Science

12:59pm

Thu August 23, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Ivan Dies At 50: A Gorilla Life, Remembered

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 2:11 pm

Ivan chews on his finger at Zoo Atlanta in 1996.
John Bazemore AP

I've written before in this space about how an animal obituary may help mark a life of significance. Here is my obituary for Ivan the gorilla.

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5:38am

Thu August 23, 2012
The Picture Show

Our Changing Forests: An 88-Year Time Lapse

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 12:35 pm

1909. Facing nearly due west from ridge northeast of Como Lake. Light selection cut in open ponderosa pine. Ground cover is comprised of perennial grasses and forbs, including basalmroot. A few low-growing bitterbrush plants can be seen in the vicinity of horses and in distance on left. A group of willows can be seen behind horsemen at left center.
Photo 87357 U.S. Forest Service

Intense forest fires have been raging across the western United States this summer. So far this year, nearly 43,000 wildfires have torched almost 7 million acres of land.

As NPR Science correspondent Christopher Joyce and photographer David Gilkey report from Arizona and New Mexico this week, the forests of the American Southwest have become so overgrown that they're essentially tinderboxes just waiting for a spark.

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3:23am

Thu August 23, 2012
Joe's Big Idea

Telescope Innovator Shines His Genius On New Fields

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 12:23 pm

Roger Angel, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, stands in front of his new project: a solar tracker. Angel wants to use the device to harness Arizona's abundant sunlight and turn it into usable energy.
Jason Millstein for NPR

You may not be familiar with the name Roger Angel, but if there were ever a scientist with a creative streak a mile wide, it would be he.

Angel is an astronomer. He's famous for developing an entirely new way of making really large, incredibly precise telescope mirrors. But his creativity doesn't stop there. He's now turned his attention to solar power, hoping to use the tricks he learned from capturing distant light from stars to do a more cost-efficient job of capturing light from the Sun.

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3:17am

Thu August 23, 2012
Megafires: The New Normal In The Southwest

How The Smokey Bear Effect Led To Raging Wildfires

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 7:50 pm

Adams (left) talks with Swetnam in their laboratory, nestled under the football stadium.
David Gilkey NPR

First of a five-part series

The history of fire in the American Southwest is buried in a catacomb of rooms under the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Arizona.

Here rules professor Thomas Swetnam, tree ring expert. You want to read a tree ring? You go to Tom. He's a big, burly guy with a beard and a true love for trees.

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5:51pm

Wed August 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Kids Of Older Fathers Likelier To Have Genetic Ailments

Originally published on Mon August 27, 2012 9:57 am

Older dads add more genetic mutations to the family tree.
iStockphoto.com

Scientists have found solid evidence that older men have more random mutations in their sperm cells. They're warning that can cause autism, schizophrenia and a long list of other genetic diseases in their offspring.

The new report, in the journal Nature, comes from deCODE Genetics, an Icelandic firm that studied the entire genomes of 78 families involving 219 individuals.

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5:24pm

Wed August 22, 2012
The Salt

There's Too Much Food Waste, But Here Are Five Things People Are Doing About It

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:58 am

Rotten jackfruit and tomatoes are sorted at a dump in New Delhi. India loses an estimated 40 percent of its produce harvest for lack of infrastructure. And Americans waste about 40 percent of our food.
Mustafa Quraishi AP

The food world is buzzing today about the latest news on just how often we waste perfectly good food. And we admit, the statistics are pretty depressing.

About 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia — up 50 percent from Americans in the 1970s. Yet, 1 in 6 Americans doesn't have enough to eat, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And food waste costs us about $165 billion a year and sucks up 25 percent of our freshwater supply.

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4:30pm

Wed August 22, 2012
Environment

Humans' Role In Antarctic Ice Melt Is Unclear

Originally published on Wed August 22, 2012 7:59 pm

The Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, shattered and separated from the continent 10 years ago. A NASA satellite captured the event in this image from Feb. 23, 2002. The 650 foot-thick, 1,250-square-mile ice shelf had existed since the last ice age.
AP

Ten years ago, a piece of ice the size of Rhode Island disintegrated and melted in the waters off Antarctica. Two other massive ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula had suffered similar fates a few years before. The events became poster children for the effects of global warming. But a new study finds that the story isn't quite so simple.

There's no question that unusually warm air triggered the final demise of these huge chunks of ice. But a lingering question is whether these events can be attributed to human-induced global warming.

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2:29pm

Wed August 22, 2012
Around the Nation

Drought Forces Ranchers Into Difficult Decisions

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Parts of the country have suffered from record heat and drought for several years in a row now, and this summer, it's been just brutal. In past programs, we talked with farmers about their crops. Today, we focus on difficult choices facing ranchers and dairy farmers.

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1:32pm

Wed August 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Could Antibiotics Be A Factor In Childhood Obesity?

Originally published on Thu August 23, 2012 2:34 pm

Childhood obesity is on the rise in many countries and overuse of antibiotics is now on the radar as a possible factor in the epidemic. Here 18-month-old twins are weighed in a nutritionist's office in Colombia.
Raul Arboleda AFP/Getty Images

There's growing evidence that the bacteria in our gut influence our health, including how much we weigh. So what happens when antibiotics knock out some of the microbes that help us?

A study, published online today in the journal Nature, finds that antibiotics make young mice fatter by changing the mix of their gut bacteria.

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10:33am

Wed August 22, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Sky Sighting: Is That A Thread Of Dark Matter I Spy?

A tenuous thread of dark matter is seen connecting the galaxy clusters Abell 222 and 223.
Courtesy Jörg Dietrich/Universitäts-Sternwarte München

When astronomers survey the universe, the landmarks are galaxies, those gigantic agglomerates of stars and interstellar gas spread across the immensity of space. A typical spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way, boasts hundreds of billions of stars grouped along hundreds of thousands of light-years. That means that it takes a beam of light all that time to go from one extreme of the galaxy to the other, traveling, as light does in a vacuum, at 186,282 miles per second.

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