NPR Science

NPR science
5:28 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Pinky DNA Points To Clues About Ancient Humans

A replica of the pinky bone fragment found in a Siberian cave. Researchers used the bone bit to extract and sequence the genome of a girl who lived tens of thousands of years ago.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 3:09 pm

Scientists in Germany have been able to get enough DNA from a fossilized pinky to produce a high-quality DNA sequence of the pinky's owner.

"It's a really amazing-quality genome," says David Reich of Harvard Medical School in Boston. "It's as good as modern human genome sequences, from a lot of ways of measuring it."

The pinky belonged to a girl who lived tens of thousands of years ago. Scientists aren't sure about the exact age. She is a member of an extinct group of humans called Denisovans. The name comes from Denisova cave in Siberia, where the pinky was found.

Read more
NPR science
1:46 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

Scientists uncover millions of black holes

With its all-sky infrared survey, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has identified millions of quasar candidates. This image zooms in on one small region of the WISE sky, covering an area about three times larger than the moon. The WISE quasar candidates are highlighted with yellow circles.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 12:35 pm

This paragraph from NASA worried us:

"In one study, astronomers used WISE to identify about 2.5 million actively feeding supermassive black holes across the full sky, stretching back to distances more than 10 billion light-years away. About two-thirds of these objects never had been detected before because dust blocks their visible light. WISE easily sees these monsters because their powerful, accreting black holes warm the dust, causing it to glow in infrared light."

Read more
NPR science
9:41 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Rovers Are From Mars: How Curiosity Is Killing It On Twitter

This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows the Mars Rover, Curiosity.
AP

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 9:00 am

Twitter wasn't built to give voice to Curiosity, the rover currently exploring Mars, but it's awfully well-suited for the purpose.

Read more
NPR Science
7:56 am
Thu August 23, 2012

From politics to pestilence: Everything is earlier

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 1:17 pm

Leaves are falling in the summertime. School starts in early August in many places. Politicos are already talking about the presidential election — of 2016.

Everything is happening earlier.

Read more
NPR science
7:59 am
Wed August 22, 2012

Sky sighting: Is that a thread of dark matter I spy?

A tenuous thread of dark matter is seen connecting the galaxy clusters Abell 222 and 223.
Courtesy Jörg Dietrich/Universitäts-Sternwarte München

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 7:33 am

When astronomers survey the universe, the landmarks are galaxies, those gigantic agglomerates of stars and interstellar gas spread across the immensity of space. A typical spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, boasts hundreds of billions of stars grouped along hundreds of thousands of light-years. That means that it takes a beam of light all that time to go from one extreme of the galaxy to the other, traveling, as light does in a vacuum, at 186,282 miles per second.

Read more
NPR Science
7:03 am
Mon August 20, 2012

Why can some people recall every day of their lives?

Researchers are using MRI scans to learn more about the brains of people with extraordinary memory.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 10:50 am

Six years ago, we told you about a woman, identified as A.J., who could remember the details of nearly every day of her life. At the time, researchers thought she was unique. But since then, a handful of such individuals have been identified. And now, researchers are trying to understand how their extraordinary memories work.

Read more
NPR science
6:08 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

From Curiosity, another Martian landscape

This image of the crater wall is north of the landing site, or behind the rover. Here, a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system - one relating to a river or stream — from the surface of Mars.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Originally published on Mon August 13, 2012 2:26 pm

NASA has released two more pictures from the Curiosity Mars rover.

One is a color image that shows that wall of the Gale Crater and the other is a close up shot of the area excavated by the rover's descent stage rocket engines.

We've posted the white-balanced version of the photos. In theory those should appear more like what Mars would look like if you were using your eyes.

Read more
NPR Science
7:54 am
Wed August 8, 2012

A Clear And Present Danger: How Glass Kills Birds

Experts say glass buildings kill millions of birds every year. Scientists at Powdermill Avian Research Center are studying ways to help prevent this. Here, a volunteer tags a black hooded warbler in Rector, Pa., in May.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 9:05 am

First of a two-part series. Read Part 2.

