Science & Environment

Krulwich Wonders...
12:03 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

What Would Ben Franklin Do With A Bunch Of Balloons? Everything

Robert Krulwich and Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 5:40 pm

Ask a great inventor to invent, and that's exactly what he'll do. Sometimes the ideas pop out like cannon bursts: "consider this ... " or "maybe this?" or "Wait! How about THIS!"

Ben Franklin did that with balloons.

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The Salt
10:00 am
Wed May 22, 2013

How Genomics Solved The Mystery Of Ireland's Great Famine

This illustration from 1846 shows a starving boy and girl raking the ground for potatoes during the Irish Potato Famine, which began in the 1840s.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 10:52 am

An international group of plant pathologists has solved a historical mystery behind Ireland's Great Famine.

Sure, scientists have known for a while that a funguslike organism called Phytophthora infestans was responsible for the potato blight that plagued Ireland starting in the 1840s. But there are many different strains of the pathogen that cause the disease, and scientists have finally discovered the one that triggered the Great Famine.

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Research News
3:03 am
Wed May 22, 2013

Quantum Or Not, New Supercomputer Is Certainly Something Else

Google and NASA are betting that quantum forces are at work inside D-Wave's 512-bit chip.
Courtesy of D-Wave

Originally published on Wed May 22, 2013 11:33 am

It's exactly the sort of futuristic thinking you'd expect from Google and NASA: Late last week, the organizations announced a partnership to build a Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center.

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The Two-Way
5:43 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Storm Chasers Seek Thrills, But Also Chance To Warn Others

A tornado moves past homes in Moore, Okla. on Monday.
Alonzo Adams AP

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 6:33 pm

When disaster strikes, our natural instinct is to take cover and seek shelter. But in severe weather, especially the type that breeds tornadoes like we saw in Oklahoma and parts of the Midwest this week, there are those who ride toward the storm.

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The Salt
5:18 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

African Cities Test The Limits Of Living With Livestock

Sheep graze in the street last year in Cairo.
Gianluigi Guercia AFP/Getty Images

Raising chickens has become so fashionable among some urban Americans that there's now a market for chicken diapers, as we reported this month.

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The Salt
3:35 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

Vertical 'Pinkhouses:' The Future Of Urban Farming?

This "pinkhouse" at Caliber Biotherapeutics in Bryan, Texas, grows 2.2 million plants under the glow of blue and red LEDs.
Courtesy of Caliber Therapeutics

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 5:58 pm

The idea of vertical farming is all the rage right now. Architects and engineers have come up with spectacular concepts for lofty buildings that could function as urban food centers of the future.

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The Picture Show
12:55 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

'Nanogardens' Sprout Up On The Surface Of A Penny

Nanoflowers, each smaller than the thickness of a dollar bill, sprout up spontaneously on a surface dipped in salts and silicon.
Courtesy of Wim Noorduin/Harvard University

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 5:36 pm

April showers bring May flowers. But in this case, the blossoms are too small for even a bumblebee to see.

Engineers at Harvard University have figured out a way to make microscopic sculptures of roses, tulips and violets, each smaller than a strand of hair.

To get a sense of just how small these flower sculptures are, grab a penny and flip it on its back. Right in the middle of the Lincoln Memorial, you'll see a faint impression of Abraham Lincoln. These roses would make a perfect corsage for the president's jacket lapel.

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The Two-Way
6:39 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Measuring The Power Of Deadly Tornadoes

John Warner surveys the damage near a friend's mobile home in the Steelman Estates Mobile Home Park, destroyed in Sunday's tornado, near Shawnee, Okla., on Monday.
Sue Ogrocki AP

Originally published on Tue May 21, 2013 4:59 am

Damaging tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma on Sunday and Monday, causing widespread damage that is still being assessed, and additional severe weather is expected.

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Krulwich Wonders...
2:04 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

The Little Metronome That Wouldn't

The Salt
11:01 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Can A Piece of Hair Reveal How Much Coke Or Pepsi You Drink?

Carbon isotope analysis: a scientific way to know just how much soda kids are drinking behind parents' backs?
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 12:00 pm

One way to know how much soda people drink is to ask them.

The problem? We tend to underestimate, lie or forget what we've consumed.

And this is a challenge for researchers who study the links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity.

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