Science

4:27pm

Fri June 27, 2014
The Salt

Lone Passenger Pigeon Escapes Pie Pan, Lands In Smithsonian

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 6:33 pm

A male passenger pigeon, illustrated in a book of natural history printed in 1754.
Courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library

"Pigeon: It's what's for dinner."

That might sound strange to us, but it could have been uttered by our great-grandparents. Baked into pot pies, stewed, fried or salted, the passenger pigeon was a staple for many North Americans.

But by 1914, only one was left: Martha.

Named after Martha Washington, she lived a long life at the Cincinnati Zoo until 1914. The bird, now on exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, was a celebrity.

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4:20pm

Fri June 27, 2014
Science

If They Want To Make Anything, Proteins Must Know How To Fold

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 10:46 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Events unfold. Plots unfold. And this summer, NPR science correspondent Joe Palca has been telling us how science unfolds. It's series we're creatively calling Unfolding Science.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME SONG)

BLOCK: Today, Joe tells us about large biological molecules called proteins that have to fold and unfold properly to keep us alive.

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3:03pm

Fri June 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

When Heat Stroke Strikes, Cool First, Transport Later

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 5:38 pm

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo takes a water break during the 2014 World Cup soccer match between Portugal and the U.S. in Manaus, Brazil, on June 22.
Siphiwe Sibeko Reuters/Landov

The first-ever World Cup water break (taken during the game between Portugal and the United States this week) is a reminder that we all need to take extra precautions when playing in the heat.

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11:41am

Fri June 27, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

You Can't Escape Our Ever-Expanding Scope of Knowledge

The Star-Spangled Banner — the flag that inspired our National Anthem — on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
Hugh Talman Courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Does the word "at" occur in the "Star-Spangled Banner"? If you're like me, it won't take you long to answer. You sing the song through at faster-than-normal speed in a whisper, or in your head, until you hit the phrase: "at the twilight's last gleaming." (Hat tip: cognitive scientist Daniel Levitin gives this example in his book This is Your Brain on Music.)

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10:38am

Fri June 27, 2014
The Salt

Chemist With Visual Flair Answers Burning Food Science Questions

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 3:24 pm

Courtesy of Compound Interest

Chemistry teachers don't need to go the way of Breaking Bad's Walter White and make methamphetamine if they're looking for a compelling side gig.

Andy Brunning, a high school chemistry teacher in the U.K., makes beautiful infographics on everyday chemistry on his blog, Compound Interest. Thanks in part to the American Chemical Society, which has turned several of his posts into videos, his clever visuals have been going viral.

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3:21am

Fri June 27, 2014
The Salt

As Pig Virus Spreads, The Price Of Pork Continues To Rise

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 8:31 am

Michael Yezzi raises 1,000 pigs a year in Shushan, N.Y. He's worried about how to keep his farm safe from a disease that has no proven cure.
Abbie Fentress Swanson for NPR

If you're bringing home the bacon, you may have noticed a price tag inching upward.

Consumers are paying nearly 13 percent more for pork at the supermarket than they were this time last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A deadly pig disease is partially to blame.

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4:44pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Shots - Health News

A CRISPR Way To Fix Faulty Genes

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 7:47 am

The CRISPR enzyme (green and red) binds to a stretch of double-stranded DNA (purple and red), preparing to snip out the faulty part.
Illustration courtesy of Jennifer Doudna/UC Berkeley

Scientists from many areas of biology are flocking to a technique that allows them to work inside cells, making changes in specific genes far faster — and for far less money — than ever before.

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3:29pm

Thu June 26, 2014
The Salt

Did Neanderthals Eat Plants? The Proof May Be In The Poop

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:35 pm

A rendering of Neanderthals cooking and eating. The ancient humans inhabited Europe and western Asia between 230,000 and 29,000 years ago.
Mauricio Anton Science Source

Neanderthals clubbed their way to the top of an ancient food chain, slaying caribou and mammoths. But a peek inside their prehistoric poop reveals that the meat-loving early humans may have also enjoyed some salad on the side.

Researchers excavating a site in southern Spain where Neanderthals lived 50,000 years ago were initially looking for remnants of food in fireplaces. Then they stumbled upon tiny bits of poop — which turned out to be the oldest fecal matter from a human relation ever discovered.

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3:08pm

Thu June 26, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Outliving Our Pets: A Tribute To Pilar

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 4:52 pm

Pilar
Barbara J. King

Poppy, the world's oldest known cat, died earlier this month in England at the age of 24.

Near San Francisco, a homeless woman named Roza Katovitch and a cat named Miss Tuxedo met in a cemetery and bonded with each other, changing both of their lives for the better.

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2:03pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Science

A Shocking Fish Tale Surprises Evolutionary Biologists

Originally published on Sat July 12, 2014 12:39 pm

A 6-foot-long electric eel is basically a 6-inch fish attached to a 5-1/2-foot cattle prod, researchers say. The long tail is packed with special cells that pump electricity without shocking the fish.
Mark Newman Getty Images/Lonely Planet Image

The electric eel's powerful ability to deliver deadly shocks — up to 600 volts — makes it the most famous electric fish, but hundreds of other species produce weaker electric fields. Now, a new genetic study of electric fish has revealed the surprising way they got electrified.

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