Science

NPR tech news
10:03 am
Sat October 27, 2012

When A Robot Comes Knocking On The Door

Wall-E fell in love with another robot in the movie named after him. Researchers have yet to create a sentient machine, but a breakthrough could be on the horizon.
John M. Heller Getty Images

Originally published on Sat October 27, 2012 3:03 am

Peter Remine says he will know it's time to get serious about rights for robots "when a robot knocks on my door asking for some help."

Remine, founder of the Seattle-based American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots, says the moment will come when a robot in an automobile factory "will become sentient, realize that it doesn't want to do that unfulfilling and dangerous job anymore, and ask for protection under state workers' rights."

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npr science
7:06 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Hey, Sexy Dino, Show Me Your Feathers

This artistic interpretation shows an adult and juvenile feathered ornithomimid dinosaurs.
Julius Csotonyi Science

Originally published on Fri October 26, 2012 5:43 pm

Some of the weirdest animal behavior is about romance. That's especially true with birds — they croon or dance or display brilliant feathers to seduce the reluctant.

This sort of sexual display apparently has a long pedigree: There's now new evidence that some dinosaurs may have used the same come-on.

The source is a kind of dinosaur that was built like a 400-pound ostrich. It lived about 75 million years ago and is called ornithomimus, meaning "bird mimic."

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NPR Science
5:24 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

On Saturn, Cassini observes huge storm, causing incredible temperature spike

These red, orange and green clouds (false color) in Saturn's northern hemisphere indicate the tail end of the massive 2010-2011 storm. Even after visible signs of the storm started to fade, infrared measurements continued to reveal powerful effects at work in Saturn's stratosphere.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Originally published on Thu October 25, 2012 2:04 pm

"Frankenstorm" may be drawing the attention of meteorologists here on Earth.

But NASA scientists using the Cassini spacecraft have witnessed a rare massive storm on Saturn that was so violent it sent the temperature in the planet's stratosphere soaring to 150 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

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health care
12:20 pm
Thu October 25, 2012

Obamacare coming to life in state; eyebrows rise over funding

A new name, logo and slogan for Washington's version of the federal health law.

Far from the campaign trail, President Obama’s health-care law is chugging toward implementation in Washington state. A new agency is emerging, with a new name – and some questions about how to fund it.

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Diversions
1:53 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

How a Boeing worker invented computer graphics for movies

A screen grab from former-Seattleite Loren Carpenter's groundbreaking movie "Vol Libre."

In a blast from the past, the public radio show Bullseye dug up Seattle’s connection to the first video showing the genesis of computer-generated images or graphics in movies.

In 1980, Boeing employee and University of Washington graduate Loren Carpenter presented a two-minute computer generated movie call “Vol Libre” that almost immediately revolutionized moviemaking.

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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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