Public Media Science & Technology Posts

Online Content From APM, PRI, and PRX

The latest stories from South Dakota Public Broadcasting's national media partners: American Public Media, Public Radio International, and Public Radio Exchange. Inc. will open its checkout-free grocery store to the public on Monday after more than a year of testing, the company said, moving forward on an experiment that could dramatically alter brick-and-mortar retail.

The Seattle store, known as Amazon Go, relies on cameras and sensors to track what shoppers remove from the shelves, and what they put back. Cash registers and checkout lines become superfluous — customers are billed after leaving the store using credit cards on file.

International student enrollment in graduate science and engineering programs in the US dropped in 2017 after several years of increases.             

Science and engineering fields saw a 6 percent decrease in international graduate students from the fall of 2016 to the fall of 2017, and almost all of that decrease was concentrated in two fields: computer science and engineering.

The odds were infinitesimal at best. First, there was the fact that two meteorites both fell to Earth in 1998 — in Monahans, Texas, and Zag, Morocco, to be exact, giving each its namesake.

In the tech realm, a new year brings new gadgets — and new worries about cybersecurity as more and more security breaches are revealed.

The most recent scare, called Spectre or Meltdown, involves vulnerabilities to processing chips that date back to 1995, resulting in billions of devices that are susceptible to intrusion, says Jason Koebler, editor-in-chief of the online publication Motherboard.

For years, Lucas Joppa has been fascinated with the world that exists at the intersection of technology and the environment.

Now, in a recent article in the journal Science, he is calling on governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and the private technology sector to join him in finding new ways that artificial intelligence (AI) can help collect new information and data into managing and protecting Earth’s resources with higher efficiency.

Call it a pleasant surprise — or a maybe a big hairy deal would be more accurate. At first, a group of researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis were trying to develop inner ear tissue of a mouse using stem cells.

What they ended up doing — as chronicled in a new academic paper in the journal Cell Reports — was essentially create an inverted ball of mouse skin, complete with the epidermis (outer) and dermis (inner) layers as well as hair follicles.

Social media and other technology companies operating in Germany could now face massive fines — up to 50 million euros ($60 million) — if they fail to promptly remove hate speech and other content from their platforms.

The German law — Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, or NetzDG for short — went into full effect on the first day of 2018 and applies to large companies with more than 2 million users, according to Bloomberg.

Why Young Men Are Having Unwanted Sex

Jan 8, 2018

Just as there are societal pressures on women to consent to sex they don’t want, many men experience similar but different pressures to do the same. And widespread misconceptions about men’s sexuality could be harming them.

How much do you know about the science that goes into making bourbon? One would think the citizens of Kentucky — the epicenter of the corn-based whiskey — would know more than the average Joe on the topic.

At a taping of PRI’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow earlier this year at the Brown Theatre in Louisville, two teams composed of local bourbon enthusiasts tried their luck at a few questions connected to the popular hard liquor. The teams’ names reflected two the most popular bourbon-based concoctions: Hot Toddy and Old Fashioned.

Flies. When it comes to the animal kingdom, most of us think nothing of them. Or we try to swat them with a newspaper.

What Do New Dads Want to Know?

Jan 5, 2018

No longer do parents-in-training need to whip out a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”—these days, the entire internet is your oyster when you’re studying up on having your first kid.

Bomb cyclone. Weather bomb. Snow bomb.

What’s with all the weapons analogies for the storm dumping snow on the East Coast today? 

The bomb references may seem to have popped up out of nowhere this week, but the word has actually been used to describe powerful, rapidly intensifying winter storms for decades. 

How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions on Track

Jan 4, 2018

It’s that time of year again—the first few days of the new year, when articles are circulating about how we should be kinder to one another, be more politically active, try to exercise more or eat better and angle for that promotion at work.

Source: YouGov

The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to stop blocking online social media and advised its citizens to set up virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent censorship.

Since the protests erupted, Iran has restricted some social media services like Instagram and Telegram that authorities fear will be used to spread news about the unrest.

Scientists warn we may be creating a 'digital dark age'

Jan 1, 2018

You may think that those photos on Facebook or all your tweets may last forever, or might even come back to haunt you, depending on what you have out there. But, in reality, much of our digital information is at risk of disappearing in the future.

Unlike in previous decades, no physical record exists these days for much of the digital material we own. Your old CDs, for example, will not last more than a couple of decades. This worries archivists and archaeologists and presents a knotty technological challenge.

