Science & Environment

The Salt
4:40 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Chickens That Lay Organic Eggs Eat Imported Food, And It's Pricey

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 11:26 am

The other morning, I found myself staring at something strange and unfamiliar: empty grocery shelves with the word "eggs" above them. The store, a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., blamed, in another sign, the dearth on "increased demand for organic eggs."

This scene is unfolding in grocery stores across the country. But Whole Foods' sign wasn't telling the whole truth. Demand for organic eggs is indeed increasing, but production is also down.

The reason behind that shortfall highlights an increasingly acute problem in the organic industry.

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The Salt
3:12 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year

Nectarines are sorted at Eastern ProPak Farmers Cooperative in Glassboro, N.J.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 8:32 pm

The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad.

Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day.

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Space
2:36 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains Why The Cosmos Shouldn't Make You Feel Small

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a new TV series called Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey. It's an update of the influential 1980 PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Journey, hosted by Carl Sagan.
Patrick Eccelsine Fox

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 9:45 am

When it comes to "callings" we usually think of people who feel drawn to religious career paths. But if you ask Neil deGrasse Tyson how he became an astrophysicist he says: "I think the universe called me. I feel like I had no say in the matter."

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Food
5:04 am
Thu February 27, 2014

From Aztecs To Oscars: Popcorn's Beautiful, Explosive Journey

Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 3:06 pm

Popcorn is a truly ancient snack. Archaeologists have uncovered popcorn kernels that are 4,000 years old. They were so well-preserved, they could still pop.

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Politics
3:26 am
Thu February 27, 2014

FEMA Flood Insurance Law Faces Partial Repeal Over Premiums

Levees, like this one in New Orleans, must be certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before appearing on federal flood maps. This change has resulted in higher flood insurance premiums in some areas.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 10:38 am

The House is expected to vote as early as next week to partially repeal a 2012 law that overhauled the National Flood Insurance Program, which is tens of billions of dollars in debt.

The law was meant to make people living in flood-prone areas foot more of the insurance bill. But lawmakers didn't realize how many homeowners would be affected — or how hard they'd be hit.

You can find some of those homeowners in Bayou Gauche, about 30 miles west of New Orleans.

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Shots - Health News
7:56 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

More Hints That Dad's Age At Conception Helps Shape A Child's Brain

Boy meets girl, sperm meets egg — how much does the age of each matter?
James Steidl/Kyle Gruba iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 5:05 pm

Traditionally, research has focused on women's "biological clock." But in recent years, scientists have been looking more and more at how the father's age at conception might affect the baby, too.

A study published Wednesday hints that age really might matter — in terms of the child's mental health.

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The Two-Way
6:31 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Robot Swarm: A Flock Of Drones That Fly Autonomously

An image from a video by the COLLMOT Robotic Research Project shows a group of drones flying autonomously across a field.
COLLMOT Robotic Research Project

Can drones, the small unmanned aircraft that are at the forefront of fields from warfare to commercial delivery systems, fly without human intervention? A team of Hungarian researchers answers yes, having created 10 drones that self-organize as they move through the air.

The team based its creation on birds such as pigeons, which fly in tight bunches while making adjustments and decisions. They fitted quadcopters — drones with four rotors — with GPS, processors and radios that allow them to navigate in formation or while following a leader.

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The Far Reach Of The West's Drought
6:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

The Search For Drinking Water In California Has Led To The Ocean

Extreme drought conditions in California have state officials looking for alternative sources of water, including desalinated ocean water.
Richard Vogel AP

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

California is getting some much needed rain this week, but more than two-thirds of the state is still in extreme drought conditions, and that has the state thinking about alternative ways of getting water.

On the coast in Carlsbad, Calif., construction workers are building what will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. When finished in early 2016, it is expected to provide up to 50 million gallons of fresh drinkable water every day.

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News
4:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Feeling The Fiscal Squeeze, EPA Seeks To Slim Down

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Environmental Protection Agency has a lot on its plate, now add to that budget concerns. The agency is hoping to trim its staff. Like a number of other government agencies, the EPA is offering buyouts to employees.

As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it's all part of a shrinking federal workforce.

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Around the Nation
4:03 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Portable Potables: How To Fight Drought By Reusing Water

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 12:08 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Desalination is just one way of tackling the drought. Another technique to conserve water is quite simply to reuse it. David Sedlak is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California Berkeley. David, welcome to the program.

DAVID SEDLAK: Thank you for having me, Audie.

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