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Science + Technology

Russians might be forgiven for thinking they have a big, fat celestial bull's-eye painted on their heads.

Federal Charges Filed In Ohio Dumping Case

Feb 15, 2013

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Youngstown, Ohio, the owner of an oil and natural gas drilling company has been charged with a violating the Federal Clean Water Act. He's accused of dumping tens of thousands of gallons of drilling waste water into a storm sewer that eventually runs into a local river.

From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze has more.

So, on the day when an asteroid the size of an office building buzzed the planet, there's this unsettling news:

When it comes to treating a lazy eye, there's evidence that turning the lights off may help — if you're a kitten.

A study in the latest issue of Current Biology reports that kittens with a type of visual impairment known as amblyopia, or lazy eye, were able to regain normal eyesight after being plunged into total darkness for 10 days.

When the X-ray was invented, people clamored to get one. Not for any medical reason, but just to see what was typically hidden inside their bodies.

Something like that seems to be happening with DNA sequencing technology. First it was companies offering to sequence people's genomes. Now it's learning all about your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living on and in your body.

U.S. companies that have their networks routinely penetrated and their trade secrets stolen cannot be surprised by a new National Intelligence Estimate on the cyber-espionage threat. The classified NIE, the first-ever focusing on cybersecurity, concludes that the U.S. is the target of a major espionage campaign, with China the leading culprit.

If you love to talk about the weather — or want to help collect information about it — a new smartphone app may be for you.

Every few million years or so, the Earth burps up a gargantuan volcano.

These aren't like volcanoes in our lifetimes; these "super volcanoes" can erupt continuously for thousands of years. While they might be rare, you'd best look out when one hits.

The ash and volcanic gases from these volcanoes can wipe out most living things over large parts of the planet. Michael Thorne, a seismologist at the University of Utah, has some clues about what causes these big eruptions.

Space exploration has stirred imaginations and piloted hopes and dreams, but the future of space travel looks very different from the age in which Neil Armstrong made it to the moon.

Since NASA is no longer doing manned missions, astronaut hopefuls have turned their sites on the private sector.

Private Adventurism

An asteroid the size of an office building will zoom close by Earth next week, but it's not on a collision course, NASA says.

Still, some people think this near-miss should serve as a wake-up call.

"It's a warning shot across our bow that we are flying around the solar system in a shooting gallery," says Ed Lu, a former astronaut and head of the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting humanity from asteroids.

The asteroid known as 2012 DA14 was first spotted last year by astronomers in Spain. It's thought to be about 150 feet across and made of rock.

Some 66 million years ago, about 75 percent of species on Earth disappeared. It wasn't just dinosaurs but most large mammals, fish, birds and plankton. Scientists have known this for a long time just from looking at the fossil record. If you dig deep enough, you find lots of dinosaur bones. And then a few layers up, they're gone.

But scientists couldn't figure out exactly what had caused this phenomenon. Of course, there were lots of theories.

In northeastern Minnesota, moose are dying at an alarming rate and state officials are having difficulty determining why.

And though hunters are not part of the problem, the state announced Wednesday that there will be no moose hunting season this coming fall.

What could go wrong?

"Researchers at the University of Tokyo have strapped a moth into a robotic exoskeleton, with the moth successfully controlling the robot to reach a specific location inside a wind tunnel," writes ExtremeTech.

Soup comes in many variations — chicken noodle, creamy tomato, potato and leek, to name a few. But through much of human history, soup was much simpler, requiring nothing more than boiling a haunch of meat or other chunk of food in water to create a warm, nourishing broth.

So who concocted that first bowl of soup?

Come on, this isn't serious, is it? There was an animal that looked like this?

It's a dinosaur — scaly, fuzzy, with an oversized zebra-striped head, leopard-spotted legs, tiger stripes on the tail and two unfoldable wings permanently erect and attached to its feet. Really?

You may have heard about 3-D printing, a technological phenomenon that uses a robotic arm to build objects one layer at a time. As people get imaginative and create items in a one-stop-shop fashion, one more creation has been added to the printing line: gun parts.

On the West Side of Manhattan, behind large glass windows, a dozen 3-D printers build plastic toys and jewelry. Hilary Brosnihan, a manager at 3DEA, an events company that sponsored a print pop-up store, says things are moving rapidly.

How One Company Reinvented The Hand Dryer

Feb 4, 2013

There's a lot of talk in politics about the desirability of American manufacturing and "green" jobs. President Obama talks about both often, especially wind turbines and long-lasting batteries that are made on U.S. soil.

Robert Siegel, host of All Things Considered, recently visited a Massachusetts factory that makes a product that hits those same parameters. It's arguably a force for sustainability, nearly 40 Americans assemble it, and it's an interesting case study in innovation: the high-speed hand dryer.

'We Had A Product People Hated To Use'

Remains found under what's now a parking lot in the English city of Leicester have been confirmed to be those of King Richard III, researchers at the University of Leicester announced Monday.

Refrigerators, foam buoys and even ketchup bottles are piling up on Alaska's beaches. Almost two years after the devastating Japanese tsunami, its debris and rubbish are fouling the coastlines of many states — especially in Alaska.

At the state's Montague Island beach, the nearly 80 miles of rugged wilderness looks pristine from a helicopter a few thousand feet up. But when you descend, globs of foam come into view.

Google Street View Takes A Hike. So?

Feb 1, 2013

A few months back, Google released a few of its engineers into the wild with a camera called the Google Trekker.

The human neck is a delicate stem. Torque it a bit too much, and the carotid and vertebral arteries can rip, causing deadly strokes. People have torn their neck arteries riding roller coasters, doing yoga, going to the chiropractor, being rear-ended in the car – even leaning back for a beauty-parlor shampoo.

It's a lake, yes. But it's also a bomb. Those pale blue blobs, stacked like floating pancakes down at the bottom of this photograph? They're astonishingly beautiful, yes, but they can be dangerous.

Big Science Paves The Way Forward

Jan 31, 2013

Arguments are often heard against big (read: expensive) scientific projects, especially those without an immediate pay off. "Why spend so much money building this machine or spacecraft, when there are so many pressing social issues we must deal with?"

It's no secret that Research In Motion is in trouble. The tablet device it released in 2011 did so poorly the company took a $485 million hit. Android phones and Apple's iPhone have left the company in the technology graveyard.

While few outside the film and radio industries may recognize the name Stefan Kudelski, his Nagra recorder — meaning "will record" in Kudelski's native Polish — transformed the world of sound recording for radio, television and film.

Kudelski, inventor of the first portable professional sound recorder, died Saturday in Switzerland at the age of 84, according to a statement from the Kudelski Group.

The battle between cat lovers and bird lovers has been going on for a long time. Cats and birds just don't mix. But trying to get a handle on how many birds and other animals are being killed by cats isn't easy. Just figuring out how many cats there are is tough enough.

Microbes are known to be able to thrive in extreme environments, from inside fiery volcanoes to down on the bottom of the ocean. Now scientists have found a surprising number of them living in storm clouds tens of thousands of feet above the Earth. And those airborne microbes could play a role in global climate.

In 2007, Christoph Bartneck, a robotics professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, decided to stage an experiment loosely based on the famous (and infamous) Milgram obedience study.

If you thought 140 characters of text was too short, try grabbing your Twitter followers' attention with six-second videos. Six seconds.

Twitter on Thursday launched the video app Vine, which allows users to shoot brief videos and directly tweet them. The social media company acquired the video-sharing startup last fall, according to All Things D.

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