Science news

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.”

The police chief in Dallas, Texas has defended his decision to kill a suspected shooter with a bomb delivered by a remote-controlled robot.

Sniper bullets killed five officers and wounded seven others during an otherwise peaceful protest in the city on Friday. Chief David Brown told reporters that negotiation attempts failed.

Alan Outram

Recent finds in Mitchell, South Dakota, have researchers inferring about the past. Researchers have found pieces of pottery, beading and bones that could shed light on how people ate, worked and even played.

Dr. Adrien Hannus is a professor and Director of the Archeology Lab at Augustana University. He joins Dakota Midday to talk about the dig and also how it's tied to a university in England.

Wikimedia Commons

First, don’t call them “octopi.” That is incorrect. The correct plural is octopuses or, more infrequently, octopodes.

Second, an octopus’ eight appendages are called arms, not tentacles.

Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever been bitten by a Bullet Ant, then you’ve experienced a “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel.”

Fortunately, you probably have never encountered a Bullet Ant. But Justin O. Schmidt, a biologist at the Southwest Biological Institute has. In fact, he has been bitten and stung close to a thousand times by a wide variety of painful creatures.

How might global warming affect air travel?

Jul 10, 2016

Recently, a United Airlines flight to Phoenix was forced to turn around and head back to Houston. The reason for the diversion? Extreme heat. With global temperatures rising, is this a sign of things to come?

The answer is both yes and no.

Marilyn Smith, a professor and associate director at Georgia Tech’s Vertical Lift Center of Excellence in Atlanta, says the aerospace industry has been addressing this problem for the past decade.

Innovation: From The SURF

Jul 8, 2016
Constance Walter

SDPB's Cara Hetland hosts Innovation from the 4850 level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead. 

José Cabezas/Reuters

Millions of Salvadorans, including many in the country's poorest neighborhoods, have cellphones. 

But when those impoverished Salvadorans are victims of abuse at the hands of police, few dare to use their mobile devices to record the misconduct. 

Why not?

Salvadoran American youth advocate Susan Cruz asked young residents of the heavily policed San Salvador suburb of Soyapango if they would use their phones to document police wrongdoing. 

Art and design students from across the country gathered in New York City last month to participate in the first-ever Biodesign Summit, the culmination of a semester-long challenge to conceptualize a biotech product for the future.

Army embraces psychology, Zen traditions to train paratroopers

Jul 6, 2016
Performance Psychologist Meghan Halbrook of Fort Bragg’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Center shows a soldier how to use an ear sensor to monitor his stress level as he rests between sessions of machine gun training.
Jay Price/American Homefront

A battalion of paratroopers at Ft. Bragg  is embracing mindfulness techniques that might seem more appropriate in a yoga studio or psychology lab, or even on the sidelines of an NFL game. And what scientists are learning from those 800 soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division might change the future of the Army.

Roundup, the most commonly-used pesticide in the world, faces an existential crisis.

Ever since the World Health Organization in 2015 declared glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, a probable carcinogen, European regulatory agencies have been rethinking its future.

Connie Walter, Communications Director, Sanford Underground Research Facility discusses the annual Neutrino Day festivities in Lead. She talks about the Science Festival, featured speakers and tours of the hoist room at the underground lab.  

California Institute for Regenerative Medicine

A new book suggests that within just 20 to 40 years, most human reproduction will take place in the lab, rather than the bedroom.

Hank Greely, a Stanford professor who teaches law and genetics, writes about this potential brave new world in, "The End of Sex and the Future of Human Reproduction."

While the book title refers to the “end of sex,” Greely is not predicting the end of human sexuality.

Our options for fighting superbugs are dwindling

Jul 2, 2016
CDC/Wikimedia Commons

Imagine the following scenario: You discover that you have an infection — perhaps appendicitis, an abdominal infection or a urinary tract infection. You go to the doctor to get antibiotics, but your doctor tells you that oral antibiotics are no longer effective.

Your only option for treatment is to spend a week in the hospital on IV antibiotics. 

Jason T. Cantley

Yes, what you see here is, in fact, a tomato.

Crack open the spiky burr, and if the tomato fruit isn’t quite ripe, you’ll see something resembling the fleshy, seedy tomatoes you might find in your supermarket aisle. But the color will look more “like the interior of a Granny Smith apple — that whitish [color with] a little bit of green tint,” says Chris Martine, a biology professor at Bucknell University.

In a matter of minutes, though, that fruit will begin to turn redder and redder, shriveling up into a hardened, dark mass.

It sounds like science fiction: a hyperloop that propels passengers traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles in levitating pods through a nearly airless tube. Their pace rivals the speed of sound. The journey takes only 30 minutes.

Flowers give off electrical signals to bees

Jun 26, 2016

Bumblebees use a lot of tools to find nectar in flowers like visual cues and chemical signs. But, as it turns out, they’re also able to detect weak electrical signals that flowers give off.

These are some of the darkest mysteries of our universe

Jun 26, 2016

Both philosophers and scientists are captivated by the concept of dark matter, dark energy and black holes.

“Human beings by nature have always been intrigued by the invisible,” says astrophysicist Priyamvada Natarajan, author of "Mapping the Heavens."

Natarajan is a theoretical astrophysicist, a professor of physics and astronomy at Yale University. She's also spent much of her academic career studying philosophy. 

Chicken guns and other bizarre stories of the science of war

Jun 25, 2016

There are weapons we’ve all heard of: assault rifles, bombs, grenades and rocket launchers. But there are many tools of warfare that are less famous: chicken guns, stink bombs and maggots, for instance. 

Author Mary Roach has long been interested in the strange science of the human condition and in her new book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War," she goes behind the front lines to investigate the sometimes bizarre science of humans at war. 


The five-year walleye tagging project, which is in its final year, focuses on the Missouri River from the Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota, north to the Garrison Dame near Riverdale, North Dakota. Researchers have tagged 26,132 fish in the last three years. Researchers hope to understand the basic science of angler harvest and how food sources and flooding impact the walleye population. We talk with researcher Brian Graeb and his doctoral student Eli Felts.

SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc.

Eddie Sullivan is the President, CEO and Co-Founder of SAB Biotherapeutics, Inc. based in Sioux Falls. The biopharmaceutical company leads the science and manufacturing of polyclonal antibody therapies. Eddie Sullivan has been named chair of the food and agriculture section governing board for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization or Bio. It’s the industry’s largest international trade association.


Dr. Ranjit Koodali, USD Chemistry Professor and now Dean of the USD Graduate School joins us to discuss the latest in research around the country. Dr. K is the Public Relations Chair of the Sioux Valley Section of the American Chemical Society. He provides regular collection of science articles and is going to join Innovation once a month to talk about what’s happening around the country. Today Dr. K. teaches us about using biosynthesized ZnO nanoparticles and soil fungi.

Democrats sit down and take a stand with social media

Jun 23, 2016

With TV cameras rolling, Congressional Democrats staged an unusual sit-in throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday.

They were demanding stricter gun control legislation in the wake of the recent attack in Orlando. Then House Republicans reportedly pulled the plug on the TV cameras.

With the official cameras off, Democrats tried another tactic. They used  their smartphones to stream the sit-in on social media platforms like Periscope and Facebook. It caught a lot of attention as things got testy and heated exchanges erupted.

José Lebrón and Sheilla Torres had heard the news from Puerto Rico: hospitals aren’t being reimbursed, schools are closing, the official unemployment rate is close to 12 percent, and poverty stands at 45 percent. But a year ago they decided to move back to their island anyway.