Science news

The physics behind the world’s fastest swim strokes

Aug 21, 2016

To propel themselves through the water, swimmers use different strokes to control drag and lift. But which stroke is the fastest? Some experts have pinpointed the fish kick — a version of the dolphin kick — as the speediest swimming style.

Why? As swim coach and engineer Rick Madge explains, it's all about fluid dynamics.

Music earworms that stick in our heads

Aug 20, 2016

Several weeks ago, I was home on a Sunday morning when, for no apparent reason, these words popped into my head: "Funky Cold Medina." That's a line from a song by rapper Tone Loc.

I'm told it was a hit in the 1990s, but I'd never heard it until the night before. I was at a karaoke bar. My friend Jay Beezley sang it.

When the song reappeared in my head the next day, I could hear Jay singing the chorus again and again and again.

Reuters/Jeffrey Dubinsky

Overseas, A Different Kind Of Silicon Valley

Aug 18, 2016
Former astronaut Chris Hadfield speaks at Brain Bar Budapest, a festival that invites "the world's greatest thinkers" to speak about innovation and technology.
Courtesy of Brain Bar Budapest

The United States is not the only country with a Silicon Valley. While American companies continue to dominate the technology startup market, several other tech hubs are making a name for themselves across the sea.

One of the most notable is the startup industry of Central and Eastern Europe. While the products they are creating are similar to what you might see in the States, the way the companies are run and the struggles they face are decidedly European. 

PuckerButt Pepper Company

The first time Ed Currie tasted the Carolina Reaper, a fire-engine red chili pepper the size of a golf ball, “it knocked me to my knees,” he says. “I was very surprised.”

The Ocean Cleanup

Plastics, litter and all sorts of debris have polluted our waters for years. While prevention is key, ocean cleanup also presents a daunting task.

One young ocean lover is confronting this challenge head on.

Body donations on the rise at U.S. medical schools

Aug 17, 2016

Many U.S. medical schools are seeing a surge in the number of people leaving their bodies to science, a trend attributed to rising funeral costs and growing acceptance of a practice long seen by some as ghoulish.

The increase has been a boon to medical students and researchers, who dissect cadavers in anatomy class or use them to practice surgical techniques or test new devices and procedures.

Tbachner/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

The human tendency to be right-handed is obvious — especially if you’re a lefty and have to deal with right-handed desks and scissors, not to mention spiral notebooks.

The end of summer is coming. Have you been mothing yet?

Aug 14, 2016
Charlesjsharp/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Moths play a vital role in our ecosystems, but many people know little about them. That's why Elena Tartaglia, an ecologist at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey, thought it was time to raise awareness. 

After Tartaglia had the experience of going mothing in East Brunswick, she decided to try and start a regular summer mothing night. What's mothing? Just going outside to find and record moths.

Where is modern cloning, 20 years after Dolly?

Aug 14, 2016
The University of Nottingham

Twenty years ago, Dolly the sheep was born, becoming the first mammal cloned from an adult cell. Dolly lived for 6.5 years and developed osteoarthritis late in life. Researchers analyzed her chromosomes and found that she had shortened telomeres, an indication that her genetic age was actually older than her 6.5 years.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Experts believe that Russian hackers carried out last month's email hack of the Democratic National Committee, but now, it appears that hackers reached much further into the party than what was initially perceived, The New York Times has reported. The hack appears to have compromised even more organizations and more than 100 personal email accounts.

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Associate Professor Phil Ahrenkiel has been awarded a $179,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative to research next-generation solar cells. Dr. Ahrenkiel will develop a novel approach to using earth-abundant metal aluminum to improve commercializable photovoltaic solar cells for low-cost renewable energy.

What can killer whales teach us about menopause?

Aug 12, 2016
Andrew Innerarity/Reuters

Menopause is a puzzle for biologists. Why would the female of a species cease to reproduce halfway through her life, when natural selection favors characteristics that help an individual's genes survive? A study of killer whales — one of only two mammals apart from humans to undergo menopause — is providing clues.

Granny is very spritely for a centenarian. When I finally catch sight of San Juan Island's local celebrity, she leaps clear out of the ocean to delighted gasps from everyone on my boat.

Granny is a killer whale, or orca.

Courtesy of the Diamond Foundry

Silicon Valley is a playground of sci-fi wonders: Driverless cars. Virtual reality arcades. The robots that will soon replace your dog.

