Science Friday

Science Friday

Brain fun for curious people.


May 17, 2024 26 mins

Upgrades to the power grid under a new rule could help accommodate an increasing renewable energy supply and meet data center demands. Also, extremely small particles might help scientists develop vaccines that are stable at room temperature and easier to administer.

New Rule Sets Stage For Electric Grid Update

The US electric grid is straining to keep up with demand. For starters, our warming climate means more electricity ...

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Sports are a critical part of human culture just about everywhere in the world. Maybe you played little league as a kid, or like to go to the park for a game of pickup basketball, or even just cheer for your favorite team on the weekends.

Unfortunately, like so many other things, climate change is taking a toll on the world of sports. It’s getting too warm for appropriate ski conditions at ski resorts. Rising temperatures put athlet...

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Tinnitus, a condition commonly described as a persistent ringing in the ears, affects millions of people around the world. In the US, the prevalence of tinnitus is estimated at around 11% of the population, with 2% affected by a severe form of the condition that can be debilitating. But despite it being so common, the exact causes of some tinnitus, and how best to think about treating the condition, are still unclear. In some cases...

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May 14, 2024 17 mins

Wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant has tracked bears through the mountains, lived with lions, been chased by elephants, and trekked after lemurs in a rainforest. Now, she co-hosts the renowned nature television show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild.”

Dr. Wynn-Grant’s new memoir, Wild Life: Finding My Purpose in an Untamed World, documents her many adventures as well as her experience navigating conservation as ...

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The Field Museum has unveiled a new specimen of Archaeopteryx, a species that may hold the key to how ancient dinosaurs became modern birds. Also, a “green glacier” of trees and shrubs is sliding across the Great Plains, burying some of the most threatened habitat on the planet.

Remarkably Well-Preserved Archeopteryx Specimen Unveiled

The Field Museum in Chicago just unveiled a new specimen of one of the most important fossi...

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Astronomers have confirmed they found an atmosphere around an Earth-like rocky exoplanet for the first time. Also, Boeing’s Starliner craft was scheduled to carry humans to the International Space Station in 2017. Its launch is now set for May 17, 2024.

In A First, JWST Detects An Atmosphere Around A Rocky Exoplanet

Earlier this week, astronomers announced they had discovered an atmosphere around a rocky Earth-like planet na...

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The first Women’s World Cup was in 1991, and the games were only 80 minutes, compared to the 90-minute games played by men. Part of the rationale was that women just weren’t tough enough to play a full 90 minutes of soccer.

This idea of women as the “weaker sex” is everywhere in early scientific studies of athletic performance. Sports science was mainly concerned with men’s abilities. Even now, most participants in sports science re...

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At first glance, Mars might seem rather different from our own planet. Mars is dry, with little atmosphere, and no liquid water on its surface. It is half the size of Earth, lacks a planetary magnetic field, and does not appear to have active plate tectonics or volcanic activity. In some ways it is a world frozen in time, affected only by the force of wind and the occasional meteorite impact.

That static nature, however, could give ...

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Emily Dalfrey lives across the street from Niblett’s Bluff Cemetery, where generations of her family are buried, in Vinton, Louisiana.

In 2016, a period of prolonged rainfall caused flooding so severe that people could drive boats over the cemetery. The water put so much pressure on the graves that some of the vaults, which are located near the surface, popped open. Some of Dalfrey’s own family members’ caskets were carried away and...

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The Ada Hayden Herbarium preserves hundreds of thousands of specimens, including some collected by George Washington Carver. And, as the “Universe of Art” podcast turns one, listeners discuss solar music boxes and what it’s like making art with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Inside Iowa State’s Herbarium With 700,000 Plant Specimens

Herbariums are plant libraries—they contain fragile specimens of plants collected from near and fa...

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Science Friday is in Ames, Iowa, home to prairies, greater prairie chickens, and an array of wildlife. Also, the co-emergence of two periodical cicada broods is underway. Scientists have tips for how to experience the event.

Science From Iowa’s Prairies

This week, SciFri is coming to you from Ames, Iowa. We’re kicking off the sciencey Iowa celebrations by spotlighting some of the plants, animals and unique ecosystems of the ...

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A study found aggression between male bonobos to be more frequent than aggression between male chimpanzees. Also, visual artist Todd Gilens created a walkable poem along Reno’s Truckee River that draws parallels between urbanism and stream ecology.

Bonobos Are Gentler Than Chimps? Maybe Not.

Bonobos are a species of great ape, along with gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. Over the years, they’ve gained a reputation as be...

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There are products on the market that monitor your brain waves through caps or headbands: Some aim to improve mental health, sleep, or focus, while others can plunge users into virtual reality for gaming.

What happens to the neural data that neurotechnology companies collect from these devices? Consumers may be accustomed to their personal data from apps and social media being sold to third parties. However, the potential sale of br...

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The words “black hole” might bring to mind an infinite darkness. But the area right around a black hole, called the accretion disk, is actually pretty bright, with matter compressing hotter and hotter into a glowing plasma as it is sucked in. And amid that maelstrom, there are even brighter areas—bursts of energy that astronomers call flares.

Scientists are trying to better understand what those flares are, and what they can tell us...

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Silk is one of the most luxurious fabrics for clothing and bedding. Unlike cotton or linen, silk is made most commonly by insects—often the Bombyx mori, a domesticated moth that feeds on the leaves of mulberry trees. Humans have a 4,000-year history with the textile and the creatures that make it, as documented in the new book Silk: A World History.

Since silk has an unconventional origin as a secretion rather than a plant product, ...

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While progress has been made in replacing water pipes in Flint, many residents say they still don’t know if their tap water is clean or not. Also, scientists are adding sensors to an underwater cable network to monitor changes in the ocean and quickly detect earthquakes and tsunamis.

10 Years Later, Flint’s Water Crisis Still Isn’t Over

In 2014, city officials in Flint, Michigan, switched their water source to the Flint Rive...

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America’s most-consumed fruit is at risk from a fungal disease. Researchers in North Carolina are on a mission to save Cavendish bananas. Also, birds move their vocal organs while they sleep, mimicking how they sing. Scientists have translated those movements into synthetic birdsong.

Fighting Banana Blight In A North Carolina Greenhouse

Bananas are the world’s most popular fruit. Americans eat nearly 27 pounds per person eve...

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One of the biggest environmental issues in our modern world is plastic, which has become integral in the manufacturing of everything from electronics to furniture. Our reliance on plastic has led to a recycling crisis: A vast amount of plastic that winds up in our recycling bins isn’t actually recyclable, and ultimately winds up in landfills.

Large companies have committed to reducing plastic packaging and cutting back on waste. But...

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Superfund sites are some of the most polluted areas in the country, containing highly toxic waste such as asbestos, lead, and dioxin. Cleaning them up, which follows a systematic, science-based process as required by law, can take decades.

There are more than 1,300 of these sites across the US, from Florida’s Panhandle to the banks of the Rio Grande in New Mexico. They’re found in nearly every state, often near residential areas. Th...

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An explosion of research is painting a clearer picture of how climate change is affecting mental health across the globe. Also, a citizen science project aims to find species that have gone unnoticed by sampling the waters of hundreds of lakes worldwide for environmental DNA.

Assessing The Global Mental Health Toll Of Climate Change

As the effects of climate change become more visible and widespread, people around the globe ...

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