Science news

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July is National Ice Cream Month. Last July, a Cincinnati woman made national headlines when she made a discovery that shocked her.

After sitting out for hours in the summer heat, an ice cream sandwich still appeared intact and just slightly melted. What gives? What natural (or unnatural) ingredient could make this frozen treat withstand 80 degree temperature?

Ellyn Enderlin, University of Maine

Greenland is melting fast, and that's bad news for sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. 

“I don’t mean to make it sound so scary,” reporter Ari Daniel says by satellite phone from the cusp of Greenland’s Helhiem glacier. “This is one of the fastest-moving glaciers there is [here], it moves about three feet in an hour, you can almost see it [move].” 

AMA: Ari Daniel on a glacier in Greenland

There's new life in Japan's tech startup scene

Jul 28, 2015
Naomi Gingold

It’s pretty common knowledge that the Japanese economy has been sputtering since its heyday in the 1980s. Whole sectors have been slow to innovate and face problems. For years the tech startup scene seemed really bleak.

But more recently there’s been a shift, at least when it comes to startups. And one community in particular has been generating quite a bit of noise, just a bit under the radar.

Indian sprinter Dutee Chand was suspended from national and international competition — for naturally having too much testosterone.

After a year of suspension, Chand won the right to compete again after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned her suspension.

“Chand was suspected of having high natural testosterone levels and when that was confirmed she was suspended from both international and national competition,” says Katrina Karkazis, bioethicist at Stanford University.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

China is lifting a 15-year old ban on the sale of foreign video game consoles.

In 2000, China banned the manufacture and sale of all foreign consoles amidst fears that video games, particularly violent ones, would have negative effects on Chinese youth. That meant no Xbox, Playstation, Wii or Gamecube, has been legally sold in China since 2000. 

A new drug being tested raises hopes for people with Alzheimer's

Jul 27, 2015
Christian Hartmann/Reuters

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and according to the Alzheimer's Association, 15.5 million Americans are currently caring for them.

Minneapolis native Marcia McNutt, who graduated as valedictorian from Northrop Collegiate School (now the Blake School), is expected to become the first female president of the National Academy of Sciences next year.

McNutt now serves as the editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal Science. She was the first woman to occupy that post, as well.

She talked to MPR News host Tom Weber about science, women and her newest

Ark Development LLC

New York's JFK airport is trying to cater to a new passenger demographic.

Construction is underway on the first airport terminal that will cater exclusively to animals, called the ARK after the biblical mode of animal transport.

Jennifer Simonson

On a recent day in St. Paul, dozens of black, Hispanic and Asian-American kids sat splashing around at the edge of a pool.

The 5- to 9-year-olds were learning some basic rules: to stay away from fenced or locked pools, for example, and to swim in the company of an adult.

Angel Moreno Rodriguez, 9, said there was a lot he didn't know about swimming.

He recited some of what he'd learned: "If you see a broken drain, don't go close to it — tell an adult. Don't play-fight. Don't fake that you're drowning. Don't do something dangerous in the water."

Should you visit Cuba before Americans 'ruin' it?

Jul 23, 2015

There’s a certain magic about Cuba.

“Trapped in a time warp and reeling from an economic embargo that has grated for more than half a century, this is a country where you can wave goodbye to Western certainties and expect the unexpected,” writes Brendan Sainsbury on the travel website Lonely Planet. “If Cuba were a book, it would be James Joyce's Ulysses; layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but — above all — a classic.”

Chris Wattie/REUTERS

Ashley Madison is a website which helps users cheat on their partners. Hackers recently broke into the website, revealing customer details online.

One thing they didn't expect?

The high number of users in Ottawa.

Yes, the rather prim capital of Canada is — as cable TV might say — "a hotbed of infidelity."

More than 189,000 Ottawans used the website. That's one in five residents of the city.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters

The former interim CEO of Reddit, Ellen Pao, appears to be a casualty in the battle between free speech and hate speech on the internet.

New Rapid Creek Wetlands Absorb Pollution

Jul 16, 2015
Charles Michael Ray

You might not think about what happens to the rain water that washes down a city street and into a grate.   
But that water eventually runs into a local waterway and it can often be polluted by oil, or sediment, or even animal waste it picks up from the streets.
In the 1990’s federal laws were enacted to make cities clean storm water runoff before it’s discharged into streams.   
Building a water treatment plant can cost local taxpayers millions, but Rapid City found a cost effective way to clean the water using mother nature.

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What is it like to grow up Black vs. White? How about Scottish vs. English? Or maybe Mexican? Or Nigerian? This week, social media has been providing a surprisingly detailed answer.

Most popular hashtags on social media are popular in just one country or one community of users. But this week, an online conversation which began among African American on social media suddenly went global. The hashtag #Growingupblack had been trending for a few months. For most users, it was a fun chance to compare childhood experiences connected to Black identity in the United States.

Archeology Laboratory, Augustana College

Researchers and students from Augustana College and the University of Exeter in England are finishing up their work at the Thomsen Center Archeodome at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village. This summer the team made some interesting finds. Last month they uncovered 1,000 year old charred kernels of corn and sunflower seeds. This past weekend they found an intact ceramic pot. It’s small, but it’s the first time archeologists have found an intact piece of pottery since regular research started at the site in 1928.