Modern architecture loves glass. Glass makes interiors brighter and adds sparkle to cityscapes. But glass also kills millions of birds every year when they collide with windows. Biologists say as more glass buildings go up, more birds are dying.

Read more
npr science
6:24 am
Mon August 6, 2012

An Anthropologist Walks Into A Bar And Asks, 'Why Is This Joke Funny?'

Amateur comedian Robert Lynch takes the mic at the Metropolitan Room in New York City on July 21. Lynch is also an evolutionary anthropologist who is studying what laughter reveals about us.
Melanie Burford for NPR

Originally published on Thu August 9, 2012 1:26 pm

It's Saturday night at the Metropolitan Room, a comedy club in New York City. Host Jimmy Failla is warming up the crowd.

"Where you guys from?" he asks one group in the audience. "Boston? Home of the Red Sox. Personally, we'd prefer you rooted for the Taliban!"

There are 50 or 60 people in the audience, sipping cocktails. Failla has a system. He asks people where they're from. Most are locals. He then hits them with something they can relate to.

Read more
npr science
11:38 pm
Sun August 5, 2012

Life on Mars? Try one of Saturn's moons instead

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 3:46 pm

One of the things the Mars rover will look for is organic molecules that could at least indicate whether there was once life on the Red Planet. But if searching for life in outer space is the goal, many scientists now say we might have better luck elsewhere — specifically one of Saturn's moons, Enceladus.

Read more
NPR science
10:46 pm
Sun August 5, 2012

Mars Rover Pulls Off High-Wire Landing

An artist's rendering shows a rocket-powered descent stage lowering the one-ton Curiosity rover to the Mars surface.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Mon August 6, 2012 3:26 am

The best place to stand in the entire solar system at 1:14 a.m. ET Monday was about 150 million miles away, at the bottom of Gale Crater near the equator of the Red Planet.

Looking west around mid-afternoon local time, a Martian bystander would have seen a rocket-powered alien spacecraft approach and then hover about 60 feet over the rock-strewn plain between the crater walls and the towering slopes of nearby Mount Sharp.

Read more
NPR science
9:02 am
Sun August 5, 2012

Scientists look to Martian rocks for history of life

Mmm, nice rock! This rover's looking for secrets to the history of life on Mars.
Photo Illustration Courtesy NASA

Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 8:41 am

NASA has sent rovers to explore Mars before. But three words explain what makes this latest mission to Mars so different: location, location, location.

The rover Curiosity is slated to land late Sunday in Gale Crater, near the base of a 3-mile-high mountain with layers like the Grand Canyon. Scientists think those rocks could harbor secrets about the history of water — and life — on the Red Planet.

Read more
NPR science
8:02 am
Fri August 3, 2012

Crazy smart: When a rocker designs a Mars lander

NASA engineer Adam Steltzner led the team that designed a crazy new approach to landing on Mars.
Rachael Porter for NPR

Originally published on Fri August 3, 2012 3:43 pm

Read more
NPR science
6:28 am
Tue July 31, 2012

Telescope targets black holes' binges and burps

The NuSTAR telescope, seen in this artist's illustration, will soon be sending back data that researchers will use to study black holes.
NASA/JPL-Caltech

Originally published on Tue July 31, 2012 4:45 am

NASA's newest space telescope will start searching the universe for black holes on Wednesday. Scientists hope the NuSTAR X-ray telescope, which launched about six weeks ago and is now flying about 350 miles above the Earth, will help shed some light on the mysteries of these space oddities.

Mission control for the telescope is a small room on the University of California, Berkeley, campus, where about a dozen people with headsets rarely look up from their screens.

Read more
NPR science
8:49 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Gut check: Should you embrace our (mostly) vegetarian past?

Phil Walter Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 8:41 am

We humans evolved to eat meat. How many times have you read or heard some version of this statement?

Read more

Pages