Science news

A new report in Nature gives hopeful news about how we could recover from paralyzing spinal cord injuries in the future.

The moon just had its Hollywood close-up. In mid-November, its slightly elliptical orbit brought the full moon closer to Earth than it’s been since 1948, and it dazzled in the part. Photos from sky-gazers around the world show the familiar orb looking round, bright and startlingly big.

Jeremiah Dean had a tough childhood. He grew up without a father around. He was bullied. He struggled in school. To get a new start, his mother moved them out of north Minneapolis to the suburbs when he was around 11 years old.

"So we move into a more suburban area but we're still poor, so we're confined on where we can live and the apartment complex we moved into was just saturated with meth," he said. "And the kids I started to hang out with, their brothers either made it, or their fathers. It just became the thing to do."

Michael Peterson/US Air Force

Fifty-three years ago, the United States came closer to nuclear war than ever before, or since.

For 13 days in October 1962 — during the Cuban Missile Crisis — America's nuclear arsenal was kept on high alert. There were nuclear missiles just 90 miles from US soil, in Fidel Castro's Cuba. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev could have launched a nuclear strike within minutes.

As it stands, the mushroom is already a multi-purpose organism: Aside from its ecological functions, it can be eaten as nourishment, brewed as tea, taken as a naturopathic remedy and used in dyes. But a San Francisco start-up by the name of MycoWorks has even more plans for mushrooms, starting with a leather-like material made from the fungi.

Infants born addicted to drugs are one of several unfortunate results of Wisconsin's drug epidemic stemming from the abuse of heroin and prescription painkillers.

At Aurora Sinai Medical Center in downtown Milwaukee, there have been nearly two dozen drug-addicted babies born in a five-month period.

"From January through May, 23 babies came into our NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) suffering from dependence issues, and what's striking is this has actually been increasing in the recent months," said Dr. Andy Anderson, chief medical officer for Aurora Health Care.

What Manure Digesters Can And Can't Do

Nov 29, 2016

The state of Wisconsin is betting on manure digesters in rural northeastern Wisconsin to curb water pollution and other environmental problems linked to the spreading of manure on dairy farms. The region's groundwater geology and copious amount of cow waste make it easy for bacteria and viruses to leach into wells people rely on for drinking water, especially in Kewaunee County. In response, Gov.

The hair trade is a billion-dollar global industry

Nov 28, 2016
Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

You've probably heard of a hair shirt — it's rough, woven out of goats' hair and worn as penance. 

Now imagine a wedding garment fashioned from human hair.

Kishore Kumar donned one to make his nuptial vows. The third generation Indian hair trader is just one of the eccentric characters profiled in anthropologist Emma Tarlo's new book: "Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Human Hair."


A new report warns that current levels of Arctic ice melting could trigger key "tipping points" leading to catastrophic and uncontrollable climate change. If these tipping points are reached, the effects would become their own drivers of global warming, regardless of human attempts to reduce carbon emissions.

<a href="">Eugene Peretz</a>/<a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>. Image rotated, cropped.

If there’s one word that can sum up our feelings about this year’s presidential election — the most polarizing and bitterly fought in recent memory — it might just be “stressful.”

In October, a survey by the American Psychological Association found that the election was a significant source of stress for more than half of all Americans. And now that Election Day has passed, we’re probably still reeling — whether from a hard-fought battle or our candidate’s loss at the polls.

Scientists just used Hawaii as a 'body double' for Mars

Nov 28, 2016
<a href="">daveynin</a>/<a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

This fall, there's been plenty of buzz about sending humans to Mars. Elon Musk recently unveiled designs for a two-stage Mars vehicle and NASA has its own transport system in the works, slated for launch by the 2030s.

But how will scientists (and the rest of us) get to the Red Planet, and how will science actually happen once we're there?

Could scientists help defuse a nuclear crisis?

Nov 25, 2016
Joe Skipper/Reuters

In January, President-elect Donald Trump will take control of America’s nuclear arsenal. In a time when nine countries have nuclear weapons, it’s a massive responsibility.

But historically, it’s not a responsibility that presidents have borne alone. In the height of the Cold War, US leaders like Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy relied on experienced scientists who had witnessed the devastation caused by nuclear weapons.

Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Have you been tempted to try one of those genetic testing kits, like the ones sold by or

Maybe you’ve seen a commercial featuring Kim Trujillo.

In it, Trujillo talks about how she discovered she was part Native American.

So you get the kit, swab your mouth, mail it back and you find out you are Native American. Then what?

That’s what Kathryn Marlow wanted to know. She’s a radio producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 180.

UW-Madison Ranking Dips As Research Spending Declines

Nov 23, 2016

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has long been been among the top five nationally ranked research universities. However, this year, as research spending dropped, so did the university's ranking. UW-Madison went from fourth to sixth.

Marsha Mailick, UW-Madison's vice chancellor for research and graduate education, said the National Science Foundation ranking is "disappointing." Mailick said the state plays an indirect role in research by providing money that can be used to hire research faculty and infrastructure.

