science

Twice a year, most Americans do a truly bizarre thing. In coordinated fashion, we change our clocks an hour ahead or behind and proceed as if the new time tells us what we should be doing: when to eat, when to sleep, when to wake and when to work.

Earth, of course, spins and rotates on its merry course, unperturbed by our temporal machinations. If we used to wake after sunrise, we might now wake before morning light. If we used to drive home with the setting sun, we might now drive home in darkness.

"My own personal opinion is that time is a human construct," says Tom O'Brian. O'Brian has thought a lot about this over the years. He is America's official timekeeper at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.

To him, days, hours, minutes and seconds are a way for humanity to "put some order in this very fascinating and complex universe around us."

Chion Wolf

The dream to live forever has captivated mankind since the beginning. We see this in religion, literature, art, and present day pop-culture in a myriad of ways. But all along, the possibility that we'd actually achieve such a thing never quite seemed real. Now science, through a variety of medical and technological advances the likes of which seem as far fetched as immortality itself, is close to turning that dream into a reality.

This hour we talk with experts who are on the cutting edge of this research about the science and implications of ending aging.

Holly Kuchera/flickr creative commons

We love ideas, innovation, invention. On ICE we ask you to brainstorm with us about ideas, and we talk to innovative types about what's they're doing. On this edition of The Faith Middleton Show's On ICE, Dr. Eileen Cooper, a Fullbright Scholar, has written Holographic Mind, a book about training the brain to think in four dimensions.

A unmanned rocket carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments to the International Space Station exploded shortly after blastoff on Tuesday at NASA's facility on Wallops Island, Va.

The rocket was made by Orbital Sciences, which was contracted by NASA to ship supplies up to the International Space Station.

Robert Snache/flickr creative commons

Paul Bogard, the author of the paperback, The End of Night, went on a journey in search of something rare in America and Europe—true darkness. He wanted to have the jaw-dropping experience of looking up at the night sky to see uncountable stars and planets that we seldom see due to light pollution.

Thomas Mione

A biology professor in Connecticut has spent 20 years traveling in South America to discover plants.

Donkey Hotey / Creative Commons

Okay, I'm warning you. You're going to have to adjust the band on your thinking cap. Christian Bok, our first guest, is an experimental poet with some fascinating ideas, some of which will strike you as unfamiliar and maybe dissimilar to any other ideas you ever heard. In a nutshell, Bok is part of a small movement of thinkers and writers who want to revolutionize the way literature is produced, stored and consumed. For example, Bok has spent years trying to encode  a poem into the DNA of a bacterium able to survive extreme conditions, like vacuums.

Inst. for Exploration and Inst. for Archaeological Oceanography

Oceanographer Robert Ballard has ended his 15-year relationship with Mystic Aquarium that exhibited his discoveries of wrecks including John F. Kennedy's PT-109 and the Titanic.

Scientists are reporting the first strong evidence that human embryonic stem cells may be helping patients.

The cells appear to have improved the vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two progressive, currently incurable eye diseases.

The researchers stress that the findings must be considered preliminary because the number of patients treated was relatively small and they have only been followed for an average of less than two years.

Kevin Burgio

Kevin Burgio remembered the first time he saw monk parakeets. He was out bird watching "and I ran across this puddle that had like five or six monk parakeets drinking from it," he said. "I'm like, what the hell is that? Did someone lose, like, five parrots? I didn't know there were parrots here."

This much we know: It's not a bird and it's not exactly a plane.

Beyond that, the U.S. Air Force holds all the answers. The mission of the unmanned X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, which is scheduled to touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Tuesday after 22 months in orbit, has been described only vaguely as "to gather more test data."

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The notion of drug-resistant bacteria has gone from an exotic problem to a common one. If you have even a medium-sized circle of acquaintances you probably know somebody - or an older parent of somebody -battling an infection that ignores standard antibiotics. It's a big problem and today we're going to focus on one chunk of it, the connection between antibiotics given to farm animals and the rise of these diseases.

If we treat ourselves the way we treat pigs, cattle and chickens, we'd be put on antibiotics at birth and pretty much never go off them until we die.

Sonny Abesamis/flickr creative commons

Repair and boost the bacteria in the gut with the right food, prebiotics and probiotics, and you'll feel better and lose weight. That's the theory of Dr. Raphael Kellman of New York, author of The Microbiome Diet.

