Tue July 3, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Why 'Prometheus' Went Flat

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 11:13 am

Logan Marshall-Green (left), Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender in Prometheus.
Kerry Brown 20th Century Fox

I like science fiction as much as the next guy. No, strike that. I like science fiction way more than the next guy. I especially like science fiction that combines big ideas, smart writing and exploding spaceships. So why did I find Prometheus — Ridley Scott's semi-prequel to Alien — so flat?

It wasn't for lack of big ideas. Prometheus had that in spades, with its conceit that humanity's origins lay in ancient (and very large) astronauts.

It wasn't for lack of exploding space-ships. Prometheus had lots of those too and a few exploding bodies.

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Tue July 3, 2012

When Ice Cream Attacks: The Mystery Of Brain Freeze

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 2:12 pm

NPR interns (from left) Angela Wong and Kevin Uhrmacher participate in an experiment to induce brain freeze.
Benjamin Morris NPR

If it hasn't happened to you, count yourself as lucky. For many people, eating ice cream or drinking an icy drink too fast can produce a really painful headache. It usually hits in the front of the brain, behind the forehead.

The technical name for this phenomenon is cold-stimulus headache, but people also refer to it as "ice cream headache" or "brain freeze."

The good news is that brain freeze is easy to prevent — just eat more slowly. The other bit of good news is these headaches don't last very long — a minute at the outside.

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Tue July 3, 2012

Fledgling NASA Nonprofit Starts To Liftoff

Originally published on Tue July 3, 2012 10:24 am

A new nonprofit organization that's supposed to take charge of expanding scientific research on the International Space Station has had a rocky first year but now is starting to show what it can do.

The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space just signed one agreement with a company not traditionally linked to research in space: the sporting goods company Cobra Puma Golf.

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Mon July 2, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

A Parasite Carried By Cats Could Increase Suicide Risk

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 4:31 am

What's the link between cats and madness?
Hans Martens

There's fresh evidence that cats can be a threat to your mental health.

To be fair, it's not kitties themselves that are the problem, but a parasite they carry called Toxoplasma gondii.

A study of more than 45,000 Danish women found that those infected with this feline parasite were 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than women who weren't infected.

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Mon July 2, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Mutative Entrepreneur

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 1:59 pm

Computer chips: the grandest digital mutation of them all
Sam Yeh AFP/Getty Images

Regular contributor Stuart Kauffman is joined this week by Richard Melmon, a managing partner at Bullpen Capital.

What is an economy? The word derives from the ancient Greek for household stewardship. The economy is the steward of our material lives. But who is this steward? And how does it decide the makeup of the pantry?

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Mon July 2, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Will Fermilab Announce Real Higgs Results Today?

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 10:59 am

So scientists at the Tevatron, the premier U.S. particle collider that was shut down last year, may be announcing their own results on the Higgs search today. Tommaso Dorigo, a physicist at CERN reports the status in his Quantum Diaries Survivor blog with a post called A Significant Higgs Signal From The Tevatron !

As Dorigo puts it

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Mon July 2, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Brace Yourself For Higgs Boson News

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 10:59 am

So the rumors are a flying about that boson thingie again. This week scientists will be holding a seminar (July 4 of all days) to update the community on the search for the Higgs Boson. The Higgs is last the piece (particle) of the grand edifice called the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

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Mon July 2, 2012

Is The Hunt For The 'God Particle' Finally Over?

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 9:17 am

This image, from a sensor at the particle accelerator at CERN, is an example of the data signature a Higgs particle might generate.

Before we get to the fireworks on the Fourth of July, we might see some pyrotechnics from a giant physics experiment near Geneva, Switzerland.

Scientists there are planning to gather that morning to hear the latest about the decades-long search for a subatomic particle that could help explain why objects in our universe actually weigh anything.

The buzz is that they're closing in on the elusive Higgs particle. That would be a major milestone in the quest to understand the most basic nature of the universe.

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Sun July 1, 2012

Ahead Of Alaska Drilling, Shell Practices Cleaning Up

Originally published on Mon July 2, 2012 1:02 pm

Trainees with Royal Dutch Shell learn to deploy oil spill booms in the waters near the port of Valdez in Alaska. The company is training about 200 spill responders.
Richard Harris NPR

Royal Dutch Shell could drill several exploratory oil wells into the waters off the north shore of Alaska this summer. The potential prize is huge, but so is the risk, should there be an oil spill in this pristine and remote region. And that risk is on everyone's mind since the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.

Shell is now training hundreds of workers to confront oil in icy waters. But for now, the training is taking place in the calm, ice-free waters far to the south, near the port of Valdez.

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Sat June 30, 2012

The Trickiness Of Tracking Severe Weather

Originally published on Sat June 30, 2012 5:56 pm

Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan talks with Heidi Cullen, chief climatologist at Climate Central, a non-profit science journalism organization in Princeton, New Jersey. They discuss wildfires and extreme heat in the Midwest this week and how these climate conditions are tracked by Earth-observing satellites.