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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.

The Octopus Whisperer

Jan 24, 2019

This article is part of a Science Friday spotlight about cephalopods. Get involved using the hashtag  #CephalopodWeek.

Target grades: 4th +

Content Areas: General Science, Mathematics

Topics: Experimental design, variation, variables

Time required: 60 minutes, including lollipop-licking time

Standards:

NGSS: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

Picture of the Week: Cock-Eyed Squid

Jan 24, 2019

This activity is part of a Science Friday spotlight about cephalopods. Get involved using the hashtag #CephalopodWeek.

In the midst of “the twilight zone”—the ocean realm ranging from 200-1,000 meters below the surface—roams this small cephalopod.

Does Sound Affect the Way We Taste?

Jan 24, 2019

The next time you eat out in a restaurant, consider the sounds around you. Is there music playing? Just the gentle hum of other people’s conversations? Maybe it’s loud and booming, maybe it’s relatively quiet.

Whatever the acoustic atmosphere, it could be affecting how you experience the flavor of the food and drink you’re consuming, according to a growing body of research.

File photo of NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson. Mo, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday Consumerism.
Black Lives Matter Black Friday

A study from N.C. State University and the University of Chicago has found that exposure to racial discrimination is connected to the willingness of black teens and young adults to engage in activism.

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.

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