science

The Colin McEnroe Show
10:00 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Asteroid Apocalypse: How Likely Is It?

Artist's view ofa watery asteroid in white dwarf star system GD 61.
Credit Hubble Space Telescope / Creative Commons

Scientists say that the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia this past February was a rare event, unlikely to happen more than every 100 -200 years. But a recent paper in the scientific journal Nature said the earth should expect and plan to get hit by Chelyabinsk-sized asteroids more often-- maybe every decade or two.

This news sparked a flurry of talk about what that means for us on earth. How vulnerable are we and are we doing enough to detect and deflect asteroids?

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Antarctica Researchers
9:54 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Antarctic Travelers Who Got Stuck In Ice Finally Get Home

Back home: Passengers disembark from the icebreaker Aurora Australis on Wednesday at a harbor in Hobart, Australia. The ship brought 52 scientists and adventure tourists back to Australia from Antarctica, where the ship they had been on got stuck in ice.
Rob Blakers EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 2:36 pm

The 52 scientists and paying passengers who spent more than a week aboard a ship that was trapped in ice off the coast of Antarctica over the holidays are now safely back home in Australia.

From Sydney, correspondent Stuart Cohen tells our Newscast Desk that
"three weeks after being rescued from their stranded research vessel," the members of the exhibition are in the city of Hobart.

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Again with the weather
7:20 am
Tue January 21, 2014

What Is This Bombogenesis And Why Is It Dumping Snow On Us?

People walk in a park along the Hudson River across from New York City as snow begins to fall in Hoboken.
Gary Hershorn Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 8:54 pm

  • From the NPR Newscast: 'Bombogenesis'

Just as we're getting used to hearing about the polar vortex, there's another cool-sounding weather term being thrown around that we've had to look up:

Bombogenesis

This post by Philadelphia meteorologist John Bolaris caught our eye: "Old Man Winter to drop bombogenesis."

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Space
6:26 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Mars Or Bust: Putting Humans On The Red Planet

Tracks from NASA's Opportunity rover disappear toward the horizon on the Meridiani Plains of Mars. The rover has been on the planet since 2004.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Originally published on Sun January 19, 2014 6:42 pm

"I don't know why you're on Mars, but whatever the reason for going to Mars is, I'm glad you're there and I wish I was with you."

That was a part of astrophysicist Carl Sagan's message, recorded a few months before he died in 1996, to the future human inhabitants of Mars.

Some of the earliest science fiction imagined voyages to the Red Planet. We now have the space-faring technology, and getting humans to Mars actually seems within reach. It would certainly involve massive resources and a lot of danger, but some believe the rewards would be massive.

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Now You Know
3:27 am
Thu January 16, 2014

An Old Tree Doesn't Get Taller, But Bulks Up Like A Bodybuilder

The world's biggest trees, such as this large Scots pine in Spain's Sierra de Baza range, are also the world's fastest-growing trees, according to an analysis of 403 tree species spanning six continents.
Asier Herrero Nature

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 9:12 am

Like other animals and many living things, we humans grow when we're young and then stop growing once we mature. But trees, it turns out, are an exception to this general rule. In fact, scientists have discovered that trees grow faster the older they get.

Once trees reach a certain height, they do stop getting taller. So many foresters figured that tree growth — and girth — also slowed with age.

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Winter Olympics
3:25 am
Thu January 16, 2014

For A Better Bobsled, Team USA Turns To Race Cars

U.S. bobsledders Nick Cunningham and Abraham Morlu compete in a BMW-designed sled at the World Cup in January in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The U.S. team paired up with a BMW race car designer several years ago to boost its chances at the 2014 Winter Games.
Alex Livesey Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 16, 2014 3:07 pm

When you meet bobsled driver Steve Holcomb, he doesn't talk about his Olympic gold medal — the one he won with the four-man team at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Instead, he talks about the one that got away.

