Science and Environment

Science & Environment
11:07 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Soil, Weedkillers And GMOs: When Numbers Don't Tell The Whole Story

Farm statistics: usually illuminating ... occasionally misleading.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 3:12 pm

I love numbers. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I think a good bar graph can be worth a thousand pictures.

But three times in the past few days, I've come across statistics in reputable-looking publications that made me stop and say, "Huh?"

I did some investigating so you don't have to. And indeed, the numbers don't quite tell the story that they purport to tell.

So here goes: My skeptical inquiry into statistics on herbicide use, soil erosion, and the production of fruits and nuts.

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Science & Environment
5:49 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Looking To Escape The Deep Freeze? Head To Alaska

A man walks across a bridge in Trenton, N.J., on Saturday. More cold weather is headed his way.
Mel Evans AP

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 7:38 am

The National Weather Service is warning, once again, that brutally cold weather is going to be spreading across much of the nation, from the upper Midwest down to the deep South and up through the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England.

The Weather Service even throws an exclamation point into its forecast for this week:

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Science & Environment
2:18 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Brain Games: Move Objects With Your Mind To Find Inner Calm?

Richard Warp uses an Emotiv headset paired with his invention, NeuroDisco, which translates brain electrical patterns into music.
Josh Cassidy KQED

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 2:38 pm

Couch potatoes everywhere, rejoice.

New commercial devices, using technology borrowed from the field of neuroscience, are making it possible to control objects with brain power alone. The idea is to help train users to become more focused — and relaxed.

EEG headsets, which detect electrical activity in the brain, were once found only in research labs. Today, the technology has become cheaper and easier to use. That's made it possible to connect EEG headsets to other consumer devices.

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Science & Environment
2:27 am
Thu January 16, 2014

An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

The world's biggest trees, such as this large Scots pine in Spain's Sierra de Baza range, are also the world's fastest-growing trees, according to an analysis of 403 tree species spanning six continents.
Asier Herrero Nature

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 8:12 am

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.

Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.

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Science & Environment
11:07 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Spinach Dinosaurs To Sugar Diamonds: 3-D Printers Hit The Kitchen

A mathematician's sweet dream: For about $10,000, you can print out rainbow sugar dodecahedrons and interlocking cubes.
3D Systems

Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 2:52 pm

From cool casts for a broken arm to impressive replicas of Michelangelo's David, 3-D printing has come a long way in the past few years.

In fact, the technology is moving so fast that 3-D printers might be coming to your kitchen this year — or at least, to a bakery or bistro down the street.

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Science & Environment
7:19 am
Sat January 4, 2014

Want Perfect Pitch? You Might Be Able To Pop A Pill For That

Jazz singer Ella Fitzergerald was said to have perfect pitch.
Klaus Frings AP

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 9:13 am

In the world of music, there is no more remarkable gift than having perfect pitch. As the story goes, Ella Fitzgerald's band would use her perfect pitch to tune their instruments.

Although it has a genetic component, most believe that perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — is a primarily a function of early life exposure and training in music, says Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.

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Science & Environment
1:31 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

How Language Seems To Shape One's View Of The World

"It's on the left," he says. "No, it's southeast of here," she says.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:05 am

Lera Boroditsky once did a simple experiment: She asked people to close their eyes and point southeast. A room of distinguished professors in the U.S. pointed in almost every possible direction, whereas 5-year-old Australian aboriginal girls always got it right.

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Science & Environment
3:22 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas.
Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 7:08 am

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got butterflies in your stomach or your heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

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Science & Environment
3:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

With National Treasures At Risk, D.C. Fights Against Flooding

The U.S. Capitol dome provides a view down the National Mall, an area vulnerable to flooding.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 6:13 pm

The nation's capital is not exactly a beach town. But the cherry-tree-lined Tidal Basin, fed by the Potomac River, laps at the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. And, especially since Superstorm Sandy, officials in Washington have a clear idea of what would happen in a worst-case storm scenario.

"The water would go across the World War II memorial, come up 17th Street," says Tony Vidal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "And there are actually three spots where the water would come up where we don't have ... a closure structure right now."

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Science & Environment
9:15 am
Sat December 21, 2013

For BP Cleanup, 2013 Meant 4.6 Million Pounds Of Oily Gunk

Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network holds a jar of tar balls.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Sat December 21, 2013 1:58 pm

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

On a breezy December morning, a work crew is scouring the surf line on Grand Isle, La., scooping up tiny tar balls and collecting them in a basket.

Foreman LeRoy Irving keeps track of what the 14-person team has collected in a half-day. "If I had to guess, maybe 10 pounds," he says.

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