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A baboon and Tung look at each other.
Susan Alberts

When the MacArthur Foundation notified Jenny Tung that she is a 2019 “genius grant” recipient, she was honored and humbled. The new mom has spent much of her career studying primates and how their early life impacts their overall health, life expectancy and even affects their offspring.

Hinman setting up the bee hive.
Courtesy of Alice Hinman.

Last year, Alice Hinman knew there was something wrong with her bee hives. And her honeybee colonies were not the only ones struggling to survive — across the country, colony collapse disorder was wreaking havoc on commercial honey production and agriculture that depends on pollinators.

Drone in flight
Don McCullough / Flickr Creative Commons

The Research Triangle has been chosen to host test sites where researchers will develop drone technology in rural and suburban settings.

Erik Chapman, town of Cary's Information Technology security manager
Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Server rooms are boring. Stacks of computers with blinking lights. Cords in red, yellow, black and blue held together with zip ties. They're chilly from the extra air conditioning that keeps them cool.

In Cary's town hall, the server room is deep inside a building under constant lock. Town Information Technology Security Manager Erik Chapman had to swipe his badge and enter a number code to get in. The whirring sound of dozens of computers running at the same time rushed out of the door as it opened.

Mary Ellis Stevens

Ninth-grader Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish legislature in 2018 and declared her commitment to strike each Friday to demand that her government undertake a radical response to climate change. At that moment she became the face and voice of a generation of youth anxious and motivated to do something about climate change.

Matt Bertone

The work of dung beetles is not sexy, but it has a monumental impact on our ecosystem. They break down feces, recycle nutrients and help control the spread of disease.

Christina Koch is in between two astronauts in space suits.
NASA

A North Carolinian is slated to set a new record on the International Space Station.

Courtesy of Kamal Bell

Sankofa Farms was originally supposed to be a school garden in which middle school students could get away from the pressures of the classroom and get their hands dirty in the soil. After the proposal was rejected by the school’s principal, middle-school science teacher Kamal Bell made a much bigger investment in the idea.

A bus, a car, and four lime green scooters at an intersection in downtown Durham.
Elizabeth Friend / WUNC

Electric scooters are touted by companies as a greener way to get around, but new research from North Carolina State University suggests they have a larger carbon footprint than many users might realize.

The Problems Plaguing Election Polls

Aug 2, 2019
Diagram of a pet-related ethical dilemma.
Photo used with permission of Azim Sharif / MIT Media Lab

A self-driving car hurtles toward an individual and their dog. The car’s brake-lines are cut and the machine must decide — kill the person or the pet. What would you do? What if the dog were yours and the person were a stranger?

Book cover of "What The Dog Knows."
Courtesy of Cat Warren

Humans have associated dogs with death for millennia. Ancient Persians believed a dog’s stare drove the demon Nasu out of a corpse. Some Mayan traditions say a black dog carries the newly deceased to the land of the dead.

Fort Bragg provides an ideal environment for the St. Francis Satry, a critically endangered species of butterfly.
Courtesy of Nick Haddad

Of all federal agencies, the Department of Defense manages the highest density of threatened and endangered species, more than even the National Park Service. The special relationship between the Pentagon and environmentalist organizations originates at Fort Bragg.

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.

A photo showing a bird's eye view of the student dig
Charles Ewen/ECU

Brunswick Town was once a thriving British port before the Revolutionary War. It was one of the first successful European settlements in the Cape Fear region until the British burned it down in 1776. Archeologists have been exploring the ruins for decades with the help of a map created in 1769, but recent findings are raising new questions about the town’s history.

UNCG Chemistry

Nadja Cech grew up in a hippy community in Oregon, spending her days building fairy houses in the woods and drawing and collecting plants. So after she became a scientist— and an associate professor of chemistry at just 23 years old — it made sense to her to look to nature for some of our most pressing medical needs. 

Courtesy John McCord / Coastal Studies Institute, East Carolina University

Sand tiger sharks don’t look like the friendliest bunch. They’ve got “big gnarly teeth and really thick, stout bodies,” as Hap Fatzinger of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher describes. But despite their menacing look, the sand tiger shark is a docile, migratory species, and they often share the waters off the North Carolina coast with scuba divers.

Agatha Christie: From Pharmacist's Apprentice to Poison Expert

Apr 19, 2019

The following is an excerpt from A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup. Listen to SciFri on September 24, 2015 to hear Harkup talk more about the influence of Agatha Christie and her novels.

A photo of a black hole.
Event Horizon Telescope / Creative Commons http://bit.ly/2V1EgIv

The rallying cry of fake news has seeped into the world of science. Some politicians and pundits — like Donald Trump — call climate change a hoax, and a number of individuals loudly oppose the evidence behind vaccines.

Jorge Gonzalez

Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most beloved dinosaurs in American popular culture. But the tyrant king’s background was never entirely clear. A 70 million-year gap in the fossil record had left scientists wondering where the bone-crushing creature came from and how it rose to dominance. A new discovery by researchers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University is helping paleontologists answer that question. 

The Beautiful Brain In Science And Art

Apr 3, 2019
Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC)

Santiago Ramón y Cajal had dreams of becoming an artist, not a doctor. But he followed his father’s urging and went to medical school, later earning a Nobel prize for the way he furthered understanding of how messages are transmitted to, from and through the brain and nervous system. Cajal managed to merge science and art all along, however, through the meticulous and imaginative way he illustrated brain cells. 

Victor Zelentsov / NASA

A North Carolina native is set to launch to the International Space Station today. She's part of a team scheduled to make the first all-female spacewalk.

Order from any number of Chinese takeout restaurants these days, and you may notice that many menus boast “NO ADDED MSG.” The label can also be found in supermarket aisles on snack foods or on packaged seasonings.

The labels are meant to ease consumers’ worries, because MSG, which is used as a flavor enhancer, has for decades been popularly linked to various health problems, such as headaches and allergic reactions. It's even been considered a factor in infant obesity.

For years, the big tech companies have been given pretty much a free rein by Capitol Hill to act as they chose. What congressional oversight of the industry, there was largely focused on whether there was political bias on various platforms.

But in an abrupt reversal this week, Congress is holding oversight hearings, and lawmakers are proposing new regulations in a crackdown on how big tech companies use and resell their customers' personal information.

Picture of the Week: DNA Bunny

Mar 12, 2019

The candy-colored bunny above looks good enough to eat, but it’s no Easter leftover. This is a 3-D-printed model of a microscopic, rabbit-shaped structure made entirely out of DNA. An enlarged picture of that tiny structure (which is 50 nanometers long) appears at left. Can you make out its cottontail shape? 

Humans have entered SpaceX's Crew Dragon while in orbit for the first time, just hours after the commercial spacecraft docked at the International Space Station on Sunday morning.

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.

Four divers
Courtesy of The Man In The Sea Museum

A new documentary film on PBS shares the forgotten story of a U.S Navy project that revolutionized deep-sea diving. The Sealab program aimed to create a future where humans could live on the bottom of the ocean. North Carolinian Dr. George Bond pioneered the program. 

The following is an excerpt from Brain Storms, by Jon Palfreman. Listen to SciFri on September 18, 2015, to hear Palfreman talk more about Parkinson's disease.

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