Science & Environment

Environment
5:06 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Report: Burning Natural Gas Is Better Than Using Coal

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 7:28 am

Methane is both a fuel and a potent greenhouse gas. A study in Science magazine suggests that about 50 percent more methane is leaking into the atmosphere than official estimates suggest. Even so, they conclude that it's better for the environment to switch electricity generation from coal power plants to those that burn methane.

The Two-Way
6:49 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Fossil Shows Triassic-Era Sea Creature Gave Birth On Land

Fossil of Chaohusaurus reveals a baby inside its mother (orange) and another stuck in her pelvis (yellow).
Ryosuke Motani UC-Davis

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 6:05 pm

An extraordinary find of a fossil of 250-million-year-old air-breathing sea creature shows that it must have given birth on land, not in the sea as long assumed.

The fossil is of a mother chaohusaurus, which is believed to be a genus of ichthyosaur, who died giving birth. It shows the baby birthing headfirst.

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Parallels
2:51 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

In Damp Country, Record-Breaking Rains Flood Britain

Priscilla Smithers and her four children have arranged chairs around a few air mattresses to create a space for themselves, after fleeing their home.
Ari Shapiro NPR

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 9:15 am

Parts of England have been underwater for more than six weeks now, since storms began pummeling the west of Great Britain around Christmas. While many of those areas are still submerged, the situation keeps getting worse.

Now the floodwaters are lapping near Windsor Castle, as the Thames overflows its banks. Thousands of people have fled their homes, with more evacuating every day.

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Science
2:37 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Robot Construction Workers Take Their Cues From Termites

Climbing robots, modeled after termites, can be programmed to work together to build tailor-made structures.
[Image courtesy of Eliza Grinnell, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 7:58 pm

Termites can build huge, elaborate mounds that rise up from the ground like insect skyscrapers; scientists have now created little robots that act like termites to build a made-to-order structure.

"Termites are the real masters of construction in the insect world," says Justin Werfel of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. "The largest termite mound on record was 42 feet tall."

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Krulwich Wonders...
1:03 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

'I Will Fight Gravity For You,' Said Superman To Lois Lane

Keone and Mari YouTube

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 2:41 pm

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The Two-Way
12:09 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

China's Moon Rover Wakes Up, But Isn't Out Of The Woods Yet

China's first lunar rover separates from the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15. This picture was taken from the screen of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
Li Xin Xinhua/Landov

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 3:56 pm

China's troubled Jade Rabbit rover has woken from its hibernation on the moon, sending a message back to its handlers. But its problems aren't over yet.

"Hi, anyone there?" was the post on Jade Rabbit's unofficial Weibo account on Thursday, which got thousands of responses from enthusiastic followers.

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Science
3:03 am
Thu February 13, 2014

Ancient DNA Ties Native Americans From Two Continents To Clovis

Until recently, finding characteristic stone and bone tools was the only way to trace the fate of the Clovis people, whose culture appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago.
Sarah L. Anzick Nature

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 8:01 pm

The mysterious Clovis culture, which appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago, appears to be the forerunner of Native Americans throughout the Americas, according to a study in Nature. Scientists have read the genetic sequence of a baby from a Clovis burial site in Montana to help fill out the story of the earliest Americans.

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Sports
4:00 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Scientist Talks The Formulae For Olympic Success

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Olympic sports are marvels of power and beauty. They're also marvels of physics. Take ski jumping. Skiers launch themselves into flight at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. They fly through the air for the length of a football field or more and land usually gracefully. We asked physics professor John Eric Goff, at Lynchburg College, to explain the physical forces at work in ski jumping. He wrote the book "Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports."

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Health
4:00 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

More Findings, More Questions About Value Of Mammograms

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

There's new evidence out today that's raising questions about whether women in their 40's and 50's should routinely undergo mammography to detect breast cancer. A new analysis of a big Canadian study found no evidence that regular mammograms save lives. The study even suggests that for many women, regular breast X-rays may do more harm than good.

NPR's Rob Stein joins us now to talk about this report. It appears in the British medical journal BMJ.

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Environment
4:00 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Risky Tech Fixes For Climate Becoming Likelier, Critic Warns

Clive Hamilton's new book Earthmasters.
Courtesy of Yale University Press

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 10:06 pm

Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. At least one economist, for example, says we can make a lot of progress if at least half the world agrees to put a price tag on the carbon we dump into the atmosphere.

But some big thinkers also see a grim, potentially dangerous world ahead — one where nations, confronting a climate crisis, will instead reach for a risky technological fix.

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