Science & Environment

The Salt
5:22 am
Thu January 2, 2014

How Mass-Produced Meat Turned Phosphorus Into Pollution

A dead carp floats in water near the shore at Big Creek State Park on Sept. 10 in Polk City, Iowa. Like many agricultural states, Iowa is working with the EPA to enforce clean-water regulations amid degradation from manure spills and farm-field runoff.
Charlie Neibergall AP

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 10:27 am

It's a quandary of food production: The same drive for efficiency that lowers the cost of eating also can damage our soil and water.

Take the case of one simple, essential chemical element: phosphorus.

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All Tech Considered
8:43 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

More Than 300 Sharks In Australia Are Now On Twitter

A shark warning is displayed near Gracetown, Western Australia, in November. An Australian man was killed by a shark near the area that month, sparking a catch-and-kill order.
Rebecca Le May EPA/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 10:35 am

Sharks in Western Australia are now tweeting out where they are — in a way.

Government researchers have tagged 338 sharks with acoustic transmitters that monitor where the animals are. When a tagged shark is about half a mile away from a beach, it triggers a computer alert, which tweets out a message on the Surf Life Saving Western Australia Twitter feed. The tweet notes the shark's size, breed and approximate location.

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Science
4:02 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Researchers Create New 'Memory' Metals That Could Improve Safety

Some metal alloys will "remember" a shape when you heat them to the same temperature they were originally shaped at. So a straight wire made from one of these "shape memory alloys" might change back into a spring when heated, or vice versa. But the alloys that exist today change shape at low temperatures. Materials scientists at Sandia National Laboratory have developed new alloys that don't change shape until they reach hundreds of degrees, opening the door to thousands of new applications.

Environment
4:02 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Archeologists Race Against Time In Warming Arctic Coasts

Archeologists who study the people who lived in the Arctic thousands of years ago are in a race against time. Coastal settlements are being washed away by erosion, storm surges and other climate changes related to global warming. Clues to the past that were frozen intact in permafrost for thousands of years are melting and being destroyed by the elements. Archeologists are looking to climate scientists to predict where the erosion will be the fastest so they can pinpoint their research on the places that will disappear the soonest.

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Shots - Health News
2:03 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Editing Your Life's Stories Can Create Happier Endings

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 11:49 am

It was a rainy night in October when my nephew Lewis passed the Frankenstein statue standing in front of a toy store. The 2 1/2-year-old boy didn't see the monster at first, and when he turned around, he was only inches from Frankenstein's green face, bloodshot eyes and stitched-up skin.

The 4-foot-tall monster terrified my nephew so much that he ran deep into the toy store. And on the way back out, he simply couldn't face the statue. He jumped into his mother's arms and had to bury his head in her shoulder.

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Animals
3:06 am
Wed January 1, 2014

RoboCop? How About RoboPenguin!

Two African penguins stretch their flippers at the Maryland Zoo.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

At the American Physical Society's fluid dynamics conference this winter, there was a healthy infusion of biology. In between talks on propellers and plane wings, there were presentations about flying snakes, fire ants, humpback whales and hummingbirds. Physicists from all over the world are turning to the natural world to help them solve engineering problems.

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The Salt
3:04 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Malawian Farmers Say Adapt To Climate Change Or Die

Villages in the Lower Shire valley of Malawi, like this one named Jasi, rely heavily on subsistence farming and steady rainfall, and are struggling to produce steady harvests.
Jennifer Ludden/NPR

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Rain is so important in Malawi's agriculture-based economy that there are names for different kinds of it, from the brief bursts of early fall to heavier downpours called mvula yodzalira, literally "planting rain." For generations, rainfall patterns here in the southeast part of Africa have been predictable, reliable. But not now.

In the village of Jasi, in the hot, flat valley of Malawi's Lower Shire, farmer Pensulo Melo says 2010 was a disaster.

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Media
3:04 am
Wed January 1, 2014

In Troubled Magazine World, 'La Hulotte' Is One Rare Bird

Pierre Deom has been writing and illustrating La Hulotte since 1972. He released his 100th issue (lower right) in November.
Francois Nascimbeni AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

The journalism world may be in crisis, but one magazine in France has been steadily gaining subscribers for 40 years. It's a nature journal called La Hulotte, and twice a year it focuses on an animal or plant indigenous to the French countryside. The magazine published its 100th issue in November. It has more than 150,000 subscribers in many countries and is doing terrific financially.

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Environment
3:03 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?

Even when a flood obliterates homes, as Superstorm Sandy did in 2012 in the Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., the urge to rebuild can be strong.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.

Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.

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Environment
5:00 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Florida's Mangroves Move North As Temperatures Rise

Originally published on Tue December 31, 2013 6:56 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The world's climate is warmer on average than it was a hundred years ago. Plants in some places are emerging earlier in the spring and insects that like warm weather are on the move. But scientists are finding out that the culprit isn't just warmth. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, it's also the absence of cold snaps.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: The idea that a warmer planet could mean avocados in Scotland or bananas in Montana may sound silly. But in fact, tropical plants are moving north. For instance, mangroves in Maryland.

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