Science

Space flight
8:32 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Meet the finalists in the Space Needle's trip to space contest

The five finalists in a contest to be sent into space as part of Seattle Needle's 50th anniversary celebration are in Seattle this week.

The final phase of the contest begins Monday morning. The finalists will each face three challenges before the winner is announced on Wednesday. (Meet the finalists after the jump and pick whom you'd send into space.)

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NPR tech news
8:09 am
Sat May 5, 2012

A Panda's inseminal moment, tweet-by-tweet

"Here's Mei right now," tweeted the National Zoo just before the procedure. "Volunteers are watching her from our research station as we prepare."
Smithsonian's National Zoo

Originally published on Mon May 7, 2012 4:37 am

You can't predict the turns new technology takes.

The Internet, originally developed for scientists in southern California to bandy information back and forth with scientists in northern California, has also become the prime means of sending naughty jokes instantaneously around the world.

This week Twitter, the social media service famed for carrying the messages of pro-democracy dissidents in Iran, Egypt and other places, featured something a little difficult to conceive: live tweeting of the artificial insemination of a giant panda at the National Zoo.

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Health
2:51 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Study: Chemicals In Great-Grandma’s Life May Promote Disease In You

Dr. Michael Skinner. Courtesy Washington State University.

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 9:56 pm

The chance of a woman getting ovarian disease may be tied to the toxic chemicals her great-grandmother was exposed to. That’s according to a new study by researchers at Washington State University. The study could help explain the role of environmental factors in inherited diseases.

Here’s how it works. Picture your great-grandmother. Now let’s say, while pregnant with your future grandparent, she was exposed to some toxic chemical. Pesticides, phthalates -- that stuff in plastic -- or maybe jet fuel. Those are some of the things the researchers looked at.

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Zoos
1:52 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Wild pigs are in hog heaven at the Woodland Park Zoo

Visayan Warty Pigs
Woodland Park Zoo

Wild pigs are making their debut at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo this weekend. Domestic pigs have long been a fixture at the zoo's Family Farm, but this is the first time wild pigs have been on display.

Three critically endangered Visayan warty pigs are moving into Elephant Forest exhibit near the elephant pool.

Two warthogs are taking up residence in the 4.5 acre African Savanna exhibit, which also includes giraffe, hippos, gazelles, zebras and monkeys. 

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Science
1:32 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

WSU students build a robosub

The robosub on a test run at the Albrook Hydraulics lab
WSU

A group of computer science and electrical engineering seniors at Washington State University is building an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), otherwise known as a robosub.

The underwater robot will be entered this July in the 15th International RoboSub Competition. The contest, in San Diego, is co-sponsored by the AUVSI Foundation and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

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Diversions
11:11 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Look! Up in the sky! It’s Super Moon …

If the skies clear up Saturday night you could get a glimpse of the “super moon.”  Saturday’s full moon will appear the largest it has in more than a year. 

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NPR Science
4:39 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

'Zombie' Ants And The Fungus That Saves Them

A zombie ant with the brain-manipulating fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.) having been castrated by an hyperparasite fungus (white with yellow material).
David Hughes Penn State University

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:59 pm

As you can probably tell, at least one person on this blog's masthead likes ants.

So we've always been bummed that we haven't had the opportunity to tell you about zombie ants, but today we are glad to report there is a new development in the field. Luckily, it's a good-news report about a fungus that limits the fungus that turns ants into zombies.

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health politics
10:27 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Even without health law, some reforms will stay, predicts former Obama official

A controversial former Obama health-care administrator was in Seattle this week, speaking to 1,000 people about what can be learned from medical mistakes--saying patient safety should be an ethical imperative .

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immunizations
11:10 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Federal campaign reaches out to Northwest's vaccine-shy parents

File photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Originally published on Fri April 27, 2012 5:15 pm

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho - The federal government’s top health officers are making an appeal to the Northwest’s medical community to boost vaccination rates. The deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s immunization branch spoke at a public health conference in Coeur d’Alene Friday as part of the national campaign.

Last year, Washington and Oregon immunization rates were among the lowest in the nation. Idaho’s was average. That’s according to a CDC survey.

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food safety
6:08 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Lavender farmers want attention from foodies

Hidecote Pink Variety of culinary lavender.
Sequim Lavender Farmers Association

The area around Sequim on Washington's Olympic peninsula is known as one of the top lavender growing regions in the nation. Most of that lavender ends up as dried flowers or scented potpourri.

Nowadays, it’s also ending up in food. The growers are meeting today (April 30th) to discuss the safest ways to make those flower buds edible, using a certification process.

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space exploration
11:02 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Before attacking asteroids, they'll surround Earth with telescopes

This computer-generated image provided by Planetary Resources, a group of high-tech tycoons that wants to mine nearby asteroids, shows a conceptual rendering of satellites prospecting a water-rich, near-Earth asteroid.
The Associated Press

Whether they ever manage to get any platinum out of an asteroid, Bellevue-based Planetary Resources could become known for surrounding Earth with telescopes.  

That’s the first item in the “prospecting” stage of the space company’s effort to get precious metals from asteroids, using robotic space-craft.

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NPR Science
9:30 am
Sat April 21, 2012

Lights off, eyes open: New moon darkens skies for meteor shower

A composite of Lyrids over Huntsville, Ala., in 2009. This year, the meteor shower will hit its peak before dawn Sunday morning.
Danielle Moser/MSFC NASA

Originally published on Sat April 21, 2012 7:58 pm

Tonight is a good night for a meteor shower. The Lyrids aren't known for their flashy shows, but this year they're getting help from a new moon.

The dark skies will be "ideal for meteor watching from the ground," NASA says.

Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor for Sky and Telescope magazine, tells Weekend Edition host Scott Simon the best views are from the darkest places.

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earthquakes
10:25 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Prototype early warning system worked during Calif. quake

This GPS station near the summit of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Park could be part of a future earthquake detection and early warning system. Courtesy of Tim Melbourne, CWU

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 5:00 pm

A prototype earthquake early warning system worked as designed when an actual quake gently shook California last Friday. Researchers reported the results Tuesday at the annual meeting of American seismologists.

Last year, a private foundation in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey gave a multimillion dollar grant to create an automated earthquake warning system for the Pacific Coast states.

The idea is to provide advance notice to prepare people for severe shaking. It could come via a cell phone alert or a pop-up on your computer or TV screen.

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NPR science
8:32 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Can you think your way to that hole-in-one?

Bo Van Pelt celebrates his hole-in-one during the final round of the Masters on April 8. New research suggests that golfers may be able to improve their games by believing the hole they're aiming for is larger than it really is.
Andrew Redington Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 4:50 am

Psychologists at Purdue University have come up with an interesting twist on the old notion of the power of positive thinking. Call it the power of positive perception: They've shown that you may be able to improve your golf game by believing the hole you're aiming for is larger than it really is.

Jessica Witt, who studies how perception and performance are related, decided to look at golf — specifically, how the appearance of the hole changes depending on whether you're playing well or poorly.

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Shots - Health Blog
9:16 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Why Women Suffer More Migraines Than Men

A vintage ad for a headache remedy plays to women.
The National Library of Medicine

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 5:52 am

One in four women has had a migraine. And, it turns out, the debilitating headaches affect three times more women than men.

But why?

Decades ago, these headaches were attributed to women's inability to cope with stress, a sort of hysteria. Now experts are starting to figure out the factors that really make a difference.

Today scientists know a migraine is all in your head — but not in that old-fashioned sense. Migraines are biologically based, and they play themselves out as a wave of electrical activity traveling across the brain.

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