Science

NPR tech news
11:29 am
Wed October 24, 2012

Boeing successfully tests electronics-frying, microwave missile

Computers fried by CHAMP.
U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 11:00 am

It's not the sexiest of weapons, because it doesn't cause big explosions, or fly around the world in minutes. But the effect is huge and could cripple a modern military without causing any casualties.

This week, Boeing announced that it has successfully tested a missile that can send out targeted, high-power microwaves that fry electronics without actually causing an explosion.

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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.

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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.

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NPR health
9:15 am
Tue October 23, 2012

'Addictive' Cigarette Smoking Games On Smartphones Target Kids

In this iPhone app, players pretend to smoke a cigarette and then pass it to their friends.
Screenshot from Puff Puff Pass Lite.

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 8:41 am

You can do just about anything with your phone these days. Take an electrocardiogram. Confess your sins. Even smoke a cigarette

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Science
2:02 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Study: Kids get developmental boost from phones, social media

“What they’re doing is different from generations of teenagers from before the digital era, but it comes from the same place of basic developmental needs. It’s just that they’re using different tools to satisfy these needs,” said a UW researcher.
Summer Skyes 11 Flickr

Instead of increasing kids’ isolation, a new study from the University of Washington suggests life on the digital frontier is helping kids reach developmental milestones.

Phones and social media help kids share personal problems and build a sense of belonging, the UW noted in a press release.

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Culture
9:45 am
Thu October 18, 2012

So, would you eat a panda?

What keeps pandas and lions off our dining tables, when we readily consume, say, pigs and chickens?
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

A Chinese scientist recently suggested that prehistoric humans ate pandas. The evidence, based on cut marks on panda bones, strikes me as thin, but the report led me to a thought experiment.

How would people in the modern world react if the some population or subculture today made panda-foraging a goal? I imagine most of us would be horrified, and not only because the panda is an endangered species. The panda has become a symbol of cuteness, an animal we love to love.

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Health
1:05 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Treatment for Alzheimer's should start years before disease sets in

Alexis McKenzie, executive director of the Methodist Home of the District of Columbia Forest Side, an Alzheimer's assisted-living facility, puts her hand on the arm of resident Catherine Peake.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 8:12 am

Treatment for Alzheimer's probably needs to begin years or even decades before symptoms of the disease start to appear, scientists reported at this week's Society for Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans.

"By the time an Alzheimer's patient is diagnosed even with mild or moderate Alzheimer's there is very, very extensive neuron death," said John Morrison of Mount Sinai Medical School in New York. "And the neurons that die are precisely those neurons that allow you to navigate the world and make sense of the world."

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Health
2:39 pm
Mon October 15, 2012

Where you live may determine what lives inside your mouth

Scientists examined bacteria in the mouths of twins, and found that it's not as similar as they thought it would be.
Sharon Dominick iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 2:28 pm

Lately, we've been learning more and more about the teeming masses of bacteria inside our bodies - essentially trillions of tiny organisms that make us sick and keep us healthy.

Now two scientists at the University of Colorado have dared to ask what kinds of bacteria lives inside our mouths. And they're finding some pretty surprising things in there.

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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.

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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.

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Science
1:39 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

Mystery solved: Who the 'Kennewick Man' really was

Final Kennewick Man facial reconstruction.
Brittney Tatchell

For one thing, Kennewick Man – the 9,500-year-old remains found in the shallows of the Columbia River more than 16 years ago – was buff. We’re talking beefcake.

So says Doug Owsley, head of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Owsley led the study of the ancient remains.

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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.

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Science
4:35 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Scientist: 'Kennewick Man' lived on coast, not southeast Washington

Final Kennewick Man facial reconstruction. Photo by Brittney Tatchell

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:33 pm

MATTAWA, Wash. – Kennewick Man spent most of his life on the coast, not in the region on the Columbia River where he was found. So says the federal scientist who fought for nearly 10 years to study the 9,500 year old bones. The scientist released some of his findings at a conference this week with Northwest tribes

Kennewick Man’s bones give an indication of what he ate, and how he lived. The research shows he wasn’t fond of oysters or clams but instead his menu included big sea creatures like seals.

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Troubles in space
4:18 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Space is full of junk; Boeing files plan to fix that

This is a computer-generated image provided by the European Space Agency showing an artist’s impression of catalogued objects in low-Earth orbit viewed over the Equator. (Scale not to size)
The Associated Press

Here’s a solution for space junk – gas it.

A Boeing engineer from Seattle, Michael Dunn, has filed a patent for a method of dragging parts, pieces and defunct satellites into the atmosphere where they will burn up.

Geek speak: “… the method comprising hastening orbital decay of the debris by creating a transient gaseous cloud at an altitude of at least 100 km above Earth, the cloud having a density sufficient to slow the debris so the debris falls into Earth's atmosphere,” according to the document.

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If it's legal ...
7:09 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Dueling messages call marijuana 'benign' and 'risky'

A glossy, full-page ad for marijuana products look like something you would see from a pharmaceutical company. Does it signal the future of advertising for marijuana ... if it's legal?
Justin Steyer KPLU

Even if you never smoke marijuana, Initiative-502 could make it much more a part of our society, like alcohol. In our series “If it’s legal: Five ways legal pot could affect your life,” we consider some ways things could change for all of us. Today, we look at what sort of advertising and public messages we might expect to see.

If you turn on the TV today, beer and wine are everywhere. A typical commercial for Corona Light, for example, features a guy whose life improves with girls, dancing, lively music, a great time – all thanks to a frosty beer.

This sort of commercial is what Denise Walker was imagining, when she started thinking about the possibility of marijuana advertising in the future.

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