Four years ago, his two-man bobsled started the Olympic run with a great push. "I was actually winning the race in Vancouver," Holcomb says. But then he "made a driving mistake, and we went from first place to sixth place in two turns."

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2014: A Space Odyssey
2:32 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

The World Through a Connecticut Astronaut's Lens

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio tweeted this photo of New Haven on January 10, 2014. He said he uses the Elm City as a landmark to find other cities in Connecticut.
Credit Rick Mastracchio / Twitter

NASA astronaut and Waterbury native Rick Mastracchio has been tweeting some brilliant photos of his home planet while aboard the International Space Station. Today, he tweeted this photo of the Elm City.

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Cutting-Edge Science
4:13 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Rare Genetic Mutation Could Lead to New Treatments for Tourette Syndrome

Brain structures implicated in Tourette syndrome. A new Yale study identifies a key correlation between a rare genetic mutation and Tourette's, which could lead to new treatments mitigating some of the disorder's tic-like symptoms.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Researchers at Yale have identified a genetic mutation that that could lead to new treatments for Tourette syndrome.

But before we get into that, what's it like to have Tourette's? Just ask Josh Hanagarne, who's wrestled with it his whole life. Speaking on WNPR's The Colin McEnroe Show, he described what it's like to live with a disorder that's most well-known for its tics and verbal outbursts.

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The Colin McEnroe Show
11:34 am
Wed January 8, 2014

A Tribute to Twins!

Amy Melvin and Joy Taylor are identical twins who grew up in West Hartford.
Chion Wolf WNPR

Identical twins are just like us - and then they're not! From Anne Landers and Dear Abbey, from the Castro brothers, one of whom might be our first identical twin president one day, carbon-copy twins live lives that the rest of us cannot fathom.

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Frigid Science
4:49 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Don't Just Shiver, Here Are 3 Cold-Weather Experiments To Try

A bubble freezes in very cold weather.
SimonSaysBaka via YouTube

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 6:37 pm

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The Faith Middleton Show
10:05 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Are Babies Born As Moral Persons?

Credit Kitt Walker/flickr creative commons

From Faith Middleton: Yale's Paul Bloom is an expert on research showing infants do, in fact, act with moral purpose, if given the opportunity.

Babies, says Bloom and his colleagues, show empathy, compassion, and have a clear understanding of what is and is not fair.

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Brain Science
4:00 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Was Adam Lanza a Psychopath?

Credit creative commons

Neuroscientist James Fallon found something shocking when he was looking at brain scans of serial killers for research, and brain scans of his family for signs of disease. According to the scan, his own brain was no different than that of a psychopath. The discovery opened up a new world of research, TED talks and his recent book, The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. 

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Ice Crystals
2:30 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

What's in a Snowflake?

Credit Catie Talarski / WNPR

The winter storm hitting Connecticut is bringing "light, fluffy snow" to many parts of the state. Have you wondered what exactly makes the snow fluffy? 

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Science
4:30 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas.
Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 8:08 am

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got butterflies in your stomach or your heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

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Brain Health
1:00 pm
Fri December 27, 2013

Concussions May Increase Alzheimer's Risk, But Only For Some

Researchers have only recently been able to use brain scans to detect Alzheimer's risk factors in living people.
iStockphoto

Doctors have long suspected that head trauma boosts the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease later on, but the evidence on that has been mixed.

But it looks like people who have memory problems and a history of concussion are more likely to have a buildup of plaques in the brain that are a risk factor for Alzheimer's, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

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The Faith Middleton Show
12:36 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

How Friends Make Us Who We Are

Credit Carlos Luz/flickr creative commons

From Faith Middleton: Though it is not widely discussed, there is a science of friendship peopled by academics, psychologists and others studying the earliest references to friendship, why humans began valuing friends, and how we continue these relationships all our lives.