Black Hills State University

Dr. Parthasarathi Nag, professor of mathematics at Black Hills State University, discusses the "History of the Theory of Everything." From Einstein's special theory of relativity to comparisons between the universe and a violin, Nag talks about mathematics, physics, and the future of science education that capitalizes on collaboration and imagination. Nag was a recent "Geek Speak" lecturer at BHSU in Spearfish.

Erik De Castro/Reuters

It’s been more than 50 years since the Food and Drug Administration first approved birth control pills for women. Since then, other reversible contraceptives like implants, injections and intrauterine devices (IUDs) have also entered the market — but still, just for women.

For men, condoms have remained the only completely reversible birth control option, and they have a 12 percent failure rate with typical use.

In science, a picture is worth a thousand data points. And recently, our glimpses at two very different worlds got much, much clearer.

President-elect Donald Trump has yet to name his picks for the top environment and energy posts in his new administration, but all signs are that he'll tap people dedicated to rolling back many of President Barack Obama's initiatives, especially on the climate crisis.

That’s no surprise. Trump ran as a fierce critic of environmental regulation and the new global climate agreement. The Obama administration helped broker the plan, which went into effect earlier this month.

A U.S. Geological Survey study recommends timely removal of fallen leaves from streets as a way to improve urban water quality.

Scientists from the USGS looked at stormwater in two western Madison residential basins called catchments with similar tree cover. In one area, fallen leaves were removed during the autumn. In the other, the leaf litter was left to sit.

How And Where Trump Won Wisconsin in 2016

Nov 18, 2016

Donald Trump's presidential victory in Wisconsin, the first time a Republican candidate has won the state's electoral votes since 1984, was the result of a complex shift in voting patterns in counties both large and small. Trump received just over 27,000 more votes than Clinton, out of more than 2.94 million cast overall.

Wiki Commons

“The pope endorses Donald Trump,” roared the headline.

Only he didn’t.

It’s just not true.

But that didn’t stop the story from getting thousands upon thousands of "likes," shares and other forms of engagement via social media.

And for the guys creating these lies, that means revenue. Cold hard cash. From the gullibility of the American voter.

That’s the finding of an investigation by BuzzFeed News.

Warm Fall Weather Could Be New Normal For Wisconsin

Nov 16, 2016

Many areas of Wisconsin have enjoyed above average temperatures this fall.

La Crosse had the latest first frost on record this year, finally dropping to freezing temperatures last week.

Some researchers say this year's mild weather could be the new normal.

<a href="">Doug Kerr</a>/<a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

Ever imagine Minnesota as a coastal state?

The idea sounds absurd (especially as winter nears), but history shows that at one time, it wasn’t so unlikely: 1.1 billion years ago, the continent was splitting apart along the Midcontinent Rift, a move that could have turned states like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan into oceanfront real estate. But the rift stalled, leaving a huge scar in the Earth’s crust. What happened?


On Oct. 21, a cyberattack targeting Dyn, a New Hampshire company that provides domain registration services, "brought the internet to its knees," as numerous media put it. Websites for major outfits like the New York Times, Netflix and Twitter were all temporarily unavailable.

While this attack didn’t compromise personal data like bank accounts or Social Security numbers, cybersecurity experts agree that this won’t be the last mass internet outage we face. And next time, the damage could be even greater.

<a href="">ESO/M. Kornmesser</a>. <a href="">CC-BY-4.0</a>. Image cropped.

Earlier this year, Konstantin Batygin, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, joined Ira Flatow on Science Friday to discuss "Niku," the name for the newly discovered Kuiper Belt object with a wild orbit. (How wild, you ask?

This new 3-D printed glove can dupe fingerprint scanners

Nov 12, 2016
<a href="">West Midlands Police</a>/<a href="">CC-BY-SA 2.0</a>. Image cropped.

The latest wearable tech to get people talking isn’t an activity tracker or a watch. It’s a glove that gives the wearer an entirely new set of fingerprints, fooling even the best fingerprint scanners on the market.

Tami Chappell/Reuters&nbsp;

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, is increasingly focused on health concerns outside the United States as the world becomes more interconnected. And its international mission goes well beyond fighting global infectious diseases like Zika and HIV.

For instance, CDC Director Tom Frieden says drug resistance is making it difficult to administer modern medical care. Treatments including chemotherapy, dialysis and surgery depend on the ability to treat infection.

Maybe American exceptionalism isn’t dead.

The world is watching the vote on Tuesday for a reason. The United States sets trends — whether they’re positive or not, whether the rest of the world likes them or not. And now the globe awaits news that either the US will continue to be a strong if flawed exponent of democracy, or whether it’s about to become something no one even here can quite imagine yet, with reverberations far beyond our shores.

Yes, America and what it does suddenly matter very much, again.

Courtesy of the&nbsp;Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.

The US and Russia have for years dominated the race to explore Mars. Since the 1960s, they have worked on dozens of missions.

Now, for the first time, an Arab country — the United Arab Emirates — says it will give it a try, as well.

Jonathan Weiner

Pulitzer Prize winner Jonathan Weiner discusses the scientific adventure of writing about evolutionary biologists and how evolution happens before our very eyes. Weiner is the author of The Beak of the Finch and Planet Earth among other titles. He visits the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Thursday as part of the South Dakota Humanities Council's 100 Years of Pulitzer initiative.