Jenifer Frank / C-HIT

Dr. Erin Hofstatter, a young research scientist and breast cancer specialist at Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital, often prescribes tamoxifen, raloxifene and similar drugs to her patients. The drugs “reduce your risk (of cancer recurring) by half … but they come with baggage,” she tells her patients, “hot flashes, night sweats, leg cramps, small risk of uterine cancer, small risk of blood clots, small risk of stroke, you have to get your liver tested.”

Sonny Abesamis/flickr creative commons

Repair and boost the bacteria in the gut with the right food, prebiotics and probiotics, and you'll feel better and lose weight. That's the theory of Dr. Raphael Kellman of New York, author of The Microbiome Diet.

North Carolina Museum of Art

Art, science, and history intersect this weekend, when Yale University commemorates the 100th anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

Jackson Laboratory

Charles Lee, director of science at the Jackson Laboratory, said he's been pretty tired lately. Between the grand opening of Jackson's Farmington facility and working on this week's first-ever science conference, he's had a lot on his plate.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died Wednesday morning at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. As relatives and friends grieve and plan an evening service for the 42-year-old man, public health officials are putting in action plans to safely manage his remains.

This is critical, given that people who die of Ebola virus infection can harbor the virus after death.

Two Americans and a German will share the Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a new type of microscopy that allows researchers, for the first time, to see individual molecules inside living cells.

Jackie Filson / WNPR

A Connecticut bioscience company said it’s developing an Ebola vaccine and it plans to have samples ready for testing by the end of this year. 

Lanny Nagler / UConn Health Center

A UConn Professor has won a lucrative award from the National Institutes of Health for his work in regenerative engineering.

A trio of scientists, two from Japan and one from the U.S., will share the Nobel Prize in physics for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which led to a new, environmentally friendly light source.

Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano of Japan and U.S. scientist Shuji Nakamura were selected by the committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to share the 8 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million) prize.

Nobelprize.org says:

Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET

The condition of a man infected with the Ebola virus who is undergoing treatment in Dallas is "fighting for his life," doctors say, as another patient with the disease has arrived in Nebraska to receive care.

Thomas Eric Duncan, in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, became ill after arriving from the West African country of Liberia two weeks ago.

Everyone loves dolphins. They're adorable, playful and super-intelligent, often called the geniuses of the ocean.

But recently some researchers have begun to question that last notion. When it comes to brainpower, dolphins might not be as special as you might think.

In a recent piece for New Scientist, Caroline Williams rounds up some of the dissenting opinions.

Harriet Jones / WNPR

Jackson Laboratory is putting the finishing touches to its new facility in Farmington. The $100 million building opens for business next week, and the non-profit says there are already plans for further expansion. 

Consciousness and the Soul

Oct 2, 2014
Karen Neoh / Creative Commons

It has been nearly 400 years since Descartes wrote his famous declaration “Cogito ergo sum”, or, more commonly “I am thinking, therefore I exist”. But, in all that time, we still haven't answered the basic question: who are we?

In this hour, we explore the concepts of consciousness, the self, and the soul. What do today's top scientists, philosophers and spiritual leaders say about these topics and how have they arrived at their conclusions? Are we ready to accept the brain as the be-all and end-all of who we are or is there more to us than that?

No, Seriously, How Contagious Is Ebola?

Oct 2, 2014

Update on Oct. 8: The Ebola patient in Dallas, the first diagnosed with the virus in the U.S., has died.

Holy moly! There's a case of Ebola in the U.S.!

That first reaction was understandable. There's no question the disease is scary. The World Health Organization now estimates that the virus has killed about 70 percent of people infected in West Africa.

Updated at 3:42 p.m. ET:

The number of "contact traces" for a man diagnosed with Ebola earlier this week in Dallas has risen to 100, officials say, as they add secondary contacts to a list of people being monitored for symptoms of the deadly virus.

Earlier today, Erikka Neros, a spokeswoman for the Dallas County Health and Human Services department, said the number of "contact traces" stood at about 80 because the 12 to 18 people who had been exposed directly to the patient then had contact with others.

Manhattan's Central Park is surrounded by one of the densest cities on the planet. It's green enough, yet hardly the first place most people would think of as biologically rich.

But a team of scientists got a big surprise when they recently started digging there.

They were 10 soil ecologists — aka dirt doctors. Kelly Ramirez from Colorado State University was among them. "We met on the steps of the natural history museum at 7 a.m. with our collection gear, coolers and sunblock," she recalls.

Pages