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Rick In Space
10:31 am
Sat December 21, 2013

Waterbury's Rick Mastracchio Repairs International Space Station

Rick Mastracchio of NASA is seen prior to launching aboard the International Space Station in November. Mastracchio and one other astronaut will conduct a space walk on Saturday to make repairs to the International Space Station.
Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Waterbury native Rick Mastracchio is scheduled to make the first of three space walks on Saturday. He'll replace a pump module on the International Space Station, which broke last week forcing the shutdown of several science experiments and other non-critical systems. 

This will be Mastracchio's seventh EVA. NASA officials say they anticipate the first space walk, on Saturday, will last about six-and-a-half hours. The broken pump he will repair is linked to one of the station's two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside of the space station to regulate equipment temperatures.

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Medical Research
7:00 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Genetic Test Aims to Take Guesswork Out of Drug Dosing

Gualberto Ruano, director of the Genetics Research Center at Hartford Hospital, leads a study aimed at reducing the guesswork in psychiatric drug dosing.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Researchers at Hartford Hospital are looking into a gene that determines how fast the liver clears medication from the body. The goal of the five-year study is to reduce the guesswork in psychiatric drug dosing.

It's a gene with a fancy name: CYP2D6

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Mon December 16, 2013

Daniel Goleman in Focus

Daniel Goleman
Credit danielgoleman.info

Psychologist and former New York Times reporter Daniel Goleman presented us with an important idea - “Emotional Intelligence” - it challenges the old concept of IQ as the most important measure of one’s abilities.

But his newest research might be even more important for our current world - filled with multiple screens and distractions. It’s all about “Focus.”

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Medical Marijuana
1:23 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Students Are Developing a Test to Detect Contaminants in Medical Marijuana

Students Renae Labonte and Jinyun Guat.
University of New Haven

Students at the University of New Haven are developing a DNA test that could detect contaminants in medical marijuana. Dr. Heather Coyle, a forensic botanist and associate professor at UNH, said patients using pot for medicinal purposes could be harmed by contaminants that they can't see.

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Headed To Space
6:15 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Last-Minute Negotiations Lead to Sale of Bridgeport Statue

The roughly four-ton statue sold for $300,000 to a man in Houston. The money will be used to fund the launch of a nanosatellite aboard a NASA rocket.
Credit Heritage Auctions

Bridgeport's Discovery Museum and Planetarium is set to launch a nanosatellite after selling a massive four-ton bronze statue. A previous sale price of $325,000 failed to attract a buyer, but last-minute negotiations on Friday afternoon changed all that.

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History
2:00 pm
Fri December 6, 2013

Transit of Venus: German Scientists Visit Hartford

Map of the 1761 transit of Venus, from Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles, by James Ferguson, F.R.S, London, 1794.
The Connecticut Historical Society, Thomas Robbins collection, 14 Connecticut Historical Society

In December 1882, a German scientific commission sent a team of astronomers to Hartford, Connecticut to observe a rare astronomical event. The transit of Venus (when the planet passes between the earth and the sun) occurs in eight-year pairs, and those pairs occur every 121½ or 105½ years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the transit was an important opportunity for scientists to calculate the distance between the earth and the sun—the basis for the astronomical unit.

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The Colin McEnroe Show
9:47 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Preserving the Moon and Protecting Its Rocks

Astronaut Eugene Cernan salutes deployed U.S. flag on the lunar surface
Credit NASA Goddard Center on Flickr Creative Commons

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, but the first man to urinate there was Buzz Aldrin, just a little ahead of Neil. The two astronauts relieved themselves into bags within their suits, then removed those bags and left them on the lunar surface. When you gotta go, you gotta go. It was time to go. 

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Ainissa Ramirez and the Science Behind America's Game

Dr. Ainissa Ramirez
Chion Wolf

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the epidemic of injury in the game of football - concussions and traumatic brain injuries… but have you ever asked yourself why football helmets are designed the way they are? And how better helmet design might actually have made the game more dangerous? And while you’re at it, have you considered “the divine randomness of prolate spheroid?” That’s science talk for the unlikely evolution for the shape of the football.  

