Science news

Book creates buzz about native bees of North America

14 hours ago

When it comes to bees, honeybees get all the attention. But as a new book will tell you, honeybees are just one fraction of the many types of bees buzzing outside the collective consciousness of most Americans.

In the first of a set of hearings on Capitol Hill this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced a slew of questions about his company’s mishandling of user data, and its plans to prevent privacy breaches in the future.

Gabriel Ugueto largely cultivated his lifelong fascination with dinosaurs by going to the movies as a kid. He cannot name his favorite one.

"There's nothing that looks like them today and they are so impressive. They dominated life on Earth for so long. They were so well adapted to the environment,” he says.

"I think I'm a little bit partial to theropods, which is this group of dinosaurs that are carnivorous like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, but honestly it's very difficult. I love them all."

Blockchain. At the most recent South by Southwest Conference earlier this month, it was one of the top buzzwords floating around the various pockets of conversation. A large majority of the people talking about it there, though, were men.

Even though the blockchain movement has the potential to have innumerable effects on our everyday lives, one estimate puts this new tech space at being currently 95 percent filled by men — but there are growing initiatives to bring more women into the fold.

Can the US protect its power grid from hackers?

Apr 7, 2018

One does not have to go far these days to hear or read a story about Russian cyber interference affecting life in the United States.

There is one mode of meddling that could hit closest to home: a possible attack on the American power grid.

I meet Lewis Lee on a cold Saturday afternoon in Chicago. He’s standing in front of a gold spray-painted shipping container. It's called a portal.

Lee is a portal curator. The door is open and these eerie, underwater sounds are floating out.

“Those sounds are coming from Mexico,” Lewis explains.

There are more than 20 portals in about 15 countries. At designated times they connect. The point is to allow people from different communities — who would otherwise never meet — to get to talk to each other.

Army veteran Rosemary Salak performs exercises with physical therapist Barbara Springer as part of her participation in a study of the ReLoad app.
Paige Pfleger / American Homefront

The app uses music and audio to help amputees lessen the pain and discomfort of walking with a prosthetic leg.

Study begins to reveal genetic ties behind a neurological phenomenon

Mar 31, 2018

When you hear a particular piece of music, can you see an accompanying color? Or do certain letters stir up certain colors?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, than you may have what is known as synesthesia. An estimated four percent of the world’s population have the neurological condition that may best be described as a blurring of the senses.

For billions of people, opening a tap is a mundane task. But not for Nsoda Bokhilfa.

That’s because until recently, she and hundreds of other women living in the Ait Baamrane tribal region of southwest Morocco didn’t have running water. Instead, they had to walk up to three hours a day to fetch water from local wells. Even with all that effort, it wasn’t always safe to drink.

But now all 1,200 villagers living there have access to safe drinking water. 

Meet Pegg, a gender-neutral robot assistant

Mar 28, 2018

The majority of us use artificial intelligence every day — without even realizing it. Like when Google predicts your search phrase or you issue a command to Siri or you scroll through ads and articles on your Facebook feed. 

And that, says AI technologist, Kriti Sharma, is dangerous. 

“Despite the common public perception that algorithms aren’t biased like humans, in reality, they are learning racist and sexist behavior from existing data and the bias of their creators.

“AI is even reinforcing human stereotypes.”

It maybe be hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station’s initial launch will take place in November. In those soon-to-be two decades, the ISS has proven to be immensely helpful in helping facilitate research on microgravity — and it remains the only destinations for astronauts moving through Earth’s lower orbit.

It may be hard to believe, but the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station’s initial launch will take place in November. In those soon-to-be two decades, the ISS has proven to be immensely helpful in facilitating research on microgravity — and it remains the only destinations for astronauts moving through Earth’s lower orbit.

New book explains the secrets behind famous skyscrapers, other structures

Mar 23, 2018

Roma Agrawal spends a lot of time thinking of the sheer power of concrete. She’s a structural engineer who helped design The Shard in London, an iconic 95-story skyscraper that opened in 2012.

“What I really like about it is that it has so many different forms,” Agrawal says. “It's quite an indeterminate material … I just love the fact that it can be anything you want it to be."

Chinese space station likely to land in Europe in a few weeks

Mar 23, 2018

Sometime this spring, a falling Chinese space station will crash to Earth. That is known. What is not as clear is when it will hit — or where.

“Scientists have left it pleasantly vague,” says Maggie Koerth-Baker, a senior science reporter for

Chris Laughery

Dr. Ranjit Koodali is the Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Chemistry at the University of South Dakota. He joins us each month to discuss the latest research in chemistry. This month we explore the technology of 4-D printing. Georgia Tech researchers are finding new applications for their work. 4-D printing is the process of creating self-assembling structures that transform over time.

