Science & Environment

Energy
12:03 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Aiming For 'Wild and Crazy' Energy Ideas

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 10:13 am

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. Back in 2007, Congress funded, and the president signed into law, a new kind of research organization, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E. You had heard of DARPA? This was ARPA-E. And its mission is to back energy technologies that are too risky for investors but offer a potentially huge payoff if they work.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:18 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Artist Plays Detective: Can I Reconstruct A Face From A Piece Of Hair?

Vimeo

Her techniques aren't super-sophisticated. She's not a leader in the field. She's more or less an amateur. This is what you can do with ordinary genetic engineering tools right now. Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg can find a cigarette lying on the sidewalk on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, and working from traces of saliva, by pulling DNA out of those saliva cells and using a bunch of simple algorithms available online, she can make some very educated guesses about what the smoker might look like.

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Environment
4:33 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Put Down Oil Drill, Pick Up The Test Tube: Making Fuel From Yeast

Jay Keasling (left), speaking with Rajit Sapar at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, is pioneering a technique to develop diesel fuel from yeast.
Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:41 pm

What if we could get our gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from yeast instead of from oil wells? That's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it's already happening on a small scale. And there's a vigorous research effort to ramp this up on a massive scale.

One of the more innovative approaches uses a new technology called "synthetic biology." Jay Keasling is one of the leaders in this hot field.

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Science
4:33 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Tips For Surviving A Mega-Disaster

Patong beach in Phuket, Thailand, was destroyed by the tsunami on Dec. 25, 2004. More than 230,000 people died.
Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:39 am

The U.S. is ready for tornadoes, but not tsunamis.

That's the conclusion of a panel of scientists who spoke this week on "mega-disasters" at the American Geophysical Union's science policy meeting in Washington, D.C.

The nation has done a good job preparing for natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, which occur frequently but usually produce limited damage and relatively few casualties, the panelists said. But government officials are just beginning to develop plans for events like a major tsunami or a large asteroid hurtling toward a populated area.

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Planet Money
4:33 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Economists Have A One-Page Solution To Climate Change

CX Matiash AP

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 10:45 am

Climate change seems like this complicated problem with a million pieces. But Henry Jacoby, an economist at MIT's business school, says there's really just one thing you need to do to solve the problem: Tax carbon emissions.

"If you let the economists write the legislation," Jacoby says, "it could be quite simple." He says he could fit the whole bill on one page.

Basically, Jacoby would tax fossil fuels in proportion to the amount of carbon they release. That would make coal, oil and natural gas more expensive. That's it; that's the whole plan.

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Education
2:42 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

UNC Charlotte Students Make Progress On Solar House

A view of the solar house at UNC Charlotte.
Tasnim Shamma

UNC Charlotte's Solar Decathlon Team says it's about half-way through completing the construction of its solar house. They were recently nominated from teams all over the world to compete in a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.  

The UNC Charlotte team is calling their $300,000 solar house, UrbanEden. It's been four months in the making and you can see the walls now and imagine what it will look like when it's finished.   

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Shots - Health News
12:53 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

A Look At The Nastiest And Cleanest U.S. Beaches

Lazy day summer beach goers relax on the sands of Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.
Ted Van Pelt Flickr

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 4:54 pm

From California to the Great Lakes, persistent water pollution shows that no beach is an island when it comes to public health threats like hepatitis, dysentery and stomach flu.

The Natural Resources Defense Council released its annual beach report card Wednesday detailing the levels of bacteria hanging around beaches across the nation.

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Krulwich Wonders...
10:56 am
Thu June 27, 2013

7 Billion People And Trillions Of Creatures To Be Photographed Together On July 19

NASA

Originally published on Tue July 16, 2013 11:40 am

It's going to be a very small picture, but we're all going to be in it. All trillions of us on Earth.

It's not our first group portrait, but Carolyn Porco, the woman in charge, says it's going to be gasp-worthy. She should know. She helped shoot some of the early ones.

What am I talking about?

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Environment
2:53 am
Thu June 27, 2013

This Climate Fix Might Be Decades Ahead Of Its Time

Global Thermostat's pilot plant in Menlo Park, Calif., pulls carbon dioxide from the surrounding air. The next challenge is to find uses for the captured gas.
Courtesy of Global Thermostat

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 3:35 pm

Every year, people add 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the air, mostly by burning fossil fuels. That's contributing to climate change. A few scientists have been dreaming about ways to pull some of that CO2 out of the air, but face stiff skepticism and major hurdles. This is the story of one scientist who's pressing ahead.

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Humans
5:12 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Pitch-Perfect: Why Our Shoulders Are Key To Throwing

Harry Kaplan practices pitching during Home Run Baseball Camp at Friendship Recreation Center in June. Kaplan's arm is stretched long and toward the ground as his hips are faced away from the catcher. A chimp, in contrast, could never throw a fastball.
Heather Rousseau NPR

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 5:01 pm

The ability to throw a baseball or any object with speed and precision is unique to us humans. And that ability depends on certain features of our anatomy that arose in our ancestors over 2 million years ago, according to a study published in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

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