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Climate Change
5:01 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Ready — Or Not. Abrupt Climate Changes Worry Scientists Most

Puddled meltwater very likely primed this ancient edge of the Antarctic's Larsen Ice Shelf to rapidly disintegrate over just several weeks. This view of the splintered mix of frozen bergs is from a Feb. 21, 2002, satellite image.
Landsat 7 Science Team/NASA/GSFC

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 8:09 pm

An expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences is calling for an early warning system to alert us to abrupt and potentially catastrophic events triggered by climate change.

The committee says science can anticipate some major changes to the Earth that could affect everything from agriculture to sea level. But we aren't doing enough to look for those changes and anticipate their impacts.

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Earthquakes
3:22 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Loud Booms Caused By Microearthquakes, Seismologist Says

This chart represents ground motion as recorded by the Weston Observatory. Highlighted are the seismic waveforms indicated Friday's two earthquakes in sotheastern Connecticut.
Weston Observatory / Town of Groton: Office of Emergency Management

The U.S. Geological Survey says it recorded a 2.1 magnitude earthquake in Connecticut last Friday. According to Groton's Office of Emergency Management, that explains the mysterious loud booms that perplexed several residents over the weekend.

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Thu November 28, 2013

Organ Donation: Providing Life After Death

Caitlyn Bernabucci, LifeChoice Donor Services
Chion Wolf WNPR

Every day, around 80 people receive organ transplants in the U.S. But an average of 18 people die daily due to a shortage of much-needed organs, like kidneys, livers, hearts and lungs, even corneas.

One body donor can impact the lives of more than 50 people.

This hour, a conversation on organ donation and transplantation. Do you have personal experience with organ donation? Are you a donor or recipient? Why did you choose to be a donor? 

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Falsified Forensics
4:38 pm
Sat November 23, 2013

Examining The 'Red Flags' In A Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal

Former state chemist Annie Dookhan, left, stands alongside her attorney on Friday. She admitted faking test results in criminal cases and was sentenced to 3-to-5 years in prison.
David L. Ryan AP

Originally published on Sat November 23, 2013 6:07 pm

Former chemist Annie Dookhan began serving a 3-to-5 year sentence in a Massachusetts prison on Friday after pleading guilty to falsifying tests of drug evidence and helping to create one of the nation's largest drug lab scandals.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says the state is taking steps to improve forensic testing:

"It is certainly lessons learned," she says. "We hope that we've made changes in the system that will mean this unique case will not happen again in Massachusetts."

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Courts
12:43 pm
Fri November 22, 2013

Chemist Pleads Guilty In Massachusetts Crime Lab Scandal

Annie Dookhan, pictured earlier this year, pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying drugs tests at a Massachusetts state crime lab.
Steven Senne AP

Originally published on Fri November 22, 2013 7:36 pm

A former chemist for the state of Massachusetts' crime labs pleaded guilty Friday to falsifying drugs tests that potentially compromised tens of thousands of criminal cases. WBUR reports she admitted all 27 counts against her.

Update at 4:40 p.m. ET: Prison Sentence Of 3-5 Years

Judge Carol Ball sentenced Annie Dookhan, 36, to three to five years in prison, plus a probation period. Prosecutors had requested a sentence of from five to seven years in prison.

Our original post continues:

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The Faith Middleton Show
10:34 am
Tue November 19, 2013

Does High Unemployment Mean the Humanities Should Be Dumped?

Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

From Faith Middleton: More institutions of higher learning have shuttle busses to the nearest corporate high rises.

While it is understandable in a time of high unemployment to think about practical careers, it appears more people, including some entrepreneurial university administrators, think it's time to leave the “fluffy stuff” for hobby hour. That fluffy stuff would include literature, philosophy, languages, the arts and history—what we call the humanities. (Or, the stuff that hangs around long after we're dead.) Possibly the new rules of the road go something like this: read Michener before bed, and call it a day.

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