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.

Dateline:
Changing Rural Narratives: a Ground Level Conversation in Grand Rapids

By Tom Weber.

While #mprraccoon was grabbing the attention of the world for scaling a building in an urban center, a conversation in Grand Rapids, Minn. last week focused on foxes playing in the yard, loons calling in the evening, and other interactions with nature. The Great Outdoors, as we heard in an event at the Blandin Foundation, is a key reason why people choose to live in Grand Rapids.

Hands-on experience gives teachers leg up on bike safety

Jun 12, 2018

Dateline:
Quick — how do you signal a turn on a bicycle? Teachers and school staff brushed up on that and much more Monday at a hands-on training meant to help more Minnesota students walk and bike to school.

The training, run by the organization Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, gave the educators lessons and tips for teaching students the rules of the road when it comes to walking and biking.

Sherry Ott has been all over the world. Borneo, Mongolia, Nepal — she writes about travel for a living.

But Antarctica was different.

It’s “the closest you can get to leaving this planet," Ott says. “This was the first place ever that I had been where clearly people were not in charge.”

Dateline: St. Paul
St. Paul families are making plans for new school start times after the district published school-by-school information this week.

The change will shift most middle and high schools to a later start beginning in the fall of 2019 in an effort to accommodate teenagers' sleep patterns.

Under the plan, most elementary schools will either remain at their current 9:30 a.m. start time or move to an earlier 7:30 a.m. start.

Chocolate, Caffeine, Alcohol: What's OK on a Plant-Based Diet?

Jun 5, 2018

This spring, the documentary “Eating You Alive” played in select theaters for a special one-night showing. Like documentaries “Forks Over Knives” and “What the Health,” the film focuses on the benefits of a low-fat, plant-based diet, featuring folks who were able to radically improve their health by adopting certain eating habits.

Which Top New Species of 2018 Are You?

May 30, 2018

Did you know that about 18,000 new species are named every year? While that statistic might make it sound like a lot of new animals and plants are being discovered—and hopefully protected—all the time, about 20,000 species are also going extinct every year, International Institute for Species Exploration founding director Quentin Wheeler said in a news release.

A strange thing happened here in Boston over the weekend: The temperature got above freezing.

The massive dumps of snow here this winter have been bad enough, but it's the cold that's really done us in, an unbroken stretch of frigid weather that’s made Massachusetts feel more like Montreal — or Anchorage.

In a city bursting with 20th century history and 21st century glitz, the scrap of Berlin I’ve found myself in on a grey winter’s morning is the definition of ordinary, an American-style mini-mart /gas station where my companions and I are ordering bad coffee to a soundtrack of generic schmaltzy pop.

No one knows for sure what started the West Africa Ebola outbreak, which has killed 10,000 people. But some scientists think it might have begun with a 2-year-old Guinean boy, a hollowed out tree he liked to play in, and a colony of free tailed bats that lived in it.

So the idea of standing in a grove of trees in central Tanzania below hundreds of roosting fruit bats isn’t exactly comforting. But it’s the kind of place the researchers I’m with need to be.

If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who’ve put solar panels on your roof, you're never happy about cloudy weather. No sun means no power.

That in itself is old news, and a problem plenty of people are working on. But now a big name is trying to come up with a way to crack the market for cheap and efficient batteries that can literally store up power for a rainy day: Tesla, the electric car company, and its billionaire CEO Elon Musk.

Live, from New York, it’s Cue Card Wally

May 24, 2018

Last season, TV personality and comedian Seth Meyers served as the host of the 75th edition of the Golden Globes. Although the award show is completely run on teleprompters, Meyers insisted that someone hold up actual cue cards during the show as well — just in case there was some sort of technological glitch.

Not just anyone would do, though. It had to be longtime cue card holder Wally Feresten, who has worked with Meyers for a total of 14 years, beginning at NBC’s iconic comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg left some European Parliament lawmakers and observers feeling displeased Tuesday after he failed to answer several questions during a Brussels meeting called in the wake of a user data privacy scandal involving his company and British data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

Is the e-bike revolution ready to come to America?

May 17, 2018

I bike to work ... sometimes. I have a series of big hills — in each direction — that just kill me. So when I heard about a new, shiny red wheel born in the labs of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I was intrigued.

“Everything is contained within the red hub: the battery, the motor, all the sensors,” says Megan Morrow, with the company Superpedestrian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the maker of the “Copenhagen Wheel.”

The wheel is named for a challenge by the mayor of the Danish capital to get more people biking.

Dateline: Minneapolis
A stormwater retention pond in the city of Ramsey has become a big draw over the years, with an adjacent amphitheater for summer concerts and green space for recreation. But The Draw, as it's appropriately named, also has a problem: ugly algae.

US and British scientific agencies announced their biggest joint Antarctic research effort in more than a generation on Monday.