Many of us have our cellphones within an arm’s reach at all times. It’s either in a pocket or a purse or maybe just a few inches from our face on a daily basis. Given how tethered we are to these devices, scientists have been studying any possible health maladies that could result from cellphone exposure — radiation amounts, in particular.

Yes, it's freezing. But climate change is still real.

Dec 29, 2017

It’s cold this week. Really cold.

Firefighters saw water freezing in their hoses as they fought a blaze south of Montreal Thursday night, and farmers in the upper Midwest are worried about the fate of their winter wheat crop.   

The bone-chilling temperatures that have settled over the central and eastern US and much of Canada this week will likely last into 2018.   

The National Weather Service forecasts wind chills around – 40 degrees Fahrenheit  for much of the upper Midwest on New Year’s Eve.

Researchers Use Human Body As Communication Network

Dec 29, 2017

Researchers at Purdue University are developing technology that uses the body as a communication network. They say this is a more secure way to link devices.

If you currently have multiple wearable or even implantable smart devices that are linked, the wireless signal has to leave the body and then go back into it to transmit.

Purdue Engineering Professor Shreyas Sen has developed technology to use the body instead.

“It can provide a low loss, broadband channel which is a very secure and energy efficient way of connecting all the devices on the body,” Sen says.

More than half of the selfies uploaded on Chinese social media are believed to have been edited using apps made by just one company.

Meitu, which translates to “beautiful picture,” has been around for less than a decade. But as The New Yorker’s Jiayang Fan reported in her recent story, "China's Selfie Obsession,” Meitu is quite literally transforming the face of China.

Dateline: St. Paul
Allison Bender is in search of 45,000 Lego bricks. And she could also use a little advice from adult Lego experts.

The member of Minnesota GreenCorps, which is part of the Americorps program, is an educator at Whitewater State Park in southeastern Minnesota. What started as a local Eagle Scout project has now landed in Bender's lap, and she's committed to seeing it through.

The goal is to build a 4-by-6 foot Lego model of the Whitewater watershed.

Even when it's not the holiday season, outdoor lighting is on the rise

Dec 27, 2017

Lighting displays are popular and fun during the holiday season, but it seems that outdoor lighting is now big all year round — and everybody wants the new, energy-efficient LEDs. But it turns out these new lights may have a dark side.

If 2016 was the year that Russian trolls hacked the US election, 2017 has been the year of the evidence taps opening wide, showing how Russia did it.

Tracking some of the world's biggest killers, via cellphone

Dec 25, 2017

Over the last few years, Haripriya Mukundarajan has gotten intimately acquainted with the world’s most efficient serial killers.

“This is Anopheles gambiae, the most dangerous animal in the world,” she says, pulling up a recording of one flying around.

The best science books of 2017

Dec 24, 2017

It’s that magical time of year, when Science Friday rounds up the best science books to hit shelves in 2017.

Maria Popova, the founder and editor of Brain Pickings, and Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, joined host Ira Flatow to share a few of their favorites. For their full list of picks, check out Science Friday's website.

Louisiana’s coast is disappearing for a few reasons: the natural sinking of the land, saltwater intrusion and sea level rise. Now there’s another threat: a little tiny bug from the other side of the ocean. It’s killing plants and destroying marshes at the mouth of the river, worrying the state and the shipping industry.

The year's best science books for kids have something for everyone

Dec 23, 2017

Finding the perfect science book for an inquisitive kid isn’t always easy. Luckily, Science Friday education program assistant Xochitl Garcia has done the legwork: She’s curated a list of 10 scientifically accurate, gorgeously illustrated and engaging books for kids ages 0 to 11. The list also includes activities you can do together after reading the books.

If you happen to be traveling out of the country through certain US airports during this holiday season, you may have to go through yet another security check at the airport: a facial scan.

In fact, you may already have already been scanned and didn't even know it. That's what happened to Tanvi Misra before she boarded a flight to India from Washington Dulles International Airport.

The Kenya-born Harvard scholar Calestous Juma saw innovations and opportunities bubbling up in African economies where others saw only poverty and despair. 

Dateline: Minneapolis
The brick facade is a century old, but the burning, spinning and capturing of heat inside the University of Minnesota's new Main Energy Plant is the wave of the future.

The plant, located on the banks of the Mississippi River near Dinkytown, came online last month and will save the university about $2 million a year in utility costs.

A winter solstice special: Tick, Tock, Circadian Clock

Dec 21, 2017

Today is the winter solstice, with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. To mark the event, learn about the ticking clock inside us all during APM's "Brains On" one-hour science special, called "Tick, Tock, Circadian Clock."

Host Molly Bloom explores circadian rhythms, animal hibernation and how light and dark affect all life on Earth.