Science news

National Fossil Day In South Dakota

54 minutes ago
Courtesy SDSM&T

It’s National Fossil Day. The National Park Service set aside this day in 2009.  The annual celebration is focused on promoting public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as fostering a greater appreciation for their scientific and educational value. 

SDPB’s Jim Kent contacted a few paleontological sites around the area to ask about their plans for the day and files this report.

Say goodbye to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Or better yet ... just say, boom!

The phones have a tendency to catch fire and explode.

Samsung tried to fix the problem. But it didn't work.

So the South Korean tech giant is ending all production of its popular smartphone.

Princeton economist Atif Mian only tweets a few times a month, and most if it is the kind of dry policy stuff you'd expect from a man whose area of specialization is finance and debt, mixed with the occasional foray into politics.

It's smart, but not necessarily viral material.

He hit Twitter gold this week, though, when he made a simple observation about the recent Nobel Laureates that resonated far and wide: Six people living in the US have won the prize in the sciences this year, and all six are immigrants.

New Clues Emerge in Centuries-Old Swedish Shipwreck

17 hours ago
Sjöhistoriska museet/Karolina Kristensson

In 1628, the Swedish warship Vasa sank on its maiden voyage.

Over the centuries, many have tried to explain what caused that embarrassing and deadly mishap. Researchers in Stockholm have now conducted a detailed examination of the 17th-century vessel, and they've found new clues as to why it sank.

The early fall is the best time of year to do some planning for winter and keeping homes warm.

Wisconsin’s early economy was built on the region’s plentiful timber. The region still has great timber reserves that are increasing because of reduced manufacturing of paper and wood products in the state.

Noah Siegel/<a href="" target="_blank">CC BY NC-SA</a>&nbsp;via&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Mushroom Observer</a>

It’s easy to see why the fungus Xylaria polymorpha might spook someone.

Is 'last-chance tourism' good or bad for endangered places?

Oct 9, 2016
<a href="">David Restivo, NPS</a>/Public domain. Image cropped.

When you hear that some extraordinary place is undergoing big changes, it’s a natural impulse to want to get out and see it.

The glaciers are retreating in Glacier National Park? Time to finally take your kids to hike them — or for a swim through kaleidoscopic coral at the Great Barrier Reef, which is threatened by bleaching.

Our visits to endangered sites can feel a bit like paying respects — but are they any good for the sites themselves?

Redwoods and fog: a love story

Oct 8, 2016
<a href="">Malcolm Manners</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

California’s towering redwood trees are iconic symbols of its coastline — and so is the low, rolling fog that often blankets Route 1. And as it turns out, the two are linked in more than just imagery: The fog plays an important role in keeping the redwoods hydrated and healthy. It’s also giving us clues about how the trees might respond to more drastic climate changes.

Scientists try to save this frog species from being wiped out by fungus

Oct 8, 2016
<a href="">California Department of Fish and Wildlife</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>

The mountain yellow-legged frog lives high in the remote alpine lakes of California’s Sierra Nevada range, but its population is being decimated by a microscopic, global scourge.

This disease, known as chytrid fungus, irritates the frogs' skin, and causes it to slough off. It can be deadly, as amphibians' outer layer helps them to absorb nutrients and breathe underwater. In recent years, the spread of chytrid fungus has devastated hundreds of amphibian species worldwide.

Jake Hills, via Unsplash/CC0

You've probably heard fitness experts say that 10,000 steps — about 5 miles — should be your goal if you want to reap the daily benefits of exercise. And if your desk job makes a pedometer routine tough to keep, one of your co-workers may have already recommended you try out a standing desk.

Both the 10,000 steps adage and the standing desk are popular additions to modern fitness regimens, but have you ever wondered why? As it turns out, both are probably better for you than sitting in a cubicle, but neither is completely backed by cold, hard science.

Universities Seek Funding For New Research Buildings

Oct 5, 2016
Charles Michael Ray

Universities across South Dakota are proposing building projects to enhance research and development capabilities.    The South Dakota Board of Regents is submitting funding proposals to the governor's office for the projects.  The outcome of the process could lead to new facilities at various university campuses and even a major new building in Rapid City.

How Jurassic Park inspired one doctor

Oct 5, 2016

In her book, "Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History," Sam Maggs detailed the lives of women who were pioneers in their field. As part of an occasional series, we're highlighting some of the figures featured in her book and their work. Today, Dr.

Photos by Thomas Widerberg and Lovisa Engblom. Courtesy of&nbsp;The Nobel Foundation.&nbsp;

The Nobel prizes are being announced this week and next. At awards ceremonies in December, winners will receive their share of each nearly million-dollar prize and a gold medal.

According to a tradition dating back to 1901, most will also get something more obscure: a piece of original art meant to capture the essence of their work.

The Nobel artists find out alongside the public who the winners are each year, so they have just a few weeks to create their works of art.

How games are changing the way we stay fit

Oct 2, 2016
&nbsp;Jan Vašek | <a href="">CC0</a>

Working out isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. But would you run a little faster if a pack of zombies were breathing down your neck on your morning jog? (Figuratively.)

An app called “Zombies, Run!” can help. And other app developers and device makers are also making bets on the best way to “gamify” your fitness routine. Fitbit’s bracelet buzzes with encouragement when you reach your step goal. Apps like Runkeeper and Strava let you log your miles, see how you stack up against your friends, and even compete against total strangers.

Need to be in two places at once? Try a telepresence robot.

Oct 2, 2016
David Gray/Reuters

What’s the polite way to say “I can’t make it to your party, but my robot can”?

