Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 11:24 am
No one who's been paying attention for, say, the past few decades, needs to be reminded of how extremely polarized Washington is.
So it's usually good news when Democrats and Republicans can come together on an issue, as they did recently to support the idea of creating the new honorary position of "Science Laureate of the United States."
Originally published on Tue September 17, 2013 10:33 am
Matson Inc., the shipping company that spilled 233,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor earlier this month, has pledged to pay all the costs stemming from the disaster that has devastated marine life there.
How often do whales clean their ears? Well, never. And so, year after year, their earwax builds up, layer upon layer. According to a study published Monday, these columns of earwax contain a record of chemical pollution in the oceans.
The study used the earwax extracted from the carcass of a blue whale that washed ashore on a California beach back in 2007. Scientists at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History collected the wax from inside the skull of the dead whale and preserved it. The column of wax was almost a foot long.
From the standpoint of global warming, burning natural gas can be better than burning coal, a study published this week suggests.
This is a contentious issue among people who are opposed to the natural gas drilling practice known as fracking. That technique involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into wells to release far more gas than conventional drilling can. Opponents of fracking have been concerned not only about local environmental issues, but also about the potential for methane leaks to make global warming worse.
Five years ago this week, a Canadian company proposed building a pipeline to send heavy crude oil from Alberta to U.S. refineries. Although the Obama administration's answer on the Keystone XL pipeline is not expected anytime soon, politicians in Washington and Canada are ramping up the pressure for the project, while environmentalists are pushing hard against it.
Scientists watching Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier from space have noticed with some alarm that it has been surging toward the sea.
If it were to melt entirely, global sea levels would rise by several feet.
The glacier is really, really remote. It's 1,800 miles from McMurdo, the U.S. base station in Antarctica, so just getting there is a challenge. Scientists have rarely been able to get out to the glacier to make direct measurements.
For several weeks now, two unmanned spy planes have been flying over the Atlantic on an unusual mission: gathering intelligence about tropical storms and hurricanes.
The two Global Hawk drones are a central part of NASA's five-year HS3 (Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel) Mission investigating why certain weather patterns become hurricanes, and why some hurricanes grow into monster storms.
Originally published on Fri September 13, 2013 3:58 pm
State officials in Hawaii say there's little they can do to clean up a 223,000-gallon molasses spill that has killed thousands of fish, as swimmers, surfers and snorkelers were being warned that the massive die-off could attract sharks.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. I don't have to tell you that the southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states - California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada - is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they're cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.
Researchers discovered the largest volcano on earth a thousand miles off the coast of Japan. Tamu Massif rivals some of the biggest volcanoes found in the solar system. Volcanology researcher Kayla Iacovino discusses what this giant can tell us about the inside of our planet.
"I do spend time trying to think about what I cannot imagine." -- Nicholas Negroponte
Visions of the future don't just have to come from science fiction. There's very real technology today giving us clues about how our future lives might be transformed. So what might our future look like? And what does it take for an idea about the future to become a reality? In this hour, TED speakers make some bold predictions and explain how we might live in the future.
Something peculiar is happening to rivers and streams in large parts of the United States — the water's chemistry is changing. Scientists have found dozens of waterways that are becoming more alkaline. Alkaline is the opposite of acidic — think baking soda or Rolaids.
Research published in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology shows this trend to be surprisingly widespread, with possibly harmful consequences.
What's especially odd about the finding is its cause: It seems that acid rain actually has been causing waterways to grow more alkaline.
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 7:04 pm
At least two waterspouts were seen over Lake Michigan on Thursday, near the Wisconsin border, amid strong winds and a marine warning issued by the National Weather Service.
The Associated Press says the waterspouts — tornadoes that form over the water — merged into one and then split again. The video below, taken by an amateur in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., appears to be a single, merged, waterspout:
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 4:20 pm
"Everything down there is dead."
That's one stunning quote from Hawaii News Now's latest report about the devastating damage that's been done to the marine life off Honolulu's Sand Island by 233,000 gallons of molasses that were spilled into Honolulu harbor on Monday.
Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 4:07 pm
Satellite imagery and seismic data have identified two huge underground aquifers in Kenya's drought-prone north, a discovery that could be "a game changer" for the country, NPR's Gregory Warner reports.
The aquifers, located hundreds of feet underground in the Turkana region that borders Ethiopia and South Sudan, contain billions of gallons of water, according to UNESCO, which confirmed the existence of the subterranean lakes discovered with the help of a French company using technology originally designed to reveal oil deposits.
In the 1930s, the Dust Bowl ravaged crops and helped plunge the U.S. into an environmental and economic depression. Farmland in parts of Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas disappeared.
After the howling winds passed and the dust settled, federal foresters planted 100 million trees across the Great Plains, forming a giant windbreak — known as a shelterbelt — that stretched from Texas to Canada.
Now, those trees are dying from drought, leaving some to worry whether another Dust Bowl might swirl up again.
Diana Nyad's successful swim from Cuba to Key West on Monday was made all the sweeter because she had tried — and failed — four times before.
She learned you should "never, ever give up," but she also learned some practical lessons to help beat the elements in those earlier attempts. Out of failure, she innovated. And out of innovation, she succeeded.
The effects of climate change often happen on a large scale, like drought or a rise in sea level. In the hills outside Missoula, Mont., wildlife biologists are looking at a change to something very small: the snowshoe hare.
Life as snowshoe hare is pretty stressful. For one, almost everything in the forest wants to eat you.
Alex Kumar, a graduate student at the University of Montana, lists the animals that are hungry for hares.
"Lynx, foxes, coyotes, raptors, birds of prey. Interestingly enough, young hares, their main predator is actually red squirrels."
Before summer slips away, North Country Public Radio's Brian Mann decided to take a day off from work for one last hot weather canoe trip in upstate New York. With his wife Susan, Brian paddled and trekked through the Ausable Marshes in the Champlain Valley. He sent back this audio postcard.
In the northwestern Pacific Ocean, scientists have found what they believe to be the biggest volcano on Earth. In fact, to find a volcano of a similar size, you'd have to go to Mars. As NPR's Christopher Joyce reports, the volcano is, fortunately, dormant, but in its prime, it changed the face of the Earth.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: William Sager says he brings conversations to a halt when he tells people he's a geophysicist. But now, he says he's got a story that gets people's attention.
Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 1:10 pm
The world's largest volcano has until now been lurking undiscovered in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, according to a team of scientists who identified the massive object and reported their findings in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience.
Next up: wildfires. California's Rim Fire is not 80 percent contained, with some 4,000 firefighters still on the job. All that emergency response, of course, costs money, which federal government budgets for each year. But it doesn't seem to be enough, because three weeks ago, the head of the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Forest Service had burned through its firefighting budget, and would have to drain money earmarked for other things, like fire prevention.
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Just about everybody loves penguins, right? They're funny on land. They're amazing underwater, and they're very photogenic, so they show up in lots of ads and movies. But beyond the screen, prospects for the birds are not entirely good. This week, over 200 researches from around the world met in the U.K. to talk penguins, from the prospects of conservation of species to how penguins are able to stay under water so long, to the properties of penguin poop.
Last year, 2012, the Earth experienced a record melt of Arctic ice, torrential rainfall in Australia, and withering droughts in the United States and elsewhere. Scientists are beginning to figure out why. Here's NPR's Richard Harris
BP is fighting the settlement it agreed to last summer that let the oil company avoid thousands of potential lawsuits over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Just after the spill, when oil was still gushing into the Gulf, BP touted the $20 billion it set aside for claims. But now it says the claim process is corrupt and is hoping a court will overturn the settlement that established the claims fund.
Ending the claims would mean stopping a well-oiled machine.
Hot summer days often mean air pollution warnings in big cities. But the air inside your kitchen can sometimes be just as harmful. Cooking fumes from your stove are supposed to be captured by a hood over the range — but even some expensive models aren't that effective.
Jennifer Logue spends a lot of time thinking about what happens when she cooks. She's a research scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, where she studies indoor air pollution.
A dispute over a proposed iron ore mine in Wisconsin has spilled into the nearby woods. Native Americans have set up a camp to protect land near the mine site and say federal treaty rights allow the campers to stay.