Keolu Fox is a phD candidate at the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences. His work focuses on the application of genome sequencing to increase compatibility for blood transfusion therapy and organ transplantation. He is also the co-founder of IndiGenomics, a tribal non-profit organization with a mission of bringing genomic expertise to indigenous communities. He and Joe Yracheta joined me last week to talk about Keolu Fox’s visit to the Cheyenne River reservation about empowering Native Americans to do more research on genetic health disparities.

Rich Naser is president of the USD Discovery District.  The USD Discovery District is an 80-acre corporate and academic research park under development in Sioux Falls. Earlier this month the announcement came that the Discovery District is open for business. At full build out, the project will include 26 privately developed buildings employing 2,800 people. 

A data analytics firm used by Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election continues to face intense criticism for its alleged misuse of the data of tens of millions of Facebook users.

UK-based data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica stands accused of using data it got from Facebook to build sophisticated psychological profiles of US voters, and then deliver content to them that might sway their vote.

In Turkey, scientific progress isn't perfect

Mar 21, 2018

For the past decade, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been speaking of a grand vision for Turkey for the year 2023, the year the modern Turkish Republic will turn 100. On the agenda is a flurry of ambitious infrastructure projects.  

One of these projects is the Eastern Anatolia Observatory. Currently under construction and slated to open in 2019, the observatory will hold one of the largest telescopes in Asia. Professor Sinan Aliş, an astronomer at Istanbul University, says it will be a “giant leap for Turkish astronomy.”

AI-based fake videos pose the latest threat to what we perceive as reality — and possibly our democracy

Mar 18, 2018

First, “fake news” from questionable news sites permeated social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. Now, behold the next trend in skewed reality that experts say could threaten US democracy: fake videos that appear authentic by embedding real people's faces onto other bodies through artificial intelligence algorithms. It has sparked a debate on how to verify videos shared online.  

This phenomenon also began during the presidential campaign. People began slicing videos to falsely make it look as if events took place.

A new study from the University of Minnesota challenges a common belief that lakes with diverse plant life are more resilient to aquatic invaders.

The study by the U's Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center looked at 13 years of vegetation survey data collected from about 1,100 lakes by the Department of Natural Resources.

The surprising results: Researchers found no evidence that having a diverse plant community somehow keeps invaders such as curly-leaf pondweed or Eurasian milfoil from taking hold.

Less than hour outside Amman is the Middle East’s only major international scientific research center. The Jordanian town of Al-Salt is home to SESAME, which stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.

SESAME stands out among the modest homes that dot the hillsides of Al-Salt, with its large, four-story, white stone building and turquoise roof. High fences surround the campus.

“This is the first accelerator in the Middle East,” says Giorgio Paolucci, the scientific director of SESAME. “That in itself is a big accomplishment.”

The next time you're visiting a website and your computer’s fan starts going crazy out of nowhere, there could be nefarious activity behind it.

New study sheds light on the debate over the origins of flamingos in Florida

Mar 10, 2018

Florida. Flamingos. The alliteration rolls right off the tongue. Yet for years there has been a question raised about whether the birds are actually native to the Sunshine State — a situation that could have major implications for the management of the species.

Avera has announced plans to build the Avera Addiction Care Center in Sioux Falls., part of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's Patient Care Network

Thomas Otten is Vice President of Avera Behavioral Health Services.

Are You Addicted to Your Phone, or Your Friends?

Mar 9, 2018

Good news! Although you probably are checking your phone too much (sorry) it might be for all the right reasons.

While lots of people are dependent on their phones, looking at them an average of 85 times a day, it might not be a sign of the end times, or even a sign that we’ve given up on social interaction.

It's raining viruses, but don't panic

Mar 9, 2018

Billions of viruses get swept up into the atmosphere by dust clouds and water droplets, travel for thousands of miles and then eventually settle back to Earth, according to new research.

This may sound a bit frightening, but almost all of these sky-borne viruses are harmless to humans, says Curtis Suttle, a virologist at the University of British Columbia who co-authored a study based on data collected in Spain. The viruses circulating high up in the atmosphere are infecting almost exclusively other microbes, primarily bacteria.

Here's why schools closed before it even started snowing

Mar 5, 2018

Dateline: St. Paul
Updated: 3:30 p.m. | Posted: 9 a.m.

The Twin Cities woke up Monday morning to icy roads but no major snow, prompting some to ask "Why are schools canceled?" and "When did Minnesota get so soft?"

• Live: Weather updates

• Updraft blog: Widespread heavy snow, falling visibility

The ozone hole over the Antarctic is beginning to fill up. Here's the bad news.

Mar 4, 2018

Before the term global warming entered our collective lexicon, environmentalists and scientists had expressed major concern over the depletion of the ozone, the layer of gas that protects the Earth from extremely harmful solar ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

This heightened awareness led to the international adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1987, in which major restrictions were placed on products that contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — thought to be the biggest culprit in the matter.

In their new book, "Children & Environmental Toxins: What Everyone Needs to Know," Philip Landrigan and Mary Landrigan bring together research on the risks chemicals pose to children in the form of a guide for parents, policymakers and the public.