists are working to figure out how climate change may be affecting these important microorganisms.
M. Ormestad Tara Oceans

Originally published on Sun September 30, 2012 4:11 pm

As you take in your next breath of air, you can thank a form of microscopic marine life known as plankton.

They are so small as to be invisible, but taken together, actually dwarf massive creatures like whales. Plankton make up 98 percent of the biomass of ocean life.

"This invisible forest generates half of the oxygen generated on the planet," Chris Bowler, a marine biologist, tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.

And, as climate change alters the temperature and acidity of our waters, this mysterious ocean world may be in jeopardy.

Read more

Pages