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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.

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.

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