NPR Science

NPR science
12:57 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

Streams Of Water Once Flowed On Mars; NASA Says Photos Prove It

NASA says it has found proof that water shaped the rocks on the left, in a photograph taken by the Mars rover Curiosity (left). For comparison, the agency released an image of rocks from the Earth (right).
NASA

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 1:20 pm

NASA's Curiosity rover has found definitive proof that water once ran across the surface of Mars, the agency announced today. NASA scientists say new photos from the rover show rocks that were smoothed and rounded by water. The rocks are in a large canyon and nearby channels that were cut by flowing water, making up an alluvial fan.

"You had water transporting these gravels to the downslope of the fan," NASA researchers say. The gravel then formed into a conglomerate rock, which was in turn likely covered before being exposed again.

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NPR science
6:58 am
Thu September 27, 2012

Big Quakes Signal Changes Coming To Earth's Crust

A prison official examines the damage a day after a powerful earthquake hit the west coast of Indonesia in Banda Aceh on April 12.
Adek Berry AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 6:31 am

On April 11 of this year, an extraordinary cluster of earthquakes struck off Sumatra. The largest shock, magnitude 8.7, produced stronger ground-shaking than any earthquake ever recorded. And it surprised seismologists by triggering more than a dozen moderate earthquakes around the world.

The quakes are also a sign of big changes to come in the Earth's crust.

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NPR science
6:39 am
Thu September 20, 2012

Why mental pictures can sway your moral judgment

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 6:41 am

When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.

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NPR science
7:14 am
Wed September 19, 2012

U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink

National Technical Information Service via Alex Wellerstein

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 1:34 pm

So you're minding your own business when all of a sudden, a nuclear bomb goes off, there's a shock wave, fires all around, general destruction and you, having somehow survived, need a drink. What can you do? There is no running water, not where you are. But there is a convenience store. It's been crushed by the shock wave, but there are still bottles of beer, Coke and diet soda intact on the floor.

So you wonder: Can I grab one of those beers and gulp it down? Or is it too radioactive? And what about taste? If I drink it, will it taste OK?

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NPR Science
4:22 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Did Jesus have a wife? Newly discovered ancient text reignites debate

The front of the papyrus fragment.
Karen L. King Harvard

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 7:30 am

An ancient piece of text is reviving an equally ancient debate: Was Jesus Christ married?

Of course, most Christians believe that he wasn't. But today, Harvard Professor of Divinity Karen King presented a scrap of papyrus that dates back to the fourth century. She told a gathering of scholars in Rome that written in Coptic was this surprising sentence: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...' "

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NPR Science
6:54 am
Tue September 18, 2012

As genetic sequencing spreads, excitement, worries grow

Slides containing DNA sit in a bay waiting to be analyzed by a genome sequencing machine.
David Paul Morris Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 2:43 pm

Ever since James Watson and Francis Crick cracked the genetic code, scientists have been fascinated by the possibilities of what we might learn from reading our genes.

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NPR science
5:06 pm
Mon September 17, 2012

What drove early man across the globe? Climate change

An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.
DEA Picture Library De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 3:39 pm

Anthropologists believe early humans evolved in Africa and then moved out from there in successive waves. However, what drove their migrations has been a matter of conjecture.

One new explanation is climate change.

Anthropologist Anders Erikkson of Cambridge University in England says the first few hardy humans who left Africa might've gone earlier but couldn't. Northeastern Africa — the only route to Asia and beyond — was literally a no man's land.

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NPR science
10:30 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Monkey, new to science, found in Central Africa

Researchers have identified a new species of African monkey, locally known as the lesula.
Maurice Emetshu, Noel Rowe PLOS ONE/AP

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 8:19 pm

It would seem difficult to overlook something as large as a new species of monkey, but scientists had no idea about the lesula until just a few years ago when conservation biologist John Hart discovered a specimen being kept as a pet in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In retrospect, the monkey's striking, almost humanlike face should have made it hard to miss, and Hart, who spoke with All Things Considered host Melissa Block, is the first to admit that this new monkey was apparently not such a mystery to the Congolese themselves.

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NPR science
7:43 am
Thu September 13, 2012

For How Long Have We Been Human?

A piece of red ochre with a deliberately engraved design is pictured here at Cape Town's Iziko/South African Museum in 2002. The piece was discovered in Blombos Cave near Stilbaai, about 300 kilometers from Cape Town.
Anna Ziemenski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 13, 2012 7:04 am

This year I greeted my new Biological Anthropology students with a chalked timeline of some human-evolution highlights:

6-7 million years ago: Start of the human lineage, following a split with the lineage containing chimpanzees and gorillas

2.6 mya: Onset of large-scale making and use of stone tool technology

2.5 mya: First human ancestors in our own genus, Homo

200,000 years ago: First modern humans, Homo sapiens

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NPR Science
1:12 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

The 'miracle' of the levitating slinky (cooler than it seems)

Veritasium/YouTube

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 5:43 am

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NPR science
10:27 am
Fri September 7, 2012

Volcano shoots geyser of water up into space

Michael Benson

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 8:53 am

What we have here is a moon — a small one (slightly wider than the state of Arizona) — circling Saturn.

If you look closely, you will see a small splay of light at its top, looking like a circular fountain.

That's because it is a fountain — of sorts. A bunch of volcano-like jets are sending fantastically high geysers of water vapor up into the sky, so high that you can see them in this remarkable print by Michael Benson, back lit by light bouncing off of Saturn.

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NPR science
8:59 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Do Birds Hold Funerals?

Jessica Merz Flickr

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 3:17 pm

Here's a journal-paper title that grabbed my eye: Western scrub-jay funerals: cacophonous aggregations in response to dead conspecifics.

OK, there's some jargon included — "cacophonous aggregations" refers to birds called in by other birds' vocalizations, and "conspecifics" just means other individuals of the same species. But it's the "f" word — funeral — that caught my attention.

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NPR science
8:32 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

After 35 Years, Voyager Nears Edge Of Solar System

In addition to surveying the planets, the Voyager mission also spent time studying the planets' satellites, or moons. This mosaic image, taken in 1989, shows Neptune's largest satellite, Triton. Triton has the coldest surface temperature known anywhere in the solar system.
NASA/JPL

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 1:33 pm

The Voyager 1 spacecraft's 35th anniversary is proving to be unexpectedly exciting, as scientists gathered this week to examine new hints that the spacecraft is on the verge of leaving our solar system.

Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles away from Earth. It blasted off in September 1977, on a mission to Jupiter and Saturn. But it also carried a Golden Record filled with music and the sounds of our planet, in case it encountered intelligent life as it moved out toward the stars.

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NPR science
10:57 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Scientists unveil 'Google Maps' for human genome

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 2:56 pm

Scientists unveiled the results of a massive international project Wednesday that they say debunks the notion that most of our genetic code is made up of so-called junk DNA.

The ENCODE project, which involved hundreds of researchers in dozens of labs, also produced what some scientists are saying is like Google Maps for the human genome.

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NPR science
7:34 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Wow! NASA video shows 'mind-bogglingly gorgeous' solar eruption

That's quite an eruption.
nasa.gov

Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 5:23 am

Before we run through the news of the day, let's pause for something spectactular: a new video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows a "massive filament" eruption on the sun that occurred last Friday. As Britain's The Register says, it is "mind-bogglingly gorgeous."

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