Science

10:44am

Thu February 13, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

A Prehistoric Family? Looking For Clues In The Mud

Area A of the Happisburgh archaeology site in Norfolk, Britain, where coastal erosion has revealed mudflats containing 800-thousand-year-old footprints.
Martin Bates/British Museum EPA/Landov

Imagine five people out walking together along a river. Three are adults, the other two of juvenile age. As they walk together, they leave footprints in the mudflats.

Eight-hundred-thousand years later, a team of 12 archaeologists led by Nick Ashton of the British Museum and University College London announced its discovery of those footprints.

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3:03am

Thu February 13, 2014
Science

Ancient DNA Ties Native Americans From Two Continents To Clovis

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 8:01 pm

Until recently, finding characteristic stone and bone tools was the only way to trace the fate of the Clovis people, whose culture appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago.
Sarah L. Anzick Nature

The mysterious Clovis culture, which appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago, appears to be the forerunner of Native Americans throughout the Americas, according to a study in Nature. Scientists have read the genetic sequence of a baby from a Clovis burial site in Montana to help fill out the story of the earliest Americans.

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4:29pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Environment

Risky Tech Fixes For Climate Becoming Likelier, Critic Warns

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 10:06 pm

Clive Hamilton's new book Earthmasters.
Courtesy of Yale University Press

Some strategists still see a small window of opportunity to address climate change before the effects become damaging and costly. At least one economist, for example, says we can make a lot of progress if at least half the world agrees to put a price tag on the carbon we dump into the atmosphere.

But some big thinkers also see a grim, potentially dangerous world ahead — one where nations, confronting a climate crisis, will instead reach for a risky technological fix.

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4:29pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Sports

Scientist Talks The Formulae For Olympic Success

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Olympic sports are marvels of power and beauty. They're also marvels of physics. Take ski jumping. Skiers launch themselves into flight at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. They fly through the air for the length of a football field or more and land usually gracefully. We asked physics professor John Eric Goff, at Lynchburg College, to explain the physical forces at work in ski jumping. He wrote the book "Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports."

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4:29pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Health

More Findings, More Questions About Value Of Mammograms

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

There's new evidence out today that's raising questions about whether women in their 40's and 50's should routinely undergo mammography to detect breast cancer. A new analysis of a big Canadian study found no evidence that regular mammograms save lives. The study even suggests that for many women, regular breast X-rays may do more harm than good.

NPR's Rob Stein joins us now to talk about this report. It appears in the British medical journal BMJ.

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1:50pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Animals

In The World's 'Sixth Extinction,' Are Humans The Asteroid?

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 10:25 am

Elizabeth Kolbert says the "taxicab yellow" Panamanian golden frog was nearly wiped out by a fungal disease. It's just one of the species affected by what scientists call the Sixth Extinction.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

The dinosaurs were killed during the Fifth Extinction — which scientists suspect was caused by an asteroid. Now, we are living through an epoch that many scientists describe as the Sixth Extinction, and this time, human activity is the culprit. As one scientist put it: We're the asteroid.

Elizabeth Kolbert is the author of the new book The Sixth Extinction. It begins with a history of the "big five" extinctions of the past, and goes on to explain how human behavior is creating a sixth one — including our use of fossil fuels and the effects of climate change.

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1:12pm

Wed February 12, 2014
The Two-Way

Scientists Say Their Giant Laser Has Produced Nuclear Fusion

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 9:00 pm

The National Ignition Facility's 192 laser beams focus onto a tiny target.
LLNL

Researchers at a laboratory in California say they've had a breakthrough in producing fusion reactions with a giant laser. The success comes after years of struggling to get the laser to work and is another step in the decades-long quest for fusion energy.

Omar Hurricane, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says that for the first time, they've produced significant amounts of fusion by zapping a target with their laser. "We've gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel," he says.

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12:16pm

Wed February 12, 2014
Krulwich Wonders...

Parents With Noisy Babies Shouldn't Read This. They'll Be Too Jealous

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 12:42 pm

Stacey Dunn University of Idaho

If only ... if only, instead of that noisy, bawling, crying little person, you could have produced an antelope baby — and oh, the quiet! The blissful, total silence. When pronghorn antelopes have babies, nobody hears anything for weeks and weeks — which is the whole point.

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10:34am

Wed February 12, 2014
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Modern Fears For Modern Times

Will people in a couple of generations be unable to distinguish between real and virtual reality? What would it even mean to be able to experience false realities that feel true? Welcome to the world of holographic pink flamingos!
Sven Hoppe AFP/Getty Images

What should we be worried about? Real Scenarios that keep scientists up at night. This is the title of the new book edited by the literary agent John Brockman, founder of the website Edge.org, a discussion forum that includes novelist Ian McEwan, musician Brian Eno, physicists Frank Wilczek and Freeman Dyson, as well as yours truly, 13.7's Tania Lombrozo, and a couple of hundred of other academics and intellectuals.

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3:38am

Wed February 12, 2014
The Salt

The Full-Fat Paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 11:52 am

A customer shops for milk at a Safeway in Livermore, Calif. Although it may seem counterintuitive, there's growing evidence that full-fat dairy is linked to reduced body weight.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

I have to admit, I melt at the creaminess of full-fat yogurt.

It's an indulgence that we're told to resist. And I try to abide. (Stealing a bite of my daughter's YoBaby doesn't count, does it?)

The reason we're told to limit dairy fat seems pretty straightforward. The extra calories packed into the fat are bad for our waistlines — that's the assumption.

But what if dairy fat isn't the dietary demon we've been led to believe it is? New research suggests we may want to look anew.

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