You might take that sound for granted. I know I do. That's because most of us hear it all the time, at least in this country. Toilets are everywhere here in the U.S. But a lot of people around the world don't hear that sound every day, because two-and-a-half billion people, with the B, don't have a safe, sanitary place to go to the bathroom, according to the World Health Organization.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Flora Lichtman. We're in the midst of the worst drought in over 50 years. Water tables are dropping faster than they can be replenished, and at the same time an op-ed in the New York Times today says that the United States is estimated to lose about one in six gallons, one in six gallons of clean water every day due to leaky pipes in the ground.
In 1991, a man named Stephen Mobley robbed a Domino's pizza in Hall County, Ga., and shot the restaurant manager dead.
Crimes like this happen all the time, but this particular case became a national story, in part because Mobley seemed so proud of his crime. After the robbery, he bragged about the killing and had the Domino's logo tattooed on his back.
But there was another reason Mobley's case became famous.
A school of Blue Tang fish swimming together off the Caribbean island of Bonaire. It has long been assumed that the schooling behavior of fish evolved in part to protect animals from being attacked by predators.
By tricking live fish into attacking computer-generated "prey," scientists have learned that animals like birds and fish may indeed have evolved to swarm together to protect themselves from the threat of predators.
"Effectively, what we're doing here is we're getting predatory fish to play a video game," says Iain Couzin, who studies collective animal behavior at Princeton University. "And through playing that game, through seeing which virtual prey items they attack, we can get a very deep understanding of as to how behavioral interactions among prey affect their survival."
An oil sheen appears along the shore of the Kalamazoo. More than 800,000 gallons of oil entered Talmadge Creek and flowed into the Kalamazoo River, a Lake Michigan tributary. Heavy rains caused the river to overtop existing dams and carried oil 30 miles downstream.
Sometime in the next few months, David Daniel probably will have to stand by and watch as bulldozers knock down his thick forest and dig up the streams he loves.
His East Texas property is one of more than 1,000 in the path of a new pipeline, the southern stretch of what is known as the Keystone XL system.
For years, Daniel has tried to avoid this fate — or at least figure out what risks will come with it. But it has been difficult for him to get straight answers about the tar sands oil the pipeline will carry, and what happens when it spills.
The Discovery Channel's annual "Shark Week" is one of the longest running events on cable television. After 25 years on the air, the weeklong series of programming dedicated solely to sharks has become an American icon. Comedian Stephen Colbert has called it his second favorite time of year.
Legend has it that it all began as an idea scribbled down on a napkin during a brainstorming meeting.
Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 3:04 pm
Are any of these students texting?
Credit Lisa Klumpp / iStockphoto.com
Dear college students across the U.S.,
Like millions of my colleagues who teach at universities and colleges, I'm working hard this week to put an updated zing into the syllabus for each of my fall classes. Describing the course content and readings for Biological Anthropology and Primate Behavior is the fun, mind-engaging part.
Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 11:25 am
Shopper reaches for donut peaches at the Penn Quarter farmers' market in Washington, D.C.
Credit Maggie Starbard / NPR
If lately you've noticed the farmers' market flooded with signs that say "donut," "cling," "whiteflesh" and "freestone," you won't be surprised to learn that August is National Peach Month. Though the juicy fruits pack the produce aisles now, in a few short months a good peach might be hard to find.
Many fruits, though harvested in other parts of the world, are available in the United States all year long. So why are peaches so seasonal, and in the winter, either difficult to find or hard as a rock?
Let's look to the sky now. Scientists say they have found what could be the most massive cluster of galaxies ever seen. One of the galaxies is giving birth to new stars at an astonishing rate. Here's NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce.