Science & Technology

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Jani Radebaugh will discuss the wonders of Saturn's moon Titan as part of Astronomy Days at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
Courtesy of Jani Radebaugh

On Jupiter’s moon Io, lava sweeps across the surface and shoots in a giant arc hundreds of miles into space. Saturn’s moon Titan, meanwhile, has lakes made of liquid methane and is decorated with mountains, lakes, rivers, and cryovolcanoes. For geologist Jani Radebaugh, the marvels of these distant moons never cease to amaze. 

A picture of a spitting spider
Matt Bertone

Hosting family and friends for the holidays often means a lot of mopping, sweeping and scrubbing. However, biologist Rob Dunn says people need to use moderation in their cleaning. Pesticides and antimicrobials kill off many beneficial species that live indoors and eliminate competition for resistant species like German cockroaches, bedbugs and MRSA bacteria.

A young lemur coyly looking out from behind a tree branch at the Duke Lemur Center.
Courtesy of Duke Lemur Center

Lemurs sit near the base of the primate evolutionary tree. As distant cousins to homosapiens, their behavior, health and evolution may have significant implications for humans. At the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, researchers are actively studying how the curious hibernation pattern of the fat-tailed dwarf lemur may have applications for coma patients and could also help humans better prepare for deep space travel. 

Photo of climate activists stop in front of the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference venue during the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018.
Alik Keplicz / AP Photo

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland is not going well for the Trump administration. Officials’ speeches have been met with laughter, hecklers, and people walking out of the room. Some protestors are calling the administration's push for clean coal “climate suicide.” The annual meeting, known informally as Cop24, is geared toward ending global warming, and this year attendees are focused on how to implement the Paris Agreement. 

Photo of Phaedra Boinodiris
Courtesy of Phaedra Boinodiris

Phaedra Boinodiris grew up in a family of technologists. As a kid, she and her sister tore down and rebuilt computers for fun and even designed their own games. But as they got older, they discovered the gaming world was not an inviting space for women, so they founded womengamers.com to fill that void. It grew quickly to become a well-known platform for women to review and discuss computer games.

Duke researchers used used a commercially available instrument called the Polarstar Optima from BMG Labtech for vapor odor detection.
Courtesy of Hiro Matsunami

Researchers at Duke University have created a machine that can smell target odors, such as drugs or explosives.

Hiro Matsunami is a molecular genetics and microbiology professor at Duke. He conceded that the drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs are pretty good at their jobs, but there are downsides.

"Training dogs is pretty expensive and time consuming, and the dogs are not always motivated and available in many places," he said.

Photo of social media apps on a phone screen
Public Domain

Note: This segment is a rebroadcast from September 5, 2018. 

photo of a student with a petri dish
courtesy of Paul Dawson

The mere mention of the five second rule conjures up images of all the kernels of popcorn, slices of pizza, and peanut M&Ms that hit the floor without warning. And then there is the mental debate that followed: Is it safe to eat? How dirty is this floor? Is there any hair on it? But it’s the last slice!

Christine Darden in 1975
NASA / NASA

The book and film “Hidden Figures” tells the story of African-American women at NASA in the 1960s who worked as human computers and helped to open outer space to astronauts. And North Carolina has its own “hidden figure” to claim: Christine Darden.

Motherboard

The new film “The Most Unknown” from Motherboard is both documentary and experiment. It takes viewers on a stunning visual journey into surprising corners of the world and follows along as nine scientists meet for the first time.

Credit: NASA

Asheville may be tucked away in the mountains, but it is quickly building a reputation as “climate city,” a home for researchers, scientific entrepreneurs and nonprofit and governmental organizations working to address climate change.

Tuesday morning projections showed Hurricane Florence hitting the North Carolina coast and causing a severe storm surge in several areas.
Coastal Emergency Risk Assessment / ADCIRC storm surge and wave guidance

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the Carolina coast, experts are warning of its potentially disastrous effects.

Courtesy Sönke Johnsen

Sönke Johnsen was always driven by art. As a youth he captured documentary photos on the streets of Pittsburgh and developed them in a homemade dark room. Later he practiced and taught modern dance. But Johnsen's pursuit of artistic awe led him on a surprising path toward biology. Today, as a professor of biology at Duke University, he plunges thousands of feet under the sea, discovering mysterious marine animals that hide in plain sight. He has won multiple awards for his scientific writing, teaching, and mentorship.

Mitch Prinstein / Penguin Random House/2017

Popularity is often a concern for teenagers, but research shows it also influences life outside the high school cafeteria. Children as young as four years old can identify their most popular peer, and one’s popularity growing up can even predict his or her lifespan.

In the book “Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World” (Penguin Random House/2017), Mitch Prinstein teases apart the distinction between two different types of popularity: likability and status. 

Courtesy of Kurt Gray

The Book of Genesis says that man was created in God’s image. But a new study finds human beings may be returning the favor.

When artist Matthew Reinhart gets an idea for a children’s book, he scribbles a note to himself about what he wants the illustrations to do. Things like, “T-Rex head bites reader.”

“That's it,” Reinhart says. “I don't know how it's going to happen with all the engineering. I just know that’s what I want to happen.”

picture of Katie Mack staring up immersed in stars
courtesy of Katie Mack

Many kids take things apart to figure out how they work. They stare up at the stars and wonder how the universe functions. As a young child, Katie Mack did that too. But she eventually took that curiosity to the next level, and her childhood fascination led to a career in astrophysics.

Jean Leon Gerome / Public Domain

Blackbeard’s stolen vessel, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, ran aground off the North Carolina coastline three hundred years ago this summer.

Robot from French technology summit
École polytechnique - J.Barande / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/UBfMcH

Despite the enduring narrative in pop culture of an impending apocalyptic robot-takeover, humans decided a while back to keep moving forward with plans to imbue intelligence into machines. 

Fred Nijhout poses with crossed arms in front of abstract
Megan Mendenhall / Duke Photography

Frederik Nijhout grew up in post-World War II Holland, and his childhood was full of stories from the war, including his father's imprisonment by the Germans and his daring escape with forged travel documents. As a child, he moved to Guatemala and later to Curaçao where he was captivated by the diverse and colorful nature.

Courtesy of Lindsay Zanno

A group of scientists led by a North Carolina paleontologist have uncovered a rare trove of dinosaur eggs from a species that does not even have a name yet. The dinosaur belonged to the oviraptorosaur group: bird-like dinosaurs that looked a little like parrots or chickens and walked on two legs.

Chris Gunn / NASA/GFSC

The number of women in STEM is growing, but large barriers remain. A new study shows that experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace have a long-term, negative impact on women faculty in sciences, engineering and medicine and diminish both their scientific productivity and opportunities for advancement.

Misumena Vatia, or Crab spiders, are able to change color to blend in with their surroundings.
Sean McCann / University of Chicago Press

Despite being an entomologist, Eleanor Spicer Rice was not a likely candidate to write a book about spiders. She is terrified of the creatures. Or at least she was until she partnered up with acclaimed arachnologist Chris Buddle of McGill University.

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<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/7163119505/in/album-72157623343484405/">NASA/Kathryn Hansen</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>&nbsp;(image cropped)

It’s 2017. What does a scientist look like?

If the first image that popped into your head was an older man with frizzy hair and a white lab coat, surrounded by bubbling test tubes, you’re not wrong — the Einsteinlike “mad scientist” is still a prevailing image in popular culture.

Book creates buzz about native bees of North America

Apr 19, 2018

When it comes to bees, honeybees get all the attention. But as a new book will tell you, honeybees are just one fraction of the many types of bees buzzing outside the collective consciousness of most Americans.

Researchers explore the fascinating biomechanics and neuroscience of bats

Apr 13, 2018

They are associated with dark caves, bloodthirsty vampires and one of the most famous superheroes of all time. But for all we know about bats, a lot is unknown to the general public — from how they fly and land to how they find objects in front of them.

book cover for 'chasing space.' leland melvin poses for an official portrait in astronaut's gear, but with two big dogs licking his face.
Harper Collins

Leland Melvin’s path to a career at NASA is unconventional to say the least. As a teenager he got a scholarship to play football at the University of Richmond and later signed as a wide receiver to the Detroit Lions. He never played during the regular season  due to an injury, but he did not lose energy to pursue his passions.

Study examines how diseases really spread during air travel

Apr 11, 2018

We’ve all heard it before: With tight quarters and recirculated air, commercial airplane passengers are just asking to catch a cold or some other spreadable disease — especially if another passenger is coughing in close proximity.

Researchers still struggle to get funding to study gun violence

Apr 11, 2018

The debate on gun control has been going for years, but those who support tougher restrictions seem to have never been so organized as they have been after 17 students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, were gunned down Feb. 14 by a former classmate.

The most obvious signs of this, of course, were the March for Our Lives rallies that took place in Washington, DC and other cities around the country March 24. Participants demanded that elected officials take steps such as banning assault weapons, eliminating background check loopholes and other actions.

Gabriel Ugueto largely cultivated his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs by going to the movies as a kid. He cannot name his favorite one.

"There's nothing that looks like them today and they are so impressive. They dominated life on Earth for so long. They were so well adapted to the environment,” he says.

"I think I'm a little bit partial to theropods, which is this group of dinosaurs that are carnivorous like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, but honestly it's very difficult. I love them all."

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