Hugh Gentry/Reuters

At the end of his record-breaking solar-powered flight from Japan to Hawaii, Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg was counting down the minutes until he was back on the ground.

Early on in the flight, Borschberg and the team behind Solar Impulse 2 realized there were problems with the fuelless plane. The battery’s insulation system was preventing it from cooling down and an alert system intended to wake the pilot up in the case of an emergency had failed.

Rick Wilking/Reuters

While there's optimism that a nuclear deal with Iran is within reach, the battle between Tehran and Washington in cyberspace is only heating up.

That's according to a National Security Agency document from 2013 that was recently published by The Intercept.

First in Drones? NC Prepares for Boom in Unmanned Flight

Jul 16, 2015
Jay Price/WUNC

The state that boasts of being “First in Flight” is preparing for another major aviation development – an expected surge in unmanned flight.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has hired its first official to oversee the regulation of drones. The department also is developing a test that by the end of the year will be mandatory for people who want to operate commercial and government drones.

Most people would relish the opportunity to take eight months off in Hawaii, but for the team behind Solar Impulse 2, it’s pretty disappointing.

Just two weeks after completing a record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean, the solar-powered plane has been grounded until at least spring. Because of battery damage sustained during the latest leg of the journey, the solar plane will stay in Hawaii’s Kalaeloa Airport for repairs.


The New Horizons mission is coming down to the wire.

NASA's mission to the outer reaches of our solar system launched in 2006 and has travelled billions of miles in the past nine years. The probe is about to have a very close encounter with the icy dwarf planet Pluto and its moons.

“The last couple of days have been really phenomenal, seeing all these blobs, black-and-white, resolving to geologic features on the surface so now we can actually do science.”

Microbes may hold the key to future high-tech meds and materials

Jul 11, 2015

When most people think about advanced technology, they imagine robots or hypersonic vehicles or new additions to the Internet of Things. But there is another tool that may have more high-tech potential than anything else: biology.

“Biology can do things that no other man-made technology or chemistry can do,” says Alicia Jackson, deputy director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Innovation: Emily Graslie At Neutrino Day

Jul 10, 2015

Emily Graslie, chief curiosity correspondent for the Field Museum in Chicago and creator of the YouTube channel "The Brain Scoop," talks about the relationships between science and art at this year's Neutrino Day. Graslie guides viewers through days in the life of scientists from expeditions in the Amazon to some gritty lab work on "The Brain Scoop" which has more than 275,000 viewers.  She joined SDPB's Cara Hetland Friday in the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Innovation: Mike Headley

Jul 10, 2015

Mike Headley, Executive Director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, visited about Neutrino Day.  Events are scheduled for Friday and Saturday (July 10-11) at the Sanford Lab and the Homestake Opera House.  Click here for more information.

Innovation: Dr. Ray Jayawardhana

Jul 10, 2015

Dr. Ray Jayawardhana is the keynote speaker at this year's Neutrino Day.  Jayawardhana is the Dean of Science and professor of physics and astronomy at York University in Toronto.  He joined Innovation host Cara Hetland at the 4850 foot level from the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Archeologists have found seeds at the Prehistoric Indian Village dating  back more than a millennium. The site is open so people can watch the work in Mitchell.

Archeologists say the seeds shed light on what agriculture looked like 1000 years ago on the Dakota Plains. Alan Outram is head of archeology at the University of Exeter. He is part of the group digging at the site in Mitchell.

How pilots fight Canada's raging wildfires from above

Jul 8, 2015
Anne Bailey

If you thought you were having a hot summer, try fighting forest fires from a plane.

There are more than 200 wildfires burning in Canada right now. Since April, half a million acres have burned in British Columbia alone. That’s already twice BC’s yearly average, and the season has only just begun. And it doesn't account for hundreds of other fires burning in Sakatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.

To put out the flames, the Canadian government is looking for all the help it can get. Firefighters have been called in from the United States, and from as far away as New Zealand.

★Kumiko★/<a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Everybody likes a good dinosaur story, but one of the best dinosaur stories of them all centers on the man who gave these remarkably extinct beasts their name.

Sir Richard Owen (1804-1892) was a celebrated naturalist and founder of the British Museum of Natural History. Some time around 1839, Owen began studying the bony remains of extinct races of reptiles: the carnivorous Megalosaurus, the herbivorous Iguanodon and the armored Hylaeosaurus. 

Spiders can sail now, which is terrifying

Jul 6, 2015
Alex Hyde

Today in your nightmares: Scientists have just discovered that you’ll never be safe from spiders, even at sea.

Spiders can sail. Well, at least some of them can — according to researchers at the University of Nottingham. 

Scientists observed 325 adult spiders from 21 different species by placing them in trays of water and using pumps to simulate wind.

The crystal ball on a hilltop outside Boston doesn’t look into the future, but provides an invaluable connection to the past. This antique technology, called a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder, helps researchers maintain North America’s longest-running weather record.

University of Virginia

A group of researchers have discovered the existence of previously unknown lymphatic vessels in the brain — a stunning find that upends current medical science and could have far-reaching implications for the study and treatment of neurological diseases like Alzheimers and multiple sclerosis.