I’m here to check out the latest: A diamond mine the size of a passenger van that can be controlled with an iPhone.

Misha Friedman

South Africa is taking major steps in scaling up treatment and prevention services, yet it remains the country with the highest number of people living with HIV.

Waving hand emoji. Victory hand emoji. Flamenco dancer emoji. Princess emoji. Bride with veil emoji? Woman with bunny ears emoji. Disappointed face emoji. Weary face emoji. 

Women, girls and femme-presenting people are more than flamenco dancers and brides. And thanks to a a new update by Apple and a freshly approved emoji proposal from Google, they may finally be able to see that reflected in their keyboards. 

Watch this slow-motion video of attacking electric eels

Aug 8, 2016

Scientists have long known that electric eels can send out short pulses of electricity to sense their environment and also to paralyze their prey. But one researcher has recently discovered that eels can also use powerful electric pulses to attack or defend themselves while leaping out of the water. 

Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

Today, the federal government spends about $60 billion a year on research. That research gets published in scientific journals that institutions, researchers and the public have to pay in order to access.

Many have argued that the government should make this taxpayer-funded research freely available. And now Congress has drafted a piece of legislation that would do just that.

The women who made communication with outer space possible

Aug 6, 2016

In 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong marked his historic achievement with the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” His now-famous transmission was heard around the globe thanks to NASA’s Deep Space Network, which made communication from outer space possible.

United States' Boris Berian holds the U.S. flag after he won the men's 800-meter sprint final during the World Indoor Athletics Championships, in Portland, Ore.
Rick Bowmer

On today's show:

Should we be protecting historic sites in space?

Jul 25, 2016

Nearly 47 years ago, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged from Apollo 11 and became the first humans to set foot on the moon. In addition to leaving their iconic footprints, the crew left equipment and memorabilia scattered on the lunar surface. 

Archaeologist Beth O’Leary says that the landing area constitutes an archaeology site that should be preserved. 

This is how radically unrecognizable life might be on other planets

Jul 24, 2016

Researchers have found that Saturn’s moon Titan could have the right chemical conditions to create precursors to life, although the chemistry — based on hydrogen cyanide and a molecule called polyimine — wouldn’t lead to life as we know it here on Earth.

University of South Dakota

Dr. Ranjit Koodali is a monthly contributor to SDPB Radio's Innovation. Koodali is a chemistry professor at the University of South Dakota and Dean of the USD Graduate School. "Dr. K" is also the public relations chair of the Sioux Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. He joins today's program to talk about efficient and selective degradation of polyethylenes into liquid fuels and waxes under mild conditions - or, in simple terms, turning plastic bottles into fuel.

Sanford Research

Dr. John Lee, a physician scientist in the Cancer Biology Research Center, is expanding his research by joining the founder of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 program to accelerate the research into cancer treatment. Lee's focus is on head and neck cancers caused by human papilloma virus (HPV).

Courtesy The Mammoth Site

Volunteers for The Mammoth Site Excavation and Preservation Program are in Hot Springs this month. Participants lend their assistance to the continuing scientific efforts at the world’s largest concentration of mammoth remains. SDPB’s Jim Kent stopped by to visit with two women who have been searching for bones at the active paleontological dig site for years.

Today’s South Dakota weather report says we’re expecting several days of very warm, humid weather, with heat indexes over 100 degrees.

An app that tells you what’s outside your plane window

Jul 21, 2016

Peering out the window on a cross-country flight, you can watch the short grass prairies of the Midwest transition into the ragged ranges of the Rocky Mountains. But identifying the specific geological features with more precision can be much trickier.

Can you spot the signs of different crustal fractures? Can you tell a meandering river from a braided river? Well, no surprise, there is now an app for that. 

Researchers at Stanford are reviving a technique that can use uncontaminated, blood-forming stem cells to treat a patient with cancer, autoimmune deficiency and other diseases.  

Zika vaccines are ready for testing

Jul 18, 2016

Several vaccines for Zika virus — including a traditional inactivated virus vaccine, as well as newer DNA vaccines — have triumphed in animal tests and are now ready for human trials.

Tony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the vaccines can’t be ready too soon. 

“This is the code that brought us to the moon.”

The original source code from Apollo 11 has been posted on the popular programmer website, GitHub. Keith Collins, reporter for Quartz, calls it a 1960s time capsule that “still inspires this awe.”