It’s not a question many advice columnists have considered, but it may soon be time for a definitive how-to. Most telepresence robots are currently marketed for use in offices, schools, hospitals and other places with smooth terrain and reliable Internet. But as Evan Ackerman recently found out, telepresence robots are quickly becoming capable of “standing in” for us in even more everyday environments — like a family trip to the zoo.

Here’s the science behind singing

Oct 1, 2016
Jason Rosewell | <a href="">CC0</a>

When you hear a recording of Whitney Houston belting out a classic like “I Will Always Love You,” it’s impossible to miss her raw talent and refined vocal skill. What’s amazing is that anatomically speaking, there’s no difference between Whitney Houston’s vocal system and yours.

'Silicon cowboys': The underdog story of personal computing

Oct 1, 2016
Courtesy of FilmRise

Ready for an underdog story?

In the early 1980s, personal computing was a winner-take-all industry, and IBM was king — to the point where Intel gave Big Blue early access to its newest processors. And in the highly proprietary market, software made for one company’s computers wouldn’t even run on others’.

ESA/ATG medialab/Handout via Reuters

The Rosetta probe has been orbiting in space for years, sending information back to Earth.

But on Friday its mission came to an end.

The spacecraft, operated by the European Space Agency, crash-landed — as planned — onto a comet.

"Let’s not think of it as a crash landing. Let’s think of it as a graceful touchdown," says Monica Grady, who worked on the mission.

For her latest exhibition, called “Deep Sky Companion,” artist Lia Halloran was inspired not by the accomplishments, but by the frustrations, of a celebrated astronomer.

Charles Messier was an 18th-century Frenchman who became known in his lifetime for meticulously recording a catalog of 110 celestial features found in the night sky. The thing is, he considered those features distractions from his main pursuit: comets.

Bryce Vickmark

When the Nobel Prize in physics is awarded next Tuesday, many in the world of science will be surprised if Rainer Weiss, an MIT professor emeritus, is not among those honored.

Weiss dreamed up the idea behind the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO. It's a sort of massive antenna so sensitive it detected faint invisible ripples in space from 1.3 billion years ago, a discovery made secretly last fall and revealed in September.

No one can say for sure how many lead pipes drinking water runs through on a daily basis around the United States, or where specifically those pipes are located. The Environmental Protection Agency does not know, nor do state-level regulatory agencies like the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service Commission, and even local water utilities are usually not certain about this infrastructure.

These cochlear implants can break the silence for people with hearing loss

Sep 25, 2016

Allyson Sisler-Dinwiddie took her first hearing test as a young girl and walked out of the doctor’s office with hearing aids. But she never thought she would end up completely deaf — until 2004, when a car accident following her first year of graduate school accelerated her hearing loss. Six months after the accident, her world went silent.

How does a wine's color affect what we think of its flavor?

Sep 24, 2016

Wine aficionados say that drinking wine involves far more than a simple evaluation of taste. Aroma, temperature and a lovely bottle can all factor into our experience of, say, a Bordeaux. But, what if outside factors like a wine’s color, or even the lighting in the room we drink it in, can actually change how we perceive the flavor?

David Munksgard, a winemaker at Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma, California, says he uses a bit of red wine in some of his sparkling blends to hint at what the bubbly might taste like — before patrons ever take a sip.

Courtesy National Park Service

The recent unearthing of a rare mammoth skull at the Channel Islands National Park was accomplished with the assistance of personnel from The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. We spoke with the director of the world-renowned mammoth research facility about what the find means.

An exceptionally well-preserved fossil of a complete mammoth skull has been uncovered from an eroding stream bank on Santa Rosa Island in California.

mali maeder. Image cropped.

Would you clothe yourself in plastic kitchen wrap to stay cool on a blazing summer day?

Researchers at Stanford University are hoping so — they’ve designed a new polyethylene-based fabric that’s meant to lower its wearer's body temperature by almost four degrees. The invention isn’t just for convenience: If more of our bodies’ thermal radiation can escape through our clothes, we might be less likely to flip a switch to cool down.  

Muhammad Fadli/GroundTruth

Like millions of Jakartans, Dedi Setiawan lives along one of the city’s 13 rivers, in a village-style neighborhood called a kampung. The area’s unpaved paths are jammed with people selling snacks and cell phone credits out of carts, residents hang laundry out to dry between bamboo shacks and small brick homes, and the river crossing is a wooden boat pulled along a wire strung between the banks.

Do dogs understand what we're saying to them?

Sep 18, 2016
Anastasia Basano/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

Ever gotten the feeling that your dog is listening not just to what you say, but how you say it? You’re not alone among pet owners — and a new study in Science suggests that you’re not wrong, either.

Law enforcement DNA databases draw scrutiny, controversy

Sep 16, 2016
Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Imagine you are the victim of a crime: a burglary or a sexual assault.

DNA is taken from the crime scene and compared against a federally regulated FBI-run database used to process DNA evidence, called CODIS. The process can take as long as 18 months before a match is identified. In the meantime, the perpetrator has committed a string of other crimes.

But some local police departments claim they can get faster results — as little as 30 days — by using private labs and local DNA databases.

Giorgos Moutafis// Reuters

When it comes to rescue missions, Mehdi Salehi says every second counts, and he would know.

More than a decade ago he fled the Taliban in Afghanistan. He made his way to Turkey, and later rode a flimsy boat to Greece. Now Salehi is working to help other refugees survive the perilous sea crossings to Europe that have claimed thousands of lives.

To do that, he's become a drone expert.