Science & Environment

Science
6:01 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

West Coast's Early Warning System For Quakes Still Spotty

Workers in Oakland, Calif., check the damage to Interstate 880 on Oct. 19, 1989; this portion of the freeway had collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake two days earlier.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 8:09 pm

Earthquake scientists on the West Coast would like to build a system that would give people a bit of warning before they get jolted with strong shaking from a distant quake.

Seismic waves take time to travel from the epicenter, which means such a warning system could issue alerts ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes. A prototype has been developed for the region, seismologists say, but the complete network still lacks funding, and has big gaps outside cities.

Meanwhile, Japan already has something like that up and running.

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Science
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Supercamera: More Pixels Than You Know What To Do With

Zachary Phillips sets up the gigapixel camera at a nature reserve in Virginia.
Morgan Walker NPR

When a small team of researchers recently wheeled a supercamera up to the edge of a bay at Mason Neck State Park in Northern Virginia, there was no need to point the camera at anything specific.

That's because this camera could see everything we could see, only better.

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Shots - Health News
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Experimental Tool Uses Light To Tweak The Living Brain

A technique called optogenetics is being used in the laboratory to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time.
Henning Dalhoff Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:09 am

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists "the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action."

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It's a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

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Science
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Are We Genetically Inclined To Be Materialistic?

People tend to hate to lose stuff they already own. This trait, known as the endowment effect, is likely handed down to us by evolution, since it is visible cross-culturally as well as in non-human primates. However, new research suggests certain cultures place a brake on this evolutionary trait, whereas capitalistic societies put it on steroids.

News
4:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding

The U.S. Capitol dome provides a view down the National Mall, an area vulnerable to flooding.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 7:13 pm

The nation's capital is not exactly a beach town. But the cherry-tree-lined Tidal Basin, fed by the Potomac River, laps at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And, especially since Superstorm Sandy, officials in Washington have a clear idea of what would happen in a worst-case storm scenario.

"The water would go across the World War II memorial, come up 17th Street," says Tony Vidal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "And there are actually three spots where the water would come up where we don't have ... a closure structure right now."

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The Salt
3:18 am
Thu December 26, 2013

More People Have More To Eat, But It's Not All Good News

The Brazilian agricultural sector exported for a value of $94,590 million in 2011. One of its largest exports is soybeans, like these in Cascavel, Parana.
Werner Rudhart DPA /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:03 am

Among the things to celebrate this holiday season is the fact that there are fewer hungry people in the world. Just how many? Well, since 1965, researchers in Europe have been tracking the world's food supply and where it's going.

The good news is: The percentage of the world's population getting what the researchers say is a sufficient diet has grown from 30 percent to 61 percent.

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Shots - Health News
1:03 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Diabetes Gene Common In Latinos Has Ancient Roots

The skull of a female Neanderthal, who lived about 50,000 years ago, is displayed at the Natural History Museum in London.
Rick Findler/Barcroft Media Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 11:02 am

When it comes to the rising prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, there are many factors to blame.

Diet and exercise sit somewhere at the top of the list. But the genes that some of us inherit from Mom and Dad also help determine whether we develop the disease, and how early it crops up.

Now an international team of scientists have identified mutations in a gene that suggests an explanation for why Latinos are almost twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as Caucasians and African-Americans.

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Krulwich Wonders...
8:03 am
Wed December 25, 2013

This Is Bo, Who's Putting New Beats In New Places. You Should Meet Him

boburnham YouTube

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:34 am

Every so often — and it isn't often, because while I'm always looking, always hoping, it's so rare to find — but this week it happened. A friend sent me an email that said, "You've got to check out this video."

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Number Of The Year
5:56 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Beyond Cuteness: Scientists Deliver A Panda Baby Boom

(Clockwise, from left) Yuanzai, Mei Huan, Happy Leopard, Mei Lun, Xing Bao and Bao Bao — six of the 49 pandas born in captivity in 2013.
(Clockwise, from left) Xinhua/Landov; Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta; Animal Press/Barcroft Media/Landov; Courtesy of Zoo Atlanta; EPA/Sergio Barrenechea/Landov; Abby Wood/UPI/Landov

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:02 pm

This year, Zoo Vienna welcomed Fu Bao, or "Happy Leopard." Madrid celebrated the birth of Xing Bao, or "Star Treasure." And in Washington, D.C., the arrival of Bao Bao, or "Precious Treasure," had panda fans glued to panda cams.

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Space
4:35 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Space Station Gets Fixed In Christmas Eve Space Walk

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 8:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Flying above the Earth today other Christmas Eve mission, surfing the globe of thousands of miles an hour, were two astronauts. In a spacewalk today, they replaced a pump that is crucial for normal operations aboard the International Space Station.

NPR's Joe Palca has more.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: The pump circulates ammonia coolant around the station in one of two independent cooling systems. Having two systems is essential for removing the heat generated by all the station's electrical equipment.

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