The focus is Thwaites Glacier, which is roughly the size of Florida and sits on the western edge of Antarctica.

Ice melting on Thwaites accounts for 4 percent of global sea level rise, an amount that’s nearly doubled since the 1990s. Scientists in the new five-year research collaboration hope to determine how much more, and how fast, the glacier will melt as the world continues to warm.

If you get a robocall in Mandarin, just hang up

Apr 30, 2018

If you live in New York, Los Angeles or Boston, chances are good you've received a robocall in Mandarin.

"I get them also, in the NYPD building," says Donald McCaffrey, an officer with the New York Police Department’s Grand Larceny Division in Queens. "I have an NYPD department cell phone and I get them on the cell phone also. It is out of control."

McCaffrey, who is investigating the calls in New York, says they first came to his attention in December when a 65-year-old Chinese woman alerted the NYPD that she had been scammed out of $1.3 million.

There are several chemicals that have no taste or smell that could reach our drinking water without us realizing the inconspicuous harm they are causing. Then, there are some that have a particular property to them — such as smelling like licorice.

That is the case for MCHM, a chemical that was created to help in the washing of coal. Labeled as a coal flocculant, it has the ability to separate burnable fossil fuel from dirt and rock and other materials.

The mysterious aurora known as 'Steve,' explained

Apr 28, 2018

Thanks to collaboration between citizen scientists and astronomers, a strange phenomenon in the night sky, dubbed “Steve,” has finally been explained.

In 2017, a glowing purple-and-green ribbon across the heavens mystified sky-watchers because it showed up much further south than the famous northern lights, or aurora borealis. These observers decided to call it “Steve,” echoing the woodland creatures in the children’s movie "Over the Hedge."

Puerto Rico's power company said it had restored power to more than 1.1 million homes and businesses by Thursday morning after a transmission line failure cut service to almost all of the island's 3.4 million residents the day before.

The Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA, was working to restore power to the less than 30 percent of customers in the US territory still without power after Wednesday morning's blackout.

This week, Russian officials began implementing a planned ban on the popular messaging platform Telegram after the company refused to hand over access to its users’ encrypted messages. But it appears the implementation of the ban is not going as smoothly as Russian authorities had hoped.

The Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent jeopardizes future research and excavation in one of the densest fossil troves in the world, according to scientists who work in the region.

Researchers explore the fascinating biomechanics and neuroscience of bats

Apr 13, 2018

They are associated with dark caves, bloodthirsty vampires and one of the most famous superheroes of all time. But for all we know about bats, a lot is unknown to the general public — from how they fly and land to how they find objects in front of them.

Digital rights and civil society groups in Myanmar say they welcome a pledge by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to better address hate speech and other content inciting violence, but said the platform could do more to stop the spread of content that violates the platform’s Community Standards.

Book creates buzz about native bees of North America

Apr 12, 2018

When it comes to bees, honeybees get all the attention. But as a new book will tell you, honeybees are just one fraction of the many types of bees buzzing outside the collective consciousness of most Americans.

In the first of a set of hearings on Capitol Hill this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a slew of questions about his company’s mishandling of user data, and its plans to prevent privacy breaches in the future.

Gabriel Ugueto largely cultivated his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs by going to the movies as a kid. He cannot name his favorite one.

"There's nothing that looks like them today and they are so impressive. They dominated life on Earth for so long. They were so well adapted to the environment,” he says.

"I think I'm a little bit partial to theropods, which is this group of dinosaurs that are carnivorous like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, but honestly it's very difficult. I love them all."

Blockchain. At the most recent South by Southwest Conference earlier this month, it was one of the top buzzwords floating around the various pockets of conversation. A large majority of the people talking about it there, though, were men.

Even though the blockchain movement has the potential to have innumerable effects on our everyday lives, one estimate puts this new tech space at being currently 95 percent filled by men — but there are growing initiatives to bring more women into the fold.

Can the US protect its power grid from hackers?

Apr 7, 2018

One does not have to go far these days to hear or read a story about Russian cyber interference affecting life in the United States.

There is one mode of meddling that could hit closest to home: a possible attack on the American power grid.

I meet Lewis Lee on a cold Saturday afternoon in Chicago. He’s standing in front of a gold spray-painted shipping container. It's called a portal.

Lee is a portal curator. The door is open and these eerie, underwater sounds are floating out.

“Those sounds are coming from Mexico,” Lewis explains.

There are more than 20 portals in about 15 countries. At designated times they connect. The point is to allow people from different communities — who would otherwise never meet — to get to talk to each other.

Army veteran Rosemary Salak performs exercises with physical therapist Barbara Springer as part of her participation in a study of the ReLoad app.
Paige Pfleger / American Homefront

The app uses music and audio to help amputees lessen the pain and discomfort of walking with a prosthetic leg.

Pages